The new TV series Babylon Berlin is out now in Germany, Austria, Italy, the UK and Ireland via Sky. Babylon Berlin will be available worldwide via Netflix (release date tba). Based on Volker Kutscher’s same-named bestselling novels, the series was written and directed by Henk Handloegten (Love in Thoughts, Good Bye Lenin!), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas), Achim von Borries (Love in Thoughts, Good Bye Lenin!). Babylon Berlin is the most expensive series in German TV history with a budget of approximately 40 Million Euro.

Welcome to the 1929 Berlin

16 episodes for the first 2 seasons have been produced already, inviting the audience to the politically and culturally buzzing Berlin of 1929 – and into Nazi Germany including the proclamation of the Hitler cabinet in 1933 if more seasons get to be produced.

The story follows young police inspector Gereon Rath, who has just been transferred from the city of Cologne to Germany’s capital to resolve a case of blackmail involving a porn ring. The glamour of the “golden years” after World War I and the omnipresent poverty in the German society clash constantly in the different storylines and create a tinderbox, that only waits to explode. While the novels focus a lot on historical accuracy, director Achim von Borries mentioned at the premiere that the intention for the series was to approach the source material more loosely and with more creative freedom.

About Babylon Berlin’s soundtrack

At this year’s Soundtrack_Cologne, we got to interview Johnny Klimek (Sense 8, Cloud Atlas); one of the composers behind Babylon Berlin’s soundtrack which can be divided into period music as well as a contemporary score. As Johnny told us in the interview (watch below), singer and songwriter Bryan Ferry who was working on his new record at the time was so inspired by the project that he wrote 13 new songs inspired by Babylon Berlin which the creators were then free to use as period music. Bryan Ferry worked in the past with Jay-Z on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby which takes place in the golden 1920’s as well. Other parts of the period music were written by Nikko Weidemann and Mario Kamien. Additional music for Babylon Berlin was composed by Felix Raffel.

The contemporary music was written by Tom Tykwer and Johnny Klimek who have collaborated on all of Tom Tykwer’s films since Winter Sleepers in 1997. In our interview Johnny Klimek told us about how Tom Tykwer and he divide the work after having collaborated for 20 years and how the process of the music creation looked like in general.

Watch our interview with Johnny Klimek below:

Johnny Klimek on the music for Babylon Berlin and his collaboration with Tom Tykwer


Not included in the video is that Johnny Klimek also told us about a planned live concert celebrating the music of Babylon Berlin in the near future. We will keep you updated once more details are available. More clips from our interview where Johnny Klimek speaks about his work on the Netflix Original Sense8 will follow. Make sure to follow our Tuesday Talks on Youtube.

About Babylon Berlin

Berlin, spring 1929. A metropolis in turmoil. From economy to culture, politics to the underworld – everything is in the grip of radical change.

Speculation and inflation are already tearing away at the foundations of the still young Weimar Republic. Growing poverty and unemployment stand in stark contrast to the excesses and indulgence of the city’s night life and its overflowing creative energy.

Gereon Rath, a young police inspector from Cologne, is transferred to Berlin in order to solve a criminal case – a porno ring run by the Berlin Mafia. What at first glance appears to be simply a matter of extortion soon reveals itself to be a scandal that will forever change the lives of both Gereon and his closest associates.

Together with stenotypist Charlotte Ritter and his partner Bruno Wolter, Rath is confronted with a tangled web of corruption, drug dealing, and weapons trafficking, forcing him into an existential conflict as he is torn between loyalty and uncovering the truth. And we are left wondering: in this story, who is friend and who is foe?

With the political unrest spurred by May Day demonstrations and rising National Socialism, even an institution like the “Rote Burg,” Berlin’s police headquarters and the centre of democracy and the constitutional state, is increasingly becoming the melting pot of a democracy whose days are numbered.

Watch the full trailer for Babylon Berlin below (in German):

Babylon Berlin Trailer Staffel 1 German Deutsch (2017)

The TV series

Based on the best-selling novels by Volker Kutscher, BABYLON BERLIN is the first German TV series where viewers can emotionally experience the story of the political developments leading from the Weimar Republic to the spread of National Socialism.

Through the eyes of Gereon Rath, the young police inspector from Cologne, we get a glimpse behind the scenes of the “Roaring Twenties,” which not only brought the Great Depression, but where “dancing on the volcano” became the stuff of legend.

Since May 2016 and continuing on until the end of this year, X Filme Creative Pool,  ARD, SKY, and Beta Film are bringing the 1920´s back to life on original sites in Berlin, namely the back lot set  “Neuen Berliner Straße” at the Studio Babelsberg and in North Rhine-Westphalia.

© Babylon Berlin (Sky)

© Babylon Berlin (Sky)

The novels

Back in 2007, just as author Volker Kutscher finished  „Der nasse Fisch“, the first entry in his series of novels about detective Gereon Rath, he broke new ground on the literary scene.  Historical crime novels set in Nazi-Germany had been written before, but a series dealing with the “golden” 1920´s had never been published until then.

An especially exciting phase of German history, the 1920´s were marked by radical changes in society, a fact Kutscher combines in his novels with classic noir elements, reminiscent of hard-boiled American writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler back in the day. This is an approach mirrored in the choice of making the protagonist a detective who is being transferred from Cologne to Berlin. Following this ambitious, yet politically indifferent anti-hero, the reader can explore the old “Chicago at the river Spree” and vicariously experience how a young, promising democracy with great progressive tendencies could descend into a rule of fascism.

