The Definition of Berlin
An Interview with Marlon Hoffstadt
Photo: Michelle Neorosa
Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström talks to Berlin producer and party host Marlon Hoffstadt about what defines Berlin, and what defines a moment worth savouring.
The most loyal Profet readers know too well by now that most of my interviews are made in order for me learn about myself, or for me to learn something about the person I’m interviewing in order to steal it without shame. Maybe this is because I was born as a colorless and infinitely uninteresting person, a tabula rasa that needs to be filled with experiences and traits taken from other people. Maybe that’s why I, and other pop journalists, have chosen to do what I do. Maybe it’s the other way around, with me being a unbelievably colorful person, who needs to conceal an exceptionally eventful personality by listening more to others than talking about myself.
The person I’m listening to this time around is Marlon Hoffstadt, a producer and event planner from Berlin, who has just escaped a weekend that saw him host a lengthy party followed by an extensive open air, summing up to around twenty-two hours of festivity. As a result, Marlon is fairly tired at the time of our digital chat, which takes place with me being in Stockholm and him being in Berlin.
- I really like to host parties actually, Marlon says with his quite formal German accent that could almost be mistaken for an extremely strict upper class British ditto. He enunciates his consonants sharply and does not speak like how I would after a twenty-two hour party session. I would guess that Marlon is more accustomed to that life style than I am, and his latently laid-back nerve suits him. As does his thin moustache and ear-to-ear-smile.
- What I like most about it, Marlon recommences, is to plan and organize everything. You have this image in your head of how the running order goes and how the acts play after each other, how it all comes together. It’s nice when it actually turns out the way you planned it, so I want to do parties to build up the vibe that I like about club nights. The open airs, we do them at ELSE, which is my favorite open air location in Berlin. I played there earlier this summer for the opening and I liked it so much that I asked if I could do these free parties there, which are after work on Thursdays and brunch on Saturdays.
- Sounds quite relaxed, I say about Marlon’s events.
- Actually, in the end it always gets quite wild, Marlon says just before remembering a recent incident with an epileptic seizure during a party.
- I can recognize myself in that, I say, pointing back to Marlon’s thoughts on planning his nights (not that I don’t recognize myself in stories about open air seizures). I continue: I host some events and concerts in Stockholm with Profet, and sometimes I like it to be just the way I’ve planned it, but most of the times it doesn’t turn out that way. That can be more interesting, because you end up somewhere you couldn’t foresee.
»As soon as you move here, you’re a Berliner «
- Marlon Hoffstadt
Marlon starts asking me about Profet, and when that happens I always get sucked into my own ego in a festival of extensive self-love. My self-centered energy feeds off of recognition, it strengthens itself from compliments and acceptance, and even though the only three things Marlon is asking me are 1) whether the publication is fairly new, 2) if I run it myself and 3) if I’ve featured Eric Maltz, I am stilled flattered by the momentary roulette of roles in the interview – where Marlon asks me the questions and I am the one to answer them. I don’t have time to answer questions one and two before he poses question number three, but if I would have, I would have said:
1) Profet has existed since May 7 2016
2) I did start Profet and have run it since
3) I indeed have featured an interview with Eric Maltz, entitled »A Tale of Two Cities«
Why is Marlon Hoffstadt so interested in Eric Maltz and whether or not he has been interviewed in Profet? I’ll let you know, dear reader, it’s because Maltz is one of the producers handpicked to remix Marlon’s songs on the newly released »Human Interpretations Part Two«. Me and Marlon agree that Eric Maltz is not only a terrific musician, but also a warm person that we both have had pleasant encounters with. Marlon is greatly surprised when I tell him that Maltz used to play in a New York rock band before moving to Berlin and devoting himself to electronic music.
- I like technical stuff when it comes to producing but I’m not a genius about sound mixing, I’m not super nerdy about it. I just mix the way I hear it and then it sounds okay, but when I heard Eric’s remix, everything was so in place. It sounded like he had never done anything else in his life before, except for this.
Marlon Hoffstadt. Photo: Michelle Neorosa
I concur with Marlon’s statement on Eric’s remix of »Second Track«, a re-work with an even crisper sound than our American remixer’s own dripping dirty EP »Pathway«, released earlier this year. Then I freeze for a second, remembering that I haven’t prepared one single question in advance for Marlon, and my nervous brain waves tangle themselves together within the blink of an eye. I desperately hope that Marlon is tired enough from his weekend of partying to not notice my inner struggle to find a topic of discussion, and when I finally do he doesn’t seem to have bothered.
