From techno BBQs to 22 hours parties at ://about blank: I caught up with Patterns of Perception ahead of their two-year anniversary party at ://about blank this May. We talked about the difficulties of standing out within Berlin's saturated party scene, the key elements of collective creativity, niche Techno, community and simply doing parties for the sake of interesting music.
I arrived at Zilka’s flat early Sunday afternoon. Spring has finally surfaced in Berlin and the city is teaming with fresh vibrancy – an aura of excitement hovers in anticipation for the summer delights held in store. I waited for the rest of the crew to arrive, hearing they’re all still recovering from Donato Dozzy’s Spazio Disponibile label night at Berghain on Friday night. That gives you an insight into the kind of music these guys are about: definitively intricate, hypnotic techno.
As a fan of this kind of music and having been to a couple of the parties, I was interested in finding out more about a seemingly down-to-earth, dedicated bunch of promoters made up of DJs, Ray, Andreas, Kim and Steve, alongside the managing team of Bianca and Zilka. I found out how they’ve managed to carve out their space in a city, which can all-too-often be very cutthroat when it comes to materializing aspirations in the music scene.
Where did you guys all meet? And how and why did you decide to start night?
Steve: Zilka and I knew each other from the club scene in Sydney and then I worked with Ray at a marketing agency there.
Kim: Yeah, well you guys knew each other from Sydney, Bianca and I have been with each other for 10 years since living in Melbourne (I’m Swedish, everyone else is Australian here). I was studying there when I met you, and of course we were really into music and at some point we really wanted to move to Berlin. So we moved here together, then we met the rest of the guys through mutual friends. That’s about 5 years ago.
The group then reminisce about meeting at a friend’s BBQ, which featured an outdoor set-up where Kim had been playing techno records. As is so common, it was the shared love of music bringing them together. But the initial inspiration for their night actually came about from another event organised by Bianca…
Bianca: So, I actually had this idea to do an event called Thai and Techno. It was meant to be a place where people could come after work on a Friday and eat Thai food, kind of street style, have some drinks – and then listen to some techno.
Kim: Amazing combo, right?!
Bianca: It was like nice background music to kind of get you in the mood. The idea was that people weren’t really out to party, but would go through this transition into the next phase of the night. And then I knew that these guys (Steve and Ray) were doing graphic design, so I asked them if they wanted to be involved and then we decided to establish this Opal Collective, which consisted of Ray, Kim, Andreas and myself and another friend Danee, who’s not as involved anymore. So we did this event and then realised after we did this a couple of times the techno was becoming very prominent.
Thai and Techno happened four times in just over a year circa 2016. After gradually growing to numbers over 700, pressure grew to expand to something more.
How did you make the transition to then starting a club night?
Steve: The food part was really important for all of us. Having a chance to cook for all these people was really fun, but also the music part became very important. As the night wore on at Thai and Techno, it started to become more of a pretty heavy party.
To this, the whole group start laughing, obviously indicated things hadn’t quite gone as imagined…
Kim: Yeah, it actually went until 6 in the morning. And we didn't plan for that originally.
Bianca: No. I was like, "One o'clock and it'll be done"!
Kim: But we could tell people were really into it. And then I guess we were talking about how could we organise it all, because it was becoming more and more work, as these events were getting bigger. There were so many components; it was becoming a very complicated and very time-consuming event.
Bianca: It was like running a restaurant and a club.
Kim: Since everyone was very keen to do a club night as well, we thought, "how about we explore a concept to push the kind of techno that we love and that we felt was lacking in Berlin". I think that was when we started thinking about Patterns of Perception and about the concept. The music part was always very clear.
That brings me onto a question I wanted to ask, is there any particular philosophy or ethos that you uphold when curating the nights?
Bianca: With Thai and Techno it was open to all types of people, with a focus on quality as well. Whenever we wanted to do something it was for a reason. I think that was the precursor for Patterns of Perception too. There wasn't meant to be any overarching theme or anything. It was just meant to be about the music and anyone who wanted to enjoy that, then that space was for them.
Kim: Definitely openness and non exclusivity; also the music side is very curated. There are a lot of other parties in Berlin that make very strong statements with a political direction or a focus on the people – like it’s for really trendy people only – but that was never our idea.
It feels like for you, there’s this very genuine focus on the music?
Kim: Definitely, that was always the aim from the beginning: to promote the type of techno – and not even just techno – but the kind of electronic music we were passionate about. Berlin is amazing, and it has so many good clubs and amazing promoters and parties, but we still felt like there was a lack of this kind of techno, which you can maybe hear more if you go to some festivals that we've been inspired by or other clubs in other countries. We felt that a focus on the hypnotic style of techno was a little lacking here. So I think that was the vibe, plus the party being all about inclusiveness.
