LOLA Issue Four

LOLA.Magazine

Issue Three of LOLA Magazine. Featuring the people and stories that make Berlin special: Moderat, Microdosing LSD, Yony Leyser, Julia Bosski, Notes of Berlin, Sara Neidorf and more.

ISSUE 04 SUMMER 2017

LOLAMAG.DE

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Yony Leyser explains

the beauty of examining

life through film

Microdosing and how

some Berliners selfoptimise

with LSD

Mohammad Abu Hajar

on making music in exile

Notes of Berlin

Sara Neidorf

Pinball in Berlin

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

20 Years of Melt Festival

Käthe Kollwitz

The Battle of Mosul

Julia Bosski

MODERAT

AN INSIDE VIEW OF

THEIR RAD KINGDOM


10+ Commissioned Works by ABRA / Abu Hajar & Jemek Jemowit / Andreas Dorau / Balbina / Circuit des Yeux / Darkstar & Cieron Magat / Evvol

Fishbach & Lou de Bètoly / Grandbrothers / Hendrik Otremba »Typewriter-Klangwelten« / How To Dress Well & Jens Balzer / Henryk Gericke »Too Much Future«

Romano / Steven Warwick / »Sticker Removals – The Visual Anthropology of the Hype Sticker«

70+ Concerts, DJ-Sets, Talks and Movies by Acid Arab / Alex Cameron Alexis Taylor / All diese Gewalt / Andrra / Anna Meredith / ANNA VR / Arab Strap / AUF

Barbara Morgenstern / Bunch of Kunst / Boiband Christine Franz & Simone Butler / Cristian Vogel / Daniel Meteo / David Laurie & Simon Price / Decadent Fun Club

Emel Mathlouthi / Erobique / Friends of Gas / Gaika / Gudrun Gut / Happy Meals / Hello Psychaleppo / Idles / Iklan feat. Law Holt / Islam Chipsy & EEK Jacaszek

Jakuzi / Jeff Özdemir, F.S Blumm & Friends / Jessica Pratt / Lady Leshurr / La Femme / Lenki Balboa / Let’s Eat Grandma / LeVent / Liars / Little Simz / Lucidvox

Manuela / Masha Qrella / Michelle Blades / Miss Natasha Enquist / Monika Werkstatt / Noveller / Oligarkh Oranssi Pazuzu / Paul Williams, Rob Young & Rob Curry

Piano Wire / Prairie / Riff Cohen / Ritornell / Rouge Gorge / Shirley Collins / Sophia Kennedy / Smerz / Strobocop / Soft Grid / Tasseomancy / Throwing Shade

Tobias Bamborschke / T.Raumschmiere / Young Fathers and many more …

23 – 25 August 2017

Kulturbrauerei Berlin

pop-kultur.berlin


Summer 2017

Editorial

A YEAR IN THE LIFE.

Here we are, one year on. It’s been a

rollercoaster ride of emotion and

thrills. I’m going to turn this editorial

letter into a long list of gushing thank

yous, because the truth is that without the

amazing hard work, dedication, creativity,

talent and love of all the people you can see

on the masthead, LOLA simply wouldn’t

exist, and everything that’s happened in

last year wouldn’t have happened.

Take Marc Yates, our esteemed Editor,

for example. If only you could see the

amount of graft, toil and expertise Marc

puts into making sure each issue of this

magazine is the best it can possibly be. His

attention to detail always amazes me, as

does his capacity to tolerate my crazy ideas.

The title of Associate Editor doesn’t do

Alison Rhoades justice. Alison has provided

her expertise and support to every area

of LOLA, and her contributions are phenomenal.

Every piece you read is improved

by her touch, and so many of the editorial

concepts are the result of her work.

Linda Toocaram deserves a special

mention for always being an absolute rock

of a Sub Editor, for working to our insane

deadlines and for schooling us in the art

of perfect grammar. A huge shout out for

Stephanie Taralson, who goes above and

beyond her role as contributor to help with

editing and proofing. Maggie Devlin has

also become a big part of LOLA since we

met two issues ago, and her editorial contributions

are completely invaluable.

For the writers, I have to single out Alex

Rennie, who has contributed something

incredible to every single issue, and who

always throws himself full-force into each

article he writes. There have been so many

great features written this last year, so huge

respect and thanks go to Stuart Braun,

Emma Robertson, Hamza Beg, Ryan Rosell,

Dan Cole, Anna Gyulai Gaal, Jack Mahoney,

Gesine Kühne, Alexander Darkish, Jessica

Reyes Sondgeroth, Nadja Sayej, Jana Sotzko,

Hanno Stecher and Jane Fayle.

As for the visual impact of the magazine,

I have to give the biggest thanks to Robert

Rieger and Viktor Richardsson. They have

both helped to shape the visual identity of

LOLA in amazing ways, and are a joy to work

with. Of course, endless thanks to all the

photographers who have contributed to the

magazine: Marili Persson, Justine Olivia Tellier,

Julie Montauk, Zack Helwa, Fotini Chora,

Soheil Moradianboroujeni, Roman Petruniak,

Shane Omar, Tyler Udall and David Vendryes.

Outside of the magazine, an enormous

thank you has to go to Allan Fitzpatrick for

designing and continuing to develop the

LOLA website; it’s a thing of beauty. Also to

our Editorial Assistant Erika Clugston for

the endless help, especially with managing

our social media presence and increasing

the office smile count immeasurably! For

all of the help in running our events, Emma

Taggart has to get a special shout out.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has

supported us to date – BIMM Berlin, BRLO

Beer, Crazy Bastard Sauce, Garvey Studios,

Goethe Institute, Melt! Booking, Mobile

Kino, Our/Berlin Vodka, Puschen Concerts,

Studio 183 and Universal Music.

And of course, thanks to everyone who

has been featured in the pages of LOLA.

You are the reason we do what we do. Our

immigrants’ love of Berlin shines on. Jonny

Publisher &

Editor In Chief

Jonny Tiernan

Executive Editor

Marc Yates

Associate Editor

Alison Rhoades

Photographers

Soheil Moradianboroujeni

Shane Omar

Viktor Richardsson

Robert Rieger

Justine Olivia Tellier

Illustrator

Patricia Tarczynski

Writers

Hamza Beg

Stuart Braun

Erika Clugston

Maggie Devlin

Gesine Kühne

Alex Rennie

Ryan Rosell

PR & Events

Emma Taggart

Special Thanks

Alex Brattig

Sven Iversen

Ben Jones

Ann Kristin

Sarie Nijboer

LOLA Magazine

Blogfabrik

Oranienstraße 185

10999 Berlin

For business enquiries

jonny@lolamag.de

For editorial enquiries

marc@lolamag.de

Sub Editor

Linda Toocaram

For PR & event enquiries

emma@lolamag.de

Published by Magic Bullet Media

Cover photo by Robert Rieger

Printed in Berlin by Oktoberdruck AG – oktoberdruck.de

Summer 2017

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2 Issue Four


Photo by Robert Rieger

Contents

04. berlin through the lens

Notes of Berlin

“What are people searching for?

What are they complaining about?

What have they lost? It’s an insight

into everyday life in Berlin, but it’s

not something that’s written in

your typical tourist guide.”

08. local hero

Sara Neidorf

“I think it’s really important to have

people in your community who inspire

you, and who you can look to

as somebody who knows their shit.”

12. Yony Leyser

“When you make a documentary it’s

like writing a memoir. You’re shaping

a reality through a very big lens.”

16. Pinball in Berlin

“As the day wears on, cries of

“Scheiße!” can be heard across

the room.”

20. cover story

Moderat

“We don’t yet know when we will

continue with Moderat, and we

also can’t say if. So this Berlin concert

will be like the end of an era!”

26. Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

“The community really keeps me

going: just when I feel like I’m

ready to leave or move on, this

incredible community is like ‘Wait,

no, we’re here.’”

30. Microdosing

“There’s definitely something

major happening right now. I think

these drugs will play a key role in

the future, in psychiatry and other

fields of medicine.”

34. Mohammad Abu Hajar

“I won’t accept going back to Syria

as a humiliated person. I would

only go back as a free person.”

38. 20 Years of Melt Festival

“There was a couple climbing on

the crane at the Gemini Stage, on

the very top of it, like 30 metres

high, fucking.”

40. Käthe Kollwitz

“In 1943 she evacuated Berlin,

shortly before her apartment

was destroyed in a bombing that

claimed much of her life’s work.”

42. dispatches

The Battle of Mosul

“Too much is going wrong in this

war, and too many photos are

showing that to the world.”

44. the last word

Julia Bosski

“Call a friend, go for some champagne

and I’m back in the game.”

Summer 2017

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Berlin Through The Lens

Notes of Berlin

BERLIN THROUGH THE LENS

EXPLORING OUR PEN

AND PAPER CITY WITH

NOTES OF BERLIN

words by Marc Yates

Whether fluttering in the breeze or streaked with running ink in the

rain, Berlin’s handwritten posters, ads, announcements and notes are

part of the fabric of the city – a sticky taped, pasted up, stapled staple

of our urban landscape. They are everywhere. But why is it that such a

lo-fi means of communication continues to thrive in the digital age, and

what does it tell us about the people we share our city with?

Joab Nist is in the seventh year of running Notes

of Berlin, a website that seeks to answer these

questions while archiving and paying homage to

the expressions of frustration, anger, love, humour

and desire left by Berliners on every available surface.

What started as a blog has since become two books, a

popular annual calendar, and Joab’s full-time job. We

meet with Joab to talk about the motivation behind

the project and the fascination with public proclamations

that keeps it going.

What was the inspiration behind Notes of Berlin?

I was always taking photos, especially in places I’d

never been before. Not wanting to take pictures of the

typical tourist sites – I was curious about discovering

the residential and industrial areas. That’s something

I did when I came to Berlin as well. In the beginning

I was very curious, as it was new. But the curiosity

didn’t go away, so I often walked around and took

pictures of anything that, for me, was typical of Berlin.

The written notes all around the city were something

I hadn’t seen anywhere else in that quantity. They

became some sort of treasure for me. When you are

new to Berlin, you want to discover how the people are

here: what do they think about, what’s on their minds?

It could’ve been that a note was very creative, very angry,

very political, romantic, maybe lonely – everything

that came to mind when I was thinking about Berlin.

What are people searching for? What are they complaining

about? What have they lost? It gives an insight into

everyday life in Berlin, but it’s not something that’s

written in your typical tourist guide. It’s completely

unfiltered. It’s the truth, and to some extent you can

identify with a situation that may have happened.

So I tried to find as many notes as I could, but it’s not

so much a matter of time as a matter of being at the

right place at the right time. That’s when the idea came

to document as many as possible, to really capture the

character of the city, to style a project that everyone

could contribute to by sending in the notes they see.

What is it about the notes that people find so

compelling? It’s definitely not only one thing. The

main thing I think is that a lot of the topics that you

4 Issue Four


Notes of Berlin

Berlin Through the Lens

Top left: “Lost dog: on February

28th around 15:30pm, our

dog boarded the M13 tram at

Schönhauser Allee without me.

Who saw this happen and can

help us find him? He responds

to the name ‘Baader’, has a

chip and a heart condition, and

hobbles on the right hind leg.”

Top middle: “CAREFUL. OLD

MAN SPITS FROM BALCONY.”

Bottom left: “PISS HERE ONE

MORE TIME AND I’LL SHIT IN

YOUR MOUTH!”

Bottom right: “Elevator doesn’t

work, you’ll have to walk, eh!!!”

Previous page, right: “In my

darkest drunken hour of the

night on Friday, you carried

me home up to the third floor

– that was definitely no fun.

For that, lovely French girl,

THANK YOU!”

find in the notes are things that every one of us

faces each day. Your neighbour is having loud

sex; your mail is not getting delivered; someone

throws garbage in front of your house; your bike

gets stolen; you have a political opinion you want

to express; you saw someone in the U-Bahn that

you want to see again; you’re searching for a flat.

If you live in a city, you experience all of these

things to some extent, so it’s very easy to identify

with the people who write these notes because it’s

someone just like you and me.

Another reason people like to follow the notes is

because they are from Berlin. It’s more interesting

than it would be if they were from Frankfurt or Hamburg,

for example. Also, if you were to go to Hamburg,

Munich, Cologne or wherever, you wouldn’t

find these kinds of notes. They’re not there.

Why do you think this form of communication

is so widely used in Berlin? It’s just normal

for the people living in Berlin that you make

use of this form of communication. It just fits

somehow. I think it’s not surprising that people in

Berlin like to express what they think. They started

on the Berlin Wall, you have graffiti, street art,

urban gardening, all movements where people are

taking part in creating the cityscape.

I did a test four or five years ago in Munich. I

stuck some creative notes around the subway stations

and I saw people taking them down, without

reason, just because they thought they didn’t fit.

But besides the cityscape, you need the people. You

need a certain clash of cultures, of nationalities, to

create the situations that result in the notes.

Do you find common themes among the notes

that you think are particularly ‘Berlin’ in

nature? There are some notes that you can easily

assign to some districts: things that children lose,

or some really fucked up things that happen in

Wedding, more international things that happen

in Neukölln and Kreuzberg. But when it comes

to the themes, there are main topics that you can

identify in the notes: neighbours, sex, stealing,

Summer 2017

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Berlin Through the Lens

Notes of Berlin

dirt, noise, love, the search for flats, bicycle theft,

packages that don’t get delivered…

These things are so relatable. Do you think you

could use the notes to create a profile of the

typical Berliner? [Laughs] I was actually planning

to do a little story based on real notes and how a

day or a week in Berlin unfolds. So, you wake up

because your neighbour is being noisy, you find

that your bike has been stolen, you lose your wallet

on the way to the U-Bahn, where you see someone

who you want to see again, you spend your day

searching for a new apartment… it’s the everyday

life of people living here.

What you’re capturing is such a deeply personal

view of the city, and what it really means to

live here. You just can’t make it up. And even if

this form of communication is beginning to disappear,

people have sent in 18,000 or 19,000 notes

over the last few years. It’s an archive that will

never really go away.

Do you write notes yourself? Yeah. I found my first

apartment through writing a note. I wrote a note and

stuck it around certain streets where I wanted to live,

and two days later some artist called me and told me

I could live in his apartment for the next year.

Also, some years ago I met a girl in a club. We

walked to the tram station together but I didn’t ask

for her number; maybe I was too shy [laughs]. So

I wrote a note because I wanted to see her again. I

knew where she lived because she told me where

her tram station was, so I stuck 20 or 30 notes

around the station and she called the next day.

