Steffan Hack: Getting lost in Berlin's BerMuDa Triangle...

Words by: Stephen Flynn
Posted: 8/10/12 9:23

Steffan Hack: Getting lost in Berlin's BerMuDa Triangle...Steffen Hack is a passionate character. He’s passionate about electronic music, he’s passionate about clubbing culture, and he’s particularly passionate about his adopted home of Berlin and the club he helped establish, Kreuzberg’s Watergate. So, having already contributed so much to the city’s nightlife, what did he deem the next logical step in his career? The answer lay with BerMuDa, (an acronym of ‘Berlin Music Days’) a four-day dual conference/festival affair with vague parallels to Barcelona’s Sonar.

Taking place this winter for the fourth successive year, the 2012 edition will kick off on the 31st October, with day-time activities including ‘workshops, panels, exhibitions and radio shows’, and night-time festivities that will incorporate a number of Berlin’s most prominent clubs into the equation, most notably Golden Gate, Cookies, Tresor, Watergate and Weekend.

The Grand Final will take place in Berlin’s former airport, Tempelhof, on the 3rd November, with the likes of Sven Vath, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Ellen Allien and Henrik Schwarz all contributing on a musical tip.

With so much to occupy the mind, chances are BerMuDa is a triangle you’ll definitely want to lose yourself in. But organising the event and ensuring it all runs smoothly is an undertaking that’s not for the feint of heart.

With the summer coming to a close and the festival now firmly on the horizon, we caught up with Steffen recently to unearth the history of the event and to discuss what this year’s edition holds in store…

What was your original intention when you established BerMuda in 2009?
I’ve been running Watergate for a few years now, and my partner Uli and I have been thinking about establishing an electronic music festival in Berlin for some time. Then, after the cancellation of Popkomm in 2009, we thought it was the right time to start something. Popkomm was always a major music industry showpiece and never just an authentic electronic music festival anyway, so we saw a niche in the market. And like that, Berlin Music Days was born.

To keep our culture alive & to get proper media attention, it's very important we give the festival a more profound image that’s not simply associated with partying...How has the festival evolved since the first edition?
Well, we're now in our fourth year and the entire festival has progressed in a way. More and more labels and setting up label showcases here, while we also have a central point for the daytime activities in Kater Holzig. It’s here where you’ll find the In-Edit music festival, including the DE:Bug Musik Technik Stage and the BerMuDaLab, where we’ll all sit together and chat about common industry themes.

How important are the panels, workshops and lectures to BerMuDa?
To keep our culture alive and to get proper media attention, it's very important we give the festival a more profound image that’s not simply associated with partying. Networking and talking and looking at ways to enhance the electronic music scene is essential, both to the industry and BerMuDa itself.

Is BerMuDa growing at a rate you’re satisfied with? Is there anything else you’d like to introduce?
We're more interested in a natural growing process rather than manufactured, accelerated growth. So we’re growing organically. What’s important to us is the style and substance of the festival rather than the numbers, although we’re always thinking of ways to improve it too.

FLY BERMUDA @ TEMPELHOF AIRPORT NOV 3rd, 2012How did you settle on the Tempelhof location for the Grand Finale?
When the Berlin officials decided to close the airport - the oldest commercial airport worldwide – we immediately told them we wanted to hold a party there, as it perfectly fits the Berlin techno ethos with its old hangars built from steel and stone!

And why does Berlin need a festival like this?
This is a question we’re [the organisers] asked a lot, and we see like this: a few years ago, we anticipated a development in Berlin’s culture and though process. We somehow knew that times and attitudes would change in Berlin in the future, and we felt that we had to create a legacy – organised by the protagonists of Berlin’s music scene – to foster and celebrate this history.

We wanted to keep the vibes authentic before an outsider who didn’t understand the city’s musical heritage would create a festival. BerMuDa is a festival where everyone who’s involved in the electronic music scene can participate, and that’s really what it’s all about.

Why do you think Berlin never had anything like this beforehand then?
Easy, because in the past we had so much freiraum (freedom to develop). At one stage, it felt like every corner of every street was holding a constant party, and Berlin became a festival that was running for 365 days a year. Now, matters are more regulated and in line with other cities. Rents are rising, and so is the cost of living.

