For December’s feature interview we spoke with Fabio Boxikus, promoter of Berlin’s infamous Gegen, a queer sex positive techno event based around inclusivity, who in 2020 found themselves launching a vinyl techno label in the middle of a global pandemic. We delved into the Gegen philosophy, plague raves, the recognition of techno as culturally significant and more…
Attack Magazine: First of all, please tell us who you are and what you do:
Fabio : Hello, I am Fabio, I’m 40 years old and I have organised the Gegen event inside the KitKatClub space for ten years. I’ve been active in the Berlin scene since 2007, where I previously organised one of the first queer techno underground events, Sabotage and co-organised Drone, a queer industrial event that lasted 3 years. Both projects have now ended.
My first experience of the underground and political reality happened when I attended the punk scene and later on with the free-parties movement. Once I moved to Berlin, I tried to create an environment where I could be myself, a reality that somehow represented me, and for this reason, after a few years, I launched my first techno event to build a space where the queer meets the techno scene. In July 2020 I founded, together with Marius, our label Gegen Records, to raise awareness within the music industry on gender issues, to promote queer artists and to consolidate the musical experience of our events.
Attack Magazine: For our readers who might not know, tell us more about the Gegen philosophy:
Fabio: Gegen Berlin is a queer sex-positive event, founded in January 2011, with the purpose to create a social and neutral playground where different identities can cross each others paths in an environment free of prejudice. When people do not recognise themselves in the new people they meet at Gegen you create in them, first of all, a moment of disorientation which becomes the golden door to the unknown. Through music this terrain of exploration unites what was divided before. The component of music unites them and creates a magnificent moment of liberation where even sexuality is freed from the chains of prejudice, inhibition and shame.
Gegen is an experience, rather than a mere event. We strongly work on the concept of inclusivity rather than exclusivity, because it is diversity that enriches us and allows us to broaden our horizons. Each event is introduced by a concept which touches a political and a social criticism and questions a whole range of topics that are taken for granted.
Attack Magazine: So what is a night at Gegen like?
Fabio: During our nights we have 4 different floors: we have a main techno floor where we mostly host the headliners together with our resident DJs, while on the second biggest floor the techno sound is more rough, experimental and industrial. In addition to these two, we have a house floor for those who want to take a breath every once in a while, and then the so called ‘bear-hole’, where the music ranges from pop to disco and 90s classics.
From this configuration it follows that we focus a lot on the techno side but despite this, we do not want to exclude anyone so we try to cover the needs of the majority of the public to ensure a diversified and a varied audience which is the key that characterises our parties.
The atmosphere you breathe during Gegen is electrifying, friendly and sexual. And it’s quite common to see people having sex on the couches scattered around the club or taking a swim naked in the pool.
Attack Magazine: Wow, sounds amazing! So you’ve started a vinyl label in a pandemic – a bold move – tell us about how it came about.
Fabio: We started working on the label in October 2019. It was coincidence, or rather bad luck, that we found ourselves launching the label in the middle of the lockdown. In the beginning, we delayed the release because we didn’t know what we were getting into, especially in such a complicated and uncertain time. The good thing about this whole period, though, is that the label is the only thing that keeps us focused at the moment and helps us to not disappear into the fog like many other events.
This is giving us hope and at the same time, we’re giving to a lot of artists a reason to not lose themselves and sink into depression, a state that is currently afflicting many people in our scene. Despite this current climate, we are working hard to ensure the survival of our club culture and for this reason to continue to support and promote queer artists by offering them a platform within the music industry.
Fabio: The vinyl format, although more expensive in terms of production has another kind of impact, because you create a concrete product, an asset that you can touch which gives a greater satisfaction. And then the beautiful artwork of Andrea Galad on the covers can be used as paintings to hang, just for their beauty. The images, or rather the visual presentation, is as we all know, the first impact you have at the time of any project introduction and that speaks even before you start reading.
Attack Magazine: Why a vinyl label?
As cover of the GEGEN002 we have a white boy embracing a POC boy. A very clear signal that we want to convey, especially after the different scenes of violence that the POC community had to suffer and are still suffering.
