Bulletin 2024.2

“It’s the rhythm of my life”

Interview with Walter Garber, DJ, record collector and lender to the HOPE exhibition

by Museion Bulletin editorial team: Caterina Longo and Mara Vicino
DJ Veloziped, Long night of museums, 2023 Photo credits: Michael Della Giustina

“I have classified them by genre, but not alphabetically. I have my own personal order, so I can find what I need.” Walter Garber (Merano, Alto Adige), aka DJ Veloziped, is a passionate and attentive collector. His eyes sparkle when he talks about music and vinyl. His vast collection of over seven thousand records can be viewed on Discogs, an open source online music database that is widely used by enthusiasts from all around the world. It is here, in Garber’s vast collection, that the curator of the HOPE exhibition, DeForrest Brown, Jr (New York, USA) unearthed several legendary Detroit techno albums by Cybotron, Underground Resistance and Drexciya while conducting research from his East Village apartment. Together with other treasures from the Merano-based DJ’s collection, these albums are now on display at the Museion HOPE exhibition, in the “Third Earth Archive” section, dedicated to the legend of Drexciya.

A number of techno albums by legendary Detroit DJ groups are currently on display at Museion. How did you come into contact with this music genre?

When I was a student in Vienna in the ‘90s I loved reading music magazines. Back then, there was no internet, so you had to get your information from music papers or by talking to other DJs in record stores, which were also a place to meet. Sometimes you ran into artists from the United States who were playing in town and had dropped in to buy vinyls. My first techno album was by Jeff Mills, a member of Underground Resistance, a guy we used to go to listen to in Vienna. I like to say we, as there was a group of us and we discovered this music together.

Vinyl UR* – The Return Of Acid Rain - The Storm Continues

The part of your collection on display in Museion includes a focus on the electronic music group Drexciya and the Drexciya legend

Records by Drexciya were hard to find and stores kept very few of them… a dozen at most. At first, it was all very mysterious and the group aroused a lot of curiosity. We knew the producers in Detroit were black and that they used cosmic imagery with a mixture of science fiction, but we did not know much else. Then, short - sometimes political - statements started appearing in certain magazines, and on the covers and central labels of their records. They saw themselves as a minority conducting an underground struggle. It’s a story they created gradually. So we got the details a bit at a time. But it’s still not all clear, a lot is still shrouded in mystery.

You grew up in Cermes, a small village on the outskirts of Merano, South Tyrol, in the 1980s. So how did the techno wave reach you?

In our social circle, we were like aliens. We went to parties, and as soon as there was a car available, we would drive for miles to go and listen to music. In the 1980s there was electronic music, funk and soul and afro/cosmic music too. We used music cassettes to listen to music. You could buy one for 10,000 lira and then make copies. That was a great place to start. But it was only when I went to study in Vienna in the 1990s that the big revolution with house music and techno hit me.

How did the desire to start collecting come about?

Initially it was a “collective” process. When I was a student in Vienna, I shared an apartment with other guys and we started collecting vinyl records together. While we lived in the same house, the collection belonged to everyone and we could all use it. But when university came to an end, each of us took part of it away and the collection got broken up. There are records that I still miss, as they are impossible to find…

How did the collection grow?

Every time I got a good grade on an exam, I treated myself to some records. It was a form of gratification. Then, when I started working, I was able to buy more, even rare records. Black Market in Vienna was one of my favorite stores.

But were/are you driven by an irrepressible need to have this or that record?

One thing I have to say is that I never bought records just to own them. I wanted to play them. So even back in my Vienna days we used to organize small parties. I did it for myself, of course, but for others too. As I wanted to share music and listen constantly to new stuff.

To go back to Detroit and the Drexciya: was it more the myth that fascinated you or the music?

Always the music! Music is always at the center of things.

Walter Garber in the exhitbion HOPE (2023, Museion) Photo credits: Michael Della Giustina

But, when we walked through the exhibition earlier, I saw you look at the showcase containing your records with a mixture of love and care. It was like you were checking on living creatures. So, how much does vinyl as an object matter to you? After all, it is just a storage medium for music that could also be transmitted as a file…

I like comparing vinyl to a book. As just like a writer, holding a novel in your hands is very different to just sending a link to download it. I think, as human beings, we need to establish a relationship with concrete, material objects rather than virtual ones. We have a much deeper relationship with analog material.

Speaking of books… you spent many years cataloguing old books in historical libraries… a complete short-circuit with your DJing. Or are there any parallels?

Sure, there are! For many years, up until 2018, I combined working on old books in the silence of convent and monastery libraries in South Tyrol with DJing. But there are some real connections, too, as, for me, playing music is a kind of meditation. In the popular imagination, DJs are superstars who turn up with a usb stick and start dancing, but that’s not actually the case. While you’re playing a record you have to be very focused. A lot of work goes into it, as if you make a mistake, it destroys the harmony. But that’s the beauty of it, you have to go with the flow….

And techno music, what does it awaken in you?

At first you think ‘what is this thing?’ It’s too fast… but after a while it grabs you and suddenly, you’re inside it. That’s when you really understand the music. It’s not something you get straightaway, as for many people it sounds repetitive and the same. But it’s these nuances, these variations and minimal shifts that make it interesting. For me, it’s like a beat, a heartbeat that keeps going always and gives you endless energy. As early as the 1990s, I decided it would be the rhythm of my life.

Photo credits: Walburga Gamper

Going back to your record collection, given your experience with books, are they all perfectly catalogued, maybe even alphabetically?

I have classified them by genre, but not alphabetically. I have my own personal order, so I can find what I need. I also have record bags for carrying my vinyls when I’m out DJing. Sometimes a record will get left on the floor, but there’s nothing I can’t find!

How do you feel when you see your collection on display at Museion?

I was really pleased to see my records on show and it makes me a little bit proud. I am also happy that these underground artists are appreciated by the local cultural scene.

Recommended listening by DJ Veloziped: Drexciya - Aqua Worm Hole (Underground Resistance UR-026)

The record is on show in the HOPE exhibition at Museion

*Drexciya is an Afrofuturist myth that speaks of an underwater civilization in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, whose origins date back to the 16th century, when the white slave trade began. The first generation of this civilization consisted of the sons and daughters of enslaved African women who were thrown overboard while still pregnant and gave birth in the water. Drexciya therefore represents a mythology of self-empowerment, a “black exodus technology”, an aquatic metropolis of amphibious warriors that aims to disrupt colonial power by leveraging the fighting spirit of this underwater civilization. This Afrofuturist tale inspired James Marcel Stinson and Gerald Donald, who called their Detroit techno duo, Drexciya, too. In the HOPE exhibition, the Third Earth Archive section is dedicated to the myth of Drexciya and its figurative transposition on techno album covers and graphic novels by the artist AbuQadim Haqq.

Bulletin 2024

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