Brutalismus 3000 are the hottest new electronic act in continental Europe, a pair of Bavarians lighting up Berlin with some of the most brutal, unpalatable, utterly beautiful rave music since the Nineties, all while calling the contemporary techno scene boring and “unstylish,” writing lyrics about horror films and 9/11, hanging out with fashion’s dark lord Rick Owens, playing to thousands, doing serious numbers on TikTok, and (apparently) drinking blood. Bringing an almost disrespectfully irreverent ethos to a techno scene that has long needed it, Victoria Vassiliki Daldas and Theo Zeitner are ridiculously cool, to the point of being slightly intimidating.
Or they would be, if they weren’t so bloody cute. Daldas and Zeitner met in 2018 at 2 a.m. in a bar in Neukölln, in southeast Berlin. Zeitner was at a party when he got a message from a new match on Tinder, asking if he fancied meeting up. They had barely exchanged pleasantries, but he agreed to a spontaneous first date.
“I was just like, ‘You wanna meet?’” Daldas says. “And then he came, and I saw this cute kid ordering vodka soda. At first we talked in English …”
“… I thought she was Russian …” says Zeitner.
“… And then I heard his pronunciation of ‘vodka soda’ and I knew immediately he’s German,” says Daldas.
“I was intimidated a little bit,” says Zeitner. “But it turns out she was a softie after all.”
“That’s off the record!” Daldas says, chuckling.
In one of only two previous interviews, with the Berlin kink and music magazine Playful, Daldas and Zeitner wore matching fluorescent-yellow jumpsuits (possibly Balenciaga) and bemoaned the contemporary techno scene, particularly in Berlin. “They take it so seriously and say things like ‘techno is a revolution,’” Zeitner said. “I’m like, nah … it’s not. Going to Berghain is not a revolution.… The techno scene is really unstylish.”
As they welcome me into their plush new two-level apartment in Neukölln the day after they’ve moved in, they’re nothing short of lovely, displaying a mutual understanding that matches their musical chemistry, finishing each other’s sentences and giggling adorably while drinking cosmopolitans poured attentively by their manager. The place is still bare, with little more than a few chairs and a coffee table, but it’s on the top floor of a modern-looking block and is blessed with bountiful sunlight and a view over the verdant streets of Berlin’s most happening borough.
While they decry techno’s revolutionary properties, they happen to portend a radical shift in electronic music. Following years defined by subtle, austere techno made predominantly by straight white men in plain black T-shirts, Brutalismus 3000 are brash and loud, landing somewhere between Euro trance, 2000s electroclash, and full-blown, all-American EDM. They dress in technicolor, and Daldas sings for the queer and femme communities of the Berlin club scene (“They’re your babies,” Zeitner tells her).
They are, also, a contradiction. They may appear niche, but they embrace lots about the mainstream, expressing fondness for pop stars like the Weeknd and even EDM DJs like David Guetta. Their music is both irreverent and densely referential: Comb their catalog and you’ll find allusions to Kraftwerk, Iggy Pop, Soundcloud rappers, David Cronenberg films, and vampiric superheroes. They say the techno scene has had no influence on them, but cling to a four-on-the-floor kick drum like a teenager to a phone.
And despite its brute force, their music is often gorgeous, tender in its narcotic melodies and moving in its nuanced depiction of the world. This is the paradox I’m here to reckon with: Are Brutalismus 3000 as stridently cool and uncompromising as they seem, symbols of the murky Berlin underground who reject mainstream society and worship the devil in their spare time? Or are they, in fact, human after all?
“You can just say we worship the devil,” says Zeitner.
ON THE NIGHT OF that first date, Zeitner and Daldas discovered a shared love of horror films and hard dance music, artists like DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft), an electro-punk duo from the Seventies and Eighties hailing from Düsseldorf and known — among other things — for singing groovetronic boogies about Hitler and Mussolini. Zeitner started producing music on GarageBand after seeing his friends making minimal techno; he decided he’d learn how to make it just to prove to them it was stupid. Daldas had hardly ever sung before, except in a school play, and even then she forgot her lines.
