Access All Areas with Watergate's founder & owner Steffen Hack

Words by: Peter Adkins
Posted: 20/8/12 7:32

Access All Areas with Watergate’s founder & owner Steffen Hack
Mention the word ‘Watergate’ to any clued-up clubber and they’ll know exactly where your talking about. Since opening its doors back in October 2002, the Berlin club has carved out a global reputation for its incredible space and innovative booking.

Set on the cusp of the River Spree in the south-eastern Kreuberg section of the German capital, and split over two long and narrow floors, the club has become an ingrained part of the capital’s house and techno scene. The club’s floor to wall LED lighting and breezy riverside terrace having become the unofficial hangout for the city’s house and techno producers over the years.

October 2012 will mark a decade since Watergate first opened, and to celebrate the club is hosting a entire week of epic ‘birthday’ events. Running from Wednesday 22nd August to Sunday 26th, the marathon sessions will see special performances from the likes of Dixon, Richie Hawtin, dOP, Pan-Pot, Marco Resmann and countless other DJs who have become associated with the club over the years.  Ahead of their grand celebrations, we caught up with the club’s founder and owner Steffen Hack to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the first ten years.

Hi Steffen. Could you begin by telling our readers a little about yourself. Are you a born and bred Berliner?
I was born and raised in the south of Germany until I dropped out of school and moved to Berlin. Berlin has always been the playground for people with free minds, [where you] can develop alternative ideas of living and work together. At the time [I moved] to Berlin it was still an island surrounded by the German Democratic Republic, so it was not the focus of investment and offered lots of space to experiment.

Steffen Hack Tell me about how Watergate came to exist. How did you find the building?
We've been involved in the underground party scene of Berlin for more then 20 years as promoters and artists. [Before Watergate] we rented out other clubs, threw warehouse parties and all that... 

Eventually we felt the need to give our business a bit more security by establishing a location that would allow us to plan and develop. That became Watergate! We had some luck in that when we discovered the space [we wanted] was empty, the landlord liked our idea of establishing a nightclub [in it]. At the time the Kreuberg area was pretty untouched in terms of nightlife.

Did you ever foresee Berlin becoming such a destination for clubbing?
Honestly, we never thought about that . We simply wanted to run a club.

The use of floor to ceiling LED lighting in the club’s main floor has become fairly iconic. Was this something you had always visualised?
We [originally] planned the club with friends who were architects , but when we opened the club in October 2002 we were still far away from our final concept and idea of a perfect club.

Throughout the years we added the terrace on the river and developed the idea of an LED floor, which we [implemented] in 2006. The idea behind it was for the bar, lighting and dance floor to be one single piece and to leave behind old school [club] techniques such as moving spotlights and so on.

By accident we met the people who were at the forefront of LED technology, which was the new thing at that time, and together with out architects Bolwin and Wulf, and the LED guys from Room Division, we customised a unique LED ceiling, which apparently set standards as it was copied all through the world!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the early days Watergate put on a lot of drum n’ bass events. Can you explain the change to the disco, house and techno bookings?
You're right, we were strongly involved in the drum n’ bass scene. Back in the early days we were throwing some of Germany’s hottest drum n’ bass events. But we were also very open minded in terms of electronic music, so the change to house and techno wasn't really difficult, it was just a logical progression. After-all, we originally came from a hip-hop background! Word!

10 Jahre WatergateYour bookings are always pretty astute and remain ahead of the curve. How do you decide who to bring in?
Uli , my partner, does the bookings. He's been involved in the music scene for ages and is the creative mind behind our program. His musical experience, contacts, understanding of the club in terms of it's size and needs, and willingness to take risks [are what shape] our monthly program.

