This statement could seem severe, were you not aware that Nadine Moser is generally the opposite of a selfish person. She's likely best known for the things she does for others. There's her involvement with ://about blank, a club that sustains the left-political traditions associated with Berlin's techno scene. There are the events and workshops she organised during her time in Leipzig, which encouraged women into the electronic music world. And then there's her work as a booking agent, promoting leftfield house talent including her old friends Kassem Mosse and Mix Mup.
But since her move to Berlin at the beginning of the decade, Moser has gradually shifted her focus onto personal goals, specifically her DJing under the name Resom. The move is beginning to pay off: this year, she reached new audiences by performing at Wales' Freerotation festival and recording a mix for the Hessle Audio Rinse FM show.
A sophisticated DJ with a subtle but clear aesthetic, she's more than ready for the exposure. The Hessle set stalks patiently through a landscape of zonked techno and house, occasionally flirting with euphoria. Even better is her recent mix for Ashoreradio, a set of melancholy electro that fluidly climbs in intensity, ending with Autechre's frantic-but-sweet "Flutter." Neither mix is flashy, but both make for magnetic listening. Melodies are their binding agent.
"I need melodies," Moser says. "I need something to follow, because for me music is always a trip. I think the best compliment I've ever got was from a girl who came up to me after my set and looked in my eyes, and put up her hands, and said... nothing." She acts out a look of mute disbelief. "I was like, 'Thanks! That's exactly what I wanted.'"
She pauses to watch a gaggle of young people pass us on the street. They're carrying furled banners and leave a trail of antifascist stickers in their wake. Our trip to Leipzig, a mid-sized city 150km from Berlin, coincides with a march by the islamophobic Legida movement (an offshoot of Dresden's notorious Pegida), and a corresponding counter-march. Moser gives the antifascists a slightly self-deprecating cheer.
She can probably see herself in them. Growing up in Thuringia, a leafy state in former East Germany with no shortage of reactionary attitudes, she got involved with antifascist work at the age of 15. "I can't really imagine going back to live there because there's too much stupidity," she says.
At 18 she moved to Leipzig to study, and stayed for 15 years. Many of her formative musical experiences happened here. "I met lots of interesting people while at the university and through them others. I had plenty of time to discover new music beside my study, to dive into sounds, to find out what I like and what I don't like."
After we've finished our coffee, we take a whistlestop tour of the city in Moser's car. This request of mine is handled with the thoroughness she applies to everything she does. We zoom past grand cultural institutions (Leipzig was East Germany's second-largest city), and regenerated areas like the Spinnerei, an old cotton mill-turned-arts complex. Mostly, though, Leipzig feels pretty run-down. To my British eyes, it's the unkempt Bristol to Berlin's hipper, faster-moving London.
Remnants of the GDR are more visible than in gentrified Berlin, and we pass rows of boarded-up houses, abandoned after the fall of the Berlin Wall and not yet reclaimed. Back in 2000, Moser got involved with a community of people squatting one such building. Through it she met Gunnar Wendel and Lorenz Lindner, better known as Kassem Mosse and Mix Mup, and became involved with Homo Elektrik, a collective that threw parties in the city's neglected spaces.
"We wanted to fill places which were empty with new life," she says. "We wanted to give them a new idea, to change their role." Because of their location choices, the collective often had to organise not only the usual party necessaries, but also electricity and running water. Homo Elektrik nights happened at least four times per year for ten years. "We always wanted to have electronic music connected with that old history, where it was coming from. It was a queer party in the end. We also had a lot of women who started by playing there—I mean, I started to play there. It was really one of the most important experiences of my life."
Our tour ends at Conne Island, the venue where Moser will be DJing later on. In contrast to the turbulent Berlin, many of Leipzig's underground institutions have survived almost since the fall of the wall. Conne Island, a self-organising youth centre that's a cafe and skate park as well as a club, is approaching its 25th birthday. "Things really stayed, they developed slow," says Moser. "It's different than Berlin or London, the big cities. That's good! But it also means that it sometimes takes a while until people accept what you play."
The club was central to her musical education. "I sometimes could have gone to Conne Island four times a week," she recalls. "I've seen the best concerts there and had incredibly good parties there. There were all these great parties with Metalheadz, they had kind of a residency. I went to see Ed Rush, Goldie, Kemistry and Storm and everyone. It was so fantastic. Leipzig had a huge drum & bass scene. When I started to DJ, I was buying a lot of drum and bass records."
Elsewhere in the city, she recalls having her mind blown at the Audiofiction parties co-run by her friend Onkit, who introduced her to the Dutch West Coast sound. "I remember when he played 'The Men Who Won't Come Back' from I-F for the first time. I got on my knees and I was like, 'What is that!?'"
But there was one thing lacking in Leipzig's music scene. "When I started there were, I think, three female DJs playing in Leipzig, and me," she says. "So we were four persons. Like, 'What? That's it!?'" The four banded together to change the situation, running events under an evolving set of names including Propellas, Kick It! and Caramba. This was followed, in 2008, by Do It Herself, an organisation that ran workshops and events for women in electronic music, and helped set up a practice room in Conne Island specifically for female DJs.
Propellas had booked male artists too, but Do It Herself was strictly for female-identifying and trans people. "I don't like to exclude people, but you have to exclude people if you want to open a room for special people. So we always said we are opening a new room for a particular kind of people. We had a lot of discussions with the boys, because of course they wanted to take part in all the workshops. I said, 'Yeah, but then organise it yourself.' That was why it was called Do It Herself, you know?"
I ask Moser if she thinks her efforts made a difference in the city. "There are a lot of women playing now. I don't want to make myself seem more important than I was, because it's always the result of cooperation and working together. But it was a part of it. There is a resident playing at [Leipzig club] Institut Für Zukunft, for example, who went to the DJ workshops I gave."
