´ Whenever unfair things are happening in the world, I start to search for statements to include them in my tracks. I like to use techno as a tool for resistance, to visible injustice, to raise awareness, and to call for a change `
We are pleased to have the founder of the queer feminist techno platform Subverted podcast, DJ, and producer Hybral.
Recently released Copyleft User EP on Istanbul-based label Vast Perception, Hybral has achieved to be played by many established artists such as Paula Temple and SNTS.
We also had the opportunity to talk about the role of techno music to deconstruct the orthodox gender identities as well as the inner dynamics of the Berlin queer techno scene.
NCOUNTERS: Which city did you grow up in? How did you form your early musical aesthetics and how did it evolve?
Hybral: I grew up in a small village near Kassel in the middle of Germany. After playing the piano for a short period, I started playing the bassoon in the orchestra of my school in the 5th grade. At this point, I probably already developed my affection for low frequencies haha.
After my pop, indie, and electropunk phase in my teenage years, I listened a lot to minimal piano music by Ludovico Einaudi and also to artists such as Martin Kohlstedt and Nils Frahm which included more electronic elements to their piano playing. My further contact with electronic music was Glitch.
I remember being at a festival gig by The Glitch Mob and already trying to dance the Berghain dance. This genre then led me to the discovery of techno when I moved to Berlin around 5 years ago. I went to my first raves at About Blank, Tresor, Grießmühle, Mensch Meier, and Berghain and I think that had a strong impact on how my taste in music evolved. I quickly bought two cheap record players, a mixer, and my first records by Dax J, I Hate Models, Rebekah and Denise Rabe. Since then, my musical aesthetics developed from harder techno, over deep/ hypnotic techno, to more underground, industrial, dark techno, EBM, and sometimes Schranz. My sets and productions are always rave-inspired, but I also feel that I start liking slower bpm and more broken, raw, and experimental beats.
Back in the days, my father influenced my taste in music with synth wave and my mother with trance. I still like listening to trance and enjoy it but I think for my artistic expression, I’m going to stay on the more darker and serious side of techno —- remaining loyal to my Scorpio placements haha.
´ In Berlin, there of course exist lots of self-described queer techno parties, but most of them are only focused on the cis gay men experience, which leads to the further exclusion even inside the queer techno scene and it makes spaces and the practicing of sexual liberation only available for a small part of our community.`
How is your observation of Berlin scene? How would you evaluate the political orientation of the scene?
After the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade, there was growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement inside the techno scene in Berlin. Many labels, DJs, producers, and party organizers used their social media platforms to educate and call for action (donate, attend demonstrations). During some live streams, clubs and other music platforms shared links and encouraged to support anti-racist organizations. There were also lots of solidarity VA´s being released where the whole profit was donated to social justice organizations. I think the awareness of racist police brutality and political activity in the (Berlin) club scene grew to that time, but there was also an event taking place just shortly after George Floyd was killed, that was quite problematic: around 3000 people came together on rubber dinghies to demand financial help for clubs and festivals while playing techno and celebrating. This was anything but appropriate at the time and therefore was highly criticized by many people on the scene.
Regarding gender and sexuality, I would say that Berlin is to some parts largely lgbtiqa*-friendly. This manifests in a variety of different techno event series that is exclusively conceptualized to give queer people a specific space. And also if the parties are not exclusively for queer people, the crowd is mostly very open-minded. The figurehead of many clubs and party series is their non-discriminatory (anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-fatphobic) policy… at least most of them claim it. But yeah in general, most clubs in Berlin are relatively welcome and open to Queers, BIPoC, and other gender and sexuality-related non-conformists, especially if you compare it to other cities or countries.
In German politics, there was and is a huge discussion and movement around the „third option“ that allows (until now only inter people) to choose not only the "male" and "female" gender marker but also the "divers" gender marker when registering in the civil status register. I also observe growing visibility of and discussion about trans and non-binary people even in mainstream society. Seeking the parallel in the techno scene in Berlin, you quickly find new concepts, collectives, platforms, and labels that not only support women but also inter, non-binary and trans people. Since last year, I’ve seen a lot of VA´s that presented only female producers, but since the lockdown actually, I find more VA´s that also focus on presenting flint* producers, same with podcast series. I also heard that some parties, that were only focusing on the cis gay male experience, are now getting more inclusive and are also opening up for lesbians, non-binary and trans people. This is a really important and necessary step and transformation.
´ Its super frustrating not to play gigs or getting booked, especially when you just started to build your "DJ career". I do not see the results of my efforts manifesting in reality yet. Its quite depressing.
I wanna move on!´
What are the challenges/opportunities that you go through in Berlin scene? Can you point us some problems and things that you want to change?
Well, at the moment we are facing the challenge of Corona in Berlin. Clubs, especially the smaller ones, die because there is not enough funding from the state which is sad because most of them had a good political outlook as well as musical concepts. The whole situation for the club industry is uncertain which leads to strong mental stress on all sides. It’s super frustrating not to play gigs or getting booked, especially when you just started to build your „DJ career“. I don´t see the results of my efforts manifesting in reality yet. It’s quite depressing. I wanna move on!
