Brutalismus 3000: "The Secret Ingredient is Controversy"
If Berlin’s music scene had a Bonnie and Clyde duo, it would be Victoria Vassiliki Daldas and Theo Zeitner, who are better known collectively as Brutalismus 3000. Unlike their power-couple predecessors, Daldas and Zeitner don’t rob banks. Instead, they have raked in millions of streams and amassed eyebrow-raising record sales while subtly trolling the industry. As the 21st-century incarnation of two mischievous strategists in love, this power couple hacked the algorithm and launched themselves into the uppermost echelon of techno stardom—seemingly overnight. Everything they have aggregated has been fairly earned by a couple who are deeply attuned to the zeitgeist. In forming Brutalismus 3000 in 2019, Daldas and Zeitner anticipated the infamous “vibe shift” bolstered by a new generation.
Their project is rooted in the essence of a new paradigm: silly is the new sexy, and brutality is the new romanticism.
Brutalismus 3000 started the same way many great stories in Berlin do—at a bar in Neukölln in the early hours of the morning. What has unfolded in the aftermath is, above all else, an epic love story between Daldas and Zeitner, and between sensory-deprived, post-quarantine listeners and “nu gabber post-techno punk”—Brutalismus 3000’s self-coined, hybrid genre.
Their first singles and EPs satiated a sea of craving for harder and faster dance music, and perfectly synchronized with a surge of renewed interest in gabber. Though Zeitner and Daldas didn’t expect more than a “Summer of Hardstyle,” blistering tempos and hammering sounds have become one of the definitive trends in nightlife after Covid-19—likely for the same reasons that record-breaking percentages of young people are having rough sex. The hippies of the 1960s famously warned that “speed kills,” but at this frenetic moment in time, it saves. We are all addicted to stimulants and the proof is in our thumbs and forefingers, which scroll through feeds ever faster and incessantly open apps and inboxes, searching for the next hit of dopamine. The firehose of viral content that drowns us through our screens has left us numb. People, it seems, are less interested in “escaping” into techno—they’re looking for something that will help them wake the fuck up. Brutalismus 3000’s music is the sonic equivalent of intravenous amphetamine. Together, they have accomplished a feat that is increasingly rare: making everyone who encounters their work feel something.
Much like fellow electro-sensation PinkPantheress—who harnessed the power of nostalgia to create something that felt both familiar and new—Brutalismus 3000 set out to make tracks with Old Skool influences and danceable rhythms, but with a notable new ingredient: a feminist protagonist. Their references are noticeably German. Akin to the rebirth of Atari Teenage Riot, Brutalismus 3000 blends the sardonic critique of DAF and the hair-raising vocals of Malaria! with the sensationalism of 90s crowd pleasers like Scooter, Blümchen, and Mr. President. Their sources of inspiration are chaotically Zoomer. Daldas’ lyrics and delivery—which embody generations of female rage—bring to mind both Cherie Curry and Alice Glass. Zeitner’s taste in production is shaped by “Crazy Frog” as much as it is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The stories they tell are distinctly of Berlin. The looping-in tracks such as “SUKA SUKA” and “IS U CHEMICAL?” mirror the merry-go-round of life in the party circuit: come down, club, queue, dance, line, shot, dance, line, shot, dance, come down, club, queue, and so on. Their dark discography also includes the occasional homage to modern love. In “Romantika,” Daldas sings, “Leather, pleather together forever/ boy of the underworld / queen of the underground”—which is about as romantic as Berlin clubland ever gets. Their symbiosis as a couple shines in everything they do, but particularly on stage. Daldas is the stick of dynamite and Zeitner is the match that ignites her.
Daldas and Zeitner’s biggest homage to punk is not in their music, but in their attitude and their willingness to shatter romantic illusions. If techno is your religion, Brutalismus 3000 is here to proclaim that God is dead. If you believe that music saves, Brutalismus 300 is here to remind you that the world is ending—so we might as well jump straight into the chorus. Whether you find fear or freedom in meaninglessness is a matter of individual perspective.
