Tresor brings Techno back to Detroit

In a recent article in the Uk Guardian Newspaper, Dimitri Hegemann, the German nightlife impresario who founded Tresor talks candidly about his plans to bring Techno back to Detroit.

On a chilly afternoon two days after Thanksgiving, hundreds of Detroiters piled into a downtown cafe to discuss a local issue that’s been getting a lot of attention lately: the possibility of a techno club and cultural center at Fisher Body Plant 21, one of the city’s many abandoned auto factories.

Leading the discussion was the project’s main visionary: Dimitri Hegemann, the German nightlife impresario who founded Tresor, arguably Berlin’s most influential techno club. Hegemann, 60, who has a compelling presence and speaks slowly with a soothing baritone, was optimistic at the meeting. “The potential is here, definitely, everything is here,” he said. “I’m 200% convinced many people would come here.”

Dimitri Hegemann by Marie Staggat_05ht_small

Fisher Body Plant 21 is a crumbling, six-story structure that’s been abandoned for 20 years. Hegemann wants to convert it into a cavernous single-room center for alternative culture. In addition to a nightclub, he envisions, among other things, a pop-up restaurant, a youth hostel, art galleries and gardening allotments.

“It’s not only about a techno club,” he says. “It’s about an idea, a concept that will bring people to this city. Detroit needs a creative quarter where different things will happen.”

It’s not only about a techno club … It’s about an idea, a concept that will bring people to this city.
For many in the city, Hegemann’s proposal has a natural allure. Detroit, after all, is the birthplace of techno, a musical movement that sprung from the wreckage of the American auto industry and was inspired, in part, by the work of German musicians such as Kraftwerk. Many of the genre’s pioneers grew up in Detroit, and dozens of globally respected techno artists still live and work there today. But the city itself, with its struggling economy and early curfews, doesn’t have a big scene at the moment. Aside from the annual Movement festival, techno parties are surprisingly few and far between in the city where techno was born.


Hegemann has been in love with Detroit and its music scene for decades, since visiting Chicago on business in 1988 and stumbled across a demo by First Cut, an early project by the Detroit techno pioneer Jeff Mills.

Two years later, just after the Berlin wall came down, Hegemann opened Tresor, a gritty club in a former bank vault that played a seminal role in Berlin’s now-famous techno scene. Hegemann frequently invited Detroit DJs to play at the club – artists such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Underground Resistance were regulars from the start. Alongside local artists like Mark Ernestus and Moritz Von Oswald, they helped define the sound of Tresor and Berlin’s club scene at large, and established a creative dialogue between the two cities that continues to this day.

With all this in mind, Detroit may seem overdue for something like Fisher Body Plant 21. But in many ways the project is a long-shot. Even Detroit’s most famous techno clubs, like Motor and the Music Institute, failed to stay open for very long. Then there are the myriad regulation concerns, beginning with curfews and liquor licenses. In Berlin, clubs have the luxury of staying open (and serving alcohol) as long as they please, but in Detroit, last call is at 2am sharp, a restriction Hegemann plans to get around with what he calls a “a special license”.


Walter Wasacz, Hegemann’s partner, admits it’s still too early to even conceive of all the roadblocks that lie ahead. But Hegemann won’t be easily discouraged. For him, Fisher Body Plant 21 isn’t a pet project – it’s a personal calling, a passion inspired by his love of the city and the change he witnessed in Berlin. “I saw Berlin come out of the ruins, how this alternative culture brought people here. Berlin has seen 24m hotel stays last year, and those people are coming for the clubs.” Hegemann is convinced Detroit can undergo a similar metamorphosis, and that Fisher Body Plant 21 is the first step.

Wasacz says the feedback has been encouraging so far. “In the past, people tried things like this and a ‘no’ was always expected,” he says. “But this time, the city is saying ‘we want to say yes, we’re looking for a way to say yes.’ Many people in Detroit believe in a new beginning. There’s a young generation, in their 20s now, that’s thinking ‘Wow, let’s start.’”

“We are not stupid dreamers – we know how this works,” Hegemann says. “And we know that it can be done.”

Thankyou to The Guardian, Read the full article here

About the Author

Loves long walks along the beach, holding hands and romantic 80's power ballads, partial to electronic music and likes to make the odd mix or two.