oceanclub - history
The ideas behind the Ocean Club are best illustrated by sea analogies. The Ocean Club is a free flowing entity that allows its members and friends to float wherever they want - they drift through the curious underwater realm to pause at and admire the odd glittering riff. Once underway, surprises lurk behind every corner. Unexpected currents introduce new directions, demanding a different path. And, as we all know, it is a lot more fun to reveal these observations, to share the excitement and explore the discoveries with a circle of like-minded people. And this is how, in the Berlin of 1994, the story of the ocean club unfolds
The full story
In 1994 Gudrun Gut decides to leave restrictive band structures (malaria, matador) behind and initiates an open collaboration with acquainted musicians and artists, resulting in her album "Members of the Ocean Club". With electronic music the concept of bands as a productive unit is beginning to dissolve. Soon priorities shift and new teams are formed in order to accomplish joint goals and forbidden walks on the wild side more quickly and directly. In the club structure Gudrun sees a new opportunity for collaboration. By nature, a club is always open to new members, creative pairings are constantly formed anew. The second step towards the Ocean Club (as we know it today) turns out to be the above-mentioned albums release party at Tresor. Here the Ocean Club drifts away from musical fixations and surprises all and itself with a great party for all to SEA: immediately, the Ocean Club is asked to stay for a residency.
A Sofa at Tresor
This separate, small club inside a club is furnished for the occasion by Danielle de Picotto and, for one year, houses the cosy, playful Ocean Club every Sunday. The first public living room. A mix of krautrock, calypso, lofi electronica and ambient sounds opens up the musical expectations of regular Tresor punters to other musical directions. And, last but not least, here the members of the club, too, find each other. Besides Gudrun Gut (still playing sparsely instrumented live sets in those days) and Thomas Fehlmann, now Chica Paula, Mike Vamp (two DJ premieres) and Mermaid Jaculin as well as laptop sets by e.g. Sun Electric, enlighten the Sunday visitors with sounds and experiments beyond the simplicity of a straight bass drum. After one happy year the lights are turned off, the fish returned to their bowl and taken on the road. The Ocean Club decides to go on tour.
On the road
Cologne, August 96: in time for popkomm the gallery Lukas & Hoffmann is turned into an outpost of the Ocean Club. Four nights in a row the streets of Cologne are littered with sand and the waves ride high, up to the third floor.
Sun Electric have brought their lighting equipment to play short live sets with Fehlmann on the decks (including dubplates produced especially for the occasion), juxtaposed with Chica Paulas and Mike Vamps excessive Djing. Gudruns live loop sets with Jovanka von Wilstorf (Quarks) are improvised spontaneously. And another special friendship hails from this event: Stefan Betkes project Superfi was invited to play live and the acquaintance ultimately leads to his wondrous transformation into POLE.
The roadshow moves on with a changing cast. With stopovers in London, Vienna, Graz or Munich, everywhere they go they discover sounds to match the idea of the Ocean Club, screen videos by Pipilotti Rist, Raymond Pettibon or Paul McCarthy and weave networks of light, threads and ideas.
By mid-1997 there is new reason for testing the Berlin waters. New radio station Radio Eins has approached the collective with an idea for an Ocean Club radio show.
In this case, water and air mix especially well: the foundation of Ocean Club Radio establishes a new horizon far from the consumptive urges of night time entertainment. Now, via the radio, anyone can take the Ocean Club home free of charge. The show a complex play of the latest music, extravagant features (plays by Betke, marine research by Mermaid Jaculin) but also the contextualisation of the latest releases within the musical history of the last 30 years is staged anew week by week.
Produced jointly by Gudrun Gut and Thomas Fehlmann (technical assistance and mix by Tom Thiel), the show becomes an ideal medium to realise new discoveries and combinations.The show aims to inform and startle, but not to comment. Each to their own accord stays the premise of the Ocean Club. Besides Chica Paula and Daniel Meteo the show sports illustrious guests from all around the record-playing world, introduced by short, topical DJ sets e.g. the Wire sound system from London or an uncut documentary by Chicks on Speed at a Leipzig service station. The first and to date only live broadcast, an ambitious undertaking at the German Kunsthalle, Bonn, took place as a public party. Like a classic radio music hall show it integrated live appearances into the programme and assigned roles to the different members. To date the individual shows make up a never-ending jigsaw puzzle of the Ocean Club. Through the successful radio work the number of devotees and associated creatives is steadily increasing and now includes the operators of WMF, Berlin.
As a new residency, the open musical concept of the WMF for the next few years years offers the Ocean Club an ideal platform to introduce their growing number of artists and many new friends. To celebrate the 100th radio show (9/99) the Ocean Club takes over the entire WMF, steps out of its living room niche and stages an evening for all senses, including conferences and readings. Besides the regular Ocean Club DJs new artists take to the stage, like Pole, Modernist or Miss Kitten. Increasingly, these nights turn into festivals of favourites supported by wmf the members of the club can now invite artists they themselves are fans of. The regular Ocean Club lounge comfort-zone is soon documented by the first Ocean Club compilation for the wmf komfort labor series.
The Ocean Club is invited to curate a series of musical evenings to fill the entire Volksbühne, combining four independent stages into one event. Soon a concept is agreed on: to focus on the new role of indie labels as creative cells and impulse givers for entire cultural branches.
First up is kölnkompakt, a cooperation with the influential and declared favourite of the hour, the kompakt label from Cologne. This is followed by stummute, an evening to present the British label Mute and all its facets with a huge line-up, simultaneously marking the launch of Mute Germany.
While these first two events were dominated by the idea of superlative accumulations of highlights, a strong need for intelligent entertainment far from the star hype becomes evident, followed by some healthy navel-gazing. The result of these ruminations turns out to be Bärenmarken, later re-christened markeB a focus on Berlin labels and their artists, a Berlin label show with label gallery and a huge line-up (www.markeB.de). To mark the 2002 event the Ocean Club publishes its first book at Verbrecher Verlag: markeB Berlin labels. Each label featured is free to present itself on a two-page spread with their discography. Supported by the Berlin senate for business this year will see the third investigation into the state of the Berlin label scene, aiming to show their development and strategies within the shark pool of the music industry.
All of a sudden, China becomes central to Ocean Club endeavours: take10, a radio station from Guangzhou in Southern China, gets in touch they would like to broadcast the weekly radio show in its original version in German. From May 2002 every week the shows data is transferred to the land of the rising sun and, to our great surprised, also being broadcast. In November, the Ocean Club receives an invitation to visit Beijing and tour parts of China. Thomas Fehlmann plays his first ever laptop live set, Gudrun inspires the crowds with her eclectic pop and Bus perform their playful interpretations of dub. A state of real euphoria ensues, also reflected by conversations with journalists and other musicians. But this isnt all: China also requests an Ocean Club compilation for the so-called mainland, to avoid the usual import/export-pitfalls in favour of local (cheap) prices.
This prompts the Ocean Club to investigate its immediate creative surroundings for the new compilation, selecting tracks to demonstrate the variety produced today. The release of Ocean Club for China by V2 also marks the launch of a new compilation series, offering glimpses of the Ocean Club underwater paradise with a mix of new and old favourites.
To be taken home, of course.