When Daldas—in her signature oversized tracksuit and tooth gems shining––and Zeitner—wearing his signature Goofy band aid on his ear and a Balenciaga t-shirt—invited me into their new loft, the punchline followed shortly after: “Do you want a Cosmopolitan?” It seemed so fitting: the pink cocktail made famous by Sex and the City in the 2000s fell as woefully out of style as say, the eardrum-splitting sounds of gabber and hardstyle did after their heyday. At this stage in Daldas and Zeitner’s career, I am confident in their powers of resurrection. We raised our glasses in a toast: “Long live the Cosmopolitan.”
CASSIDY GEORGE: Did you incorporate gabber into your sound because you thought it was subversive or because you anticipated its comeback?
THEO ZEITNER: When it started in lockdown, I thought no one would want to listen to hardcore after half a year or a year. But it’s actually starting to be in the mainstream again. It could be another four years, which is great for us.
CG: Have you thought about why that sound is so appealing to people right now?
VICTORIA VASSILIKI DALDAS: We’ve been in Berlin for a while and have noticed over the years that many people left and those who stayed, stayed because they were stuck—nothing was really working for them. I think maybe this anger has something to do with it. It’s also just about nostalgia and music coming back in cycles. My parents listened to Scooter and Mr. President in the 90s.
CG: People frequently throw the words “underground” and “mainstream” around when discussing your project. Where do you place yourselves on that spectrum?
TZ: I don’t care very much about being “mainstream,” even though I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I mean, playing in front of 10,000 people is way better than playing in front of 100 people. People are saying “you have to stay true,” and we are staying true—we’re not trying to be something. In EDM and the wider scope of dance music, we’re very underground but we are definitely not underground in techno anymore.
CG: Victoria, as someone who didn’t regularly sing before, were you shy at first? Or was there always a performer inside of you, just waiting to be let out?
VVD: My parents have always said that there was something there. They thought I would be an actress because I was so loud and outspoken and because I love expressing myself.
TZ: She really didn’t hesitate or think twice about it. On the first EP you can hear that her voice is a little shyer, but she is giving everything in this new record.
CG: Theo, you said in another interview that this is the first musical project that you are 100% happy with. Why were you unhappy with the previous ones?
TZ: I did solo stuff all the time but never released it because I was studying film, which I just finished. I never planned on having a career in music. Now, I’m so happy I’m not working in film.
CG: Did you want to direct?
TZ: I liked the idea of it. But so many people want to direct—and directing is the shittiest job on earth. You have to be such a neurotypical person to do it.
CG: You have ADHD, right? How does that influence Brutalismus 3000?
TZ: There’s no fucking time to waste in the music, you know. I get to where I want to be very quickly in a track and that’s really ADHD. When we started, we had a more traditional techno structure. You know, start, one minute, then the high-hat comes in. This Berghain music, it just takes a really long time—and that was hard for me. We stopped doing that on the new record. It just starts with the chorus, goes into the verse, the chorus comes again, and then it’s over. If something gets boring, then I stop immediately.
CG: I think starting a musical project with someone you are dating in your twenties is kind of crazy. If you move in together, you can move out. If you get married, you can get divorced. Starting something like Brutalismus 3000 is one of the most serious forms of commitment. It’s like having a baby.
VDD: We were already dating for a while before we started the project, so we were ready for a “baby!”
CG: How do you avoid a Fleetwood Mac situation? Isn’t it difficult to have no separation between your personal and professional lives?
TZ: It obviously gets hard sometimes. It would be insane if it didn’t.
VDD: It’s not that we’re always on the same level. It’s more that we’re balancing each other. It’s usually that one person feels worse and the other is comforting them—like if we’re feeling scared on a flight or something.
TZ: Now we’re fully committed—not to the relationship, we committed to that before—but to the job.
CG: Do you ever worry it will all fall apart?
TZ: Not really, but everyone loves to tell us that it might. You know, parents are like, “you’re on top now, but that can change” and “this job is not safe!” No job is safe! This job feels safer than most, in a way, because now there are so many people out there that know us—and they’re not going anywhere.
CG: Many of your lyrics come from a dystopian place. Lack of love or the search for love seems to be a theme, which is surprising because you two have clearly found it.
VDD: “DIE LIEBE KOMMT NICHT AUS BERLIN” isn’t about romantic love. It’s more of a social critique. It’s about being the child of a guestworker and growing up during 9/11.
