Dr. Motte in an interview
“Lollipops for a Fairer Distribution of Food”

Dr. Motte
Dr. Motte | Photo (detail): © Daniela Eger

At the first Love Parade back in 1989 there were only 150 people strutting their stuff along Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm. Some years later the Techno fest had attracted almost 1.5 million dance fans from all over the world. The bitter end came in 2010 with the tragedy of Duisburg. Check out this interview with the founder of the Love Parade, Dr. Motte.

Dr. Motte, how did you first come into contact with Techno back in the 1980s?

At first I was a punk rocker, but I also got into some Underground Funk with a band called the Tote Piloten. I spent a lot of time in record shops and was always right up there with all the latest music trends. The British radio DJ, John Peel, also had a strong influence on me. At the beginning of the 1980s he was already playing a lot of electronic music on his show: for example, people like Cabaret Voltaire from Great Britain and Pyrolator from Germany. In 1986 I started to work as co-owner and as one of the three regular DJs in the legendary Turbine Rosenheim in Berlin. In 1988 we started to play Acid House – and Techno then developed out of that.

Dancing for world peace

In 1989 you then launched the first version of the Love Parade.

I had heard from some friends about illegal parties in England where the equipment had been confiscated, but the people then just carried on dancing to ghetto blasters on the street. It was this kind of spontaneous street party that I wanted to bring to Berlin. Furthermore I had been given a good grounding in demonstrations by my brothers – the first time I took to the streets was back in 1972, against the war in Vietnam. The one thing I learned – you can’t really achieve very much yourself by protesting against something. I wanted to do something that would counterbalance all the negative and evil prevailing on our planet and decided that what we have to do is demonstrate for something. Hence the motto of the Love Parade – “Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen”, an idiomatic phrase in German that can rendered with sunshine, lollipops and roses. Sunshine for the joy people get from dancing – when people get together to dance they are peaceably disposed. Lollipops for a fairer distribution of food – and roses, flowers as a symbol of peace, stood for disarmament on all levels, not only in the military sense, but also in the interpersonal sense. Ideas that are still important and relevant today. We had no banners to hold up in the air and no huge discussions. What we wanted to do was to exemplify love and peace by the way we lived and the way we danced, we used the healing and bonding effect of music as a new form of communication. When you dance, instead of brooding over problems, the results you come up with are completely different.

Is the Techno movement then political in your opinion?

As we live in a political society and the Love Parade took place in a public space, I would say it was political. Public life on the streets is in my opinion always political.

Publicity for Berlin

By the middle of the 1990s the Love Parade had developed into a commercial free-for-all for the masses. How did you feel about that?

The Love Parade was a non-profit making undertaking, it was not at all about me. I placed myself at the event’s disposal and was inspired to pass on energy and information. The Love Parade generated a lot of activity both among young people, as well as on a musical level. A lot of people enjoyed jumping on the bandwagon. Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbH, a tourist promotion company, used the images that we produced to advertise Berlin internationally as young and creative.

Why did you sell this brand that was so successful?

It was not me that wanted to sell, but my co-partners at that time. After 2004, due to a misguided decision, we had no more money and also no more income, because the Love Parade was not taking place at that time. We were heading towards bankruptcy, so to speak. The new Managing Director Rainer Schaller never had any interest in continuing the Love Parade in the spirit it was intended, but preferred to exploit it as a pure marketing event. That is the reason why I dissociated myself publicly from the Love Parade.

In your opinion how could a disaster happen like the one in Duisburg in 2010 when 21 people died in a mass panic?

The people in charge did not have enough experience with events of this size. Safety was not a top priority either for the organisers, Lopavent, or for the authorities or for Duisburg’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland. Right up to the very day of the event, 24th July 2010, no adequate safety arrangements had been submitted. The authorities responsible for such events really ought to have cancelled the event at short notice. The fans, however, were already on their way to Duisburg. Who was actually to blame for the disaster is to be legally clarified by autumn 2014 at the earliest. I feel so sorry about it all. For the past three years we have organised a small remembrance vigil that we hold at Berlin’s Victory Column on 24th July. Whenever I had the time, I also went to commemorative events in Duisburg.

Responsibility for history

Would it be at all an option for you to organise a new Love Parade?

I could well imagine me organising a peace demonstration, not only to commemorate the millions of victims who died in the world wars that Germany started, but also to jolt the memories of all the politicians in the world and remind them that we, the family of man on this planet, never want to go through anything like that ever again. I would also gladly welcome Germany adopting the same military stance as Switzerland, instead of organising weapon deals for the armaments industry. Our approach should be exclusively humanitarian.

Would it then be a demonstration involving music?

Most probably, music is after all a universal language and is today an established element at many demonstrations. There are many musicians who support political demonstrations and perform at them. To organise something on the scale of the Love Parade, however, would take at least two years for sure. Peace, however, is needed now – immediately!  

Dr. Motte was born as Matthias Roeingh in the Berlin district of Spandau on 9th July, 1960. Even as a child he was enthralled by many kinds of music, even classical and jazz. On 1st July, 1989, he organised the first Love Parade in Berlin. Dr. Motte still works as a DJ today and runs the Praxxiz label. At the same time he is also very involved in Berlin’s subculture, among other things he has campaigned against clubs being forced to move out of Berlin’s Spreeraum area.