Music & clubs

At the indie races

The city's prolific indie disco party Karrera Klub turns 20 this year! DJ and co-founder Spencer Theile explains the history of an indie institution in techno-centric Berlin. Celebrate with them Jun 24 at Lido and Bi Nuu.

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Photo by Matze Hielscher

DJ Spencer Theile* on the history of his 20-year-old indie disco brand Karrera Klub.

When I came to Berlin in 1995, you had the choice between techno or disco, soul and funk. So at the time of the Britpop hype, Tim and Christian and me decided to start a regular indie party – with actual Carrera slot racing tracks.

The turning point came when Pulp performed at Huxleys Junior in June 1996, and we offered to organise a free afterparty. Slowly, international labels started letting their up-and-comers play their first Berlin gigs with us. From The Killers to Two Door Cinema Club to Mumford & Sons – and Adele on guitar at Rosi’s – the list is endless.

One of the best moments I remember was when Johnny Marr [of The Smiths], who was touring with Modest Mouse in 2007, humbly asked if he could eat the last sandwich off the catering table. I could hardly resist genuflecting, and my hero asks me for food. [Laughs]

A journalist once criticised us for never having reinvented ourselves. But if you try to run after what could be the next hype, it’s all short-lived. We always tried to stay true to ourselves – but flexible. I think we’re pretty lucky that we’ve already been here for 20 years.

What we established then wouldn’t be possible today. The times you could just take over a basement, turn a wallpaper table into a bar, and screw a mirrorball to the ceiling are definitely over.

I can hardly listen to music anymore because of all this administrative stuff. I wanted to do something with music; I didn’t want to become a Behörde. [Laughs] But as long as people show up at our parties, which I still find unbelievable, I’m really thankful.

Celebrate Karrera Klub’s 20th anniversary at Bi Nuu and Lido on Jun 24, 20:00.

*As told to Michael Hoh

Originally published in issue #150, June 2016.