Berlin Kunst

Love a fair – Superbooth

There are a couple of synth fairs on this planet, but one unquestionably stands out - Superbooth. The fair came to Berlin in 2016, but in fact, has a history of more than two decades. It all started in the city of Frankfurt, as a small section of the Musikmesse, dedicated exclusively to synthesizers.
Workshop for girls only "how to modular" with Alissa deRubeis, Foto: Angela Kröll
Workshop for girls only „how to modular“ with Alissa deRubeis, Foto: Angela Kröll

The show is also a way to show the younger generations what older generations of synthesizer-makers have created. This can generate new ideas for them. Besides being a fun way to sit together and solder things, the workshops are a means of distancing people a bit from the idea of just making music and producing excellent tunes, but to make them to focus on sounds.

It’s super important for us to offer workshops also for kids and teenagers. Through the synths, one can learn many things about physics and math. We want to continue inviting schools in the future, not only music schools but also math and physics classes. Gammon in Vienna for example, has been doing great work in this area for many years. I recommend checking him out.

ESH: From which countries do the manufacturers come, that produce all these crazy modules?
AK: Manufacturers are active all over the world. It would probably be easier to list the countries that are not there. In 2019, we had 230 manufacturers from over 30 different countries. The majority comes from the USA, UK, and Germany. Some come from Canada, France, Holland, Poland, Italy, and Spain. We have a group of Australian manufacturers who always travel together to Superbooth and love to have their stands next to each other. Few manufacturers from Nordic Countries, the Baltics, Russia. When thinking about the most exotic, maybe we would say Turkey, Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Thailand. From Mumbai, we have our friend Aditya Nandwana with his brand Animal Factory Amplification. He also does super inspiring work and is very active in the local music scene. Unfortunately, no brands from Africa, have been in Superbooth yet, but we hope one day soon. South America is also missing, although for 2020 we planned to welcome the Yaeltex gang from Buenos Aires. Hopefully they stay motivated.

ESH: How were your feelings of having to shift 2020 to an online edition?
ASCH: When we had to cancel the real physical event, nearly everything was prepared for it. Andre never believed that it makes sense to have a virtual thing because the physical coming together makes us survive. We have gone through discussions and ended up with: „We will give it a try“, and in the end, it was a lot of work, it was fun and the right way of doing it. No online tradeshow format was existing at that point, I think we were one of the first in our scene that made, let’s call it a „virtual edition“. In the end, it was a movie presentation, not a trade show format as usual. Post-fair, we started to study other concepts of virtual trade shows but to us, they were boring and not convincing. AK: We were concerned about the health situation, everyone had to re-organize life, get familiar with this new situation, structures and possibilities. As Andreas said, everything was already prepared, everyone was excited and all manufacturers had already paid their fees. If we had to pay everything back, it would have been the end of the fair. Then, the super magical things happened. More than half of the manufacturers said: „If we can help you at this moment, keep the money for the next year“. So we had to pay back only half of the money, which enabled us to survive until now.

The response from everyone was: We love what you do, and we want to contribute that you stay alive. I was so impressed and did not know such a thing from any other business. The majority of the (synth) community is very open, supportive and willing to help each other out.

It ́s a fantastic feeling to work and exchange with these people. Regarding the digital edition he made the main work together with his wife. So, again a super personal approach. The edition was mainly a collection of videos, presentations, and statements that dear friends of Superbooth were doing, a nice selection, but we did not know beforehand how it will look or if it will work. Still, our idea of an event strongly lives from the fact that we physically meet, which brings atmosphere, euphoria, creative tension. Today I see the whole 2020 online version as an enthusiastic release of energy and in the end, we are glad that there was at least something.

CW: Recently you were postponing the fair from May to September and have been developing a „Safety First Edition“. What kind of challenges are you facing?
ASCH: I am happy that we postponed it for September because May was just too soon and the situation is getting worse again.

September is a month of starting something new, it is after the summer, the weekend when the last German state is ending the holidays. We still have hope that the summer holidays will happen somehow and allow people to go from here to there and when everybody is home, Superbooth is going to happen. I hope that we will have a better time soon.

After the „home edition“, we are now doing the „Safety First Edition“. This concept will work even under corona circumstances. We could agree on renting additional venues from FEZ, to expand in the outside area, we also agreed on not booking every square meter inside the building, and use only those rooms where one can open plenty of windows for fresh air. We hope it will be warm to bring expand the outdoor area which has already shown success in former Superbooth editions. Superbooth 2021 will be offering different trails. One tour is inside the building, then you have the outdoor area, the catering zone, the forest, the seaside stage, the playground area. Then is the hüttendorf.

Originally a „Hütte“ is a sleeping place, but we will modify it for the exhibitor needs. This time some exhibitors can even sleep at the Superbooth. After waking up, they will show their products to the visitors from their balconies.

Nine exhibitors will be showing their products in this area. Then there will be, as always, stages for Gesprächskonzerte, and there are also other ideas and places that we want to use, but they are not been finally confirmed, and some things should also stay as a surprise. We are not fighting for filling our festival, we are fighting to make it safe. This safety edition plan has been worked out in the team, but Alex, our fourth core team member, has conducted special work. Having studied event management, knowing the technical conditions and specifications, he is a big win to our team. Making the whole planning, all the drawings, also designing several solutions for leaving the areal of FEZ to remain safe. Then he was writing the 40 pages of inquiry for the officials because the germans are the germans „You have to fulfill the regulations“.

