Konstantin was a good person to ask—a DJ and producer deeply immersed in his own imagination, with a group of friends just like him. There was DJ Dustin, Dwig, Ateq and Rafael, who was already making music with Konstantin as Kettenkarussell. In the end they only put on four parties at Giegling before it was shut down again, but what happened in those four parties was far more extraordinary than any of them could have expected.
"It was a little house in a park, little hallways connecting all these little rooms," says Dustin. "The main floor was just 30 square meters. Every time it was really packed and very sweaty. We never had lights so it was dark. And then we had a second floor that was four square meters; we had a jazz band in there and maybe ten people going crazy. It had a very warm atmosphere, but at the same time it was very punk somehow, very dirty, but still with a very charming feeling."
"It was a zone where you did whatever you wanted to," says Konstantin. "I was there one time from Thursday to Monday. To me, personally, a lot of magical things happened. And that's not about drugs. It's about the things music and a community can do to you. If you stay together for a long time, there are things that happen in the consciousness that you only experience that way."
When Giegling closed, the crew behind it wasn't willing to let it go. "We wanted to carry this energy, we wanted to save this vibe," says Konstantin. "That's how the label began. We wanted to press a requiem."
Six years later, Giegling's core artists are still chasing that energy. At face value the label is fairly eclectic, covering everything from house and techno to slo-mo beats, instrumental hip-hop and whatever else strikes the artists' fancy (like the odd drum & bass track). But crucially, there's something that links all of this music together—an indescribable feeling that was born at those parties.
"I could find some words for it," says Konstantin, but as he tries he can't help but laugh at how philosophical it sounds. "It's a resonance of being… of being in a certain time, with certain people." He cracks up and puts his hand on his forehead, then tries again. "It's something immaterial, but something true, something worth living for. Ah, I don't know."
"It's the feeling of seeing a sunset," says Dustin, smiling at himself a bit. "A bold metaphor, maybe, but yeah. A little melancholic, very emotional."
The key thing about this feeling is that it exists somewhere beyond the classic pleasure principle that defines most dance music. For Konstantin, clubbing can be something more than what he calls "free-time culture—like going to an amusement park."
He continues: "For me it was always something more—like church, somewhere you go to seek a remedy of some kind. People are searching for something when they go out. It's not just about fun, not just about spending time with your friends, though those things are important. It's about searching for a certain feeling."
If I had to take a stab at it, I'd describe that feeling as transcendence, something often at the center of Giegling's music. Take the latest EP from Traumprinz, All The Things. Each of the record's four tracks evoke a slightly different sense of epiphany, most notably "I Gave My Life," which is built around a spoken-word account of finding Jesus while watching a sunrise on acid. Something so overtly religious might seem like a bold look for what is essentially a club track, but the monologue's description of this experience is too compelling for that to matter. "For me it was like, I'd been in a dark room for 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 years," the voice says. And then, with reverb swelling at the pivotal moment: "And someone was turning the dimmer on slowly, and I began to see everything." This is a particularly dramatic (and explicit) example of a feeling that imbues most of Giegling's music—a sense of wonderment tinged with melancholy.
Most of Giegling's core members met at Bauhaus University in the mid-'00s, but their musical histories go back further than that. Konstantin and Rafael grew up in Hannover listening mostly to rock and hip-hop. "Always going in free periods to a friend's house, getting high, making music on a computer," Konstantin says. "I was young, not allowed to go out late, so I would go to shows at nine, before they even started. I went for the sound check." It was here that Konstantin met Vril, who at the time was a sound engineer in Hannover's hip-hop scene. "I would show up and say, 'Ah that sounds so nice!' Later we collaborated."
As teenagers, Konstantin and Rafael would travel to Hamburg for concerts, and after the show they'd find themselves stranded until the next day's first train. "On the way to the train station is The Golden Pudel," says Konstantin. "That's where we first got into this music. We really liked this kind of left-field electronic stuff, this dirtiness—dirty place, very diverse crowd, good-looking people, homeless people, old people and young people all together, having a good time going over their boundaries."
Dustin, who grew up in Lüben, started DJing a bit earlier. "We had a youth center, just a little room above a bar where we hung out, smoked joints and played records, dreamt about doing parties." Dustin was also part of a design group called Syć, which does decoration for parties and festivals, including Nachtdigital and a stage at Fusion Festival.
Syć moved to Weimar en masse, where Dustin met Konstantin, Rafael and Vril. They became good friends, and even more so at the club. When that ended, a good chunk of the group moved into a house together in Weimar. "It was the successor of the club," says Dustin. "The top floor was empty, so we did parties there. This was in the middle of a residential area, so we couldn't do it loud, but still we had a really good time there."
It was here that Giegling took shape as a label. There was some money left over from the club, so it wasn't hard to get it started. Giegling pressed 300 copies of the first 12-inch, Kettenkarussell's I Believe You And Me Make Love Forever, and sold them all within a year. "We were just happy when people liked it," says Konstantin. "When we went to Hard Wax and they took 100 copies of the first record, it was crazy. We were insecure—we liked our music, but there's so much music that we think is much better."
Giegling has been financially self-sufficient since then, with sales from one record covering the costs of the next one. "The money from the label stays in one place," says Dustin. "We keep it for the group to make more projects. It's like a capital investment."