- Do you have a thought behind the producers you ask to remix your tracks? I wonder after the momentary break in my stream of consciousness.
As always when I make my own confidence hit a low point, like when thinking Marlon Hoffstadt would mind me not bringing pre-prepared questions to the table, I rise again when my question has been uttered. Typically, I use the force in the blow I take at myself and turn it into my advantage in an inner physical Jujutsu act. Amidst my mental meta martial arts session, I instantly remember that I never prepare questions for interviews and that I, though I’ve grown to like Marlon after just a few minutes of conversation, don’t care if he would frown upon my methods. My brain feels free again after its short wobble, and it can allow my ears to listen to Marlon’s answer, which is as follows:
- Actually, I used to run a label with two other friends. There we released music from us three, and we asked people whose music we liked to remix us. In the end, they did amazing jobs but they weren’t friends of ours. For Midnight Themes, my new label where I’m only releasing my own music, I thought it was easier to just ask friends. Of course I love their music, I wouldn’t ask them if I didn’t like the music. It’s not like »I want an easy remix, I don’t like the music but it will sell«. What stressed me out with the music scene is that everything is so complicated and over-professionalized. You always have to follow strict rules and everything takes so long, so in the end you put out a record you produced a year ago. The remix EP that I recently put out, it was quite easy. It’s just friends that I know produce good music, and I would say that there’s only two or three producers missing for me to be able to say that these are my favorite producers at the moment. I’m lucky enough to have really talented people around me, and it’s really cool to play their originals in my sets, so I thought it would be nice to also have their interpretations of my songs.
- So this means you’re really keeping it local, with a Berlin sound? I ask.
Here Marlon makes a squirming sound that signals that my assumption is faulty. Very faulty. He extends the squirminess in his voice into the first word of his next sentence, which in its meaning symbolizes an attempt to still be nice to me, but that gives way to the rest of the sentence, which tells me that my assumption indeed is faulty. Very faulty.
- Yes, Marlon squirms and then plunders over to his real answer: No. I mean, Eric for example is not from Berlin and I don’t think he has a Berlin sound. He has more of a rough New York sound, which for me is not very Berlinish. Pepe brought more of a summery vibe, and he is actually from Spain. It’s local from where they are currently located, but the sounds are from all over.
- Maybe that’s actually a definition of Berlin, I say and try to explain to Marlon why I think so: Over these two years that I’ve been running this magazine, I’ve interviewed around fifteen people living in Berlin. Only one or two of them are from Berlin, everyone else has moved there, sort of like a pilgrimage.
Marlon laughs and I, for some reason, come to think of Awkwafina’s chorus line hook from »NYC Bitche$«: »New York City Bitch, that’s where I come from/Not where I moved to on Mom and Dad’s trust fund.« I keep the lyrics to myself, and Marlon starts to speak.
- When I meet people and they ask me where I’m from, and I say I’m from Berlin, they say »Really, you’re born here? It’s so rare to meet Berliners.« I’m proud to be a real Berliner, somehow, but I’m not proud because I’m German or because I’m a Berliner, I’m proud because Berlin is so different in its ways. It has so many different sides, and so many people coming from different countries. That’s way nicer than only being surrounded by only Berliners. As soon as you move here, you’re a Berliner. The scene is openminded and welcoming, so as soon as you contribute to the scene, you’re part of the city.
- And that invites more people to come to the city and to make it even more open. That has to have some kind of effect on what you call »the Berlin sound«, I say with a final proving of my thesis.
- Yeah, that’s true, Marlon admits without even a hint of squirminess in his voice.
I’ve written almost too much about my distant love affair with Berlin and its open arms. I’ve tried to stop in order to not bore myself or anyone else, but I just can’t help myself when I talk to Marlon – or anyone else living in Berlin for that matter. The power of the city is strong enough to reach Stockholm and grab a hold of me that I can’t escape, and when Marlon leisurely invites me to let him know whenever I would pass by Berlin, it feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Marlon in a Savour The Moment T-shirt
Marlon’s podcast Savour The Moment reflects just what the name implies. To correct the statement, the party series that the podcast is based on actually reflects what the name implies. The sets heard in the podcasts are mostly live recordings from the parties, with appearances from swinging jockeys mostly based in Berlin.
