Markus Saarländer exemplifies and expands one of the main roles of the DJ: bringing beautiful music to those who love it. He does this not only through his DJ sets, but through his renowned Berlin events in Brighton, and most recently with his new label Dino Audio. Having played around the UK, Europe, and the beaches of Ibiza, he established a home in Brighton which led to residencies for Hed Kandi, as well as almost all well-known club venues in the city, boat parties, pride, pop up events and more. Beyond creating an impact as a DJ, his aim to “bring the German underground to Brightonians everywhere”, has led to years of stand-out events that capture the lighthearted, community driven, love-filled spirit of the Underground.
While some DJs and promoters might take themselves a little too seriously, Markus radiates with fun and humor, and it’s obvious that his mission for the music is not to put himself in the spotlight, but to focus on the power of the music itself. With his new show Rainbow Frequencies on FRISKY, he’ll have the opportunity to bring that focus to the rest of the world, showcasing the emotional, deep, soul-reaching music that has been inspiring him for so long.
Dive into Markus Saarländer’s story below, and be sure to tune into the premiere of Rainbow Frequencies on November 12th @ 4PM EST [convert timezone] or listen anytime on-demand & offline with a FRISKY Premium Subscription & FRISKY Mobile Apps.
How did you first fall in love with electronic music?
Being a young kid in the 80s, I always loved a good synthesizer! Thinking back to all the TV shows and movies of the time and the epic synth rolling through the opening credits or actions scenes always got me grooving. Even now if there is a show or movie re-run I start tapping away. The theme tune to an 80s cartoon called ‘Mask’ is epic, I re-discovered that recently and forgot how good it was. On a serious note, I first starting getting into electronic music in the early 90s, the German Techno scene started to emerge and I remember the last hour of our school discos always used to bash out some Techno and I was like “What is this sound?!” It sounded like it was from the future – Tracks like U96 – Das Boot, Members of Mayday – Mayday, Age of Love – The Age of Love were just epic to the more chilled sounds of Enigma.
When I came to the UK in the mid 90s I moved around the genres a bit with Hip Hop taking the forefront for a while as I was lucky enough to be around the 2Pac & Biggie era, loving everything by both of them as well as the likes of Nas, Mobb Deep, The Roots, Naughty by Nature and more. I did miss Germany a lot though and this was pre internet and phones, so finding anything from ze homeland in a northern English mill town wasn’t always easy but in a record shop one day I discovered Paul van Dyk’s ‘Seven Ways’ album and thought ‘Ja zis I must buy, it is from Germany!” I was blown away by it and in particular ‘Forbidden Fruit’ and ‘Words’ – That really started my journey properly and when the late 90s really started to explode in terms of Trance and other electronic music that changed everything and I never looked back. One stand out album of the time was the first Euphoria compilation, the sound on that release was groundbreaking for me. The tagline ‘For the Mind, Body & Soul’ was right on the money. Following on from that Tiesto’s ‘In Search of Sunrise Series’ 1-6 were also stunning. Throughout the 00s I was more into the Progressive House sound from the Global Underground Series & Renaissance as well as dabbling in the Fabric and Watergate compilations. Now my sound has settled and is very much in constant rotation between Deep House, Progressive, Melodic House & Techno and if I can get away with it, a sprinkle of Trance…
What were some of the driving factors behind beginning Berlin-Brighton?
It was very much about feeling confident enough to create a night that was in touch with my roots but also a club night that went back to basics, which was about music being at the forefront as well as the people that come to party, rather than VIP and all that shebang. I had DJ’d for many years in bars and clubs, which were very commercial and there simply wasn’t any love for the music rather just what people felt you should play for them. Also a lot of club nights I went to had become very glitzy, expensive and the music just didn’t feel as raw. It’s simple really, I wanted a warehouse, lots of lovely people that would in turn become friends with each other, create a community and all come for 2 main reasons, 1) each other and 2) the music. That’s certainly what Berlin has become and has established itself as a pillar of the Brighton Underground club scene.
Do you feel that the UK scene has changed since you began these events? How is it different than when you first started DJing?
I think it depends where you are in the country. Cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, London, Glasgow all have an underbelly of raw underground nights that you can have access to. It has however become far more apparent that more and more club nights are closing all over the place. You only have to look at London and the number of classic institutions that are no longer around. There is also a saturation of music, as there is so much available online via a multitude of channels and algorithms that feed it direct to you. So I think it an be a bit more difficult to crate dig for good quality music but equally having it at your finger tips isn’t so bad either lol.