You had an exhibition recently, a room in temporary

art space THE HAUS - Berlin Art Bang.

Tell us about that. Something I always wanted

to do was to have a room completely covered with

notes that I printed out. I covered the ceiling, the

walls and the floor with the best of the last six

years. I have done certain exhibitions but not such

creative ones as this, and it’s a very nice feeling.

I spent sometimes one or two hours in the room

watching people – I don’t usually get to see my

audience so it was a great motivation. It makes you

happy to see that you are making people happy. I

would like to continue more with the exhibition

stuff, the material is there.

Apart from potentially more exhibitions,

what’s next for you? I’m planning to do another

photo book, but it will be made with quality

paper and design in mind. Of course it’s way more

expensive to produce that kind of book, so it won’t

be an amazing commercial project, it will address a

different audience.

Once you know about Notes of Berlin, it’s impossible

not to notice them everywhere. Contribute your

finds to the project at notesofberlin.com

Top left: “Calling the cops

because of loud music???? How

pitiful!!! Move to Charlottenburg if

you want quiet!!!!”

Top right: “Doorbell is defective!

Either call, yell, or go home!”

Bottom left: “Optimist seeks

2-room flat for themselves

and their daughter, up to 400€

all included.”

Bottom middle: “To the two

‘fucking-acrobats’ in the building.

It would be fantastic if you would

close the window during your

nightly yodelling practice and not

tyrannise the entire neighbourhood.

It makes us sick that we’re

constantly being ripped out of

our sleep by your howling and all

the residents have to close their

windows, just because your ‘openair

tournament’ fills the whole

courtyard. Screwing is not an

Olympic discipline and your nightly

presentations won’t be greeted

with thunderous applause.”

6 Issue Four


Berlinstagram

Berlin Through the Lens

Summer 2017

7


Local Hero

Sara Neidorf

LOCAL HERO

SARA NEIDORF

EMPOWERING

WOMEN IN MUSIC

As a musician, drum teacher and film festival organiser,

Philadelphia-born Sara Neidorf has been

on a mission to improve Berlin’s cultural landscape

for women and genderqueer individuals since she

landed here in 2012.

We meet in her drum studio, a black box tucked

away behind a carpenter’s workshop on Sonnenallee.

We’re a little early, and as she coaches her

student through Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’, we

notice how quiet, poised, and watchful Sara is –

the kind of teacher who cares about more than

mere instruction. She’s a mentor.

8

Issue Four


Sara Neidorf

Local Hero

«

MY ENTIRE

STUDENT BASE

IS FEMALE OR

GENDERQUEER.

THAT’S WHY I DO

THE WORK I DO.

»

words by

Maggie Devlin

photos by

Viktor Richardsson

Iron Man

The song took it’s name from

vocalist Ozzy Osbourne’s comments

upon first hearing the

main riff, as he said it sounded

“like a big iron bloke walking

about.” It later earned a place

on Rolling Stone’s list of the

500 Greatest Songs of All Time,

and VH1 named it the greatest

heavy metal song ever.

The lesson finishes with Sara’s student telling us

we should check out her band’s first show. Her

confidence warms the heart and is precisely

why Sara is so important in a scene where women

often struggle to get ahead.

Was teaching drums part of the plan when you

moved here? I’ve been teaching since I was 17. My

school didn’t really have a music department; there

was no drum set on campus. So I convinced the

dean’s office to purchase one in exchange for me

giving free drum lessons. Then I came here, and it’s

really all I’ve done, steadily. Teaching drums is the

job I know best and that I’ve done for the longest.

What do you think your students get from

learning drums? With my younger students, I can

definitely tell that they love being loud. It seems

to be really liberating for them. They get their

earphones and they’re like, [mouths screaming,

mimes drumming]. That’s usually always the first

five or ten minutes, just letting them get that out of

their system without too much structure. After that,

I encourage them to start simple things, and we

keep going with that for as long as it’s fun. I think

they have a lot of fun having the freedom to make

unstructured noise and just be kind of aggressive.

And what do you get from teaching? I personally

love the drums so much, so spending all day surrounded

by them is a pleasure for me. I like knowing

I can pass on that passion to someone else, because

it’s such a satisfying way to express yourself; it’s

non-verbal. We struggle with verbal communication

all the time, so I think music is such a great escape

from miscommunications and missteps. We’re all

on the same page: we all just want to express something,

to communicate with each other, and I think

doing that on a musical level is really refreshing.

So I hope I can pass that on; that ability to express

yourself outside the verbal realm.

What would you like to see change for women

in Berlin’s music scene? Is the future on your

mind? Of course, of course it’s on my mind. My

entire student base is female or genderqueer. That’s

why I do the work I do. I want there to be more

female musicians, I always want it to be better. I

found a couple of really important role models when

I was learning the drums as a teenager. Having them

around was essential to feeling motivated, encouraged

and welcome to learn as a drummer. I think it’s

really important to have people in your community

who inspire you, and who you can look to as somebody

who knows their shit. At least for me it was.

You seem really invested in Berlin’s musical

landscape. How did you come to be here? I was

here as an exchange student for a semester and I

really fell in love, not just with Berlin, but with so

many different things about the city. I found some

people I connected with in the music scene, but my

main thing was the underground cinema culture.

I encountered the Queer Film Club, which I now

help to run. And there were all these awesome film

festivals, I was really impressed with them; how they

had such a rebellious and odd spirit. I was inspired

by that, and now I’m running one!

Yes! So, tell us about Final Girls Film Festival.

It’s a festival dedicated to horror films made by

women. We’re in our first year, but already on

Summer 2017

9


Local Hero

our second festival, because when we

opened up our call for submissions for the

first we received over 400. For the second

festival, we have XX, which is a horror anthology

with four female directors; Karyn

Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka

Vuckovic and St. Vincent, which is pretty

rad. We also have an art exhibition and a

couple of talks. I’m going to give one with

my mom about ‘horror hags’ – these huge

Hollywood stars who fell from grace and in

their older years couldn’t get any serious

roles. They were just booked in B-horror

movies, basically, and turned into a spectacle

for being middle-aged – a horrific,

ageing woman.

You’re also in a band, Choral Hearse.

Yes, my doom metal band. Half of our

songs I wrote as a teenager. I came up

with a full album of material that I had

written the guitar, drums and some bass

parts for, and searched high and low for

awesome female musicians in Berlin. I

didn’t even have the intention to start

a band with it, but then this friend had

told the singer, Liaam, that I had some

music and she was like, “Oh cool! I’ll be

in a metal band.” We started as an acoustic

duo: acoustic folk metal – that was

fun! Eventually we expanded and now

we’re a full band.

Sara Neidorf

«

I THINK MUSIC IS

SUCH A GREAT

ESCAPE FROM

MISCOMMUNICATIONS

AND MISSTEPS.

»

You’re a well-known face on the music

scene, and visible as a champion of

female musicianship… Wait until you see

me play guitar with Choral Hearse. [Laughs]

How much do your projects intersect

with the queer and feminist scenes?

The film festival more directly, you could

say. The music, I mean, in terms of the

content, not in any obvious way. But all

four of us in Choral Hearse are queer.

I don’t want to be a ‘female drummer’,

just a drummer, but I’m okay with being

a female drummer, I don’t get angry

with being designated as such. It is, in

many ways, also a shortcut for finding

each other – if a band is playing I want

to know if they have a female drummer,

‘cause I’ll go and see them.

It would be, of course, wonderful if

every show that you went to had a female

drummer in it. If it was three bands and

definitely one had a female drummer,

yeah, that would be ideal, but how many

shows have you been to where all you see

on stage is white men? Most of the shows

I’ve ever been to.

What’s been your high point in music

to date? My favourite thing is always practising

the music. For me that’s the high

point. Shows are great, but I get the true

high when I’m just focusing on the music

in the practice room.

What can we do to support female

musicians in Berlin? Support your

friends who are trying to earn their

living with music. Keep them in mind

for music jobs or creative jobs in

general. Share their events on social

media. Also, it’s really important to let

them know you appreciate what they

do. We all really thrive on validation.

Buy their music. Buy their CDs. Go to

their shows. Make them feel seen and

acknowledged and appreciated for

what they’re doing.

Follow the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival

at facebook.com/finalgirlsberlin and listen

to Choral Hearse at soundcloud.com/

choralhearse

Horror Hags

Notable horror hags include Joan Crawford and

Bette Davis, whose performances in 1962’s What

Ever Happened to Baby Jane? are lauded as the

beginning of the sub-genre of horror known as

psycho-biddy, or hagsploitation.

10 Issue Four


Our Summer Negroni

by

Summer 2017

11


Queer and Now

Yony Leyser

TRANSGRESSION,

DESIRE, REVOLUTION:

DIRECTOR YONY LEYSER

ON BREAKING RULES

Director Yony Leyser is as curious

as he is warm. A born interviewer,

he poses as many questions as he’s

asked, and delights in little idiosyncrasies

on the Neukölln streets that

he walks down each day: the grimy

sex shop, the fishmonger, the tiny

hut at the entrance to a car park

on Karl-Marx-Straße. “I’ve always

wanted to rent this as my office,”

he laughs. “Wouldn’t that be great?”

12 Issue Four


Yony Leyser

Queer and Now

Perhaps it’s this fondness for the incongruous

that contributes to the power of his work. In

his films, transgression and desire act as catalysts

for countercultural revolutions, be it through

a vibrant portrait of Beat Generation icon William

Burroughs in his 2010 documentary William S.

Burroughs: A Man Within or explorations of identity

and queer underground in 2015’s Desire Will Set You

Free. Both films exhibit a profound interest in people

upsetting the system, driven by passion, paradox, art

and community. “When you make a documentary

it’s like writing a memoir,” says Yony. “You’re shaping

a reality through a very big lens. People think

documentary is like a photograph of something,

when in actuality it’s more like a painting.”

Yony was born in DeKalb, Illinois and went on

to study at California Institute of the Arts and The

New School in New York. “Before I was making

movies I was an anarchist; I was an activist,” he

explains. “But being an activist was too didactic. I

had too much humour and I figured art was a more

effective and fun way to do it.” The art of filmmaking

in particular allowed him to roll all his passions

into one: “I was always interested in writing and

journalism and documenting, photography,

theatre, and I figured film kind of encapsulates

everything. It’s such a powerful medium.”

A Man Within happened almost by accident, as

great works of art often do. After making an art piece

at CalArts criticising the dean of students and illegally

using her signature, Yony was given the option of

either facing prosecution or taking a leave of absence.

So, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas planning to make

a documentary on counter-culture. Coincidentally,

Lawrence was William Burroughs’ home for the final

years of his life. Gradually, Yony made friends with

Burroughs’ friends, and eventually the film evolved

into a portrait of Burroughs himself.

Burroughs was a fascinating subject: a gun-toting,

cat-loving, queer junky who shot his wife

in the head and made an unprecedented mark

on literature. Making a film about such a largerthan-life

icon was no small feat. However, Yony

managed to successfully marry the enigmatic

persona with the conflicted man behind it. Only

21 at the time, his audacity, talent and persistence

got him interviews with Burroughs’ lovers, friends

and contemporaries from the fields of art, literature

and music. “His friends wanted to talk about

him,” says Yony. “It was this ripe subject.”

Making the film allowed Yony to honour the man

whose writing had had such a profound influence

on both him and the queer community at large. “I

liked that he was the first to break the rules,” he

says. “I always felt like someone who didn’t fit into

society and I just was kind of imagining someone

who was this outcast, who was queer and didn’t fit

in, and was rebellious and created his own realities,

and did it at a time when no one had ever done it

before. Genet too, all these kinds of people paved

the way for the subcultures that I took part in.”

The result is stunning. A Man Within weaves

together footage and anecdotes of a long and

astonishing life riddled with joy, lust, addiction,

pain, tragedy and poetry. Grainy footage of Burroughs’

face stares you down as his growly voice

recites his own erotic and abject verses in the

perfect cadence of a poet. The film splices together

never-before-seen footage from Burroughs’ life

with interviews with punks, poets and counter-cultural

greats including John Waters, Patti Smith,

words by

Alison Rhoades

photos by

Robert Rieger

DeKalb, Illinois

The city was named after decorated

German war hero Johann

de Kalb, who died during the

American Revolutionary War.

Other notable people from

DeKalb include model and

actor Cindy Crawford, author

Richard Powers, and the inventors

of barbed wire.

Summer 2017

13


Queer and Now

Yony Leyser

« I’M SICK OF SEEING OR

HEARING STORIES OF

WHITE, HETEROSEXUAL

COUPLES DOING BORING,

MIDDLE-CLASS SHIT. »

Iggy Pop, and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Icons of

the Beat and punk movements − the artists, the

outcasts, those who upset social norms – talk about

their friend and hero with tender conviction, scraping

together memories as if trying to sort out who

indeed the ‘man within’ really was, once and for

all. The point is probably that we’ll never know. But

that’s the beauty of examining a life through film:

you realise just how complex humans actually are,

how riddled with contradictions.

Yony’s next film, Desire Will Set You Free, is part feature

film, part documentary, and full-on love letter

to Berlin. At once a great departure from his previous

film and a natural next step, it portrays the city in all

its poor, sexy glory. The film follows American writer

Ezra and Russian escort Sasha on a fast-paced ride

through Berlin’s hedonistic queer underground.

It is a study in dualities: Ezra (played by Yony

himself) is an American of Palestinian and Israeli

heritage, Sasha is a man discovering that he’s a

woman, and their friend Cathrine is a bisexual

radical obsessed with Nazi paraphernalia. It

invokes the contradictions of Burroughs, and plays

with Berlin’s divided past by depicting characters

at war with themselves, who are two things, or

everything all at once.

Yony was eager to change gears and do something

new, despite the success of his previous

film. “The system tells you to do the same

thing,” he says. But after years of working on a

relatively straightforward documentary, Yony

wanted to depict his life in Berlin in a more non-traditional

way: “I really wanted to experiment and

use my training as a documentary filmmaker to tell

a true story and use non-actors, but do it in a fictional

approach and not a documentary approach.

And it was so fun! Shooting Desire was so much fun.

I feel like in a way, it documents just as well as it

would if it was a straightforward documentary.”

