My hvv switch point w/h Andi Schmidt | hvv switch | hvv switch

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On Seitenstraße with Andi Schmidt

Every hvv switch point is a story in itself - and an invitation to make a point. More than 160 hvv switch points in Hamburg offer a variety of ways to get from A to anywhere. We introduce you to exciting people from Hamburg - on their routes through the city. This time: Andi Schmidt, operator of the live music club Molotow.

Hamburg at the end of February. Andreas Schmidt, operator of the Molotow music club in St Pauli, is still a little shaken up. And at the same time he is touched. At the end of last year, his premises on Nobistor were cancelled without warning. However, the news not only outraged him, but also triggered a wave of solidarity that has rarely been seen in the cultural landscape: Several thousand people took to the neighbourhood the day before New Year's Eve to demonstrate in favour of the club remaining open. Dozens of artists posted videos on Instagram saying "Molotow must stay". And even the news programme Tagesschau reported.

"I didn't expect so much support," says Andi Schmidt. The 60-year-old runs the Molotow primarily out of idealism, he says. He is not really interested in money. The main thing is that music comes out of the speakers. The club has been on the brink of collapse several times in recent decades. But somehow it always managed to keep going.

Andi himself started out as a DJ at Molotow in 1990. Four years later, he took over as tenant. In the decades that followed, he became one of the best-known figures in Hamburg's music scene. He has seen many bands become big: The Hives, Mando Diao, The Killers. All of them were on stage with him at the beginning of their careers. We meet Andi at hvv switch Punkt Seilerstraße, a street parallel to the Reeperbahn.

Do you remember your very first evening in a Hamburg club?

Well, a club - back in the 70s it was still called a disco, and the first disco I ever went to was Grünspan. When I was young, the clubs opened quite early - at eight. You could stay until eleven, even if you weren't 18 yet. At 11 pm, the cleaning light came on and then it was "All under 18s out!". Of course, you could also see how long you couldn't be found...

Did you go out or did you look to see if you could be found?

It was different...I was 15 or so at the time. You don't go out all night then...that only came later for me. I remember that we were already going out by then.

And what was your first concert?

The first concert I went to on my own was Nazareth, a British hard rock band. They played at the Musikhalle. Now the Laizhalle. Rock concerts used to take place there too, all the bands played there. I don't know why that was restricted at some point.

People can read a lot about you and the Molotow. What we didn't find: Did you actually grow up in Hamburg?

For the most part, yes. I spent the first few years of my life in Vienna, my mum is from there. I've lived here in Hamburg since school.

Which neighbourhood did you grow up in?

In the east of the city, between Ritterstraße and Landwehr. So Hamm Nord, Eilbek, down there.

How did you get around the city back then?

I used to cycle a lot. To school and back and to all kinds of things you did back then: Meeting friends, swimming pool, I don't know what. And otherwise I used the underground or public transport. When I was at school, I took the 160 bus from Wandsbek Markt to Horner Rennbahn, where my school was.

And how are you travelling today?

A lot on foot. Otherwise by public transport or sometimes by taxi... but only at night.

Molotow operator Andi Schmidt in Seilerstrasse in Hamburg.

Have you ever ridden an e-scooter?

No. To be honest, I don't know how it works or where I'm supposed to go with it. Do you travel longer distances with it?

Many people tend to use them for short journeys, to the underground, for example, or to the supermarket or gym.

So I prefer to walk a few steps. You move so little anyway.

And car sharing?

I only use car sharing if I have to go further away. I don't really drive a car within the city.

We are standing here at the hvv switch point Seilerstraße. Why did you choose this place?

I've lived round the corner for 20 years.

How has the neighbourhood changed?

Very much, of course. Firstly, there are the changes that you see everywhere: There used to be a fish shop around the corner, there was a butcher, a shoe shop, a jeans shop, a delicatessen... all gone. Now there's a delicatessen again. But then so special, like Italian hipster goods from southern Italy or something. Normal shops where you can go shopping are no longer there. Nobody can afford the rents any more. And that's also the reason why the rest has changed so much: Only system catering and kiosks. It's all become very monotonous. In the 1990s and 2000s, you could try anything for very low rents.

You have been publicly warning about the consequences of rising rents since the 00s. In an interview in 2008, you said: "A world-famous trendy neighbourhood is dying here". 16 years later: is the neighbourhood dead or still dying?

