As Berlin Brighton turns 7 this week, we caught up with the owner, Markus Saarländer. Having started Berlin Brighton in 2014 with the simple aim of bringing a slice of Berlin to the city by showcasing underground sounds from multiple genres not just Techno. Berlin has become one of Brighton’s most respected club nights with many collaborations, pop-up parties, two radio shows and of course the famous seafront beach terrace parties. Markus has also made numerous appearances on other radio shows, festivals & club nights across the country as well as in Barcelona, Ibiza and Germany including support duties for John Digweed at Concorde2 as well as starting a new record label called Dino Audio
Hi Markus, thanks for chatting with us today, firstly, congratulations on Berlin Brighton’s 7th birthday! Let’s go back to the beginning, how did it all start out?
Thanks for having me. It seems like a lifetime ago already but we started out as an underground party deep underneath Brighton station at a venue called the Green Door Store. It was the perfect fit, away from commercialism, in Brighton’s famous North Laines, hidden away, a space for Brightonians to lose themselves on a cobbled dance floor in a venue which could easily be hidden somewhere in Berlin. It’s been an amazing journey from running a free party to one which started to grow and was able to charge, to take itself to various other venues and concepts, inviting some of the biggest names in electronic music to experience our quirky, rainbow coloured city by the sea. It has truly been awesome and I’ve loved every minute. Linking up two cities in the process has been special as well as supporting and developing a strong resident line-up loved by local partygoers.
7 years is a lifetime in promoting, can you tell us some of the highs and lows of the last few years?
There have been many highs and it’s been incredible being able to book some amazing artists from the likes of Timo Maas, Einmusik, Rebekah, Tiefschwarz, Thomas Schumacher and many more. It’s also been fantastic doing showcases and collaborations with labels and other clubs such as Ritter Butzke, Watergate, Kittball Records and others to feature artists and labels from Berlin and beyond right here in the heart of Brighton. It’s been great to see our residents grow and develop along the way too, which has offered them much exposure and recognition. We also have our own radio show ‘The Berlin Radio Show’ which has been running for the last 5 years and you can catch it every second and fourth Tuesday of the month on Brighton’s top station 1BTN.
Other highlights include the multitude of different parties we’ve been able to do across very different venues outside of our club nights such as our Berlin Beach Kollektiv on Brighton seafront which we do every summer on the outdoor terrace there. We have been doing that for the last 5 years now. Lastly, it’s our crowd and the people that come to the events that are always up for it, which leads to an awesome vibe and no negativity. The music and the people that walk through the door have been the basis of the night since the beginning and that’s what makes the atmosphere so electric.
Lows? The Covid months for sure. We were on such an incredible trajectory at the beginning of 2020 where we had just moved to a stunning, bigger venue called CHALK, were planning events in other cities across the UK as well as a multitude of showcases and bookings including being part of Watergate’s global album tour. Sadly the latter we had to cancel as it would have taken place on the day of the first lockdown. We then had to postpone or cancel all of our remaining shows that year, many of which we had paid fees in advance for, which left us with some eye watering debts we couldn’t pay as we couldn’t put on any events.
We also fell through the cracks when it came to government funding, as we were not a venue but a fluid brand. We battled on and took the hit but we certainly have some numbers to clear for the next few years, so bouncing back properly in 2022 is paramount.
You’ve had some incredible artists over the years, who would be your favourite and can you tell us some funny green room antics?
Of course it’s been great booking some of my heroes such as Timo Maas, Tiefschwarz, Einmusik and Dave Seaman but equally it’s been the building of friendships with many of the artists ever since, in particular our partnership with Kittball Records and label owner Juliet Sikora, who we’ve been doing showcases with for 3 years in a row (would have been 5 if it wasn’t for COVID). I really don’t have a favourite as everyone has been amazing to work with. Green room antics? What happens at Berlin, stays in Berlin….
Let’s talk Brighton, how is the scene moving along after Covid?
