Listen to a techno-driven playlist from Gegen, Berlin’s fabled queer party
Crack Magazine is marking Pride season with a series of specialist mixes and playlists dedicated to LGBTQ+ club nights and promoters. From the iconic parties of bygone eras through to the emerging events breaking through in 2022, we’ll be highlighting the sounds of these parties and the artists that shape them.
The spirit of a city is often cultivated in the parties that operate within its borders. When it comes to Berlin, there’s one party in particular that fuses many of the city’s most renowned attributes – progessive outlooks, debaucherous activities and an insatiable appetite for techno – and takes them to new and exciting heights.
Gegen is a Berlin club night, collective and record label that has been providing a pulse for the city’s thriving queer community since its launch in 2011. Primarily hosted at KitKat Club – one of Berlin’s longest-running venues and a famed fetish hotspot where open-minds are a must, but clothing is optional – Gegen is lauded for its embrace of sexual exploration and expression. Those who attend are encouraged to let loose in whichever ways feel right to them, in the knowledge that their fellow party-goers will be acting on their own whims, too, within a shame and judgement-free setting.
Gegen’s musical focus has expanded over time to encompass styles outside of the techno bracket, including house, experimental club and pop. This approach is bolstered by its band of residents. There’s La Fraicheur – the mind behind Barcelona’s House of (S)PUNK as well as Mar/us, Mike Starr and so many more. That’s not forgetting Gegen’s co-founders Fabio Boxikus (who also works under the alias XIK) and Warbear.
Tonight, on 1 July, Gegen will return to KitKat Club for its latest outing, which is dubbed Gegen Power. In anticipation of the event, we caught up with the party crew to discuss the story behind one of Berlin’s most beloved queer parties. Its residents also supply us with a playlist of hard-hitting techno just in time for the weekend.
What is Gegen?
Gegen is a queer collective, sex-positive party series and techno record label giving a home to queer, trans and femme artists and community. In German, the word ‘Gegen’ has a complex contradictory identity, meaning both ‘against’ and ‘around’ at the same time. The idea of Gegen is to constantly push the boundaries of queer identities; to question ourselves and our limitations, forces ourselves out of our comfort zone. To work against what we know of ourselves and around what society think of us.
What was the inspiration behing Gegen’s launch?
We started the project back in 2011 because we felt the need to create a common setting for others like us: sinners of the pleasure of flesh and techno. We wanted to create something that more than just a party, a kind of rebellion against the daily clichés that haunt us – an event that questioned preconceptions and clashed with every ideology. Each of our events acts as a manifesto, a concept that goes against the mainstream.
Who is involved in the event?
Today, the party is mainly run by Fabio, a.k.a XIK, and resident artist Mar/us. We have hosted an event every other month for the past 10 years at our legendary home KitKat Club. In recent years, we’ve also collaborated with international queer collectives in countries such as the UK, Poland and France. This year, we also launched an edition at new Berlin venue RSO so you can now have your monthly dose of Gegen.
Which genres would you say Gegen is best known for?
Originally, Gegen started as a techno-oriented party. We leaned heavily on the industrial and hard-hitting side of the music, which is what you can still hear in our label releases. However, the musical direction has shifted over the years in order to feed the wider needs of our community and to be true to our motto: ‘never stop working against the comfort of yourself’. These days, we welcome house music and Italo, we have a tiny pop music-focused floor and we also showcase the experimental and deconstructed sides of electronic music. Gegen is a mirror of our community, so we shift and change as our artists do; we don’t impose a sound from the top down, we bring it from the bottom up.
What did you want party-goers to take away from the event?
We want our community to find a place they can call home. A space where they can challenge what they know of themselves, and feel inspired to push their own boundaries after experiencing the diversity of self-expression presented by our crowd. Essentially, to come for the music, stay for the sexual exploration and leave with a new outlook on your identity. We hope people leave our party having discovered a new facet of themselves through principles of pleasure and curiosity.
Is there a Gegen ethos?
Yes, pleasure activism. We believe a lot of revolutionary change can happen within the realm of pleasure and through the practice of pleasure-seeking. Without joy, there is not revolution. We are here to constantly second guess ourselves and evolve into our next shape; adapt to the new challenges our community faces and learn from them. Our events are not for consumers of techno-capitalism, but exist as a space for self-exploration and community.
What was the nightlife landscape like in Berlin at the time of launch?
Berlin is still a vibrant city and an incubator of trends, and during that time there was a lot of nightlife happening. I myself [Fabio] had just finished seven years of Sabotage – a queer punk project on whose ashes we founded Gegen.
Despite all this nocturnal glittering, there was this idea that gays hate techno. If you were gay, you had to conform to the Schoenberg house scene; if you liked techno, you had to go to raves; if you were punk, no one would let you into their clubs. If you belonged to more than one of these categories, nightlife would become an adaptation of your being in order to fit into a certain scene. We wanted to challenge this idea and give a space to those who did not feel they belonged to an existing category.
KitKat Club has always been a refuge for sex-positive, sex-exploring and kinky events, and it was only natural for a queer fetish party to find a home there. The architecture of the club itself – a subterranean maze combined with a swimming pool and many dancefloors –was exactly what we needed to showcase the diversity of our sound and bring a sense of playfulness to a city that can take itself seriously at times. To find new ways of being, you’ve got loose your old ways first. There’s nothing thing like a confusing labyrinthine club to get you to that point!
Any favourite moments from past events?
One of the best moments was during one of Gegen’s very first birthdays. Someone dressed up as a giant birthday cake and popped out of the toilets with all the candles lit. The music stopped and everyone sang Happy Birthday as people blew out the candles, ate and smeared cream on themselves from this giant cake. The floor became a sticky flytrap and the shoes were glued on the floor. An authentic surprise party.
Let’s chat about your Gegen party playlist. What tracks did you include, and why?
This playlist is exclusively made of releases from our own Gegen Records label, which is a platform for our artists to exist outside of the party environment. It was particularly important to us to maintain an artistic practice during the pandemic and give work to our confined queer artistic community, who – during a time of confinement and unemployment – struggled with feelings of invisibility, and sometimes, depression.
For most queer people who are not welcome in their traditional families, clubs are their only home and refuge. So to lose a space of community bonding during the pandemic was particularly hard, and it was important for us to provide a renewed sense of home through a new platform. The tracklist includes a lot of our residents and some former headliners who have supported us since day one – artists such as Paula Temple or Ellen Alien. It particularly highlights the womxn, trans and POC artists of our roster.
“Come for the music, stay for the sexual exploration and leave with a new outlook on your identity”
What memories do you have of these tracks at previous Gegen nights?
It’s always a great, heartwarming pleasure when one resident DJ plays another resident’s music. Walking around a room full of people dancing and hearing each of our artists connecting to another’s work – and using it to help our community find solace and a place in which to thrive – is like a full circle moment. It’s the realisation that we can do things by ourselves and for ourselves, celebrating our richness and diversity.
This article was amended on 4 July to include an updated set of party images.
GEGEN003 is out now via Gegen Records