Monika Kruse is one of Europe’s most loved and respected Techno pioneers, a prolific DJ, Producer and Terminal M label boss who has contributed immensely to Techno’s global awareness and prominence. The key to her iconic status is her enduring artistic connection and commitment to Techno for more than 25 years, and I (Mike, Editor) relished in the anticipation of speaking to a true Techno Goddess, this is her story.
Mike Mannix: Monika Kruse what an absolute pleasure, thank you for talking to us at iconic underground magazine. So, before we dig in deep about your legacy on the dance scene tell us about your background inspirations and aspirations growing up in Germany before the wall fell, what laid the foundations for the future techno icon?
Monika Kruse: Hello Mike and Iconic underground magazine :-)!
I was born in West Berlin but grew up in Munich. Music was always my best friend, it never let me down, it always connected me with my feelings. So I was a music addict since I was a child, always in front of the radio, recording radio sessions, and special programs. And when I got my first pocket money I went straight to a record store to buy a record. Since that time all my money went into buying records, old skool Hip Hop, Funk, and soul.
MM: What was it like to be part of the dawn of the new German dance music scene in the early ‘90s, the raves, the music, the people, the energy, and the thrill? How did you see your role in organizing events in abandoned Munich WWII bomb shelters, was it all just for fun or did you see something greater was emerging?
MK: Back in the early 90ies when techno just started there was no club in Munich that played electronic music. I was DJing already in a bar, playing Acid jazz, Funk and Soul and some Deep and Vocal House but I felt the need to organize a party where it was only electronic music. So I took the risk and I searched for empty and abandoned places to put on a techno party. I found some great places like a WW2 bunkers, old Factories (which looked like Berghain), and other empty houses and asked my friends to help me to put up a bar, the sound, and some lightning.. it was a very exciting time, you never knew what would happen, if the Police bust us, if the power supply will work all night, etc. There were always little things what happened but that made it so special.
It was always just for fun, we did not make any money, it was just about getting together for the music and having a great party and experience together.
I started my illegal parties with maybe a hundred people and with time they got bigger just from word of mouth I could even invite other DJs like Chris Liebing to play for no fee! I never thought techno would become this big or that I even could make a living out of it. Actually, in the first 5 years, I invested more money in records than I got paid as a DJ because we only got paid around 25/50 Euros a night. At the end that was the beauty of it you could tell in the early 90’s, that everybody who was a DJ did it only because he/she loved the music so much, and for the passion and not for the money.
Right now Techno is more like Pop music – Management, Strategies, Hype, and Image. The DJ Profile is more important than the Music itself, all the things we stood for in the 90’s are gone.
MM: Germany is seen as one of the bastions of the early techno scene alongside Detroit and also Belgium, is this down in part to its giant industrial past and later its post-war charred and bombed-out landscape? What fuelled the fire and urgency for those pounding beats?
MK: That is a really good question! I really like how deep you think! But even so, I cannot really answer your question but I’ll try. Techno was a big sign of a change in the society. I think Techno just expressed a lot of the new feeling which came with the political changes: everything was possible! The ‘wall’ came down, which was unbelievable!!! The Cold War was over. All these patterns of life and politics are not right anymore. We wanted to live together and not separated! And
techno was a music without rules, unpredictable, crazy, outstanding, new sounds never heard, a new way to produce tracks, no big radio or major labels supporting it. It was the soundtrack of the new generation that wanted to be different from the old stiff generation. Techno was a big revolution and united people from different countries and continents, the Berlin Loveparade pulled people from all over the world and we all danced together.
MM: ‘Terminal ‘is quite a powerful and profound name to be used in representing an idea a brand or product. How would you define your label ‘Terminal M’ and what does it mean to you?
MK: I choose that name because for me an airport or train station is a place where you go for travel, music is also traveling just in a different direction, like the release or the artist on a label. And last but not least mostly I met my colleagues when I travel to an airport so it is a meeting place. And the letter M… let your phantasy play… Music, Monika.
MM: Is music all about escapism, is all just a ‘holiday for the mind’ or is there a deeper fundamental healing process contained within its notes?