There is a clear storyline, but Desire is also characterised

by its non-linearity, with long and beautiful,

poetic sequences of the characters simply relishing

in the pleasures of having bodies, exploring, and

improvising. Yony says that the film was indeed

“hugely improvised.” He continues: “When it wasn’t

100% improvised, the text was based on real events;

like if it was about these two sex workers at this bar or

whatever, then we would go to the bar the night before

and hang out with those sex workers and then use that

text the next day in the shooting.” The cast is also composed

of “either real characters or a mix of real characters.

There are only three actors in the film,” says Yony.

“The rest are playing themselves.” In fact, the film was

inspired by Yony’s encounter with a Russian man who

came to Berlin to party before the Mesoamerican-predicted

end of the world on December 21st 2012, and

came out as a woman during her visit.

Desire is like wandering into a dream where

narratives don’t always make sense, choices are

non-binary, and the landscape is governed, not by

rationality or even morals, but by lust and invention.

Yony cites Instagram as a visual inspiration for

the film. It reads as such, swiping through colourful

vignettes composed with seductive humour: Nina

Hagen offering life advice from a trailer, trans-men

and -women sharing their coming-out stories over

mid-morning champagne in a sunlit squat. Late

afternoons are spent naked with friends bathed in

sun and glitter, exchanging philosophical musings

and taking drugs. Night unveils the anachronous

pleasures of Berlin’s dark underbelly, from Peaches

performing in a plush breast-suit to leather daddies

flexing their muscles for a cheering audience.

“I actually thought it would be even more

fractured,” Yony says. “And if I could do it again I

would make it even more fractured. Just because I

feel like this city is a dream and it’s about a dream

and even in our daily lives we have ideas of what

we want to do, like ‘I’m going to this interview and

then I’m going grocery shopping or to a play’, and

then little things happen in between, like you see

someone on the street doing something weird or

crazy. I think that’s also part of the Berlin atmosphere,

at least for me: you’re going to a meeting

and you walk through Görlitzer Park and you see

people having sex in the bushes or whatever, and

it’s like these moments of distraction.” He smiles:

“That’s how life is; life doesn’t play out like it does

in a Hollywood movie, you know?”

Radical Gay Punk Zine

J.D.s ran for eight provocative

issues from 1985 to 1991, and

is considered the catalyst that

pushed the Queercore scene

into existence. Founder Bruce

LaBruce claims that the name

initially stood for ‘juvenile delinquents’,

but “also encompassed

such youth cult icons as James

Dean and J. D. Salinger.”

Yony first came to Berlin in 2007 on a Fulbright

scholarship. “I fell in love with it,” he says. “I was

living in New York at the time and I was so stressed

out and the quality of life here was so amazing. I

14 Issue Four


Yony Leyser

Queer and Now

remember my first weekend out, waking up

in a queer squat and having breakfast with

12 drag queens in the morning after some

performance and I was just like, ‘I gotta

figure out a way to live in this city.’ The

subcultural landscape, especially the queer

subcultural landscape, was really impressive

to me. The use of public space, the idea

of street culture and people of all backgrounds

intersecting with each other on the

street was very inspiring as an artist.”

Does Desire have anything to say about

Berlin? Yony pauses to think for a moment:

“To me it did – to my version of Berlin.

People can be very critical of that because

there are a lot of versions of Berlin depending

on who you are, and of course class

and race and gender and cultural background

and neighbourhood or whatever,

they all play such big roles. Even in my

building, for example, how differently all

the neighbours live and what the city, the

neighbourhood, or the building means to

us is vastly different. So it’s hard to say that

a film could represent the city, but what

I thought was interesting was that Berlin

had something very special that other

cities didn’t have: this kind of psychedelic,

Club Kid nightlife, and then this kind of

multicultural mixing pot of expats and

people who came to the city not for work

but for a cultural escape, or to live out their

fantasies. I wanted to depict the world as

parallel to the 1920s in Berlin − Christopher

Isherwood’s ‘20s or early ‘30s.”

In both A Man Within and Desire, the importance

of community in queer culture is a

noteable throughline. “Well, for a lot of queer

people, a lot of ostracised people, the idea of

a queer community is like creating your own

family because a lot of people’s families don’t

accept them and aren’t there for them,” explains

Yony. “So they can’t relate to them and

they can’t relate to a lot of society, so they say

‘let’s create our own tribal family’. It’s a very

central theme in my new film, too.”

Yony’s upcoming film, Queercore: How to

Punk a Revolution, premieres at the Sheffield

Documentary Festival this summer.

“It’s a documentary about the movement

that Bruce LaBruce and G.B. Jones started

in the late ‘80s, a gay punk movement, and

it started as a farce,” says Yony. “They got

a bunch of straight punks drunk and took

pictures of them and wrote these stories of

all these bands in Toronto being gay in this

radical gay punk zine, and people believed

it. It was before the internet so people

couldn’t really fact check, so the zine

spread and all these bands started. It led to

bands like Gossip, Peaches, The Knife; all

these guys kind of got their start from this

Queercore thread from the ‘90s.”

The German director Rainer Werner

Fassbinder once said: “Every decent director

has only one subject, and finally only

makes the same film over and over again.”

Yony bristles a bit when asked what this

subject might be for him, or indeed what

drives him as an artist. He turns the question

back around: “What do you see?” For

a director driven by a quest to discover the

hidden desires, passions and pleasures

that spark creative communities and even

radical progress, this is a fitting retort. But

upon reflection, he offers this: “I like to tell

stories from marginalised communities.

I’m sick of seeing or hearing stories of

white, heterosexual couples doing boring,

middle-class shit, and that’s what 90%

of films are. I think it’s quite boring and I

think there are very interesting marginalised

cultures that are doing interesting

things that can also play out in film, and

should have a place there, too.” Challenging

norms and subverting the language of

cinema to be more inclusive and more daring

is a noble goal, and Yony is definitely

up to the challenge. After all, as Burroughs

himself once wrote: “Artists, to my mind,

are the real architects of change, not

the political legislators who implement

change after the fact.”

You can find William S. Burroughs: A Man

Within and Desire Will Set You Free on

streaming platforms now. Queercore: How to

Punk a Revolution will hit cinemas in Berlin

later this year.

Summer 2017

15


Game On

Pinball

A NICHE PASTIME MAKES A

TRIUMPHANT RETURN AT THE

GERMAN PINBALL OPEN

The back corners of arcades, basements, and bars across the globe are home

to hundreds of thousands of pinball machines. Some lay forlorn as their intricate

web of parts give out, one by one. Others flourish in the care of tender

hands and function as though they have just come off the assembly line.

With the same appreciation as a vinyl collector or analogue photographer,

pinball players adore these kinetic wonders of human innovation. Pinball is

not a game of chance from a bygone era; it’s a combination of art and skill, at

once repetitive and full of infinite variations.

16 Issue Four


Pinball

Game On

After decades of use, every machine plays

differently. Repairs have been made,

pieces modified to fit into place; some

parts simply cannot be fixed. Each table is a

Sisyphean puzzle, with players endlessly competing

against their own highest score. And

like life itself, no matter how good your game

is, the ball always drains in the end.

Despite achieving popularity as an American

phenomenon, the general consensus is that pinball

was invented in western Europe during the end

of the 18th century as a spring-loaded variant of

the French game, Bagatelle. They called it Billard

Japonais – Japanese Billiards. As it had nothing

to do with Japan, the game’s title was a misnomer.

In an ironic twist, however, the same game also

evolved into the Pachinko machine, Japan’s most

widespread and beloved form of gambling.

1940: New York City. Pinball machines were

a largely mob-controlled business, and the

press-hungry, bullish Mayor Fiorello La Guardia

was sick of them. In an effort to combat what he

saw as “mechanical pick-pockets,” La Guardia

conducted prohibition-style raids on arcades and

bars across the city. The ‘gambling machines’, as

he saw them, were rounded up and smashed with

sledgehammers, then dumped into the rivers. Major

cities across the US followed suit, and in many

places pinball became a criminal activity. Yet,

despite its struggle, pinball lived on. Major companies

continued to produce tables and distribute

them to regions where the game had not been

banned. In places like New York, pinball machines

were imported on the sly, sitting in the back rooms

of seedy porn shops and gambling dens.

That was true until May 1976, when a young

pinball fanatic named Roger Sharpe was brought to

a Manhattan courtroom to play in front of the New

York City Council. He was a good player, even rumoured

to be the best. A writer for GQ and The New

York Times, Sharpe gave an eloquent and logical

explanation to the City Council about how pinball

had evolved into a game of skill. To prove this he

began to play ‘Eldorado’, one of two tables brought

to court that day. The Council, keen to see a

demonstration of such skill, requested that Sharpe

play on the table that had been brought along as a

backup. He was much less familiar with the second

table, ‘Bank Shot’, having trained for his day in

court on ‘Eldorado’. However, he stepped up to the

second table and announced that the ball would

pass through the middle lane of the playing field.

Sharpe pulled back the metal plunger, launched

the ball into play and sent it through the desired

lane. He had called his shot, and the Council formally

recognised pinball as a game of skill. Today,

Sharpe looks like a typical dad. His formerly wild

mustache has been trimmed, he’s neatly dressed,

and wears glasses. At pinball conventions, however,

he’s a living legend – known as the man whose

bold demonstration of skill saved pinball.

Following the City Council’s ruling, the

machines became legal, and across the country

pinball experienced a renaissance. At this

point, pinball’s history starts to get pretty nerdy.

Machines changed from electro-mechanical to

solid-state, dot-matrixes were introduced, etc. To

sum up: it was the 1980s. America’s arcades were

packed. Capitalism and haircuts were out of control,

and kids had coins to burn. Video games were

already starting to encroach on the pinball market,

which only fuelled the fire for pinball designers,

who were trying to keep the game (and their jobs)

alive. During the mid-1990s – like poets on their

deathbeds racing to finish their magnum opuses

– major pinball companies such as Williams and

Bally produced the most technologically advanced

and entertaining pinball machines ever made, but

neither ‘Addams Family’ nor ‘Twilight Zone’ could

stop the bubble from bursting. All of the companies,

with one exception, eventually shut down or

used their factories to produce a much more profitable

coin-operated contraption: the slot machine.

But pinball didn’t just lay down and die.

Instead, it was martyred, and from the ashes of a

once-thriving industry rose a new form of competitive

play. Obsessive fans and barflies began

putting their skills to the test as an official global

ranking system, the International Flipper Pinball

Association, emerged. Today, whether for amusement

or for glory, players flock to pinball competitions

all over the world. This brings us to Potsdam

in 2017 for the 20th German Pinball Open.

Pinball by nature requires a stretch of the

imagination. In ‘White Water’, the ball represents

rafters heading through turbulent rapids

as it descends a bumpy ramp. In ‘Banzai Run’,

the player is a dirt biker ascending a treach-

words by

Ryan Rosell

photos by

Soheil Moradianboroujeni

Pachinko

Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan

so Pachinko players win steel balls,

which can be exchanged for prizes or

tokens. Pachinko balls are engraved

with elaborate identifiable patterns

specific to the premises they belong

to, and this has led some fans to

start collecting the different designs.

Summer 2017

17


Game On

«

CRIES OF “OOH”

RIPPLE THROUGH THE

GROUP AFTER EACH

CLOSE CALL, AND

PEOPLE BREAK INTO

APPLAUSE BREAKS OUT

AFTER PARTICULARLY

NICE SHOTS.

»

erous mountain trail. Many of the games

are wonderfully kitsch; they revel in their

artificiality. So it makes perfect sense that

this year’s German Pinball Open would take

place in the Babelsberg Film Park, just down

the road from the tryhard Quentin-Tarantino-Straße,

in a building next to a giant

mountain fabricated for a film set.

Inside Metropolis Halle, lined up backto-back

in neat rows, stand more than 160

pinball tables. Their dates of manufacture

span half a century, with the newest tables

not even available to purchase yet. Some of

the best machines in the hall come from that

golden period, before neon-clad kids started

begging their parents for Super Nintendos

instead of arcade money. Many of those tables

were produced in runs of less than 2000.

Playing a game on one of these machines is

like finding a piece of treasure.

For the the crowd on opening day, however,

it’s business as usual. Vendors selling replacement

machine parts set up shop and begin jovially

cutting deals with returning customers. Rivals

vying for the same position on the podium

taunt one another. Fanatics inspect the tables,

arguing over the advantages and disadvantages

of replacing bulbs with LEDs. There are punks

Pinball

with mohawks and pinball patches sewn into

their jackets, nostalgic grandfathers who stick

to the slow-paced machines of the ‘70s, and

old friends who play sitting on bar stools they

brought from home. Some of the serious players

are already here, with fingerless gloves and

headphones blasting EDM; they have the same

tense, sobre manner as professional poker players,

seemingly taking no enjoyment from the

game. This day is mostly for freeplay, and many

of the serious players stay at home, saving their

strength for the serious competition.

To say the crowd is diverse would be

misleading, but it is certainly a diverse group

of middle-aged white men. In their heyday,

pinball machines traditionally catered to a

male audience, and the back glass of many

machines sports the likeness of a voluptuous,

scantily-clad woman. This is a sad,

sexist truth about the game, but it has begun

to change in recent years. As the day rolls

on, a small but noticeable percentage of pinball-playing

women turn up, turning more

heads than even the highest scores.

Without any major competition on the

first day, it seems the pinballers are in for

nine or ten straight hours of uninterrupted

pinball. That’s until the German Pinball

Association guest of honour strolls into the

hall: Gary Stern. In 1999, the already-merged

Data East/Sega Pinball was about to go under,

as so many American pinball manufacturers

already had. In a courageous move as president

of the company, Stern bought the assets,

rallied an A-Team of unemployed pinball

designers and founded Stern Pinball, Inc. The

tables they produced may not always have

been the greatest, but with keen marketing

techniques and a steely resolve, Stern weathered

the roughest years in pinball history

as the owner of the last surviving company,

which manufactures new tables to this day.

EXTRA CREDIT:

OUR PICK OF BERLIN’S

HIGH-SCORING

PINBALL SPOTS

Logo Cafe

Blücherstraße 61

This Kneipe is open 24 hours a day,

so you can scratch that pinball itch

whenever it comes. They’ve got the

new ‘Ghostbusters’ table and cheap

drinks, but no matter how rowdy things

might get, a player’s concentration is

respected above all else.

Ron Telesky Canadian Pizza

Dieffenbachstraße 62

This place gets it. Tasty pizza, good

music, and ‘Medieval Madness’. Go

have a slice and a ball on one of the

best tables ever made.

