Insiders – Ralph from ic! Berlin


He did a naked catwalk, secretly dreams of being an opera singer and became a millionaire by selling screwless design eyewear. Ralph from ic! Berlin is a bit of celebrity, though he doesn’t quite see it that way. He’s a cultural pedagogue gone founder, who now spends a good deal of his time living in the day-to-day anarchy of a life with three kids. Here he talks business, Berlin and what he would as Germany’s chancellor.

Important things first. You did a catwalk… naked. Why? (Watch the video)
We had this idea. We wanted to sell jeans besides our glasses, but just one single model. So obviously we couldn’t just present it. It needed to provoke. Maybe even hurt a little. My idea was this – the modern man has so much clothes to choose from, he can’t decide what to wear and accidentally goes out naked. And so I did.

That sounds like it required a lot of bravery. Maybe a bit of craziness, too?
Most of all it required a lot of radicalism. Being radical in the role I was playing was the key. If you told me to run through Soho House naked now, I would do it.

Okay, run through Soho House na-… just kidding. Can everyone learn being radical?
You can teach anyone the tools to stay in character. In that case, being naked was the role’s costume. So actually I wasn’t naked, I was wearing the role. It only gets embarrassing when you can’t to pull it off and stick to the role.

Are you playing a role when you go out there as Ralph from ic! ?
Not really. I’m the guy who comes to a party, says hello to everyone and then leaves. I don’t drink, so I’m not really the party guy.

You don’t… what? why?
Drinking isn’t my cup of tea and parties are literally made for drugs. Remove drugs from the nightlife and it’s done and gone. The only exception is music – when the music is really really good, that’s all the drugs you need.

What sucks about Berlin?
Friedrich Liechtenstein is a good friend of mine. He’s a gifted singer and songwriter. But sometimes, he completely fucks up his show. What he says then is: „Yeah, I know. Just imagine this was a very very well made movie about a guy who completely fucks up his show“. He’s the prime example for all of Berlin – people just don’t try very hard. At the same time, that’s also the best thing about Berlin.

Did you ever want to quit ic! and just leave it be?
There was a point when I was close to quitting. The other two founders and me were these three guys from Oldenburg having this big business love affair. After 5 years a fight over the company’s future broke out. I went through it with clenched teeth and didn’t like it one bit. I was close to calling it quits, when an adviser told me to fight through it. In the end I was glad I did – it earned me the company.

Do you work extra hours?
I don’t actually work that much. ic! Berlin was designed to run on its own at some point. And it does.

So what do you do on an average day? Usually one of my kids sleeps over, I cook some breakfast, do Tibetan yoga, go jogging, grab some lunch and pick up my smallest kid in the afternoon. After that, I’m usually living in my children’s day-to-day anarchism.

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?
Become an opera singer.

Your future CV says you’ll be chancellor from 2034 to 2044. What’s the first thing you do? I’d stop speaking. Once, I didn’t talk for 3 days for an art event. It creates a crazy tension. Since politics is essentially made of words, not speaking as a chancellor would be a great experiment.

Berlin in 3 words?
Laid-back. Lazy. Creative.


Insiders – Sheila Wolf


This month’s interviewee ranks among Berlin’s foremost burlesque Drag-Queens. When entertainment time is up, she turns into Wolfgang and runs an ad agency. We present: Sheila Wolf!

First things first – how did you become a Drag Queen?

I guess I’ve always had a knack for dressing up. I started as rockabilly as a teen, before I met this drag couple. I was really fascinated about the way they were living. Years later, I started dressing up too and posted pictures on blogs before there was even MySpace. At some point I really wanted to go public. And I did. The adrenalin rush was intense, it almost felt like I was riding a wave. It turned into a hobby. 

Why the name “Sheila Wolf”?

Well.. I felt a little shy at first, so I called myself “Shei”. Of course that turned out to be nonsense. I’m not shy at all! I changed it to “Sheila”. “Wolf” is part of my real name. Wolfgang.

You’re a prominent Drag Queen, run an ad agency and have a family – how do you manage?

It’s all about time-management really. Sometimes important things fall by wayside – the agency, the shows and sometimes even family. It’s not always easy to handle all things well. When it comes to money, the agency comes first. That way I’m independent from the money I make with the shows. It stays more enjoyable that way.

How did your wife react when you revealed you wanted to dress up as a woman?

She was worried – is he turning gay? Does he want to be operated? Or is he just going crazy? Honestly, I think people are either born hetero or gay. They don’t turn gay by some magic force. After that was settled, she was a little concerned I’d fall for one of the young girls in the narrow changing rooms. But the way my dress pinches off my penis… nothing even could happen. *laughs* On the stage I tease men and women a like, but it never goes beyond teasing.

