To talk about a club regarded as the Mecca of techno, one simply can’t neglect its reputation and past. Yes, the club where parties last for days and days, and where techno is invented and reinvented. Berghain. What many people don’t know is that Berghain had a predecessor: Ostgut. That is where our story begins.
Ostgut opened in 1999 and closed in 2003 when it was torn down to make room for the O2 Arena. Passing over concrete tiles through an area of abandoned structures, you reached a faceless grey building: the Ostgut. Nothing concealed that this place was built to repair trains. Yet the layout and the facilities were thoughtfully designed. It was all about the dance floor. There was no smoker’s lounge, no restaurant, no garden, no works of art on the walls (and no concerts and no record label).
The Ostgut was a link between Berlin’s club scene of the ’90s, raging in the abandoned buildings of the capital of the former East Germany, and the cosmopolitan scene which is now fueled by thousands of EasyJetters every weekend. In Mitte at that time, clubbing was not particularly great. The techno revolution had happened almost ten years previously and lost some of its shattering effect, particularly after E-Werk closed in 1997. After almost a decade of hanging out and partying in a continuous flow of new illegal and semi-legal places, it was more like something people did. The club you chose said more about you as a person than your passion for music and the desire to party. Ostgut was not about a scene, a peer group, a career. It was about emancipation.
Apart from E-Werk, Ostgut was the first place with resident DJs who defined the sound of the club. At most places the resident was a sideshow to the international guest. But Ostgut did not book the Berlin DJ stars of the ’90s (Rok, Tanith, Woody, Disco), they trusted their own instincts. André Galluzzi had just recently moved from Frankfurt to Berlin. Marcel Dettmann turned in a demo cassette and got a call: “We listened to your tape while cleaning the place. And we enjoyed it.” Numerous others joined them over time in Berghain, such as Margaret Dygas, Ben Klock, Marcel Fengler, Prosumer, Samuli Kemppi, Shed, Tama Sumo, Tobias Freund and Tim Paris.
In 2003, Ostgut eventually closed on January 6, following a 30-hour farewell event, and the former railway warehouse that housed the club was subsequently demolished. Berghain then opened in 2004. The name “Berghain” is a composite of the names of the two quarters that flank the building’s south and north sides: Kreuzberg (formerly West Berlin) and Friedrichshain (formerly East Berlin)—the literal meaning of the German word berghain is “mountain grove”. The Panoramabar opened two years later. It was accessible through a huge staircase after having passing the wardrobe. Again, there was only the dance floor, a bar and a regular toilet. There was little space where you were not exposed to the crowd. Nick Höppner, a resident DJ who founded and managed the label until December 2012, stated in 2007: “The simple division is that Panorama Bar more or less caters to house and Berghain is really the platform for purist techno.”
Half a year after the club opened Hick Hoppner and the management of Beghain met and he got the go ahead, after which the licensing started on their first mix “CD Berghain 01 mixed by André Galluzzi” and they contacted Kompakt about their distribution service. What OSTGUT seems to always have plenty of is creativity and quality. But also a sense for home. The producers of OSTGUT releasing on this imprint are seen as part of a big family. One of the interesting things is how compilation FUNF came about. Emika told Nick Hoppner about her experience in Berghain while he was playing. She notices how everything was shaking and vibrating, so after a long session of recording sounds of the club, the 4gb sample library was created by Emika and distributed to the residents (to publish for OSTGUT you need to be a part of the family). In one of the interviews Nick stated: ”Our artists were allowed to do anything they liked with the samples. I felt so good about it because there was such a strong relationship with the clubs architecture and the label, because let’s be honest, the space itself has such a big influence on the music, the attitude, and ultimately the Berghain experience”. Their recent compilation ZEHN was described as “not intended to be nostalgia, not a best of ten years, not a testament of Ostgut Ton’s past. It’s an adult statement of the label’s status quo as well as a glimpse of what’s forthcoming – at the end of a decade, on the brink of the future.” That being said, it seems that this label has only begun pushing boundaries and breaking sonic barriers.
But, OSTGUT and Berghain do not end there. In 2007, in collaboration with the Berlin State Ballet to create “Shut Up and Dance! Updated”, a ballet for five dancers that was performed at the club in late June and early July. The ballet’s soundtrack, released on Ostgut Ton on May 29, 2007 is made up of five specially composed tracks by prominent techno artists, such as Luciano, Âme, Sleeparchive and Luke Slater. The soundtrack received some positive reviews, including a five-star review in The Guardian, while the ballet itself was panned by Resident Advisor. In June 10th, 2013, another collaboration between OSTGUT, Berghain and the Berlin State Ballet happened. Marcel Dettmann, Henrik Schwarz, Frank Wiedemann of Ame and DIN (Marcel Fengler and Efdemin) were the ones responsible for the musical art behind the project.
As said previously, the family of Berghain involves not just the DJs, but also the legendary doormen, led by Sven Marquardt. Although the in-house graphic designer works the flyers, one of our bouncers called Viron Vert has designed the artwork for the L.B. Dub Corp 12 inch as well as Planetary Assault Systems releases. With Sven, as a photographer as well, you could say that OSTGUT/Berghain is not just a mecca for techno, but creative home for artists of all kind.