Is there then a strict music policy when it comes to the bookings and your own sets?
Steve: Actually I think we're all very aligned on what kind of techno we like and what kind of electronic music we picture at our parties. But when we've discussed it at different times we've always come back to the idea that the music has to be interesting. Like, interesting combinations of artists that are well curated, pairing artists together in interesting ways whether they contrast or fit very well together. But there's always a concept behind each party. We also keep it really diverse in the mix series also. Recently we had Fugal do one, who's more known for driving techno, but we discussed with him and wanted to push him to do something a little bit different to what he's used to doing. And he delivered a really good mix - very diverse and interesting.
Kim: We're definitely not strict on just booking techno artists. As the party has progressed we are tapping more into other genres as well, including house, ambient and electro. We have a really interesting artist from the UK playing at the next birthday party, her name is re:ni. She's pretty up-and-coming and she's definitely playing more UK-focused dance music. I mean, it’s techno, but it also has a lot of influence from a lot of different sounds. We want to stay fresh for sure and not just lock ourselves into one genre.
Kim: In the beginning the blog was more to promote the parties and maybe still, but now it’s turning into something more.
Zilka: So yeah, we do interviews often with our artists or other pieces of content in the lead up to the parties, but now we’re starting to do it more and more with the mix series as well and maybe even ramping it up in the next year or so!
Do you find now that with the platform you've established, you're gaining a wider recognition from other scenes beyond Berlin?
Kim: I definitely think with the mix series and all the content around it, we're definitely making a mark outside of Berlin too. Actually, we’re starting to do things outside of Berlin. Coming up in June, there’s this new festival called Orbits in Portugal. We know some of the people behind it who have this club called Gare Porto, which is the main techno club in Porto, and they’re running a party series in the run up to the festival. They’ve invited promoters from some other countries and cities to do club nights, and we're going to be doing the last one on the weekend before the festival.
Despite DJing at a few other events (Ray and Kim at Berlin’s Atonal, and Andreas and Steve at an event called Zeitgeist which promotes Australian ex-pat talent in Berlin), this is going to be the first international showcase for the Patterns of Perception club night, which illustrates the impressively wide following they’ve managed to reach in only two years.
Berlin’s club scene is huge and often feels like it’s ever-expanding. Have you found it difficult in any ways to stand out in such a saturated scene? You know, there's a new party and a new collective popping up almost every day here.
Zilka: I think having a strong concept really works. I like to think that helps Patterns of Perception stand out really well.
Andreas: It's also been that we've established really strong connections with our artists who've played at our parties or done mixes for us. So, I think among a lot of the artists we've booked there's been a good feeling about the party, and that's made things move pretty smoothly.
Steve: When we first started we were really conscious about how our party fits in amongst the wider landscape. We were initially trying to work out the best night for us to do it and whatever proposals we discussed, we realised there was always going to be something else. In the end we felt very positive and confident about our brand with the particular sound we wanted to promote, and that it was just time to give it ago. I think we're really lucky to have our home base at a place like OHM. It's such a special venue, a perfect size.
OHM as a club is noted for it’s intimate space, diverse range of nights, and notably the kind of crowd it draws: always very diverse, respectful and always up for a long party. The group pay respects in part to OHM for the crowd and vibe they’ve had at the parties, but also they way they’ve promoted the party, noting that it can be very hard to get a positive and full crowd if you're not specifically trying to cater to a scene, like a particular party scene. And they’re not; they’re primarily about the music.
Kim: It's really nice how, especially the last party we did at OHM in February, we can book perhaps lesser-known artists there. There was Agonis, who is getting quite established now. He's played at Labyrinth and some other big festivals, but he's still very up-and-coming. And then we had, Paula Koski, who is a Finnish DJ, again very up-and-coming. And then we had Jacopo too, who has a great record label called Midgar. They were all fairly small artists but this was probably one of the busiest parties we've had. It’s just so nice that – in OHM at least – we can experiment with the line-ups and that we don’t have to book a big name to really pack out the club.
What are the differences between running parties at OHM and ://about blank?
Andreas: At ://about blank it's always a bigger party, longer, more acts, more people attending, so it's exciting to work in that bigger space. But we feel cosy in OHM.
Steve: Since we started out, OHM has been very encouraging and they've been very supportive with what we're doing. Obviously ://about blank is amazing to work with too and we love both, but OHM is very special to us.
Bianca: What's nice about ://about blank is that it is a very different environment to OHM, it gives us the opportunity to book artists that can play in the garden.
Kim: Yeah, the reason we went there in the first place was not that we just wanted a bigger space; the primary reason was that we wanted to do something outdoors, because we felt the music that we like fits not only well in a club, but – almost better sometimes – outdoors as well. And it really was a perfect fit when we did the first birthday party there.
