With a career stretching from the origins of techno to the present day, it’s safe to say that Monika Kruse knows a thing or two about the scene. In the early days she was known for throwing parties in abandoned locations back in her native Germany, before becoming the founder of her own label Terminal M 17 years ago. Over the last 25 years Monika Kruse has grown as an artist, just as techno has grown itself.
As one of the original frontrunners of the genre, Kruse found early endorsers in the likes of veterans Sven Väth and Carl Cox, and has performed on virtually every stage around the world worth playing, from Berghain to the White Isle’s finest. Yet her work extends beyond the decks. Kruse has been active in fighting a range of social issues for many years, using her platform to found her own charity No Historical Backspin in 2000 as well as hold parties to raise both awareness of, and funding for a variety of other causes.
This September will see her return to the UK with an appearance at The Social Festival, which celebrates its 5th anniversary this year. Ahead of her set, Kruse tells us more about her own lengthy career, along with a specially-curated playlist of her favourite celebratory tracks at the moment.
How did you first get involved with DJing and producing?
I had my first DJ experience at my cousin’s wedding when I was 16 years old. I was always a music junkie – I started to buy records when I first got pocket money. But I got my first ‘official’ job as a DJ in 1991 – a little bar where I played hip hop, funk and soul, and some deep house. I bought my first production gear in 1993 – it was the famous Drummachine Roland 909. Since then I bought more and more gear and started producing.
What changes have you noticed in the scene during your career?
The good thing is that the soundsystems are getting better and better, and through the internet we are all more connected now, which makes it easy to work with artists and promoters and to have contact with your audience from all over the world. But other things changed too due to the big success of Techno worldwide. When I started DJing it was all about the music and the sets you play. DJs became known because of their music and sets and nothing else mattered. Nowadays DJ’s social media and management play a big role too, and the hype which is created by the press. Techno started in the 90s with the aim to be different, to be revolutionary and not to follow the rules of any other music, or having dress codes, VIPs and stars. It is strange for me to see that this changed.
Do you have a favourite kind of place that you think best suits your sound?
I really love to play in Argentina. The spirit and energy is intense in that country. People are hungry for the music, and the vibe at their parties is amazing. In general, I would say for me not only the venue is what makes the party good or bad. It is the crowd, which makes the party special. If there is an exchange of positive energy, that is what touches me and that can happen everywhere.
You have a long history of charity involvement. Do you think the electronic music scene is outspoken enough about issues in society?
I can only speak about myself. I cannot look away or be silent and only talk about parties. What happens in the world and around me touches me as a human being and as an artist. When my friends got beaten up because they were gay and some because of their skin colour, I had the need to do something against it. That is why I founded No Historical Backspin, which is a charity organization that fights against racism, homophobia and sexism.
Do you think techno (or dance music in general) helps people during troublesome times?
I know by myself that music is healing. That is why music is my best friend. It never lets me down in bad times. Music always helps me, touches me and cheers me up. And I need to dance, it makes my mind free. Techno unites so many different culture and people, gives people so much good energy and lets them forget their problems when people are on the dancefloor. The nights when we go out let us open up our souls, you meet new people and make new friends. I am really happy and thankful to be born in this time and can experience all this.
This year marks the 17th anniversary of Terminal M. What producers/which productions have been the best ‘find’ for you in that time?
I really am happy to find new artists and give them a chance to release their music even if their name is not ‘big’ or known. It makes me proud when I see these artists grow and getting successful because of their talent. For example, Andhim did their first EPs on my label. Paride Saraceni was a newcomer as well when I signed him. I can’t say which productions were the best. I only sign what I feel and every artist and every track is important for me. It makes me really happy that people trust me and send me their music.
How do you relax on tour?
It is hard to find a balance when I am touring. Sometimes I stay too long in a club or festival, because as a music lover I am dancing and listening to other artists. But I try to meditate and do some reiki in my free time. Plus I always have a big time out for two months where I detox, do a lot of yoga, and live a very quiet life.
Do you have any standout sets/moments from over the years?
There are so many great moments, it is hard to tell. Playing at Time Warp is always special, intense and a lot of fun. But for me the best moments are when I feel I touch people with the music and see their joy and happiness. For example, one of my best moments was when a girl came up to me and said: “I just want to thank you. I had a really, really bad week and felt miserable when I entered the club and your music changed my feelings and I am happy again.” This is why I am doing it, and this is one of my great moments.
Any upcoming dates you’re especially looking forward to?
I am very excited to be back at the Social Festival in the UK in September. And I am looking forward to play at ADE for Awakenings x Drumcode, Movement Turin and another Drumcode show in Bristol.
Ilija Djokovic – Spectrum [Terminal M]
“Soulful Techno from Serbia. Goosebumps factor!”
B0g & Tim Engelhardt – Why Should [Diynamic]
“Tim Engelhardt is such a young guy but his productions are perfect!”
Monika Kruse and Pig & Dan – Get Me On [Terminal M]
“My latest release with my brothers from another mother.”
Schmutz – Punk (Mark Broom remix) [Suara]
“Great remix from the legendary Mark Broom! Techno at its best.”
Paul Nazca – Memory (Madben remix) [Scandium]
“Cool Detroitish track which is definitely a hymn!”
Monika Kruse plays The Social Festival, Maidstone, which runs on Friday 29th – Saturday 30th September. Find tickets and more information here. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.