Mark Reeder is the John Galt of Berlin’s ever-changing music constellation. Back in 1978, he went record shopping in Berlin but found something else: a fascinating, divided city. His passion for music shaped a new scene and movement that changed the face of East and West Berlin’s punk and techno culture.
Who is Mark Reeder? Former German representative of Factory Records, he promoted his friends Joy Division and New Order. He played in bands (Frantic Elevators, Die Unbekannten, Shark Vegas, and Alien Nation). He threw illegal punk rock concerts in East Berlin with Die Töten Hosen, and despite being labeled a ‘subversive dekadent’ by the Stasi, produced the very last record in the GDR. A techno original, he primed Paul van Dyk to fame and started the first techno/trance label MFS (Masterminded for Success) in 1990, East Berlin. Aside from his sixth sense for sound, he’s the face of hit documentary B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin, starring himself, sex, drugs, and rock n’ techno. And to think, all these cool accolades began with a thrill for records and smuggling tapes.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968. Before I bought it, I listened to it every week in the record shop. As a 10 year-old, I never realized that it was a double album. I was confused, as it sounded different every week.
How was the music scene different from what you left in England?
In Manchester, a band was a way to survive. There weren’t really any other job prospects, everyone was truly unemployed, so people played music to earn money. Being in a band was a necessity to try to escape from misery.
Berlin was different because everyone had already escaped. You could just express yourself here. It wasn’t geared around a business model, a hit record, or money. It was, “let’s do what we feel.” That special energy is only in Berlin.
How did techno come into your world?
From the start. In the late 80s, I went to many clubs, not just bars, and almost every weekend went to the Metropol Discothek, which was Europe’s biggest gay disco. That dance music thing just sort of developed over the years. It went from high energy to house music to acid house and then evolved into techno.
I remember Dimitri Hegemann (Founder, Tresor) starting an acid-house club in a flat. They took a saw to the floor, so they could access the cellar. You’d come out covered in dust because you were partying in a basement. Once people realized they could do music at home, it changed a lot of things.
The ecstatic combination of the Berlin wall and the sense of euphoria and optimism a cataclysmic event like that created was very special. East and West were united on the dance floor. Plus, my mates back home didn’t get techno. They needed something melodic, accessible, a bit more “girly.” I wanted to fuse these together to make it very hypnotic and trippy – music you could come home to after three days in a club. I called it hypnotic trance music, which later became trance. That was it.
What place in the world are you excited about?
I am interested in places that have something to fight against. That causes its own thing to happen. It’s about how to get around obstacles.
For example, young Chinese don’t really communicate with each other. Sure, they use chat apps, but they have little idea about what sort of music is trending or being made elsewhere in the country. They don’t realize their music scene is turning into a culture.
China isn’t known for its own music scene. It’s known for making your clothes, your tech, not for making music. Stolen the young band I discovered in Chengdu, gives China a fresh musical face. I want to help create this back and forth. It’s like an untouched territory really, a very distinct and separate musical world, amongst the accessibility, the technology.
With a knack for finding the next wave, Reeder’s latest project features Stolen on his label. His goal has always been to enrich the music community, to explore hybrid moments.
So, who is Mark Reeder? He facilitated the emerging culture in censored communities by providing a stage, agency, and something tangible to attach themselves to.
Pushing a manifesto for individualism and musical enterprise, Reeder proves one can actively reshape the sedimented approach of a collective conscious. He reminds us that sometimes, we just need to go for it.