Markus Saarländer is no stranger to Decoded Magazine. We have previously pulling together as partners with his event brand Berlin-Brighton to host official parties at Brighton Music Conference for the past two years. In terms of Berlin-Brighton, the concept is a simple one. As a Germanc (half German/half Mancunian) Markus had always wanted to host a night that encompassed some of the great artists that Berlin and Germany had to offer and also dispel the myth that Berlin was all about Industrial Techno as that was very much and perhaps still is, a misconception. He wanted to draw on wicked disco, house, tech house and techno labels and really showcase the different sounds and artists coming out of ze Germany. Markus had also been a DJ for quite some time running up to starting Berlin and felt DJing in commercial clubs and bars just wasn’t his thing anymore. He wanted something underground, back to the old days of clubbing, where people meet, catch up and are there for the music. Being very much tired of the VIP, ‘there-to-be-seen’ commercial club vibe he wanted to bring it back to the music and 4 years on he has built a loyal community around the night and it’s as raw as it always has been.
The Berlin events are going from strength to strength. Prior to this he had been involved in putting on a few events here and there but when he started Berlin it was his first sole event. “I remember being super nervous” he told me. The first parties were free and since day one he has always laid great value on creating a fun experience.
“I remember the club days of when I first discovered electronic music in places like Tangled and Sankeys in Manchester as well as Cream and The Masque in Liverpool. I really loved Tangled, it was a small sweat pit but the vibe was always incredible with awesome bookings. It really was that ethos of it and didn’t matter who, what, where, the music was always great, you’d see the same people there and it was so much fun and you felt part of a community” he explained.
That community element and the music is what Markus wanted to combine with Berlin but also draw in other fun aspects. “For example, there are always confetti canons, stickers, free glow bands and other bits we give out on the night. At our beach parties we even give out lots of inflatable animals and glow stick glasses. Everyone loves a freebie and that fun element mixed with my personal clubbing experience and joining that with my German heritage was the formula” he explained. As the nights have grown it has certainly been a learning curve and flying in DJs every month and sorting all the logistics has certainly been eye opening for him. “I also lay great value on a personal experience with the artists i.e. I will pick them up from the airport, check them in at the hotel, go for dinner in the eve with a small part of our crew, so that the artists feel welcomed, at ease and already like they have walked into a nice family vibe and are part of something. Plus, I get to meet some of my favourite artists and talk lots of music” he said.
We have previously spoken to each other about the current home of Berlin ‘The Green Door Store’ and it’s intimate, quirky, electric vibe. Markus spoke about some of the past headliners who came to play at the venue for Berlin Parties explaining the energy and atmosphere the venue holds. “The vibe is always electric and wild. But I would say our Kittball parties have always been crazy with Juliet Sikora and Nolan mainly because Juliet and Brighton have fallen in love with one another hence Juliet came back again this year and was desperate to party with us again. She has a really good relationship and interacts with our party-goers, so she’s become a bit of a crowd favourite. I would also say Thomas Schumacher was wild! I was a bit worried at first as Thomas plays some luscious pounding Techno these days and was scared that it may be too hard for some of the crowd but oh no! It was hard, wild, crazy and people loved it! I still have people coming up to me and saying the Thomas Schumacher night was incredible. So well and intelligently put together too and a lovely chap to round it off. It was also an absolute honour to have the maestro that is Timo Maas with us back in May – One of my all-time heroes and such a fun bloke. We laughed a lot that’s for sure and the feedback from Timo was incredible too, saying it was one of the best parties he’d played at all year and that he wanted to come back and play for at least 3 hours next time! Lastly, we partied extremely hard with Daniel Steinberg and Kristin Velvet back in January, Kristin even partied and danced with everyone in the crowd after her set” he explained.
One of these parties was with Einmusik. We’re such big fans of his music at Decoded. As we were unable to make it down to Brighton Markus told me about some of the highlights from the night and particularly his set. “I have been such a big fan of his for years and I was a bit starstruck when I picked him up from the airport. I play so much of his music as well as from his two labels Einmusika and Ein2 in my sets and weekly radio show, so it was a true pleasure to have him play for us. His set was incredible and again one of those standout sets people talked about for weeks afterwards. There’s also a 10-minute clip on our Berlin-Brighton Facebook page I filmed from the sound booth, so have a listen but also get an idea of the vibe of the crowd. In terms of highlights, his set obviously but equally just hanging out with him and our crew at dinner and just talking all things music, Berlin, food and everything else in-between. A lovely chap and always great when your favourite artists are lovely people too.”