The label hummed along nicely. Drawing exclusively from its core group of artists, Giegling quickly had more music than it knew what to do with. Side labels sprung up: Forum (more techno) and Traumprinz (dedicated to the reclusive artist, who is by far the most prolific in the group). The label's elegant sleeve designs came from two longtime friends of the family: Schaarly and later Christoph Laurisch. "For the STAUB series, it's real dust on the covers," says Dustin, referring to a series of Giegling records linked to the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. "The dust that we used on the first sleeve came from the parties in the house." A whimsical look falls across his face. "Memories!"
Giegling operated as a collective with Rafael, Dwig, Ateq and Prince Of Denmark at its core. Everyone had input, but Konstantin and Dustin were the main label managers—roughly speaking, Konstantin is the ideas man, while Dustin, a grad student in computer science, handles the administrative work. Unhinged creativity was encouraged. Edward, one of the Berlin DJs who runs the label WHITE, came into the fold with two krautrock-inspired records under the name Desert Sky. Mathias Reiling, of Session Victim, delivered two hip-hop-inflected albums through Giegling less than a year apart: Das Gespenst Von Altona and Doppelgänger. All the while, that ineffable feeling tied everything together, thanks to close curation from Konstantin and Dustin.
In 2012, Konstantin moved to New York temporarily. He was there to study media art, but the trip had an unexpected effect on his music and the label. "New York was refreshing," he says. "People weren't afraid to dance, to show their feelings. I lived around the corner from Dope Jams and went to a few of their parties—just 20, 30 people, all getting so into it. It was dance music, but the bass drum was never the focus. I really liked that."
Konstantin also became bolder as a DJ. "Before, I DJ'd a lot, sometimes four times on the weekend," he says, "driving from one side of Germany to the other. I really enjoyed that, but it was always, 'It's this promoter so I have to play like this, this one is more house, this one more techno.' After New York I had the feeling of, 'OK, now I can really do my thing and people will understand. It's time to express myself, not to be the slave of the party.' Being the slave of the party can be nice—to be humble, to bring something to the night. But now I can get to my point."
Since then, Giegling and its offshoots have released 22 records, all distributed in-house. The label's artists have grown more and more popular, especially the mysterious Prince Of Denmark, who in less than a year released three of the label's most extraordinary records: The Body and, as Traumprinz, Mothercave and All The Things. As one Discogs user put it: "This label's doing everything right. The artwork, packaging, heartfelt sounds and just the overall aesthetic… keep doing what you're doing guys."
Meanwhile, Giegling's core artists saw their gig calendars swell with international dates. More and more, they channeled the label's ethos into their club sets. "I used to play more functional," says Konstantin, who DJs as Konstantin, "but these days I play dysfunctional, which sometimes works even better. The second time at Berghain I played one and a half hours of ambient. It was opening set, but it was still quite long. After a while someone said, 'Don't you want to play beats?' But it felt so good, you could use the soundsystem in a really good way, you had the whole spectrum because the kick wasn't taking everything away."
"I like to take you to the edge of dance music in that way," he continues, "make you feel something different. For instance, I once played 'To The Fifty Engineers' by Prince Of Denmark after a long time of just dry techno, no pads. Then I played this and the atmosphere completely changed. There was a feeling of the ship going down, people feel something like an existential fear—'What's going on?' That's what I like—something to take you somewhere where you haven't been before, instead of just taking you on holiday."
Konstantin and Dustin aren't sure what the future holds. "I would really love to have a band in the boat," says Dustin. "I would love to have more handmade music. And to just take the whole thing further. Freedom is a very important thing for us—we should never ignore something just because it feels inappropriate. If we like it, there should be a place for it. We can't let ourselves get stuck."
Konstantin, true to form, has a more existential view of it. "I didn't expect any of this to happen, so who knows what's coming," he says. In fact, he's anxious about whether Giegling, as it is now, can withstand whatever lies ahead. "It's like a bunch of kids who go out into the woods and start playing, and get into a kind of dream state together, you know, 'You are this, you are this, I'm this,'" he says. "And they go so deep into it that it becomes reality, so real that it enters real life. It's all about dreaming, it's like Peter Pan that we're able to live in this world.
"But the more you become an institution, the more you become institutionalized," he goes on, "and it's very hard to work against this. People see you as one thing and they expect something. I know this because I did it when I was younger; you have your own desire that you project onto things you like.
"We're still working on that," he says. "To be able to transmit our dream successfully—to translate something from our fantasy into your fantasy."
The Giegling crew create a dream state on this showcase of the label's signature sound.
Filesize: 110.7 MB
RA Sessions: Nils Frahm - All Melody / #2
A virtuoso performance from the Berlin-based composer.
Top 10 November / December 2014 Festivals
We round up our favourites for the final months of 2014.
Breaking through: Aurora Halal
This American promoter, producer and video artist is starting to make waves well beyond her home turf. Jordan Rothlein dialed up her Brooklyn loft to find out how she's been enjoying the spotlight.
ORIGINS: Black Coffee
For the latest edition in our film series with SONOS, we travelled to South Africa to hear how a national icon was made.
Label of the month
Label Of The Month: Schatrax
Since the early '90s, Schatrax has represented a distinct UK twist on house and techno. In his first interview in 25 years, Josh Brent explains the roots of his sublime sound.
Label Of The Month: Mixpak
Vivian Host speaks to Dre Skull, the enigmatic producer whose ten-year old label is fanning the flames of the Brooklyn-Caribbean connection.
Label Of The Month: Nervous Horizon
Chal Ravens profiles a label on the front lines of UK club music.
Label Of The Month: SVBKVLT
Andrew Ryce profiles the Shanghai label leading the inspiring club music movement in China.
Label Of The Month: Analogue Attic
Andy Webb meets the founders of a label specialising in uniquely Australian electronic music.