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Kölsch's First Club: "They Handed Out Cassettes, I Ended Up Listening to One Until it Snapped"

"The music was so alien to me and I was completely drawn to what felt like a "secret" society. I danced so much that night that I couldn't walk for days".
November 21, 2014, 1:13am

Rune Reilly Kölsch has a brilliant name. He's also a fantastic producer and a wonderful DJ. Having toiled in the underground for years, Kölsch's star began to ascend when he signed to legendary Cologne imprint Kompakt. Last year saw the release of his fantastic sods'n'singles collection 1977 which included two of techno's most emotional club bangers of recent years in tearjerker "All that Matters" and the misty euphoria of the piano heavy smash "Der Alte".

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He's had a rammo twelve months - a span that includes winning the Seth Troxler cook-off at Amsterdam Dance Event and dropping an Essential Mix for Pete Tong's legendary Radio One show - and things aren't letting up in the run up to Christmas. This month sees the release of Kolsch's installment of the Balance Presents complilation CD series and him making an appearance at Fire in Vauxhall as part of Bugged Out's 20th birthday celebrations.

We thought it was a great time to catch up with the Copenhagen native and see where his nocturnal life began all those years ago.

My first real club experience must have been back in '92, in Copenhagen. At the time I hadn't really been to a proper rave before so a good friend of mine dragged me out to a local venue where a 'techno concert' was taking place. At the time I was totally skint and barely managed to pay the fee at the door. When we arrived, we immediately felt totally out of place. I was wearing baggy clothes and my friend had long hair and skinny jeans. We looked like a pair of nerds. Everyone else was dressed fully techno; Buffalo Hi-towers and neon was everywhere. The music was super trancey and an act called Construction played a live show. At the end of their set they handed out cassettes: I ended up listening to that one till it snapped. The music was so alien to me and I was completely drawn to what felt like a "secret" society. I danced so much that night that I couldn't walk for days. It was my gateway into electronic music. Weirdly I found that tape hidden away a few years ago. It's shit.

Back then my hang out spot was a record store called LOUD in Copenhagen. I used to make the trip down there pretty early on Monday mornings to make sure that I got my hands on that week's best imports. It was an amazing shop, the kind of place where you get to know the staff and form a bond and they save the records they know you'll like. I really miss that spirit sometimes, meeting the other DJs, hanging out with coffee and stacks of vinyl. The funny thing is that I always ended up buying the records that no one else wanted. I guess my ears were wired differently. I always wanted to avoid the hot jam that week, always wanted to go deeper, picking out the things that others missed. I used to use my residency in a club to see what I could get away with. Happily people seemed to love being challenged.

Closer to home, my good friend and mentor, Kjeld Tolstrup, who sadly passed away some years ago, was my biggest influence as a DJ. We knew of each other for years and years, but you know how these things go – it wasn't until fairly late in my career that we become really close friends. I think it took so long, and then worked so well, because we were exact opposites. We had totally different approaches to the craft. The way he played never ceased to fascinate me. He had that skill that some DJs have; being able to fit literally anything together and have it work perfectly. He would always impress me, and over the years we just found each other as friends, and artists. We would speak for hours and hours about music, and moods, and how a dance floor works. He was one of the few people who could always teach me something new.

In about 1996 I realized that I wanted to spend my life doing this. A bunch of us had gone to Love Parade in Berlin and I had just released my first record. We had decks on the bus, and we were having an absolute blast. The night we arrived we went straight to E-werk, which was this huge techno club that was housed in an old electrical substation. We lucked out because the whole Relief/Cajual crew was playing there and it was simply amazing. We saw Green Velvet, Gemini, DJ Sneak…That night, there and then, I decided that that was it. This was what I was going to do. Just listening to my favourite records on that huge sound system surrounded by a thousand other people all experiencing what I was experiencing changed my life. Is that still the case? Totally. Totally.

Follow Kölsch on Twitter: @KolschOfficial