“DIY from the core”
Corporate patronage of independent music has become an inevitable reality.
For events of a certain size, sponsorship means survival. And with cash rich operations offering a much-needed ecosystem of support to the little guys, the issue of ethics are murky.
Yet with business increasingly visible in the scene, the issue being raised more frequently by artists and attendees is the aggressive branding intrinsically linked to it. The question many are asking at this point is, is this the only way?
For Nico Deuster, founder of Krake festival, it simply isn’t. Using the festival format to craft something unyielding, Deuster has raised the staunchly independent festival from the ground up. From the anything-goes booking policy to the palpable lack of sponsorship and compromise, Deuster is audibly proud of how this reflects in the atmosphere.
“We’re trying to create a really personal event,” he explains. “There’s no advertising and it affects the vibe of the festival in a great way. It’s actually why I do it. Everybody involved, from the artists to the volunteers, know it’s not one of those big business festivals and they bring in all their energy. You can feel it; everything is done with so much love.”
The concept for Krake began life as a series of parties under the name Killekill. Starting in 2008, Killekill held a weekly Wednesday residency at Berghain Kantine and went on to host parties across Berlin, finding a regular home at Suicide Circus. The programming centred on house and techno with an experimental twist, and prided itself on becoming a hub for artists and enthusiasts alike, helped in part by
the personal atmosphere of the Kantine’s 200-person dance floor.
Over the course of two years, Killekill hosted big name jocks like Sandwell District, Cristian Vogel and Redshape, programming them alongside lesser-known acts from the realms of noise, electro, breakcore, techno and beyond. “When I came to Berlin in the 90s it was really open,” he remembers. “It got more and more narrow minded and with Killekill we tried to break that up again and do something different.”
After two successful years at Berghain Kantine, Killekill called it a day to focus on the label offshoot of the party – releasing the likes of DJ Spider and Bill Youngman – and transporting its curatorial ideas to a festival. Nico used Killekill as a springboard for Krake. “I met a lot of people, we booked four artists an event for two years, so 400 artists at that time. Now with the ongoing monthly event it’s just a huge network of performers, and I’m bringing them all together for the festival.”
While it seems strange that a legendary sea monster of epic proportions would inspire a proudly low-key festival, the now yearly event bears the Kraken as a mascot of sorts. References to the creature rear their head often: the Kraken is said to rise again each year, bringing with it challenging electronic music from the depths of the international underground. From the cult electronics of previous years’ guests DMX Krew and Dopplereffekt to the bold exhibitionist statements of their recurring Bodies installation, all acts on offer have one thing in common. As Nico enthuses, they are all “artists who dare to step off the beaten track.”
Despite growing in size over five years, this year taking place across Urban Spree, Berghain Kantine and Suicide Circus, the event steers clear of big name acts doing the rounds on the festival circuit. “We’re avoiding the usual headliners which fill every festival, which of course makes it a bit difficult, but it’s what we want to do,” Nico explains. “If it gets quite complicated and there’s some asshole agency involved, we just don’t do it, it’s as simple as that. It’s DIY from the core, so it’s easy to maintain.”
True to his word, this year’s line-up boasts the likes of Cassegrain & Tin Man and Peter Van Hoesen alongside a selection of off-kilter noisemakers, including a debut A/V show from Untold, Berceuse Heroique newcomer Ekman and Bintus, whose breakneck electro and acid has found its home on his own excellent Power Vacuum label.
There are also plenty of installations to get your teeth into, including the Bodies performances. “In electronic music the body is the central part,” Deuster says. “The installation centralises this concept. They’re really strong, last year there was one performer sat totally naked with her legs open and it was super extreme and super impressive.” Certainly something “off the beaten track”, this bold exhibitionism neatly reflects Krake’s ethos: a vision that’s incredibly vivid, engaged, and assured.
Krake Festival takes place at Urban Spree, Suicide Cirucs, and Kantine Am Berghain, 3-9 August