Less than a year after meeting, they started recording together. Zeitner produced deliciously hellish beats and Daldas sang through a distorted mic in a mixture of German, English, and Slovak. No matter your grasp of any of those languages, her lyrics are a challenge to decipher, comprehensible in fragments that hint at a warped, ambiguous perspective on the city in which they live and the world into which they were born. Enigmatic, obliquely political, and truly magnetic while paying little mind to the genre she’s most often placed into, Daldas is to techno as Death Grips frontman MC Ride is to hip-hop: You may not understand everything they’re yelling on about, but you couldn’t possibly stop listening.
In August 2020, Brutalismus 3000 released their first single, “Horíme” (“We Are Burning” in Slovak), into a world at the mercy of a pandemic. By the time clubs reopened, they had several singles and two EPs to their name, plus a sizable online following helped by the attention of a few TikTok kids. Their first proper show, in Paris in 2021, attracted 2,000 people. Track titles from their early work include “No Sex With Cops,” “Satan Was a Baby Boomer,” and “Die Umwelt Macht Bum” (“The Environment Goes Boom”). More than one of their record sleeves depict the band with blood dripping from their lips.
In February, they soundtracked the launch of Rick Owens’ Moncler “rave sarcophagus,” and in April, released their debut album, Ultrakunst (“Ultra Art”), reaching Number 11 on the German pop charts. Amid raucous rave horns, trance riffs, a pumping kick drum, and the occasional junglist breakbeat, Daldas sings lines like “We drink your blood and sit on your head.” She says she writes lyrics and ideas down on her phone as they come to her, “and it’s complete chaos. Then Theo helps me to order it.” Zeitner also writes lyrics for his partner to sing, including those on Ultrakunst’s unbelievable closer, “GEWALT GEWALT.” “This city loves everyone/And everyone laughs,” Daldas wails in German. Then: “And on the corner are 20 men/Violence, violence.”
Like much of their music, it paints a picture of Berlin as a free, loving place beset with a niggling air of paranoia. On 2022’s “Romantika,” Daldas conjures an image of sweet romance among the caliginous atmosphere of a Berlin nightclub: “Fuckface bouncer, let me in the club/I want to kiss my baby on the leatherette.” But on “SAFE SPACE,” she takes aim at any club claiming to be safe for its patrons when often they’re anything but.
“Basically everyone we know has been drugged or something,” Zeitner explains.
“I’ve been drugged twice,” Daldas says. “Nothing bad happened, but … It’s also a commentary about parties, where you say it’s a safe space and then look at the lineup [of DJs] and …”
“… it’s a lot of alleged abusers,” Zeitner says, “or it could be a queer party with mostly straight people, dressing up as queer, and they go there to harass women. It’s just what we saw, and we just put in a song.… We see a lot of people have problems here. Mental illnesses get worse here, ’cause it’s a very stressful, very demanding city, but we love it so much.”
“When I came to Berlin, this was the first time I really felt at home,” Daldas says. She grew up in rural Bavaria, in southern Germany, with a Greek father and German Slovakian mother, a conservative environment in which she “was never really fitting in.” She’s always had a loving relationship with her parents, but she left home at 18, and not long afterward, they told her, “We never saw you so happy.”
Zeitner was raised in a small Bavarian town called Coburg, and describes his upbringing as “upper middle class.” He was diagnosed with ADHD at 12 and “ran into every trouble there is,” he says. “I was very troublesome as a child, I think. But I had a very safe and secure childhood. Very privileged.”
Zeitner and Daldas often say things that are at odds with the typically shy, modest personas of archetypal electronic musicians.
“We both knew as children that we were gonna be famous,” says Daldas.
“Yeah, that’s like the only thing I ever wanted,” adds Zeitner. “It’s superfunny. You could put this on The Idol.” They’re not yet being mobbed in the streets, but their neighbor recognized them when they moved into their new place, which was embarrassing, apparently. They speak to me on their first weekend off in more than a month following a 30-date European tour. Although they’re on planes most weeks, Zeitner is still afraid of flying. Every time he’s on a plane he wears the same shirt and plays the same song just before takeoff: “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals, timing it so the chorus hits just as the wheels leave the tarmac.
