All photographs by Martyn Goodacre, except images of Danielle De Picciotto’s art, and Alexander Hacke’s studio…
Clouds’ shadows camouflage the sea. Sardine boats dodge the lifeboat wind farms. I jet-trash over last night’s cab, and the phone left on the back seat.
“Yes,” with an ‘of course’-face, “It has all the streets on it.” The tourist board office give me a map with the VisitBerlin travel card – 41E for 6 days, generous. I like free travel, and I like maps. Not Maps that rhyme with apps. I see the island of West Berlin – I put all the streets in my long black woollen notebook pocket.
Map in a glass cage – no index – I’ll take a photo – look at it when I’m moving – I can’t take a photo. My cogs shift from the cybernet dimension.
Alone. Letting go of my infatuation with being monitored, I feel an analogue glitch, a slip of fortune as I enter the low-rise city, uninterrupted with pings.
A watch. I could buy a watch – to tell the time.
I could walk rather than do the connection.
THE HORRORS / Synästhesie Festival / Volksbühne
“The people putting this festival together told me this granite floor was from Hitler’s Bunker,” says Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and A Records, DJing in the green room, two floors of sweeping staircases up in the People’s Theatre of Mitte’s Rosa-Luxemburg Platz – once the centre of East Berlin’s GDR.
“Do you believe them?” I ask, of the 8MM Bar promoters who put the festival together. We consider the plausibility, the Nazi star, in dirty creams and blood reds.
Mark Reeder later confirms it to be from the Nazi Vice Chancellor office. And of the cenotaphs stashed beneath the KuDamm – the Nazi spikes. Close enough. Anton is a hero – DIG! the film he stars in aside spars, The Dandy Warhols – an essential on the rock n roll rites-of-passage Reading List. Between his selection of classic psychedelia: “I was born in 1967, in California, of course I’m psychedelic”, with highlights such as Fabio Viscollios 7”, he sets the record straight on all kindsa connections that zip around my references of the night – the stars that guide us, the magnets who form us.
Arrival in Neukölln
So 90s, no blue arrow locator. Without the digital psychographic veils of my screen, the meaning of wrong direction changes – I love to travel, to feel on top of the globe, wherever you walk, with only the weight of the identifiers you carry.
Natural order leads me to Stroke Order – my faux-god-sista, of the Sacred Sound Club – her haus is pink. Y3 shoes, high ceilings, dribble shower, CK mirror. She’s a costume designer for films, but has been hiding out here for a year. Making minimal techno – using autonomous sensory meridian response samples – sounds that turn us on.
Our mothers are pretend godmothers to me and her. She grew up in Vancouver. Dad is a motorcycle racer and ballet dancer in Japan.
Synästhesie Festival / Volksbühne
CAMERA take to the main stage of seated theatre hall. Brutalist fractal collage films of matrix shifting cities, juddering with intent. Projections of you watching me watching you – perhaps being shot live in the auditorium – full scope. Beaming around the physical force of a standing drummer triballing out for a 20 minute set on a bass drum, snare and cymbal. The centre-piece. Astral simulacrum to The Egg who I played with earlier this year. The standing drummer keels in sweat, throws a death white sheet over the drums as though he has beaten them dead, only to dampen their noise, and continue hitting and hitting. Keys, 2 x guitar, sitar bass, different genereration radical on sax – elf dancing.
I’m reminded of the need for parameters – the ones we invent to live inside. The significance of numbers plays on the screens – another hallucination. A replacement for seeing everything through snapshot Insagram lens. Abandoning our digital religion – is so FKK (freikörperkultur – the GDR East Berliners act of rebellion was to strip on Sundays around the lakes – to rip off the communist soaked nylons of identikit clothing*). So naked.
A violinist in black – modular synth Memotron on one side – a bank of other buttons on the other side. One life. One nerve shatters and then rest follow. First they twitch, and glitch the matrix…
I catch a bit of THE PINS – all girls – superhot, riot grrrrl electronica.
