HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

July saw the tenth installment of the Melt! Festival, about an hour outside Berlin. An amazingly friendly festival, it had a really varied mix of freshest music, especially new and original 'electronic' stuff (yes, we know, it’s all electronic in the end, but you'll know what we mean when we explain that Richie Hawtin, Goldie, Kelis, Unkle, Booka Shade, Digitalism, Alex Smoke and zillions more shared the same bill quite happily). Best of all, it happened at a venue that was nothing short of inspired: a former open-cast mine now open-air museum of industrial machinery – a graveyard of immense cranes, under which tiny humans raved away at night (Melt! sensibly gives everyone the daytimes off to recover). We caught up with one of the organizers…

> Interview & Introduction : Simeon Paterson _ Photos: Bernard George, Stephan Flad, Marc Seebode, Geert Schafer


Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

Q : Name, job description?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : Stephan Lehmkuhl. I do the programming, the booking, logistics, hospitality, I'm one of the production managers, also handle the security, entrance... I'm one of the three masterminds of the event, if you like.

Q : What are the origins of Melt festival?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : The event started eleven years ago, when it was mainly electronic music, a bit like a rave in a way but still quite different from other raves in Germany. It had an advanced musical approach in it's mix of live acts and DJs. Ten years ago, you never had an event like that that also included indie music. In fact, that is part of the reason for the name Melt! -- lots of different sounds blending with each other.

Q : Who organises it? Are these the same people who started it?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : Some of the original people are still involved, but the promoter group actually changed four years ago. The festival had been affected by some very bad weather and that caused the previous promoter financial problems which meant the festival didn't happen in 2003. He was a friend of mine however and Intro Publishing (Intro is a German music magazine, with additional publishing and commercial interests) had always really supported the event and had always been the main media partner, so we got talking about cooperation and ended up taking over organisation of the event, relaunching it in 2004.

Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

Q : Why Ferropolis?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : The original organiser found it by chance. He was driving around in the area and saw the cranes and diggers and, since he was looking for a new venue as there had been some problems with the previous venue, he asked about using it for Melt! But it wasn't really as festival-ready back then. There was no lake (it was a disused open-cast mine), no main arena and they had only just started to make a museum out of it. So you could say that the location and the festival have developed together. Now there's lots of green, an artificial lake you can swim in and proper stage areas. Next year we will even have boats on the lake!

Q : How does Melt differ from other big German festivals?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : It's very different from other German festivals. There are lots of rock festivals in Germany. They run from about 10am to midnight with maybe a party tent after, but not much electronica and not much on late at night. Either that or huge techno raves that only have electronic DJs. Melt! has a different musical genres mixed together. No other festival in Germany has techno, hip-hop, rock, etc all at the same event and none of them really do a night festival, running from late afternoon until 7am. It's more like an event in Spain perhaps. Many people say to me it's the most Spanish festival in Germany.

Q : When did planning for Melt! 2007 begin?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : Well, we're talking about ideas for 2008 already and we'll start booking artists in about October, but the main work on the production side happens March to July.

Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

Q : Roughly how many people are involved?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : We're a small group, just three or four people. But when you include all the other people -- security, stage hands, crews, etc -- it comes to something like 600.

Q : How would you describe the crowd?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : We have lots of people who don't go to many other festivals. People come because they're really into all kinds of music. It's a really peaceful, friendly crowd too, more so than other festivals, including in Germany. Security don't have much to do. The audience in the last few years has changed a bit. It's a really interesting mix: some ravers -- but not your typical ravers -- people who like hip-hop, indie... Older people as well as younger. It's a really special atmosphere and people notice it. More like a club vibe, really. We've been getting more international visitors too, about 10% or so. Lots from Holland but a few from the UK and elsewhere too.

Q : Ever had any major disasters?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : We've had some scary moments with the weather. It has generally been good for all the Melt!s we've run but has often been bad in the days before it starts (this year was no exception). In 2005 we had a kind of tornado right over the festival site, which was made even more extreme because of the lake. The festival had just started and we had maybe 500 people there and suddenly the tornado hit. It only lasted about 15 minutes but it was enough to destroy the stage. But then the sun came out just as Maximo Park played some acoustic songs (the electrical equipment couldn't be used because of the heavy rain) and the weather was beautiful for the rest of the weekend.

Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

Q : Who were your favourite acts from the weekend?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : We don't have so much time to check out the acts generally but I really enjoyed Hot Chip, also Booka Shade. Booka Shade aren't quite as well known in Germany as they are abroad, despite being German (!) so it was a nice surprise to see so many people at that set. I was surprised too that Trentmoeller was so popular. He was great but his music can be quite extreme so I didn't expect to see so many people there. The Melt! crowd is very open-minded though.

Q : Why does the German music scene seem to be so healthy these days?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : The German music scene has developed really well in the last four years. Now that scene might be a bit over and we might see some other acts coming through. Acts that have been around for 10, 15 years like Tocotronic (godfathers of the German indie scene) could be very important. There are lots of people listening to them and bands like them, especially people in their 30s now.

Q : What does the future hold for Melt?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : This year was a good basis for next year. It worked out almost exactly like the image of the festival we imagined when we took it over four years ago. In future we can add a bit more comfort for visitors and we'll always work on the line-up but we don't want to make it bigger. This year wasn't too packed but there is only space for maybe 1000 or 2000 more.

Q : If you could check out any festival or party, anywhere in the world, which would it be?

Stephan Lehmkuhl : I've never been to Roskilde (one of Europe's biggest festivals, in Denmark), I really should check that out. Also Glastonbury, I really want to see that. I've heard great things about the Glade festival in the UK too (a cutting edge electronica affair, complete with uber-cool 'secret' location). My favourite of the one's I've been though has to be Benicassim in Spain.

Stephan Lehmkuhl Interview

End of the interview

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