East Side Bowling

Koppenstraße 8

This place is bar-sports heaven. In

addition to bowling they have ping

pong, poker tables, pool, arcade

games, and five pinball tables. It’s

the only place inside the Ring where

you can find more than two or three

tables in one spot.

Flipperhalle Berlin

Kleinmachnower Weg 1

This place is a game changer. It’s only

open from 13:00 to 20:00 on Fridays

and it’s in Zehlendorf, but the trip is so

worth it. It’s €5 entry, and once you’re

in you can play for free on all of their

fifty tables. Plus, beers are €1. That’s a

crazy deal. This is the cheapest way to

fall in love with the game.

18 Issue Four


Pinball

Bird’s-eye View

On the second day of the tournament, competitive play

begins. A separate section of the hall is opened and competitors

are assigned to tables in groups of four. While a massive

amount of skill is required to become a pinball champion,

there is also an element of luck. Some people are assigned to

a table they know intimately, others step up to a table cold.

As the day wears on, cries of “Scheiße!” can be heard across

the room. Dreams are crushed, and competitors are slowly

whittled down in number until only four remain.

The showdown between the final four takes place on the

third day. A surprise selection of three tables is presented,

and the winner is chosen based on the culmination of their

scores on all three machines. This year’s selection includes

the Stern hit ‘Ghostbusters’, a table that has widely instilled

faith in the pinball community by proving that new machines

can be as good as the classics. The next is ‘Medieval Madness’

from the 1990s, regarded as one of the greatest tables ever

made. The last to enter the championship is ‘Domino’s Pizza’.

This table, like most fast food, is pretty disappointing.

The first of the finalists is Stefan Harold. He’s the oldest

of the group but incredibly fast. He has the footwork of a

featherweight boxer and his shoes dart back and forth under

the table as he plays. Up next is young Roland Schwartz,

hailing from Austria. He keeps a Swedish Pinball Championship

hand towel tucked in his back pocket, which he uses

to methodically wipe down the table and his hands before

every ball. Next comes Martin Hotze, who won the German

Open in 2015 and is a favourite with the crowd. Last is Armin

Kress. He’s young and in decent shape, and when his ball

inevitably drains, Armin is the only player not to become

visibly upset. He just smiles modestly, steps back from the

table, and waits for his next turn. A crowd of around 30 gathers

around the finalists as they progress from table to table.

Cries of “ooh” ripple through the group after each close call,

and applause breaks out after particularly nice shots. None

of the players do too well on the ‘Domino’s Pizza’ table.

In the end, age and experience beat youthful enthusiasm,

as the final game is between Harold and Hotze. The

match comes down to the very last ball, but Hotze needs

only a few flips to restate his position as German champion.

Trophies are disseminated, awkward handshakes are

exchanged and the crowd dissipates. The machines are

carefully packed away by their owners and prepared for

long journeys home. The crowd leaves the hall, many of

them having played pinball for three consecutive days. The

sun is bright, but it’s not flashing ‘EXTRA BALL’, so no one

pays it much attention.

Reading about pinball is not nearly as fun as playing it.

Gather your spare change and check out our picks of the top

spots in Berlin for a beer ‘n’ ball.

KEVIN MORBY

02.07.17, Quasimodo

OF MONTREAL

20.07.17, Festsaal Kreuzberg

BEACH FOSSILS

06.09.17, Musik & Frieden

CHASTITY BELT

17.09.17, Berghain Kantine

CHAD VANGAALEN

22.10.17, Berghain Kantine

MOUNT EERIE

05.11.17, Silent Green

PEAKING LIGHTS

12.07.17, Berghain Kantine

ULRIKA SPACEK / THE MEN

03.08.17, Berghain Kantine

NADIA REID / MOLLY BURCH

13.09.17, Berghain Kantine

WAXAHATCHEE

28.09.17, Musik & Frieden

PRIESTS

26.10.17, Urban Spree

MAC DEMARCO

08.11.17, Astra

Summer 2017

TICKETS & INFO: PUSCHEN.NET

Spring 2017

19


Cover Story

MODERAT

20

Issue Four


Moderat

Cover Story

words by

Gesine Kühne

photos by

Robert Rieger

This summer, Berlin loses one of its most iconic

acts to an undetermined hiatus. As Moderat

begins what could be their final festival tour,

we join them and talk transitions: past to present,

and urban sprawls to garden walls.

Moderat: the chimeric brainchild of techno

giants Modeselektor and Apparat. Although

their name means ‘moderate’ in German,

their sound is anything but: sombre and sophisticated, exciting

and often painfully lush. Moderat is a play on words,

on genre, on sound and vision, and on what it means to be

a live band. By definition a supergroup, the Berlin-based

producers wear their status as ambassadors of the city

with a casual air. They smile and cajole off stage, and let

their music do the serious talking. Like many of Berlin’s

closely-cherished heroes, they are of the city but not from

it, hailing from small-town Germany and finding their

futures in the grimy basement parties of the late ‘90s.

Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s Modeselektor is

all punch, sex, grit and grime. A cross-section of ‘90s boom

bap, stuttering vocal samples and bass drops that can feel

like G-force training, as euphoric synths wrench the listener

in all directions. It’s a union of blissful paradox – where

Modeselektor thumps, Apparat whispers. Sascha Ring’s

soulful dream-pop delights the ear with vocals that walk the

line between the acrobatic and the strained, on a tapestry

of nimble beats. Apparat skirts the radio mainstream but

always manages to keep things off-centre, cementing his

place as one of music’s countercultural superstars.

Moderat lives an amphibious existence between both

sounds: all the sensitivity and intricacy of Apparat, delivered

with the take-no-prisoners moxie of Modeselektor. It’s

a cocktail that wins hearts across the globe, and last year

sold out Berlin’s massive Velodrom in a matter of minutes.

Make no mistake: this band is loved in this town, a fact

that makes this a painful year for fans. On September 2nd,

Moderat will take to the stage at Wuhlheide where they’ll

say an indefinite Auf wiedersehen. Until then, they’ll court

the summer festivals, filling parks and melting heads with

their visually stunning live set.

We join them on the road to Reims in the heart of provincial

France, where they will headline La Magnifique Society.

It’s a brief foray: a weekend getaway with a 14-hour drive

each way. It’s a lot of distance to cover for a one-hour set,

but it’s the kick-off for festival season, and with a further 28

shows to go, Moderat have more experience and grit than

to quiver at overnight bus journeys, sleeping to the ambient

hum of an engine a metre or so beneath their pillows.

What is life on the road for Moderat? Backpacks with fresh

underwear, packets of cigarettes and pressed baguettes from

a sandwich toaster say ‘student digs’ rather than ‘club circuit

celebrities’. Laughing, Szary insists that the toaster is one

of the bus’s most valuable possessions: “A sandwich gets

about 300% better when you grill it in a sandwich maker!”

Compared to the band’s early days, he has a point – a sandwich

toaster is a step up. “In the very beginning, we drove

ourselves and shared a hotel room,” says Sascha.

The Moderat project began in 2002 – the trio writing

their own software so they could jam together, since

what they needed wasn’t available off-the-shelf. They

produced their first EP the following year. Auf Kosten der

Gesundheit (At the Cost of Health) emerged to a flood of

positive reviews, but the title and subsequent six-year

hiatus hinted at a trying time behind studio doors. Nevertheless,

in 2009, Moderat released their first full-length

record: a self-titled opus of post-minimal, club-ready

hits. Trampolining off the success of the first EP, Modeselektor’s

Hello Mom and Happy Birthday!, as well as Apparat’s

collaborative LP, Orchestra of Bubbles with Ellen

Allien, Moderat was an unquestionable success.

Despite their decade-long success, Gernot, Szary and

Sascha have managed to remain grounded, avoiding the

tropes of inflated egos with characteristic nonchalance. They

still leave their hotel rooms to explore the surroundings of

their latest gig, be it a city or somewhere more remote.

“I mean, I grew up in a village, kind of, so I always have

a need for green,” Sascha says. “Previously, I satisfied that

desire by motorcycling into the woods, for example. Now I’ve

found something that fits my age better. I drive to my piece of

land, to my garden.” All three members have bought land just

outside Berlin where they’ve each built houses – Sascha’s,

next to a pond; Gernot’s, near the open countryside.

“I realised that my job is done all over the world, but

99.9% of everything happens in huge cities, so I don’t

need to live in one any more,” Gernot says. “Back in the

day, we destructively exploited our bodies,” he adds,

explaining some of the reasons why the trio have turned

away from urban living. “We only worked at night, then

when we were done around five or six in the morning,

we’d have another kebab and a beer and go to bed. We’d

get up around two or three in the afternoon. We wasted

so much time this way, but now we’re trying to optimise

our lives. The environment we’re in and what’s in front of

our door plays an important role; for example, no drunk

tourists having the summer of their lives in Berlin.”

Gernot continues, “That’s why the photos for LOLA were

shot where we feel comfortable; where no one lives, where

we don’t have to talk, and where no one recognises us. It

happens a lot in the city: we go for a coffee, and all of a

sudden we get a coffee for free because someone else offers

to pay. That’s not bad, of course, but on the other hand you

feel watched the whole time. Where we live now, north of

Berlin, there is a little organic supermarket and they don’t

care at all who shops there. They leave you alone,” he says,

then laughs. “Unless you touch the vegetables.”

As much as Gernot, Szary and Sascha love their newfound

sanctuaries with their families, they equally love

being on tour. “It is Tourlaub,” or ‘tour holiday’, Gernot

says, smiling. “That’s the term our wives came up with.

They don’t see touring as work.” But Sascha interjects,

clarifying: “We wouldn’t call it Tourlaub, I mean, we are

talking about sometimes playing every day for three

weeks in a row. That really wears you out.” However,

even on the road they manage to find a routine: “We have

learned to live with a certain rhythm,” says Sascha. “During

the day we wind down, and we still get very euphoric

about our job on stage. It still gives us a huge kick.”

Summer 2017

21


Cover Story

Moderat

“We are touring professionals,” adds Gernot. “We

toured as Modeselektor and Apparat before and during

Moderat, and we know all forms of touring: as a band,

as DJs with USB sticks, on buses, trains, planes, jets

and boats. We haven’t had a helicopter yet,” he laughs.

“When we get home the mode switches instantly

because our kids take over, and they aren’t interested

in what happened at Fabric, for example. Switching

modes quickly is actually quite nice.”

Szary agrees: “When I get home the first thing I do is

I make myself some coffee. Then I go outside, drink it,

and smoke a cigarette. Then I say, ‘Kids, come over, sit

down on my lap, because Papi would like to explain to

you what he has experienced.’ And after that, it is back

to normal: clearing out the dishwasher…”

In addition to giving them plenty to tell their children

about when they return home, Tourlaub allows

them to escape the routines of work, the record label,

studio and family time, to travel with friends. And

like friends, they listen carefully when any of the crew

members have personal matters to talk about. “We are

dependent on the crew,” Gernot explains. “They have

to give 110% so we can deliver 120%. Trust and being

nice to each other is essential.”

“There’s no one in our crew who is just a worker,”

Sascha adds. “They are all people we have known for

ages. Most of them are part of the crew for exactly

that reason. We grew together. We rarely have changes

within the crew, and that’s important.”

From the production manager to the technicians,

the crew work with the kind of intimacy that comes

from years of knowing each other. And Moderat

is the fulcrum, the three characters creating the

kind of balance needed to get through such punishing

tour schedules. Sascha is the contemplative

maverick who maintains the overview of production

plans and costs. Szary pursues new interests and

broadens his knowledge over coffee and cigarettes.

His interest in foreign climes has made him the socalled

travel minister, checking routes and researching

hotels for the band. Then there’s Gernot, the

cheeky, bright-eyed joker, who listens carefully and

is able to parse out solutions to whichever obstacles

present themselves. His demeanour and outgoing

nature make him the perfect candidate for handling

press and communication.

Maintaining a jovial spirit isn’t always easy. Back

on the bus, the clock reads half-past-midnight, and

Sascha looks uneasy. “I’m really worried that I won’t

get enough sleep,” he announces, sitting at the small

table on the lower deck of the double-decker bus, a

white nightliner with tinted windows. Christoph, the

lighting technician, points silently towards a bottle

of whiskey, but Sascha leaves the bottle untouched

and goes to bed in the tiny bunk that’s only just long

enough for his tall frame. He closes the curtain behind

him with a bright ‘shink!’, the heavy piece of fabric

creating something close to privacy. Sascha doesn’t

like touring on buses. “I don’t sleep very well on

them,” he mutters, from within his ersatz sanctuary.

The next morning, we cross the Belgian border. Szary

and Sascha are still sleeping, but Gernot is already on

the task at hand, discussing the gig, now mere

“WE STILL GET VERY

EUPHORIC ABOUT OUR

JOB ON STAGE. IT STILL

GIVES US A HUGE KICK.”

22 Issue Four


Moderat

Cover Story

Summer 2017

23


Cover Story

Moderat

hours away. He’s reviewing the changes

to the set, because as soon as the crew

arrives at their destination, the trio will

vanish into separate hotel rooms for

hours of preparatory isolation.

Hardened tour-bodies notwithstanding,

the trip to Reims is taxing. After all those

hours of travel, when nine-to-five office

workers would call it a day, they get to work

giving interviews, having final consultations

with the production manager, and

warming up their voices.

At around midnight, Sascha is practising

his high notes. They don’t come easy tonight;

he’s coming down with a cold. Szary

stares at the middle distance, focused.

Quiet. “I’m not nervous,” he assures us.

“Just very concentrated. I’m going over

everything in my head.”

It’s almost time for the headline act to go

up. Out front, hungry fans wait for Moderat

to start their set. As soon as the first notes

of their intro can be heard, the whole crew

gathers around the band. Everyone highfives

each other, a long-practiced ritual. As

they stand in their circle, Moderat and the

crew are close-knit, tight as a fist. On their

faces, appreciation and unquestioning

readiness. Just seconds later, Gernot, Szary

and Sascha vanish into the white fog that

spills out from the wings. The crowd roars.

