Bubblin' Up: Cinthie

The Beste Modus boss muses on her new imprint, balancing motherhood with touring, and remixing Kerri Chandler.
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Cinthie-092 by Marie Staggat

When meeting Cinthie in person, as XLR8R did just a few months ago at a charming cafe along the river Spree in Berlin, you are immediately greeted with a beaming smile and a conspicuous ray of positive energy. It’s not difficult to understand why this veteran German selector has become somewhat of a figure in the vast electronic music landscape of Berlin; her strength and confidence can be seen not just in her character, but also in her music and journey as a producer and DJ.

Although she was born in Berlin, Cinthie spent much of her early years in Saarbrücken just outside of Frankfurt, where she began her career as a teenager in the mid-'90s. Her love of vinyl and digging—a passion inherited from her parents—lead to a job at a local record store, her first gigs at clubs around Frankfurt, and several releases in the early 2000s on Low Spirit sub-label Electric Kingdom. Despite these early successes, the Cinthie we know today did not fully emerge until 2013 when she started her vinyl-only label Beste Modus, which she continues to run alongside friends and fellow Berlin-based artists Diego Krause, stevn.aint.leavn, Ed Herbst, and Albert Vogt. This delayed breakthrough is in part due to Cinthie staying true to her own personal sound, which emphasizes a commitment to vinyl, Chicago house influences, and a stripped-back approach to production.

Remaining authentic seems to have finally paid off for Cinthie. The Beste Modus project quickly gained momentum via the label’s characteristic no-frills house aesthetic, which has made it a reliable source for dancefloor-oriented DJs from the likes of Paolo Rocco, Julien Sandre, Ryan Crosson, and Cinthie herself, who continues to use the label as a platform for her own tracks. The launch of sub-imprint Beste Freunde in 2015 marked a new chapter of success for Cinthie and her crew; in just four releases, the VA series has already racked up a slew of banging four-to-the-floor cuts, including contributions from legends like Franck Roger and Subb-an. And earlier this year she recruited rising UK duo The Willers Brothers to start yet another sublabel we_r house, which aims to highlight a more minimalistic and contemporary take on deep, funky house music.

 Cinthie and the Beste Modus crew in Berlin.

Cinthie and the Beste Modus crew in Berlin.

Aside from her label pursuits, Cinthie continues to gain international recognition for her diverse taste and skill behind the decks. Her involvement with Berlin’s famous Watergate Club has boosted her profile considerably, resulting in more and more gigs at top venues worldwide and further production opportunities (her remix for pioneering house artist Kerri Chandler dropped on Watergate Records last month). And even with all these achievements, Cinthie remains a grounded and approachable presence, still finding time to raise her young daughter and chat with XLR8R over a long Berlin breakfast.

With over two decades of experience as producer and DJ, Cinthie’s first ever exclusive mix for XLR8R is long overdue, but truly reflects an artist at the top of her game. At just under two-hours, the mix has a raw and totally accessible feel, venturing through classic house, disco, funk, techno, and minimal. You can hear the mix in the player below and continue on to read Cinthie’s full XLR8R interview.

Describe your journey into electronic music—when and how did you get into DJing and production?

Everything happened a bit by accident, I guess. I've always been into music and collecting records, just like my parents. One of my friends was a DJ and showed me a few tricks and when I went record shopping at the age of 16, the shop owner asked me if I wanted to work in his shop every weekend. That was back in 1996. Of course, I said yes, and it was from him that I got my first gigs when I was 17. It was funny as they thought I was much older, but I was just very tall for my age.

I quickly was offered a residency in one of the clubs and played with a lot of big names, and then got signed to a label called Low Spirit / Electric Kingdom in 1999 where I released my first tracks and played my first international gigs. I had an Atari and Cubase 2.0 in black and white which was good fun. When I left the label it ended up being pretty hard for me to get noticed or booked as the label was pretty commercial, and people thought I was either playing commercial music or my booking fees were expensive. It was when I started throwing illegal parties in Berlin that I really made a name for myself as a very experienced DJ with good taste in music. But the international breakthrough came only after the launch of Beste Modus with my crew.

Cinthie-027a by Marie Staggat

You’ve been involved with Berlin’s famous Watergate Club since 2014. How has this affected your career as an artist?

Being part of the Watergate crew is absolutely amazing. I love the club, the crew, the staff etc., and especially the Waterfloor downstairs. But I also have to admit that some people still don't understand why I joined them as my music is completely different from what Watergate usually stands for. But since I never went the easy way in my life, I'm happy to bring a fresh breeze into the roster and the club. I'm also happy that they trust my taste more and more and even give me the opportunity to host my own nights regularly, where I host my beloved old-school legends along with some well-known artists and, of course, always keeping an eye on the fresh blood in the underground house scene. Overall I can say that it helped my career a lot, but I’ve also had to work a bit harder to get into in the right clubs when playing abroad and convince people that my music is a bit different.

You recently had the opportunity to remix the legendary Kerri Chandler on his Checkmate EP for Watergate. How did this opportunity come about? Was it challenging to work on material from a pioneer of the genre?

