HOUSEMEISTER – EXTRAORDINARY MINDSET

It’s a hot day in Berlin-Friedrichshain and five minutes past our scheduled meeting time when I turn up at Martin’s building.  Although the residents’ balcony gardens are in resplendent bloom  ̶ the façade still delicately bears the scars of Berlin’s turbulent past.  Martin says the building has “been around since the 1900s,” yet has been renovated so tactfully that all of the good old features like the heavy oak doors, ornate crown molding, and enormous windows are just as they were decades ago.  “Do you like watermelon?” he asks and with the slightest of nods saunters back to the kitchen where he’s making fresh juice and has a whole papaya waiting to be sliced.  Attentive and endearing  ̶ he exemplifies both, pretty much nonstop.

Endearing may not be be the first word that comes to mind for Berliners who have partied with Martin since his early days as a techno DJ, going as far back as ’94. They may in fact wonder if we are speaking about the same guy.  The guy who they know as Housemeister who started playing in clubs such as E-Werk, Discount, Suicide, and Tresor at sixteen years old in what many describe as Berlin’s glory days for techno, the guy whose presence in a room never goes unnoticed, and the same guy who continues to make you freak the fuck out on the dance floor with mental tracks like ‘IckSchnallUp’ and ‘Verflixt’, both of which are on his brand new EP, Beef Jerky 2 Premium Cuts.

But just as he’s recorded under various aliases such as Otherfucker, On/Off, Montagskino, and Eastwest, each with its unique wavelengths of sound, the sides to his personality are also wide-ranging.  It is his  rambunctious raunchiness that filters into his music that also makes his youthful excitement so very winsome.  When confirming our meet-up the night prior, he told me he was cooking dinner at a friend’s house.  “I made a dish that’s from the Canary Islands.”  “Sounds exotic.” He goes to the kitchen and comes back with 3 shallow ceramic bowls of different sizes.  “You can put any kind of meat in here and marinate it with honey, salt, pepper... oh, tomatoes, onions, sauce...”  He goes back to kitchen and returns with a jar of sauce. “Try it,” he urges.  His face lights up when I say it’s great.  “So, with the meat... you can add vegetables, figs, cranberries, soy beans,” pulling out every ingredient from his fridge all the while.

A master in the studio as well as in the kitchen, Martin’s got many tricks up his sleeve when it comes to concocting things.  And while he may shy away from being tagged as such, Housi, as friends know him, stands as somewhat of a Berlin techno legend.  “At first, I hated being called Housi. It was strange; I didn’t like the sound of it for some reason.  But eventually, it grew on me and now almost everyone calls me that.”  Perhaps similarly, listening to his music at first is a jolt to the brain and may perplex one to a fair degree but steering from ‘pretty’ sounds and freeing oneself from boxes, tripping out in an alternate universe, and letting synopses play out in the mind allow for its full absorption.  There’s something that comes with the passing of time and its acknowledgement - and that’s coming into your own. This couldn’t be truer in the case of Housi.  When he’s bouncing around in his studio, moving from one analog synth to the next, wound up on high doses of energy at play in his world of colourful sounds, one really sees that no other place could suit him better.

On another note, that painting on your wall is awesome.


I was in Tokyo, one of those crazy photo booths. I can’t imagine why we don’t have them in Germany. They’re so much fun. I actually took a picture of the real thing then a friend of mine had it printed super big. Anyway, I’m not going out so much these days. Maybe this summer I’ll go to Bar25. Hang around, eat in the restaurant. I’m not a sporty guy but I play tennis. It’s a sport that I can get better at. I see myself getting better. I hate sports but tennis make me really happy. I found a really underground place. A “verein,” a club where you can go whenever you want. It’s not like the other commercial ones where you’ve got to make an appointment to play. Like I want to play next week, Wednesday, from 3-4. They say hmmm, that doesn’t work. Maybe Thursday... No. You can play when you want.

Madnesss. What about this here, your new EP?


Do you want to listen to a track? It’s a firecracker. Everything is recorded live, no cuts. That’s my way to make music. My idea is that I work towards the best idea out of many taking in account all the mistakes. It’s annoying to go plaaaaayyyy, record, pause, plaaaaayyyyy. On every machine I have 4 programmed sequences then I put it together like a dj and then I reconstruct it to make a good track. Then I try to make a recording that’s not longer than 5 minutes (laughing), it’s better to be under 3:50 or something and I think about how to do the arrangement. If I find that one part is boring or another should go here or there, I rearrange. Each time I listen to a track, it’s different.


Sometimes, the more you try to perfect something the more you lose elements that make it special.


Basically, when you make a recording there’s a turning point if you decide to scrap it and go in a different direction. So it’s better to keep things. I don’t think about it on that same day. I’ll listen to it the next day and after four days I like it. In the beginning you were thinking, here’s a little mistake - I’ll cut it out. But when you do this, that’s the mistake. What you first thought was a mistake is what later makes it a hit. If you cut it out too early you maybe lose something precious. When I make I track I’ll listen to it maybe 50 times. I figure it out. Oh yeah, have you heard of die Johannesburg?