So in terms of the events, I have found that in a lot of towns that aren’t in this underbelly of music there is a real desire from people to have established club nights in their town but often they just cant be sustained as not enough people attend – so in that respect I feel it has changed as I remember lots of parties and events going on all the time but there just doesn’t seem that anymore – maybe I’m wrong. Brighton on the other hand is always a funny one as whilst there is demand and enough people – a lot of new nights struggle to get off the ground and it can often be difficult to get something truly raw going. I am encouraged massively however by this new generation of kids who have really taken to social media and combined that with live streams, quirky venues, good local and booked underground talent that are all supporting each other. There have been a some wicked parties started by these guys across the city, so this is encouraging (POLAR, Missing People, Nightshift, Foucault).
Equally that is something that has sustained our scene here in Brighton, as when I started Berlin 4 years ago, there was a lack of raw underground nights and the scene was saturated by commercial nights and clubs, drink deals, stag and hen do’s. I seemed to had arrived during a massive void in Brighton’s underground club culture where people were reminiscing about ‘the old seafront’ clubs and ‘the vibe’ that just didn’t seemed to be there anymore. I wanted to change that and Berlin was born but equally since then a lot of other nights have sprung up and as a scene we have been working together to support each other rather than working against one another, be it through gig shares, promo, equipment, articles or whatever else and I think this has contributed to a good foundation of cool brands that keeps Brighton punching the air again to electronic vibes. To add to that, I feel that 3 radio stations in the city have also massively contributed to an abundance of artists being discovered and heard, which is our station Trickstar Radio as well as Codesouth FM and B1TN.
What is the best part of running Berlin?
Right now, I would have to say the night has become respected internationally with big names wanting to come and play for us based on the reputation that the night has for its vibe, its people and how well we look after the artists. I always wanted to feel that when the artists arrive that they should feel like they are entering a family of music lovers and that the next 24 hours are going to be a lot of fun. So this means I pick them up personally from the airport, get some sightseeing in if there is time and having a little crew together at dinner. The feedback from some of the big names has been great and hearing that feedback from them, their agencies as well as their DJ friends who have played before them, really makes me happy. Berlin is also at the stage now where I am booking artists that I always wanted to see play at our night, artists that I have admired for years and never thought 4 years ago would be rocking the Green Door Store. So that is special and in particular in the last few months with the likes of Timo Maas, Thomas Schumacher and Einmusik partying with us, I am still pinching myself. I remember picking Timo Maas up from the airport and driving down the motorway, laughing and joking the whole way and now and again just thinking to myself ‘Timo Maas is in my car hahaha’ – I’ve followed him since the late 90s and seen him many times over the years and we used to listen to his compilations all the time. Crazy!
What is also special is our crowd – That for me was always the most important thing – Seeing the regulars there every time as well as the newcomers experiencing our quirky party for the first time and leaving super happy. I enjoy seeing them happy, catching up, getting glittered up, hugging, laughing and perhaps only seeing each other once a month at our party. That is special and combining that with top notch underground music is bliss. It is also great to see a strong presence of our LGBTQ community who have embraced the space as a place where they can express themselves and be who they want to be and feel safe. There are so many amazing souls that I love at our party and I am truly grateful that they love it as much as I do.
Are there any exceptional moments from your events that stand out in your memory?
Plenty lol – The usual ones are seeing everybody and seeing the night come together after many late nights and planning. Equally I would say the first night we did back in 2014 – I had never anticipated how popular the night would be and every night since is always rammed to the rafters with queues down the street. We always have a full club room at the end too and when the lights come up there is always lots of applause, hugging and high fiving.
Also recently it was Timo Maas’ feedback when he finished his set when he said “That was one of the best gigs I’ve done all year, next time I’d like to come back and do like 3 hours”. Another highlight was when we started the ‘Berlin Beach Kollektiv’ on Brighton Beach in July 2016 at the Tempest – It was the first Beach Terrace Party of its kind at the venue and we absolutely smashed it – We did sundown and sunrise in one session, which ended up being a 12 hour party. Since then we have been there every summer, packing out the terrace, covering it in confetti and sending quality vibes out to sea.
How about yourself as a DJ – what have been your favorite experiences behind the decks?
At Berlin, it’s always special at our party as I always do the closing set, which has become an institution with the regulars and myself. It’s a special time which normally ends up with the stage and club room full of people and lots of clappy hands and cuddles. Another highlight was 2 years ago at Brighton Pride where I DJ’d on one of the Pride Float Trucks during the parade, which goes through the city for 4 hours, playing to 1000s of people with glitter and rainbows everywhere. That was incredible – On of my cherished moments. Perhaps next year we will do a Berlin Float so watch this space. Brighton Pride is always special as it’s the biggest Pride Event in the UK.