I thought most drag queens were gay. Are there many hetero drags? 

There’s definitely a lot of hetero guys in mommy’s clothes who post it online. They like to dress up in private, but I don’t think anyone does it the way I do in public. It works because for me it’s nothing sexual. It’s a show, a provocation – it’s burlesque!

What do you love about being a drag?

A younger me would have said: I love being able to take a vacation from myself. My personality changes when I get styled. Sorrows and worries just disappear with the dress. Now I’m managing 3-5 performances a week, so it also gets stressful. What still drives me is the chance to connect with amazing people and make new friends along the way. 

Do people sometimes feel offended by your look?

I found this see-through look 3 years ago. It looked like I was nude below. A woman’s body. Of course it’s all an illusion. But sometimes, real tough hetero guys can’t tell in the dark. They approach, expecting to find a curvy lady. What they get is a little different. I think I already caused some heart-attacks. Some get confused by the deep voice and run away, others get aggressive. Then it’s time for me to tell them to calm down and soothe the waves. But the thing is… I really like to provoke.

You were born in Berlin. How did the city change in the past 10-15 years?

I love Berlin. I’m in a happy and deep relationship with this city, it’s literally the only place I’d want to live. But it’s easy flair from the 80s is long gone, what’s really pissing me off today is gentrification. Small shops and venues have to close for malls and large chains of stores. Parts of the creative scene are breaking away because they can’t afford the rents anymore. It’s sad to see, but no one leaves anyway. 

Berlin in 3 words?

Creative. Colourful. Sleepless.

What’s your favourite place to go?

My new favourite restaurant is Funky Fish on Alte Kantstrasse. Amazing selection of fish dishes and absolutely delicious! A must-visit if you’re in Berlin is our city’s little Moulin Rouge: Wintergarten.

Ok, we know where we’re going to dinner tomorrow! Thanks for the interview, Sheila.

If you want to see Sheila Wolf perform live, swing by at her new revue show at Wintergarten on October 15th. Sheila invited the crème de la crème of the international cabaret and burlesque scene, rounded up by a portion of boylesque and drag. Learn more here


Insiders – Dirk Dreyer / General Manager 25hours Hotel Berlin

This month’s interviewee is hotel director and former DJ Dirk Dreyer. He’s been well-known in Germany’s house scene and was a DJ from 1995-2009, before becoming hotel director for Berlin’s Lux 11, Indigo Hotel, nHow Berlin and finally 25hours Hotel. His career has been stellar behind the decks as well as behind the desks, and we’re thrilled to have hime for our interview series!

Hey Dirk. First things first. From DJ to hotel director – you’ve made quite a career. How did it all begin?

When I was a kid I used to record tapes from the radio and play them on the school bus. Even then I would secretly observe how everyone reacted to the songs. At 18, I had my first residency in a Frankfurt club, but it wasn’t until the mid 90s that I really started digging house music. My job at BMG back then was a perfect fit. I was sending new tracks to DJs to get feedback, so I had an almost unlimited access to fresh music. At some point I had collected 15000 vinyls! When I started working for Sony, we created the dance department and signed hits like Run DMC’s “It’s like that”. The platin disc is still hanging on my wall today. In the bathroom.

You were born in Frankfurt – a city rooted deeply in electronic dance music, much like Berlin. What was the 90s Frankfurt scene like? Sex, drugs and hedonism? 

I was too young to actually understand what was going on behind the scenes. The techno scene had very distinctive marks. Short hair, bomber jacket, combat boots. Not nazis, but very martial looking. Berlin already had a flourishing gay scene in the 90s, while Frankfurt was very hetero, very straight. The gay scene was small, but it was there. In the end, going partying with my gay friends was what really shifted me towards house music. I was the only hetero in that clique. I enjoyed everything from going out with them to their hysterical fits!

So, why come to Berlin? 

Sony’s headquarters moved to Berlin. As a DJ in his late 20s I was absolutely thrilled. My own office at Sony Center and the city was waiting to be discovered. It was what everyone was dreaming of. I had only been to Berlin for the love parades until then and all of a sudden I would live here! I went to five parties a night. We turned days into nights and nights into days. Berlin’s culture and nightlife is still a major drive in my life. The experiences, the endless possibilities, the unexpected encounters and most of all – the people. It’s like the whole world is sending their best folks to Berlin.

Berlin has a firm grip on its night owls. Are you still going out?

