Reminiscing on the first Red Bull Music Academy (Berlin, 1998) with Peter Decuypere

Pictures by Leyla Hesna

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Peter Decuypere, teacher, writer and founder of Fuse and I Love Techno, was one of the first lectures at the Red Bull Music Academy. Correction: he was one of the first lecturers at the very first edition of the Red Bull Music Academy! Enjoy, as he takes you back to those glory days. 

"Peter Ducuipre, as written on page 374 of the book ‘For the Record’ - a book dedicated to the history of the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA). That Peter Ducuipre is actually me, Peter Decuypere, and I'm listed as one of the lecturers who spoke to the Red Bull Music Academy students of that time. That was, by the way, as far as I remember, on the very first edition of RBMA in Berlin, sometime around 1998. I talked about the pristine but remarkable success of Fuse and I Love Techno.

Red Bull Music Academy presents For The Record from Red Bull Music Academy on Vimeo.

The setting in Berlin was very underground and very relaxed, with people that were all interested and involved in electronic music, or rather “electronic music fanatics” from all over the world, who had taken the opportunity they received to join the Music Academy. Those fanatics - for the sake of argument, in the best sense of the word - had music oozing out of their pores. And in those pre-social media and pre-Facebook times, it was especially liberating to see that techno and related music genres really were global cultural phenomena. That’s what all those likeminded individuals proved there, and later undoubtedly again somewhere throughout the electronic music scene.

Just have a look at that 'lecturerlist’-photo on page 374, and look especially at those impressive names that have all passed the Red Bull Music Academy. You can only see a couple of names, from O to P, but to name a few: Richie Hawtin, New Order Peter Hook, Philppe Zdar, Ron Trent, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and the Uber-Ubergod Nile Rodgers - not only the founder of Chic but also the man who has collaborated with Madonna, David Bowie and Avicii. And then we didn’t even get to the lecturers with names starting from A to O, and from Q to Z. Freakin’ Tony Visconti has even passed by RBMA for a talk, and Brian Eno and Debbie 'Blondie' Harry! All people who almost literally breathe music, just coming over to hang out, give lectures and entertain all of the Academy students.

In almost 20 years, RBMA has become a brand itself. A brand that stands for quality workshops, events and lectures all over the world. And yes, it even stands for a great book! Of course, in those 20 years, the world has changed and we don’t have to travel to Berlin, Tokyo or Beirut anymore to hear and see a lecture. Sònar, Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), IMS (Ibiza, Asia Pacific, etc), and other summits put all their keynotes, lectures and workshops online, for free. So why should you bother? Why would you still get out of your couch or chair and apply by making an effort to get something that actually seems to be replaceable and even one click away?

However, don’t you think that to make that "effort”, it makes it all worthwhile? That the fact that you have to prepare yourself a little, that you have to travel, and especially that you see and feel real likeminded people as real new contacts, make it all worthwhile? That you can even see those music gods standing in front of you, and even be able to talk to them? That makes it all worth it. "Give the people an excuse to connect" is the motto of my last book Holy Trinity Events, and RBMA is, in my mind, one hell of an excuse to connect. That mouse click on YouTube just clicks and doesn’t say anything back to you, does not have a passion for music, and at its best shows a sterile, one-sided encounter through a cyberspace connection.

When I went to Berlin 20 years ago, well, when Peter Ducuipre went to Berlin, I saw people from all over the world who praised the Fuse in Brussels and Ghent’s I Love Techno. Suddenly, the planets alligned, my vision became clear, and I knew we could conquer the world with techno. That's what real, non-sterile connections can do. Those are valuable (W)E-xperiences: experiences that, sometimes like in my case, are seen as life-changing. A simple mouse click on the world wide web doesn’t even come close to that. 

Next year, RBMA heads back to Berlin. The circle is full. RBMA returns to a city that has proven itself as the Electronic Music Capital of the world in those 20 years! The city itself, which just reflects immense freedom, makes it even more worthwhile to head over to RBMA. Plus, RBMA is also a wonderful excuse to meet some of the ‘right’ people in Berlin, who will allow you to walk in "Berghain" without a flinch of the bouncer. Attention: The techno club legend Tresor still exists, but has moved away!"

Applications for the 2018 Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin are open till September 4. You can find the application form here

More info on the Academy? Head over to this link