Ben Klock on Berghain, Berlin and Fabric (interview)
Berghain’s Ben Klock has just mixed a compilation for London superclub Fabric (Fabric 66) and met up with Skrufff in a Mitte café this week to talk about the project and life as one of Berghain- and Berlin’s best-known DJs internationally. Cheerful and friendly he orders a cream-cake with his coffee, in impressive contrast to his toned and buffed physique.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): I interviewed Norman Nodge about his Berghain compilation recently and today I’m talking to you about your Fabric comp, does the fact it’s for Fabric make any particular difference?
Ben Klock: “It was funny because a few weeks before they asked me I was thinking about what kind of compilation I was going to do because I knew I wasn’t going to do one for Ostgut for the next couple of years, I guess. and I was thinking that the one compilation series I’d really like to do was Fabric and then a few weeks later they asked me. I was like ‘yes, of course’ (laughing).
I don’t think my approach is particularly different for Ostgut or Fabric but for sure Fabric compilations have such a high profile and every artist is trying to do their absolute best for them. So that thought was in the back of my mind: I wanted it to be exceptional.”
Skrufff: How did you mix it; one take live?
Ben Klock: “No I did most of it digitally in Ableton because I edited so many of the tracks.”
Skrufff; When you start selecting the tracks are you alerting all your favourite producers and labels, saying ‘hey I’m doing a compilation, send me your new stuff?’
Ben Klock: “Yes exactly. There were some artists and producers that I wanted to include and also friends though of course in the end I couldn’t include everybody- I was sent so much great music it was impossible.”
Skrufff: How are you selecting tracks generally, week by week, how many are you typically picking?
Ben Klock: “I’d say on an average week I pick from five to fifteen new tracks but sometimes there might be just two tracks I like. I go through a lot of promos and try and still go record shopping whenever I can.”
Skrufff: Do you still play vinyl?
Ben Klock: “Yes I do and I still play vinyl- CDs and vinyl though increasingly I’m playing more and more CDs. I mostly shop at Hardwax, in the past weekly though today maybe every three weeks or so. I’m always constantly digging for new stuff.”
Skrufff: Asking about you growing up in Berlin, how old were you when the wall came down?
Ben Klock: “I was a teenager and it was super unexpected and strange. I didn’t go to the Wall when it came down and I didn’t even the follow the process in the days leading up to it. I just suddenly heard it had happened. Some friend told me that the Wall was open and I remember thinking ‘this cannot be true’. It was the first time I felt like I was experiencing history happening. I didn’t go there for quite a few weeks then soon after that I moved to the East part.”
Skrufff: Where in the East?
Ben Klock: “My first apartment was in Mitte and cost 90 DM a month then I moved to Friedrichshain later.”
Skrufff; Did you go to University or have plans for a regular career?
Ben Klock: “I started at University but then I got involved in DJing and at the same time graphic design working as an intern. Then the company hired me and I decided I’d rather work than be a student for a few years and I progressed quite quickly. I did two years at University: I was studying visual communications, I didn’t like it (laughing).”
Skrufff: Your press release says you learned to DJ on the job- as you went along how did you get the opportunity to get gigs despite not being able to play?
Ben Klock: “I was at a private party putting in CDs and someone asked me if I wanted to play in a club he had just opened. I rented some turntables for one night and practised at home a little bit and quickly realised it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I was a musician so I thought mixing would be easy but when I tried I couldn’t actually beatmatch- it was so much more difficult. That’s why I only really learned how to when I was playing in the club.”
Then after that I played at the old Cookies, I had my own night there during the first years of Cookies and played every Tuesday night. We grew together. I also worked as a bar tender in Delicious Donuts, back in the 90s it was quite a popular place and that was another of the first few places I played at. Then came WMF and Tresor- the old one.”
Skrufff: At what point did you understand you could do the DJing full time?
Ben Klock: “That was actually only in 2008. I was still doing graphic design in parallel to DJing up until then: I’d be doing graphic design during the week then trying to make music in the evenings and weekends usually travelling for Djing. It was actually when I worked on my album that I realised I can’t do both anymore.
I couldn’t make an album with just a few hours in the studio here and there and that’s when I had to make the decision, which was tough. I had a well paid nice graphic design job but I thought if I don’t do it now then when will I? So i took the risk and pretty much walked out.”
Skrufff: Did you have many moments when you thought you’d taken the wrong decision?
Ben Klock: “I had a few months of being unsure beforehand which was a little shaky but as soon as I took the decision it was clear. And from that moment on, everything worked out extremely well.”
Skrufff; Your press profile these days is very high and you’re DJing non stop in all sorts of exotic, high profile places, did you actively decide to go for it?
Ben Klock: “Not really no. As long as i can do what I do with integrity, and stick to the stuff I love then I want to be as successful as I can be but I don’t want to go in a direction I don’t feel right about for marketing reasons. Or to get a wider audience.”
Skrufff: DJs like Luciano and Richie Hawtin have managers and are playing in Vegas and going significantly more commercial, you must be offered all kinds of tempting deals . . .
Ben Klock: “You mean do I get managers trying to sign me? It happens to Nina (Kraviz- his girlfriend) all the time (laughing). It’s not very often that managers approach me, to be honest. I think they all know that I go my own way and don’t really need one.”
Skrufff: Have you ever had a manager?
Ben Klock: “No. I have an assistant and a few people who help me out part time.”
Skrufff: The CD is for London club Fabric- do you pay much attention to London trends?
Ben Klock: “I do look towards London just by playing there six times a year or even more. In a way I look everywhere a little bit but on the other hand I just try and do what I do.”
Skrufff: How much importance do you attach to the importance of performing, of throwing your hands in the air sometimes?
Ben Klock: “Sure, sometimes, why not? I am conscious of the performance side but I still have my moods and if I don’t feel happy about the night or my performance for some reason then I won’t throw my hands up just for the sake of showing off or something. I just do it when I feel well and I have great moments. It’s not like I’m on stage, suddenly turning on the show. I think a DJ should still be a DJ at work somehow.”
Skrufff: You’re one of Berlin’s top rank DJs both locally and internationally are you super-hard working and/ or super-ambitious?
Ben Klock: “I am hardworking, yes, but for me it’s always a challenge to deal with these distractions I’m constantly working, but sometimes only on distractions like answering emails and all the other stuff so I don’t find time to make music anymore. I DJ a lot so my main focus is on that- to be a good DJ and to give everything that I can to make a magic night.”
Skrufff: You’re renowned for playing uber-long sets and also travel a lot, how do you manage to handle exhaustion, do you turn a lot of gig offers down?
Ben Klock: “Ermm, no I don’t but I’m thinking I should balance my schedule more. I took six weeks off in January and February this year and I’ll be doing the same next year. I’m also understanding that I have to schedule some weekends off every now and again. Because I do have these moments, after travelling too much, that I feel my energy levels are falling down and I’m not able to recover very well any more. It’s definitely an issue. I’m glad I only play these long sets once a month- and they’re only at Berghain. But doing four gigs in a row, even if they’re just for 2 hours, with all the travelling in between is difficult. I just realised that now because I took two weeks off.”
Fabric 66 will be launched at Berghain on Saturday 13th October and at fabric on Saturday 27th October.