Do they think about transitioning back

to their respective projects? Switching between

outfits can have its downsides. “After

Dave Gahan

Depeche Mode have enjoyed

great success in Germany over

the years. In 1988 they became

one of the very few western

bands to ever play in the GDR

with an unannounced performance

in Werner-Seelenbinder-Halle,

East Berlin.

the first album we went back

to our own projects,” Sascha

explains. “And for me it

was really hard to get back

to the work with Apparat,

to be alone in the studio,

because I really got used to

the dynamic between three

people. So because of that experience we

didn’t want to make the switch back again

to Apparat and Modeselektor after II. It

just took too much energy. The music

world runs in phases. An album is a certain

phase, and this one is coming to an end.

That means it will be the last chance to see

us for a while.” In fact, Modeselektor are

already in the studio again, eager to get

back to their techno roots.

“Moderat was planned as a recovery project

from our individual ones,” Sascha tells

us the following day, everyone recovered

from their high-energy set at the festival.

Gernot picks up Sascha’s thought: “And now

we have to recover from Moderat! We’re all

clear about a hiatus for the time being. It

doesn’t have a set timeframe; we don’t yet

know when we will continue with Moderat,

and we also can’t say ‘if’. So this Berlin concert

will be like the end of an era!”

It’s time, they say, for Moderat to take

a pause. The trio didn’t take a break

following the release of II in 2013, touring

instead for two years and going straight

into the studio again to record III, which

they released in the spring

of 2016. They’re still touring,

clocking up 150 live shows

and more than one trip

around the world.

That’s not to say the trio

aren’t relishing the joys of

the Moderat era. Gernot,

Szary and Sascha love to play, and every

single time they approach the stage seeking

to “shred the audience,” as Gernot says.

“Like at our most recent gig at Coachella,

there were so many people and we were

still able to create something like a studio

atmosphere, where we didn’t feel watched,

where we all push each other to play even

better. It’s our little bubble. That’s why

Sascha sometimes forgets to interact with

the audience, to get his Dave Gahan on,”

he laughs. “We have something like an

electronic grandeur. I realised at Coachella

that I don’t give a fuck how many people

there are. It works – still.”

There are plenty more shows ahead of

the three musicians before they step onto

the stage in Berlin for their final night of

the tour. The September 2nd gig will be a

huge event in Berlin’s live music calendar.

Not only in terms of size – although the

Wuhlheide holds 17,000 people. The Berlin

crowd’s energy is different. The audience

is full of friends and long-term fans, so

it’s inevitably a unique experience for the

band. “We were asked to play Lollapalooza,

but we decided against it. To play

Wuhlheide was always our dream,” says

Gernot. “We want it to be a grand finale.

We booked a support: Mark Ernestus’

Ndagga Rhythm Force. Mark Ernestus is

a legend. He’s the owner of the Hard Wax

record shop. He’s a musical genius.”

The home-crowd can also bring some

nerves. “I find it uncomfortable sometimes,”

says Sascha. “I get the feeling

we’re being properly watched, because the

audience knows us so well. The feedback

in Berlin was always quite personal,” he

adds. “But now I’m more relaxed, and it is

nice to play in Berlin. Maybe that’s a sign

of growing up, that I’m not afraid to play in

my hometown any more.”

“Berlin is unbelievably special!” adds

Szary. “If it’s in front of 9,000 people, like

last year at Velodrom – that was rad – or if

it is in a small club in front of just 200, Berlin

is always so intense. Berlin ist einfach

unsere Heimat!” Heimat – the place where

you feel you belong.

Get your tickets for the Berlin show

by following the link at moderat.fm/live

and follow the tour on Instagram with

#teambadkingdom

24 Issue Four


Moderat

Cover Story

“THE MUSIC WORLD RUNS

IN PHASES. AN ALBUM IS A

CERTAIN PHASE, AND THIS

ONE IS COMING TO AN END.”

Wuhlheide

The open-air stage in Bezirk Treptow-Köpenick was

built for the occasion of the third World Festival of

Youth and Students in the summer of 1951. It is the

second-largest open-air stage in Berlin.

Summer 2017

25


Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

BLACK IN BERLIN

JESSICA LAUREN

ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S

CRUCIAL SALON

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor has her feet firmly planted in multiple

spheres. The artist-in-residence at District Gallery, Berlin, she

works within the realms of both conventional and non-conventional

theatre, but outside of that, she participates in a particular form

of artistic activism. Having studied theatre in the United States,

Jessica’s move to Berlin coincided with her growing interest in advocacy

for people of colour. Issues of race, identity, and belonging

are the materials of her work as a community organiser and artist.

Under Jessica’s guidance, dialogue blossoms.

26

Issue Four


Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

Vital Debate

words by

Hamza Beg

photos by

Justine Olivia Tellier

hair styling by

Tata Nuo

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates’ second book Between

the World and Me and his

article in The Atlantic, ‘My

President Was Black’, were

both informed by his many interviews

with Barack Obama

and their differing philosophies

on race in the US.

As we chat, Jessica speaks enthusiastically.

Her tone is matter-of-fact and informed, a

combination that makes it strikingly clear

why she is a successful moderator for discussions.

Black in Berlin is a salon that Jessica began in 2012

in order to challenge the mainstream German–

English press on their mishandling of racial issues.

That challenge has grown into a movement that

empowers people of colour in the city and speaks

to Jessica’s own personal journey.

Jessica is part of a larger group of people

inciting discussions on race in Berlin, although

she admits: “I didn’t arrive and get involved, I

accidentally got involved.” The catalyst was an

article in a prominent Berlin-based magazine that

used racially offensive terms in reference to the

Afro-Deutsche community, such as ‘jungle fever’

and ‘from the bush’. Appalled, Jessica went directly

to the source: “I went to a panel discussion with the

editors of the magazine, but the panel was terrible;

they talked over the Afro-Deutsche community. I

was just really incensed that this was a liberal-left

magazine’s take on race in Berlin. Afterwards, a

group of us stayed and just chatted into the night.

That’s when I started Black in Berlin.”

Through this moment of collective frustration,

Jessica discovered a critical need in the community

here in Berlin. “In the UK and US we talk

about race all the time, with our families, with our

friends, our neighbours, but here people aren’t

used to talking about race at all,” she says. Since

the salon began, Jessica and the attendees of Black

in Berlin have been discovering the benefits of having

an open dialogue with each other about issues

of race. As with the victims of discrimination of

any kind, the space created for discourse has to be

one in which the participants feel completely safe.

In this case, this means that the guest speakers

are always people of colour, and the ensuing

discussions are ones that an audience composed

primarily of people of colour feels encouraged to

contribute to. But the demographics of the salons

are slowly changing: “The salons at the beginning

were 60% black and brown and, say, 40% white,”

Jessica tells us. “But now we’re getting down to

about 5% white.” That the number of non-white

participants is increasing speaks to the welcoming

environment, where demographics of the panel

and community reflect those of the participants.

Jessica speaks with meticulous clarity of how

she constitutes ‘whiteness’. “When I use the term

‘whiteness’, I am referring to a concept of interlocking

political and cultural systems,” she begins. “I like

what the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has to say about

whiteness: that it is a social construct, a fabrication.

He says: ‘Whiteness and blackness are not a fact of

providence but of social policy,’ though it is important

to note that even if whiteness is an invention,

it has very real repercussions. Something I always

tell people at my salon is: if you’re bristled or made

uncomfortable by the terms ‘whiteness’ or ‘white

people’ then you have some unpacking to do.” The

level of precision with which Jessica explains complex

concepts is perhaps a product of her role in responding

to the needs of her community. Her ability

to distil identity politics into understandable terms

is particularly refreshing in a time when many find

the subject both difficult and confusing. Jessica concedes

that when she came to Berlin, she didn’t have

any knowledge of critical race theory, and it is clear

that the salon has been a learning experience for her

as much as for the participants. “It’s really amazing,”

she continues. “I can say that unabashedly because

it’s all about the community and the people who

come and speak. It’s at least 40% regulars.”

The issues that the salons are trying to tackle

are not limited to the experience of racism. They

are a place of celebration, of sharing thoughts

on how to spread a positive message throughout

society at large. While Jessica feels that “Berlin is

decades behind,” in regards to how race is imagined

by other Western, multi-ethnic societies, she also

states that she’s “not yet exhausted or tired of

explaining things to white audiences.” The salons

themselves, however, are not set up for this kind

of explanation, but as safe spaces of expression –

where people can discuss why most German companies

still require headshots on CVs, for example.

The community surrounding the salon is making

great strides. “Just last week I had to choose between

Isaiah Lopez’s talk on what it means to be black, male

and queer at Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, and

Natasha Kelly’s celebration of the life of May Ayim

at the Hebbel on the same night. The community is

just so rich now.” While the salons can be a place to

simply let your voice be heard, they are also a space

to begin learning or relearning how to articulate your

experiences. Jessica’s contribution to the slow and

steady march toward racial equality feels revolutionary,

but she draws a line between the work of an activist

and how she sees her role: “I’m not an activist,

and I say that because activists, from what I see, are

putting blood, sweat and tears into the movement.

I’m an artist, so I’m working for the movement, but

I’m also working in the arts context.”

Summer 2017

27


Vital Debate

Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

«

IN THE UK AND US WE

TALK ABOUT RACE ALL THE

TIME, BUT HERE PEOPLE

AREN’T USED TO TALKING

ABOUT RACE AT ALL.

»

Black in Berlin tackles topics that require subtlety,

patience and a variety of viewpoints. The events usually

last for two hours, although Jessica admits that this is

often not long enough. A recent salon looked at the idea

of a ‘new diaspora’ with intersectional perspectives on

privilege, class, race and mobility. This style of nuanced

and open public discussion is not only radical but also

accessible, and often therapeutic for its audience. Here,

the participants find themselves in a rare and welcoming

space where they can begin to reckon with the trauma

inflicted by the politics of race.

Diversifying the group of literature- and arts-focused

20–40 year olds is a difficult task. Jessica tries

to convince her Turkish and Afro-Deutsche neighbours

to attend, but language can be a limitation. To tackle this

problem, she encourages people to speak in their own

language and finds translators to help out. Black in Berlin

is always hosted in a different space. “I try not to have it in

academic and art institutions too often, because I want it

to have more of a kitchen-table feel,” Jessica explains. This

seems to be the very heart of the project: the creation of a

safe space in which those who have few places to turn to can

be heard. “We work in majority-white spaces, we socialise

in majority-white spaces and a lot of us are in relationships

with a white person. A lot of people have told me that the

salons are a bit like church and a lot of the time, these

spaces can feel like coming home,” she continues. There’s

a simple beauty in creating a homespace here – despite

Berlin’s notorious transience – for people who feel that their

very social existence is also transient.

“Whiteness is so pervasive, it’s in all of us,” Jessica says

when discussing the theatre scene in Berlin and finding her

place in it. “Berlin has a long, rich history of alternative,

progressive, radical theatre. The theatre I was seeing here in

institutions, like the state theatre, was the most radical theatre

I had ever seen in my life, and it still is,” she says. And yet

the actors on stage were all white. Back in the United States

where Jessica grew up, the stage was more diverse. She now

cherrypicks the shows she will attend. “I also go in with the

knowledge that I will be one of the only black bodies in the

space. I just made a decision to stop going to majority-white

spaces. I realise that I felt deeply uncomfortable, but more

importantly exhausted by these spaces. Going to openings

and being the only black person in the room, I always felt

like a peacock. People were always looking at me, commenting,

or touching me, my hair or my outfit.”

Jessica’s experience of her own blackness, particularly

as a child, has clearly informed her work in Berlin. “As I

was growing up I was never black enough. I was always

told that I talked like a white girl by the other black girls

in my community. I went to predominantly-white schools

and all of my extra curricular activities were also majority-white.

All of my social community programmes were

majority-black, and those were the spaces I didn’t feel

welcome in,” she tells us. This early narrative is replete

with experiences that impact not only Jessica’s work in

the salon but also her ability to understand others. “That

was particularly tough growing up because I also grew

28 Issue Four


Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor

up in a pro-black household,” she says. “My mum came

in every year to teach Black History Month to my whole

school, she started the first black book club in our town,

but then I also had this part of myself that didn’t identify

with being black because I was being rejected.” Even later

at art school, both students and professors nullified her

blackness because it did not quite fit the pervasive stereotype.

She was frequently cast as ‘the fool’, a subversive

character that comments on the play from the margins.

They are often intelligent and witty characters – but it

wasn’t until a black professor put on a ‘black play’ that

Jessica was cast as a leading lady. With the complex interplay

of institutional and inter-personal racism, Jessica’s

move to Europe made perfect sense. “In Berlin, I was free

from all gazes, and in terms of identity I felt that it was a

place where I could start over and be who I wanted to be,

because in the States there was a certain way to be black.

“The American South is a very special place, it’s a

place of warmth and family and bigotry and rampant,

rampant unchecked racism, and backwoods and country

roads and lawlessness,” Jessica says. Growing up around

a certain amount of lawlessness in Florida seems good

training for living in Berlin. Jessica points out that both

places are built on swamps: “Berlin comes from the Slavic

word for ‘swamp’. It’s a place where it is hard to find solid

ground, and I think that speaks also to the people here.”

It seems, however, that Berlin has stabilised Jessica

in her beliefs and passions. She was on her way to the

Jacques Lecoq School of Art and Mime in Paris when she

first stopped over in Berlin, and never left. She schooled

herself instead with alternative theatre in squats and

abandoned warehouses. “I felt that it was my classroom,”

she says. She plainly loves theatre, but her solid ground

atop this marsh of a city is the community of people of

colour: “The community really keeps me going: just when

I feel like I’m ready to leave or move on, this incredible

community is like ‘Wait, no, we’re here.’”

Jessica’s next venture sits at the intersection of race and

gender. It feels like a deeper, more specific iteration of the

Black in Berlin series. She explains: “I’m starting a garden,

incubation interview series called Muttererde, which

actually means ‘topsoil’. I’m going to be interviewing

other femmes of colour about their great-grandmothers

while gardening, because I don’t know anything about

my great-grandmother at all.” She clarifies that the only

thing she does know about her great-grandmother is that

she passed down her green fingers, inspiring the project’s

gardening theme. “I started the garden a month ago,” she

continues. “I go there every afternoon. I’ve always had

plants in my house but a garden is something different,

a really meditative place. We’ll start the interviews and

filming in July and then have a screening in late August

or early September.” Finding ever-innovative ways to offer

marginalised people a space for expression, Jessica’s work

invokes not only significance but also longevity. It is a

transformational and representative style of social politics

that offers a frame for marginalised experiences. She is in

Berlin, not only to take all that the city offers, but also to

give back what it so badly needs.

