Monika Kruse is a shining beacon of just what can be achieved by a DJ. Her record label – Terminal M celebrates its 16th birthday this year, and her tour diary continues to be full of huge festival gigs and headline club shows all over the world. Behind the limelight, she is an ardent campaigner for social justice and her charity (founded in 2000) held events at Berghain and Watergate last year raising a staggering amount of money for local organisations battling racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration and homophobia.
Born and raised in Germany, Monika’s musical palette is broad. She grew up buying records, accumulating a music collection that grew to span funk, soul, hip-hop, and house music. When the revolutionary rhythms coming out of Chicago and Detroit captured her imagination it led her to throw parties in illegal venues including World War II bunkers, trams and empty houses. “My aim is to help people forget what is going on in their life and get lost in my music.” She tells us in typically modest fashion.
UK Editor Simon Huxtable sat down with Monika recently to discuss her ADE plans, raving in a World War 2 bunker and musical collaborations.
Hi Monika, thanks for finding the time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. Let’s start with your Terminal M ADE show at Q-Factory with Tronic. It’s quite a lineup! Can you tell us all about it?
Christian Smith is a good friend since years. Back in the day; in the 90’s when I played in New York I could even stay in his flat. We’ve been playing regularly together for a long time. So when he asked me to combine forces with Terminal and Tronic to throw a party together I loved the idea, as I really like him. His label is doing one room, Terminal M the other and I am happy about the big line up with interesting artists. I am super happy that these great colleagues – ANNA, Pig&Dan, Paride Saraceni, Noir, Stefano Noferini and Oliver Huntemann are joining us to play.
We understand later in October you headline at Drumcode Halloween with another star-studded cast. Anyone you’re looking forward to hearing?
Yes, it is a big honour to play for Drumcode at their famous Halloween party. There are so many good artists I love, it hard to name one who I want to hear. But I have to admit that I have to leave the party to play in Edinburgh later that night as well. So I don’t really have the time to listen to them.
You’ve mentioned before how you like playing both festivals and clubs and how each has its own unique thrill. With the recent closure of Fabric in the UK and the troubles in Sydney with lockout laws, will our children have a clubland to enjoy? Are we likely to see a rise in illegal raves again like in the early 90s?
It is very sad that fabric has to close. I can only hope their efforts to overturn the decision are successful. It is such an important club with a long history and has played such an important role in the techno scene. I only can hope that something new will rise. There is always a movement in the techno scene and I am sure the scene will not go down. If something goes down there is always a challenge to create something new.
In recent years, techno has seen something of a renaissance and the old records from Detroit and beyond have become timeless classics. Do you think the modern Techno sounds will be looked back on with the same love?
I am sure that some tracks will always be played. Good music has no expiration date.
2016 sees Terminal M celebrates its 16th year. Can you talk us through some of the highlights and challenges you’ve faced over that time?
As I support and release a lot of new artist’s, it is great to see how they evolve and become bigger. The best examples are andhim and Paride Saraceni, who did some of their early releases on Terminal M. Running a label is always a challenge, but it was not easy when the vinyl market broke down and a lot of illegal download sites just gave away the music for free.
We understand that your No Historical Backspin charity events are particularly close to your heart. Can you tell us about how you started the events and a little about the amazing work you do in the background with various charities and organisations?
Thank you for your support, it means a lot to me! No Historical Backspin is a charity that raises money to give direct assistance to people who suffer from racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant discrimination. I started it in the year 2000 when there were a lot of racist and homophobic attacks happened in Germany and even some of my colleagues and gay friends were attacked. No one should be discriminated against, hindered or hurt because of their background, race, gender, belief, physical challenges or sexual orientation – in Germany or elsewhere.
I like to celebrate society’s diversity through music, joy and togetherness and set an example for tolerance for a mutual, peaceful future, that is why I started the charity parties. I worked with several organisations where I donated the money I made with my charity parties, which took place all over Germany.
When the UK voted for Brexit, our eyes were opened to the depth of racism here with many unprovoked attacks reported countrywide. We remember something similar happening in parts of Germany when Angela Merkel offered the Syrian refugees the open door migration deal. In your opinion is Germany still a divided nation? And as frustrating as it is, how do we educate those unwilling to learn?
Germany is more divided than ever. A lot of people are against Merkel’s decision to let over a million refugees come in. The biggest problem is that these people who are against her decision feel unheard and ignored by the government. They get jealous about the help refugees get and feel rejected. That is why they vote now for right wing party or even attack refugee shelters. It is important to listen to their fears. And it is important to really work on the integration. Otherwise, the gap between other culture and the fear because of the other culture will rise.
Let’s change direction, it’s all a bit depressing! What’s the Terminal M release schedule looking like for the rest of 2016? Anything exciting you can mention yet?
And personally, more new music? You’ve been on a bit of a roll recently with tracks on two separate Toolroom compilations and the excellent Oblivion EP with Pig&Dan.
I am still touring heavily so I first need time to get myself to the studio again.
Talking of collaborations (well, we kinda were) Some artists find real inspiration from bouncing ideas off like minded people, how does the dynamic work in a Monika Kruse collab?
HA! I really like to do collabs. It is always interesting to work with another person on a track, so we inspire each other. Plus it is definitely more fun to be in the studio with friends than do music alone.
Before we finish up, could I take you back to the beginning? I’d love to hear about the parties you put on in disused WW2 bunkers, trams and empty houses! What was the craziest party you ran back then?
Every party had his own craziness… there are a lot of stories to tell. A funny situation was one time when I did a party in a tram and we got stopped by the police because they thought the tram was on fire. It was just a smoke machine which did a very good job!
Another funny thing happened when I did a party in an abandoned building; Chris Liebing was playing when the police came. I managed to convince them it was my birthday party and we wouldn’t harm anybody. Back in the early 90s, techno was quite unknown so for them it was just a party with strange music. They told me to lower the bass otherwise the old house might collapse and left without giving me a fine!!
HAHAHA! Well Monika, it’s been wonderful to meet you and spend some time chatting. Best of luck with your upcoming parties and I hope to see you at the ADE show with Tronic on Friday 21st October. Is there anything in closing you’d like to add?
Dear Decoded Magazine! Thank you very much for your great and interesting questions and your support! Looking forward to seeing you at ADE! All the best for you!
Photo Credit (Monika at Timewarp): KDK foto