Born and raised in Berlin, Sabine Hoffmann has been in the scene for a long time. Playing vinyl-only sets, Sabine has been working behind the decks at many leading Berlin clubs, such as – Arena Club, ://About Blank and Berghain Kantine. She is also the founder of „Frauengedeck“, an event series with a focus on all female line-ups. The events have already toured through different clubs in Berlin – and abroad.
Sabine is also working at OYE record shop, a well-known institution in Berlin. From OYE she also hosts a monthly Frauengedeck live stream and radio show on Underground Quality Radio. Monument is delighted to have a talk with Sabine about her work, Frauengedeck and her future plans.
Sabine, you grew up with Hip Hop, Funk and many other different genres. How did you got in touch with Techno? Could you describe your first club experiences?
I grew up in East Berlin and had a lot to catch up after the fall of the Wall, also in the musical field. In the 90’s I was very influenced by Hip Hop, Rap and Crossover, and I did not really like Techno or House at the time. My first contact with the electronic music scene was in 1996, when I first visited the Bunker. Zodiak, a good friend, was a resident there and we were always with him to support him. However, I was not completely in love with electronic music, that came a little later. Around 1998 I visited Tresor relatively often, its particular atmosphere caught me immediately. After I started working at the XS Club, I was infected and completely lost in the Berlin nightlife. Besides Bunker, Tresor, Ostgut and XS we often visited Kit Kat, where many of my friends were resident DJ’s.
You have been active since the early 2000‘s. Did the scene change much in the last years and how?
There are so much different views to look at. For me basically changes are a good thing and it’s the reason why this scene is still alive, it changed a lot for sure in a good way and also in bad ways. Its more commercial now, it´s not the same underground concept it was some years ago. Everybody wants to have a piece of that cake, you can make money now with it. All actors (promoters, booking agents, clubs, DJ’s, visual artists and for sure music lovers) sprout up like mushrooms. The audience is expanding and becoming more diverse and the listeners are much more educated. This I really like, because you can play music, which is more innovative and a step before. For sure it depends at which club your at. It gives me the chance to realize myself. The new technical background gives the opportunity to being a DJ, also without a big knowledge. Its not like some years ago, where you have to play vinyl and beatmatch to be a DJ. Its much easier now. You can check Beatport, or other places where you can buy digital tracks. It’s not necessary to visit vinyl shops and to dig for records. Thats why the market is full with DJ’s, especially in Berlin.
You always play vinyl-only. What is so attractive in playing only with turntables? Have you ever considered playing in digital format?
Playing vinyl is what i started with sometime in 2000… Maybe I am too lazy to learn how to play digital… Hahaha! I have a big collection of vinyl, but no digital tracks. I like the feeling of playing vinyl, I prefer the warmth of analog sounds and the classic feel of turntables. It’s also easier to play vinyl when you have a nice cover with which you connect something and not only a name of a track without any other information. You also have thousands of tracks on a big USB stick, it’s hard to keep track.
How do you prepare for a gig?
I prefer to be with myself short before the night, I don’t wanna listen to music, it’s perfect to be alone with my mind and come down a bit. Especially, when I play every weekend. I am surrounded by music throughout the week, because of my work at OYE, it’s a lot of musical input. Sometimes you need a break to get the feeling and passion back. I often listen to Jazz, or classical music. Its good to know the location and also the other DJ’s I share the booth with. When I have enough time I check their music. I always try to take records with me from different kinds of styles to be able to adjust my set to the audience. My set is never prepared, I always decide what to play spontaneously and intuitively, after I am in the club and after knowing the atmosphere and the dancing crowd. Also the playtime is important and basis for the style I take with me. I really love to play the warm-up slot. That brings me into the night in the best way. For sure, the records I choose for the night, are also depending on my mood. Sometimes I am more happy, sometimes more thoughtful, and that you can feel in my sets. Last, but very important point is a good meal it’s always a perfect base to start into the night. I am not often in a bad mood, mostly I am a balanced, friendly human. But don´t talk with me, when I am hungry. It’s better to stay far away from me than!
