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CRACK

For 10 years, Keinemusik have shaped Berlin’s musical landscape from the margins

Words: Whitney Wei
Photography: Yannick Schuette
Art Direction: Ade Udoma & Michelle Helena Janssen
Web Design and Development by Plinth

“We were so hungry,” remembers Rampa, of the early days and of elbowing around his fellow DJs for a chance on the decks. It’s been 10 years since the Berlin-based Keinemusik collective, with members Rampa, &ME, Reznik, Adam Port and label artist Monja Gentschow, banded together. With their coordinated shrugged shoulders, deprecating humour, and streetwear uniforms they look like an off-season skateboard crew, worn ever so slightly at the edges. Everyone still plays back-to-back like the very beginning. But now where youthful enthusiasm has faded, an enduring symbiosis has remained.

The crew’s secret to longevity is a laid-back camaraderie and good timing. For a group that owes much of their success to their home base, none of them are often found in Berlin these days. In many ways, Keinemusik is a microcosmic reflection of the city itself. They formed over their musical aspirations during the rose-tinted halcyon days of cheap rent and DIY raves – when clubs like Picknik, Weekend and Cookies were still in full swing. Back then the neighbourhood of Mitte was the hotbed of activity. In 2010, one year into their fledgling project, they had already gathered a local following. However, “the rest of the world didn’t give a shit about us,” &ME laughs.

That’s not the case anymore. Now, busy with gigs across continents, Keinemusik play a scarce two shows a year in Berlin. They go out even less. “I went to Panorama Bar once recently” Rampa, the self-described “sensitive one” offers. “The main difference was that I felt sober and felt old. And tired.”

Driven by percussive tribal influences and lush melodies, both Keinemusik’s techno-house productions and DJ sets champion infectious positivity. Some may regard their commitment to raising spirits on the dancefloor as cheesy, but a bit of crowd-pleasing is no doubt how they’ve captivated so many ears. &ME credits their rise to an intuitive approach to music. “We don’t overthink it too much,” he says. Adam Port, meanwhile, insists it’s their steady, “very German” growth over time.

The collective dynamic has become so intermeshed their productions are even eerily attuned to one another. “Last week a promoter asked me if there’s one guy mixing our stuff because everything sounded the same to him,” &ME says. “But no, everyone is doing things on their own.” On top of communicating everyday through phone calls and WhatsApp group chats, they have weekly Tuesday meetings. During the summer, they play tennis together. Once, Reznik adds, they even went to the cinema to see Star Wars – although none of them remember exactly which episode.

Before the interview, &ME and Rampa linger over a game of Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 as the others gather to casually observe. Interspersed around their studio, a basement-level bachelor pad furnished with crimson oriental carpets, are artefacts of Keinemusik’s origin story. Above the monitors rests a framed photograph of TRIXX Recording Studios in Kreuzberg, known for such clients as Wu-Tang Clan and Wolfgang Tillmans. It was there &ME, a production intern in 2006, first connected with Rampa, a commercial composer, over a shared love for hip-hop music. The yellowing image shows piles of synthesizers and stacks of CDs. “It was like being in a candy shop,” Rampa remembers. &ME would work for 12-14 hours and then invite friends who were too broke to afford their own equipment to experiment with gear through the night. When the studio manager arrived in the morning, everything was hastily sorted back to its original place, as if untouched. Then, &ME would jump into the next day’s shift.

 

The details of how Adam Port and Reznik joined Keinemusik are a testament to Berlin’s overlapping nightlife strands. “We always knew someone who knew someone,” Adam says. The two met shortly after Reznik, a music journalist at the time, moved to the city in 2006. They both ran in straight edge circles, and bonded quickly over their teenage roots in hardcore and punk music. Adam introduced Reznik to Rampa, who he met at a Nike party and with whom he’d occasionally scratch vinyl. Through Rampa, Reznik met &ME. &ME and Adam met at another Nike party. In 2007, before even conceptualising the idea of Keinemusik, the crew played as resident DJs at Picknick and befriended one of the bartenders, their current visuals head, Monja. Two years later, the full family became official.

During the first four years, they threw their own nights at Cookies, Picknick and the Prenzlauer Berg club Villa. Eventually they were invited to play in Leipzig, Cologne and then throughout Germany for “really shitty money,” says &ME. Their scope expanded in 2014 to Switzerland, Italy and Norway – that gig in Oslo, Rampa remembers, was the very first to pay for a hotel. ”

 

Next to the stack of Monopoly and Juno synthesizers on the far studio wall, hangs another milestone memory of Keinemusik. The white-tiled walls of Stadtbadt Wedding, a century-old public bath turned artist compound, forms the backdrop of the photo. In it, Adam holds his hands in a pensive Merkel diamond while &ME lounges to the left of him. Rampa appears frozen mid-sentence. Reznik, meanwhile, is an ominous shadow in the background wearing a sweatshirt declaring “The End of Times” – a reference to the eventual demolition of their creative home.

For five years, Keinemusik occupied the penthouse of Stattbad Wedding. Downstairs, they threw parties in the empty pool (adorned with an equally prescient “All Palaces Are Temporary Palaces” sign) and the boiler room underneath it. Rampa shows me a photo taken from the DJ booth, positioned at the deep end. Within, people are stacked shoulder-to-shoulder like precarious bowling pins on the gradually ascending pool floor. Others hang over its steep sides. The mass body heat has ever-so-slightly fogged the camera lens. “You had straight guys, you had bangers, you had stiff guys, you had ravers, you had hippies,” Rampa remembers, “Now it seems like people are –” &ME interrupts, “More in the same direction.”

 

A black flag with a white silkscreen of the Keinemusik symbol is suspended behind the vinyl decks. It’s a cartoon sketch of a gloved hand throwing up a peace sign. By 2014, the collective’s frequent haunts Picknick and Cookies had retired. The next year, city officials evacuated the Stattbad over fire safety violations. “It was really sad because my grandmother did her swimming lessons there,” says Rampa. Its closure coincided with his year recovering from a tour burnout. Where the former public pool once stood is now a block of upscale apartments.

Just as Berlin has internationalised its club offerings, Keinemusik has done the same. The collective is no longer grounded by location. Today, they globetrot to far-flung scenes in Bulgaria, Morocco, Abu Dhabi and Mexico to play. When the Berlin venues they loved vanished, Keinemusik mourned the loss while taking their sensibilities elsewhere.

Their anniversary Hand in Hand EP, painted by Monja in oblong smears of tertiary colours, commemorates their “priceless memories on the road, in the studio or somewhere in-between.” With touches of 80s synths, pronounced drum kicks, and bright hooks, the release glimmers with heartfelt nostalgia. This “in-between” in the description, seems to allude to the liminal spaces the DJs have passed through together – from local to world-worn artists, old to new studios, and the end of one golden nightlife era to a “more industrialised” beginning of another. After all the changes, there’s a self-assured ease to the Keinemusik approach. Ten-years-old and, in Rampa’s words, “No one is hungry anymore.”

Air Max 180 BLN
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