WHOLE Lotta Love

The team behind Europe’s first queer festival open up ahead of highly anticipated second edition

Ciara CunnaneVirginia de Diaz

How do you combat the commercialisation of music festivals and return to a foundation of expressive freedom? If you’re Berlin’s leading queer nightlife innovators, you go back to the roots. 

WHOLE – United Queer Festival, which is the first of its kind in Europe, launched with aplomb in 2017 and a year later its second edition promises to be even bigger and better. The three-day art and music camping event on the banks of Lake Gremminer at Ferropolis (where Germany’s long-running festival Melt! is held annually) was curated by six underground party collectives in 2017 but has grown to 11 for 2018.

WHOLE’s founders Pornceptual, who have successfully expanded their cutting-edge, artistic and inclusive pornography party into a global event over the last five years, aim to create a sex-positive utopian festival. A retreat to the countryside without having to sacrifice the radical debauchery that the parties are known for on their home turf? Now you’re talking. Before the organising collectives decamp for WHOLE on August 24-27 we spoke to 10 of them about their triumphs and future ambitions.

Cocktail D’Amore

Italian DJ duo Discodromo aka Giovanni Turco and Giacomo Garavelloni have made their monthly event one of the city’s top alternative parties over the last nine years. It is currently held at Neukölln’s former grain silo Griessmühle.

What motivated you to establish Cocktail D’Amore?
Giovanni Turco: When we both moved to Berlin at the beginning of 2008, there were not many choices when it came to going out. Those years were all about THE clubs (Berghain, hey), which were mostly presenting a specific sound: the minimal house one. (Almost) everywhere, (almost) all the time. It literally was the sound of the city (it still is, somehow?) and although we like some of it, all the rest is kind of like the same loop over and over: we wanted to break that loop.

Name one track on your playlist right now
Bianca Chandon Presents &CO – “Best of Friends” (R&T remix)

What defines the vision for your parties?
We’re party people exactly like the kids coming to Cocktail so it’s simple: we mostly book DJs we want to hear ourselves in the first place. It’s been almost 10 years of Cocktail (it will be on September 2019) and artistically speaking we’ve been constantly shifting tone. We get bored really easy and seems like everyone else does too.

Aside from your own events, which party in Berlin excites you at the moment?
See, that’s the thing. When you work in nightlife you end up going out a lot less for fun than you’d want to…

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G Day

Founded in 2013, this playful party is run by Italian-born, German-raised Cristofaro Salvato and Stephane Mashvno from France, who DJ under the names 2FARO and Mashyno.

What motivated you to establish G Day?
I met Stefane, my partner, and we were both colourful people and we thought that that was something needed in Berlin as a party. The name comes from the fact that we held it for the first time at Griessmühle and also G because of gay and G for garden because it was an open air event. We wanted to provide a space where everyone can be free and can feel like a child again; dressing up, colourful. Where everyone is going to be respected and where there are no rules about which gender you are; a really open-minded space.

Pick a highlight from your events
We’ve been journeying around, after starting at Griessmühle we also held events at Burg Schnabel, SchwuZ, Chalet, and we’ve been based at Suicide Circus for the past year. We like to work with graphics and each party has a special theme. One summer when we held open air events at Else we went through all the chakras (each chakra has a specific colour) and basically the crowd all came dressed in this colour to dance!

What defines the vision for your parties?
We don’t want to make it too much like a sex party or with dark rooms, we want it to celebrate having fun together, like people can feel free to do stupid things on the dancefloor or come with a balloon! Sometimes our themes are more kinky, sometimes more colourful. We always have two floors, the techno floor and the house floor. With these two types of music it’s like the darkness and the lightness so people can choose where they want to dance.

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Buttons

Held monthly at ://aboutblank since 2016, Buttons inspires guests to don outlandish costumes for themed parties with a cross-genre electronic soundtrack. It is organised by Italian Danilo Rosato, who previously ran Homopatik at the same venue, and Chicagoan DJ Jacob Meehan.