You are organizing Frauengedeck, an event series hosting only female artists. Can you tell us about the concept and how did it start?
It all started with the booking for my birthday in February 2015, the line up was all female artists, because many of my good friends are female DJ’s. Also inspired by the event “Unter Freundinnen”, where I played a lot. The mood at these events was always very good and I felt encouraged to do something myself. My idea was to provide the female DJ’s from my circle of friends, to give a platform and to support them. Meanwhile, the booked DJ’s are not only from my circle of acquaintances anymore, it goes beyond that, we also book international acts, because the project Frauengedeck is growing steadily.
When organizing a party, how do you choose the place and the artists for the night? What are the ingredients of a good party?
Its pretty important to start a project with people I like and I can work professional with. Its perfect if you are working with a club where you have qualified, relaxed and friendly colleagues. Thats why we are cooperating for a long time with the club “Salon zur wilden Renate”, we are exclusive there, when we have an event in Berlin. Automatically the atmosphere is a good one and you are starting with the best rudiments into the night, when the basics are perfect. The soundsystem should be nice for sure, it’s no fun for a DJ to play with a bad sound. Also not for the crowd, who will stay with you the full night. A bad sound makes the ears tired and you don’t wanna stay in the club as you would with a balanced pumping system. Also the technique should be in the best conditions in the club, like record players, monitors… It is no fun to have trouble with the equipment right before the begins. Best is, if the sound is already checked, when I arrive in the club and I can trust them, one job I don’t have to deal with as a promoter and there are a lot of them. I like to book DJ’s I am familiar with, who are close to me. Than you know, who they are and how they work. You know what they like and don’t like. It’s like a big family then.
How many active members does Frauengedeck have? Are you collaborating with other collectives or clubs?
I started everything by myself, but after I learned that it was way too much work, I thought about working with someone together. One night at one of my Frauengedeck events I had a conversation with Kathleen about it all and she offered her help, so our coworking started. I am pretty happy to have her with me now! She is always with me and gives me strength when I need it. Our biggest collaboration we have with “Salon zur wilden Renate”, where we have regularly events. We are also streaming live every first friday of the month from the OYE recordshop.
You are experienced with organizing events. What are the biggest challenges as a host?
The biggest challenge in organizing the Frauengedeck events is the booking. Basically, I can say that it is very difficult for me to realize a purely female booking, because there are still more male DJs. In my opinion, the 50/50 rule in normal club operation is therefore hardly feasible. Most female artists are either blocked, because they already play in Berlin, or are otherwise internationally booked. It’s really not easy and a lot of work. We have to send so many booking requests to fill a line up, especially if it is such a big event like our next one 8th march on all 4 floors from “Salon zur wilden Renate”, that means we have to book 12 DJ’s. It’s also not easy for me to be the host of the event and also one of the DJ’s. Thats why I always play the first slot at my parties to take care of my artists after finishing my set. I also wanna give the sets with more crowded dancefloors to the DJ’s, who are my guests.
This year Frauengedeck had its third anniversary. You celebrated by doing a birthday tour through Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. How was the tour, and why did you choose these countries?
In 2016, I was booked the first time to Yerevan and immediately fell in love with the people, the culture and the country. I had an incredibly good gig and a great time, so it was clear to me that I have to come back. In cooperation with Eva Khachatryan, we organized the first Frauengedeck in Armenia with the support of the Goethe Institut in 2017. After having three successful events and a livestream there, it was clear that we would love to come back.