Markus has teased about planning Berlin parties in other UK cities outside of Brighton. He shared some exciting updates on how close things are to coming together and which cities are in the pipeline. “There are some interesting discussions happening at the moment and the plan is looking to be that we partner up with some headlining nights as a room two to start off with in a number of cities unless a really good venue and opportunity arises to do a standalone event” he said. Furthermore, he did stress the venue really has to be on a par with the Green Door albeit bigger in size, so he is very busy venue hunting.
“Manchester is definitely on the hit list for obvious reasons, it would be great to start something there and give something back to the city in which I first discovered electronic music all those years ago. Other cities we’re looking at are Bristol, Liverpool and Leeds as well as a couple of cities abroad, so watch this space….”
An interesting discussion at IMS College Malta this year was establishing yourself on the local scene. Markus shared with me some of the key areas which personally helped him a lot when he first started out. “I think it’s important to find and work with local talent but in a way that works with your brand too” he said. When he started with the free parties back in 2014 he worked closely with local already established artists that had a love for the Berlin sound and that is how he met his residents POoK and Lola. Brighton is also one of those cities where there are a lot of DJs. He has made many friends across the genres over the years of which many have played at Berlin at some point. He also wanted that for example, people get a shot to play and hang out with him.
“When I started Berlin I think Brighton was in some sort of underground void where there just didn’t seem to be much of an underground scene left with commercial bars and clubs dominating the nightlife with many stories of the good old days of clubs and nights that had closed. I then and still do collaborate with other artists and nights to work for a common underground scene. The last few years has certainly seen some cool new brands and club nights and it’s been lots of fun helping one another from gig swaps, equipment, promo and just giving advice. It’s a much better way of working and stamps out a lot of rivalry. It also means we turn up and support each other’s events on the night and we have spill over crowds that come to most of our nights, which no doubt is great for the party goers and our scene” he explained.
“Musically Berlin has evolved very much and it’s always difficult to appease friends who DJ locally as people quite often take it personally if they are not selected. I am a strong believer in building a journey with a strong warm up, headliner and close. In November last year we discovered the ‘Monica’ boys Owen and Luke and their unique sound and exquisite track selection has made them firm residents, as their knowledge of how to warm up a club is on point. The warm up is a trade and skill that few possess and it needs to lead into the next artist perfectly. It’s a skill I learned over many years going to the sunset strip closing parties in Ibiza as well as playing the first 4-5 hours at our Beach Kollektiv parties every summer. People need a vibe to ease into and slowly sink into a groove before going crazy on the dance floor. There are many other local DJs who are extremely talented but I have to build a night around the artist and not all other styles often fit around that plus with such a strong resident roster right now it is certainly giving me a selection headache haha as our residents are also firm crowd favourites. But jokes aside there is always an opening and I will always endeavour to showcase local talent where and when I can.”
Radio shows were a key suggestion at IMS College Malta to help maximise exposure of your brand. Berlin Radio and Berlin Mixtapes (a guest mix series) are both online outlets for fans to hear what Berlin are about musically. Markus talked through both and their purposes for the brand explaining “I have a weekly radio show on a Brighton radio station called Trickstar Radio, which has an incredible array of underground talent and encompasses all electronic music genres. I started the Berlin Radio Show 3 years ago and the first year was on another local station. The last two have been on Trickstar and has been a great way to engage with listeners and fans outside of our events but also showcase fresh new music from labels and artists from Berlin and Germany every week. On the back of the show I now receive lots of fresh promos weekly and gives me lots of choice to play with especially from some of my favourite labels. In terms of genres the show is always a mixture of Deep House, House, Tech House, Melodic Techno, Progressive House, Techno and a sprinkling (normally from Vandit) of Trance if I can get away with it… It also gives me a chance to chat and engage with fans. Over the next few months virtually all shows will be live streamed again so you can see me pulling off the latest dad moves right in the studio.
In terms of the Berlin Mixtapes series, this was born out of wanting to create some guest mixes from residents and other artist to convey their interpretation of what Berlin means to them sound wise. We now have 25 episodes all available to listen to for free via our website or Soundcloud including mixes by Thomas Schumacher, Dave Seaman, Nolan, Daniel Steinberg, Kristin Velvet, Robosonic, BAAL, Kellerkind just to name a few but also mixes from our residents including Lola, POoK and Monica.”