Since his recent 27th birthday, Zeitner has been thinking about that bit in Birdman where Michael Keaton’s character sits behind George Clooney on a plane as it flies through a storm, unable to rid himself of the thought that, should the plane go down, it would be Clooney’s face in newspapers the next day, not his. “It would be so annoying, dying at 27,” Zeitner says. “Because who am I in that club? I’ll die at 28, then I’ll be in a new club.”
Daldas won’t reveal her age, but whatever it is, Brutalismus 3000’s fan base is decidedly Gen Z. Their recent tour was open to anyone 16 and over, and they estimate that the average age at their shows is 18 or 19. “It’s really fucking young,” says Zeitner. “People hate on what young people like, but I love it. The young generation is always the best generation.”
Zeitner says they’re millennials, remembering a pre-internet childhood defined by the Offspring and the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. But it’s easy to see why they appeal to a young crowd. Among their favorite lyrical subject matter is the environment, manifested in samples of David Attenborough and a 2022 song called “3ISBÄR,” in which, referencing the cult 1981 hit “Eisbär,” by the Swiss New Wave band Grauzone, Daldas sings, “Eisbär’n müssen weinen” (“Polar bears have to cry”).
“It would be too much to say it’s activism,” Daldas says. “But of course it’s something our generation or even the younger generations are fighting for, and of course it influences us.” Zeitner makes the point that flying around the world for a different gig every week is not exactly eco-friendly, but they hope their sentiments have at least some effect on their listeners.
They do, however, show their age on the Ultrakunst track “CRY BÉBÉ.” Between mentions of the end of the world and Woodstock ’99, Daldas sings (in German), “Two buildings, two planes/It’ll never be the way it was again.” “I remember this moment when I was sitting in front of the TV,” she says, recalling 9/11. “I think it’s a little bit like what’s happening at the moment. We’re partying and this and that, and then you read the news and what’s happening. It’s clashing. And then you’re reading and you’re thinking what you can do to change.”
“Obviously it’s provocative in a way,” Zeitner adds. “But it’s very neutral as well. It’s not really making fun of it, but it’s not normal that you have that in a dance track. That’s what we always love, to be more than a dance track.”
All of this — rejecting electronic music’s pervasive minimalism, calling out problematic club lineups, being “more” than a dance act — amounts to a techno revolution, right? “I wouldn’t go that far,” says Zeitner. “But it’s definitely long overdue. I think it’s weird that we’re in this singular position in what we make. In that club way that we did it, all club tracks but with such a different attitude. It’s weird that we are the first ones to think of that.”
They note that, according to Spotify, their second-biggest fan base is now in the U.S. “I think maybe it could be more revolutionary there,” says Daldas. “To bring this vocal, loud, hardcore rave culture, it would be something kind of new for them.” Both learned students, they point out that although techno originated in Detroit, most Americans have never experienced rave culture as it happened in 1990s Berlin and London. They have no American shows lined up yet, but snicker excitedly at the thought of playing an EDM festival in Las Vegas with confetti cannons, pyrotechnics, and Daldas shooting out of a rocket like something from Jackass.
In 1977, David Bowie told Iggy Pop to write a song about “walking through the night like ghosts.” Together they recorded “Nightclubbing” in a studio in Berlin. Grace Jones and the Human League both covered the song. On Brutalismus 3000’s version, over rave screeches and gabbertastic pounds of bass drum, Daldas positively caterwauls the refrain: “Nightclubbing, we’re nightclubbing/We’re what’s happening.”
And right now, in Europe at least, they are. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the world can stomach the multisensory onslaught of Brutalismus 3000. Will they be scared off by their diabolical image, or seduced by the touching humanity at the heart of their music? After all, they don’t actually drink blood. Do they?
“No,” says Daldas. “Well, maybe baby blood. You know, to stay young.”