In July 2018, we celebrated 3 years Frauengedeck. After I was booked to the Gate Club in Batumi (Georgia) the idea was born to make a birthday tour through Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. We started our tour in Baku (Azerbaijan) and with the support from Sintetik Club the first event took place at Luna Project. Then we went to Batumi (Georgia) to Gate club, the third gig was at KHIDI in Tbilisi (Georgia). The tour ended in my beloved Yerevan, where, with the support of the Nine Club, we hosted an event in an old Soviet-era recording studio. Last stop was a livestream from the Mirzoyan Library in Yerevan. All events were a great success and more projects are already in planning. My experiences there were consistently positive. So much warmness and hospitality is rare. I’m still flashed by so much love and warmth, the people there are more grounded and humble, happy about small achievements and very open to new experiences. For sure I will be back to meet all these wonderful human beings again!
You have been working in the OYE record shop in Berlin since 2016. You are also organizing a monthly Frauengedeck live stream. How did you start working for OYE and hosting streams?
After finishing my Audio Engineering studies in 2014 I was looking for a Job, which is a good match with my DJ gigs every weekend. I needed something which is half time and at best connected with music, sound, or film. Working for OYE records was on my wish list for some years already. Tinko (one of the owners from OYE) knew that and one day he called me and offered a job. Game, set and match! It’s the best job I ever had and I am very happy to work there.
January 2016 I started the live streams from the Noize Fabrik an event location with audiostudios. I had to bring my own equipment to every stream, which was not so comfortable. When I started to work for OYE it came to me to do it there, because we already had instore gigs, which were streamed. So why not also Frauengedeck. We are still there, because it works perfect!
It must be really interesting to work in a record shop. Did you experience any funny, great or mind-blowing moments while working there?
For sure working for OYE is interesting. I learn a lot about the background behind our business, about labels, distributions. I meet a lot of people when I work and I am connected pretty well with the scene without being at every party. I also always know which records are new and can have a listen. My knowledge about releases is much bigger now, I learn every day a bit more. Discogs is always open to check new labels and read about background information.
A funny story: Two guys came in our shop, which bought records before. They told me they went into the park around the corner to smoke a joint, to have a little break. What a pity, that they forgot the bag with the records on the lawn, because they were too stoned after. That’s why they came back to OYE to ask if maybe somebody found the bag with the records. But no records at our shop. The guys left. Some minutes later a homeless guy came with a bag full of records, which he wanted to offered me to buy. I checked the bag and realized, it was the lost one. So I bought the records from the guy for some euro, it was short before christmas, he was happy and I felt good about helping him a bit. Bad for the guys, which lost the records, but maybe they learned a bit from that story.
You finished your Audio Engineering studies and gained knowledge for music production. Together with Matt Nowak you have released a track on Zaijenroots two years ago. What are your future plans as a producer? Do you have some upcoming projects or gigs?
Due to lack of time, unfortunately, apart from my collaboration with Matt Nowak, there are no further releases because I have many other projects and can’t be concentrated on producing. In addition to my job at OYE Records, my Frauengedeck events, the Frauengedeck livestream / radio show, playing every weekend and doing my own bookings, there is hardly any time left for another project. However, it has been planned for a long time to go back to the studio with Matt and work there. I hope to be able to implement that soon!
Upcoming projects will be a Deep Space Helsinki Podcast in April and an Intimate Silence Podcast in June, as well as a “ABC plays XYZ” mix for the NovaFuture blog.
The upcoming weeks I will play at Salon zur wilden Renate as well as at Fuchsbau, my favourite bar of Berlin. Later I am back at Suicide Circus and will visit at the city of Freiburg in Germany for the first time. Frauengedeck will take over again all 4 floors of Salon zur wilden Renate again to celebrate the International Women’s Day, and we also will have a live stream from the OYE shop the same day as a little warm-up for the night. Also gigs at Suicide Circus and Zur Klappe in Berlin are on my schedule.
Hopefully this year we will go to Armenia again, and I would love to visit Azerbaijan and Georgia again. The list also includes Beirut, Prague, Moscow, Warsaw, Krakow, Bratislava, Bucharest, Tel Aviv, and I am already in contact with some promoters and DJ’s. We always book at least one female local DJ to support the girls on the spot, so if anyone is interested in having Frauengedeck in their town, they are always welcomed to contact us.