It’s no coincidence that house and techno fans flock to Berlin almost by default; the city lives and breathes electronic dance music. Home to many of the top underground dance labels and a conveyor belt of talented producers and DJs, Berlin is a paradise of parties that run and run and run. Stepping up as a representative of her city, Beste Modus’ Cinthie will be joined by label mates Diego Krause, stevn.aint.leavn and Ed Herbst as they take to London in May, performing alongside Keinemusik and a Sisyphos showcase as they bring a slice of home to the UK for Egg’s Berlin Berlin night.
Eager to find out a bit more about Cinthie and her Beste Modus crew, we caught up with the talented selector and producer to discuss the joy of vinyl, family on the dancefloor and how there’s no place quite like home...
You’re known for promoting a vinyl-only stance, not only in your own performance but with releases on Beste Modus and Unison Wax. Do you feel like there’s a need to protect record culture by avoiding digital formats?
There is not so much the need to avoid digital formats but we really need to take care of formats like vinyl. For me it’s not just something you buy your music on, it’s a whole culture. Playing and collecting vinyl for over 20 years now, it has always been a big part in my life. Vinyl is for me joining the social life by going out of your house to the record store. Meeting friends and having a chat, finding new stuff you would never find online because the owner of the shop recommends you a record. That’s something we really need to protect in our daily digital life where you buy everything online. And also vinyl is a big part of the techno and house culture. Especially the house culture. Or imagine hip hop without MCing or beatboxing, breakdancing etc. That would be pretty lame.
In the last couple of years you’ve opened up the Beste Modus platform thanks to the Beste Freunde series, with the likes of Liam Geddes, Philipp Boston and Tecture providing tracks. What is it that you look for when signing new artists?
When we started Beste Freunde ( = best mates ) we just wanted to give our very talented producer friends a platform to release some music. Some of them never had a release before. We are surrounded by so many great talents and it was just a natural step to give them some more support. But since people realized that we are now more open for other artists, I get bombed with demos.
Of course, I usually check out the ones first from people I know and I’m always telling them to get out of their comfort zone. I don’t need the 1,000,000 90s track with stabs and stuff. For Beste Freunde we are super open and it’s more important to have a nice package with some housey, minimal, techno or even electro / breakbeat tracks. If I feel it and it fits somehow the vibe of the rest of the tracks, I’ll sign it. But to be honest I have to make more time to check out demos. I feel sorry for people I never replied to but next to making music, running the label, traveling, hosting my own radio show I am also the mom of a wonderful child.
Among a fairly substantial list of Beste Modus achievements is a residency at famous Berlin club Watergate; how excited was it to be offered the chance to play regularly at one of your home city’s most famous venues?
Phew, I remember how we freaked out when we first got booked as a label at Watergate. I was soooo proud. I played Watergate a couple of times before but hosting one floor with your own label was something else. Upstairs they had Kerri Chandler playing, so it was a perfect fit. One year later they took me for their agency and now I’m also a resident of Watergate. I’m super happy because after I lost my residency at Stattbad and another club, which closed down, I was happy to have a new home. Some people might say, the music I play doesn’t really fit to the rest what’s happening at Watergate. But for me, it’s kinda challenging to bring something different, maybe even call it more underground, and open the door for more artists like me. So I cannot think of another place to have a residency. The crew is absolutely lovely and super supportive. That’s something new for me as in the past it was mostly me supporting other people rather than getting supported.
Tell us a bit about the ‘Stasi Studios’. They sound like a pretty interesting space…
Unfortunately I don’t run the Stasi Studios anymore. It was a project I took over from my Ex after he almost fucked it up. My idea was to rent more space from the building next to it as there is a big demand of affordable studios in Berlin. The building next to my building was empty for more than 10 years and the landlords desperately looking for someone who would rent it. Unfortunately the didn’t want to give it to me. I tried very hard with the government, the Berlin Musicboard etc. I had everyone on my side but they couldn’t tell me after 5 years if they want to give it to me or not. I felt like a stupid little child asking for cookies. And then I said to myself I need to let go. And I did. Too bad about the idea, because it would have been a very unique project, but well there will be other opportunities.
The full Beste Modus team will be out in force in London this May, playing as part of the Berlin Berlin night at Egg. Can the famous Berlin party spirit really be replicated outside of the city?
Huh, good question. To be honest, I don’t really think so. Berlin is super laid back when it comes to parties. It’s because of how Berlin was after the wall came down. No one was really taking care of what was happening in all the abandoned places and empty houses etc. Berlin feels a bit like a big family. Also as we don’t have closing hours no one is stressed about getting hammered and then rush to a club for a few hours just to get kicked out at 5 or 7 o’clock with everyone else because the club is closing. Also there is a lot of hedonism and of course our no camera policy which is really good cause I personally look always shit in pictures especially when I play records in a sweaty club... But what we will bring is our music and we try to create a Berlin like vibe with it.
Berlin’s a city rife with quality record shops; last time I was there I found it pretty hard to leave Oye and then was trapped again after stepping in for a ‘quick look’ at Sound Metaphor. What’s your favourite of the Berlin digging spots?
Oh don’t even tell me about it. Unfortunately at the moment I only have time to dig at stores once a week or even every two weeks due to my workload. But my favourite stores are black.round.twelve, Mitte Musik, Musik Heaven and hmm, that’s it. The staff are friendly, the prices are good and they are not too far from my home. I also buy a lot online and of course Discogs will make me bankrupt one day.
Does the wealth of talent operating in Berlin make it harder or easier to survive as a house music record label?
Not sure about that. You still need to pick the right people from the thousands of talents around. We also appreciate a good attitude and a little bit of personality from our artists as I’m pretty tired of working with assholes to be honest.
The success of the label can be seen in the speed in which Beste Modus records tend to sell out. Other than the quality of the music, are there any other elements to the Beste Modus brand that might explain why it is so warmly received?
Yeah, that’s always surprising and how many records we are selling. I just got the new statement from our distributor and almost fell from the chair. I remember when we pressed the first record and we hoped to sell maybe 100 or even the 300 we pressed. I think that next to the music, we are a nice group and I personally like to do networking. We are trying to sell records in a nice way and I hate doing a very aggressive promo. I believe that music will find it’s way. So yeah, if you want to hear an advice then I can say: stay humble, release good music, don’t put too much effort into artwork and also be interested in other labels and artists and support them in the same way you wish that for yourself or your own label.
Cinthie and Beste Modus label mates Diego Krause, stevn.aint.leavn and Ed Herbst will be playing Berlin Berlin on Saturday May 20th at Egg London, with Keinemusik’s &ME, Rampa, Adam Port and Reznik for company. Sisyphos residents’ Jonty Skrufff and Fidelity Kastrow will also be performing, as will Egg resident DJs Kyle E and Ireen Amnes.
Photos courtesy of Marie Staggat