Many clubs with global reputations complain that the vibes and atmosphere of a club can be negatively influenced by so-called ‘tourist clubbers’ as opposed to locals and music lovers. Has this been a challenge for Watergate?
Love for music is a global thing and we appreciate everyone who comes to Watergate because of their love for music.[However], the tourist boom and the club’s global success has made it difficult for us in terms of door policy, simply because we’ve a wider audience [than we can accommodate for] and not everybody comes for the music. It’s a tough job for our door people to choose the right people.

Can you explain your door policy? How can our readers ensure they might get in?
Bring the right vibe and you will get in.

Is there too much emphasis on door policy in Berlin? It always seems like such a controversial subject.
Yeah there is too much, but we're a freaktown and we like freaks more then so called ‘successful people’ who think they're something. It gives people a strange feeling when they get turned away [from a club] and they take it personally, but it's not personal.

Back in 2008 you launched the Watergate mix CD series. How did that come about?
After a few years [of the club being open] we had the idea to create a project which would enable people to take the club home with them. We also thought it would be a great natural promotion tool and would give our favourite artists stronger ties with the club.

Who is lined up to mix the next one?
The forthcoming artist [who will mix Watergate 12] is still a secret, but what we can say is that at the end of October we will release our 10 Years Of Watergate Box, a highly limited compilation which will include a photo book, a DVD, limited edition vinyl and loads of exclusive material.

There has been much recent news about Berlin club facing challenges from the city authorities. Has it been tough in the last twelve months or so?
It is tough to manage a club. One day the authorities love you and make town marketing with your name on it. The next day they hate you and try to find some reason to close your venue down. There’s no long term security for what we do.

Nowadays, lots of global investors are highly interested in Berlin property, which makes it much more difficult to find a space you can afford to open as a cultural spot.

In the last year, you’ve been throwing parties across Europe (at Sonar and London). Is this a direction we can expect Watergate to be heading?
This year we're celebrating our 10 year anniversary, therefore we organized a tour to take abroad and as well as [to different venues in] Germany. We do not have plan of world domination, but time will tell and we will see what fits and what doesn’t.

You’ve got a HUGE series of line-ups for your anniversary. Who are you looking forward to the most?
We're looking forward to each individual artist, but of course Dixon's all night long set means something special as he played all night long when we opened first. Wahooo!

Looking back over your club’s history, can you pick out one or two special moments that have remained with you?
Back in the early days when Goldie & Groovedriver were playing a D&B set, they made our speakers melt in their chassis and literally burnt down the club! Another time, a girl swam over from Club der Visionäre to Watergate and knocked at the window from the riverside asking for entry. Of course, she got in!

Finally, what can we expect from Watergate over the next ten years?
Who knows about the future. If you’re still there, we will be here.

10 Jahre Watergate @ Watergate
Falckensteinstraße 49  10997 Berlin, Germany - Tel: 30 6128-0395

Wednesday 22nd August - 11:45pm
dOP [Circus Company]
Pan-Pot [Mobilee]
Mathias Kaden [Freude am Tanzen]
M.A.N.D.Y. [Get Physical]
Tiefschwarz [Souvenir]
Oliver Koletzki [Stil vor Talent]
SIS LIVE [Cocolino]
Ruede Hagelstein [Watergate]
Fritz Zander [Watergate]
Sven von Thülen [Watergate]
Mitja Prinz [Yes!]

More info here

Friday 24th August- 11:45pm    
Dixon [Innervisions] Mainfloor all night long !
Maya Jane Coles [Hypercolour]
Heidi [Jackathon]
Marco Resmann [Watergate]
Lee Jones [Watergate]

More info here

Saturday 25th August - 11:45pm    
Richie Hawtin [M-nus]
Heartthrob [M-nus]
The Martinez Brothers [Objektivity]
Paco Osuna [Plus 8]
Hector [Artist Alife]
Barem [M-nus]
Ambivalent [M-nus]
Matador LIVE [M-nus]
Hobo [M-nus]
Click Box LIVE [M-nus]
NSound [M-nus]

More info here

Sunday 26th August - 10:00am
Secret guests!

More info here

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