The Giegling collective remain committed to their heartfelt manifesto
As one of the most talked about dance music labels in recent memory, Giegling has a lot to live up to. But if you speak with Konstantin – DJ, one-half of the Kettenkarussell duo, and a sometime “PR assistant” for the collective – the thought gives him pause.
“Initially it’s not really made for a lot of people,” he muses. “Now we’re on this big stage and everyone can look at us, but we didn’t change what we do. I sometimes get the feeling that it’s hard for them to connect to it, and they get frustrated. It’s too introverted, too emotional, too fragile for the masses.”
“Introverted” and “fragile” aren’t words you usually hear associated with house and techno – the genres Giegling are best known for – but there’s something about the label’s aesthetic that encompasses these feelings, also showing their curiosity outside of the club.
You can hear this trademark tenderness as far back as the first Giegling release in 2009, Kettenkarussell’s EP I Believe You And Me Make Love Forever. Standout track You N Me may have a minimal techno pulse, but the mellifluous vibraphone lead and ghostly piano samples make for strong emotional pull. And if you ask Konstantin to name some of his key releases on the label, he’ll just as likely point to the hip-hop-indebted downtempo of Matthias Reiling or the often jazz-inflected, house-adjacent electronica of Edward alongside Prince Of Denmark’s dreamy, dubby techno. Arguably the breakout star of Giegling, the anonymous Prince Of Denmark is also their most prolific artist, operating simultaneously as the more house-oriented Traumprinz – with an eponymous sub-label dedicated to his releases – and also DJ Metatron.
Pre-Giegling adventures were teenaged Konstantin, Leafar Legov, PoD, and Vril throwing parties in Hannover following Konstantin and LL’s exposure to inspiring club atmospheres in Hamburg’s Golden Pudel club and Berlin’s Beatstreet parties. “There was the craziest energy,” Konstantin recalls. “I had the feeling it was electronic music but from an indie background and with a punk attitude that didn’t come from any cliché, and it brought together really different people. Maybe people that don’t really listen to electronic music, but who can connect through it in the nightlife and drugs, and going over the borders. And the music would go over the borders of genre. This is how we got into it.”
Moving almost en masse to Weimar to study at Bauhaus University, they soon met like minds in DJ Dustin, Ateq, and Dwig. “Dustin and Ateq had been going to raves much earlier than me,” Konstantin reveals. “They grew up with this. Florian [Ateq] has been DJing since he was 15. He played in the old Tresor when he was 19. Their big brothers did electronic music, and they were into Basic Channel, into the realest sound. They also did their own small parties in Brandenburg. They would also try and get away from society, build their own thing.” Soon enough, many of them were living together, paying very little rent in old East German-era buildings, when the opportunity came to do events at a small club called Giegling.
What followed is now the stuff of legend – parties that could last from Thursday to Monday in a small university town where everyone knows each other. When, after only four or five parties, the club was shut down, the label was born as a way to keep the spirit going.
While factoring in some introversion, fragility, and colouring outside the lines, a useful way to understand Giegling as a sound and as a collective can be triangulated in the way Konstantin talks about one of his early influences and favourites, the Wu-Tang Clan.
“I really liked the crew element and the diversity of the artists,” he says of the seminal New York hip-hop group. “And that it’s wrong: if you’re used to this DJ Premier hip-hop where everyone is tied to the beat and right, and then listen to Wu-Tang, it sounds odd. You think they can’t rap, they’re so offbeat, sometimes just talking in a more poetic way. But once you get into it, you get stuck. It’s not something that you get into easily, and then fades away. If you take longer to dig it, then it stays forever. And I really like this aesthetic – the sound, the drums, the oddness of the groove, the way it drops but is still emotional. And also the street spirituality – they’re looking for their own way, their own belief system.”
From the way Konstantin speaks about Giegling, it seems as if there’s an overriding philosophy to the group’s activity. Largely, it revolves around the utopian spirit of collaboration and togetherness guiding the collective. And while individually as artists and DJs they’ve had varying levels of recognition, together as Giegling their work has transcended the scene they came up in. When Konstantin and I meet in Berlin, it’s at the end of their ‘Planet Giegling’ tour, which encompassed two months, 18 cities around the world, club nights, concert performances of more exploratory electronics (including a ‘silent disco’ in the Barbican’s rooftop Conservatory, where Crack Magazine’s photo shoot takes place) and gallery exhibitions of original, multimedia artworks as well as sleeves. Clearly, Giegling aspires to be something bigger, more nuanced, more thought-provoking, than merely a good night out.
Giegling can be described as a feeling, where the warmth of nostalgia is brought to vivid life and the instinctive pleasure of the dance is tempered with an existential inquisitiveness. But Konstantin – and by extension, the collective – has even larger ambitions.
“Giegling is an approach that you can adapt to everything,” he declares. “It’s the nice way to tell the story of this phenomenon we’re living through, our generation understands that society will not be sustainable the way it is. And we have to find our own way against the establishment, find our own momentum to do things, live our idealism, and do this in a collective way. And this might take longer, but it will have a magnificent result that has a long-lasting effect.
"We're on this big stage now and everyone can look at us, but we're not changing what we do"
“If you have a chief, he would say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but we have this process of always going back and forth through all of us, and changing it until everyone says it’s ok,” he explains. “Then you have this thing that connects to a lot of people. It’s this approach of sharing, creating, being together, and finding your own way… It’s about taking responsibility for what you believe in and making it happen, even if it is just a small thing – like a record, or a poster, or an event. It is every move that counts, and the more honest and pure this move will be the more people will be able to relate to that and create a new reality out of this.”
It may sound naïve, idealistic, innocent, and hugely optimistic, but no doubt some will relate. As an earnest message accompanying truly inviting music, Giegling makes you want to believe.
Photography: Jack Johnstone
Konstantin appears at The Peacock Society, Paris, 7-8 July