- The main idea of Savour The Moment is to do what you do in the moment without getting distracted by phones, Marlon tells me. It actually works really good during the parties, and the music is always great. I want to offer the same thing to people who can’t make it to the party, so they’re able to tune in to the sets and hopefully turn off their phones. They can listen, dance, have pre-drinks with friends or have a chat, whatever , as long as they don’t get distracted by their phones or computers and everything that comes with the digital world.
- At first, when I saw you had a podcast, I thought it was a conversation podcast, interviews with the DJs, I tell Marlon.
- I would love that, he says.
- Is that the next step for Savour The Moment?
- Yes and no. Aside from my music, I also study journalism and PR management. We have courses like communication science, which is mainly talking about older theories from people who are already dead. You’re looking at problems in communication, what was the problem back then and what is the problem today. For me at the moment, I feel like people aren’t very nice to each other on the Internet and many people get depressed by that. If you can’t change this kind of vibe through the music scene then you can’t change it anyhow, because the music scene is supposed to be openminded and creative. I want to build Savour The Moment as a name, so people will know that it’s a phone free space, a space for exchange. The goal is, instead of spoken podcasts or conversation podcasts, to maybe have real time conversations, lectures or workshops. I would like to try to bring this to different cities over the world, that’s a dream for me. We get trained to not focus and not stay in the moment, so I think doing a one hour podcast where I talk to someone who has something to say would reach a lot more people online, but it would get to people if it were only a real time experience.
- I’ve been hosting a talk show in my club nights in Stockholm, I let Marlon know.
- A talk show? I’m not sure we’re thinking about the same thing. Do you mean a show with a charming host that invites guests? Marlon wonders in a bit of a confusion surrounding the subject.
- Yes, I call it ProfeTalkshow. Imagine an underground Leno or Letterman, where I’m the host. I haven’t recorded the show at all, because I want to keep the focus on the connection between the guests, me and the audience.
Marlon seems impressed with my idea of a live talk show in an underground setting, and I am also captivated with his vision of bringing a cell phone free entertainment concept on tour around the world. As we both - and probably many of you Profet readers out there - would agree, social media’s hold on us has gotten out of hand. This widespread mass hypnosis that Marlon sees as a trigger for future and present problems in human communication is a more addictive and unpredictable habit than anyone of us could have ever known. We can all rationally see and acknowledge our behavior and how it alters our treatment of each other, yes, we are capable of stepping out of our socially connected selves to describe how we act under the influence of modern technology. However, even if we don’t enjoy this obvious change in our patterns, we are intoxicated enough by the brief high of an Instagram like or a Twitter comment or a Facebook friend request that we can’t shake this addiction.
What Marlon tries to do with Savour The Moment is a very small step in the right direction. It won’t cure our entire planet’s obsession with their phones, and it won’t stab a bleeding hole through Facebook’s back to drain it of all its power, no, but it will change the perception of entertainment for at least the audience present at Marlon’s clubs. If we know that we can’t capture a moment to relive it later, naturally more attention will be paid.
I, as an illustrative example, lost my phone just a few days after my interview with Marlon. Let’s call it an engaging act of gonzo journalism, where I put myself in a demanding situation to fully understand what I’m writing about. This angle sounds better than me just being a clumsy fool with a dangerous habit of spreading my earthly possessions around me like Hansel and Gretel did with their bread crumbs. Now, after a week of phone less existence, I have fully understood the vastness of my addiction, and the way our world has been built for us to communicate less human to human. Societal constructions force our eyes down at the screen, simplifying our every step until we no longer need to walk ourselves. Suddenly finding myself outside of this protective bubble of technological aids, I can breathe clearer but still feel the harsh abstinence pumping though my veins all the way down to my fingers where the phone usually rests.
Losing my phone does give me a more thorough understanding of Marlon Hoffstadt’s incentive for a club night that can only be lived once. I will support his dream in any form it takes, but I’m afraid that I can’t resist the temptation of getting a new phone to once again be swept away into the hazy ignorance of the socially handicapped modern western society.
Previews of Marlon's upcoming EP »Treat Yourself«, released September 21September 9 2018