It’s been tricky in Brighton for electronic music in particular. The first few weeks out of lockdown from July onwards were pretty good but there is certainly still a reluctance for people to venture out into club land. Outdoor events have performed better but indoor events not so much across the scene. Brighton isn’t London and is a big town really as opposed to a city. Nights or artists that attract an older crowd are the ones where we’ve seen a drop in numbers across the scene. COVID has certainly had a positive impact for many of us promoters as it has brought us closer together to discuss nights and share our experiences and find a solution. Having also spoken to other promoters and agents across the UK, this seems to be happening everywhere and putting on regular nights is proving a bit of a gamble.
Another thing we have noticed is that people will buy tickets but not show. We had an event in August and sold out yet only 49% of ticket holders showed up on the night. We still filled the club all night long but it certainly was an interesting and yet worrying stat. People are more likely to attend the big names in Brighton such as Carl Cox or Fatboy Slim but seem to be forgetting to come and support their local venues and club nights filled by emerging artists and residents. I don’t think it’s intentional, moreover people are selective about coming out to parties after months of being at home and will only venture out for big nights and less often. The younger crowds such as the students are always out in force however, and many of the student nights in the week have queues around the block!
I think it will be a while before we reach some sort of normal again especially through the coming winter months with illness on the rise and more media scaremongering. For many of the underground nights the recipe at the moment in Brighton seems to be fewer events, smaller venues, collaborate and promote like hell!
Decoded has been a proud partner with you guys for 5 years now, can you tell us what the next 7 years look like for Berlin Brighton, any plans to host elsewhere?
We will continue to do our thing in mixing local heroes with carefully selected headliners and will continue to endeavour to be at the forefront of supporting female artists. We did have plans to bring the night to other cities in 2020. This will be on hold for now and sensibly so for this winter as we look to see what COVID brings but you never know, we have worked with a lot of people over the years and London is only an hour away…. I would love to start something in my old neck of the woods Manchester, so we will see…
Your residents have been instrumental in your continual success, can you tell us a little bit more about them?
They sure have. The aim of Berlin was always to showcase local talent and help them progress and give them the same platform and emphasis as any of the headliners on the bill. Our longest serving troopers are Lola and POoK who have been part of our movement for the best part of 5 and 6 years. Lola is super talented and has an incredible energy when she performs and it’s in those moments you really see her explode and see how much it all means to her. It’s been great to see her grow and secure bookings at home and abroad. POoK her partner, is one of the best technical DJ’s I’ve seen and has been our longest standing resident. The last few years have seen him produce and release a number of tracks including our own label Dino Audio as well as Meat Katie’s Lowering the Tone label and labels such as Krafted and Prospect.
Koipinoxia joined the roster 2 years ago and only started DJing about 3 years ago after joining our crew and being an avid party goer. Not bad for a gent who has seen 5 decades worth of music and finally decided to learn to DJ! Since then he has become a popular face at our events and line-ups and has secured his own radio show on local station Decadance radio. We also recently welcomed the lovely Chemz who has been coming to our parties since 2016 and during the lockdown finally decided to learn to DJ. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength securing a show on RUAR Radio and kickstarting his own Friday night event called The Social Shift with his partner Darien J at one of Brighton’s most popular hangouts, Block.
Over the years we have also seen the success of duo Monica who were our warm up stars for 3 years, who since then have launched their own night called Foucault showcasing artists such as Skatman and Kris Davis. They have also been creating some magic in the studio and no doubt will be doing some great things soon. We wish them much luck.
You have your 7th birthday this weekend, what can we expect?
Lots of fun, confetti, stickers and an amazing crowd of music lovers. We have some of our residents joining us on the line-up such as Chemz, Koipinoxia, myself and Lola & POoK. We also welcome the amazing Nadia who’s music selection of stunning melodies will no doubt have our crowd swooning and in awe. Lastly we welcome the incredible Nina Carina who has been making waves on the Brighton scene for the last couple of years with her Techno inspired sets. All in all, I’m very excited and massively looking forward to reconnecting with everyone. It’s certainly going to be emotional as not every night survives 7 years nevermind a global pandemic but we got through by the skin of our teeth and are still here. There will be love, tears, high fünfs and much more. Hope you can join us X
Last minute tickets are available via here