The story behind Dino Audio www.dinoaudio.com
Owning and running a record label was always something Markus wanted to do but equally wasn’t sure about calling it something Berlin related as whilst it’s the brand, he felt it may pigeon hole the label a little. Plus, the fact of being based in Brighton! The Dino story began a couple of years ago, Markus’ little boy started getting into Dinosaurs, which by the way he was super excited about rediscovering his childhood again. Whilst he was tidying up his toys one evening after putting him to bed and there were two dinos that had fallen on one another, almost as if they were sharing a joke and rolling around laughing. He took a photo as it cracked him up and posted it on Facebook and people loved it he explained to me. This then became a bit of a thing of taking photos of toy dinos doing silly things and posting them online. People loved it so much that when he stopped for a while he was getting messages asking where the dinos were!
“I remembered reading Claude VonStroke’s interview in Mixmag years ago talking about Dirty Bird. He was also the same age as me now when he started his label, so I thought why not have a label that is not only pushing out top sounds but also a bit of fun – almost a tongue-in-cheek label that makes people laugh and also produces great music. Plus, everyone loves a dinosaur.” he said.
It’s certainly been a lot of fun so far and people are embracing the dinos. “We have two 7-foot T-Rex mascots too called Winston and Doris” he laughed as explaining. The release artwork is also very cool. I asked about the illustration and who was doing the artwork? “The release artwork is in the style of some of the old photos I used to take and post on Facebook – So when we sign a new record, I literally ask the artist if they have a favourite dino and go away with a box of toys and dinosaurs and we shoot lots of different scenarios mostly with a giggle in mind. Paul Sawyer for example requested a Dimetrodon for his release Apollo, so why not have a Dimetrodon with a handbag? It’s safe to say it’s a lot of fun.”
As for upcoming releases on the label it’s all a bit of a secret right now but there is a busy schedule between now and NYE with Berlin including welcoming Teenage Mutants to Brighton on 14th December. “That will be priority for the last Quarter of 2018” said Markus. He realy wants to focus on and spend more time in building the Dino brand which so far has had an incredible level of support. Previous EPs have had love from the likes of Nick Warren, Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Joris Voorn, Kölsch, Dave Seaman, Soul Button, Eelke Kleijn, Marc Depulse, Just Her, Edu Imbernon, Gai Barone, Betoko, Aly & Fila, Above & Beyond, Danny Tenaglia, Paride Saraceni, Oliver Schories, Guy J, Roger Sanchez, Frankey & Sandrino just to name a few. The last EP by ‘Fade-Another Story’ has been massively received and was played by Nick Warren in a live stream with Hernan Cattaneo for Sudbeat meets the Soundgarden in Barcelona and the flip side ‘Wal’ has also had massive support from Eelke Kleijn, who has been hammering it across the world from a Mixmag NYC Livestream at the Lab, to his last track at Burning Man and including it in his radio show and a guest mix for Electronic Groove Magazine. “The future is certainly looking rosy for the label but please go and check out the website and our Facebook page – The website in particular has lots of funny dinos” he prompted.
With the announcement from Brighton Music Conference on next year’s venue change which will see them moving to the British Airways i360 Pod we discussed how this will positively impact the conference. “I think it’s great! I have always liked the i360 but then I always like change and innovation. I remember all the opposition to the i360 when it was being developed but I love seeing it – it’s great and such a cool landmark – A recent Cercle Episode with Fatboy Slim in the pod looked incredible with the sunset in the distance and views for miles around and out to sea. The video will have done the rounds via the internet, so no doubt will have people interested to come and visit and check it out for real. I am genuinely excited as the BMC has been growing every year and Berlin has been a partner with Decoded for the last two years and next year we will be once again be hosting one of the official parties on the Friday. It will be an awesome hub of activity around there and if the weather plays ball it will be even more incredible. Although I still need to go into the pod, I have terrible vertigo and am rubbish even up a ladder! Will certainly be interesting haha.”
And perhaps the biggest dance related event next to BMC in Brighton is Pride weekend. Although Berlin-Brighton has not had too much involvement because normally they have an event the week before always being the last Friday of the month and Pride is usually the first weekend in August. “This year for example we held our beach party on 20th July then had our Dino Audio label party at the Green Door on the 27th and Pride was the following weekend. We did support a Trickstar Radio Pride Party at the legendary Concorde 2 two years ago where we had Just Her, Timo Garcia and myself on the line-up, which was a lot of fun but usually I play a few gigs myself around Brighton for example two years ago I also played on one of the parade floats going through the city playing to thousands of people – it was a truly incredible experience one I would gladly repeat, so perhaps next year we should have a Berlin-Brighton Pride float! This year I played on a rooftop party at the iconic Mesmerist which was an incredible vibe. Sometimes it is nice to take off the promo hat and just enjoy Pride without a care in the world but equally I feel its time we did something big.”
