Saturday Mass: a new interview series that tips its hat to Larry Levan and explores the art of the resident with some of the best in the business. For more in the series, browse through the archive.
Whenever friends are heading to Berlin for the first time and ask for club recommendations, Salon zur Wilden Renate is always at the top. Converted from an abandoned house, it’s a labyrinth of small rooms and passageways creating a house party feel that’s a far cry from the vast warehouse spaces that characterise much of Berlin’s clubbing institutions. Its music policy and overall atmosphere has the ability to simultaneously be accessible to unseasoned dancers, but still at the forefront of Berlin nightlife with its array of expert residents, from Paramida to Mehmet Aslan and today’s interviewees Peak & Swift.
The duo have been part of the furniture since the first day, not just as resident DJs but also bookers and graphic designers. They’re a big reason for Renate being what it is today, which makes them perfect canditates to discuss the art of a resident DJ. We went deep into the topic and also explored what makes Renate such a unique spot.
Catch Peak & Swift at Gottwood Festival this summer.
Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer these question. First a few icebreakers. What are some of the qualities you think makes a good residency?
For us, having a space to enjoy DJing with your friends and family around you is essential. Without the regular guests and dear friends who fill up our club every weekend, the vibe that has made Renate what it is today wouldn’t be there. Another big part of our experience is a DJ booth you know and love. Playing frequently in the same booth has allowed us to work with the technical team at Renate to build not only a great sounding system for the guests but also for the artists as well. Also, an audience who is willing to dance with you for six hours or more and who follows your wildest musical excursions can take your time together to a spiritual level. Finally, a great bar keeper knowing what you need, when you need it is a deal breaker. Big shout outs to the Renate staff who support us every weekend!
As an extension, what do you think makes a good resident?
A good resident should know how to read his audience and be very versatile in his selection to keep the dancers boiling without playing all the hits or just banging out hard stuff at the wrong time. We learned so much from warming up for our guest DJs at Renate by playing sets in many different styles from disco to techno. It always differs in the way you mix and build up a set. There’s nothing worse than a resident which can’t adjust to the vibe of a floor or club.
Who have been some of your favourite residents over the years?
We can only judge the other Renate residents because we have spent so much time with them and heard much of what they can do. All of them have different musical approaches: Paramida is more disco-ish, Samanta Fox and Michal Zietara play house, Sebastian Voigt is more techno and Mehmet Aslan leans towards Arabic influences. That being said, they all have a wide spectrum of music to adjust to their playtimes and program around them. They are the glue that holds the Renate lineups together, week after week. You can check them all at our in-house agency which represents all of us.
How do you think the role and importance of the resident has changed since you first started?
For us the importance hasn’t change so much because the residents are still kind of a figureheads for the club and have a strong connection to the audience through their local scene. Even if most clubs have strong international lineups on a weekly basis, every club should try to build up and strengthen a group of resident DJs because they are the ones that define the clubs sound over the long run.
Before becoming residents at Renate, did you hold any other residencies? If so, did the experience teach you any dos and don’ts that you took with you to Renate?
No, before Renate we did our own parties and had been playing all round Berlin but were never pinned down to one specific club space. We played pretty often at the party series of our friends where we could develop our style and learned to read a crowd. These experiences helped us develop our sound to the point where we could take the musical reins at Renate.
How did you become residents at Renate?
When Renate first started, Peak was asked to take care of the programming there. So for sure he booked us to play one or two times per month though at that time, we weren’t calling it our residency. It just happened naturally over the years as we really shaped Renate’s vibe with our sets and party attitude.
Can you remember what you first set was like there? Were you nervous?
It’s been almost nine years ago since that faithful night so we don’t remember it that well, to be honest. I’m sure we were nervous but if you ask someone else who had been there on Renate’s opening party, it’s very likely he also won’t remember many details. It was a very wild, three day ride for everyone involved.