Well, the last time I went to Berghain was 2 years ago. I wanted to see Danny Tenaglia and he was playing at 6 in the morning. I was really worried maybe I couldn’t stay up so long anymore. We arrived at 2 in the night and my worries were soon gone. We left at 2 in the afternoon. It was then I knew I still had it in me! Not without a hang over for several days, but still. These days I mostly party in the first half of the night. And I usually sit. 

From DJ to hotel director – quite a jump. Why did you make the change?

I met my wife in 2005 and she already had a kid. We became a small family. It didn’t really feel good anymore to come home from parties and sit down at the breakfast table. So one night, I had a fateful dinner with a hotelier. I was hoping he’d connect me to one of his clients like Adidas, Red Bull or T-Mobile. It seemed to make sense to find a job at a music affine lifestyle brand. Two bottles of wine and a few shots later, he convinced me to become hotel director for Lux 11, Mitte’s first boutique hotel. He said he needed someone who knows the city and who’s known by the city. Next morning I woke up with a hangover and thought: Well, that didn’t go to plan. It was a jump into the deep end, but an amazing chance at the same time.

It worked out perfectly. Since your successful start at Hotel Lux 11 in 2009, you also ran hotels like Indigo and Berlin’s music hotel nHow. What do you think are the hotel trends for the future? 

There are two major trends right now. First – huge standardized places like Motel One. They’re big, affordable and efficiently designed. The services and equipment are reduced to a minimum, guests only get what they really need. The other trend is boutique and design hotels with a distinctive atmosphere, just like 25 Hours. Style and form create individual experiences for the guests. I think in the future we will see a repositioning of older hotel brands. Today’s travellers have grown up in the world’s Motel Ones and many express themselves through their choice of hotel. These people will opt for stylish places that fit their needs for individuality. So, the new mainstream hotels will be more stylish by default and adjust to the trends we see now. 

In your eyes – how has Berlin changed in the last 15 years?

The city has become a lot more organized. When we were throwing parties in the early 2000s, you’d call some phone number, arrange a location with some random guy and you would be lucky if things went halfway according to plan. It’s on a really professional level now. It lost some of its charming spontaneity, but that has more reasons. 15 years ago there were many free spaces for up for the taking. That was all part of the zeitgeist, you can’t keep the same state forever. I really like the new internationality. I feel that just the right people are coming to Berlin, from all over the world.

What’s you favourite place for food and drinks?

My favourite restaurant is the Pantry. Only few restaurants manage to create great all-round experiences, there it’s just right. Cozy armchairs, an harmonious concept, great design, music and a very friendly staff. My insider tip would be Korean restaurant Maru in Friedrichshain. The owner has dyed peroxide blonde hair and looks a little bit like a villain from a Hollywood movie. It’s an uncomplicated venue with great food. I often go there with my family.

If there was one thing in Berlin you could change, what would it be?

Berliners just love complaining. Not everything new is a threat. Cheer up people!

Insiders – Marcello

He’s celebrities’ secret bogeyman. His words can set reputations on fire, or catapult them to the top of olymp. He’s Berlin’s cheecky whirlwind and possibly the coolest gossip columnist EVER. We present: Marcello!

We’re glad you could make time for us, Marcello. How does one become a gossip columnist?

Berlin’s nightlife always played a major role in my life. I started going out at 16. Two years later, I became a gogo dancer. I met lots of people during that time. From David Bowie to Blondie, everyone was thriving on the hedonistic Berlin nightlife. When I took up a job as make-up artist and worked with the likes of Marlon Brando, I had to cut down the partying. In the early 90s a friend of mine founded the 030 magazine and said “Hey, you know everyone! You should write about it!” So that’s what I did. I was sick of actors anyway. They’re all crazy. I work as a Berliner now (laughs).

So… how do you learn people’s secrets? Surely they don’t just tell you everything because you ask nicely.

My former column was called “Marcella’s heiße Spalte”. I was living as a transsexual back then – not a trash tranny, always with style. It was the perfect image for my column. I went to the parties looking totally normal, so no one expected that I was Marcella. People told me their secrets and soon Marcella would pick them up in her column. They never figured out it was all one person. These days I’m not Marcella anymore. My column is now published in somewhat bigger newspapers. Look for “Partyspionin Rita Bond” in the B.Z.!

Secrets… what kind of secrets?

Oh, this and that. Who’s opening a new club, who is fighting whom, the small-scale wars between different scenes… sometimes I spilled a few secrets I probably shouldn’t have. I admit I enjoyed that a little bit.

Don’t people get pissed off when you write about them?

