text by Ryoko Kuwahara
photo by Satomi Yamauchi

「多様性を謳歌する」ベルリン・東京パーティレジデントDJ鼎談:Interview with Jacob Meehan(BUTTONS) x DSKE , MAYUDEPTH(MOTORPOOL)

ーーCould you tell me the whole story? How did you invite Jacob?

DSKE: There was a party called Homopatik before Buttons started. I used to DJ at Homopatik, and I’ve been hearing about Jacob a lot from my friends. I’ve been listening to his mix as well and it was really good. So I’ve been wanting to invite Jacob to my party at some point. I wanted to throw a party with him.

ーーSo did you guys meet for the first time today?

DSKE: Yes.

MAYUDEPTH: Yeah, they met in person for the first time today.

Jacob: We’ve been friends for a long time online but first time we met. How many times did you play Homopatik, DSKE?

DSKE: I don’t know.. So many times (laughs).

Jacob: Haha. I do Buttons with my boyfriend Danilo. And he was doing Homopatik for 7 years. Two of the resident DJs for Homopatik are also still resident DJs for Buttons. Akira and Shingo. You know Shingo better?

DSKE: Yeah.

Jacob: So Shingo was the connection for you?

DSKE: Yeah.

MAYUDEPTH: Shingo was supposed to be here with us today but he’s on tour now and in Kumamoto today.

Jacob: He’s arriving in Tokyo tomorrow.

MAYUDEPTH: So the connection between Shingo and DSKE is making this Buttons x Motorpool collaboration party happen. I’ve been listening to Shingo’s music for a long time, I finally got to meet him when “Acid Camp” party in Tokyo two years ago.

ーーWhat does Shingo do?

Jacob: Shingo is one of the resident DJs for Buttons, and also does booking etc.

MAYUDEPTH: Daisuke, tell us about the party Homopatik more. What did Homopatik mean to you?

DSKE: One of the most popular things about the party was the garden. I have so many fun and crazy memories about the garden (laughs).

Jacob: It’s probably the nicest outdoor space in Berlin. I think the garden has really nice memories for everybody.

MAYUDEPTH:Usually they do Buttons at a club called ://about blank.

Jacob: Now I do probably more or as much organization as I do DJ and music.

MAYUDEPTH: Do you mean there are the other parties you organize than Buttons?

Jacob: We do the WHOLE – United Queer Festival. It’s like a bringing queer collectives from all over the world. It’s just one weekend in June. Even though it’s only one thing on one weekend, it’s like a whole year working. And now I’ll explain how I started DJing. I started DJing in Chicago in 2008. And when I really hot interested, I kind of realized there was no cool gay party. So my friends and I started making a party. And 5 years later, I was kinda ready to leave Chicago, and that was when I met Danilo. I went to Berlin in May 2015, ended up being at Panorama Bar and CockTail d’Amore, and met Danilo. Once I met him, it just kinda started the process of me moving to Berlin. Then we decided to start something new together. He was doing Homopatik before but Homopatik was 7 years old. It’s hard but parties aren’t meant to last forever. You kinda need to change and keep it fresh. That’s why we started Buttons in June 2016.

MAYUDEPTH: So it’s been three years since you guys started the party. Same as Motorpool.

BUTTONS photography Ema Discordant

ーーHow did Motorpool start?

MAYUDEPTH: It’s very similar. Originally DSKE wanted to start Motorpool. And he invited me jump in.

DSKE: That was really the same as what Jacob said. There wasn’t any cool gay party around, so I’ve been wanting to start a party. And then Contact opened so that was a good timing.

MAYUDEPTH: I’ve known DSKE for a long time. He was looking for a venue to start the party since way before the club opened.

Jacob: Yeah. Where you do the party is important.

MAYUDEPTH: We wanted to do a party not only for the certain community. We wanted to have a good sound system and to spread messages about music culture. We wanted to create a place anyone can enjoy. Those people like who come to Motorpool were also looking for that kinda party but that wasn’t existing for long time.

Jacob: Something was missing. When we started the party in Chicago, like I said there was no good gay party. The party was called Men’s Room, so it kinda had thins macho vibe. Even thought anybody can come, there were some women there, but the vibe was very masculine. This is almost 10 years ago. I would say at the time there was nothing like for gay men in Chicago. But now in Berlin, some years later, the conversation is different. It’s more inclusive. So Buttons, we’re trying to make it very mixed, and queer. Not just men but women. It’s very 50/50. Men, women, trans, lesbians. So I would say it’s like a progression. We’re creating a place for everybody.