Gereon Rath´s cases are meticulously researched history lessons during which the author confronts fictional as well as non-fictional characters with historic events while never losing sight of the detective story. Kutscher uses a gripping, scenic narrating style which presents the intoxicating world of a doomed Weimar Republic brought back to live in stunning detail and perfectly serves as a basis for a TV adaptation. Kutscher has stated that the ground-braking HBO series “The Sopranos” (1999-2007) served as an inspiration for him – and also the fact he had seen two movies in quick succession in 2002: Sam Mendes´ hard-boiled gangster film “Road to Perdition” set in 1931 and Fritz Lang´s 1931 masterpiece “M”, made in Berlin. The idea of blending both of those worlds in a crime novel was born.

© Babylon Berlin (Sky)

© Babylon Berlin (Sky)

About Johnny Klimek

Johnny Klimek is a fourth generation film composer, equally comfortable in the electronic studio and on the recording stage with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, as he was for Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. This dual-identity will assert itself again in the much-anticipated adaptation of Cloud Atlas (2012), on which Johnny is working with the Wachowski’s and his sturdiest collaborator, German auteur Tom Tykwer . His style is a genuine hybrid of the ambient soundscapes and propulsive grooves he mastered during his formative years in the Berlin underground and the classic film scoring tradition so much associated with Hollywood. Both worlds are in evidence in his career-defining work for Tykwer, beginning with the breakthrough hit, Run, Lola, Run, and continuing through Perfume, The International, and now, Cloud Atlas. These scores, along with much of his output over the last decade, were created in collaboration with his longtime partner, Reinhold Heil, but as of Fall 2011, Johnny, allied with WME composer agent Amos Newman, is breaking out on his own.

Born in Australia, Johnny paid his dues down-under with a series of gritty pub bands, but the genesis of his knife-edged electronics and lush, dreamy sound pictures was his baptism in the Berlin electronica under-ground. Initially migrating to Berlin to form the Eighties pop ensemble, The Other Ones with his siblings, he segued into the club music scene on his own in the Nineties, and out of the latter emerged his creative marriages to both Heil and Tykwer. The consummation of this three-way relationship was Run, Lola, Run, a game-changing exercise in both non-linear storytelling and the use of electronica as underscore. The worldwide success of the Lola score put Johnny on the map and catalyzed his move to Los Angeles and the establishment of his Echo Park studio. Since then, he has seen a steady stream of cinematically striking projects and has become something of a go-to composer for film and television involving parallel realities and slipping time frames. His hybrid style suits this zeitgeist genre well.

About Tom Tykwer

In 1985, he moved from his hometown of Wuppertal to Berlin, began studying philosophy at the Free University Berlin, and working as a projectionist in repertory theaters. In 1988, he took over programming of the Berlin cinema Moviemento and kept his head above water by editing screenplays and shooting portraits of a variety of film directors for German television. It was during this period that he met cinematographer Frank Griebe, with whom he’s worked on nearly every film he’s made to this day.

In 1994, along with Stefan Arndt, Wolfgang Becker, and Dani Levy, Tykwer co-founded the production company X Filme Creative Pool. Stefan Arndt, who had also co-produced Deadly Maria, and X Filme co-manager Maria Köpf, formed a producer team that would work closely with Tykwer over the years to come.

Tykwer spent 1995 and 1996 writing the screenplay for Life Is All You Get with Wolfgang Becker before directing his own second feature, Winter Sleepers (1997). The project introduced him to several new collaborators, among them the sound designer and mixer Matthias Lempert, with whom Tykwer has worked on every single one of his films since.

Run Lola Run followed in 1998, scoring X Filme its first great success abroad. Despite – or perhaps even because of – its unusual narrative structure, Run Lola Run was the most profitable German film of that year, and it’s since won over 30 prestigious awards around the world.

In 2008, Tykwer and his wife Marie Steinmann-Tykwer co-founded the non-profit organization One Fine Day, which fosters art education and development for young people in Kenya, East Africa. This work has led to the founding of the production company One Fine Day Films, which has been developing feature-length films in workshops since 2009. Among the projects have been Soul Boy (2010, by Hawa Essuman), Nairobi Half Life (2012, by David “Tosh” Gitonga), Something Necessary (2013, Judy Kibinge) and Veve (2014, Simon Mukali).

As a producer, Tykwer has helped realize such films as Gigantics (1999, directed by Sebastian Schipper), Soundless (2004, directed by Mennan Yapo), A Friend of Mine (2006, Sebastian Schipper), and The Heart is a Dark Forest (2007, Nicolette Krebitz).

About Volker Kutscher

Volker Kutscher was born 1962 in Lindar, North Rhine-Westphalia. After studying German literature, philosophy, and history, he worked as an editor for a daily newspaper. In 1996, he published his first crime novel „Bullenmord“, set in his native region Bergisches Land. His award-winning Gereon Rath series, published by Kiepenbauer & Witsch, consists at this point of “Der nasse Fisch” (2007), “Der stumme Tod” (2009), “Goldstein” (2010), “Die Akte Vaterland” (2012), and “Märzgefallene” (2014), all using Berlin during 1929-1931 as a scenic backdrop. Kutscher’s 6th novel, “Lunapark”, will be released in November 2016 and will be set in summer 1934. At least three more entries in the series will follow.

Posted by Peter F. Ebbinghaus

Based in Berlin, Germany. Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief. Music Producer at Eon Sounds Productions. Founder of Composers for Relief. Keeps Moving.

Leave a Reply

3 Comments on "Watch Johnny Klimek speak about the music in Babylon Berlin"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Brown

Absolutely fantastic series. The musical accompaniment is highly original and compliments the drama.

Michael M Ross

Zu Asche, Zu Staub sounds timeless, like it’s based on an earlier song. I’m wondering what it is?

John Link

Is the song “Zu Asche zu Staub” (“To Ashes To Dust”) sung by Severija Janušauskaitė in Babylon Berlin from the 20s, or was it composed for the series? Who was the composer?