Getting to know: Steffen Bennemann
WAS. is very excited to welcome the legendary Nachtdigital crew on February 9th to Utrecht for the very first time. Nachtdigital does not engage in collaborations on a whim, so coming to WAS. is a calculated decision. They heard about WAS. from very early on. This was after Map.ache (one of Nachtdigital’s residents) played in the club in 2017 and came back full of excitement.
Words fail to describe Nachtdigital, but maybe ‘unique’, ‘intimate’ and ‘bold’ are a good start. I sat down with the musician, dj, promotor and curator Steffen Bennemann, who likes to swim in rivers, lakes and the sea in summer and enjoys going to sauna in winter. More importantly, he’s the main artist booker at Nachtdigital. He attended the first two editions of the festival as a teenager and then joined the crew in the fourth year. This year will see the 22nd edition of the festival, so he’s been part of Nachtdigital for more than half of his life.
What are the core values of a Nachtdigital party?
Steffen: Focus on the essentials and give the best you can. Nobody is perfect and if we wouldn’t keep on learning new things every year, we would have stopped a long time ago. That being said, I feel we are best when we concentrate on what we have done for so many years: Be together with our friends and just celebrate how much we love doing things together. This vibe usually transfers to our visitors. This makes the atmosphere loose and friendly, not too stiff or serious, but also not completely out of everything. Proper family kind of vibes.
How do you maintain these core values for a Nachtdigital club edition?
Steffen: We like projects that are done with love because that is what speaks to us. Of course we like to work in environments where the basics are done right, like good sound/light/space/team spirit etc. Our club events are always collaborations, so it never gets boring and it’s always about finding compromises between different people. This is how we learn from one another and as this is one of the key things at Nachtdigital, it should also be at the core of our club events. We also like it to be playful and fun, that our events feel light and cheerful, not too forced or serious.
You’re booker for Nachtdigital now, how do you create a line up for the festival? Are you looking for a particular sound, even though the sound of the festival is so versatile? And how does this work when you’re booking the line-up for a club edition? Especially when you’re not that familiar with the venue and the city yet?
Steffen: Every year I have a list of artists that I definitely want to play our next edition. This is the backbone of the program and my starting point for the curation. We choose a theme for each edition of the festival and I try to adapt my vision for the musical program to that. It’s not so easy as our themes are usually a bit goofy and rather abstract but it’s fun to play around with stuff like that. Our theme for this year is MINT so we tried to think of stage settings and ways of programming that are fresh, like a breath of peppermint.
For our club events we always collaborate with local promoters in order to create an event that is relevant and interesting for the local scene and also presents some ideas and ways of doing things that are typical for Nachtdigital. So for WAS. Veronique and me exchanged ideas of how we want to use the space and who we would like to play and we found a common ground quite fast. We always try to find a mixture of local talent/residents of the venue and Nachtdigital residents and friends. Especially when booking big names we only book artists we’ve had at the festival before, so we know the people and they know us.
Can you describe the sound of Nachtdigital, and what makes festival after so many years still stand out as a concept?
Steffen: It’s quite hard to pin down a certain sound as characteristic for Nachtdigital. In the past two decades we’ve done everything from Modeselektor to James Holden to Margaret Dygas to Africa Hitech, usually before they became regulars at all the big festivals. All in all, I would say we gravitate more towards the subtle forms of sound and less towards the obvious big room professionals. We think rules are there to be broken, so almost every year we do something that people wouldn’t expect from us.
Can you describe the artists playing at WAS. and why you have chosen them?
Steffen: There will be an Ambient room and a Dance room and special sets in both. For example: last year we asked Johanna Knutsson if she would be up for playing an Ambient live set at Nachtdigital and it was a true highlight. This is only the second time she performs it, so I’m really happy she brings all her gear to Utrecht to play for us again. The Dance room will also see live sets by Map.ache and cmd q.
What are you expecting for this Nachtdigital edition in Utrecht? And what can we expect?
Steffen: A lovely night with nice people and good music. I’ve been in Utrecht a couple times but this is our first Nachtdigital event here and we are very happy we can do this at WAS. I’m looking forward to every single performance, no matter if live or DJ. It’s quite a rare experience for me to have so many artists I like combined in one night, so this will be a pleasure from start to finish.
Even though the vibe of Nachtdigital is loose and friendly, Steffen thinks it’s best that the people come and create the atmosphere themselves. So catch Steffen Bennemann and lots of other Nachtdigital residents together with local talents next Saturday (09.02) at WAS.
31.01.2019 - Words by Toine van der Lingen and Steffen Bennemann