Matthias Tanzmann on his Residency at German Clubing Insitituion The Distilery

Apr 18, 2023

Deanna Riling

3 min read

The Distillery in Leipzig, Germany, is easily the most-important club in the city, if not one of the most significant in the entire country. Opened over 30 years ago, it’s the oldest nightclub in former East Germany and is woven into the social fabric of Leipzig. Through years of dance music trends, attacks from developers, and thousands of ravers, it’s still in operation to this day. Its longtime resident, DJ and producer Matthias Tanzmann, reflected on over two decades of spinning for the diverse dancefloors.

Tanzmann first stepped behind the decks in Distillery’s basement in 1996. “It was actually a very big step for me, of course, because Distillery had already by then been a legendary club,” he told Gray Area.

At the time, the downstairs dancefloor had a decidedly more techno slant. It’s a distinction that remains part of the club’s footprint. However, the following year Tanzmann had his first appearance upstairs on the main floor, which leaned more toward house music. This was where he says he felt more at home, noting that sounds were far less defined and not as segmented into niche categories as the present day.

“You could play from here to there, from deep house to almost to techno, and back-and-forth,” explains Tanzmann. “Also, the crowd was absolutely way more open-minded because techno and house were not this established thing as they are now, so people would just go with the flow, and everything was still interesting and new.”

Those that packed the dancefloor at Distillery were as diverse as the sounds. “The crowd was super mixed,” says Tanzmann. “You have a mix of queer people, and then you have somebody in a suit, and a punk, and whatever it was—this really diverse crowd and that kind of got lost on the way when everything established—which is a natural process obviously—but for me this was a very, very interesting time and super fresh and to see all those people was really, really exciting.”

In 2017 Tanzmann spoke to Mixmag about The Distillery’s enduring legacy, explaining why it remains such a pivotal part of German dance music.

“The Distillery has survived because it’s made itself into an institution. It’s kept itself open to a new, young crowd over and over again, which is essential to stay relevant in the electronic music scene because crowds change very quickly over the generations,” he explained. “The Distillery was an abandoned building and it was something created out of nothing. It’s grown, just like the city around it has. The story of the club is like the very beautiful story of Leipzig: young people came, took over an abandoned place and created something nice, that then got famous far beyond the borders of the city. The local government promotes Leipzig as a very liberal, open minded, cultural place. The Distillery is something the city can be proud of, something precious, something that is important for Leipzig’s identity.”

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