Oh, they do. Tough luck! But I don’t just write to expose little stories. My column has always depicted trends, too, like the nightlife scene moving from “one love, one family” to the separatism that clubs like Berghain and Kater Blau celebrate so much. Some people do get pissed, though. Once author Benjamin von Stuckrad Barre wanted 18.000€ for the use of ONE word. It ended in court with the payment of 150€. Then there was this girl. She climbed Kingsize’s bar counter on the closing night, got her boobs out and splashed champagne all over them. A person who does that obviously wants to be at the center of attention. I took a lovely picture and sent it to the 24h B.Z. live ticker. A year later she sued us for 4.000€. We took the picture offline of course. But we don’t pay for stupidity.

How do you know where the celebrities hang out?

From my spies in the gastronomy scene! Often I’m simply invited to celebrity events though, after all they need gossip to remain the talk of the town. I approach them, tell them I work for a newspaper, do a little small talk and that’s usually all it takes. The trick is to be as tipsy as they are, otherwise they think you’re plotting something.

What’s your craziest story?

Some time ago Kate Moss was in Berlin to present a new perfume series. I was invited too, so when she was finally done getting drunk and we were allowed in, I asked her for a picture. She became very rude and insulted me, so I thought to myself “Allllright baby. I will not be treated this way!” She was so drunk, I knew it would just be a matter of time until she’d do cocaine on the toilet. So I waited. It paid off. I took a lovely picture of her, coming out of the cabin, white crumbs still dripping from her nose. She snapped and punched me in the face. I have a great picture of that too. 

Do celebs NEED gossip?

Oh yes! Celebs below B-list will do anything for a bit of press coverage. What people don’t realise is most celebrities aren’t rich. They live on fame and attention.

What do you think about famous “underground” club Berghain being talked about on US Television?

No point complaining. Berghain is a tourist club. If Bill Kaulitz from Tokio Hotel is telling everyone how great Berghain is, there’s no need to be surprised. What’s still cool about the scene – celebrities don’t automatically get into clubs just because they’re famous. They have to wait in line like everybody else. 

In 3 words, what does Berlin mean to you?

Freedom. Innovation. Hedonism.

Can you recommend a good restaurant?

I don’t eat anymore, I drink supervised! (laughs) My favourite bars are local pubs like Victoria Bar and Erna P.

Thanks for taking the time, Marcello! 

Insiders – Maria Gieseke

This month we had the immense pleasure of interviewing Danish-born Maria Gieseke, who we keep running into at every red carpet in Berlin. She’s best known for her career in the fashion business, where she both made her name for herself as a model and for running her own model agency.

Hey Maria, we’re so happy to have you! Your instagram account tells us you were at the GQ awards last night. Are you a notorious Berlin party hopper?

I’m actually not! I mostly get invited by friends and honestly – I can hardly believe my luck every single time. I’m very thankful to be blessed with such great friends.

What did you do before you came to Berlin?

I was born in a small town called Odense in Denmark, where I made an apprenticeship in the textile industry and became store manager with 18. I then worked 60-hour weeks as a headwaiter for some time, before meeting my ex-husband. I fell in love with a popular hairdresser from Düsseldorf who was touring Denmark. Four months later I moved to Düsseldorf and started curating the stage design and music for my ex-husband’s shows and organised his shops. My first time in Berlin was in 1992. My first impression was that everything was awfully grey.

You now live in Berlin. What changed your mind? 

About 4 years ago I accompanied a good friend to a Michael Michalsky fashion show and we had an absolute blast. I realized then how inspiring this city can be and I’ve grown really fond of Berlin since. You can be who you want to be here, there’s no false pretense and the next surprise is never far.

Like what…?

Like when your Iranian taxi driver suddenly starts to rap in german with his own lyrics…

Happens to us all the time. Being well-experienced in the fashion business, what do you think about the thinness-craze?

Absolutely terrible! I’m so happy we’ve been moving on from that non-sense for some years now. At my agency I always made sure my girls ate and they knew what they were eating. Especially in Paris the use of illegal substances isn’t uncommon, which makes it even more important to put your models and their health first. I once had to deal with a photographer who tried to slip drugs in a girl’s water before the shooting, but I got her out before any harm was done. I’m very much against drugs, they do much harm and absolutely no good. Having a model agency means having an enormous responsibility for the young boys and girls and being a role model. It’s a bit like being a mother.

What’s your opinion on the emerging vegan-eating trend?

Everybody has to decide for themselves. A good friend of mine is vegan and she feels great about it. I love down-to-earth meals and these often include a hearty portion of meat. My favourite meal is pork neck with crust, cooked and served by my mother! It’s so meaty you have to belch and sometimes get a stomach ache. It’s the best. I also love simple Danish Smørrebrød.

We hear your meatballs with mashed potatoes are a real hit. Are they really that good?

