By: Filip Sandstrom Beijer
Photos: Lukas Viar
Playful had some cocktails with the techno doctor of Berlin.
Marina Rubinstein, better known as Dr. Rubinstein slides into the bar where we decided to meet, in the middle of Volkpark Friedrichshain on her baby blue bike.
“They don't have mate, but they have paper straws ..., she notes a bit ironically and decides instead to let an Aperol Spritz accompany the interview.
Having followed her through social media during the spring and summer, it feels like we've already met. Her personality shines through–to say the least–on YouTube, where she and one of her best friends, Lukas, have started streaming live during the Corona quarantine. It is both honest and spontaneous and Marina feels like self-assurance personified. Therefore, it surprises me a little when she produces a printed paper with notes, which she prepared for our meeting.
“I always want to prepare as best I can. That's how I am,” she says, laughing.
I was born in Russia and I speak Russian. I love it.
We’re starting to talk about how everything started, and how Russia-born Marina Rubinstein ended up in Berlin and became a hyped DJ with constant bookings at Berghain.
”I was born in Russia and I speak Russian. I love it. Most people don’t know, so when some fansare talking to me in Russian, I’m getting super happy. I’m like ‘Oh my god, that’s kinda cute’,like, they really know me.”
In school she was bullied for not being like everyone else, and also for having a Jewish last name. Yes, her real name is Rubinstein and as a teenager she moved to Israel and Tel Aviv. In previous interviews, she’s been described as a "True Raver" in the Israeli party city, something she wants to take the opportunity to bury. But just because it sounds a bit silly, not that it isn’t true.
“That ‘True Raver’ will hunt me forever, I said it years ago and since then it follows me everywhere. It sounds so silly, but yeah, I love to party always."
That she liked going out and dance was no exaggeration though. Marina enjoyed partying, especially at one specific club, and people started to think that she got paid to be there.
"I always enjoyed partying, and in Tel Aviv I was always this party girl. Coming to the parties early, staying late. I have a friend, Partok, who lives in Berlin right now. He used to throw parties in Tel Aviv and me and my friends came immediately every time. When I met him a few years later he told me that people thought that he was paying us to come and dance at his parties. I’m like, ‘Bitch where is my money’? He’s like, ‘I made you soup, here, eat it’.”, she says and laughs.
On one of the last days I met a person who would become my partner for the next seven years.
A little more than nine years ago, Marina came to Berlin for the first time. Then as a tourist, eager to explore the nightlife of the German capital. She traveled alone and stayed for a total of twelve days.
“I booked a flight and found this room on Craigslist. You remember when we used that, haha? It as next to Hermanstrasse, a very tiny room. Then I rented a bike and bought a bag of weed and went to all the parties by myself. Berghain, Watergate, ://About Blank, Club De Visionaire, open airs in Rummelsburg, Golden Gate. I stayed for twelve days and I was like ‘Oh my God!"
Her love for the city was a fact and almost cinematic, she also found love personified at the end of the trip.
“On one of the last days I met a person who would become my partner for the next seven years. In Golden Gate actually. I was kicked out of Golden Gate and this person left with me, took me to my bike and started to be in touch. A few months later I moved here”, she says and looks nostalgic.
“All of my friends said, ‘don’t do it’, but it was like ‘I have to’. When I think about it it’s crazy. No money, no job. It wasn’t always easy, but it worked out. If someone wants a boyfriend, they should go to Golden Gate and get kicked out. I am probably the only person who got kicked out of there” she says and laughs.
I have a very good intuition. I just know it. It’s not in the stomach, it’s in my mind
Marina says that she often gets intuitions about what to do. When she gets them, she doesn't hesitate, but just does it. And in a way, it was her intuition that made her a DJ as well.
“I have a very good intuition. I just know it. It’s not in the stomach, it’s in my mind. When I told people that I wanted to start DJ:ing, so many of them told me ‘you can’t make it as a DJ”.
Everyone told me that. But you know, there are no rules, it’s art. There is no formula."
Getting the first gig in Berlin was not that easy. It all started with her recording a mix, which she never dared to send to any booker or agency. But when an acquaintance heard that she was a DJ and asked her to send the mix, she took courage and sent it over. "I couldn’t mix properly. I did it over and over again and then I cried and then I had to redo it.Then when we were partying, a friend heard that I was a DJ. I sent her my mix and she showed it to another person who did parties at About Blank. They liked it and suddenly they offered me 50bucks for a 1,5-hour gig and the party was in three days. I was like ‘oh my God!’ During the gig, one of the visitors, also active in the club scene, caught the eye of Marina and shortly there after she was invited to do a gig on New Year's Eve.
"From that evening I continued to play there", she says.
I can stand in the record stores for hours
Nowadays she is one of Berlin's most well known DJs with gigs at Berghain and the other iconic night clubs when she’s not touring the world. When she's not in the DJ booth, she goes through the city's techno offerings in the record stores, record by record. She is known for finding narrow acts, new to the general public.
“I can stand in the record stores for hours. I simply go through each vinyl and listen to everything. Among a hundred discs records, I might find something I can use. Sometimes you find the gold nuggets and then the search is worth it,” she says.
Every time we talk about the city of Berlin, Marina lights up. It is clear that she did not lose the love that was born nine years ago when she came here for the first time. She is no longer banned from the club, admittedly, and today she is single, but the relationship with Berlin is as deep as ever.
”I love everything about this city. It gives me life and I love it with all its flaws and hardships.Every time I cross a bridge during sunset, I stop to look at it and I’m getting so emotional”
“It’s really intense though, and it can be the most amazing but also a super depressing city. Especially in the winter when it’s not conventionally pretty. When the days are shorter, yes, everyone I know is like crying in the winter, including me. It’s the dark. It’s something about the city. It can be the best on the weekend, then on Tuesday you have this massive down. It’s a very extreme city but it really fits me ‘cause I’m very extreme too”.
At first, when corona came, I was like, ‘Okay’, I didn’t think it would be this serious. Then I realized it did and I got those panic attacks, and everything was a mess
Like all other artists and DJs, her life has changed during the prevailing corona pandemic.
But instead of sitting around waiting for better times and for the clubs to open again, she finds joy in streaming on YouTube and Facebook where she invites guests and friends to every episode of Quarantine FM.
”At first, when corona came, I was like, ‘Okay’, I didn’t think it would be this serious. Then I realized it did and I got those panic attacks, and everything was a mess. Then I started with the streams and it kinda brought me back to life, to just be working on something and sharing it. I realized that all I actually wanted was to talk to people. To get feedback and socialize with a community and invite people to my living room”.
After a few drinks in the Biergarten, she tells me that her friend Lukas, with whom she makes the YouTube stream, is on the way and it doesn't take many minutes before Lukas rolls in on a speed bike and joins us.
I ask them what the first thing to do is when the clubs open again. They look at each other and I get a mantra-like answer in chorus.
”Berghain, Berghain, Berghain, Berghain”