The Love Parade And then we just did it

Dr. Motte
Dr. Motte | © Marie Staggat

Dr. Motte was born in Spandau, Berlin as Matthias Roeingh. In the early 1980s he was a member of various bands with colourful names such as Deutsch-Polnische Aggression (DPA). It was during this time with DPA that he co-authored the book Geniale Dilletanten.
Matthias Roeingh soon discovered dance music, and in 1989 he founded what later became the world’s most important dance music festival: The Love Parade. This first edition of the festival was attended by 150 people. By 1999, attendance had climbed to 1.5 million people.

When you started The Love Parade with your then-partner Danielle de Picciotto, did you already have a vision of turning this project into a mass movement?

"This Year & Forever" was printed on the first Love Parade poster. I'd had the vision that if we did the Love Parade in Berlin every year it would inspire many others in other countries to do so too, like the Street Parade in Zurich 1992. It would bring all people together as one and bring world peace by people befriending everyone everywhere.

Love Parade - The Vision

You later distanced yourself from The Love Parade, citing its change of values and commercial approach. Was it hard to give something up that you had initiated?

Yes, of course! The Love Parade ran out of money after two years of not doing it in Berlin and in 2005 got sold one hundred percent to Rainer Schaller, owner of the German fitness company McFit. Four out of the five business partners were in favour of selling off, while I was against it. Schaller used the Love Parade as a tax deduction tool and declared the Love Parade as a marketing event for his company to the German tax office. A no-go for me and a sell-out of electronic music culture. That was a big mistake. I regret that deeply.

Initially The Love Parade was conceived as a political demonstration for peace and international understanding. These days, the public image of dance music is often associated with drugs and partying. Can festivals and cultural events still have a political impact on people?

Yes, they can. If you look at the content you will see if it is about a vision or just having some fun. We as the Love Parade had the motivation to bring people together to dance under the umbrella of electronic music: a non-verbal culture that is aware that many countries only communicate with each other using weapons. We've been an open space of no rules, enjoying life and sharing this with everyone during Love Parade. To understand this music culture, it takes some time to investigate.

Berlin as a hub for creativity

The Love Parade was traditionally held in Berlin, and it has found its way into countless tourist brochures and in-flight magazines. Arguably the city shaped the festival as much as the festival shaped the city. To what extent does culture form an image of a city?

It is the repetition of the Love Parade. The festival was the birth of the young electronic music culture and as common as Christmas or Easter to many people who grew up with it. Berlin after the wall came down wanted to send a message to the world like "We are a young and creative city".

Your involvement in Geniale Dilletanten is a little-known fact compared to your activities as a hugely successful DJ and festival organiser. It’s a similar story for WestBam and other participants who went on to become famous in later years. Did the philosophy behind Geniale Dilletanten affect decisions you made later in your career?

We had a very special situation during the Cold War: there was no federal defence force in Berlin. Many creative people escaped being forced into something they didn't want to do. It was easy living and very cheap. It was easy to do something. We've had time to think about our ideas and then we just did it. It wasn't about money and profit. We didn't need much money to live a comfortable life. It was about creating art – right here, right now. Spontaneously brilliant. So when I had the idea of organising a demonstration called Love Parade everyone was full of enthusiasm and only six weeks later it happened.

In 2011 you co-founded the Electrocult association at the legendary Kunsthaus Tacheles. Tell us a little more about this project.

We have done two music support events for and at the Tacheles. The idea was to give birth to a lobby for the electronic music culture. We started a public foundation for it which completely changed the way we wanted to rule the association. In the end it involved too many trolls, discussions and proper administration and with it a distraction from the goal. Too bad.