Violent Lenin Uber Alles track shatters across the increased scale of the stage for this headline performance – punk anger of East Berlin, red deco chandeliers of alles Ku-damm Cabaret glory. Waiting for Faris Badwan, the singer who I first interviewed for Dazed and Confused, making a film about his illustration – and exhibition, I wonder about the symbolism of genre/sound/music/art as signs of the times – about resonance – of what we are creating and producing – of X Factor sounds as the capitalist panacea – of our art resonating our environment – or us gravitating towards it. Stroke Order making techno in Berlin.
The futurism of white noise perfection – the dystopian values, four albums in from when I first met Faris – he was maybe 23 then. Unsure if he was going to carry on at St Martins art school. By the time I interviewed him again for Vogue, he was not going back.
And here, seated in the very front row – I witness the evocation of destiny – he’s become less of the shy frontman, but someone who is commanding the respect of the universe – he violently whips the mic lead – he hails the pulses of front row screamers, bonding their necks with rubber wire – he in black PVC – guitarist in red lipstick – beautiful rockstar boys. Lyrics are lost in the Elritch reverb – Faris is crown stealing. Volatile black energy of goth industrial – contemporised by Tom Furse – and his techno pyramid synths. Ice sweat dripping Hackney vampire bassist Rhys Webb. Faris has become storming iconic balearic, striding over theatre seats, in smart city shoes. It’s cosmic goth, it is power – it is owning the depth of Poe hell to Blakean heavens. From voyeurs to submission, the audience leave satisfied.
WEDDING/NW multi-cultural reaches of the city.
Fire station studio. Danielle De Picciotto walks us across a courtyard in twilight. Pyramid of flowers, split by stairs to a below-sea-level, waiting buddha, draped with beads. Left and right basement of Californian security doors, co-joined studios, His and Hers. Drums on the male side, Alexander Hacke, Einsturzende Neubatten – poles of metal to hit. Next door: paintings of black and white folklore S+M dolls with tripped out wings, and photograph reflections. Hers. With tea. Laughter. Discussion. Love. She is love.
Lost – ghetto kid guides me and Stroke Order to the ambient dinner in a bar beneath a block in Wedding: soundproof triangles of three-tone pastel shaved hardwood. Clean vegetables, and a series of performances from three post-Akai-ists. Poetry, soundscapes layering paranoic schizophrenic voices – a DJ girl in from Seattle. The residents, ex-pats, from across Germany, and the world – carrying less ego than London. A wholesome intellect carries through, it gets lost in the whirl of London survival. I think back to hanging with the man commonly known as Rodent, the Sex Pistols’ sound tech – he was saying everything is lost in our digital times – the lack of ability to hang out together, they had to live frugally, himself in the studio of The Clash. The intensity of art. It’s easier here. To get involved in your creativity – away from the grab.
Home jukebox, coffee, and Okay Cafe cinnamon swirls at Jason McGlade and Anne-Cathrin Saure’s (the art director/photographer, and designer of Cold Lips II, and co-createurs of the Shedville font). They moved back here recently – but Jason’s back and forth to London, working on an incredible analogue Polaroid project.
Stroke Order and I head out to Berghain – but instead collide with a very old friend who’s been living in Thailand for 14 years – Martyn Goodacre. He took the most iconic picture of Kurt Cobain, and many more. We tried doing music together when we worked on magazines. We go to a bar, meet with a midwife – talk about the horror show of birth, the guidance into the world, policed by the womb and the channel to birth and the rejection from the vulvic eye. The propulsion.
MONDAY MORNING COMING DOWN FROM AN EMAIL THAT IS CHANGING MY LIFE
Space, China – coffee with Mark Reeder. His vinyl of Mauderstadt is out now. I’ve just run a trilogy of stories on him in DJ Mag, explaining his part in Berlin, from being the Factory rep in Berlin in Joy Division days, through to putting on punk gigs in East Berlin, recording the music in gay bars to play to New Order – thus Blue Monday – and since, from inventing trance music with his label MfS – getting Paul van Dyk on the map – he’s the man. His uniforms. Rare light.
