looking back on three years of techno hedonism in berlin
Getting nostalgic with the founders of one of Berlin's most legendary parties: Herrensauna.
left: a tattoo of the Herrensauna logo, right: Ana documented our parties from the very early beginning. This picture was an inspiration for our limited T-shirt edition. Photos: Ana Tabatadze.
This article originally appeared on i-D Germany
Sweat is dripping from the ceiling and stale air is surrounding the ravers with their legs slowly growing heavy. But even at dawn, the atmosphere remains ecstatic. That's a scene straight out of one of Berlin's most legendary parties: Herrensauna (Men's Sauna).
Unlike the eponymous establishment, in which only men were allowed, everybody is welcome here. “We think, it’s way more interesting to expand the idea of what a queer open-minded party can be,” explains Jordan Davidson, one of the founders. In all the hidden corners of the club, you can experiment with your sexuality and identity or just dance yourself into a state of ecstasy. And all of this against the backdrop of experimental sounds of underground artists and heavy techno.
Celebrating their third birthday, we wallowed in nostalgia and asked booker Jordan Davidson and resident DJs Nicolas Maxim Endlicher and Cem Dukkha to take a look back with us.
How would you describe the feeling of throwing your first Herrensauna party?
Jordan: We always had a certain confidence. I never really thought, it’s gonna be a disaster.
Cem: We never had to be scared because it was quite a small space and we only expected our close party friends to show up. It was never intended to become this big event like it did in the end.
Nicolas: Everything felt very intuitive, we were just doing what felt right in that moment. We actually weren’t able to understand the magnitude it would take. When we put out something now, there’s so much more consideration behind it — which wasn’t the case back then.
Herrensauna does not only exist in Berlin. You’re also launching in different countries and were recently invited to play at Kisloty in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Cem: We try to get Herrensauna to as many places as possible.
Jordan: It’s very interesting to see communities come out in other places. When a straight club booker or owner approaches you being aware of the fact that the name can attract a certain crowd, it’s always quite flattering. It’s not about bringing a busload of Berlin people somewhere, it’s more like, 'Okay, this name has a certain weight to it, and it carries somewhere else.'
Nicolas: I don’t want to use the word phenomena, but in a way people from all over the world became aware of if it, associate it with a certain sense of liberty now and want to be part of it. That’s why they invite us.
What does community mean to you?
Nicolas: Respect towards each other. You can meet on the same level without being judged — especially within the queer community because you already get so much shit from the outside world. You can be yourself and nice to others in the same way.
Cem: You can experiment with your own self without any judgement.
Jordan: It’s interesting to see all these photos of people going so wild and being free. Unfortunately, life isn’t like that — it’s a break from it. I know many people who made it to Berlin, who have very fucked up stories. Some come from places where such a thing like Herrensauna wouldn't even be possible.
What did you learn over the past the years for yourselves?
Jordan: I learned to really work together with people and to respect others people’s decisions. I also have so much more respect for the DIY ethos. There were times we were in a space for more than 24 hours, going there early to set up everything. In the end, you feel responsible for those who turned up. You want them to have a good time and be happy.
Nicolas: It also helped me to see the beauty in things. No matter how dirty they seem from the outside. Beauty can be found in so many different things. And still, no matter how much you’ve seen, you might be surprised of something, that has always been in front of your face, but for some reason you never realised how pretty it actually is. I think about myself being so much more open to people doing all kind of things.
Jordan: I became way more acceptant.
Cem: We’ve learned to embrace peoples’ behaviours for what they are.
Picking favourites is always a bit tricky. Still, is there an unforgettable moment you like to go back to?
Jordan: There was this one night, in which The Empire Line was performing. The frontman was kind of squatting on the CDJs and there was hardly any space between the ceiling and his head. He comes from a noise background and was performing live to a techno set. His voice busted the amplifier and made it blow up… but he just kept going, broke the microphone on his face and was slamming his head in the ceiling. It was like a hardcore show at a queer techno rave. The ceiling was completely dripping with sweat, the lights were strobe and you really knew, you would never see something like this again. It was really special. So special that they named a track Herrensauna.
Cem: I remember all these musical highlights. One of my personal one was playing before DVS1 who has always been a big influence for me as a DJ. Actually it was the same night Jordan was talking about. To see how amazed he was at the party was such a compliment for us, as he’s a Berghain resident and plays this huge club every month.
Nicolas: Also the thrill before because the amplifier broke and there was no monitor. We didn’t even know if it’s gonna work out before he arrives. It was a huge mess: completely packed, really sweaty and everyone was dancing while being fucked up.
Jordan: But this also gave us kind of a mission. I think the party lasted for 19 hours, that was the longest we ever did. For most of the people Herrensauna is a nice break from their regular routine — a safe space. There’s always new faces popping up and that’s actually what turns the wheels of nightlife in Berlin: the influx of new people. We just want to do something nice for the community.
Nicolas: That was our motivation from the very beginning, that never really changed.
Scroll down for more photos from Herrensauna's legendary nights:
This article originally appeared on i-D DE.