I’ve done hundreds of interviews as a researcher and performance auditor. Some of the interviews are more interesting than others. No matter what the topic, the key is to listen carefully what people say and be honestly interested in that. That’s how you create a trusted environment and people talk to you.
When I was a bit stuck with writing of my doctoral dissertation in the first years of 2000, I packed my stuff and moved once again to Berlin. Couple of months turned into nine, and while analyzing the interviews on Local Agenda 21 process in Helsinki, I did some urban studies in the side-lines. So some more interviews on an even more interesting topic.
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, there was suddenly a lot of unoccupied, abandoned, and more or less ruined spaces in the middle of the city. Combine that with the rise of electronic music, and you have the world class facilities for flourishing techno club culture.
By 2000, with intensive developing, building and reuniting two cities into one, the property prices had started to rise and there was less such empty space available that you could simply walk in and occupy. The clubs were under such a pressure that they had formed a Commission to strengthen their voice towards the authorities and property owners.
At the same time, clubs started to have interested stakeholders to talk to. Perhaps against the stereotype, as loud as the clubs can be and operating in weird hours, they can be good tenants for property owners who want to rent the premises temporarily before a massive renovation or rebuilding work starts. Meanwhile, the city of Berlin had understood the importance of clubs as a “Standortfaktor”, the locational attraction especially for younger tourists and for the image of the city as a cool new capital for creative people. An interesting example of Richard Florida’s creative city theory.
Berlin’s clubs have a strong identity of independence, they are part of the alternative scene and many had in their early days an illegal status. Therefore, it could be considered as quite a reorientation when clubs formed an organised Commission. To understand all this, I wanted to interview the head of the Clubcommission. He suggested on the phone to have a chat in his club in the city district of Mitte.
He: “How about tomorrow at twelve.”
Me: “Sounds good. I’ll be there. But, hey, wait a minute, at 12 day or night?”
He: “Night of course. I open at 12 at night.”
Me: “Oh yes, sure.”
And of course it was a perfect time for a quiet talk, as no-one goes to clubs in Berlin that early.