Celebrating Ten Years of Berlin’s AWAY
A lot has changed these past ten years, not least the way in which people party and consume music. That’s why it’s important to celebrate and champion those who have managed to keep the wheels turning – in this case AWAY.
Berlin is a city which operates in cycles – crews come and go, venues open and close, trends blossom and then dissipate. Time passes by nonetheless and in some cases what was there before remains.
AWAY is a longstanding party and record label which has managed to maintain a sense of importance in the German capital over a ten year period – this is no small feat considering the surge the city has seen since the mid 2000’s towards dance and electronic music culture. At one point it seemed that everyone was moving to Berlin, so much so that it was hard to imagine anybody else could live there but for free spirited ravers and music heads.
However, more recently, like everything else the mood has begun to change. The cost of living and social landscape has made it harder to promote and push parties in the city and many have been forced to succumb to the pressures of capitalism and rising prices, seeking pastures new for something else.
With all this considered it is even more impressive to observe the consistency and progression of the now longstanding party series AWAY. This year marks ten years of the venture – which began somewhat unexpectedly through a rogue birthday party and a collaboration between DJ & producer Discrete Circuit and his longtime friend Samir El-Khatib.
Since then it has gone on to become a reputable, well organised, tightly connected event series and record label which has become a beacon for the Berlin underground and those in the know. Guests over the years have been prolific – the likes of Richie Hawtin, Dj Stingray, Moodymann, Omar S, Claire Morgan, Optimo, Kenny Larkin, Move D and Axel Boman have all played the party.
Many of these guests have then gone on to become close friends, releasing and featuring on the affiliated label. In fact last month AWAY celebrated ten years of the series with a compilation which included music by some of the aforementioned alongside Lady Starlight, Eluize, Mark Broom and more.
We spoke to founder Discrete Circuit and the legacy behind AWAY.
First of all, how does it feel to have reached ten years?
“It’s not that long ago when my partner Samir and I realized that it’s already ten years since we started AWAY. It’s almost superstitious that the first AWAY event was actually my birthday party. We needed a name because we booked artists like DJ Koze and Axel Boman, so we ended up with AWAY. Now, ten years later, we are here celebrating another birthday – this time, it’s a decade of AWAY events with three weekenders with longtime friends like Moodymann, Omar-S, Inland, Lady Starlight, Move D, Mark Broom, and many more.”
Had you ever imagined the parties might evolve in such a way?
“It may sound corny, but: no freaking way. After the “birthday party,” AWAY’s debut event, we continued our journey by searching for the right place. Initially, we had to switch locations in Berlin (Chalet, Stattbad Wedding, Arena Club) until we finally found our homebase :// about blank in 2015. At first, we only did events on Wednesdays, which is a pretty tough day – even for Berlin. But those parties gave us room to develop, and we could establish our name and evolve into full-on weekend events from Friday night until Monday morning with three floors. Looking back, it all seemed to have grown naturally, but we would have never imagined such progress.”
"Building strong relationships is not just important for a successful party, it's the key."
You have collaborated and worked with a number of musicians and artists – is building long-term relationships with artists important to you?
“Building strong relationships is not just important for a successful party, it’s the key. Right from the start, AWAY has had a strong connection to Detroit. It’s part of our DNA because even when nobody knew about us, we were unafraid to approach and book legendary acts like Moodymann or Joe Claussell. The hospitality and overall vibe of our AWAY parties have always been important to us, and I think it’s valued. We hosted showcases with Secretsundaze, Studio Barnhus, Midnight Shift, and even !K7 DJ Kicks record release parties – what all these special events have in common is our approach to creating memorable experiences for everyone involved.”
As a collective, do you feel that you operate any differently in the present than as you did ten years ago?
“I’d say that most techno and house music promoters have become more professional over time, that includes AWAY. But some things haven’t changed, like we still use traditional promotions like printing posters and putting them all over Berlin. The biggest change has probably been the rise and importance of social media. Back in the day, mouth-to-mouth recommendations were essential. Today, you need a good Instagram channel to attract a new, probably younger crowd as well. It’s something we had to embrace, same goes for accepting outside help like the distribution of our records. Even today, I’d say AWAY is still DIY Plus.”
“Electronic music has always been in flux, with trends coming and going over time.”
Is there anything that you wish you’d done differently?
“Tough question. Yes and no. I’d say no because I firmly believe that mistakes are part of any progress and important to learn and grow as, in our case, promoters. Even when facing obstacles, we always try to understand the lesson and avoid making the same mistake. But if I had to choose one, we should have been more active and inviting on social media, especially in the last 3-4 years. AWAY had success without it, but we have to play the game a bit more. The second misstep was probably neglecting our label AWAY Music after we released the Mulholland Free Clinic LP. The label was always meant to be an extension of the party, but we didn’t realize it’s a great platform for timeless projects and staying in touch with the AWAY community. All the better, we’re revitalising the label with our AWAY 10 YEARS compilation.”
How do you feel electronic music has changed over the past ten years?
“If we talk about the industry itself, I’ve already mentioned the overall professionalism. When it comes to the most important – the music – there are changes, but electronic music has always been in flux, with trends coming and going over time. As a DJ myself, I recognised that the younger techno generation is increasingly drawn to a rougher, harder, and faster interpretation of the genre – high energy and BPM with hardcore edges. Although I can appreciate and enjoy this vicious side of techno, it’s not entirely my personal preference. Nevertheless, we exist in a niche where we can showcase what we love, and that’s the beauty of music—it evolves constantly, introducing new elements that are essential for our growth. Timeless music, however, will always remain timeless, and at times, you can feel the audience going wild when classic tunes are played.”
What are your ambitions for the future?
“Our main priority is properly celebrating our 10-year anniversary – with the compilation and all our AWAY 10 YEARS events. But once the season is over, we’re definitely committed to delivering more high-quality records on AWAY Music, and we already have amazing artists preparing releases in the pipeline. Beyond that, we’ve started conversations with colleagues here and abroad to take AWAY outside of Berlin and potentially explore new fields in electronic music to ultimately grow as a crew. We’re excited about where the next ten years will get us.”