Christof Klug has been a major player in the Prague music scene for years, and has seen the city grow and change over that course of time, anticipating the coming of megastores and the growing popularity of dance music into the vibrant, vital scene it is today.
Early on he knew the potential and founded his Planet Alfa promotions company after running the now defunct Memphis Melodies record stores for half a decade. His newest record store caters to the ambient and trance labels, and like his earlier stores, which were the first locally to offer the customers an in-store chance to preview music, with the newest store featuring on-premise turntables to sample the grooves. His promotions company is hugely successful, and largely responsible for our being privy to some of the best DJs and the freshest trance sounds in Europe.
His musical evolution to the hard minimalist sounds he prefers now, reflects his resolve to rediscover the roots of dance music he grew up with. Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, the first electric record to gain the acceptance of ears that were accustomed to guitars and drums, or stings and violins, was also ironically Christof’s first record purchase.
From there he took detours through the early hip-hop grooves, seeing the newer sounds in trance now as having far more in common with the Big Beat of Africa Bambatta ‘Planet Rock’ sound than the more frilly house music coming out of England recently, and in the punk scene back in his home of industrial Ruhr, Germany, where he became interested in putting out his own records and promoting his own shows.
His first label, Ziegen Koph, was for custom pressing to vinyl and mostly dealt in punk titles, one of which presumably was his own outfit, Hoden Tritt (Kick in the Nuts); we are still looking for the videotape, anyone?
Shortly thereafter he came into contact with a guy who worked at a pressing plant for the Czech government and found it much to his advantage to record there. After awhile he discovered that bring back a bunch of CDs back with him would take care of the too-much-space problem when he drove to Prague, and Memphis Melodies was born.
After a decent success, and the trials of managing multiple outlets across the Republic (you try it sometime, if you can’t imagine the difficulties; then ask a chain store operator), he had the good fortune of being forewarned of the new Bonton shop right across the way from him on Mustek.
His tastes were changing anyway, and starting Planet Alfa allowed him to focus more on his love of dance music, instead of the latest posthumous Nirvana release, even though you can still catch him listening to African Juju or Cabaret Voltaire, the Bulgarian singers or even classic in dark alleys around the nation’s capitol.
The opportunities here are not exclusively in the exchange rate, Christof alludes to the new vitality of the scene here, where people go out in great numbers, untantalized by the boob tube and less cynical than our oversaturated western brethren. Prague is still not dominated by a few high-profile DJs. Real underground always has its own scene and idols, despite the hype (back in Germany).
“The main thing is, that when I started to make parties, most people were promoting popular Dutch and Belgian DJs who played happier music. I wanted to show the different varieties of House available such as the UK and German sounds. “
Planet Alfa has thrown over 250 parties in Prague, and brings in DJs from all over Europe, including local favorites Westbam and Paul Van Dyk, who Christof says was voted most popular DJ in town. Van Dyk, he say, “. . . creates a totally different atmosphere playing the kitchier house, with just enough edge to keep the party on the right side.
You can see the effect on the dance floor after just a few mixes. “
He likes where the Prague scene is at right now, and feels that we have a new generation of club -goers that have grown up with the music and love it for itself, rather than just going out to “just get f*cked up”. He feels the worst days of the ‘piko three-step’, as he calls the loping self-absorbed dancing that comes with the amphetamine based scenes such as those in San Francisco (generally weak crowds) are over, and has noticed a lighter, if not more X’d out party taking form. He claims all of his parties have come and passed with little if no violence, something he sees as symbolic of the scene in general and the power behind the music’s message.
“The participation is the dancing, the DJ or live artists are just like MCs in their original meaning, letting the people make their own party. ” He also participates in promoting and hyping the Love Parade, an annual festival of 750,000 party people letting loose and has been dubbed in Germany as a political gathering called the ‘Demonstration for peace in the World’.
He estimates there are more than 15 million people involved in the scene throughout Europe and that the fresh hybrids of English and German styles have provided the vitality for the scene to grow even stronger in the coming years.