Keep up with Jessica and her upcoming projects on her

website, thejessicastudy.com

Summer 2017

Summer 2017

29


High Times

Microdosing

ACID

TEST

AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE

MICRODOSING TREND

30 Issue Four


Microdosing

High Times

Lysergic acid diethylamide – more commonly known as ‘LSD’ or ‘acid’ – is a drug

that has long been affiliated with marathon benders, hippy culture and tie-dye

visuals. Yet these associations are being completely overhauled by microdosing,

the practice of taking tiny amounts of acid to boost creativity, productivity, and

even deal with mental health issues such as depression. We talked with some of

Berlin’s microdosers to find out how this traditionally recreational psychedelic

substance is being put to use in an entirely new context.

LSD’s tumultuous history began in

1938, when it was first synthesised

by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman at

Basel’s Sandoz Laboratories while he

was trying to develop new circulatory and

respiratory stimulants. In 1943, utterly by

chance after accidentally ingesting the drug,

he discovered its strong psychoactive qualities.

Three days later, Hoffman intentionally

took 250 micrograms (µg) of LSD, famously

first feeling the buzz as he cycled home.

The following half century saw LSD

transform from a promising medication

into a controlled substance. Numerous

CIA-led experiments, the Vietnam War,

a massive counter-cultural revolution in

the 1960s and the subsequent 1971 United

Nations Convention on Psychotropic

Drugs resulted in LSD being denigrated as

a harmful recreational drug, consumed en

masse by vociferous hippies all looking to

‘turn on, tune in and drop out.’ Its apparent

threat to the moral fabric of society

was judged too grave, and most research

into LSD ground to a halt.

Today, LSD is strictly regulated around

the world. In Germany, the drug is classified

as an Anlage I substance. According to

the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs

and Drug Addiction, substances that fall

into this category are defined as “narcotic

drugs not eligible for trade or prescription.”

Under Germany’s drug policy, or

Betäubungsmittelgesetz, distribution and

possession of acid is a criminal offence,

although prosecutions seldom occur for

small quantities intended for personal use.

However, this socio-judicial overhang is

slowly ebbing away. A reinvigorated scientific

interest in psychedelics has emerged,

and a host of studies have cropped up that

seek to explore the potential benefits of

LSD in treating psychological conditions

such as anxiety and PTSD. Perhaps the

biggest driver of this renaissance is microdosing,

a trend popularised by hyper-smart

techies holed up in Silicon Valley looking

for an edge in a competitive corporate

landscape. But it’s not all software engineers

and complex algorithms. Microdosing

is thriving in Berlin, and there’s more to

it than meets the eye.

Our first port of call was Susan (not

her real name), a radio journalist who

put together a story on microdosing for

Deutschlandfunk in April. Over a glass of

wine, Susan explains how she was switched

on to the idea after hearing it talked about

amongst her yoga circles. “I ran into a few

people who started dropping the term ‘microdosing’

at my yoga practice; it was the

first time I’d heard of it,” she says.

After a few more conversations, she

realised microdosing was much more widespread

than she initially thought: “A couple

of months later another friend mentioned

they were trying it, and I thought, ‘you

too?’” The idea had presented itself. In the

process of producing her story she reached

out to a handful of microdosers, as well

as Dr Henrik Jungaberle – a Berlin-based

psychologist involved in drug prevention

programmes and research.

Dr Jungaberle asserts that microdosing

is a proxy for enhancement. “With microdosing,

people are trying to self-optimise,

they want to work better,” he says. “Peo-

words by

Alex Rennie

illUstrations by

Patricia Tarczynski

Summer 2017

31


High Times

Microdosing

“THERE’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING

MAJOR HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. I THINK

THESE DRUGS WILL PLAY A KEY ROLE

IN THE FUTURE, IN PSYCHIATRY AND

OTHER FIELDS OF MEDICINE.”

ple today experience real boredom, everyday

life may be monotone. It’s a tool to make

things more enjoyable.” In his opinion, there

are parallels with Ritalin usage, especially as

a means of driving up productivity.

As part of her groundwork, and in true

gonzo style, Susan decided to experience

microdosing for herself. “I wanted to try

it because people were saying it opens up

different pathways in your mind,” she says.

“I wanted to see whether it’s bullshit or not,

to know what it does and doesn’t do.” But in

embarking on this endeavour, she discovered

one of microdosing’s biggest difficulties:

how to measure an accurate dose.

Typically, one tab of acid contains

100µg of LSD. The best way to siphon off

a microdose – between 5–15µg according

to Dr Jungaberle – is to soak a tab in

100ml of distilled water overnight. Storing

it in the fridge preserves its potency

for approximately one month. Using a

syringe or pipette and taking it neat or

in tea is the most precise way to hit the

sweet spot, though more haphazard

microdosers simply snip off a tiny corner

of the tab and hope for the best.

Susan recounts sampling her first

microdose one Saturday. Shortly afterwards

as she went to meet a friend in a

café, it quickly dawned on her she’d had

more than enough. “When I got there I

was super hyperactive, my friend asked

me why I was being so giggly. I told him

about microdosing. He got me to look

him in the eye, and he said, ‘Oh my God,

you’re high!’” She estimates she took

about 30µg, double the ideal amount.

The following time she tried it, it didn’t

have much of an effect. Dr Jungaberle

notes that this is quite common: “Obviously

the dose depends on the individual,

its effects can vary. There are people

who’re very sensitive to LSD and people

who won’t feel anything on such a small

amount.” It’s hard to gauge how to hit the

jackpot in this psychedelic lottery.

In retrospect, Susan is sceptical of how microdosing

has been extolled as a means to

increase productivity and creative output:

“I think it’s a bit hypocritical using it to

achieve something; it feeds into our digital,

non-stop, don’t-sleep, we’re-all-replaceable

world.” Though this critique has traction,

it doesn’t quite gel with the reality of other

Berliners who’re readily portioning out

their own micro-odysseys.

A week later, Max (also not his real

name) sits in the spring sun beside Wedding’s

lesser-known Schifffahrtskanal, a

secluded stretch of water bordering the

western edge of the district. It is midday

and it seems a beautiful enough location

without psychoactive drugs – but Max

is here to bare all about his psychedelic

encounters. Originally from the US, he’s

been living in Berlin on-and-off since the

early 2000s. He divides his time between

photography, filmmaking, and teaching

English. He’s been consistently microdosing

10µg of diluted LSD every fourth day

for the last three months.

Before leaving his flat, Max carefully

measured out a tiny droplet of acid and

swallowed it. It’s striking how lucid he is.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

LSD is synthesised from the lysergic

acid found in ergot fungi, an

organism that grows on rye. There

is widespread belief that kykeon, a

drink imbibed during Ancient Greek

cult initiations, contained hallucinogens

derived from ergot.

Albert Hofmann

The LSD-pioneer was rumoured to

have microdosed for decades, well

into his old age. He died in 2008 at

the age of 102.

Bicycle Day

April 19th 1943 is the day that

Hofmann tested the effects of LSD

on himself. After ingesting 250μg

and experiencing an extraordinary

change in perception, he cycled

home. The anniversary of this

event is now celebrated among

LSD enthusiasts around the world

as ‘Bicycle Day’.

Shroom for Improvement

Microdosing isn’t limited to LSD.

People also consume tiny amounts

of psilocybin, psilocin or baeocystin

mushrooms in order to feel similar

enhancements to creativity and

productivity.

Berlin’s LSD Kiez

Prenzlauer Berg’s Helmholtzkiez

is known locally as the LSD-Viertel.

However, that’s not because

residents are partial to tripping; it

gets its name from the three main

roads that intersect the neighbourhood:

Lychener- Schliemann-

and Dunckerstraße.

32 Issue Four


Microdosing

High Times

Not only that, his answers are thorough and

crammed with information. But how does

he feel? “I’ve got that butterfly feeling in my

stomach, and the acid taste in my mouth

is slightly apparent,” he says. “The colours

are brighter and I can hear the birds, they’re

fucking loud as shit right now!”

Echoing Susan’s reservations, Max explains

how his first foray into microdosing

wasn’t a calculated one: “I started off with

the slap-dash approach. It’s OK if that’s

your entry point. But if you want to be more

serious about it, when it can be an addition

to your week and help your productivity, it’s

better to figure out how to do it properly.”

Having tailored the right amount to his

needs, Max expands on how microdosing

aids his daily routine: “There are days

when you wake up and you feel tired and

sluggish, you’re forgetful. It’s about not

being that; it makes you a better version

of yourself. You’re getting closer to peak

performance: you’re happy and in a good

mood, you’re sharp, ready and focused.

For me, it’s less about creativity and more

about efficiency. My ability to empathise

with the world around me and the people

that I talk to is greater, too.”

So far, Max’s motives resonate with Susan

and Dr Jungaberle’s assessments. This

link wavers when Max digs deeper into the

reasons behind his experimental assays. It

was in the midst of a severe bout of depression

that he decided to revisit acid. “I started

doing LSD again as therapy for myself,

to get into a better state of mind. The first

time I did LSD again I had a very clear view

of whatever pit I had fallen into.”

Beyond the efficiency, Max’s stance on

microdosing is one that’s strikingly holistic.

“As a tool it is incredibly useful, I’ve

cleaned out that emotional closet in my life

a handful of times, not just microdosing

but also macrodosing,” he says. “If you go

into it wanting to resolve problems, it’s

extremely helpful. If you’ve ever tried to

be creative whilst you’re stressed out with

normal life shit, it’s so hard to do.”

After an hour in the sun discussing how

microdosing “connects these different

parts of the brain that wouldn’t normally

be connected,” Max finishes on a poignant

note concerning its paradigm-shifting

potential. “Society has definitely portrayed

LSD as something scary, and that shapes

our views on these kind of things. It’s time

to get past it. I think this can be a norm,

as well as a wonderful helping hand in the

growth of our human consciousness.”

It’s tricky to argue that Max’s personal

experience is solely centred on

self-optimisation in the Silicon Valley

sense. In fact, his microdosing mentality

seems more to do with therapeutic

factors than anything else. His belief

that acid could one day slot into the

normative framework is both upbeat

and infectious. It’s also an ideal shared

by Kjartan Nilsen, a Norwegian filmmaker

with a background in medicine.

Having landed in Berlin three years ago,

Kjartan established The German Psychedelic

Society last June. “We want to be a platform

for psychedelic users, a space where

people can connect, exchange knowledge

with each other and participate in seminars

and social events,” he says. Their last event

in April at Prenzlauer Berg’s Musik Brauerei

attracted around 250 guests.

Like Max, Kjartan also extolls the

virtues of microdosing, though he only

dabbles in it every now and then: “It’s

been very beneficial for me. I become

more focused and my creative output is

higher, and it also has a strong spiritual

side to it; I become more aware. From

morning to evening, I’m experiencing this

‘flow’ state. Even though this sounds kind

of floaty, it removes the ego, the mask that

you’re carrying in your daily life, and you

see others as an extension of yourself.”

Kjartan is clued up when it comes to

current research. He spends some time

fleshing out recent scientific investigations

into LSD, including Imperial College

London’s now notorious fMRI scans of

brains on acid. Though he admits “we

need more science” concerning microdosing,

he references American psychologist

James Fadiman’s qualitative work as an

encouraging benchmark. “His studies

are quite promising: 99% of users report

positive effects, and a slight percentage

are reporting an emotional release during

microdosing sessions,” he says.

But we have to ask: what about the risks?

Is Kjartan not concerned that repeated LSD

use could inflict harm? “Certainly, there is

risk,” he agrees. “But I would argue that the

risk is minimal because we already know

that psychedelics are the least harmful

group of substances on the market today.”

Harkening back to Dr Jungaberle’s responses,

Kjartan’s confidence is well-founded.

“LSD is one of the least damaging substances

that exists, certainly less harmful than

alcohol,” says the German scientist.

So could it be that we’re on the cusp of

something truly revolutionary? Kjartan

thinks so: “There’s definitely something

major happening right now. I think these

drugs will play a key role in the future, in

psychiatry and other fields of medicine.”

Perhaps it’s too premature to assess what

the future holds. Nevertheless, this reinvigorated

surge in psychedelic science does

seem to be a convincing marker of things to

come. And as microdosing becomes more

visible in the public domain, it may well

begin to dissolve the perceived danger that

LSD poses to society’s mental wellbeing.

Kjartan is quietly optimistic: “A lot of information

that people have on psychedelics is

based on myths spread throughout the media.

But the evidence is telling us that these

are some of the least harmful substances

that exist, and that they even have great

personal benefits, spirituality and creatively.

Times are changing.”

Keep up with the latest from The German

Psychedelic Society at facebook.com/

psychedelicsde

Summer 2017

33


Music in Exile

Mohammad Abu Hajar

WE FED UP

words by

Stuart Braun

photos by

Shane Omar

On a cold day in early February, a large crowd gathers at the Brandenburg

Gate to protest Executive Order 13769, Donald Trump’s ban on

persons entering the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Amid the ‘Ban Fascism Not Muslims’ and ‘Love Trumps Hate’

placards, Syrian rapper and activist Mohammad Abu Hajar steps onto

the stage at the front of the rally to address the crowd. The young man,

also known as MC Abu Hajar, grew up under authoritarianism. He has

spent time in the prisons of the Assad regime. He understands how one

man seeks to maintain power by brutally oppressing others. This understanding

is shared by his Syrian bandmates in Berlin and it fuels the

powerful music they’ve been unleashing on the city’s stages since 2015.

34 Issue Four


Mohammad Abu Hajar

Music in Exile

Above: Mohammad

(second from right)

with Mazzaj Rap.

Survived Hitler’s War

Although it was still standing,

by the end of the war the

gate was badly damaged.

Bullets and nearby explosions

left holes in the columns,

and only one horse’s head

from the original Quadriga

survived. The head can now

be found in the collection of

the Märkisches Museum.


For me, what matters is that we don’t only

fight Trump, but we fight the infrastructure

that created Trump and will create

other Trumps in the future,” Mohammad tells the

protesters who are cheering him on during the grey

mid-winter day. “I’m not here only for Muslims,

I’m here in solidarity with my white fellows not

represented by Trump. I’m not here only because

I’m Syrian or an Arab. I’m here for humanity.”

