We brought the industry direct to our BIMM Berlin students recently, when we had Berlin-based electronic music DJ, producer and label owner, Steffi, come and deliver an inspiring Masterclass. In the audience was Anna Jakisch – Communications and Project Manager at event management company Beuro Doering… and here Anna presents her take on the truly inspiring event.
TRUST YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN!
Steffi has made it. As a producer, she paved her own way at an early age, and now as a DJ she excites fans of electronic music all over Europe. These days she works where legends are born – when she’s playing as one of the resident vinyl DJs in the Panorama Bar of the legendary Berghain, she causes the crowd to forget space and time.
Electronic music and the scene around it has changed. When Steffi first started visiting wild and free Berlin in the early ‘90s, there were no rules or constraints. It was a time of total freedom and experimentation. The tools for producing music were new and a playground of possibilities were created. It was an environment that Steffi loved from the very start, because it allowed her to totally express herself through music.
When the Dutch-born DJ scored a regular gig at Berghain every two months, it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Before long she was asked by the club’s owners whether she wanted to be one of Berghain’s resident DJs. “A new adventure! Why not?”, she said and smiled during her well-attended Masterclass at BIMM Berlin, before explaining that she moved to Berlin for good in 2007, founding her own record label in the metropolis of electronic music.
IT CAN TAKE YEARS – BE PATIENT!
During the Masterclass, Steffi was asked how you become a resident DJ. “Above all, it takes patience,” she said, implying that you definitely won’t become a resident DJ overnight.
“Sometimes it takes years to get into the right circles. This dry spell can be tough, but don’t give up,” she advised. “You’ll make mistakes and you’ll grow by making them and by learning from the process.” She mentioned that a professional social media presence can definitely help to attract attention too.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A PRODUCER
One BIMM student asked Steffi whether she thought it was best to release an EP before becoming a DJ.
“At the beginning it was great to play at Berghain only once in a while. They gave me a free card to do what I wanted”, she said. “That’s when I produced my first album.” She explained how she released her first EP (‘Kill Me’) in 2010, which was followed by her debut album ‘Yours & Mine’ in 2011. She mentioned that it might be easier to be both a producer and a DJ, but you definitely don’t have to be a producer to become a resident: “It’s a myth that this is the only way to succeed.”
DON’T REPLICATE OTHERS – FIND YOUR OWN STYLE!
One BIMM student mentioned that in electronic music, different genres are popular at different times, so they wanted to know if this means they should do what everyone else does in order to be successful. Steffi stated that sometimes an act of liberation is needed to be truly creative: “Broaden your horizons. Music is always subject to personal taste. Free yourself from what others think or expect. Trust yourself! Just try to unbox the techno sound!”.
Steffi said she often feels bored by the standard techno sound and advised students to try to create music in a different way to others, as she believes this is the only way to stand out from the crowd.
YOU HAVE TO DO IT FROM THE HEART
“Just play… whatever vibe you feel or whatever comes from your heart and mind! As soon as you force yourself to be like another person, it’s not coming from the heart. Music has the power to release creativity,” she said.
She stated that she wants to encourage club and festival operators to be more diverse and courageous. “Today many clubs have become more commercial. The sky’s the limit! Everything is possible. Berghain still feels like a place of musical freedom to me. I would advise anyone to make the most of it!”
MAKE MUSIC FOR YOURSELF, NOT THE REST OF THE WORLD
Steffi told the audience that as the electronic music scene started over 30 years ago, it’s not always easy to be original. She believes her process works best when she lets her ideas flow, recording everything that comes out and reworking it later. She said it’s a long way from 60 song ideas to an album of 11 tracks… and that only the ideas that truly blow you away can inspire others: “Ignore what others want to tell you!” she advised.
DON’T THINK TOO MUCH… AND HAVE FUN!
One BIMM student wanted to know exactly how much of her music is improvised, and how much is prearranged. Steffi said that when she plays live (which is her preferred way of doing things) 90% of her material is prepared beforehand. With this she laughed and said: “To make it sound like a proper piece of music, you need to be fast. You only have two hands. Keep it manageable!”