ESH: Did you receive any „Überbrückungshilfe“ to cover these complicated times?
ASCH: We were inquiring only in the first year, but this process was so time-consuming, the amount of money requested was really low and the process exhausting. Maybe it was our fault to ask for such a low sum, we have to reconsider this possibility because we are not an experiment, we are an established business, offering a lot to Berlin and its community and we have to be acknowledged for this!

CW: Herr Schneider, an interview with you would not be complete with at least one question about SchneidersLaden. I still have this claim in my head “gleich überm Kaisers am Kottbusser Tor“. Has the role of your shop changed somehow since organizing the biggest synthesizer fair in the world?
ASCH: The early days of the Superbooth were a result of SchneidersLaden. Later on, not anymore, because I thought it is another business, another vision, and I wanted also to include brands and inventors, that I was not selling at SchneidersLaden. I said: „This must stay on its own feet to welcome these people “. Today I am very happy to have separated them. For a while in the Superbooth was written „SchneidersLaden presents Superbooth“, which was true because in the early years the SchneidersLaden was supporting Superbooth with some digits of money. But we stopped it now (smiling). Nevertheless, the knowledge flowing between the two should continue.

CW: Have you ever thought to branch out with your shop to other cities?
ASCH: I once had a little shop in London, that could not even be called a shop it was 4 square meters inside Rough Trade East, a glass cabin where you could see modular systems, it was a remote shop. There was a sign on the door with two rules: pick up the key from the main desk, steel nothing and pick up the phone if it rings and close the door behind you, so actually, 4 rules (laughs). We had a little monitor on our desk in Berlin, that was always switched on, and when we saw that somebody was going in there and trying to play with something, probably not understanding it, we were directly calling as we were in the shop anyway, supporting our clients. So the phone rang, and they had to pick it up. We said: „Yes, Hello, this is SchneidersLaden. Welcome on board. How can I help you?“.

SchneidersLaden London. Courtesy of Andreas Schneider
SchneidersLaden London. Courtesy of Andreas Schneider
Sound: Cornelius Wildner, Schneider Rules, 2021

Then we gave directions on how things could be used. As no one from the record shop could understand what was going on in there, we had to fly at least once per month to London and reassort the cables, check that everything was working, or exchange old modules against new ones. It was a super good concept but then, after a while, it was getting too much…

CW: What memories do you have from Vienna?
ASCH: When I started to sell my first synthesizers, around 2000, I was traveling around Europe, meeting retailers. My original idea was to set up representatives for these manufactures. I wanted to bring synth manufactures to music shops and the media. I bought hashish, rented a car, and started traveling. I was losing all my money, but I was having a good time. I was visiting colleagues in Paris, Italy, Austria and saying: „Look at this machine-dum dum dum“ and with some of them, I managed to let my devices in their shop’s corners. I used to travel to Vienna often, I remember a shop in the first or third district, meeting a few guys who were doing Fahrstuhlmusik, but they accepted to start selling my synths. Then I was also often to the earlier location of Klangfarbe, some of these places have stopped existing today or have changed locations, and because of this, they have lost their charm. But Vienna is doing well in these terms. It has Erwin Hermann with RAW Voltage, modular producers such as Birdkids, Endorphins. Then GAMMON mentioned before, and Mr. Bernhard Rasinger, whom I really like. He does live performances, where he controls sounds that are visualized via laser in real-time. It is interesting with Vienna, some of those to who I was explaining modular systems in 2013 in backyards have become modular manufacturers, like the guys in this picture. I forgot to say that I have visited Vienna once also with my modular Karusell.

CW: Last question, how do you feel when a Superbooth Edition is over?
ASCH: Everyone is happy when the event was realized and can fall into a kind of black hole, it takes some time to recharge. After three months or so, on the regathering day (a barbecue or boat trip), different people join the event: from helpers to security personal. The moment of gathering, celebrating is a moment to express gratitude for all the things that were well managed, to talk about how it all went financially, whether it was okay or not. Also, the worst disasters that we had this year are communicated on this day: People who fell in the water, people getting drunk, or got lost. You laugh about it and think about the vision for next year, how things can be improved, and here the plans for next year’s edition start.


Address and contact:
Superbooth Berlin GmbH
Ritterstraße 3, 10969 Berlin

Cornelius Wildner (*1970) is a Vienna-based sound artist and music technologist. He deals with ephemeral sounds, field recordings, archiving, live performance, analog and digital synthesis. At the same time, he collaborates with artists from different genres –

About the Interviewer: Erka Shalari (*1988, Tirana) is a Vienna-based art author. She focuses on discovering unique artistic positions, unconventional exhibition spaces, and galleries that have deliberately broken new ground in their working methods. In this regard, she relies on unorthodox publishing practices, coupling these with a nonchalant manner of writing. The work oscillates between articles for magazines, exhibition texts and press releases –

Note: The sound was specially composed for the Interview by the artist Cornelius Wildner. The sound comes as a continuation of our research on a new kind of way of writing.

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