Conne Island isn't due to open for another few hours, so we decide to explore the Connewitz neighbourhood, a hub of Leipzig's counterculture. Our first stop is Lazy Dog, a späti with hardcore punk on the stereo and a killer selection of imported hot sauces. Moser orders a coffee and grappa and leans on the counter chatting with one of the owners. He explains that there's a neighbourhood-wide festival going on tonight, celebrating the anniversary of one of the area's oldest squats, Zoro.
This accounts for the punks we see spilling out of Connewitz's grungy gig venues, crowding into the official bar of the local leftwing football club, Roter Stern, and sluicing down the squatted streets, half-lit alleyways full of music and chatter.
The festive mood adds to the sense that, in Connewitz, everybody knows everybody. Moser bumps into acquaintances at the Lazy Dog, and spots one of her old university tutors through a kitchen window. She later points out a favoured record seller leaving a bar, explaining how he introduced her to Plaid and Delsin records.
She has mixed feelings about this aspect of the city. She sometimes felt that she was growing and changing but the people around her weren't. "I really love Leipzig. But I wanted to move on and I didn't see any path for me to move on."
"It's not about the quality—the quality of life in Leipzig is superb. But what I was missing was the quantity of things, the diversity. I missed speaking English, I missed meeting people from all around the world. I missed the cultural exchange. So for several years I went to Berlin once a month. And then it was not really difficult to make the decision to move, the problem was more finding a flat."
Moser's move, in 2011, came at a transition point. Her three years earning a living from Do It Herself had come to an end, and she had agreed to handle bookings for Kassem Mosse as his career took off, though she had no experience as an agent. "I was really a greenhorn. I just did it by myself, because—why not? I'd met a lot of other bookers in Berlin, so I decided that I wanted to move there because I can exchange experiences, ideas and everything."
Another incentive for the move was Moser's relationship with ://about blank, a formerly illegal club in Friedrichshain that shared her political convictions. She was a resident DJ there from the club's earliest days, and shortly after moving to Berlin she began helping out with the regular Memory parties, whose bookings included Helena Hauff's debut Berlin set. Later, she was involved with the Blank Generation parties.
"For me it's perfect, because it brings something together which is a big, big part of Berlin," she says of the club. "Without these left-wing people, there wouldn't be all these nice places in Berlin." She uses the example of the famous squat-cum-art centre Tacheles, which closed down in 2012. "I mean, look at Tacheles. It was super important for a lot of people who came to Berlin to work with culture. People like that make Berlin attractive, people who do projects like ://about blank make the city attractive. It's not only Berghain. After the fifth time you go to Berghain you know what you can expect, and maybe sometimes you want to have something different."
Though Moser stopped working on Blank Generation last year, she still organises The Amplified Kitchen, a series of panel discussions that take place in the ://about blank garden during the summer. Owing to this year's refugee crisis and a corresponding spike of right-wing sentiment in Germany, the most recent panel's heading was "Party x Politics." She lists some of the questions she had in mind: "How is it possible that a club can have a political engagement? What does it mean when a club, or somebody in club life, is acting political? How can that kind of music be a way to do political work?"
Trying to balance these things, as ://about blank does, isn't always easy, but for Moser the results are worth it. "If you're working in a collective, of course you have a lot of processes and decision-making in everything. It takes ages to decide things. But it makes things more interesting for everyone and more responsible. And I think they do pretty good, still."
Moser is still invested in these ideas, but since moving to Berlin she has dedicated more time to her own pursuits. "DJ-wise, I think I got more professional. If I want to call it professional, I really don't like that word. But I try to follow what I want, I don't make compromises any more, music-wise. This is something I didn't really put an effort into when I was here in Leipzig."
This decision feeds into Moser's DJing style, which is versatile thanks to her experiences as a resident, but works within clear boundaries. Listening to Moser play records—whether live, on one of her many excellent recorded mixes, or on her regular show on Berlin Community Radio—means experiencing dance music through a very specific lens.
A few weeks before our Leipzig trip, I saw Moser warmup for a Love Techno - Hate Germany night at ://about blank. She told me that "strictly house" had been requested, but even so, her compact, bouncy set was interspersed with more pensive moments, like the Boards Of Canada bootleg of Midnight Star's "Midas Touch." She credits her taste for melancholy to Onkit and his Audiofiction parties. "He was the one who showed me the dark side. But it's not like a bad anger—it's a happy anger, it makes me happy. This melancholy makes me so happy."
She also played Robin S's "Show Me Love" that night. When I mention it, she cites the track's importance to British dance music. "I'm really into that UK sound. It's so much more me than that cold German techno, because it's full of soul. You can hear all these different influences from all over the world. It's so rhythmic. I don't need only a bass, bom bom bom," she mimics a monotonous kick drum. "That bores me out."
Tonight, she's playing the warmup set at Conne Island, and owing to a big event down the road at Institut Für Zukunft things take a while to get going. The intensity grows and recedes several times, Moser seemingly deciding that the room isn't ready. It's a pleasurable rise and fall, cushioned by gorgeous near-ambient tracks like Huerco S.'s "Transit (See See Rider)" and Matat Professionals' epic "Quality Line."
When things pick up, Moser veers into surprisingly aggressive dubstep and breakbeat. She later tells me that she wasn't too happy with the way the night went, which led her to playing harder tracks. I'm struck by her way of dealing with such a situation: not slipping into more a crowd-pleasing mode, but asserting herself even more strongly.
"I always was a person who tried to form my idea of identity through a group of people," she tells me in an email a few weeks later. "I'm simply not made for that. It's what I realised and accepted here in Berlin, and it's a strange fact which makes me sad and happy at the same time. It's good to go my own way now."