MOTORPOOL photography Wataru Fukaya

ーーAll type of people come to Motorpool as well, right?

MAYUDEPTH: Yeah. At first, some people might have had the image of typical gay party in Tokyo for Motorpool. I felt a difference from overseas about club culture. But we kept doing the party and so many DJs around us have been supporting the party, and that finally started working.

ーーAre you conscious about making the party open for any people?

DSKE: We’re not extremely conscious but we don’t put too much focus on gay people as we want many types of people to come to the party.

ーーI’ve seen you guys serving ice creams for free at the party.

MAYUDEPTH: We don’t present our party as a queer party so much but naturally it became like thins. We have a lot of women at the party too. Some of them even told us the party was really comfortable. We tend to like cutting-edge music which is not for everyone.Keeping balance was a little harder than I thought.

Jacob: I know what you mean. But also, what’s going on for us is that I try not to be so serious. Lately I’ve been trying to bring up people maybe who are not known at all but showing some interest. I know some parties are booking only big names, but we’ve been trying to give a chance to people who maybe otherwise wouldn’t get a chance. Also, our party is 46 hours in summer time(laughs). So it’s easier for us to have lots lots of DJs. When you’re in a different city and smaller time, it’s different.

DSKE: Same to us. How much they are known is not important for Motorpool but we work with people who can share the same values ​​with us. We also call DJs of various genres to expand the range. For example, there are 3 floors, each with a different atmosphere.

ーーSo you keep the balance between what you like and what people would like.

DSKE: Yes.

BUTTONS photography Ema Discordant

ーーWhat about Buttons? Is there anything you’re conscious about or trying to do for the party?

Jacob: When I first moved, because all the people who I work with they did the other party Homopatik with Danilo, so I didn’t wanna come in and sound like really demanding. Like, “Oh we need to do this!” So the first year I was just kind of watching, observing, and trying to understand. And then slowly making some changes. And then when I first moved to Berlin just going to and observing other parties to understand how people do things, one thing I noticed and I’ve been trying to do is to have moments in the party. 100% revolving around electronic music, DJ culture. Especially when the party is 46 hours long, you kinda need to have these moments to tell the story, or to have a break. Finding those moments keeps the party interesting. One thing Danilo has done a while and we do as well for Buttons is making decorations. Like art, installation, objects, kind of fun sculptures, to keep it visually interesting. Then also this year at the garden we added the second stage in the back. It’s like a little small stage and I’ve been trying to do different programing out there. That is not necessarily electronic music. So maybe like Danilo had a folk music band from Napoli, Italy, traditional dancing 8 in the morning on a Sunday(laughs). And everyone was just like, “wow, what is this?”. Trying to give these unexpected moments. Something you wouldn’t see at normal techno party, such as playing ambient music serving tea for everybody, or like free BBQ. We made the design about BBQ for online promotion, cartoon design for BBQ, and then having a free BBQ in the party. We hand these things for free, not trying to make money. We do that to give a good feeling to everybody.

MAYUDEPTH: When you have 46 hours , you have to make a long story for that long hour. That must be really hard.

Jacob: We do think about things for the story. But we have a good team of people and they are all friends. So I feel like we don’t have to try so hard because everyone kinds understands what we’re trying to do. The September party we had design for postcards. We tried to have a theme or idea behind the design.

MAYUDEPTH: I’ve seen that.

Jacob: Yeah. Then we made an animation video. Lately I don’t make up the ideas but I have a little idea and I tell the designer, like “Ok, we want postcards. So make the theme about the postcards”. And then inside the party, we have like a postcards station for like a 1 euro donation. People can fill out a postcard and send to their friends. So it’s like a not doing it for promotion, but of course it is promotion. But it’s more about engaging people and trying to have a nice feeling for everybody.

MAYUDEPTH: That’s cute.

Jacob: Also, since we’ve been organizing the WHOLE festival and the 46-hour party, now we’re always thinking about making a festival in a way. The party is not just one thing, it’s like many things happening.

MAYUDEPTH: How often do you guys do BUTTONS?

Jacob: Every month. Third Friday of every month. October, it starts the winter time so it’s shorter. It’s 22 hours. “Only” 22 hours (laughs).

MAYUDEPTH: Motorpool is like 10 hours (laughs).

