5 Iconic Albums Recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin

Published on 07 December 2022

When it comes to music, there are certain special places that happen to be filled with energy that is hard to comprehend to us mere mortals. Places where genius musical talents are born, places where live shows go down in history or places where iconic albums are recorded. And one such thrillingly creative place is the legendary Hansa Studios in Berlin, which had an almost alchemical effect on musicians who wrote and recorded within its walls.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Hansa Studios ® (@hansastudios)


By the Berlin Wall

It’s 1961 and Germany finds itself in a divisive state of affairs. The Berlin Wall is built to separate West Berlin from East German territory. People are angry, depressed and faced with a whole new level of hardships. One could think being creative would be the last thing on your mind in such a grim scenario. 

Yet an idea is born.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Hansa Studios ® (@hansastudios)


Just one year later, in 1962, brothers Peter and Thomas Meisel decided to launch Hansa Records label in an old abandoned guildhall-turn-concert hall built in 1913. They started using its Meistersaal hall for light music production and soon realised the place carried outstanding acoustic qualities.

Situated in Kreuzberg - a vibrant district of Berlin, just 150 metres from the Wall, Hansa Studios began to take shape. West Germany, thanks to subsidies from the Western governments, was going through a good economic growth whereas the East part struggled. Life on the west side was vibrant, affordable and a safe space for free-thinkers. The Berlin Wall became a powerful symbol through the art that appeared on its western side. Freedom of expression was welcomed. This led to the city slowly becoming that liberal place in Europe where anything goes, and it naturally started attracting artists of all kinds from all over the world.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Hansa Studios ® (@hansastudios)


Hansa became a mecca for musicians looking to unleash their passion and talents. With a total of 5 studios spread across 4 floors, Hansa is a musician’s paradise. The list of names it has lured into its wall and the plethora of iconic albums recorded there leaves no doubt that there is something rather magical about the place. We’ll look at a small selection of those which sculpted the shape of modern music the most. 

David Bowie - “Heroes” 1977

A recording studio acquires legendary status when a high-profile A-list artist records an absolute hit of an album in it. And such was the fate for Hansa when in 1976 David Bowie arrived in Berlin seeking inspiration and chose to write and record in there. Legend has it that Bowie wrote lyrics to Heroes after he looked out the window and saw his producer, Toni Visconti, snog a backing singer outside the studio by the very Berlin wall. A powerful image of love that fits perfectly into the song’s lyrics:


“ I can remember (I remember)

Standing, by the wall (by the wall)

And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)

And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)

And the shame was on the other side.”

Most of the tracks were composed on the spot and lyrics took final form only when Bowie stood in front of the microphone. “Heroes?” became the most influential of Bowie’s works and received the most acclaim from the The Berlin Trilogy (“Low” and “Lodgerl” being the other 2 of the series Bowie composed whilst he lived in Germany).

Iggy Pop - Lust For Life 1977

After The Stooges broke up, their eccentric leader Iggy, a notorious scandalist with the stereotypical rockstar drug addiction, embarked on a solo career. Like many artists of that era, Iggy left LA to clean up his act and moved to Berlin. It so happened that David Bowie had the same idea and the two ended up living together. Isn’t it the stuff myths and legends are made of?

Iggy recorded his debut LP “The Idiot” at Hansa but it was the second album, produced by David Bowie, that brought him world-wide fame. We all know that feverish drum beat that opens “Lust For Life, right? Who could resist tapping their foot to that!. Hansa engineers recall setting up the drum kit in the middle of Studio 3 and surrounding it with multiple microphones, more than would normally be used (similar technique used on Bowie's vocal for Heroes). Then again, the building itself is as much an instrument like any other. The magic was clearly in the air that day and the rest is history.

Depeche Mode - Construction Time Again 1983

Berlin has always had a soft spot for electronic music: May Day celebrations, open air raves and countless nightclubs have ingrained its sound onto the city’s culture. It’s no surprise that bands such as Depeche Mode were naturally drawn to the place. The 80s explosion with industrial sounds and samples caused a major breakthrough in the context of pop songwriting and Construction Time Again released in 1983 makes for a superb example of how the social changes translate into music trends.

U2 - Achtung Baby 1991

Followed by a period of criticism and having found themselves questioning their rockstar status, U2 flew to Berlin to seek inspiration from German reunification. Hansa Studios was meant to save the band. But constant quarrels, slow progress and tension between the band members nearly brought the group to a break up point. It wasn’t until a desperate session of improvisation in 1992 that they wrote “One”- one of U2’s biggest hits. Parts of the video clip were also shot at Hansa. A make-or-break point birthed “Achtung Baby”, which reached number one on the US Billboard 200 Top Albums and remains one of the band’s most successful records to the date.

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now 2011

Some bands began their journey at Hansa, some came looking for saving grace and others ended their career there. Having lived a successful life on the road, R.E.M. walked into Berlin's studio knowing that the fifteenth album will be their final. The recording took over a year and was partially done in Nashville and New Orleans studios. Yet it is mostly associated with Hansa due to the band’s emotional in-studio performances filmed there to support the release instead of touring. Michael Stipe recalls being brought to tears at the end of the final song, as if he felt the spirit of the artists who recorded timeless songs within those very walls.

Timeless and immortal

In 2018, British film director Mike Christie filmed a documentary narrating the fascinating story behind it all: “Hansa Studio: By The Wall 1976-90”. It aired on Sky Arts across Europe and it encapsulates the essence of creativity that beautifully sneaked into the mainstream song.

With endless possibilities and high quality of gear our current era of bedroom production offers, the romance of a recording booth may as well be pronounced dead. But thanks to iconic studios such as Abbey Road, Sun Studio, Capitol Studios and Hansa, that romance is still alive.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Hansa Studios ® (@hansastudios)

The ever evolving trends in both music production and music consumption, see a decline in demand for such studios, contributing to these only being put on pedestal of nostalgia. The Hansa Studio building has gone through changes over the years with only Studio 1 on the 4th floor being the last one fully active. Today, you can visit this iconic place by booking a tour through their website or…your own recording session if you think you’ve got what it takes!


Feeling inspired? Check out our recording gear here! 



Anna's photo

About the author


Marketing and Social Media Assistant

Obsessed with guitars, live shows & travels.

View Profile

Here are some similar articles you might like