Monika Enterprise: Offbeat Electronics
- Words: Cameron Macdonald
Germany’s Monika Enterprise arose from living rooms full of refugees. Label founder Gudrun Gut remembers “the Wohnzimmer [living room] scene” of 1997, when homespun venues were some of the only places for underground electronic artists to play in Berlin (as DJs were only welcome in so many techno clubs).
Speaking by phone from her Berlin office, Gut mentions that few labels were interested in developing new artists unless they were chart-bound or one-hit cash-ins. The time was right for building a shelter for those left out. “I started [Monika Enterprise] because I saw all of these artists in Berlin trying to find a place to play,” Gut says. “They played in living rooms; that’s where Monika came from.”
Eventually, huge lines to sit on the sofa sunk the scene, but Gut reminisces about post-techno maven Barbara Morgenstern playing the Vermona organ in Joe Tabu’s loft. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is fantastic!’” Gut relates. “It was the opposite of a big rock concert because they made it really quiet, really nice; somebody baked some cookies. We did it nice, warm–for the people and not for the industry.”
Gut has a history of doing things differently; a former keyboardist for industrial mavericks Einstürzende Neubauten, she later formed all-woman post-punk unit Malaria! (often thought to be Chicks on Speed’s godmothers). With Monika, a label named after her suicidal goldfish, she balances a sense of irreverence with a nurturing environment for artists who typically release comforting, slightly discordant, and often baffling post-techno. Such artists include Morgenstern, psychobilly electro-punks Cobra Killer, and post-rockers Contriva. Gut also runs the Moabit label, which has re-issued records by Malaria! and her other bands Miasma and Matador, and released tracks played on the celebrated Ocean Club radio show that she co-DJs with Berlin techno pioneer/The Orb collaborator Thomas Fehlmann.
Gut recently released 4 Women No Cry, an international compilation that gives 15 minute-plus showcases to four female bedroom electronic musicians/chanteuses: Tusia “TBA” Beridze, Rosario Blefari, Eglantine Gouzy, and Catarina Pratter. The women’s music ranges from lounge numbers possessed by Serge Gainsbourg’s ghost and narcotic lullabies to post-techno C-scans of the soul. “The music wants to be lived,” Gut says. “The own character of the artist stays in the foreground and in the back stands Monika and puts the light on them.”
When asked about what direction she wants to take Monika next, Gut has big dreams, literally. “Time takes me,” she gushes. “I don’t make this kind of business decision, but I’m dreaming of a big Monika house! It should look like an old grand hotel.”
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