Space is all-important for a good party. What makes Renate so special as a space and how does this have an impact on the way you play, compared to parties elsewhere?
Space definitely plays a primary role in the parties we do. Renate’s floors are pretty small with about 150 people, give or take, fitting on each one depending on the room and how tight the guests feel like getting that night. For us, that’s the perfect size to go on a wild musical journey together because you can see and connect to each and every person on the floor. Compared to other clubs in Berlin, this connection between the DJ and crowd is very strong at Renate. Also, with Renate’s four dancefloors, which individually focus on a different styles of music, there is always music somewhere that fits your mood in that moment. The dancefloors at Renate are like no other.
Did you have a chance to get used to the club as a dancer first, before first DJing there?
No, because we are part of the crew since day one. We have always played there before we danced but this doesn’t mean we aren’t dancing! We could honestly say that we dance nowhere else on the planet more than we do at our beloved Renate.
As bookers and graphic designers for Renate, you’re involved in many aspects of the party, aside from just DJing. From the music, to the aesthetic, what would you say the Renate mission statement is? What impression would you like people to leave with at the end of the night?
Our main mission is to create an environment of escapism and freedom, where anyone can lose track of time and space. Renate is kind of a labyrinth, there is always something to discover around the next corner. Even we are still surprised sometimes as we leave our staff a lot of freedom to fulfill their (sometimes crazy) ideas. Renate is a place to enjoy yourself and meet like-minded people, ideally people should leave with a big smile and a lot of good music in their ears.
Are there certain records that are inextricably linked to your residency at Renate? Do any standout musical memories jump out from sets gone by?
Uff.. that’s a hard question after almost nine years of playing regularly at Renate. We’ve been through so many amazing sets, but if we have to pick some moments it’s for sure one of the late sets on our beloved Red Floor, which is a always the last floor open and a perfect space for playing beautiful lovemusic. Maybe Antena’s ‘Camino Del Sol (Joakim Remix)‘ and Fernando Pulichino – ‘Open Source (Prins Thomas Edit)‘ are two songs to mention as we played them so often over the years and they will never ever leave our bags.
You’ve played at Renate for some years now, so there must be some nights where you feel like you knew nearly everyone in there. Does playing in a room with people who are essentially your friends affect the way you perform?
Absolutely…actually it feels like that almost every time we play now, especially at our infamous Motto parties or regular parties like Voyage Voyage. Also, we can’t be more exited to play for our friends, because they all have a great taste in music and guarantee a fun set without any borders. The vibe doesn’t just come from us or the music we play, it really comes from our interaction with the close friends who come year after year to create the attitude that Renate has enjoyed and sustained for so long.
When you’re on tour, how do audiences compare to Renate?
Our time playing in other places has really developed over the last few years. We feel like there are many more clubs or parties which share a similar philosophy with Renate. It’s amazing to see great rising developments in other music scenes worldwide. That being said, there are still a lot of differences, which is spectacular because it would be boring to tour it was the same thing in every city we visit.
Who has been your favorite residents who have warmed up for you, when you’re been on the road recently?
The Carlos Capslocks crew from Sao Paulo, with their residents and masterminds Paulo Tessuto and L_cio. They really blew our minds when we first witnessed their parties. They do crazy wild events in really weird locations. Also, Paulo’s style of DJing is super wild and special. We’ve never seen such a strong connection between audience and DJ somewhere else other than Renate. L_cio is a very talented live act, he manages to improvise a three hour live-set regularly.
Finally, what’s coming up on the horizon for you guys in 2016 that we should keep an eye out for?
Renate Showcases all around the world… Our personal highlights are gigs at Gottwood (UK), Love International (HR), Melt Festival (D), Garbicz (PL), Subsonic Festival (AUS) among many others. If you come to Berlin during the summer, you have to visit our Open Air Venue ELSE which is built next to the river Spree, just a three minutes walk from Renate. You could say it’s our summer residency 😉