Next, we spoke about the guest mix for Decoded Radio. I really enjoyed this mix, and it complemented Luke’s first hour of the show so well. Here is a quick run though of the programming….
“It’s very much in the vein of what my Berlin Radio Shows sound like but really touches on that almost progressive and melodic groove driven sound I love so much right now. The track selection is predominantly Berlin labels and German artists with an inclusion of Wal by Faide on our label Dino Audio. I have also included two of my favourite labels right now outside of Berlin which are Dear Deer and Anjunadeep. Really love the sound of what Dear Deer push out and a lot of stuff has very much a Berlin sound. Anjunadeep, well what can I say, this has been one of my favourite labels for years and the last track by Eli & Fur is a perfect way to finish the mix. The set is built up in a style of a journey and each tune melts into the next and rises just a little higher before coming back down again towards the end of the set. Some really strong labels in there of which I play a lot of including Stil vor Talent, Audiomatique, Katermukke, Ein2 and Afterlife. I am a big fan of Afterlife right now too, just such a unique cosmic sound on every new release right now and I must say I am very much looking forward to the Afterlife event at the Printworks at the end of this month. Just a mention for Daniel Jaeger too of which there are two tracks in the set, I’m really enjoying his sound right now that proggy, techie, rolling sound he is putting out there is just awesome. Also, the new remix by Lars Moston of Nico Pusch’s ‘Grace’ has been going down a treat at our events lately. You can also catch Lars Moston and Sabrina Mue at our next Berlin party on 23 November at the Green Door Store. Finally, just to add it’s probably obvious in this mix that I do like a vocal! Can’t beat a bit of emotion.”
We ended with some news he has been itching to announce about his new show on Frisky Radio starting Nov 12th. I left him with one last plug to let you all know what’s in store for the show and what dates to tune in and listen. “Yes indeedy! Super excited to be joining the station and big thanks to Paul Sawyer at Frisky for making it happen. I was the artist of the week back in June, the show of which you can still listen back to. It had a super response and I am truly honoured to be part of the home of electronic music and joining a station with so many prestigious artists including Sasha, Dave Seaman, Nick Warren, Steve Lawler and many more. The show won’t have a Berlin focus for now but will no doubt include a lot of tracks from German labels but the aim of this show is to spread my wings more as an artists and really lace together sounds and melodies from worldwide labels I have been wanting to play more of and really put some emotive, heart stringey journeys together hence the name of the show ‘Rainbow Frequencies’ . The show will air every second Monday of the month kickstarting on the 12th November and will be at 4 PM EST (as frisky are in NYC) or 9pm UK Time and 10pm Berlin time.”
It’s been a pleasure speaking, as always.
Decoded Radio hosted by Luke Brancaccio presents Berlin-Brighton with Markus Saarländer
01. Tourist – Apollo [Monday Records]
02. No track ID
03. Aether – Endevour [Afterlife]
04. Aether – Spectre [Afterlife]
05. Lee van Dowski – Nob [Bedrock]
06. Hushkin – Hoba [Somatic Records]
07. Themba – Better Days
08. Gabe Rocksted – Expressions (Sabb Remix) [Warung Recordings]
09. Barbuto – Mermaids Secret Serpent (Loco & Jam)
10. No track ID
01. Deorbiting – Paranorama (Kalipo Remix) – Stil vor Talent [Berlin]
02. TheGround, Florian Kruse & Hendrik Burkhard – Undercover (Fake Mood Remix) – Audiomatique [Berlin/Hamburg]
03. Alexander Alar & Meduz feat. Burnheart – Ibiza – Dear Deer [Kiev]
04. Jan Dalvik – You feat. Aulee – Whatiplay [Berlin]
05. Pauli Pocket & Daniel Jaeger – Spacediver – Katermukke [Berlin]
06. Marius Drescher – Momentum (Daniel Jaeger Remix) – Ein2 [Berlin]
07. Nico Pusch – Grace (Lars Moston Remix) – Lauter Unfug [Berlin]
08. Faide – Wal – Dino Audio [Brighton]
09. Der Dritte Raum – Hale Bopp (Maceo Plex Edit) – Harthouse [Berlin]
10. Aether – Raven – Afterlife [Berlin]
11. Eli & Fur – Night Blooming Jasmine (Rodriguez Jr. Remix) – Anjunadeep [London]