Tony and DJ Peak from Salon - Zur wilden Renate chatted to Skrufff this week about the escalating mainstream attention their underground Berlin party is attracting and stressed they remain resolutely committed to keeping it underground.
The uber-cool squat style house party was recently eulogised on BBC Radio 1 by superstar German DJs M.A.N.D.Y. after the duo performed there unannounced in October, prompting Renate founder Tony to admit he worries about its accessibility.
“For a club that is underground too many people already know where it is,” he mused, “Even one of my 17 year old nephews has heard about it and knows people who go there.”
Located just yards from the S Train tracks that run towards Treptower Park, Renate is based in a semi-derelict high ceilinged house that’s been lovingly restored and decorated and transformed into a serious party/ art space with 3 music rooms and bars throughout.
Close to Berlin’s landmark River Spree and just a kilometre or two away from clubbing institutions Berghain, Tresor and Weekend, the venue also lies close to a dark street once notorious for street walking hookers, its relative isolation a huge plus point, Tony stresses.
“Renate really started three years ago when I found another place in Kreuzberg which was a huge basement, we had parties once a month but we had to leave that location because neighbours were bothered by the bass,” he explained.
“I stumbled across the present building because I happened to pass by every day and I noticed no-one lived nearby and there were no neighbouring buildings. So I decided to rent it,” he said.
Involving a metal sculptor artist initially then two more friends, the foursome set to work, designing the building as an arts/ workshop space with a build-it-and-they’ll-come’ philosophy.
“The idea was to develop a new location with no neighbours being bothered and it took about six months to modernise everything,” he recalled.
“There was no electricity, no water, no toilets, no nothing. Quite a few homeless people also lived there so everything was full of shit- literally. It was a seriously messy place, so we cleaned everything up.”
Looking to open with a bang, Tony turned to upcoming Berlin DJ/ man-about-town DJ Peak to sort the music bookings, resulting in a road-blocked party for their very first Renate event.
“We knew each other from doing old parties then Tony asked me if I can help book the DJs for the opening party,” said Peak.
“I’d been offered an act called Nôze, who’s a very popular act amongst Berlin people, who was looking for a party and when I found out Tony was opening this new club we put it together. This was in September 2007: the 29th.”
16 months on, Renate attracts hundreds of freaks, ravers, hipsters, gorgeous girls and queers to its 24 hour (and longer) events, drawn by its absolutely anything goes attitude reflected by the party’s name.
“It’s not just the name actually, it really is wild in the club,” Tony laughed, “We don’t have many rules. It’s a very free space people can do what they want; as long as they don’t bother anyone else.”
And keeping out people who might bother others is exactly why they maintain a strict door policy that results in a scrum outside the club each night, with legendary Bar 25 door picker Tenko moonlighting every time.
“We have a deliberate selection process on the door,” said Tony, “Tenko makes the choices.
“He’s a pirate, he looks like a pirate and lives like a pirate, he has a pirate car and always drink vodka pirate cocktails. He’s a famous person on Berlin’s club scene,” they laughed.
The selection procedure also applies to their Myspace, they explain, through which they apply rigorous vetting in selecting- and rejecting- around half of all friend requests.
“Our Myspace page is set to ‘private’ because we only want to accept people as ‘friends’ that we’ve checked thoroughly first,” Tony explained, “We spend hours every single week going through each friend request, looking at people’s pictures and who they’re friends with. We check everybody as much as we can then we add them” he said, “or we don’t,” he chuckled.
“I like to check people’s faces, though not so much to see whether someone is good looking but more about what their vibe is,” Peak agreed.
“We accept people that we think we’d like to drink a beer with at a bar, that we’d invite to our flat, we’re also thinking about whether they themselves would like what’s going on in the club.”
And central to the club’s success is its music, supplied by a growing array of DJs, performers and artistes from a growing selection of genres and styles, said Peak.
“I try as the club’s booker to be as different as possible from other clubs,” he explained.
“It’s strange the music seems to find me more than the other way around. For example, one Monday I was at White Trash fast food restaurant and there was a very young live band playing blues mixed with ska and they were great. I really liked them, they were a proper rock & roll band so I asked them ‘can I book you?’ and two months later they were playing at Renate.”
“It was a change from electronic music to real bands and people were going crazy. Our party crowd is very open to new music and new bands,” he added.
Both characters have big plans for future projects, already exporting Renate to Sweden as well as Moscow and Barcelona.
“My vision is not to become commercial, nor global but we want to develop the brand and the name Renate to stand for good things, good bookings, good graphics, good music,” said Tony. “We’re definitely keen to do parties outside Berlin but it’s really important we bring the Renate vibe with us. “
“We want to bring the special feeling of Renate to every event we do,” Peak agreed, “For example, together with Bjoern, the Swedish-German producer of schwedenparty.de, we did the Secret Island Festival on a small island in the North of Sweden and we recently did a co-operation with Moscow at club Justo. And also in Gothenburg,”
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)