Two turntables, one camera, a projector, two microphones and one screen. This is the stage setup for the event series “Plattenspieler”. Since 2008, Thomas Meinecke has been inviting changing guests to talk about music, its cultural conditions, its visual forms and the stories experienced in engaging with it. “The ‘Plattenspieler’ is not about passing on knowledge, but about ancestry and about loving and hating. In other words, it’s about great emotions that produce peculiar situations for precisely this reason”, explains Meinecke.

Keep Talking!

A fan post on the 10th anniversary of Thomas Meinicke’s series “Plattenspieler” by Jacek Slaski

Does it make sense to talk about music? Probably not always. When Thomas Meinecke talks, then yes. For ten years he has regularly been doing so with his guests at “Plattenspieler” at HAU. Two people sit at a table at the edge of the stage, they drink, sometimes smoke, put on records, the covers are projected on a screen, visually they are the focus. The conversations about musicians, producers, DJs, artists, label operators, journalists, and otherwise interesting people are based on the music being played, spread out through the breaks between the music. Sometimes in the vein of music criticism, sometimes they’re biographical, sometimes absurd. 

A dialogue is sparked between the speakers, freely associating and lasting over the two-hour period of the event. Sometimes complex relations get opened up between styles, artists and scenes, such as had hardly been thought of before. Suddenly connections between folk rock and post-punk seem plausible, or between James Brown and Detroit techno. Especially the many guests that come from the electronic field, which Meinecke has a weakness for, draw long historical arcs. The footwork pioneer Traxman managed to put an impressive history of the development of Afro-American dance music to the turntable in the brief time. 

We learn about cryptic proto-electronic groups who brought out two singles, or are compelled to endure Timberland-produced early ‘90s R’n’B in full maxi length. We hear old favourites and take away new ones. I will never forget DJ Acid Maria, who played the song “Who Needs Sleep Tonight” by Silicon Soul. An uplifting, euphoric and at the same time melancholic piece that the techno veteran likes to play at the end of a long night of partying. 

“Plattenspieler” is about pop music in all its varieties, where pop can also include Peter Brötzmann’s free jazz, obscure Appalachian folk music from the early 20th century or Henry Flynt’s hillbilly avant-garde, which Meinecke also wasn’t familiar with until Laurel Halo, who’s half his age, played it for him. 

The direction is set by the guests. An evening with the writer Helene Hegemann was dedicated to obscure French beat chansons, with the musician and label owner Maurice Summen it went into the depths of the Hamburg post-punk history and with the music curator from the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Detlef Diederichsen, it was mostly about West Coast songwriters from the sixties and seventies. Meinecke’s musical reactions parry, supplement, deconstruct, while still always allowing for an organic flow. 

Even when Lydia Lunch, electrified by one of the revolutionary sounds of the Last Poets, dashed her wine glass on the stage floor, Meinecke gave her a friendly smile and was the very image of cool. In any case, there seems to be hardly anything that could unnerve him, and if it’s not U2 or Peter Gabriel, he reacts to any music brought to him with excitement or at least profound interest. His conversation with the free jazz pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach became such an earnest appreciation of Thelonius Monk, that Meinecke was brought to declare that Monk was his absolute favourite musician. What Schlippenbach took for granted, answering with a brash “well, you didn’t make the wrong choice.”  

Meinecke made his antipathies clear, however, on the evening with the former Spex editor-in-chief Torsten Groß, when he played a piece by Nick Cave – which Meinecke acknowledged by saying that Cave is someone that old, lonely men listen to, men who find themselves on the way to Vienna’s Central Cemetery and with whom he couldn’t possibly have anything in common. But his judgment about the elegant Munich jazz label ECM was particularly nice, when he explained to the dumbfounded ECM fan and record label owner Ramin Sadighi that ECM was unbearable, if only because West Germany in the 1980s had consisted entirely of ECM releases, films by Wim Wenders and Helmut Kohl.  

Taken as a whole, these encounters, as specific as they may be individually, coalesced into a great pop narrative. This is why the series should in fact be viewed as a series, and not as a loose collection of singular events. 

“Plattenspieler” was started on the initiative of the former HAU director Matthias Lilienthal, who invited Meinecke to think about the relationship between music and cover artwork at a theory event where Slavoj Žižek, René Pollesch and others took part. The writer, musician and DJ then did this by walking a thin line, neither dwindling into inane shoptalk nor aloof discourse. This is Meinecke’s high art, which links his enormous knowledge of pop with rhetorical virtuosity. “‘Plattenspieler’ is not about disseminating knowledge but about guessing and loving and hating. That is, about big emotions, which is why it produces funny situations,” explains Meinecke. 

The funny situation, points and irony are Meinecke’s tools to enrich the context, aesthetics, history and reference of the music. From the breadth of pop and the intimacy of the personal anecdote, an experience is produced that, in the age of sophisticated algorithms and total digital accessibility of all the music ever put out, replaces the nearly forgotten analogue pop influences that older siblings and friends once exercised. Listening to them at the time made a lot of sense, and today it still makes just as much sense to listen to Thomas Meinecke and his guests. Best wishes for the anniversary and keep talking! 

Jacek Slaski, born in 1976 in Gdańsk, since 1985 in West Berlin, is a journalist and editor at the local magazine tip Berlin. His texts have appeared in the Berliner Zeitung, Rolling Stone, Galore, and others. He has been a bar DJ, translator of unknown prose texts, photo editor and writer of radio features. Between 2003 and 2012 he was co-director of the art space Zero Project in Kreuzberg’s Köpenicker Straße.