It’s next to Bar 25 right? They built some kind of South African...


Yeah like a South African ghetto. But there’s a special word for it. What is it? ...A township! You can’t really see from this photo but there’s a huge screen behind the bar where you can sit and watch the games, in the bleachers or on the grass. Here’s the special throne for the owner of Bar 25. It’s where the “king and queen” sit [laughing].

I’m just wondering... do you have ADD?


Oh, as in- ADHD? Oh yeah. I have that. I do everything at the same time. That’s why I brought my studio back home. When I didn’t have it here I got so bored, restless. Also, you don’t want to go to the studio when you’re super tired, coming back from the weekend and so on. But when I have it here, it’s easier to work on things. I don’t work 8 hours solidly. I just work 2 hours and I do a lot of things then I move on to something else. Like making a watermelon smoothie.


It’s delicious. So you recently got back from Singapore, Australia, and Canada. Oh and LA. How was that?


LA was..... okay. LA is not really my place. What’s a nightmare in LA is that they alllll talk about being a star or being somebody. Or who are you? How are you?


A lot of bullshitting like what do you do, who do you know, what can I get from you? (laughing)


Exactly. They sit back and say “I was in my pool last night sipping a blahblahblah.” It was good for shopping but what I really like in LA is Six Flags.


You went there?


Yeaaaaah. That was a big reason I wanted to go. When I arrived at Customs they asked me “Why are you here?” I said, “I want to go to Six Flags. That’s why I’m here. I really want to go to Six Flags. It’s a big dream of mine.” Do you want to see some videos I filmed while we were there?


Yes!


Okay. Oh here’s a picture I took at Amoeba. That’s one of the best record shops. I was so happy, I felt like a little kid when I saw they had my records. Anyway, I went to Six Flags with Alex (Boys Noize) and Nadine and in the beginning they didn’t think they’d do every ride with me... I did all of them twice! There’s this new ride they have called X2. People are really hyping it and so there’s always at least a 4 hour queue but since we had these “platinum” wristbands they guarantee you at least one ride on every roller coaster. So people are seated 2 in each row, the seats spin 360 degrees all the way around to where you’re upside down and then back and there are speakers in front and in back of you and surrounding your head cushions and what not. They start the ride with pulling you up backwards. And when we go up now, look at my face. I’m so afraid. And when we’re almost to the top with all that crazy surround sound a voice growls “3, 2, 1... now listen.” Let me tell you something the day before we were meant to go, Nadine was saying “we can’t go there”. She was showing me some bad movies on youtube. Ones where people are sick or having bad reactions. Ones where they’re waiting in queues for 2 hours to ride the rides. She was saying “we can’t go there.” We’ll just spend the whole time waiting, and so on. But really she just scared. She was making all these different excuses [laughing]... she thought all along that just Alex and I would go but in the end she came. When we got off this ride, X2, well on all the other rides we’d get off and start laughing and saying how fun they were.... well after X2, nothing. We were all shocked. Speechless. No one was talking we were all just huffing and puffing.

Have you played with Hannes yet?


Yes, yes. More last year when I was weaker but I’m much better now. He should be afraid next time we meet [laughing].


It was a little while ago, but did you have a good time on the set of Berlin Calling?


That was fun. My part was really short. It was just one day at Bar 25 and I was doing what I always do. Spinning records and drinking Jaegermeister. Except it started at 10 in the morning (laughing). And every time the camera started rolling I had to play Paul’s track [laughing].


Didn’t you used to play at Bar 25 often?


No. Every time they ask me I say no because... I don’t... I think I’m afraid of it. I like to go there but not for the club at night. Maybe I have to play there once this year. They really ask me every year but I say no, no. I think my music needs more bass... but maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’ll work perfectly there. Maybe they’re all just waiting for this [laughing].


What was it like playing in Berlin in the beginning?


I started at... well, these clubs have long been dead... I played at E-Werk. I was at E-Werk every weekend, even if I wasn’t playing. That was my favourite techno club. It was a bit like Berghain but the music was more open. They didn’t play such depressing stuff. The music was ghetto, and also disco, the techno version and a lot of good DJs were playing there. American ones too. Like Jim Punk, DJ Trax, I don’t know all the names now. I also played at Matrix. You know that one? I’m saying in ’97 it was a techno club. I have no idea now [laughing]. Every week there were 2,000 people there and everyone went til 4 in the afternoon the next day, like Berghain. It was a great time then. And the old Suicide, in ’97 or ’96 was on Dircksenstraße. Also Discount.


Different vibes, huh?


Yeah, totally. And there weren’t that many tourists. The tourists mainly came from around Berlin. The Berlin countryside. I don’t know but I think now when you go out to clubs everybody is a tourist. Maybe not on Sundays. I can’t really say cos I don’t go out that much anymore.


You riding different waves now.


Yeah, I’m fine with it. It’s really fine. But if I don’t go out... how will I find a girlfriend? [Laughs] ah, she will come. Someday [laughing].


No doubt about that.


Text: Yasmin Martinelli | Photography: Federico Testa

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