I don’t like bragging, but I do enjoy cooking. To me it’s like meditation. I often find inspiration on food markets, where I try exotic new fruits or vegetables and get ideas for new dishes. I’m a bit of a culinary adventurer.

What’s your favourite place to eat in Berlin?

I love the Chicago William BBQ on Torstraße. Their pulled pork and spare ribs are amazing. Also Dae Mon near Mon-Bijou-Platz is a real culinary gem.

What’s a great place to hang out in Berlin?

I love to have green tea at Soho House. It’s the perfect place for quiet contemplation or a nice chat.

Thanks so much for your time, Maria! 

Insiders – Monika Vögel

This month’s interviewee is former model, night club owner and make up artist Monika Vögel. She was one of the biggest icons in Berlin in the 1970s and has worked internationally until recently.

Hey Monika. We’re so glad to have you! First off – you’re 70 years old and still radiating with life. What’s your secret?

The secret is: There IS no secret. I’ve always been this old, but younger… which is also the title of my forthcoming book, by the way.

What are you best known for?

I started modelling at 14, ran two night clubs and a student restaurant, I’ve released an album and I’ve worked as self-taught make up artist for many years for TV, movie and big opera productions. People used to say for a joke that I don’t belong to the scene – I am the scene.

You came to Berlin in 1966. The hippie era was just taking off – what did you do then? What was Berlin like?

Berlin was super super super super SUPER! I was really fascinated by the hippie culture and soon became a hippie myself. Sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll, baby! Well, for me it was sex, love and Rock’n’Roll. I never liked drugs, but in the hippie time, people were crazy for them. Berlin was crazy back then. There was so much freedom, love and joy in the air. I had friends from all over the world from Turks, to Italians to Germans to my neighbour and even to David Bowie. If you think Berlin is crazy today, you should have seen it in the 70s!

In your time as a night-club owner you must have lived through some crazy stuff. What comes to your mind when you think back to that time?

I had this friend, Jean-Claude Baker. He opened a mixed club for heteros and gays in Berlin called „Pimm’s Club“. Since I already had some experience with running a club from my time at Sgt. Peppers, I took over the Pimm’s Club when Jean-Claude left for New York to open the first French cable TV in the USA. There were more scandals at Pimm’s Club than I could tell you about in a lifetime… once a month I did a travestie show with my friends, even playing myself, bunt gemischt mit freunden. It was the best time ever. Once I had to take up a fight with all the street pimps, because I wouldn’t allow them in the club. They lured me outside and formed a circle around me, ready to attack. I told those assholes that I knew all their bosses, and if anyone so much as dared to touch me, they would be dead! I didn’t have trouble with them again after that.

You left Berlin in 1981 and didn’t come back until almost 15 years ago. Where did you and why?

I left for Frankfurt to work as make up artist in TV shows and advertisements. I landed a good job as make up artist for a cinema production from Wien and later met my 4th husband, Tommy, in Wien. After that, I stayed for love. It wasn’t long after that until I found myself confronted with a dog every day… I did make up for more than 200 episodes of Kommissar Rex (Inspector Rex)!

So… did you do the dog’s make up too?

Haha, screw you. I used to say I did his lipstick. Luckily the cast was bigger than just the dog.

You were also good friends with Falco. How did you become friends?

I was hanging at this bar in Wien when some guy approached me and invited me to a glass of champagne. I’m not crazy for drinks, but he was really nice and it was hard to say no. After the barkeeper told him my husband was Tommy, he started laughing. He knew Tommy well and from this point on, we were friends. Tommy did set design for Falco’s videos and I started doing the make up for all of Falco’s videos. One day I met Falco in the city and we talked for the best part of hours without sitting down or even moving. Four weeks later he was dead…

The best die young… well, except for you! You were quite a musician yourself in your time – in 1987 you released your album “Sag ja” (Say yes) and stormed the charts. What was being a musician like?

There was this film scene where my band and me performed 6 songs live in 22 minutes which created a big media echo and my first album did pretty well. (Un)fortunately my band was full of great artists, and of course after they didn’t like the commercial direction it was taking. I would have needed a new band, so I thought: What the hell. I’m done anyway and I need a paying job. That was right before I started with the Kommissar Rex, opera and TV productions.

With so much going on in your life, we can’t help but wonder: What are you working on these days?

I’m collecting input for my memoirs and writing poems. The book will be called „I’ve always been this old, just younger“. Expect to read a lot about the untold scandals from my days… it will be worth the wait.

Thank you for your time, Monika… we can’t wait for your book!