Our decision was to launch a vinyl-only music label, but given the circumstances (Lockdown, depression, artists with no gigs and limited opportunities not only to play but also to buy the tracks themselves), we decided to go with a digital-only format on and off. The digital format has given us the opportunity to promote less known artists in the scene but also to touch on a gender issue that unfortunately afflicts the music industry. In fact, our first digital release involves only female and non-binary artists, precisely because we wanted to involve and give visibility to a group of producers who are unfortunately undervalued in a very sexist world.
In the music industry, women are mainly valued by their appearance and not for their skills and never on a par with male, mostly white figures. The non-binary or trans genders are practically not even considered. The label will however always try to promote more artists from the LGBTQIA+ scene and female producers, because this is the work we were already doing with our events and one of the reasons why we are still moving forward.
Attack Magazine: Germany’s going into another lockdown; looking forward, how do you see the next couple of years in techno and clubs?
Fabio: From my point of view we have reached an epochal no-return point, in which nothing will be the same. As for the techno scene, our sector has been declared unnecessary and consequently, it will be the last to start again and all this weighs heavily on the social and economic aspect of the ones involved. Many artists find themselves in a creative block which also has consequences on a psychological level leading most of them to depression. Those who will continue to produce will inevitably transmit their current mood through music, and in a small part influencing the direction of the current scene towards a new musical genre, maybe called pandemic techno. In the future I foresee many restrictions and a lot of caution even after the pandemic is averted, all this to avoid similar future disasters with devastating consequences for the economy and people’s health.
Attack Magazine: You said clubs have been declared ‘unnecessary’ – here in the UK we have this vision of Germany as a place where the government and society really values techno as an art form, is this not the case?
Fabio: Yes because with lock down and the virus the media were accusing our specific culture as basically being unnecessary for the safety of the population. We were first to close down and we’d been declared as culture that isn’t necessary to be protected, unlike galleries or museums… but recently a couple of months ago techno was recognised as worthy of protection and could then benefit from grants from the government.
Club culture overall in Germany has had much more support and has much more value than other countries but it’s still not enough in my point of view. The main problem was that the press and magazines were accusing the events and clubs of being high risk environments, scapegoating the clubs. Covid is invisible enemy, it’s something we can’t see and it’s much easier to find someone that’s easy to attack as a scapegoat and define as the enemy – and unfortunately promotors and clubs were the scapegoats of the magazines for a long time.
Attack Magazine: There were plague raves all over Europe this summer, which hasn’t helped society’s opinion of club culture – what is your opinion on the phenomemen?
Fabio: We need to distinguish between two categories, the ones where organisers don’t care about the health of the guests, rules and restrictions to follow and to be followed, and events where the rules are followed to limit infections and further spreading of the virus. The first category, beside acting very unresponsively and greedy, is undermining the credibility of the second who try to carry a message that says things can be done differently. Many people are facing depression through isolation, so I don’t judge the need to gather, neither if some events were done in order to economically support a venue which was facing economical crisis, but I definitely don’t support the so called plague raves, or their promoters, who rode this wave just to gain visibility in a moment of global collapse.
As an event promoter, the duty of care of my guests comes first, now, more than ever. We were the first party in Berlin who decided to cancel their event, even before the restrictions were implemented, as we were not willing to put the health of our guests at risk. It was a hard decision but looking back then, it was the right choice to make.
Attack Magazine: So it sounds very much that Gegen is more than just a hedonistic party?
Fabio: We are working on inclusivity not exclusivity. We are not creating a safe space just for LGBTQI+ people, it’s for everyone – we want to involve everyone in how our community is developing. Gegen is a place where we’re not classifying people – you’re right to get in, you’re not – we’re looking for every type of person. It’s important to have every kind of person involved, it’s important for us to build it up together and support teach other…
Attack Magazine: Thats a beautiful thing.
Fabio: My intention is to speak loud and include everyone!
GEGEN002 is available via Bandcamp.
Photos by Gili Shani.