Running a nightclub in 2017 is not easy, let alone one in a city where partying is part and parcel of the city…but this year Berlin’s Watergate is celebrating its 15th anniversary – an incredible accomplishment especially in a city like Berlin, where party and after party and after after party options are seemingly endless.
Nestled just off the Oberbaumbrücke as you join the achingly hip Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain districts of Berlin, Watergate has been one of the destination nightclubs for quite some time. Whether it’s the legendary lighting system that so many have tried to replicate, to the all night (and day) parties from some of electronic music’s leading tastemakers – Diynamic and Cocoon spring to mind – 15 years of Watergate is an incredible achievement.
To celebrate the landmark achievement, Team Watergate having been busy. From a world tour to open air parties to a very special compilation, the team have really gone to town to celebrate such a landmark. Ahead of the release of the compilation, Sam Keefe caught up with Uli Wombacher aka Metro to pick his brains on all things Watergate and more. Not only resident at Watergate but also chief booker at the club.

Congratulations on your 15th anniversary! It feels like not many clubs make it that far these days – what do you think the reason is for Watergate not only surviving but being successful for so long?

Thank you very much!

We didn’t expect this ‘project’ to go on for that long but in a way we put the foundations down by signing the first contract over 10 years for our location. At the time, around the end of the 90’s, clubs were still moving around a lot and never had a stable ‘home’ in Berlin. People rented warehouses, unused buildings and cellars and installed more or less illegal clubs. By the time the buildings we’re put in use again by the owners clubs closed down and move onto the next location. Watergate was actually one of the first clubs to have a stable home in terms of location…all planned of course. The problem for clubs now is gentrification. We’ve seen our rent increase dramatically and we need to fight hard to continue and still maintaining the quality we’ve set ourselves.

Also we’ve always tried to stay ‘modern’ and go with the times and trends. The music has evolved in the last 15 years – from a pure underground sound to music the kind of music that everybody likes today. With the amount of music and artists out there it’s very important to be selective and stick to a certain taste without becoming too eclectic in what you do. I think we somehow managed to walk that thin line and strike a balance with everyone in the team still being a music enthusiast driven by passion for the culture rather than a promoter that’s looking at numbers.

How has Berlin transformed in those 15 years – you must have seen a huge amount of changes!

Berlin has changed a lot since the 90’s. We’ve been in this game for over 20 years now, even before Watergate was around. The city has lost a lot of it’s innocence, the struggle to make a living has become harder, rents have gone up and housing in general has become a problem with everything becoming more expensive in the last few years. That kind of development limits artistic developments of course. People cannot spend as much time on arts as they used to and everything has to somehow make profit in order to pay the bills. On the other side the scene is way more organised now, way bigger and there’s a lot of different sounds existing peacefully next to each other.

However, Watergate has somehow stayed the same over the years. Of course we have added a terrace and the LED lights at some point and also the team has changed here and there but the main people are still here and the club has not changed much – which is hopefully a good thing as it’s always good to have something you can rely on ;)

Definitely! And the party tourism must have helped you no doubt?

Yes. We’ve managed to become an ‘international’ club in Berlin. We have always been very open and appreciative of music tourism and not trying to be a place for Berliners only. We appreciate people from all over the planet uniting at a rave in Berlin. That always was the idea –  no boundaries, as long as the people fit together there can always be a party, no matter what race or culture or where you come from.

You’ve had so many incredibly artists perform at the club and continue to do so – are there any artists that really stand out that have helped the club get to where it is today?

Oh we have to thank each and everyone who contributed his arts to the club, from the small deep house artist to the big techno act. There are a few people that the club has grown with over the years that are now superstars in the scene and still come and play at the club on a regular basis. All those artists that stayed humble and didn’t forget their roots, they’re the ones we have to thank. We wouldn’t be where we are now without them, maybe the other way round too ;)

Any standout parties in the last 15 years?

Well there’s been a lot and the best one’s are the one’s you can’t remember everything. Isn’t that a saying?!

Of course NewKidsOnAcid Parties with Zip, Ricardo and the gang have always been a highlight and it is still running yearly here at the club. The early Groove Parties were amazing, incredible lineups from today’s perspective and nothing that could ever be repeated today. Sven Väth’s yearly club takeover with the longest sets on the planet, Solomun’s all night long sets, DJ Koze the night before New Years Eve…so so many! More recently our new Thursday’s series around two DJs only all night long are really exciting. Get a back to the old long sets and DJs developing their music over a whole night. We’ve also got Butch’s ‘Down the rabbithole’ series this summer which will fun!!

What can we expect for the next 15 years for Team Watergate?

We just go our contract extended so there will be a few more years for Watergate at the old location. Not sure if we’ll make it to the 30 years but 20 at least and even that is a long time then. I am not sure if a club in town has ever existed for so long and it we get there that is already a huge achievement.

We will try and stay as fresh and up to date as we can. We’ll constantly be on the lookout for new sounds and music and hopefully still be the aim for lots of artists to play at. For the label and the agency, we’ll of course try and have these two branches grow more in the future. In comparison to the club they are still young so still a lot for us to explore. Let’s see where it all goes…

Tell me a bit about the new compilation you’ve got coming up to celebrate?

The compilation encompasses music from our residents like Matthias Meyer, Jimi Jules, Marco Resmann, La Fleur, Tiefschwarz through to friends and cohorts who have close ties to the club such as Butch, Henrik Schwarz, Ellen Allien, Kollektiv Turmstrasse…too many to mention! Watergate XV comprises of a plethora of sounds you have come to anticipate from our home along the Spree. We think this music perfectly captures our essence, whether it’s under our famous LED’s, on the waterfloor watching the sunrise or at any of our showcases and open airs the world over. We’re very excited about it!

Anything else planned to celebrate turning 15?

Oh, we had a few 15 years events this year already with amazing artists and crazy nights but the 3rd November was very special to us because we invited a lot of the old timers and old friends to celebrate with us, not necessarily artists but also crew, people that once worked at the bar, staff and partners that you don’t see when you go partying but that make or have made the Watergate machine work. 3rd November is all about celebrating 15 years of the family!

Watergate XV
Watergate Records

Formats: 2CD (WG023), Vinyl Box Set (WG023X), Digital
Release date: 06.11.2017

The box set contains: 5×12″, 2xCD, Book “Sound Travels” by Linus Dessecker, Illustration by Frank Höhne, 2 tickets for Watergate club, high quality linen packaging. All tracks are new, unreleased and exclusively produced for Watergate XV. The box set is limited and numbered to 1000 units.

Order Watergate XV Now