“Danielle [De Picciotto] and Katia – Love Parade would never have started without them.”
[Love Parade was the street party that began in the ecstatic reunification of East and West Berlin. The wall came down in 1990. The old GDR was a wild land. Read Danielle De Picciotto’s Beauty of Transgression for more…or watch Mark Reeder’s B-Movie…and his forthcoming E-Movie.]
He realises he’s late for his lunch…
Alone, back on the Neukölln streets, I look into the door of a Moroccan cafe – get called in by a round-faced Muslim woman, grey jumper, jeans – trainers – Tangiers market vibes, enter – beans – good – no English – point at a box – I don’t know if she knows I don’t want a tagine but takeaway – they waterfall me mint tea – the door slams shut. There are stickers on the wall tiles – plastic table cloths. Am I about to be drugged? Locked in – I have few Euros and no phone to be stolen.
I sit, read the Unspoken Berlin I’ve picked up – and wait for either the drugs to kick in, or to relax. Oh, some brot on the table – no it ain’t Gucci Bloom sea hedgehog fennel and jerusalem artichoke, chestnut puree and scallop, purple watercress like the exquisite experience of Lokal where local ingredients will dance on plates for us later – nor is is it as refined as the Techno sauna we’ll meditate in around the bar – but it is E2.50 and beautifully wholesome – the chickpeas are larger than London.
Neurotitan have taken Cold Lips and my last 3 copies of Unedited. Stefi there is lovely. It’s somewhere that’s always called me on previous trips to Berlin. Many putting a film together that became impossible, about Manuel Gottching, of Ash Ra Tempel – and E2:E4 – the most sampled record – inventor of ambient – before Eno, before the HANSA recordings of Iggy and Bowie. I tell Stefi of my gig last night with Whisky and Words at the Keith bar – where Stroke Order – her pals – and Jason McGlade come by – and Mark Reeder. And Rasp Thorne [post coming to Cold Lips soon, or buy the second edition for total spread]- the consumate performer – lighter over here – my lips are still red from the wine. Stephen Crane. Rasp’s performance of Crane. He’s so good.
Everytime I get on a train here the stasi black jacket ticket checkers are on the same carriage. It’s happened to Morgan 3 times in her year here – and 3 times with me in as many days. I am able to fight my usual paranoias from the top of my Maslow pyramid – the email from a publisher – saying he wants to publish my novel – the one I have had two agents hawk around in 11 years – during which time, I have changed, and so has the story. It is the best email I’ve ever had. Here, lying in bed on the Monday morning after meeting with Anton Newcombe and front row for Faris – Faris frow. Two days later, I’m still flying, as I hit EchoBucher, back in Wedding – they’re taking some Cold Lips…I drop into Potsdamer – meeting… No fucking way. Ticket checkers.
Zug Fallt aus!
You have amazing eyes – you look like Madonna said the guy from Milano – I’m hoping he means old skool hot Madz. En route to the airport – delays – nerves shot / triggering towards Parkinsons and spiked dreams. He calmed me – so did the guy who was also travelling to Stansted – as we ran for the plane, and vice versa. Detoxed from the phone, train home, to the temple – travelling with Alice A Bailey. Nanobotic karmic overide. More ticket inspectors – haunted by the stasi – on plane now – could do with some extra O2 from the overhead locker after running in a coat I just bought which I think I may be allergic to. But it’s so warm.
*German born LA-resident, Benedikt Taschen, the art collector and publisher, has directed the content of the new EAST GERMAN HANDBOOK. An encyclopedic collab with Wende Museum, a place of Cold War artefacts in Culver City. It’s a compendium of communist porn – picture-led, masonically-charged graphics of the whole nine yards of life behind the wall – from ideal weaponary to food, fags, appalling vodka, and the requisite communist shit shoes. It’s got 50s utopian vision written all over it.