CHAPTER 1: Seek and you shall find

Sun was setting down and we stood at the place were Google maps had led us, in the middle of Trivoli park, Ljubljana. “You are now at your destination!” But we couldn’t see fclub – the location of techno music and subculture we were looking for. Is the machine making fun of us, neither of us was laughing. Cold winter evenings do not have any mercy for two wanderers who wanted to have photos of this hidden place before there’s not enough light, without succeeding in the mission as planned. fclub was closed then, and we tried to see inside. Through the glass we gazed at the dark club, starting our journey into the Ljubljana world of techno as outsiders, trying to figure out some meaning of this.

 

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We wanted to know about the scene of techno music in Ljubljana, for we imagined it to be exciting, full of potential to discover, providing a different perception of what music can do in ones life. Even though in Ljubljana there are couple of mainstream clubs arranging techno evenings and concerts, there is also a handful gems of noncommercial techno events, a bit more hidden from the mainstream nightlife. By interviewing producers, promoters and managers interested in these spots we slowly immersed in the scene behind the stereotype image of dull, loud parties and a musical style with a naively supposed lack of variety. It turned out, we where about to meet fascinating people …

 

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We found professionals and enthusiasts of techno all around Ljubljana’s center, accompanying them for the evening, from sunset to small hours. Those guys were not partying then though, as some of them had a party to arrange themselves or just got “back” from work to the place they love the most. But it was not cozy home all the time. One of the interviews we even got on a street near the Ljubljanica, the cities river, in the breezing weather. We went with the flow of the situation, which we thought is already pretty much techno!

Our Interviewees had different expertise in the field of techno. There was Luka, a former Hiphop-artist. We asked him about the way he took now doing techno. He told us in his own halting but very precise way of his former attempts of firstly producing Dubstep, a bass-heavy wobbling kind of electronic music, that is known for its great amount of dynamics, its aggressive sounds and massive drops – drop, one of our first techno-technical terms! A drop is a sudden break in a continuous upbuild of musical tension. Maybe the bass intermits or the frequencies of the music dense to from a point of clear distinction to a kind of noise – just to release the tension in again kicking in at full force! It is a wicked feeling …

Even though there is a lot of energy in Dubstep, Luka told us, he was not able to dance properly to it. It was to slow. So he started to do more classical, faster techno. The tracks you hear in the background of the stories videos are actually his productions, going by the name A Humanoid Individual!
Providing us with more details on what inspires the artists to compose and perform their music, Luka told us that his inspiration comes from different experiences. The only common quality was them being of a certain emotional power – love, death, beauty, the revelations in life. It is about creating, he said – just creating.

Another encounter that was prepared for us by letting go into the flow of techno was meeting Damjan. He is performing as a DJ going by the name Glitteris. Warmly he agreed to answer our questions, even though we did not plan in the first place to interview him – we actually did not know him at all. But that is what happens in this scene, which is not very extensive but more and more convincing to people like us, who discover it.

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Also, there was Andraž, a promoter engaged in ESN, the Erasmus Students Network Ljubljana. Providing us with information about how he organises a techno party, he also was the one, who finally brought us into fclub, the techno site we were trying to attend from the beginning. So our journey to the Ljubljana techno scene was finally on the run. But before we reveal the insights we got at fclub, we have to talk about something else.

That is because than, we met Mi Ha. He is the manager of Modri Kot, a vivid club in the squatted alternative space of old factory ROG in the very center of town …

CHAPTER 2: The base of bass

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ROG is a safe haven to the techno beginners and visitors wanting to hear urban sounds beyond the average. Everyone has the chance to be a part of this subcultural site, which is kept alive without the help of government or public money. Just around the corner to city center, it is located in the old bike factory, that provides its name – ROG. Mi Ha, manager of Modri Kot, told us a lot about the events and importance of ROG for Ljubljana’s scene of music and subculture. Suddenly we got the feeling, that what seemed to be a closed club for outsiders became an open and welcoming opportunity for the curious – to participate not only as the visitors we were, but also getting engaged in creative production or more broadly speaking: building societal richness and variety.

Modri Kot, Mi Ha’s project in ROG, can be translated as “blue corner” – it is just one part of the cluster of different spaces on the reams. Its regular events are quite successful by the measure of the two million inhabitants of Slovenia, Mi Ha told us. About one month, he said. That’s the time he takes for organising a party. We were impressed by the enthusiasm, that had to be behind so much effort, to bring techno music to life.

We promised to come back to Andraž, the ESN promoter who introduced us to another important space in Ljubljana techno scene: he took us beyond the closed doors of fclub – the oldest techno location in Ljubljana – where a party was just to be set up. The DJs and producers got ready, setting up their gear. Workers managed the last adjustments on the lights and sound equipment. The security was also present already – it should be an enjoyable and save event for everyone.

 

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Between two tasks, Andraž managed to answer our questions with a smile on his face. He confirmed the one-month-interval to organise a party. From the view of a promoter like him, this could be a densely busy but also very rewarding time …

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But there are not only upsides to what we got to know better and better as the amazing techno scene of Ljubljana. What was characteristic to the two places we visited – ROG and fclub – was that both of them were actively interrupted by police during their events and parties. We wanted to know about the parties and the reasons for police to visit there often. Is there happening something illegal and threatening all the time, that can’t be rooted out by the government? Or is autonomous social and cultural center seen as a threat to government itself? ROG can be seen politically and culturally active center due to its many organised projects, and it is seen as a safe place for art, self-expression and cultural activities among artists, musicians and people interested of those activities and amusements. There is diversity among activities and people visiting the ROG, which makes the area important to many and enriches its culture. Here is what Mi Ha told us …

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Throwing a party as autonomous author is not that easy as it might sound at first sight. Good preparation and connections in the field help to arrange events in a situation, that might be more precarious than the solid trust of Mi Ha’s shows.

Good parties are the key to tempt new techno listeners and party people around, which is a good opportunity for the established and the new techno musicians to shine and get more supporters to their music. Techno in general seems to be really a community thing, we thought. But how is it actually produced? That was definitely a question for us to be discovered next …

CHAPTER 3: the meaning of techno

Techno is mostly instrumental music, which is created using technology like computers rather than classical instruments to produce the sounds and beats that keep the people dancing. Usually musicians use digital audio workstations, synthesizers and drum machines mixing the beats and changing the rhythms. There are also analog methods to do infectious beats, but we decided to explore how to use a digital audio workstation on the laptop to create music from the scratch. These programs come with different sizes and price ranges, so it might be the most opportune way for techno beginners like us, to produce our first tracks …

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Even without much experience, it did not seem that hard to get familiar with the program. As long as one is undeterred by all the different control buttons, it is a whole playground of sound. Anyone can make techno nowadays. But making music that sounds good is a different story. Like a guitar, everyone can play the strings without producing a beautiful sound. To get the song right, it needs some practice and experience – and an understanding of what techno can mean to you. Does this music move you? Are you able to get lost in its circular transitions and mesmerizing patterns? If not, are you willing to learn? – We posed this questions to ourselves when we exited the spaces we visited, saying goodbye to the great people of Ljubljana’s techno scene. But the answers they gave to us accompanied our way back into the “real world” and made us curious for more. Here is what they said: What does techno mean to you?

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