Jacob: It starts like 10pm?

DSKE: Yeah, 10pm.

Jacob: And it stops at what time?

DSKE: 6 or 7am. But we’re also trying to tell stories although the party is short hours. Now we put the most focus on DJs so we’re trying to make a flow with music. But we also think what else can make the party more fun. For example, as we mentioned before, we served ice cream, and set a coffee stand. And apparel.

ーーJacob said giving a good feeling to people and engaging people is important for them. Is that what you guys want to do as well?

DSKE: We want people to have as much fun as they can. It’s more about fun than good feeling for us as our party is way shorter. So how we can make people have fun in the short time is important for us. We’re trying to do our best for that from a variety of different angles.

MAYUDEPTH: I think you there are a variety of people around Buttons as Homopatik has established that already. So you guys are trying to do something new with the base. But we had to work on establishing the variety of audience first.

DSKE: That was really difficult. We’re still focusing on how we can get more types of people.

Jacob: Oh yeah, that’s true. Even though Buttons is three years old, we had this foundation.

MAYUDEPTH: Yeah. Motorpool is still at the stage of creating the foundation. How we can get more varieties of people and how we can blend them. How they can share the same space. Not only genders but also generations.

Jacob: That’s nice.

MAYUDEPTH: And music tastes. We’ve been working on this for three years, and now we’re finally got to the starting line.

Jacob: We’re really lucky. In Berlin, we have no rules. Anything you wanna do you can do. Any other cities it’s much more difficult to start things. I totally understand.

MOTORPOOL photography Wataru Fukaya

ーーI want to ask you more about the difference between Tokyo and Berlin. Jacob said there is no rules in Berlin but which means there are rules in Japan?

Jacob: Yeah, I can imagine.

DSKE: There are so many rules for gay culture in Japan. Gay audiences have rules in their community. So people can’t go to those mix parties not easily. Only limited people can go. Most gay people still prefer macho everywhere. So it’s really difficult to bring those people into our party. We’re still struggling for that.

Jacob: You have to teach people. You do! About music and attitude.

MAYUDEPTH: I’m checking Button’s artwork and Instagram. I always think the direction is great. The artwork and your approach to social network are really helpful for us. We can feel the good vibes of the party from your Instagram.

Jacob: Thank you.

MAYUDEPTH: By the way, DSKE and I are always talking about you guys artwork. It’s so cute. Who do that usually? People from the community or do you guys reach to designers?

Jacob: The majority of artists are our friends. They come to the party and I think now they know the attitude and the feeling of the party. So usually our friends say things like “Oh I wanna make a video about this”, and it’s totally stupid and funny and crazy. But when we put the new designer, sometimes they ask us what the theme is. And I have to say we actually don’t know. We don’t really come up with. So we just pass them some ideas like postcard to help them formulate the concept. I mean it’s the same way we book the DJs. You book them because you like them. You don’t tell them what to play. And it’s kinda same way for designers. Normally they’re working for stupid corporate job, doing something they don’t like. So it’s the opportunity for them to do something fun, crazy, and very colorful.

MAYUDEPTH: That’s amazing. We want to do that with Motorpool as well.

Buttons art work by Nicola Napoli

Jacob: Lately I’m trying to bring on new designers because our designers are man, man, man. So we’re trying to find more female designers or trans or minor designers. You know, we can reflect all kinds of races. Coming up we have some new designers. But again, I usually don’t tell them so much what to do. I’ll just send them what we’ve done then they can understand the style. I’m trying to find a new talent. For example, I found this young female designer at an exhibition in Germany.

MAYUDEPTH: A lot of female DJs play at Buttons?

Jacob: Yeah. Of course still less female DJs than male DJs. But since I’ve been doing the booking for the past two years, I’ve trying to book way more women and trans DJs. But it’s the kind of thing that I don’t want to walk about. I don’t want to say on our social media like “We’re booking female DJs”. Don’t talk about it, just make it happen. Sometimes I calculate the percentage because I want to make it 50/50 as possible. So for example we had a few months there as more men, so I said that to myself “ OK, in the future, it’s gonna be 60% of female DJs”.


