Kristin Velvet

Country girl: A Q&A with Kristin Velvet

Imagine a line-up including Kerri Chandler, Honey Dijon and Carl Craig, all on the same night. Even in our wildest dreams at Jaeger, we’ve only managed to showcase these amazing talents one at a time. So, consider the triptych of DJ legends, with Kerri Chandler being the opener! Now imagine this is your introduction to a nightclub.

This was the case for Kristin Velvet when she first set foot in Watergate. It’s no surprise she immediately fell in love with the place. Today, that introduction has blossomed into a residency, where she’ll regularly feature on Watergate lineups and often alongside legends of that ilk.  

Kristin Velvet is a DJ, producer and label owner with some well-traveled credentials. From her origins in rural Australia, her start as a DJ in Tokyo, to playing in London, and her eventual relocation to Berlin, Kristin Velvet has channeled an extensive musical experience through what she does as a DJ, a producer and record label head.

Taking care of the daily activities at Arms and Legs, a label she runs alongside founders Daniel Steinberg and Nils Ohrmann, Kristin Velvet has carved out an incredible career, going from the “euphoric” House of her youth to playing groove-focussed House for peak time, often featuring mostly music from her label. She is a frequent contributor to Arms & Legs too, making important contributions, like the P-Funk sampling, dancefloor monster “The undertaker” or the 90’s House delight that is “It’s a game”, when she is not working alongside legends like Felix Da Housecat or being remixed by others like Paul Johnson.  

It was in fact her daily activities as a label head that she got her foot, followed by some Arms and Legs, in the door at Watergate, making her debut with a special label showcase featuring none-other than Paul Johnson. That was in 2017 and now Kristin Velvet is an integral part of the Watergate roster, often representing them in visiting showcases. With the Berlin institution celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, she has secured another seat on the tour bus, and as she and Kid Simius make their way to Jaeger this Saturday, we sent over some urgent questions to Kristin.

She talks about her rural upbringing, how she found dance music, her time in Tokyo and her relationship with Watergate in this Q&A session ahead of her appearance at Jaeger this weekend.

Tickets via @ticketco

20 years of Watergate! That’s a momentous occasion. Do you remember how you became aware of the Berlin clubbing institution?

Momentous indeed! So around 2007, I was living in London, there was a lot of Berlin hype at the time. My friends from WetYourself played at Watergate and all our crew went over for it. I remember it clearly because I couldn’t go, but everyone was raving about how great Watergate was. I dreamed of going there one day. My heart still bursts when DJs from other countries play at Watergate and their pals all come to Berlin for the occasion, it’s a vibe. 

Why do you think its legacy has endured the way it has? 

It’s the team people who make the place, the culture, and the legacy. You can have the best venue, best location, the best sound system, and the best DJs but without a good solid team the club is not going to work, or maybe for a short while but not for 20 years! Shout outs to all the people working behind the scenes week in week out who bring these spaces we love so much into existence. 

Its reputation precedes it. It was the first kind of super club I was familiar with before I even came to Europe and I guess you might have had a similar experience coming from Australia. Why do you think it’s had such a far-reaching appeal?

Word of mouth. DJs and dancers from all over the world come to Berlin, have amazing experiences, and go back home and tell their mates. 

Arriving in Berlin, what was your first encounter with the club

To be honest I can’t remember my first encounter, those early Berlin clubbing years are a bit of a blur, but I do remember the first time Watergate left a deep impression on me; it was Jerome Sydenham’s 50th birthday. I arrived at the club just before it opened and Kerri Chandler was warming things up on the Waterfloor, then we headed up to the main floor where Honey Dijon was busting it out, followed by Carl Craig who played on of the best sets I’ve ever heard, then back downstairs to hear Dennis Ferrer in full flight. Everyone was on fire that night, Jerome had lots of his friends and family there, people were jumping on the mic, hugging in the DJ booth, it was such an amazing vibe. I was so inspired after that night I sent an email to the booker, which led to me eventually becoming a resident…. 