Name one track on your playlist right now
Jacob Meehan: Shingo Suwa – ‘MDF’

Pick a highlight from your events
In June we celebrated our birthday.  Before Horse Meat Disco DJ Severino played the closing set our friend, [Berlin-based opera singer] Ludwig Obst, popped out of a giant cake singing “Largo al factotum” and offering up champagne to a very attentive crowd.

Aside from your own events, which party in Berlin excites you at the moment?
Same Bitches

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Curated by GIRLS

This online feminist art platform was founded in 2016 by French singer-songwriter Laetitia Duveau, aka Little Voice from the indie pop duo Free Free Dom Dom. Within months of going live the platform hosted its first critically acclaimed “IRL” exhibition in Berlin and has since expanded to other European cities.

What motivated you to establish Curated by GIRLS?
Laetitia Duveau: Curated by GIRLS was born out of a wish to give a voice to emerging talents with a strong focus on female artists and under-represented individuals. The aim was to bring a new and more diverse vision of the world, as a response to the overwhelming male domination in media. Curated by Girls needed to exist.

Did you already have a network of artists?
I didn’t have a network of artists as CBG was some kind of accident in my life; I came to Berlin to pursue my music career. I remember someone writing about Berlin and how you come here for one specific reason but you end up doing things you would never have imagined. I know how hard it is to be heard/seen when you are a struggling artist. With CBG I wanted to share the experiences of artists, especially women artists, that deserved to be heard and bring new ideas in the system.

Pick a highlight from your events
My first exhibition, “New Femininity”, in October 2016 was special as I was a virgin at organising events. It was super difficult! I had to set 50 artworks and I had no clue how to do it. In the end 2,000 people showed up. It was a weird feeling; a mix of excitement, stress, relief and pride…

What’s your greatest ambition for Curated By GIRLS?
I hope that CBG can contribute to spread more freedom, acceptance and tolerance in society. I think that with little steps every day we will be able to reach a more balanced world. Also, I would love CBG to be known as one of the most influential free platform for artists – I insist on free because as an artist myself I find it really annoying when platforms ask for fees to “help” you find your crowd or whatever. It usually ends up as scam!

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Horse Meat Disco

In London in 2002 DJs James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Severino and Luke Howard began hosting queer parties called Horse Meat Disco that harked back to the genre’s golden age of 1970s New York and have since expanded into a world-touring phenomenon. Their Berlin residency, currently held at the former master builders’ school, Bauakademie, has been produced by husband and wife team Jonathan and Ulrike Margulies of the creative agency, Prop House, for almost a decade.

What’s your ethos for Horse Meat Disco in Berlin?
Jonathan: We’re following the philosophy that came from London because it’s not our creation but when we started running it here almost 10 years ago we came from a place of wanting to give people a slightly more colourful, not glossy but a more refined environment but still a Berlin club. I think that’s something we were missing here.

Ulrike: It’s about welcoming everybody and being very open, inclusive.

Are there differences between the Horse Meat Disco parties in New York, London and Berlin?
Jonathan: In London it happens weekly and it’s more of a bar. And New York from what I understand from the guys is just a different vibe just because it’s New York. In Berlin there’s a really good mix of older and younger, where the younger people are discovering disco for the first time and the older ones appreciates more the type of environment that we create.

Ulrike: I don’t know how the other [Horse Meat Disco] parties work but as opposed to other parties in Berlin the Horse Meat Disco party starts when it starts; the door opens and people run onto the dancefloor and right away start dancing and it’s like that every time – just a really warm atmosphere and people really feel at home.

Jonathan: It’s not judgmental at all, it’s not judgmental at the door, there is no real selection unless you really don’t fit in. I think it’s one of the only places I do not feel judged. So, I think that was our goal to extend that from London because there it’s just for anybody who loves the music.

What does it mean for you to be involved with WHOLE?
Ulrike: It’s been a great experience to see all the collectives working on one thing together and we’re enjoying getting to know the people behind all these parties. I’m really excited to have the best Berlin gay/queer parties in one place, it must be a dream come true for some people!

