“Dancing is dancing”
No new trend can emerge without insiders. Alongside the founders of clubs, the DJs, organizers, journalists, they make up the culture and act as a link between its protagonists and fans. Verena Vehling (VV) is one of them. Since her teenage years she’s been intimately acquainted with techno – not just as a new trend, but as a lifestyle.
Can you still remember how you got into techno?
Verena Vehling: It was at the Wave Club in Cologne. I was basically already a disco singer at the age of 14 or 15. I think that was my first starting point with electronic music. But I can't pin it down now to one day or one particular experience. At the end of the 80s, I worked behind the bar at Warehouse in Cologne. So I had a classic part-time disco-bar career and was living in an apartment share with Mate Galic. We raved quite a lot, all through the day and night. I later moved from Cologne to Berlin after I finished school and became the advertising manager at Frontpage.
A party axis emerged between the German metropolisesWhat happened from there?
The big fascination actually came as I was in Berlin for the first time. Another rush came from there. Sure, we went out in Cologne or the Rhineland and there were raves, but the very first time in Berlin was special. Probably it was the Planet Club. It was completely different from a normal disco in North-Rhine Westphalia. You either went to a small club or to a big disco there. But this special feeling like at Planet or other clubs in Berlin, you didn't know anything like it.
How did you experience the developments as a raver?
Westbam and I were together for a while and I toured with him every weekend for three years. So of course I had the privilege to see an awful lot. I know every club and every dive bar from Rostock to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I’ve also traveled a lot internationally. We were in Australia and elsewhere. I was able to experience what music can do to people. How do you get people together? And what unites them? It was really a special time. A party axis also emerged between the German metropolises - Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin. We regularly went from Cologne to Frankfurt to Omen and Dorian Gray. This network of people that was built up there, and that partly still exists today, is really something special.
You don't always have to think everything is greatWere you still a raver with Westbam or did you have such a different view over the scene?
Dancing is dancing. Whether you do it in front of the speakers, on top of the speakers, or behind the DJ booth. If you don't like the music, then you don't have to come along. I honestly totally enjoyed it. Of course, there are some not so great situations, too. When we were in Holland, for example, at some gabber raves asking ourselves what we were actually doing there. All these Rotterdam posse guys showed up: Men in tracksuits with shaved heads. I can't describe it any other way. I sat on the speaker for two hours looking at it all and thought, "I'm going to the hotel now!" So that happened too. You don't always have to think everything is great.
How did you realize that techno was suddenly becoming really big?
At Frontpage, we were always married in a way to our delusions of grandeur, the techno world conquest plan (laughs). That was also the mentality of Jürgen Laarmann, the editor-in-chief, that you were always making it bigger and also sitting at the levers of Mayday and the Love Parade. It never bothered me that it got bigger. I think that's more a question of age. If you've been to the Love Parade before, maybe you don't have to go for the eleventh time. Life changes. Relationships change. The people around you change and so does your party life.
It doesn't stopBut there were also more and more commercial raves, weren't there?
There was also a kind of "rave elite" that were relevant to advertisers and that were used by big brands for events like the Airave. It wasn't just anyone who went, it was cast. The same was true for Rave & Cruise. But I’m also not a guardian of the holy grail or anything; It’s not like I'm a part of a movement now, I've helped shape it and therefore everything has to stay that way, please and thank you. I think that if someone comes along a few years later and also likes the music, then they should have exactly the same say. The conservative powers in techno were rather all the pop theorists in Cologne. Or in Berlin, for example, people like Wolle XDP, who simply says how it has to be, and if it's not like that, then it's too commercial! I also find it quite cool when the break comes, the vocals start and you throw your hands up in the air.
Did you also get to know the east side of Berlin through techno?
I ended up in Charlottenburg at the time, and to go out you headed east. For me, it was all very big at first, compared to Cologne. Today, the distances seem smaller to me. But back then – just from Olivaer Platz to Potsdamer Platz, which wasn't really built up yet, it was a trip around the world. In the evenings, it suddenly became pitch dark. Because there was a completely different lighting in the city and it smelled like coal. I didn't know that. I then gradually moved further and further east. And now I'm drawn back to the most original west, to Zehlendorf on Schlachtensee. It doesn't get any more bourgeois than that (laughs). Everything always has its own time.
What impact does techno continue to have on you?
When I look at my girlfriends today, they're all still rave girls. You can turn 50: It doesn't stop. Even if we're not in a club every weekend, it’s still the music that we listen to. We still listen to disco and electronic music. I would say that in my extended social circle, everyone has a background in techno.