So to preserve the electronic music culture, now was the right time for a festival of this sorts; one that shows who we are and where we’re going with this music…

Were you in any way worried that your work with BerMuda would compromise your role at Watergate?
I try as much as I can to separate the two, although it’s not always easy. I’m a very busy man…

Does the future of BerMuDa depend on the future of Watergate then? I.e. if GEMA is introduced, could it spell the end for both?
Good question, and the answer is YES, the future of BerMuDa definitely depends on Watergate. Only the money we earn at the club makes BerMuDa possible in the first place. Sure, GEMA is trying to extort money from the music scene in an extortionate type of way, but I’m not sure that’s going to work out for them as they’d like it to. We just have to keep fighting that one.

Sure, GEMA is trying to extort money from the music scene in an extortionate type of way, but I’m not sure that’s going to work out for them as they’d like it to. We just have to keep fighting that one...When does the preparation for BerMuda start?
The preparation for this year’s event started immediately after the 2011 edition. There’s no time for rest when you’re running something like this…[laughs]

What pressures you out more than anything?
It’s always the same thing: Money!

One of your guests, Sven Vath, will be returning to play for you again. Why is it that he doesn’t play Berlin that often and how important is it to have figures like Sven play?
Sven is the original German techno superstar, and it’s an honour to have him play for us as far as I’m concerned. He’s an authentic guy who is proud of his roots and is an international player who continues to represent Germany with esteem on the global map.

He tours the globe regularly so there’s not always much space in his schedule for Berlin, although we are of course delighted to have him play for us again this winter.

Were other industry events such as ADE and Sonar an influence?
Sonar was probably more of influence if I’d to pick between the two, but it was only a small influence. We’re trying to focus on our own ideas though, and plan to expand as we see fit.

Are you hoping for an international agenda that’s similar to the latter two?
Well, to be honest, most of the panels, readings and discussions will be in German – so we’re probably of more interest to those involved in the scene here. We’ll be discussing a wide range of topics such as subcultural economies, (and the relationship between labels and distributors - both digitally and physically) and whether or not one is best to outsource this work or do it yourself.

We’ll also be talking to bookers and promoters about how they conduct their business’, and will be discussing Musicboard Berlin, debating whether it’s a blessing or a curse. GEMA is a hot topic here in Berlin, so there’ll be discussions about its merits too. With property becoming so expensive in the city, we’ll also be asking how this affects the club scene too.

Will the panels etc. be delivered in English or German? Or both?
Resident Advisor and EX Berliner (an English monthly city guide) are both preparing panels in English. Fritz Denk, one of the co-writers of Klang der Familie will also read some parts of his book in English. These will both take part in Kater Holzig, where we’ll have our main conference area.

Aside from musical surprises and interesting debates and discussions, what else can we look forward to from this year’s edition?
You’ll find a city that’s tailor-made to a music festival with so much to offer. There’ll be interesting people there from all over the world, the clubs are great and the parties aren’t regulated by time limits or ridiculous restrictions. The accommodation is affordable too. Berlin, in our eyes at least, is the perfect place to visit if you love electronic music. As we say here, “Fly High, and Stay High”!

Berlin Music Days . Berlin October 31st - November 3rd 2012

De:Bug Musiktechniktage 2012 De:Bug Musiktechniktage 2012
Location: Kater Holzig, 10179 Berlin

Thursday 01st November

Feeltune: Track - 17:00 @ Galerie

Mixvibes: CrossDJ 2.0 - 18:00 @ Galerie

Scratch Live und ITCH - 16:00 @ Galerie

Friday 02nd November
KOMA Electronic - 15:00 @ Oberstübchen

Liine: Lemur for iPad - 15:00 @ Heinz

touchAble - 17:00 @ Heinz

Saturday 03rd November
Leaf Audio: Trigger Bassdrum - 16:00 @ Oberstübchen

Propellerhead: The Producers Conference - 16:00 @ Heinz

Native Instruments: Traktor und Maschine - 18:00 @ Heinz 
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