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Lecken

This femme-forward dance and sex party concentrating on the expression of female pleasure was founded in 2016 by Wanda Gaimes and Marc Lohr. Now a six-person collective, they hold trimonthly events at UnterTage in Kreuzberg.

What motivated you to establish Lecken?
Wanda Gaimes: We couldn’t get the kind of sex we wanted at home. Ehm, more seriously, we felt there was an absence of femme-centric rave spaces that extended the principles of stranger sexuality that we learnt from the gay underground to non-masculine sexuated bodies and sensibilities.

Name one track on your playlist right now
Sex – ‘Virgo Four’

Pick a moment that stood out at your events
It’s hard to pick just one but a standout memory was when the crew performed a go-go dance featuring only our naked glow-in-the-dark painted asses above the dancefloor.

Aside from your own events, which party in Berlin excites you at the moment?
Aside from the other WHOLE crew parties, which we’re at often, DUMP is another queer party at our home base, UnterTage, that has a wonderful crowd and super cute vibes. We also highly recommend Wax Treatment, for music lovers, and Kookoo, for music and art nerds.

What’s your greatest ambition that Lecken can achieve, particularly in terms of gender politics?
We approach Lecken as a constantly evolving and changing experiment towards creating a space for disorienting existing ideas of identity, gender, performance and boundaries. We’re honestly not sure how “political” a party can be, but we are also interested in expanding beyond that format in the future.

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Members

This monthly gay party was founded in 2013 by film director Maximilian Moll and Paso record label chief Marc Miroir, who is also Members’ resident DJ. With previous guests including Monika Kruse, Ellen Allien, Kiki, Heartthrob and Diego Krause, the event is focused on tech house heavy hitters.

What motivated you to set up Members?
Marc: It started with the idea to run a party where it’s not the typical gay music, just like more underground techno, tech house, Chicago, Detroit, techno, which was at that time was very uncommon. We started at Cosmonaut just after it opened and it just grew, grew, grew.

Max: Part of the concept was that we wanted to have not just the different categories of gay guys there but also the combination of all of them – to have everyone be united for that particular kind of music.

What defines your vision for the parties?
Marc: Special bookings that you don’t get everywhere, for us the music selection and the booking is very important so we support new faces – which after they play at Members are fully booked!

Max: We also like to rediscover big household names that have disappeared for a bit and reintroduce them in a new context, that also worked very well for us. And also women DJs, we love to bring them. It’s just turned out that women had a really great impact on the dancefloor so that’s just stayed with us, it’s not a political statement, it evolved naturally.

Marc: It’s about music, not about gender.

What does being involved with WHOLE mean to you?
Max: I came up with the name WHOLE [in a brainstorming session with founders Pornceptual] and I really like the ambiguity – it’s wholesome but also it can mean unity as a brand. I think it has a nice aspect because if you look at Einstein and spacetime he refers to it as a whole also, so it can be everything and this whole weekend can be anything and everything. Most people are only referring to the dirty aspect of it, but I think it’s interesting to also have whole as a spacetime reference and union. It’s been a great experience to bring all the collectives together.

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Pornceptual

Running a leading Berlin club night isn’t enough for Raquel Fedato and Chris Phillips. Since setting up Pornceptual five years ago they have branched out to host events across Europe and the Americas, curated exhibitions and movie screenings and tried their hand at print and digital publishing, as well as founding WHOLE festival last year.

What’s the aim of Pornceptual?
Raquel Fedato: It’s different than it might look at first sight. Pornceptual is not an average sex party. Our goal is to create a free sexual atmosphere, where people can express themselves while proposing a link with the art world.

With DJ Hell, Ed Davenport and Oliver Deutschmann on the bill for your fifth birthday, you’re booking artists on the top tier of global dance music. What defines your musical ethos?
Raquel Fedato: The belief in stylistic border-crossing. The artists booked to perform at our parties come from different backgrounds and diversity is also a significant point for us. Every line-up includes femme/trans or/and non-binary artists, which is something that is unfortunately very rare in the electronic music scene nowadays.

