Label To Author: Work Them Interview Sven Von Thulen
There are 'DJ‘s' and there are 'DJ‘s!'. Sven von Thülen aka s:vt belongs to the latter. Unimpressed by what nowadays usually belongs to the virtual C.V. of an artisan of his kind, he just learned it from scratch. Taking the long way from youth centers, bar-gigs and squatted houses up to Spanish mega-raves, Berlin club-legend WMF, his own Party Series Sweat Inc. and performances at Berghain/Panorama Bar Sven Von Thülen is blessed with that comprehension and empathy distinguishing excellent DJ‘s whose skills go beyond merely being able to pitch precisely…
But enough of the press release. This is the Work Them records takeover! Spencer Parker chatted to author, DJ and producer of club culture…Sven Von Thulen
Sven, you’ve lived in Berlin for nearly 20 years now and played at many of the city’s most prestigious clubs is there something you miss about the city’s nightlife before the "easy jet-set" arrived, or something that you particularly like about the current scene?
One of the most exciting things of Berlin's nightlife and the city in general is its constant change since the Wall came down. Back in the 90s and early 00s you had this intimacy because the scene wasn't that big, which was great. Also clubs usually were pretty short lived. To stay more than two years in one location was a rare thing for a club back then. What I like today is how international clubbing has become. Berlin has retained its slow, small city like pulse, but it gained the feeling of a major city.
If I miss one thing in clubs than I would say that it is "chillout" floors. Hearing ambient, electronica and other non techno/house sounds on a big system at a club/party is such a great thing. Bring back the chillout floor!
Your own party “Sweat Inc” continues to go from strength to strength and is known in the city for its fresh and forward thinking line ups, can you give us some insight into the idea behind the party and what its like to be a promoter in a city as full of clubs as berlin is…?
The idea behind Sweat Inc is quite simply to put great lineups together with artists we admire. Ideally a Sweat Inc night featues everything from house to techno to disco and everything in between, with a focus on that grey area where the lines between house and techno get blurry. So far we booked djs and live-acts like Xosar, Prosumer, Trus'me, Newworldaquarium, XDB, October, Eric Cloutier, John Osborn, Linkwood, Trevino, Matthew Styles, Patrice Scott, Move D, Vril or Finn Johannsen.
You’re well known in Berlin for being equally adept at playing either a house OR techno set as opposed to being known for a rigid “sound”, are there any producers on either scene that have you excited at the moment…?
Of course, there are always producers that have me excited (old and new, techno, house or whatever). From the top of my head DJ Richard, XDB, Juju & Jordash, Fudge Fingas, Linkwood, Shed in his many guises … the list goes on and on …
As well as djing and producing you have recently co-authored and published a book, as well as having produced a documentary. can you give us some more info on these projects and what they’re about and also, most importantly – when will this book be available in english…?
The book is called "Der Klang der Familie – Berlin, Techno und die Wende" ("Der Klang der Familie – Berlin, Techno and the Reunification") and it was published in March 2012 here in Germany and in France last November. It is an oral-history about the beginning of Berlin's house and techno scene, how the Wall coming down really kickstarted the whole thing in Berlin and how it became the dominating youth culture of the 90s (including the inevitable sell-out), laying the roots for pretty much everything we cherish about Berlin's club scene today. It also tells the story of how Berlin and Detroit got into the symbiotic relationship both cities are so well known for these days. For the book Felix Denk and I did around 150 interviews with 70 people including Mark Ernestus, Dr. Motte, Thomas Fehlmann, Westbam, 3Phase, Rok, Jonzon, Tanith, Dimitri Hegemann, Juan Atkins, Mike Banks, Robert Hood, Blake Baxter, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cosmic Baby, Marusha, Alec Empire, Octave One, Paul van Dyk and Vainqueur to name a few of the most well-known.
As for the documentary: we just put the finishing touches to it. It is a co-production with the TV channel ARTE, which is a french/german joint-venture. It will be aired in July and, since 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Wall coming down, it focuses on how Berlin's emergent techno scene was the first youth culture to unite kids from the East and the West and how techno became the soundtrack of those anarchic early years after the Reunification in general and for the kids from the East specifically the soundtrack to their new lives after the demise of the GDR.
Oh yeah, there is gonna be an english translation of our book. We are working on it. I can't say much more at this point. More infos on this hopefully very very soon.
Having seen the rise and rise of house/techno in berlin nearly 2 decades, is there one dj or live set specifically that you really remember as being particularly mind blowing…?
Too many to mention really. From Berlin's oldschool djs Rok and Jonzon (former Tresor residents) always amazed me when it comes to techno, as did Clé for house. I remember seeing Vladislav Delay perform live for the first time in Berlin when he had just released his first 12" on Chain Reaction. This one hour session of aquatic dub and ambient was pretty mind-blowing at the time.
What were the driving forces and reasons behind putting the book together?
When Felix and I moved to Berlin in the mid 90s most of what you can read in the book were already tales from what felt like a distant past. Myths. For most of Berlin's first generation of techno activists the party was pretty much over by 1995. The revolution had eaten its young. Some started to do something completely different after that and others went back underground. Felix and I were fascinated by this tidal wave of music, illegal clubs and drugs (pills, thrills and bellyaches if you will) that had changed Berlin so much, that we wanted to know everything about it. Being music journalists there was only one way to go about it … research and write a book.
Is researching a book much like becoming obsessed with a particular label/producer?
After a couple of years of preparation and a (ultimately) successful quest to strike a deal with a publisher, we really immersed ourselves with all things Berlin techno for about 18 months, including a memorable one week trip to Detroit. To do all those interviews and to hear all those stories was intensly exciting. The book has 425 pages and we could have easily made it to 500 or 550 pages. It was just such a unique moment in time, where everything alligned perfectly (a new sound, new drugs, new spaces, no laws) to create something unique.
Did you find yourself ending up down musical alleyways that you never thought you’d find yourself?
In a way yes. For instance I wasn't entirely aware of how important all those idiosyncratic trance, techno and breakbeat records between 1990 and 1993 from all parts of Europe actually were back then. A track like Techno Bert's "Neue Dimensionen" or Nitrous' "After Life" for instance. In Germany they called that sound Technohouse back then. And only after 1992 they started to talk about Techno, House and Breakbeats as seperate genres.
I’m assuming you took the name from the 3 Phase track?
Yes, that's correct. It just fitted perfectly as it describes the feeling within the early techno scene in Berlin. For the first couple fo years they really saw themselves as a family – hence the title (very roughly translated: "The Sound of Family"). It also was a record that caused a lot of fights within the scene, and apart from that it was the first record by german producers ever to be released on a label from Detroit (Transmat that is).