We are still in the dying process. But of course there comes a point when you can no longer turn it around. I'm afraid we've reached that point. I also know that it's hard to put an entire neighbourhood under a cheese bell. But Hamburg has something in St Pauli that you can't really find anywhere else. I've travelled a lot as a musician, people all over the world know St. Pauli and know that there's a unique mixture of maritime seafaring romance, red light and a lively music scene. The sailors no longer exist, there are hardly any red lights - and the music, well. But when it's all gone, St. Pauli is just another entertainment district, and every big city has one. And that's why many tourists come here! On the neighbourhood tours, which are becoming increasingly popular, they can only talk about the old days: The Star Club used to be here, this used to be here, that used to be here.

Historical tours. They are available in many cities...

Of course you can also do them. There are Al Capone tours in Chicago, although there is probably no longer a building where he used to be. But it does make a difference whether you can go inside and have a look, and whether it is perhaps still in operation as it was back then. The Reeperbahn as a museum? That's kind of pointless.

You've been running the Molotow since 1994, almost exactly 30 years ago. Since then, you've had to fight again and again: in 2008, operations were on the brink, in 2013 you had to move out of the Esso buildings and needed a new place to stay, then came corona. Now another cancellation. Is anything different this time, or do you feel like you're having deja vu?

On the one hand, it's familiar. However, the support is much greater this time. The fact that 5,000 people took to the streets for the demonstration is very overwhelming. The city is also doing more than before. If you wanted to speak to someone 20 years ago and told them you were a live club, they would look at you with a completely uncomprehending look. At best, they thought we offered live sex shows. At some point, 20 years ago now, there was an invitation from the district office to all club operators. There was a picture on the wall listing all the 'existing clubs' in the city - including the Dollhaus... Today, you don't have to explain a music club to anyone and we get really good support.

You also have many very prominent supporters from whom you post video messages on Instagram. "If the Molotow disappears, it will cause irreparable damage to the city," says Bela B from Die Ärzte, while Olli Dittrich speaks of a "piece of Hamburg culture". Felix Kummer from Kraftclub also sent a video and even newsreader Ingo Zamperoni can be seen on your channel with "the Molotow must stay". Did you approach people?

Some approached us, others we approached. But everyone was immediately on board. And we still have a few in the pipeline.

Who else is coming?

You can see that on Instagram.

You say yourself that you run clubs out of idealism. Did you ever consider giving up?

No, I'm also interested in a certain tenacity. St Pauli has to be preserved at least a little. It can't be the case that everything creative just takes place somewhere else at some point - in the worst case, like in Munich in Kunstpark Ost, where everything is then located in a mixed industrial area in one spot. Terrible. And throwing in the towel...yes, I can always do that at some point.

You are known for your instinct for talent. In an interview in 2018, you were asked which band that had recently performed at your venue you thought would really take off soon. You said Yungblud, who now have 4 million followers on Instagram and are booked worldwide...

Yes, they've got pretty fat, yeah. Idles too, I would have said that the year before...

And this year?

Now I would say Sprints. They just played last week, you'll be hearing a lot more from them. They're from Dublin and they're fantastic.

Is there a concert in the coming weeks that you're particularly looking forward to?

The German punk band Donots are playing two concerts with us soon, they are very close to the Molotow. I'm really looking forward to that.

What is the current situation for the Molotow after all the protests?

Due to the huge resistance, we have been given a reprieve and can stay at Nobistor until the end of the year. That helps. Many bookings for the autumn have already fallen through due to the circumstances, but we can still salvage a little. We always have a year's notice for acts, which is why we've always said that we need a minimum of one year's notice.

And is there already a new location in sight?

Lots of people have ideas, and I've already looked at places. So far nothing has materialised. The biggest problem is potential complaints about noise. If there's a hotel next to the property, you don't stand a chance as a club.

There are many hotels here.

It's not just hotels. Another problem is the people who have moved to Pauli in recent years to live in their chic condominiums because they want to live in the colourful district. In the evening, however, they would like to have their peace and quiet. There are plenty of quiet neighbourhoods in Hamburg. Langenhorn, for example. It's nice there. It didn't used to be like that here. Everyone knew that noise was part of it. But it's probably not so easy to find a regulation that simply says: If you move here, you have to live with the nightlife...

Where do you still go today, apart from the Molotow?

There are still two places from the past: the Komet and the Gun Club. They've been around since the 90s and I've been popping in there from time to time ever since. Then I still like going to the Korallbar. And I go to a lot of concerts at the Hafenklang.

Do you have a favourite place in Hamburg?

Yes, I have a favourite. It's down by the Landungsbrücken at bridge 10, where you can sit and look out over the Elbe. They also have great fish sandwiches. I've been going there with my wife for many years. We sit on the bollards, look out over the water and like it.

Molotow operator Andi Schmidt in front of a black MILES car in Seilerstrasse in Hamburg.

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