What’s next for Pornceptual?
Raquel Fedato: Our goal stays the same: challenging people’s minds by questioning gender-, race- and ethnicity-based stereotypes from a body-positive perspective. The ultimate change would be people feeling empowered and realising we can use our bodies as a medium for fighting conservatism.

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TrashEra

A group of friends led by Geovane Pedro De Bortoli and Bráulio Bandeira set up TrashEra in 2015 and the trimonthly event is now branching out.

How did the TrashEra collective come together?
Geovane Pedro De Bortoli: TrashEra started as a joke made by a friend (Bráulio, one of the founders) calling another friend (Matias) a Trashera, which means someone who owns the sassiness of being trash or who is basically considered wrong by society. What motivated me to establish it was this feeling of accepting how different we are from each other, of enjoying breaking the rules and labels imposed by society in order to accept ourselves exactly how we are. The collective came together naturally because we were a very close group of friends who believed in the same idea of how to live our lives and how techno was a big part of it. The main idea behind it is to combine art and music – we are surrounded by amazing artists all over Berlin and music is our big passion so combining both of them is a way of creating a platform for professional development and experimentalism.

Name one track on your playlist right now
Cómeme – ‘Nasty Woman’

Pick a highlight from your events
That was definitely our first event, in March 2015 we had an outrageous event at the former Neu West Berlin, a complex of abandoned DDR apartments, (today renovated and sold out to the new gentrification order of Berlin). We occupied the whole nine floors of the building with art and music and it was a remarkable moment for us – a great way to start our life story.

Aside from your own events, which party in Berlin excites you at the moment?
Some of the newest events in Berlin, Studio 69 by Eliot Gardepe and Dan Saniski (at their new club Sounds) is very exciting and queer. I guess there is no need to say that all collectives participating at WHOLE festival can be mentioned with honours. They are all unique and fulfil a big branch of diversity, art performance and music quality in Berlin.

What’s your greatest ambition for TrashEra?
It goes in two directions: one, for the events, that they would become a platform for artists to develop without being shaped by the market. The second direction is in relation to our agency, as TrashEra has become a creative agency/label we aim to be the best communications agency specialised in the electronic music business. All of this with our little touch of trash and boldness.

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Unter

After starting out touring in bands, Unter founder Seva Granik’s talent for building a party from the ground up has led to him being described as the king of New York nightlife and he entered the fashion big leagues when he began producing Alexander Wang’s afterparties with Ladyfag in 2013.

What motivated you to establish Unter?
There were no cool techno after parties in New York for kids to go to after all the bars and clubs closed, which in NYC is 4am; Unter was originally just a clever and easy promotional ploy to get those crowds to come and party. And it worked very quickly.

How does putting on events in Berlin compare with New York?
We’re not really involved with the Berlin scene except for flying some Berlin party people out to New York for collaborations. It seems like putting on events in Berlin is pretty easy? There are literally hundreds of clubs, and every club has amazing sound and lighting, and you don’t really need to do much but actually bring the party. Maybe I’m missing something but it’s really not like that at all in New York.

Name one set on your playlist right now
Nadine Talakovics’ Staub DJ mix is my number one obsession right now; pretty much anything by her is great.

Aside from your own events, which party anywhere in the world excites you at the moment?
Are we allowed to say Pornceptual? It’s basically us and them and Gegen [the Kit Kat Club party] at the moment.

What’s your greatest ambition for Unter?
We’ve already done everything we could ever dream of achieving, which is why we’re a bit lost as to what to even do any more. It would be good to have a space we can call home.

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Buttons, Cocktail D’Amore, Curated By Girls, G Day, Horse Meat Disco, Lecken, Members, Pornceptual, TrashEra and Unter, along with Discwoman, will be providing the musical and artistic entertainment at WHOLE – United Queer Festival at Ferropolis, August 24-27, 2018. Tickets priced 79 are available from wholefestival.com