TZ: It’s about wanting to find a place to belong and looking for that in the wrong places. As Victoria says in the song, “Love doesn’t come from Berlin…do you really want to snort all of that?”
CG: Why did you two come to Berlin?
VVD: I’m from a really small city in Bavaria—practically a village. It’s exactly what you think of when you think of “Germany.” My father came as a guest worker and my mother came as a refugee. They built a life from nothing here so that we could have it better. I never fit in there though, so as soon as I could leave home, I left running.
TZ: I have a very different origin story. I am also from Bavaria, but my father is a lawyer and my mother worked at an architecture firm. I was always the black sheep, and I was always fucking things up. I never really knew what I wanted to do. I never planned on moving to Berlin, it was just a decision I randomly made when I was 19.
CG: Victoria, did you also feel like the black sheep?
VVD: As a foreigner in Bavaria? Always. People are really conservative there. My parents wanted to fit in and I…didn’t fit in. I think I was causing some trouble for them with their integration. I was asking the wrong questions, wearing the wrong clothes, and doing the wrong things—as a woman, especially.
CG: The majority of your fanbase is female, right?
TZ: Yes, we’ve seen that on tour especially. The first 10 rows are all 16- to 18-year-old girls.
VDD: They’re queer, femme, and really young. Often with braces! It has been really touching to play at a techno festival and see all girls in the front row with their posters, singing the lyrics to “Good Girl.”
CG: Do you also feel like black sheep in the techno world?
VDD and TZ: Yes!
VDD: That’s how we got famous!
TZ: We played a Hör set that was shared by this big page called Techno Germany. It was the first time that a broader audience listened to our sound, and it started a war in the comments. 50% of them were pure hate and 50% of them were pure love. I was so happy, I read everything! It was funny to me how angry people were about it, saying things like “this isn’t techno!”
VDD: “Music for crackheads!”
TZ: “Music for kids!” That one is true, though.
VDD: It was mostly just people hating the music and saying it’s shit. I feel lucky that none of the comments were attacking us as people.
TZ: The top comment on any TikTok video about us will be “techno tourism.”
CG: I don’t get it. Who are the tourists in this scenario?
TZ: They think that we’re making techno mainstream. That we’ve destroyed their dream.
CG: What dream? Berlin runs on techno tourism.
TZ: Techno comes from Detroit. Techno in Europe is tourism!
CG: It’s also an insufficient label for what you do. You are more like a band than you are a techno DJ.
TZ: We did this recent tour to show that we are a live concept, and we can work as such. We also wanted to show that it makes sense for us to be on different stages and in lineups that are a little more avant-garde. We want to move away from hard techno. It’s not where we see ourselves in the coming years.
VDD: Many of the venues and festivals that we are booked for are not equipped for live performances, so we often have issues. I also have to deal with bullshit from the cocky monitors, who 99% of the time are men who think I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m a woman with a microphone. We have nothing against anyone making great music, but all these guys with their black-and-white and super extreme techno... when we get invited to join these lineups we often think, “Should we really play there? It’s horrible!” We’ve played some gigs where I was the most diverse person on the lineup. I was like, “Me? Really?”
TZ: Everyone in techno also seems to take every gig they can get, and I don’t know why. The DJs at the top of this scene play four gigs every weekend. It’s insane! We play two events a month and it’s already too much for us. We say no and we think it’s good to say no. We create this demand, and we don’t risk overplaying the music. They always come back with more money in the end anyway. I mean no rock band plays every fucking weekend. Maybe Harry Styles does, I don’t know.
CG: You both have such a relaxed approach to criticism. What would you say to an artist that is less confident about sharing their work because they fear judgment?
VDD: I think the secret ingredient is controversy. If you are in peoples’ mouths and if they are trying to analyze you—even in a negative way—then they are interested in what you are doing.
T: I mean there are so many great artists like Kafka who barely released anything. His best friend released his work after he died, and then he became one of the greatest authors of all time. I was never afraid to put anything out because, at the beginning, no one cared.
And isn’t no one caring the worst that can happen?
Nothing can be so terrible that people come running after you with pitchforks. Right?