Mohammad goes on to speak of a dictatorship

that has been in power for half a century and has

ultimately destroyed his country. “I don’t wish it for

the rest of the world,” he continues. “I think it’s so

important to start dismantling the whole mentality

that brought about Trump. It’s not only people standing

in solidarity with Muslims. We are standing in

solidarity with each other.” The cheers grow louder.

He reiterates that despotism is never far away.

Backed by the vast sandstone columns of the Brandenburg

Gate that somehow survived Hitler’s war,

Mohammad says that Berlin understands this well.

A flag of the Syrian revolution flutters above

the crowd as Mohammad introduces a rap song

he wrote on his first day as a political prisoner.

He says that his interrogators would ask him if he

wanted freedom. If he responded ‘yes’, they would

torture him. “That’s the freedom you deserve,”

they would say. That night he wrote a rhyme in

response to his beatings. “Do you want freedom?”

it begins. “Yes, we want freedom and we want Syria

to be a country for all, and we want this world to

be a place for all.” Mohammad soon has the whole

crowd chanting, “yes, yes, yes,” in Arabic.

Partly inspired by emerging Arab rappers in

countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, but also by

elements of traditional Middle Eastern and Sufi music,

MC Abu Hajar was one of Syria’s first political

rappers. A then-Marxist and atheist, he was barely

20 when he was first jailed in 2007 for making music

that was critical of the regime – in particular, a song

that criticised honour killings of women by men,

who are rarely prosecuted for these crimes. That

was the year he also formed the band Mazzaj Rap

with local Tartous musicians, Alaa Odeh and Hazem

Zghaibe. Mohammad’s birth city of Tartous, on the

Mediterranean coast, is fiercely pro-Assad.

Having already gone into exile in Jordan to study

following his initial incarceration, in 2011 Mohammad

was inspired to return to Syria during the Arab

Spring to take part in the first spontaneous peaceful

protests. After decades of emergency rule, of

extreme intimidation and fear among a heavily-policed

populace, this was a bold grassroots demand

for civil and democratic rights that was inspired by

revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Mohammad and

his collaborators never worked for a political party,

nor did they later fight for the Syrian Free Army

when an exercise in civil disobedience became militarised.

He was there as a citizen, simply campaigning

for freedom of expression among all Syrians,

whether Arabs, Muslims, non-Muslims or Kurds.

As the revolution spread across Syria by late

2011, Mohammad believed that the regime would

relinquish power, just as the Mubarak dictatorship

had done in Egypt. But a few months later, he was

back in detention, a victim of a vicious crackdown

by a desperate government that didn’t shy away

from killing its own people.

Mohammad first told us his story in a café in

Wedding that had recently been opened by members

of the growing Syrian community here in Berlin. As

we sat and drank tea, he pointed across to a man at

the next table with long hair. It was Ahmad Niou,

the Mazzaj Rap percussionist with whom he shared

a jail cell in early 2012. After being arrested, the two

were beaten and then accused, without evidence, of

unauthorised political activism. They suffered daily

torture, from whippings to beatings with electric

prods. Mohammad was witness to the killing of one

prisoner, and heard of the deaths of many other

inmates. He doubted whether he would get out alive.

Mohammad was released two months later, but he

was pursued again by secret service agents and one

day was forced to flee over his back fence in his pyjamas.

Soon after, he left Syria for the last time, arriving

in Lebanon before travelling to Europe. He lived

in Rome for a couple of years, where he finished his

master’s degree in political economics. Mohammad

then came to Berlin, in part because a strong community

of Syrian political exiles was already established

here. Ahmad Niou, also from Tartous, came to join

Mohammad in Berlin. Mazzaj Rap were reunited, this

time joined by Matteo Di Santis, a friend from Rome

who provided electronic beats and samples.

In 2016, the core band evolved into another project,

Mazzaj Raboratory, which includes Alaa Zaitounah

(oud) and Zaher Alkaei (violin), who also made

circuitous routes to Europe from the Syrian cities of

Swaida and Homs. Beyond the hard-edged American

rap idiom, Mazzaj Raboratory are forging

Summer 2017

35


Music in Exile

Mohammad Abu Hajar

“IT’S NOT ONLY PEOPLE

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY

WITH MUSLIMS. WE ARE

STANDING IN SOLIDARITY

WITH EACH OTHER.”

what Mohammad describes as an “oriental

rap” sound that “tries to break the contradictions

between eastern and western

music.” “It’s a road that we can all walk

together,” he says. This new direction is the

subject of the album the band is currently

recording, entitled Third Way.

Mazzaj Raboratory play their first

show in front of a packed audience at

Kreuzberg’s Köpi squat. The heavy beats,

overlaid with hand percussion (darbuka)

and driving oud and violin solos, somehow

evoke the flames of the Arab Spring that

these Syrian exiles still nurture, and which

fuel MC Abu Hajar’s pointed political

rhymes. Meanwhile, images of people enduring

detention and torture flash across

the back wall, along with song lyrics in

English. The band is playing ‘We Fed Up’, a

track “dedicated to all the political detainees

and their mothers,” the lyrics of which

Mohammad also recited at the anti-Trump

rally. The many Syrians in the audience

thrust their fists in the air in response to

the chorus: “You want freedom. Yes, and

we want all the detainees!” It is impossible

not to be swept up in such a cathartic public

outpouring of emotion that has been so

long repressed. The band comes back to

perform two encores.

On May Day 2017, Mazzaj Raboratory perform

on a bill entitled The Revolution Will

Not Be Televised at Yaam, on an outdoor

stage directly on the Spree. Mohammad

introduces ‘People Well’, a song about a

time when young Syrians dreamed that

the Arab Spring would spread from Tunisia

and Egypt to Syria. “Two weeks later it

came,” he says. The beat kicks in. “From

Tunisia, from Egypt, tomorrow a victory

will arrive, and people who have been

martyred will dislocate the gates of the

palace,” he raps, in Arabic.

The words and the music have an added

tension as police vans line up across the

bridge spanning the Spree and beyond.

The audience, including a man draped in a

Syrian revolution flag, dance and

chant, urging political action as

Kreuzberg threatens to explode at

the May Day witching hour.

These Syrian exiles not only

depict what life was like under

Assad, but their attempt to regain

their dignity as they are persistently

stereotyped as part of a migrant

horde that broke down the

gates into Europe. “Who will give

housing to a refugee?” Mohammad

asked us last year after a spate of

terrorist attacks in France and

Belgium that fuelled the xenophobic

rhetoric of Trump, Le Pen,

and Germany’s Alternative für

Deutschland party. “On every application

I write: ‘I’m Mohammad,

I’m not a terrorist.’” Although

many refugees like himself do not

follow Islam, they suffer the consequences

of extremism. “I even

feel humiliated by the pity of some

people who are pro-refugees,” Mohammad

adds. “Pity will always

show me that I’m not equal.”

On the upcoming single ‘Uncertain

State’, also the title of a concert the band

performed at the Akademie der Künste

last October, Mohammad expresses the

anxiety that derives from his rootlessness

in Europe. “I am trying to stand on my

feet but the soil below is so fragile,” he

sings. “I’m trying to say I belong … but

the tribe’s mentality rejects me.”

This uncertainty is amplified by the fact

that these exiles do not have the choice

to go home. In ‘Homeland’, a video and

music collaboration with the Turkish artist

Halil Altindere that was exhibited at last

year’s Berlin Biennale, Mohammad leaps

over a border wall and leaves Syria behind,

forever: “The home is lost, the home

died, the home is behind me now. And

everything finished, it’s over.”

Speaking to Mohammad on Pariser

Platz as the anti-Trump protesters form

a cordon and begin marching down

Unter den Linden, we discuss the album

he and the band have been recording.

Inevitably, we talk about Syria. A lot has

changed in the weeks prior. With the

help of a Russian air bombing campaign,

Assad has taken back Aleppo, Syria’s

largest city, from the rebels. Mohammad

says it has been a difficult time. The dictator

having consolidated his power and

the revolution now unlikely to succeed,

this young man is contemplating the

very real possibility that he will never be

able to return home.

As we walk, Mohammad explains that

it might only be possible to go back if he

renounces his opposition and commits

fealty to the regime. As a relatively wellknown

activist, this might be seen as a

coup for Assad, and might save Mohammad

from ending up in prison. “But I will

never do this,” he says. “I won’t accept going

back to Syria as a humiliated person,”

he tells us. “I would only go back as a free

person.” The revolution continues.

Mazzaj Raboratory released the single, ‘Uncertain

State’, in May and the forthcoming

album, Third Way, is due out in the summer.

Follow them at facebook.com/mazzajrap

36 Issue Four


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Summer 2017

37


Moments and Memories

20 Years of Melt Festival

GERMANY’S TOP FESTIVAL

CELEBRATES TWO DECADES

OF GOOD TIMES

From its modest beginnings

as a 1,000-capacity festival by

Lake Bernstein in 1997 to the

20,000-capacity behemoth now

taking place every year in the

‘iron town’ of Ferropolis, Melt

Festival has grown into one of

Europe’s leading festivals. This

year it celebrates its 20th birthday,

and throughout these 20

years, countless live acts and DJs

have graced its many stages.

As a festival-goer, you usually only get

to see the front-end experience: the

music, the setting, the atmosphere.

What you may not have considered is the huge

amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to

make something of this scale come together. It’s

a mammoth task with many moving parts, and at

every step of the way there is a dedicated team of

people working tirelessly to keep things running.

Here we speak with some of those unsung heroes

who work on making the festival such a roaring success

year after year, getting an insight into the crazy

things they’ve seen, the moments when things go

awry, and some of their own personal highlights.

TOMMY

Director of Communication

and Marketing

Do you have an all-time favourite performance?

Björk in 2008, closing the festival. One of the best

performances I have ever witnessed in my life.

How about a favourite year? Again, 2008: the

first year we went for three days because Björk

could only play on the Sunday. There was a positive

vibe, tension and excitement overshadowing the

whole weekend as everyone was waiting for Björk

and her crew to show up. The atmosphere

was emotionally charged at all

times during the weekend, and it felt

like an atmospheric discharge when

finally Björk appeared on stage. That

show felt like collectively having multiple

orgasms after an amazing weekend.

Was there a moment when you

said, “We’ll look back on this one

day and laugh”? Melt 2005, when

Maximo Park opened the main stage

and the festival. We heard a heavy

thunderstorm coming, and within

seconds there was rain pouring down,

lightning, thunder, the band running

off stage, tents flying around. It felt

like the apocalypse for ten minutes.

Luckily, no one got injured and not

too much damage was done.

words by

Jonny Tiernan

38 Issue Four


20 Years of Melt Festival

Moments and Memories

STEFAN

Artistic Director

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen

at Melt? Maybe in 2006 or so, there was a

couple climbing on the crane at the Gemini

Stage, on the very top of it, like 30 metres

high, fucking. There were some cheap

mobile videos of it, but they’ve since disappeared

in the clouds of YouTube.

Have you ever had any disasters? More

than one! Over the years we’ve had almost

all the problems you can have organising

a festival, from heavy queues to massive

technical problems. The worst was when

I had to evacuate the festival because of

heavy weather on the Sunday morning

around 4am. I had to tell deadmau5 (without

his mask) that he had to stop DJing

after just ten minutes, and used a mic to

tell everyone to please move into the heavy

rain and take a nice walk back to the campsite,

and that for safety reasons we also had

to stop the bus services. Not nice at all.

What about near misses? When me and

some production colleagues were very

frightened watching more and more people

entering Deichkind’s show on the Main

Stage at 3am in 2005. The security couldn’t

stop people climbing up onstage to dance

during the last song with the band. In the

end, there were more people on the stage

than in front of it, and we were really worried

that the stage might collapse. We came

close to switching off the energy for the PA,

but it turned out to be a legendary moment

and fortunately no one was injured.

Could you give us a favourite-ever

performance? That’s very hard to say

when so many of your favorite artists have

performed. Booka Shade on the Big Wheel

Stage in 2007, and Tiga on the Gemini

Stage in 2009 both had crazy vibes. When

Tiga finished his set and the festival site

closed, people wouldn’t stop making their

own beats with cups, sticks on trash cans,

whatever they could find.

JULIE

Head of Artist Liaison

What’s been your wildest Melt experience?

Actually, I just heard it on the radio.

They’d found an artist on the campsite the

day after his performance – long after his

band had left – still partying, with a seriously

agitated girlfriend on the phone.

Was there a time where it almost all

went wrong? Yes, there actually was a

time when it all went wrong, but what I

learned from it is that you are never alone,

your team always helps you and you are

allowed to make mistakes. And it’s good if

you do, because you learn from it. I’m very

grateful that my boss was his calm self and

accepted the fact that I just fucked up and

simply moved on with the show.

Has there ever been a time where there

was nothing you could do but laugh?

Yes, all the time, you have so many absurd

things happening. I think when you’re

working in the festival business you have

to decide one day whether you’ll become

angry all the time or if you start not taking

things too seriously. I decided on the second

option, and I’m quite happy with it.

Best performance? Tiga 2009, closing the

Gemini Stage. After he finished, people

refused to leave the festival site and started

clapping and banging the rhythm of his last

track. Everyone kept on dancing – it was

one of the best moments ever.

Do you have a favourite year at Melt?

2015, because I felt so confident in my job

and my team, and everything just came

together so perfectly. We all had such a

great time working and enjoyed ourselves

so much. How many people can say that

about their job?

See the lineup for Melt Festival 2017 and

get your tickets at meltfestival.de

Summer 2017

39


The Mother of Berlin

Käthe Kollwitz

COMMEMORATING

THE LIFE OF ARTIST

KÄTHE KOLLWITZ

Regal and somewhat worn, a bronze statue

of German expressionist artist and activist

Käthe Kollwitz (1867–1945) gazes out over the

playground at Kollwitzplatz in her former

neighbourhood. The children of Prenzlauer

Berg clamber onto her lap and sit on her knee,

the skirt gleaming with patches of gold where

the bronze has been polished by generations

of hands. Like Berlin’s other monuments

and Denkmalen, the statue is a treasured fixture

of the Kiez, and the 150th anniversary of

Kollwitz’s birth offers us the perfect opportunity

to give an introduction to this amazing

woman for the uninitiated.

Having borne witness to two world wars,

Käthe Kollwitz critiqued the tragic impact of

conflict on society with vivid and emotional

art. Her life’s work had an immeasurable influence

on the art world and on the city of Berlin, which will

celebrate her 150th anniversary with several events

this year. Kollwitz remains a powerful symbol

of feminism, activism and resistance – her work

mourning a tragic past and seeking a better future.

