Not a day goes that I don’t hear about what a hip and trendy musical hub Berlin has become. It never fails to make me smile: growing up in West Berlin of the 1980s I spent most of my teenage years wanting to be somewhere else. For an adolescent into the Smiths, The Cure, Depeche Mode or the Sisters of Mercy, everything interesting always seemed to be happening elsewhere. While the cool and exciting West Berlin of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Nick Cave and the Einstürzende Neubauten happened just a few miles from where I was growing up, it may as well have been on the moon for me. And yet, these were the years in which I started to play bass in bands, played my first gigs, recorded in a studio for the first time. And, of course, I got to see loads of great concerts – bands that, looking back, would define my musical palate. Nonetheless, I seized the first opportunity to leave Berlin for London – in September 1989, two months before the wall came down.
Musically, the London of Indie music I had hoped to find was being, if not quite swept away but then pushed to the margins by what people in the mid-1990s would call the Dance revolution. As acid house music moved from the illegal raves in fields around the M25 into the clubs of London, the music itself was diversifying into different distinct flavours – house (progressive or the other sort), techno, trance, and, later, jungle. Ironically, of course, Berlin now had become the place where it was all happening. Although it was not what I had set out to find, the early 1990s were a great time to be in London.
Towards the end of my stay in London, I met Landis at a conference held at an institute in Austria that, unbeknownst to either one of us, would shape our lives for the next decade. Landis was in the process of moving to Vienna. He visited me a couple of times in London; we rehearsed once or twice (either at my place in a dodgy rehearsal studio on the Holloway Road). Ever since I had left Berlin, I had been distracted – either by my studies or by life in general - from playing the bass. These rehearsals reminded me how much I enjoyed music.
Oddly, I got a job offer in Austria. I remember Landis warning me “not to do anything rash like moving to Vienna”. And although I rapidly came to understand what he meant, moving to Vienna was a good thing. For one, Landis and I, after some dubious forays as a duo, met Adam when the Diatribes started in earnest. Also, with ‘drum ‘n’ bass’ being Vienna’s musical drug of choice, the early noughties were also an interesting time to be in Vienna.
After a musically barren but otherwise enriching four-year stint in Southeast Asia, I jumped at the opportunity to return to Berlin. And while Berlin has changed, it hasn’t changed as much as you might think. Today, the hip and trendy Berlin, the Berlin to which countless musicians and bands have moved for no other reason than to be here, the Berlin of cultural adventures seems very far away from where I live. This time around, it doesn’t seem to bother me quite as much.