Der Klang der Familie: Berlin, Techno and the Fall of the Wall
Felix Denk, Sven von Thülen
After the fall of the Wall, Berlin is full of disused spaces and abandoned buildings, just waiting to be filled with new life. It is unclear who owns any of this, which allows the techno scene to take over these new empty spaces in both halves of the city. Clubs, galleries, ateliers and studios spring up – only to disappear again a few weeks later.
Soon Berlin has become the epicentre of a new culture, attracting enthusiastic followers from all over the world to clubs like the Tresor and the E-Werk. Wearing gasmasks and welding goggles they dance the night away to the jackhammer sound of previously obscure Detroit DJs. Among them are writers, artists, photographers, designers, DJs, club-owners, music producers, bouncers and scenesters, people from the centre of the movement and from its peripheries – in Der Klang der Familie they all get to have their say and paint a vibrant picture of a time when it felt like everything was possible.
capitalized, restructured and disbanded. From this temporal distance, one might conclude that with techno, we offered our own response to the onset of neoliberalism – with a magnificent sound that rang different from the conforming painting-by-numbers that had come before it. But the conformist was more sustainable; in the end, it had the power to annex even techno. We were so occupied with our own world that we weren’t concerned with the big world beyond and everything happening there. Or maybe
played punk-funk and somehow also a little NDW [New German Wave]. We all wore winklepickers and loden jackets and even had a record deal with Polydor. I can still remember exactly how we were on tour and someone slipped me a tape recording of Frankie Crocker’s radio program, a DJ from New York. I listened to the tape exhaustively on my Walkman. It had things like D Train and Peech Boys. It was proto-house. The straight machine beat I was hearing fascinated me. I realized you could program things
the great Groove God and strengthen their sense of community. ARNE GRAHM It was like a religion that also involved the body. There was something very erotic about it. God’s love was dancing and fucking. It was always a liminal experience with other people who’d shared the same thing with you. THOMAS FEHLMANN I was never a big nightlife guy – until techno arrived. It was no longer a question then: of course you went out. You just had to. The inner urge was so strong. And it’s not like you were
had our inside spy at KMS, Art Payne, and he would tell us what was happening because we couldn’t get any information from the Transmat people. At some point, he even brought us an issue of Mixmag from England. There was a one-page ad in there – Soul II Soul, Maxi Priest and us. We hadn’t seen any of this stuff. So me and my brother said, “You know what? We need to just go overseas and find out what’s going on.” So we scraped together our money and flew to London. We told Eddie Fowlkes we were
circumscribed, and with people who were problematic, but who I liked a lot. It was clear they had it in for me. ARNE GRAHM There was some ambiguous clause in the GDR that allowed the state to put you in jail for antisocial behavior. You were already antisocial if you couldn’t prove how you subsisted. But since you had a rent that could be covered with around 25 marks, could eat a full month off 50 marks and could live at subsistence level off 250 marks, you didn’t need much. If you could prove