Growing up in an unusually liberal, middle-class

family, Käthe Schmidt was encouraged to pursue

a career in art. She studied painting in Berlin

and Munich before finding her calling in graphic

art, devoting herself to etchings, lithographs,

woodcuts and drawing. In 1891, she married Karl

Kollwitz, a doctor for working-class Berliners, and

in his patients she found new subject matter. With

incredible tenderness, Kollwitz depicted the daily

struggles of poor and working-class families. She

focused on the oppression of women and children

in particular, and found printmaking a useful medium

for creating and distributing her provocative

artworks. She became popular amongst the German

working class, and made her art readily available

to the masses as prints, posters and postcards.

A critical turning point in Kollwitz’s life was the

death of her youngest son, Peter, who was killed

in combat during World War I. From that moment

on, Kollwitz embraced pacifism and dedicated her

art to inciting social change, increasingly turning

to darker themes such as sacrifice, death and

mourning. She spent the years from 1924 to 1932

working on a memorial to her son: The Grieving

Parents (Die trauernden Eltern).

The granite sculpture depicts

Kollwitz and her husband bowing

over their son’s grave, wrought

with the pain of losing a child. In

addition to memorialising her son,

Kollwitz’s sculpture pays tribute

to all the children who were lost

during the war.

In the following years, her work

reflected the legacy of the trauma

inflicted by war, particularly upon

women. With dark, hollow eyes,

heads bent in sorrow, and large

hands clutching dead bodies in

agony, Kollwitz’s images convey

the cruelty of war in all its wretch-

words by

Erika Clugston

Above: Self-portrait 1888-89.

Below: Gustav Seitz’s statue of

Käthe Kollwitz in Kollwitzplatz. It

is based on one of her self-portraits

and was erected in 1961.

Soheil Moradianboroujeni

40 Issue Four


«

HER PROTO-

FEMINIST WORK

PORTRAYS INDIVIDUALS

WITH COMPASSION

AND STRENGTH,

SPEAKING OUT AGAINST

INJUSTICE AND CALLING

FOR REFORM.

»

Käthe Kollwitz

The Mother of Berlin

Kienzle u. Oberhammer

edness. Figures emerge from a black abyss,

shaped by the artist’s expressive lines. The

pain of loss is wrought in colourless fury.

Mothers’ cries are heard from the shallow

depths of ink on paper. Kollwitz also devoted

her art to social justice causes: from

advocating for abortion and contraception

rights to class equality, Kollwitz created

complex images that called attention to

women’s issues. Her bold prints, posters

and sculptures were a passionate outcry

against violent injustice.

Kollwitz continued to produce dark, socially

critical work, but her international

acclaim arose from her talent as an experimental

artist as much as from her subject

matter. She was elected the first female

professor of the Prussian Academy of Arts

in 1919, proving that she had established

herself as a formidable success in a world

dominated by men. However, in 1933 the

newly-elected Nazi party forced Kollwitz to

resign from the Academy, prohibiting her

Above: ‘Sturm’ (‘Storm’) 1893-97.

from exhibiting, and classifying her art as

‘degenerate’. They would later appropriate

her art for propaganda, recontextualising

her anti-war imagery for their manipulative

purposes, including a claim that her Hunger

series showed victims of communism.

Kollwitz nonetheless was steadfast in her

pacifist beliefs and continued to work. Her

last great series of lithographs, titled Death

(Tod) (1934–37), was even darker, starker,

and more emotional than before.

The following years were filled with loss

as World War II raged. Kollwitz’s husband

died in 1940 and her grandson was killed

in battle two years later. In 1943 she evacuated

Berlin, shortly before her apartment

was destroyed in a bombing that claimed

much of her life’s work. Kollwitz died in

the spring of 1945, just two weeks before

the war in Europe ended.

To the end, Käthe Kollwitz was an audacious

artist and advocate for the oppressed.

In museums and monuments across Berlin,

her artwork makes her an ever-watchful

presence in the city. Her proto-feminist

work portrays individuals with compassion

and strength, speaking out against injustice

and calling for reform. And although

Kollwitz’s dark figures, shrouded in death,

haunt our present moment with their fierce

critique and painful memories, they also

burst forth with life. Her artwork speaks

with a mother’s love, bearing the pain of

tragedy while tenderly lifting us up – like

children she cradles in her lap – urging us

to strive for a better future.

Find out about all the special events honouring

Käthe Kollwitz in 2017 on the Käthe

Kollwitz museum website: kaethe-kollwitz.de

Above: Käthe Kollwitz museum. Right: Hand study 1891.

Summer 2017

41


Dispatches

The Battle of Mosul

DISPATCHES:

A FRONTLINE REPORT FROM MOSUL


Photojournalist Sebastian Backhaus depicts the ravages of war as

only a photographer can. His work focuses on the Middle East,

where he continues to report on residential districts shattered by

terrorist bombs, volunteer armies preparing for battle, and the

horrors of the front lines. Here, he shares his recent experiences in

Mosul, where the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003

invasion continues its campaign to reclaim the city from ISIS forces.

Mosul, Iraq has been under fire since

October 2016 as Iraqi forces battle ISIS,

who overran the city in 2014. When

the fighting will end is a question of weeks or

months, and the winner will be the Iraqi army.

But it’s tricky to talk about winners in this

war. The losses experienced by the Iraqi forces

are countless; the word ‘winner’ has lost all

meaning. The international media focuses on

civilians, who will finally get back their freedom

after three years under ISIS occupation, but they

are the furthest from winning. The state of Iraq

will get back its city; the ISIS jihadists will reach

their goal when they are killed and get access to

the paradise of their perverse ideology; but the

people of Mosul are losing not only their homes,

but also their relatives in the crossfire when

they are caught between the front lines, during

imprecise mortar shelling or air strikes, or when

ISIS use them as human shields.

When the offensive started last year, photographers

were warmly welcomed to join the euphoric

beginning, to show the world that Iraq was

starting to take its fate into its own hands with the

Mosul offensive. But today, thousands of civilians

are dead or trapped in the last embattled western

part of the city. The Golden Division, the Iraqi

special forces unit for the first front line, practically

doesn’t exist any more because of their high

losses, and the mission for photographers in this

war can only partly be accomplished. Access to the

front lines is only possible with deep relationships

words and photos by

Sebastian Backhaus

Left: These sisters are living with their family

downstairs after a shelling destroyed the

upper floor of their house. The heavens are

darkened with smoke from the oil fields, still

burning after ISIS set them alight as they left

the city, to make it more difficult for coalition

fighter jets to take aim on ISIS positions.

Below: Mud covers a refugee collection

point in Hamam Al Alil, where citizens

mainly from the city of Badoush gather.

Top: A boy who stayed at home

in western Mosul with his family,

even under ISIS occupation. His

belly shows strong indications of

malnutrition.

Above: A boy is treated in a field

hospital in Hay Samah, Mosul after a

rocket hit his family’s house injuring

him and killing his grandmother.

42 Issue Four


The Battle of Mosul

Dispatches

Below: A family arrives at the first post behind the front line in the desert,

after fleeing from their village between Qayyarah and Mosul, where heavy

fighting between the Iraqi army and ISIS took place. Here they get checked

by fighters of a unit of the Iraqi army. They told me that they managed to flee

when ISIS pushed them with other families from their village towards the Iraqi

army to use them as a human shield when the army opened fire.

Top: A soldier of the Iraqi army on

a house roof at the front line of a

fire fight with ISIS, in the embattled

district of Bark, south-eastern Mosul.

Above: A rare picture of happiness in this war:

a family, who managed to escape from ISIS

territories in Mosul, reaches a liberated area in

the eastern district of Hay Samah.

Below: The feet of an exhausted citizen from Badbush, near Mosul,

on arriving in Tal Ghassoun after his escape. As he fled, he lost his

shoes and walked for two days in the cold, muddy desert.

with high-ranking military leaders, or while working on

assignment for big names. Too much is going wrong in this

war, and too many photos are showing that to the world.

Capturing the war against ISIS in Iraq is a special challenge

for photographers. Besides the problems of access there is the

danger of being shot, specifically by extremely well-trained

and well-equipped snipers, becoming the victim of a mortar

shell, stepping into a booby trap, or being kidnapped. However,

these are only the dangers that are visible on the surface.

Each photographer, and each writer, has to find their way

through this experience without losing their mind.

Personally, it’s hard for me to find a professional distance

from some of the experiences I have had in and around Mosul

during the last months. When I was shooting at a field

hospital directly behind the front lines, I became witness

to the lives of whole families changing within seconds.

Humvees were approaching the field hospital from the

embattled areas, sometimes at a rhythm of mere minutes.

Doors were opened, and heavily injured civilians or dead

bodies were brought to the medical staff. And around them

the parents, partners or children of those dead or wounded

were screaming, falling to the ground or were so shocked

that they just functioned and helped where they could.

But there is one picture from this mission which will

never leave me. I worked at an escape point where civilians

managed to flee the fighting. A couple with their baby in

their arms approached, exhausted after nearly three years

under ISIS terror, and told me their life-changing story.

Some weeks previously, their baby had a high fever and

they went to the hospital in Mosul, in the ISIS controlled

area where they were living. The doctor asked for the name

of their child and they told him, without considering that it

could mean the death penalty for their daughter, given her

Shia name. The doctor recognised that they were not a Sunni

family, and gave the baby an injection. Afterwards, their

child became seriously mentally and physically disabled. I

went to the field hospital with them, and after an examination

the doctors diagnosed the cause of their child’s

disability as a sudden intoxication, with gasoline.”

See more of Sebastian’s incredible and affecting photography

at photo-backhaus.de

Summer 2017

43


Champagne Supernova

Julia Bosski

didn’t have bubbles! I know this business,

so I knew they must have given me some

stuff from an old bottle. I mean, it was a

pretty fancy bar; I couldn’t take it.

When was the last time you found a new

favourite restaurant? Lately Pauly Saal,

because I often go to another bar in Mitte

(Cordobar which is my most beloved place

at the moment). The other night there was

a sommelier there from Pauly Saal. We

started talking and he invited me for lunch

the day after. Great place.

THE LAST

WORD:

JULIA BOSSKI

Chef, business woman and jazz singer

Julia Bosski is the powerhouse behind

Polish Thursday Dinners. As one

of Berlin’s friendliest regular dining events, it

aims to bring the tastes and influences of the

Polish diaspora to the city, but always with

a twist. Here we get a unique insight into

Julia’s psyche with a quick-fire interview.

When was the last time one of your

heroes disappointed you? I don’t get

disappointed easily, let’s drink a shot and

forget it. It will all be fine.

What was the last compliment you received?

That I look like a Japanese warrior.

When was the last time you cried? I’m

that ice queen with a heart of stone. I cried

a few months ago, but only because I was

so hungover that I thought I was gonna die

from being sick. [Laughs]

When was the last time you doubted

yourself? Hm, that happens to me pretty often,

mostly when I’m about to get my period

or when a business deal I was hoping would

succeed didn’t work out. But I always say to

myself that ‘this is life’. Call a friend, go for

some champagne and I’m back in the game.

Viktor Richardsson

When was the last time you were scared?

“Was that the last bottle of champagne?!”

When was the last time you broke the

law? Honey, you’re talking to the queen of

Polish mafia here. [Laughs]

Who was the last person to truly surprise

you? I get surprised by tiny sweet

gestures, like when someone opens a door

for me, or gives me a hand when I get out of

a car, or when my business partner brought

me homemade, Italian honey from his

vacation, or when my flatmate brought me

delicious cakes from her coffee shop. These

are small, beautiful surprises.

What was the last good film you

watched? Woody Allen’s retrospective. I

watched all his movies, and totally loved

the last one, Café Society, but I also recently

saw Godard’s Bande à part. When I watch

his movies I want to be in love and hang

out with my babe, behaving like these

French bohemians. I love Godard.

What was the last good album you

bought? Chet Baker’s best stuff on ten CDs.

What was the last great meal you ate?

I just came back from dinner at Umami,

a Vietnamese place in Prenzlauer Berg. I

had beef with mango stripes on rice, then I

had a matcha cake at a Korean café on the

corner of my street.

When was the last time you sent something

back at a restaurant? I sent back a

glass of champagne, on Valentine’s Day – it

When was the last time you drank too

much? [Laughs] I say to myself every day

‘I have to stop drinking so much.’ The last

time… Friday? I started with whisky cocktails,

next went through champagne, mixed

with wine, then more wine, and at the end

a few more cocktails…

What was the last new recipe you tried

out? Porridge with oat milk, Himalaya salt

and blended banana with some smoked apple

cream, toasted sesame, and homemade

cherry marmalade. And for my last dinner

I made buckwheat sourdough soup – my

own version of traditional polish Żurek.

When was the last time you were on

TV? In January – so lame – but I’m coming

back on air soon! Maybe with something

really geil, like my own TV show.

Let’s see, wish me luck.

Find out when the next Polish Thursday

Dinners event is at facebook.com/

obiadyczwartkoweberlin

LAST ORDERS

Elix Cup

Make a simple syrup of equal parts

sugar and warm water, and set aside

to cool. In a highball glass, muddle a

few fresh mint leaves and a couple of

cucumber slices, then fill with ice. Add

half a shot of fresh lime juice, half a

shot of the simple syrup, and a shot of

vodka, then top up with prosecco.

THIS ISSUE WAS

POWERED BY…

Saltwater, complaining about the

weather, waking up early on Saturday,

breathing, apartment moves, various

kinds of pain, stressing, not stressing,

sunshine, Korean fried chicken.

44 Issue Four


BERLIN’S RICH MUSIC SCENE

AND THE CREATIVE

ENVIRONMENT AT BIMM

BERLIN

CALLED ME TO MOVE FROM

SWEDEN

TO STUDY SONGWRITING.

THE TUTORS ON MY COURSE,

THE SKILLS I’VE DEVELOPED

AND THE FRIENDS THAT I’VE

MET AT BIMM HAVE SHAPED

MY LIFE AND HELPED ME TO

DEVELOP AS AN ARTIST.

THIS PLACE

HAS STOLEN

MY HEART!

‘‘

KAROLINA BEIJER BRONDEN

LUND, SWEDEN

EUROPE’S

MOST CONNECTED

MUSIC COLLEGE

BIMM.CO.UK/BERLIN

Summer 2017

45


WWW.BRLO.DE

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