Jacob: And same for people of colour, too. Like black people. Black people invented this music. And there are sometimes in Berlin you look at the line ups and white man, white man, white man. And so just trying to make it as mixed as possible. People notice it. We don’t talk about that but they notice it. Like our lesbian friends say “Oh my god. It’s so cool to see so many women in the DJ booth”. Or they notice that by music and say “Oh, the music is so sensitive tonight. Maybe because the DJs are super queer femme DJ or woman DJ. I try no to talk about it but I just do it and make it happen so people can experience it themselves.

MAYUDEPTH: Motorpool is similar in that respect. When we invited Ellen Allien to Japan, DSKE suggested to book all female DJs for main floor.

Jacob: Nice.

MAYUDEPTH: Not many parties do that in Tokyo. But we don’t really try to tell people that’s female party. We’re happy if people can feel the difference even a little themselves.

Jacob: Are there a lot of female DJs in Japan?

MAYUDEPTH: Yes, so many. There are much more female DJs now than when I started DJing. I think there are more places for female DJs, too. Not only in Japan but all over the world. It’s a good time. But of course, there are still more male DJs.

Jacob: Yeah, bur it has been a big change. There are more visibility now.

MAYUDEPTH: True. I think that’s one of the reasons Motorpool is pumping recently. Good timing.

DSKE: Jacob, can you give us some names of local DJs you recommend?

Jacob: Like new ones? I have many answers (laughs).

MAYUDEPTH: Maybe some people who’re involved in Buttons.

Jacob: Ok. Do you know Paolo di Nola?

DSKE: Yes.

Jacob: Paolo was a resident at Homopatik, and also at Buttons. He is 55 or 56 years old and he started a club in Rome in 1989. I’m 20 years younger than Paolo so I didn’t experience dance music when I first started. And he’s someone who embodies the energy of the beginning of dance music. I think he’s the best DJ in Berlin and also the most under represented DJ in Berlin.
And also Lakuti. She’s been in Berlin for 6- 8years. She’s like someone who really kinda blends everybody together. Really warm figure. It’s just like a really good friend of everybody. Kinda checking everybody like “Hey! Have a good gig tonight!” And coming to support. Very important. And…There’s a young DJ, her name is Yha Yha. She’s gonna play Buttons in November. She’s a trans girl from San Francisco, and really good DJ. I saw her playing at a festival this year on a small stage. I was walking by andI heard the music, and I was like “Oh my god, what is it!?”. I saw her behind the DJ booth and that was kinda moment everone was super engaged with her. And she has a group called New World Dysorder, the group of trans DJs from all over the world. We’ll have them at the WHOLE festival this year. That’s cool to see all trans collective.

ーーLast of all, please tell us what you are up to next or your future plans.

DSKE: The next Motorpool is on the 27th of December, Friday. The guest is Cassy.

Jacob: Oh cool.

MAYUDEPTH: We’ve got so many ideas we could take in for Motorpool from the story of Buttons you told us today.

Jacob: That’s nice.

MAYUDEPTH: We are so happy we got this opportunity to talk to you.

ーーDo you have anything you can tell us, Jacob?

Jacob: In November, We have Kiddy Smile. Do you know Kiddy Smile? He’s a queer black rapper from Paris, and he also DJs. He’s kinda big name for his rapping career, but not so known as a DJ.

ーーWhen is the WHOLE festival?

Jacob: The second weekend of June. I wish I had a better answer for Buttons but honestly we’re thinking so much about the festival right now. We just launched the tickets so. We’re trying to invite new collectives.

ーーAbout the WHOLE, I read you were saying that you want to make a place for people to talk about not only about music but ideas, thoughts and politics.

Jacob: Yeah, we have side programs like workshops, panel discussion, we’re tying to build that more. Last year, that kind of aspect was kinda new. So we’re trying to increase the side programs this year. Ideally for me, I’d like for someone to come who doesn’t give a shit about a DJ. I want people who want to come and be around like queer audience. Maybe they go to panel discussion, maybe they go to workshop, or we have some performance programs as well. So not everything is like 100% electronic music. We have cinema program as well.

MAYUDEPTH: That sounds a large-scaled event.

Jacob: Last year, about 3000 people came. Maybe this year we’re expecting 5000 people.

MAYUDEPTH: We’d love to go someday. But let’s enjoy the party tomorrow night first.

Jacob: Yeah. I’m looking forward to it.

photography Satomi Yamauchi
text & edit Ryoko Kuwahara


WHOLE | United Queer Festival


Jacob Meehan



Special Thanks

2019 12.27 FRI
MOTORPOOL feat CASSY at Contact Tokyo


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