To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Brouqade, we spoke with label boss Dana Ruh about the humble beginnings of the Berlin-based imprint and the challenges faced over the years. Be sure to check out the Past, Present and Future EPs, out now on Brouqade, which celebrate the label’s 10th birthday in style.
Dana’s story begins back in the 90s in the East German town of Gera. The electronic music scene was in full swing with regular parties and illegal raves. “There were lots of people organizing parties, though now lately most of those people have moved away,” she tells us. As well as attending parties, Dana was a frequent face at the record shops earning a reputation amongst the regulars and owners. “They used to ask me if I had a mixer and really pushed me towards DJing,” she said. After moving to Berlin and working 12 hour days in a television production company, Dana decided to start creating music. With little social life and constant work, she was driven to find something that interested her and allowed her to express her artistic side. She began collecting records again and started to produce house and techno. “I needed to balance my work life with something else and production gave me a platform to express myself,” she explains. “That’s when I started Brouqade, I was producing but I don’t like to send out demos as I’m very independent. Then my friend Ann M Cazal said let’s just do it together ourselves and then we’ll have a platform to do whatever we want.”
The label began with a vision of making good music, independent of trends and fads, Dana tells us. During its inception, Brouqade was engrossed in the minimal sounds that influenced the house and techno scene at the time and whilst the minimal influence was gradually replaced with grooves and harder beats, the label stayed true to its percussive, emotional roots. Rather than focusing on a particular style or moving with whatever was in fashion at the time, Brouqade’s releases mirror Ruh’s evolving personal tastes. “The most important thing for me was to like the music, it was always percussive and emotive, sometimes it was techno and sometimes it was house. My music taste has changing a lot over the years; I developed my own sound over time and brought different influences into my sets. It would be strange to stick with one sound the entire time; however that doesn’t mean jumping behind every hype and trend. ”
Dana also notes she was similar in her studio, “I never bought a lot of equipment or changed my setup a lot. I know what I want, I don’t want to look for a sound, I want to express what’s already inside me in a way I know how to. Sometimes I change a synthesizer or give away a piece of equipment, but I like to keep my studio as familiar as possible.”
However, despite running for 10 years, Brouqade has had its fair share of challenges to overcome. The first release, Primiera by Mexican duo Signal Deluxe went to distribution, however the distribution company then went bankrupt shortly after. Dana’s own ‘Nihil Obstat EP’, the second release on Brouqade had its own challenges too. The company in charge of distribution insisted on using a particular mastering studio who made a number of changes to the tracks. “In the end I wasn’t happy with the results and I didn’t want to release it, but the distribution company then went bankrupt so the record had to come out as it was. In the end it was probably a good thing, not everything can be perfect and it was important to get my first release out there,” she explains.
The digital craze also affected Brouqade, with vinyl sales dropping dramatically for a time. “People kept saying to me, don’t bother with vinyl anymore, it’s dead and my response was always that I could not run a digital label. I need physical copies of my music, I want to be able to touch the record and see the artwork. We had to keep pumping money in and it was really hard to continue at times, but there was never a moment where I considered giving up. I did odd-jobs and sold things to keep the label running, but now with the vinyl resurgence my decision was completely justified. It’s great for the industry too, the pressing plants are busy and more people are in work again.” Dana also tells us how she tried mixing with software and other formats but always returned to vinyl. With increasing numbers of people drawn back to vinyl, staying true to her roots certainly seems to have paid off.
To celebrate 10 years of Brouqade, the label has released three EPs themed and titled Past, Present and Future. The Past EP picks up on some original Brouqade tracks and focuses on remixes. The Present showcases the label’s change in artwork and is themed around the sounds currently being released on Brouqade. Finally, the Future gives a hint at the kind of artists that the label will be working with in the future and the sound that Brouqade will look to cultivate. When I asked Dana whether she had any difficulties with the future EP, she notes that it was actually extremely easy. “I’ve been looking at these guys for a long time now and in the last six months I’ve been asking for tracks from them. As well as talented producers, they are great DJs as well which is important from my end as we can play together in the future.”
I ask Dana what her favourite releases over the last 10 years and she quickly brushes off the question quipping that every release is her favourite. Three more records follow on Brouqade this year though Ruh is playing her cards close to her chest, not revealing any details for the time being other than there will be a release in summer, September and November. The label boss is planning some showcases at the moment and is in discussions with promoters in Moscow, Belgium and Paris. In addition Brouqade will continue to host regular parties at its spiritual home, Club der Visionaere, and will take over Zoo Project and Underground Ibiza in the summer. Dana also recently returned to Boiler Room. “In general I’m not a huge fan of live streaming but it’s certainly nice to introduce your music to a whole new audience,” she said. “It’s actually quite nerve wracking, the crowd is smaller and not as energetic as in a club and being right in front of the camera means your under more pressure. I like playing to a range of crowds though, from small clubs where you can judge your crowd very well and then large festivals. With festivals you bring your sound to a completely different crowd and you have to be more careful about what you select for your audience.”