Rote Fabrik will open a music production studio for everyone

Rote Fabrik, Clubbüro Von Isabel Brun am

The Clubbüro of Rote Fabrik wants to promote creative work by providing a recording studio for amateurs and professional musicians from the electronic scene – everything is self-managed and free. What was already a dream before the pandemic is now becoming reality.

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The Rote Fabrik is split into different areas of operation and Clubbüro is one of them. Photo by Michael Schallschmidt
Rote Fabrik is split into different areas of operation and the Clubbüro is one of them. Photo by Michael Schallschmidt

Things are stirring again at Rote Fabrik. It almost seems as if the pandemic had never happened and the negative headlines about a "coup" in the management have long since faded. Now people are drinking, dancing and fiddling again on the left bank of Lake Zurich. Maybe that's why Isi von Walterskirchen is in such a good mood when she talks on the phone about the latest project – the "CB-Lab", a community recording studio: "We want to create a space where any interested person can create music. No matter if amateur or professional." Von Walterskirchen is the director of the Clubbüro, which has been promoting participatory club culture in the rooms of Rote Fabrik for the last three years.

"Thanks" to Corona

Offering the opportunity to hold events in the halls of the cultural centre is only one pillar of Clubbüro, says von Walterskirchen. The organisation also organises training courses and round tables. Both have meanwhile become established in Zurich's club culture. However, their wish for a music studio where they could experiment has so far been denied: "After the founding of Clubbüro, the pandemic came; then we had other problems to deal with. Mainly since such a project only works physically, the 43-year-old says.

"The lab will be developed in collaboration with the collective. Everyone is welcome to participate – even newcomers." – Isi von Walterskirchen

But the dream of such a place is now even coming true "thanks" to Corona: the money that makes it possible comes from the canton of Zurich's support fund, which helps cultural enterprises with a one-time financial aid for so-called "transformation projects". This measure was decided in autumn of 2020 in the course of the revised Covid 19 law. According to the cantonal guidelines, "eligible" projects must either aim at a structural reorientation, recovery, or new audiences' development.

The CB-Lab, therefore, fulfils several conditions at once, von Walterskirchen explains: "During Corona, we noticed that the need for low-threshold offers for young music makers from the electronic scene is extremely great". After the lockdown brought nightlife to a virtual standstill, the dance floor was transformed into a "creation space": The "QU-Fabrik" - the QU stands for quarantine - offered the possibility to produce electronic music in Zurich and to receive technical support if needed.

This was actively used, according to the co-initiator of the pilot project: "A group of 16-year-olds produced their first own tracks, others offered DJ workshops on their own or tried out new collaborations." According to Von Walterskirchen, these experiences have shown that a music studio that is easily accessible and can be used for free, like the QU-Fabrik was, are urgently needed; because normally such studios can only be rented by professionals or for a lot of money.

Not only create, but also collaborate

A few months have passed since the last recordings in the QU-Fabrik. The pandemic measures were completely lifted in March this year, which is why the premises in the halls of Rote Fabrik are being used for events again. The temporary studio had to make way. But not for long, because thanks to a six-figure financial grant from the canton, the club office will be able to continue dreaming its dream of a place for creative work.

In a few days, they will ask the future users what they want from the new studio, the CB-Lab. According to Von Walterskirchen, it is important to the initiators that all interested parties have a chance to express themselves: "The lab is to be developed in cooperation with the collective. Everyone is welcome to participate – even newcomers."

Isi von Walterskirchen is now a member of the management at IG Rote Fabrik. Photo by Elio Donauer
Isi von Walterskirchen is now a member of the management at IG Rote Fabrik. Photo by Elio Donauer

In keeping with the ideology of the Rote Fabrik, it will continue to be self-governing after it opens in mid-December 2022. Much is based on voluntary work. Only the six-member core team, consisting of programmers, audio engineers and producers and Von Walterskirchen as coordinator, are permanently employed. The exchange of knowledge and skills is an important facet of the CB-Lab, says Von Walterskirchen: "The experts will support musicians in their projects, organise workshops and create the acoustic conditions for new creations. As in previous initiatives of the Clubbüro, the promotion of social engagement is one of the goals of the CB-Lab.

Building a sound system in the spirit of DIY

The recording studio is not the only project the cultural institution has up its sleeve. At the beginning of June, a new sound system will be inaugurated, which is being assembled by various people from the network of the Rhizom Festival and Rote Fabrik. In the future, it will be coordinated by the CB-Lab and used on the premises as well as rented out for external events. Von Walterskirchen hopes that an open community will also develop here. In any case, she is enthusiastic about the new sound system: after all, it is the "heart" of every party.

However, it was not she herself who was in charge of the realisation, but Sebastian Nagelmüller. Like Von Walterskirchen, he is a co-organiser of the Rhizom Festival. According to the party organiser, the model and sound concept for the system came from their friends in Berlin who own the sound system "Risikoanlage". The one in Zurich will be its little sister. Whether the fiddling around was worth it will be seen on the Whitsun weekend when live acts and DJs from the Rhizom Festival will play the sound system for the first time. In the future, it will form a focal point for the community that is just emerging.

It will take some time before something new can be created in the CB-Lab for the first time. First, the utilisation concept will be worked out, then the studio will be built. Anyone can help, Von Walterskirchen emphasises again: "The strongest ideas come from the community.

Words by Isabel Brun for and shared with She is an editor at Tsü and writes about climate issues and culture.