MK: You can use music for many different things such as dancing your feet off when you go out, and yes I called it “having a holiday for my mind”, plus the whole experience of falling into a trance state of mind is wonderful. Music can heal in so many ways, as it depends which music you are listening and for what purpose. It can support you in your feelings when you are sad or happy, some songs will support that feeling, when I am sad I love to hear deep and sad music. It somehow cheers me up as I feel understood and the deepness somehow protects me. There is nothing better to boost your Serotonin level more when you’re unhappy than to put on a great song which makes you just wanna jump around. There are tracks or songs when you hear them on a special moment you will always connect that moment when you hear that song again.
There are frequencies in music which have a healing element. You can find on YouTube a lot of links e.g. like 432Hz for raising positive vibrations, or other frequencies which are working on your brain and chakras or even to clean your organs. You can do some meditation with these frequencies as well and erase some old patterns which are stacked in your cells. And even music works well for people who have Alzheimer disease, as it is something they can rely on. Actually, it is a topic I could tell you a lot of things how music can heal in so many ways. It is wonderful.
MM: In Rock and Roll circles over the years artists have shared and been exposed for their excesses and challenges within the music industry with some wearing it like a badge. Is there now a conscious move in dance music by established artists to really open up about their personal journeys and struggles like recently with ‘Steve Lawler’ in his documentary ‘The Art of The DJ’, is it now time for more openness in the electronic world?
MK: I am very happy that finally, the awareness of the struggles in a DJs life is now a topic. Of course, it always looks glamorous what we post on Fb / Instagram but the DJ life has some bad parts as well. When it comes to the common feeling of ‘success’ of a person – which means having an audience or getting money for the thing you do, it is difficult to tell someone when you’re feeling bad. Some people think you are not grateful when you speak about the negative aspects of DJing.
But of course we struggle as well as other people, we feel alone, we have our doubts, we miss our friends, and it is hard to cope with the pressure of performing a great set every time, plus we always get compared with others, people are always judging. Now with social media and all the shitstorms and trolls, there’s huge negativity in our scene, there’s a lot of hate, jealousy, and frustration, so it is not easy to speak openly about your inner self which is not mentally very healthy. I had a period where I was very depressed and had to fight against it but of course, I tried not to show it and to perform, which is not always that easy.
MM: Power and creativity are found in the silence?
MK: Speaking for me, yes I found power in silence, nature, meditation, and Holotrop breathing. Creativity comes more from the emotional states.
MM: What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome and what did you learn from it?
MK: I am my greatest challenge! E.g. to face my fears, to welcome them, to see the positive side of my fears to exchange my fearful feelings and replace the anxiety with positive feelings, is just one of a lot of processes I went through. I am still learning, there is more about myself I want to change. Watching myself, who I am, why I act like that why I feel like that, and be honest with myself. Checking what triggers me. Not blaming other people for my feelings and triggers. It is an interesting journey.
MM: Does your personal life affect your musical life?
MK: Definitely. E.g. I wrote my biggest tunes when I was very sad.
MM: Creating balance and harmony in one’s life is a very necessary tool to aid us in our spiritual development & personal evolution, and for us to create a better relationship with ourselves and others, can you share some of your tips n tricks?
MK: Oh there are a lot of questions in one question. To create harmony in myself for me nature is a big help. When I am stressed I need to do at least a walk in the Park. Slow, not rushing, trying to focus e.g. how I breathe, how I roll down my foot. Emptying my mind and not to think at that moment so I just feel the fresh air, feel my body how it moves, listen to the sound of the surroundings. I really try not to think on my to-do list, and live in the now. But also Sport/moving/dancing is good too. Getting exhausted and feeling my body is great! Another important thing is to be childish as a good laugh is the best medicine, and letting out the inner child out always makes me happy.
Also, to have good relationships with other people you really need to be in a peaceful, trustful and loving state of mind with yourself first. Filled up with anger or anxiety will cause trouble – for yourself and of course when you get in contact with others.
MM: What’s the maddest craziest experience you’ve had whilst spinning live?
MK: I was spinning barefoot and someone was licking my foot. It was disgusting!
MM: What’s next in the pipeline for ‘Terminal M’ and your own productions/events?
MK: The next release will be by Aitor Ronda, I used’’Loveration“ already last year on my essential Mix for BBC1, and finally it is out. Also, I am very excited that my friend Carl Cox did a remix of Alex Mine ‘’lost“. Myself, I need to find time to go to the studio now it’s now almost 3 months it is time to turn some buttons.
Thank you Mike