We chat with club owner Yoni Margulies about the Berlin club's five-year run.
Tape will host its last party ever on Friday, February 17th.
The closing event comes almost exactly five years after Tape first set up shop in a Mitte storage space just north of Hauptbahnhof. While so many Berlin clubs provided gritty environments for endless parties, Tape aimed for something more modest and refined, with a cozy decor centered around a massive wooden tree and an exceptionally clear Funktion One sound system. It never achieved the cult appeal of places like Berghain, Bar25 or Club der Visionaere, but nonetheless established itself as one of the city's finer clubs, thanks in part to popular events by Horse Meat Disco, Underground Quality and others.
Chatting over email last week, Tape's owner Yoni Margulies gave us some background perspective on the spirit and history of the club:
Why is Tape closing?
Heidelberg deep house maestro Move D will headline the closing party, joined by a crew of DJs that are tight with the club: Dor, Marc Fm, Richard Zepezauer, Don Williams and Margulies himself. The bill also promises "many more" unnamed artists, including a "special surprise DJ and live act."
Tape is turning five this month. We started with a two-year contract when we opened the venue in 2007, it was already set for redevelopment at the time so we had no illusions that it would last much longer then it has. Since January 2012 our contract has had a one-month notice evacuation clause, meaning we could be evicted within a matter of weeks, so we decided close on our fifth birthday on our own terms and not remain at the mercy of the powers that be. Additionally, with great surprise, we were made an offer by an event producer from west Berlin who needed a space ASAP, so he offered to buy the walls and licensing, basically the venue without any of the technical elements or brand. This is something we expected to spend money on when leaving the venue, and now we are coming out with a bit of cash in our pockets... another sign that it was the right time for us to say goodbye.
How did Tape start? Who were the people involved and what were the first events like?
Tommy, my partner, was renting a storage space in Heidestrasse 14. At the time we were working mostly as event producers, but I was on the lookout for a spot. We threw a party for Olafur Eliasson at his studio, around the corner from Tommy's storage and this suddenly shed a new light for us on the building down the street which Tommy had been using to store his furniture. We liked it being a destination, a place out of the way, so people who would come to the venue would do so just for Tape and not for ten other venues on the street.
Considering this was our first club, I think what we offered our audience those first few months was certainly above average, though after five years in the business there is certainly a long list of things I will do differently the next time around. The biggest problem which most young retail businesses go through is under-capitalization: not only were we not liquid, we opened in debt! This affected all aspects of the business in a very negative way. We were cleaver enough to both retain our incomes from our previous businesses and only through this were we able to survive.
Uli, my better half, has basically held the administrative end of things together over the entire five years and has pulled her wonderful circle of friends into the venue. Though not an official partner, without Uli's contribution, Tape would not be anything near what it is today. We have had a very tight knit crew that has worked at Tape from the very beginning, there have been too many great people who have contributed to this house, if I name one I have to name all.
What kind of plans or hopes did you have for the club? Was there a particular gap in Berlin's nightlife you were trying to fill?
Tape was to be a "Gallery of Sound," the ideal stage for artists to present their music, hence the strong emphasis on acoustics in the space. We knew we wanted something warmer, more soulful and more refined than the fare being dished out at clubs at the time. Less concrete, less steel, more wood, more living room... more of a house party. In 2006 I was personally turned off by what was, at best, a display of sound design being regularly booked around town; fairly little real musical talent was headlining anywhere that offered good infrastructure.
From a musical perspective it seemed as though in early 2000, with plug-ins and the home studio, everyone became a "producer," and this automatically entitled them to be a DJ. This rarely made sense to me, a two to four hour DJ set is a form of storytelling that has little to do with one's studio abilities. Clubs were promoting based on production hype rather then DJ talent.
Tape has a few interesting relationships: Horse Meat Disco, Underground Quality, even Erlend Oye of Whitest Boy Alive. How did you become the go-to Berlin venue for these people?
They say friendship goes through the stomach. Uli and I love cooking, so before every club night we would cook at home for as many as 30 guests. This was very hard work but very rewarding as well. Taking a foreign artist to a restaurant is OK, but being able to invite more people to join the table is always difficult. At home it didn't matter if someone was late, the food was always ready to go. Many of these relationships were strengthened around our dining table, having had time outside a loud club to communicate and get to know each other. Additionally, I think having proved to artist community at large our dedication to production value, our willingness to do whatever it takes to give them ideal conditions to be on stage, is something that has not been taken for granted.
What are the biggest challenges to running a club in Berlin?
Coming from New York in '04 I was blown away by the freedom the authorities give here to retail business. Major cities worldwide usually scrutinize businesses for the sake of profit as opposed to regulating business for the citizens' common good. In New York people in retail were always getting sued and the legal system is such that no one ever really has to take responsibility for their actions, the small business owner always loses. I find that all in all Berlin is a great place to do business.
The nightlife landscape has gone through tremendous changes in the past years—even when I moved here in '04 there was a very defined audience in each club, because there were so few venues at the time that people stayed loyal to a club brand. As more and more venues started popping up in '07 and '08, the scene became very fragmented and promoters had more venues to choose from, and clubs had to promote every weekend regardless. They found themselves for the first time in a fairly weak position. People were no longer loyal to the club brand, they were more and more loyal to the party brand (to the promoter). The promoter can move around, offer different and new venues, the club remains the same to the masses.
Tape opened at the end of one era and beginning of another, we had to fight to hold onto our brand, our ideas and have certainly had to make our share of compromises in order to pay the rent.
What's next for you?
Tommy continues with his furniture business and for Uli and I, a new concept, a new venue, fall/winter 2012... 'nuff said ; )