To add to that, it would be meeting and hanging out with one of my fave artists over the last couple of decades Timo Maas as well as warming up for John Digweed at Concorde2 in Brighton in November last year. Diggers has always been one of my heroes and to be the official 2 hour warm up was special. The crowd was amazing too and it took me over 20 mins just to get to the bar after my set – I was mobbed by so many amazing people who loved the set. Definitely a very happy moment. I was too star struck to speak to John though, I was just a bit giddy and didn’t want to be ‘that annoying fan guy’ haha.
What do you think is your most important role as a DJ?
Reading the crowd and having a plan B and plan C. Every night you play can be different depending on the crowd, the number of people, the venue, the person that has played before you and so on. Having your set ready is good prep but be prepared to change it and throw it on its head. That is something experience will give you but also knowing what vibe to play if you’re the warm up or are playing earlier in the night. No one wants to walk into a club room at 23:30 and be smashed around the head with 135 pounding industrial techno – There needs to be a musical progression and journey that build a vibe – Most people when they arrive are chatting, want to hang out for a bit, grab some drinks and then ease onto the dance floor before going wild.
The warm up in particular is something I’ve perfected for many years and a trade I learned from going to Ibiza a lot and spending my days at the sunset strip plus when we do the Berlin Beach Parties at the Tempest, I normally do the first 4-6 hours as the warm up, as it’s all about setting a vibe. Peops who are there early want to sit, eat, drink, chat – that’s what part 1 of the Beach Kollektiv is about, wicked beach vibes – almost Ibiza sunset with a Berlin twist.
Finally, it’s interacting with the crowd. I remember going to see some big names and they just had their heads down and didn’t acknowledge anyone – That’s OK, no issue with that but I do like making an impression and if someone wants to shake my hand and high five me – why not? Isn’t this what most of us DJ’s thought about when we were in our bedrooms, mixing alone, eyes closed and envisaging people loving what we play? They will remember you for it and equally thats how I met most of our regulars who will become your biggest advocates and friends for life.
I’d love to hear about Dino Audio too – your Instagram page and cover art makes me so happy. 😉 What are some of the goals behind Dino Audio and how does it tie in with your other projects?
This makes me happy too! I always wanted to have my own record label and when Berlin started to get traction and took off it seemed a natural progression. We started with guest mixes as part of our Berlin Mixtapes Series, which has included the likes of Dave Seaman, Nolan, Thomas Schumacher, Daniel Steinberg, Kristin Velvet, Robosonic, BAAL and many others so far just to name a few. The next stage was to start the label and roll out some EPs but I struggled to find a name for such a long time, as I felt calling it anything ‘Berlin’ related may pigeon hole us and we are based in Brighton.
I’ve always loved Dinosaurs and I rediscovered them with my little boy, who suddenly was mad about all things with big sharp teeth and scales. One night I was tidying up his toys, which included some dinosaurs and two of them had fallen onto one another and they looked like they were sharing a joke – It really cracked me up and I took a photo and posted it on Facebook. Peops also found this funny, so I started doing more and they became something that people loved and looked forward to – pics of toy dinos doing silly things. Then the instagram page was born and one night I just thought ‘Dino Audio’ – Electronic Music and Dinosaurs! Why not? It would be fun and why do record labels have to be so serious?
I think the music industry can be very like that, so I’d like to think by adding some tune loving, funny and silly dinos into the mix is a refreshing change and if people laugh as well as enjoy the music that’s awesome. All of the album covers therefore follow the original format of toy dinos doing silly things. Plus the logo of our baby T-rex and his big cheeky smile can do nothing but make you happy.
What is the story behind Rainbow Frequencies? What will the show be all about?
I wanted to start a new project that enabled me to fully focus on the sound that I would like to share with the world as an artist. I was toying with the idea of calling the show something Berlin related but I already host a weekly show called the ‘Berlin Radio Show’ on Trickstar Radio every Wednesday and didn’t want to do more of the same on FRISKY. The Berlin show is also is very focused on German artists and labels, so Rainbow Frequencies will enable me to play tunes from many amazing labels from across the world that I love. The show will also enable me to delve deeper and deliver a sound that invokes emotion as if almost feeling a wide spectrum of luscious colours right in your solar plexus. That all sounds rather deep but equally I’d like the show to be a platform to drive many friends who for years have never been into electronic music and thought of it only as ‘boom boom boom’ music, to come and listen and feel something and say ‘wow’.
I am really excited to be joining the team and being able to fully let go and play what I truly love.