How did you end up becoming a resident there?

Around 2017 Paul Johnson did a remix for Daniel Steinberg on our label Arms & Legs, so I wrote to the booker at Watergate (after Jerome Sydenham’s 50th) to see if we could do an Arms & Legs label night together with Paul. The booker didn’t write back for 3 months or so, but then out of the blue and much to my delight, he did! It was such a huge thrill to hear Paul play. Shortly after that Eats Everything and Maya Jane Coles both booked me for their nights at Watergate, then we did another Arms & Legs label night together with Felix Da Housecat. At this point, I was playing at the club almost every month, so the agency invited me into the office for a coffee and asked if I wanted to join the agency. It happened very organically. 

You’re on the lineup often, and with a varied selection of guests. How do you approach each event and what remains central to it all when you play at Watergate?

Every time I get booked at Watergate it’s still a huge honor and not something I ever take for granted. I approach each event thinking about how I can give the ravers the best possible experience, so they leave the club with wonderful memories and big smiles. 

What’s the prevalent charm of playing at Watergate, and what do you think you can do there as a resident that you can’t really get away with at other places?

I think you can get away with whatever you want wherever you want if you do it with conviction! As a resident though it’s a privilege to be familiar with the sound system and the space which comes in handy for testing new unreleased tracks. 

How do you present that to a new audience when you do these kinds of Watergate tours?

I love doing the Watergate showcases because I genuinely adore all the other residents, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company and I think the people in the club feel that. We differ quite a lot musically which is great, it makes for an interesting and varied night of music.

There’s also these other aspects to you… Kristin Velvet, the artist and the label head. How do all these things fold into what you do as a DJ?

It all works together – the music, the label and then of course the DJing. The majority of what I play in the club is our Arms & Legs releases. 

I’ve read that you grew up in rural Australia, and it was country music that first got you dancing, but it was your time in Sydney that introduced you to clubbing. What was the music that specifically bridged those two worlds for you?

The bridge was house music, Armand Van Helden, Ultra Nate, Soulseacher, Phats & Small, Mousse T, Black Legend, I had just started sneaking into clubs, it was euphoric feel-good music and very accessible even to a country girl like me.

I imagine like for most of us, it started on the dance floor. What eventually led to Djing?

I started DJing when I lived in Tokyo. I became friends with the people who were running club nights there, which led to me DJing and eventually doing my own events. It was a very inclusive community, everyone played at each other’s nights it was lots of fun.

What were you playing at the beginning and how did it evolve from there?

Back then in Tokyo it was very different, I played everything from The Rapture, Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem to The B-52’s, Daft Punk, Violent Femmes and Whitney Houston. It wasn’t until I moved to London around 2006 that my tastes started to change. 

Tell me a bit more about Tokyo. I simply love the record- and music culture there. Did you pick up anything specific to your time there that has followed you as a DJ?

Tokyo blew my mind. I worked in Shimokitazawa which had incredible record stores, it was a long time ago though so I wouldn’t say musically there was anything that stayed with me from back then. 

From Australia to Tokyo and then Berlin, what was the thing in Berlin that set it all apart for you, that thing that makes it such a special place for nightlife and club-culture?

The history, the culture, the lack of rules and the long opening hours. 

Yes, in Berlin the nights are pretty long, compared to somewhere like Sydney or Oslo. How would  you adapt your sets, for these shorter nights?

I’ll just pack the bangers! Kidding… it depends on the set time, the crowd and on so many factors. 

This is a return visit to Jaeger. What did you pick up from the last one that will affect the way your set might go?

I’m so thrilled to be back, I had such a blast last time. Honestly one of my favorite DJ booths I’ve ever played in. This time I’ll use your incredible rotary mixer. The sound is so warm! 

And how will Watergate and that celebration hopefully be reflected in your mix? 

I have a track coming out on the Watergate 20 years compilation album which is set for release in November, so I’ll probably give that one a spin.