Written in 2010 (Magazine Article)
I am part of a youth movement. After twenty years now it’s alive and kicking like ever before. New generations have joined it – style and rhythms have changed over the time. But still – what began in underground clubs, garages and empty warehouses is still standing strong against the flow of time. It resists the constant grinding of commercialism. The Techno Movement is alive. Despite of the Love Parade disaster in Duisburg we are moving on – because we have values in common.
A simple 40 Watt light bulb, reprogrammed by an electrical engineering student to function as a stroboscopic light, pulsating to the rhythm of the small loudspeaker we had, one turntable(!), lots of small vinyl records with white labels without any names on them, and five twitching bodies in an old garage. That’s how my very personal story with electronic dance music began. It was the year 1987.
None of my friends, fellow students or even anyone who I knew wanted to hear the music. The pumping basses were too unfamiliar, the hissing tin drum sounds, the squeaking synthesizers. This music was nowhere to be heard – not on the radio, not in the music store. You couldn’t buy the records. We got them from London – through dark channels directly from the producers themselves.
We were few. We were different. Right from the beginning we stood for an new way of life: No rules, but 100% tolerance. We had to shield our community against the outside world – after all the conservatives would defame our music as “drug music”, our parties were described as “orgies” and so on. As always, when the majority in society is confronted with something new, there are rumors spread and lies told – mostly by people who haven’t got the slightest idea, what they are talking about.
Our only connecting element was the music. We came from all wakes of life – doctor’s sons were there, as were mechanics out of work. Many were young, but not all. Many were and are even today creatives – as artists, DJs, music producers, or in advertising or PR agencies.
The word about our parties spread fast. Mostly because we started always after midnight and never ended before seven in the morning. We violated every opening rule possible – and that was good so. We didn’t want to give away our freedom to live our lifestyle the way we wanted by getting some permit from some authorities. We gave a sh*t about the state. The world was changing, whole countries collapsed, dictatorships were thrown over by protesters. And we, the small group of music freaks, overthrew the rules of the nightly sleeping. That was our protest.
The number of people who came to our parties grew fast. At the beginning we were a few dozens, then a few hundred. We became more professional, locations and sound equipment got bigger. We still stole the electricity from the neighbor. The meetings were still conspirative, the location of the party would be communicated through phone chats and flyer at the same evening it was held. You’d still need an invitation to get to the party.
The state authorities took notice of us, of course. Soon they’d send undercover agents in our dark warehouses, which we had turned into dance caves by covering the windows with black plastic waste bags, stroboscopic lights and slide projectors. They’d let us do our thing, paradoxically. Maybe it was due to the overall freedom spirit of the time, maybe the city was just proud of having a party scene like this in town. (you see, the political aspect isn’t anything new, it’s not related do Duisburg at all).
The media eventually discovered us – covered in gas masks we were interviewed anonymously. We were “heroes of the night. We were “in” and incredibly cool. Some of us opened legal clubs, others record stores, some would design techno clothing. Somehow national TV got into one of our parties and broadcasted nationwide. That was the beginning of commercialism.
Until then we had managed to hold on to our principles – love, freedom, peace, tolerance. The mottos you’d see on the big raves today aren’t just empty words – they were and are lived by “real” raves until today. We didn’t care about looks, clothes, languages, nationalities, sexes or skin color. Everyone was equal – equal before the music. The only criteria to belong to us, was the love for electronic dance music – the dancing and surrender to the sound, sometimes even reaching the highly praised state of trance.
We didn’t consume any drugs. Why should we? Drugs would have falsified the experience of the music, distort, weakened it, made it narrower. That’s why I’m still laughing at ravers with beer cans today – alcohol is a tranquilizer. Ergo the exact opposite of what you as a techno dancer want.
Of course there were people who wanted to use the now half illegal space and tried to sell drugs at our parties. And – there were the multiple number of people who wanted to buy drugs from us(!). We threw them out, without any mercy. Per se the attitude of any real friend of techno/house is against drugs. Who knows how to dance, doesn’t need them. They produce bad behavior, envy, greed, health hazards and much more damaging things. That’s why there are signs at every love mobile at the street parade in Zürich even today, saying “No drugs”. That’s not an empty phrase. The real connoisseurs of the music dance to the motto “music is our only drug”. And that is true.
Of course the subject was pushed in the media. The conservatives increased the pressure on the authorities – there were first raids. Besides a fine because of disturbance of peace the consequences were minor. On the contrary: In collaboration with the authorities our parties were finally legalized – there were regulatory requirements and inspections. But we were moving on.
In the 90s the techno movement was the biggest youth movement this planet has ever seen. It brought millions of people together, all over the world. Like nothing else ever before. The upcoming technology of the internet spread the music, often produced by small artists, further. New stars were born. New record labels. A billion-dollar industry was founded around the techno movement, ending in brands like “Red Bull”, which are global players today.
Over two decades our values of the garage have survived: Respect, tolerance, love, freedom. They shine deep into society, which has legalized many things, a society that has now this youth movement as a solid part.
For me, who was there from the beginning, today in 2010, it’s one thing extremely important to mention: Without those values those big parades and parties would never have been possible. With an audience from all social groups, drunk, envious and petty bourgeois such events would have ended in chaos much sooner – just take a look at every football arena.
That’s not who we were, that’s not who we want to be. We 89ers. And if our parades degenerate to commercial carnivals, if our values of absolute tolerance and the love for our music are lost – then we should end them.
One motto on a love mobile at the Street Parade 2010 said: “Back To The Roots”. A truck, in plain simple black, without the go go glitter girls, without a show, only a DJ. And really LOUD music, hard, raw, forcing you to dance. I liked that.
And some others too – who could be my children. LOL.
Greets from Stuttgart, Germany
(Picture: Me in 1995)