Electronic Music’s dominated Berlin’s music scene since the ’70s, but one label is introducing indie.
Electronic Music has dominated Berlin’s music scene since its convoluted, synthesizer-laden sound set the tone for the city as early as the ’70s. With her label Monika Enterprise, however, founder Gudrun Gut carved out a niche for a new generation of musicians tired of techno, disconcerted with D.J.s annexing all the venues, but not so turned on by Western-world indie guitar rock either. Named after Gut’s goldfish, Monika Enterprise boasts nearly 50 releases from multifarious artists including Cobra Killer, Contriva, and Quarks. This year marks the label’s 10th anniversary, so Samantha Gilewicz caught up with the woman with the eclectic ear to, er, hear whom she’s listening to now and why she thinks “the world needs more Monika!”
An artist yourself, why did you start your own label?
The beginning of Monika was with the “Wohnzimmerszene” in Berlin—a movement in which young artists played in living rooms. They were quiet and friendly shows. I liked this and saw it as a protest against the big-stage bad-boy rock attitude which was becoming mainstream and an alternative to the techno D.J. These were artists like Barbara Morgenstern, Quarks, Contriva, Komëit… who played their own compositions. Another thing I’m interested in is the female voice in pop culture. My ears open up when I hear an interesting female artist. To be an artist myself is very helpful because I can talk to artists one on one.
How has Berlin’s music scene changed since the ’90s?
I think it got more international. A lot of artists from other countries are living here now and mix in with the locals. Musically, it is obvious that now people mix instrumentals with electronics… and more vocals. Fifteen years ago it was all instrumental music. Maybe that has to do with German pop history—we never had the blues background. The most striking German historic bands are Kraftwerk, Can, and Neu.
Has indie music had a tough time getting heard because of the electronic music dominance of Berlin’s music scene?
Here, indie music is often mixed with electronic. But if you mean the techno/D.J. type, then yes—by the end of the ’90s there were no clubs for live music anymore. Now we have a big variety of locations. Almost too many!
What are a few of your favorite bands at the moment?
We have two albums coming out in autumn that I’m listening to at the moment—Michaela Melian and Chica + The Folder. Then, music from our OceanClubRadio show like Battles, the new Fields album, new Dntel, the new Thomas Fehlmann album… And sometimes I listen to old records like Neu or Cluster or King Crimson. Recently I Rediscovered Canned Heat. I like people like us. Yes, the world needs more Monika!