Dystopian recently celebrated its 5 year existence with an EP on which Function and Pär Grindvik came to remix two pieces of their catalog. A perfect opportunity to discover who hides behind the name including some of the most recent lightning ascents in techno. "5th birthday, 5th release, one party in Berlin and one in Trouw Amsterdam, it is enough. Normally we do not even celebrate our own anniversaries."

Not surprising they do not celebrate these... so much they seem to be an integral part of the dark side. Without falling into stereotypes, these two friends who founded Dystopian beside RØDHÅD seem to be determined and resolute in distancing themselves from any sappiness, something which is rather typical of East Germans. The anonymity is again specified in the introduction, "No photos, we are not looking for any kind of  spotlight. The artists have to deal with it, but for us success is when somebody comes to speak highly of our releases or artists, without knowing that we are a part of it."

Natives from East Berlin, they have known each other for 15 years and share a common history which saw them having fun as children in the uncountable fallow lands and the abandoned derelict buildings of the socialist era. It also saw them joining gangs, and going out in some clubs of the time - amongst them were the legendary Tresor and Ostgut. The artistic scene was small at that time, and everybody was connected, "We went to the same parties and lived uncountable emotional moments together," they add with a touch of irony.

These industrial landscapes, the emptiness, all of this durably marked the three of them. "Growing up in the darkness surrounded by concrete obviously shaped us, the long winters... impossible to imagine living in a place that was perpetually summer."

The first time when they heard RØDHÅD, he was playing to a crowd of barely 30 people. The trend at that time was Ricardo Villallobos's minimal, and the only place which offered a little bit of atmospheric techno was Berghain. It was then that they decided to throw their own events, "We wanted to bring the music of RØDHÅD to people. In 2009 in Berlin, there was not a single techno party on a Friday." It was gradually and naturally that Alex Do, Recondite, Felix K, Ron Albrecht, and Don Williams joined the project, and that new plans were drafted.

A little bit of management, a little bit of a booking agency, and as of recently a label. Dystopian developed organically with nothing forced and continues to do so with the entire group helping and consulting each other. "Crew love is true love," they specify laughing, "We have kept this gang mentality of East Berlin... the important thing for us is to do our best so that the artists can concentrate on their art." So is it a collective gathered around a common idea? "It works strangely well. We are absolutely not in search of the hit, everyone can develop as he wants and bring his own ideas. To exchange, to surprise ourselves, it encourages us to continue."

One may notice that the titles evoke science fiction classics, whether it is 1984 with "Enter Room 101" by RØDHÅD, or the last Recondite EP sending back to Nadsat, the language used by the youth in A Clockwork Orange. Are these tributes, a need for intertextuality? "It is part of the concept, we try to express the way we feel and what the music evokes through these references. Whether it is by a photography, by movies, by dystopian literature... it is interesting to see how people are going to receive and to react to these elements. As this little big brother is watching you which you can find on the EP 1984. If you think about it, electronic music would make great soundtracks for movies such as Blade Runner or Metropolis."

Definitively melancholic, maybe a little misanthropic and cynical. One thing is sure, aesthetically nothing is left at random. From the dominance of black and white in the debuts, to the monochrome on the flyers and the label's releases. Dystopian consists of a frame in which they can express themselves well beyond “4 to the floor techno". Moreover, RØDHÅD worked on an exhibit alongside Alona Rodeh which took place in April on two floors of Kunstraum Bethanien of Berlin, while Felix K is exhibiting some of his work in Alexander Levy Gallery, and Recondite has ongoing projects with an orchestra.

They admit to sometimes spending more time reflecting on the names of their releases rather than producing. One year was necessary to establish the name Dystopian, paradoxically found in Sónar. Since then, they are rather amused to see the increase of the word in the media. You can feel they are surprised by the grandiose scale that their "small" label reached. While they are not actively looking for new artists, it is not less than 5 demos on average that they receive every day – sometimes from big names - as well as numerous emails sometimes from Australia or the States.

"On the business side of things, we simply try to avoid losses. If we're at zero, we're satisfied." Not needing nor desiring to become big allows them to keep a complete freedom which they are not planning to abandon any time soon. "It doesn't matter if we are underground or not, in any case everyone has their own definition of the word, and that doesn't mean much any more. We have our vision, and just want to see it through so that all the artists can live from it. So that they can get off the plane on Sundays, and go to a restaurant with their friends."

They enjoy the support that comes from legends such as Dixon who invites them regularly for his Lost In A Moment party concept. Before concluding: "Naturally, we are critical and curious to see how the scene is going to evolve. If we can have a small role which allows us to bring a little substance and good artists as well as good music, it will be enough to make us happy."
These guys from Dystopian possess an interesting combination between down-to-earth and intellectual. Their music runs parallel to their image, a sublte mixture between efficiency and depth.

Text + Interview: Christophe Vu-Augier de Montgremier | Photography: Benjamin Lagos


NAN GOLDIN - Berlin Work 1984 - 2009

CORY ARCANGEL - Here Comes Everybody

STEPHEN SHORE - Uncommon Places


Graham Caldwell



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