Meet Denise Rabe: Berlin’s Beloved Techno Fabulist
Since 2013, DJ-producer Denise Rabe has positioned herself on the frontlines of Berlin’s world-renowned techno scene. Hailing from the small town near Bielefeld, Germany, she first started showcasing her skills behind the decks at the age of 16, experimenting with forms of hip hop, drum & bass, house, and more. Her transition into the world of techno came after moving to Berlin in 2011, and she’s been entrenched in the genre’s blistering biosphere ever since.
After a solid debut release on Mutewax Limited in 2015, which was followed by two dark and enchanting EPs for Arts Collective, Denise set up her Rabe imprint. A personal dance music endeavor in the spirit of her family name, which translates to Crow, it pays homage to the animal’s close and recurring connection to Aesop’s Fables, which informs the EP titles and artwork on the label. With a sound charged by prophetic synths and foreboding drum arrangements, Denise Rabe was picked up by Stroboscopic Artefacts in 2017 for her runic Manifesto EP — the fifth installment for the label’s Totem series.
In addition to discussing her music’s folklore aesthetic, Rabe charms us with tales about bringing her mother to Berghain, talks releases for 2020, and provides us with a one-hour mix of infatuating, dark techno that takes us outside the club.
Check out Denise Rabe’s latest Beatport chart.
You first started hip hop DJing at 16. How did you eventually get into techno?
I got into DJing through one of my friends, but at the time, we were all into hip hop, so my initial instruction happened through turntables and, eventually, drum & bass. Electronic music has been in my spectrum since I got “No Good” from The Prodigy where I was 10 years old.
In 1998, I watched the Love Parade on TV the whole day and fell in love with the song “One World One Future,” I adored the vibe it projected. Two years later, I came to Berlin to the Love Parade to see it for myself, with my best friend and a school friend, we were 15 back then. Around 2009, I was going through my house stage, and after I moved to Berlin in 2011, I saw Luke Slater play at Berghain. It made such an impression that it took me finally to techno.
We heard you brought your mother to Berghain. What was that like?
Most would agree that getting your first booking at Berghain is a landmark in any DJ’s career, and having my mother over to share it with was a no-brainer. Her experience finally made it clear for her why I had moved to Berlin, what I was doing, and what the scene meant to me.
Tell us a little bit about your Rabe imprint, and its Aesop inspirations.
The link to Aesop Fables is because of my last name, Rabe (Crow), which, along with the Raven, is a recurring character in the stories found throughout the book. The tales are intended to warn, explain, and shape people’s life back then (620 and 564 BCE). These lessons still ring true to everyday life in 2020. The aesthetics I already liked, so the label’s identity and artwork came to be an organic solution.
How did your Manifesto EP come to light? And what it is about Stroboscopic Artefacts that attracted you?
Stroboscopic Artefacts is one of those labels I’ve always loved, with a unique identity in every aspect, so when the owner of [PR agency] Modern Matters suggested my music could be a good fit and offered what I was working on at the moment, I had to accept. Up to that point, I hadn’t considered linking my music with a label like Lucy’s, so the perspective from a third party was welcomed. The result, needless to say, was incredible for me.
What can we expect to hear and see from you in 2020?
A few days ago, I released a remix for Sven Sinclair’s Master Of None EP on a new label called Aspect:Ratio. Next, you can expect some tracks on some VA releases via imprints like 30drop Records and Immaterial Archives. After that, I have a track coming on an EP for the young label Blacklabel Distillery with Samuli Kemppi, Fred Hatsav, Perc, and Svreca, a remix for Fixer on Illegal Alien, and last but not least, a release on Rabe featuring remixes by Headless Horseman and Luis Flores. There will be more after that, but nothing I’m ready to talk about yet.
Tell us about your mix. Where and when did you record it, and what’s the idea behind it?
I’m not a fan of releasing recorded club sets because the context under which it happens is missing, and with it, the reason for the music selection, order, etc. A podcast has a complete focus, and what makes sense for someone listening on their headphones going through their day is entirely different from what logic dictates at a show. So I made this specifically for Beatport with that in mind.
Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.