Insiders – Eric Wahlforss

Eric Wahlforss

This month’s interviewee is Eric Wahlforss. Eric is co-founder and CTO of the Berlin-based company SoundCloud, known for their online music streaming service with 175 million monthly visitors. Just yesterday (10.05.2016) SoundCloud has launched their new subscription service SoundCloud Go in the US, UK and France which allows you to stream millions of songs from all the major labels ad-free! 

Q: Hey Eric. Pleasure to have you here. So, you and SoundCloud, huh? How did that all start?

A: Me and Alex Ljung met in Stockholm in the early 2000s. We both played music and Alex had this studio where we started hanging out. We did some projects together and at some point decided to solve a really obvious problem. There was no dedicated online platform for musicians to share their music with people who wanted to listen to it. We realised how huge the demand was when we made SoundCloud public after 2 years of testing. The user numbers went through the roof. Today we have 12 million creators, 175 million listeners per month and more than 125 million tracks online. In comparison – Spotify and Apple music have about 30 million songs.

Q: Almost 10 years into leading a company – you must be stressed out!

A: You learn to cope with the stress. These days I try to disconnect as often as possible. My girlfriend Sophie is a big help for me. She’s also running a company and we’re amazing at being lazy together.

Q: You’re a musician. Do you still find time to play?

A: Well, I released an album in 2012. It’s made from the sounds of strings, organs and choirs. For the percussion I used only wood, stone and metal. The album took 3 years to produce and with SoundCloud going stronger than ever, I don’t really find time to play often these days. But we’ve had this concert at Berghain a few years back and me and Alex played at Burning Man last year. That was intense!  

Q: Ever feel tempted to feature your own songs on SoundCloud’s homepage? 

A (laughs): The most important thing is that the right music finds the right people. So… no.

Q: Just a trick question. What drew you to Berlin?

A: I first came to Berlin for the love parade in 1997. It was a total game changer. I had the most amazing time and went to clubs like Tresor even though I was only 17. For SoundCloud we also considered London, Vienna and Barcelona but were drawn back to Berlin in 2007 because we found an investor here. Berlin has grown up since. But it’s still rougher and crazier than other places. Compared to London or New York, Berlin is very chilled out. The energy is on a whole different level. 

Q: What do you not like about the city?

A: The service is terrible. TERRIBLE. Maybe it’s worse in Russia or Poland, but Berlin isn’t far behind. Especially when you want to bring new people to Berlin. They either have a great time and instantly love it, or they’re unlucky and have a terrible experience with human interactions here. Shouting cab drivers, unfriendly staff in restaurant, the whole service sector.

Q: Cool things you’ve experienced in Berlin?

A: Last summer Sophie and me drove around on our bikes. We heard electronic music in the distance and spontaneously decided to check it out. It was this amazing open air festival at Rummelsburg, located right at the Spree. After a little dancing we saw people swimming and thought what the hell, let’s go swimming! A few minutes later we were sitting in a small boat, drinking beers with strangers while listening to techno music. That’s the vibe that makes Berlin special and that it has always kept over the years.

Q: Your favourite place in Berlin?

A: I live between the office, my flat and Soho House, where I work out. I also really love the Piano Salon Christophori. It’s this super rough piano factory, like an old warehouse, and they also give concerts with great pianists. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Probably still in Berlin. Maybe with a family… 🙂 

Thanks for your time and all the best for you!

Insiders – Måns Herngren


This month we interviewed swedish A-list celebrity Måns Herngren. He’s a famous movie director, produces his own tonic essence and was part of the winning team at the synchronised swimming World Championships in 2013. So technically he’s an A+++ celeb who swims super well.

Q: Hello Måns! You’re a man of many talents. Movie director, swimmer, tonic essence producer… How did you get to do all these things?

A: As my kids grew older, I suddenly found I had a lot of time. I’m a very curious person. Someday I wondered what tonic tasted like before it became the tonic we know today. How did it taste before the British brought it here from India? I did some research, read some books, and then somehow one thing lead to another.

Q: You’re also a famous TV and movie producer. How did that start?

A: I was a child actor when I was 10 and really started working in the TV business when I was 16, doing interviews and such. Sweden is a small country and back then, we only had two commercial channels. It was relatively easy to be on TV if you really wanted it. In the early 90s I moved over to doing movies, but ever since HBO kicked off the trend for high quality series about six or seven years ago, I’ve found my way back to TV. These days I’m working both on movies and TV series.

Q: For the past three years, you’ve been living in both Stockholm and Berlin. Why did you choose Berlin?

A: We filmed the ending of my movie Allt Flyter here. That was when I found my love for Berlin – and for synchronized swimming.

Q: Not exactly a hobby that too many people share!