After I joined the Watergate booking agency and became a resident, they asked me if I wanted to contribute some music to the label. Alex, the label manager, came up with the idea to remix one of Kerri Chandler's tracks cause it's no secret, I'm a big big fan. I almost shit my pants and wasn't sure if I could handle the pressure. But no risk no fun...all I could do is do my best and try, and if it all went wrong, at least I’d be able to learn something from it.

You’ve been running the Beste Modus label alongside Diego Krause, stevn.aint.leavn, Ed Herbst, and Albert Vogt since 2013. How has the label changed since your first release?

First and foremost we started our sublabel Beste Freunde (Best Mates) as well as we_r house with the Willers Brothers. The family is growing and so is the label. I'm always pretty shocked when I get the statement from our distributor and see how many and how fast we are selling records. I'm pretty proud about it as we are still kind of underground. In terms of music, I guess we all found our own sound. Stevn.aint.leavn likes it a bit more techno; Diego is the master of the rolling basslines; Ed loves the deep vibes; Albert is our wonky pop singer, and I always love it a bit more raw. But all tracks are still aimed at the dancefloor and that will never change.

Overall the productions have gotten more professional. We also have gotten more attention by some big players who also send demos to us now, and that's definitely something we never thought about when we started. It feels like yesterday when we stamped the first 300 copies and were really scared if we would be able to sell...but the next day they were sold out.

What’s next for Beste Modus and Beste Freunde?

We have two amazing new Beste Freunde EPs in the making and I can't wait to share the snippets. Two great packages with tracks for every time of the night, including some well-known producers and some fresh blood. And soon we will have another listening session for our eighth Beste Modus release. I can't wait to put that together as it will be another VA with all of us.

Can you tell us about your recent collaborations with The Willers Brothers and the start of your new we_r house imprint?

I can't really remember where and when we met for the first time but I think it was somewhere in London. Well, I thought they were lovely guys, and then we would meet here and there and I booked them once for my “we_r house” party in Berlin. We ended up becoming really good friends and soon I created the idea of another imprint for the more stripped back side of house music. The Willers sent me a couple of great tracks and we decided to run the label together with them producing the first release. The next EP will hopefully be a split EP between them and myself.

You’ve been touring more than ever in 2017. Have you played in any new places that have been particularly special?

Yes. I especially fell in love with Vietnam. The scene is rather small there but a lot is happening right now. My beloved Asian booking agency Cliche is based in Hong Kong and Hanoi and they also have their own club there with Savage. It feels funny to travel around the globe and find so many like-minded people. That seriously blew my mind and continues to inspire me a lot. Vietnam is just beautiful, the food is amazing and people are so lovely. I could easily live there eventually.

How do you prepare/select your music for a gig?

I usually go to the record shop every week or buy a lot of stuff online or from Discogs. I'm constantly digging for new music via blogs, Facebook, SoundCloud etc. as I'm always hungry for new stuff. Luckily, I always get a lot of promos sent to me, especially since I started my own radio show at the beginning of the year. I never prepare the order of my sets but I try to organize my bag a bit by genre.

 Cinthie's collection of over 6,000 records.

Cinthie's collection of over 6,000 records.

Has it been challenging to balance a more intense touring schedule with running multiple labels and raising a child?

To be honest, yes. I almost gave up twice. My situation is maybe special as I'm divorced from the father of my child and also my Mom died three years ago. Otherwise, it would have been much easier. But there is always a solution for everything. We now have a lovely au pair who is taking good care of my daughter while I'm away. Some things just need a bit more planning, but overall I can say it got a lot easier since we hired our au pair. But I also try and keep everything balanced. I don't play on her birthday, on Mother’s Day, or on Christmas, for example, and I try to keep a weekend off every now and then. It's important to fill the kid's brain at this age with very good memories and not bad ones being away all the time. It has worked out pretty well so far. But hopefully, she will want to come with me sometimes when she is older. I’m so excited to show her the world.

Where, when, and how was this mix recorded?

I recorded the mix in my studio last week, but I needed to record it a second time. Usually, I go with the first take and I don't mind if you hear me pitching the records here and there. It's just natural. But when I started for the first time, I had a bit of a busy and stressful day and wasn't able to focus. The second try was great!

Did you have a specific vision or mood in mind when creating this mix? 

For me, it's always important that people discover new and unreleased tracks as well as some old or rare goodies. I also love a good transition from a more deep opening towards a bit more banging end.

What else do you have coming up for the rest of 2017?

A lot of gigs, some releases, and remixes, improving my production skills, improving my radio show, hosting my own nights at Watergate, and helping one of my friends with his label Second Base while he is living on another continent. The sound of the label is a bit more techno. And last but not least, we will form a label supergroup, which we are all very excited about it. I’ve been thinking about this project for a while and now we will finally start combining the power of a few labels here in Berlin such as stevn.aint.leavn's Certain Circles, Nick Beringer's Rubisco, we_r house, Beste Modus, Beste Freunde, Second Base, Unison Wax, Walker's Käse Kool, and hopefully a few more that could fit into the label group. I can't wait to tell everyone more about it!