Besides Corona, I think a general problem in the (Berlin) techno scene is that it is still very cis men-centered and dominated. And they are cool, I play their music all the time, I admire their work and DJ sets but it‘s just the structural inequality that annoys me. All the big labels and party series - especially in the hard techno scene - are run and organized by „the boys“ (…cis of course). The connection of those more normative techno communities to genderqueer people doesn’t exist. So it’s really hard to get visible in the broader techno scene when you’re part of a marginalized group. There has to be a dialogue between different groups in the scene so that all needs can be fulfilled. Most parties already say that they don´t respect any kind of discrimination but at the actual party, they don´t organize the requirements to prevent disrespectful behavior in practice (e.g. with awareness teams).
In Berlin, there of course exist lots of self-described queer techno parties, but most of them are only focused on the cis gay men experience (e.g. buttons, laboratory, Herrensauna), which leads to the further exclusion even inside the queer techno scene and it makes spaces and the practicing of sexual liberation only available for a small part of our community. It’s changing a bit as I already mentioned in the previous question, but I would wish that the process of inclusion would be faster, broader and more radical and permanent.
Another challenge is the lack of diversity at Berlin’s club doors, which sometimes leads to an exclusion of queer people and/ or BIPoC. I also experienced sexist and queerphobic doors. There still exist lots of discriminatory behaviors and sexual assaults inside the techno scene (even by DJs, bookers, and organizers). I hope that this will have an end soon, I hope that clubs get more politically active and aware in general. I hope that there will be more visibility of genderqueer people in the line-ups of rather „normative“ parties. It should be normal that there are five flint* people and only one cis man in a techno line-up.
So, there is still a lot of work to do, but I’m optimistic that the movement and change is coming. We already have nice and important collectives such as Durch, Konvent, Subverted, fuck your gender, and Gegen as well as clubs like About Blank, Berghain and Mensch Meier with a high potential for subversion in the scene that will maybe lead us back to the roots of techno that are defined by resistance.
I’m thankful to reside in Berlin because here, in contrast to other, maybe more conservative cities in Germany, we have the opportunities and spaces to come together, celebrate ourselves and our amazing taste in music.
Do you see any (dis) advantages of your particular identity such as gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/political view or so when you find space for your art?
Although the techno scene in Berlin is quite liberal, open-minded, and left-oriented, it sometimes can be hard to be visible and accepted as a non-binary person. Sometimes it happens, that people misgender me and ask me questions regarding my gender or my age. This is annoying because I always wonder why it’s so important for people to know…
I also have the feeling that many people of the clubbing culture are extroverts. As an introvert, as I would describe myself, it can sometimes be a bit difficult because you’re not always in the mood for small talk and any kind of interaction. So a party or a backstage space can quickly get overwhelming and exhausting. I like when the focus is just on the music instead of chatting and making contacts all the time.
I see my non-binary identity as advantageous in so far as I found kind of a niche in the techno scene as a queer DJ and producer. To speak in marketing terms, it’s helpful for my “image“ creation and I also get more visibility on and through exclusively queer techno parties. I’m also white and my family still supports me financially, so I’m privileged in both of those categories.
What is the source of inspiration for you? How do you locate your art and artistic perspective?
Friends who send me random videos of washing machines that are being destroyed or cars that are being shredded haha.
Jokes aside, I think the main source for my inspiration is going raving. After a rave, I always feel super creative and exactly know how my tracks and/ or sets should sound like. Since partying is not possible during Corona, I found another source for my inspiration in experimenting with my synthesizer and my field recordings. I would describe my approach as very intuitive, so I do what I feel like at the moment and just go down the „tunnel“. This often leads me to very constructive sessions where I discover and create unexpected soundscapes.
Things that also inspire me are movies, traveling (especially to my hometown because it’s super quiet there and I don´t get distracted as in Berlin), other music, genres, and also other artists in the techno scene such as SNTS, Swarm Intelligence, Bermind, Vulkanski, Lesser Of, H880 and Angel Karel. Those different inspiration sources all combine the fact that I encounter and analyze different sounds in my environment and can then transform them into my idea and style of music.
I’m also a quite sensitive person, so my emotional state inspires me too. I remember sitting in a zoom seminar from the university. I felt super anxious because we had to present ourselves. I immediately left the meeting and started to work on a remix. I finished it within two hours.
One last source of inspiration to name here, are politics. Whenever unfair things are happening in the world, I start to search for statements to include them in my tracks. I like to use techno as a tool for resistance, to visible injustice, to raise awareness, and to call for a change.
How was your experience with your recently released EP „Copyleft User“ for Vast Perception? What was your biggest challenge? What was the main source of inspiration for you?
I like the sound of the label Vast Perception and I had some tracks ready which I think would fit them. So I send them the demo tracks and they agreed on releasing them which made me happy! Since it was a demo EP and the tracks were already produced there were no big challenges regarding the approaches to „produce on request“. I got the feedback from Vast Perception to add more sidechaining to the noises of a track to make it more groovy.
The main inspiration for the tracks came from experimenting with field recordings, samples from production processes in factories, and my recordings of the Lyra 8. The skewed ambiances/ fx you hear in „Data War“ are processed sounds from the Soma Ether that is a so-called „Anti-Radio“ recording electromagnetic radiation. The dark growling fx you hear in „Cyborg 4443“ emerged from experimenting with granular synthesis. „Decoding 79“ consists of heavy noises that came into being through random effect processing as well as feedback looping.
Editor: Kubi Öztürk
Graphic Layout: Can Hatunoglu
NCOUNTERS, Berlin (2020)