Steve: Especially to see Sverca play outside. Speaking with some people before the party they were like, "wow, that's pretty ambitious to have him playing outside in the garden". They thought the sound wasn't going to work, but it was amazing!
Kim: People often expect that that Sverca's going to play very experimental industrial, quite hard stuff. But he's such an amazing DJ and he played a pretty funky set actually. We actually uploaded the set on our mix series.
I understand some of you produce alongside your DJing. Do any of you have DJ commitments outside of Patterns of Perception? And if so, how do you balance that without it impinging on commitments within the collective?
Andreas: We all do other stuff. All of us have other gigs here and there, but we're all primarily focused on Patterns of Perception. And I see this as mutually beneficial actually. Patterns gives us a bit of a platform, and the more we play the more experience we get and the better we play at our own nights.
Kim: We all play together at the parties with a similar aesthetic, but we actually have different preferences in music to when we play individually. Like Andreas for example, you have quite a more driving sound to what I would have, and Ray you have a little bit more experimental sound. So I think we definitely have slightly different styles, but they fit into the night as a whole really well. It's nice because we can be very creative with who's going to play when, and who's more suited to play before this artist or after this act for example. And I think that's the beauty of being a collective.
What would you say is a – or ‘the’ – key element of being a resident DJ as part of collective?
Steve: For me I think it's not a personal statement so much, but a bit more about discussing with the rest of the team and working out what time I’m going to play or what slot would make most sense for me to play and kind of tailoring my sounds and my set to the flow of the night. That’s what we discuss a lot throughout the night and after the event: how was the flow of the event? We don’t want it to feel too samey or too jarring.
Can you collectively name a favourite recent release you’re all digging at the moment?
Kim: I mean, there are so many good ones. But an easy collective selection would be from an artist we have a close connection with and one we've played with as well. The latest release from natural/electronic.system. on Tikita. I've only spoken to the guy running the label online actually, he's just a huge music head and he created this label with a lot of the artists we love. That release was really amazing.
Steve: Another one that comes to my mind, which is kind of topical based on our upcoming party, is John Osborn's DRED label. He has a new Reformed Society release we were just listening to. To me it's a very exciting movement towards this line between house and techno...and it doesn’t quite fit into either. It’s quite housey in one aspect, with a kind of bouncy feeling that’s just really cool.
Ray: Yeh, it's not techno though, but I’ve been really digging Khidja, releases on Common Threads and some other kind of alt-left labels, a bit more eclectic, slowed down, like 110.
Can you mention any clubs, clubs nights or collectives out there that you find are doing inspiring/ progressive stuff right now?
Kim: Of course, there are a lot of cool parties here and elsewhere, but for me at least one thing that is maybe quite obvious if you look at Patterns and the kind of DJs we book, Labyrinth is definitely something that has inspired us in many ways. And there are some new festivals in Europe too, like Parallel, which is also surely inspired by Labyrinth, but they’ve got their own thing. And then of course Orbits, which looks very promising. And one party or collective that I’m very impressed by is Bunker New York. I haven’t been to any of the parties, but I’d love to go.
And a very broad, sentimental question to end on, what's techno's place in contemporary culture, and what does in mean to the people of a city like Berlin?
Andreas: I would say, what I feel is that there is a sense of community, and of being not necessarily against the establishment, but also not being in it, and diversity and inclusion. I think those are four things I feel are the spirit of techno, if we're taking music out of it and talking about the cultural aspect of it.
Zilka: yeh, I agree with the community aspect of it - community built around music is something is think is particularly beautiful.
Kim: And to escape a little bit also. That's not just techno right, but I think in particular techno lets you get kind of lost. You can have a rough week at work and being down with life, but when you're in a club or in a festival and you have this amazing hypnotic music where you can lose yourself in it, I think that’s definitely part of it.
The escapism aspect of techno – or more club culture at large – is often brought up and in a way it points to some societal sickness younger generations experience worldwide. But community and community based art form is a very poignant remedy. It’s important to cherish that aspect of it. And it is important not to take that aspect of it for granted, which can happen often when getting lost in some hedonistic elements of the scene here in Berlin.
Ray: I think we've all been here for the same time now, about 5 or 6 years now, and I think when we all came here we were heavily into the party scene and really got involved. By looking on the other side, by promoting and giving back to the community, that is sort of what you cherish - the community aspect.
Kim: Yeh, it's nice after consuming so much music and attending club nights and whatever, to be able to give back and create your own thing. It's pretty amazing to be able to do that.
For those in Berlin on the 5th of May, definitely try and head down to the Patterns of Perception night at ://about blank with Polar Inertia playing live, and sets from John Osborn and Patrick Russell. For those attending, be sure to stick around until the early hours for a very special surprise guest and b2b closing in ://about blank’s garden on the Sunday!