A: True. Allt Flyter is about a group of guys who become synchronized swimmers and attend the finals in Berlin. I didn’t want to use body doubles – which would have been hard to find anyway – so me and the actors started training together. Synrchonized swimming, once a week, for 6 months. Nothing helps bonding more than having someone else’s ass in your face while you’re underwater and almost naked. I’m still doing it every Wednesday.

Q: That sounds tempting. You’ve been commuting between Stockholm and Berlin for 3 years now. What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Berlin reminds me a lot of New York in the 80s. Things in New York have changed so much in the past 30 years, but they haven’t in Berlin. Total freedom of self-expression. Nobody cares if you go and buy breakfast in your joggers. A lot of people said that New Yorkers are inpolite and rude and they said the same about Berliners, but I’ve never experienced it that way.

Q: What was the craziest thing you experienced in Berlin?

A: I think I was the craziest thing that happened in Berlin!

Q: Stories! We want stories!

A: One time I was out having a fancy dinner with Henrik and my wife. I was dressed in a classy suit and to be honest I looked pretty snobbish. But someone Henrik managed to get us into Berghain at night. Don’t ask me how. When we got in, people looked at me like I was crazy. They wondered: Who’s that guy? How did he get in? It’s really hard to make people lift an eyebrow in Berlin, but somehow I managed.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?

A: I’ll start shooting a sequel with my brother for his movie The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared later this year, which will be shot partly in Kreuzberg and partly in Budapest. Also I’m looking to found a gin and tonic label with a friend and visit all the little distilleries in Berlin.

Q: YES! Uhm.. I mean. Yes. You’re a man after our taste. What makes you happy, apart from gin and tonic?

A: With 50 years I’m quite old now. But five years ago I felt really, really old. What made me happy again was realizing that age is just a number. Some people say after 30, you don’t really meet a lot of new friends. But that’s not true. You just have to be open-minded and be open to the world and age won’t matter anymore. My wife and I started taking German lessons recently, so we could start talking with an old lady in our house who doesn’t speak English.

Q: Das ist wunderbar. Last question. What would you do if you had 10 million dollars?

A: I would buy a huge airplane and fly refugees over to Europe. It’s really embarassing how Europe is one of the strongest economies in the world and doesn’t help people in need. I’m really proud of Germany to be supporting the refugees. Together we can do it!

Thanks for your time, Måns! See you in Berghain! 😉

Insiders – Dennis Creuzberg

This month we’ve met Dennis Creuzberg, who’s better known as one of Berlin’s finest hairdressers. International top stars like Jette Joop, James Blunt, Charlize Theron or Paris Hilton already trusted Dennis to spice up their looks.

Q: Hey Dennis! It’s quite astonishing that right after your apprenticeship you started working at Studio Steimel, one of the best hairdressers in Cologne. After that you worked at Udo Walz’ place in Berlin. How come you started right at the top of the food chain? Or rather, hair chain. 

A: I was rather lucky to get invited for a work trial. I had to prove my talent and from there it wasn’t such a long way to get hired. Also, male hairdressers were still a bit of novelty back then, so that was a plus point for me, too.

Q: What are the requirements to become a great hairdresser?

A: Even though there is lots to be learned, not everything can be learned. A certain portion of talent is essential for the work. You also have to be fashion-conscious and follow the latest trends.

Q: What is the price range for hair cuts at your salon?

A: The standard treatment for men starts at 55€, including consultation, massage and haircut. A haircut with colour and all the trimmings will be around 250€, and time-consuming desires like extensions might end up costing up to 2000€.

Q: How did the beauty scene change in the past 10 years?

A: By the end of the 90s, men had a bit of a low point when it came to styling. When I got here in 2003, only few Berliners were willing to spend much money on good haircuts. It was the time of cut&go hairdressers, who charge about 10€ for a haircut. Everyone looked remarkably unremarkable and didn’t want to catch too much attention. But as Berlin became more fashionable and expensive, people developed a new attitude towards that topic.

Q: What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Diversity. Today you’re getting a coffee with your joggers on and tomorrow you’ll sit at an event in your suit. There is no fixed direction in Berlin, you just go where the wind takes you. I love that!

Q: What do you do on a Saturday night?

A: I like to meet with friends and enjoy the Berlin food scene. I don’t really go out much anymore…but when I do, going to Berghain wouldn’t be so far fetched.

A: Berghain? Are you a techno kid?

Q: When I was 20ish I went dancing to techno a lot. We used to get our game on at the Wartesaal Club in Cologne, and afterwards head over to a little club in Neuß, where everyone met for the afterhour. There were lots of great parties back then!

A: Do you think Berlin has become a trendsetter?

Q: Definitely. In the last years Berlin has really developed a deep vein for fashion and has given itself its own distinctive face. Under the slogan “I do what I like and I am what I am” Berlin’s face represents the need for freedom, for every person on an inidividual scale – but also for fashion on a general scale. I think the whole Hipster trend developed from that mind set, and has become really popular world wide.

Q: What funny things happened during your career?

A: I once had this customer in Cologne. He was a pimp. One day he asked me if I wanted to come to his brothel to cut his girls’hair and well… I said yes. So once every month I would pack my things an stay at the brothel for two days and cut the girls’ hair in the private area. They were really grateful to have someone come by who wasn’t just there for the one thing. When I started cutting they would just start chatting away… I got to know some names of really prominent customers.

Q: Like who?

A: I wouldn’t tell.

Q: Just a test. Do you already know beforehand when prominent international figures come to your salon for a haircut?

A: Not always. When James Blunt came for a haircut, they told me it was him just minutes before he arrived.

Q: Last but not least – whats your favourite place in Berlin that you can recommend to our readers?

A: My favourite place is my couch!

Q: But we can’t send our readers to your couch…can we?

A: You can try! But no. There’s this lovely Italian place called Delizie D’Italia on Kollwitzstraße. Real Italians, real Italian food, real Italian flair. Not the prettiest of places, but the realest. I’ve been going there for years.

Alright! Thanks for taking the time Dennis. We’ll see you at the next haircut! 

Insiders – Zoe Rasch

Zoe Rasch is head of the Berlin based booking agencies Birds and Bells and Mint Booking.

Q: Hey Zoe. Great to have you here. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

A: Sure! I’ve been a Berliner for close to 20 years now. I originally came here to study, but soon fell in love with the city and it’s evergoing rythm. I went out dancing a lot and one thing lead to another: I became a DJ. I was spinning records in Berlin and performed all over Europe. The past 5 years I’ve been building up my own booking agency called “Birds and Bells”, supporting aspiring female artists, who often don’t get the support their male counterparts do. Last year me and Ena Lind gave birth to another booking agency called “Mint Booking”, which also represents female artists, but only from the electronic music scene.

Q: Only female DJs play at Mint parties. They regularly go through the roof. How did you come up with the concept?

A: Ena and me realized how incredibly hard it was to get booked as a female DJ. Lots of the club owners and party hosts are men and often give playtimes to their friends or people within their network, who often turn out to be men aswell. We analysed the market and came up with a solution: creating our own network within the clubbing scene.

Q: Too often in the nightlife scene the keyword is “sex sells”. How does Mint handle that approach?

A: There’s clubs and parties in Berlin that focus on sexy DJs, but that’s not us. We’re representing serious female DJs who are appreciated for their creative approach on music. They’re liked and loved for their music, not for their neckline.

Q: Your favourite record? Like, ever?

A: Hah. I have a whole cabinet full of favourite records. Same with DJs.

Q: You have a cabinet full of DJs?

A: Not exactly. But if I have to settle for a few…I think the way Aerea Negrot handles music is both brave and inspiring. Same with the Black Madonna – disco, eighties, deep house – she really creates unique mixes within the genres. Or Tama Sumo. You never know what she’s feeling right now, until she starts playing. That’s real expression of creativity.

Q: Techno or Deep House?

A: Deep House.

Q: What does Berlin mean for you?

A: Freedom. And a raw, rough wildness. We’re at a tipping point right now, though. Berlin becomes more and more international, which brings a new aspect to the city.

Q: Coolest thing that happened while you were spinning records?

A: Well…I did feel a little funny about it the next morning. I once literally swapped shirts with Bob Young on stage. While I was playing. A moment I will probably never forget!

Q: Any tipps for aspiring DJs or event planners?

A: Building a career is like assembling a mosaic. Build a network, that’s the key.

Q: Mint is going strong. What are your goals for the future?

A: There’s just so many things that can still be done. We’re promoting the platforms popularity and want to extend the reach of female DJs. We’re looking into hosting a festival in the next 2-3 years, with workshops, discussions and of course gigs all under one roof. We’re also working on bringing Mint to more cities than just Berlin and of course we’re still looking for more artists!

Q: So if I had a gender reassignment…would I have chance to get into Mint?!

A: Haha! Yes, then you would be good to go. After applying.

Q: Favourite Bar?

A: I’m more of a warm, rustic person when I’m in private. Hence I really love Moebel Olfe at Kottbusser Tor. The people there are still real and unpretentious.

Q: Favourite party?

A: Mint, what else!!!

Thanks for taking the time Zoe! Best of luck for the future and we’ll see you at the next Mint Party!