Exclusive interview: Erik from HORSE the Band’s epic rant about American idiots, Berlin and why he’s moving back here

by James Glazebrook

Horse the Band by Adam Frame licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Horse the Band by Adam Frame licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

HORSE the Band have been accurately described as “The gratest unsuccessful band ever”, by an enthusiastic YouTube commenter with bad spelling. The Californian band welded metalcore to crunchy 8-bit electronics, inadvertently inventing the “Nintendocore” genre – a label they’ve spent over a decade trying to outrun. For their Earth Tour, they took a self-financed trip across 45 countries in four continents in just 90 days, and turned the epic endeavour into a 10 hour documentary, probably the greatest rock n’ roll film ever made. We caught up with keyboard player, and ex-Berliner, Erik just before the band’s return to the city – read below for a fascinating and funny rant about the state of the States, what’s to love/hate about Berlin, and why he’s moving back here…

This tour flyer is insane! Who created this beautiful piece of artwork and whose innermost fantasies does it represent: yours, singer Nathan’s (depicted as a Niacin pussy ghost) or the hot lady bear’s?

We found some fan art in our Facebook messages, which we check by reading the top three messages every two years or so, so it was quite serendipitous. We tried to contact the person who made it, but Facebook wanted us to pay a dollar. Then we remembered everyone steals our intellectual property and uses and distributes it, so we decided to do the same thing to our fans.

Another nice man “cleaned it up” in Photoshop and then I art directed it to the genius piece it is now. Our booking agent added the tour dates in Comic Sans, ’cause he thought it would be funny to “add to the joke”. Seems like a common theme, like everyone feels like they are inside the 10-year joke we have been crafting throughout our “career”, except, we never knew we were being funny.

For everyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure/pain of experiencing a HORSE the Band show, what should they expect?

Probably something not as good as before. A let down.

And do you have any soothing words for anyone getting in the mood by watching the 10 hour Earth Tour documentary in one sitting?

I don’t know. I recently had surgery and decided to watch an entire season of some TV show while recovering. So I thought, if you are going to do that sort of thing, you may as well watch “the best TV show ever” in the true American spirit. So I did some research and decided I should watch The Wire. And it was really good. But it has a slow start. And it reminded me of Earth Tour, except, I think Earth Tour might be better. The characters are more real. Also, it is really weird that no one ever wants to watch a “10 hour movie” but will readily consume seasons of TV shows without seeing the contradiction there.

Is (Earth Tour director) Gary Lachance bringing a Decentralised Dance Party to Berlin any time soon? Or would Berliners not notice that anything different was happening?

I believe it is slated for the Global Party Pandemic of 2014. Which he plans to fund by releasing another movie called Another Night, Another Dream, which he pre-funded on Kickstarter.

How does it feel to be coming back to Berlin after a couple of years away? Have you missed our pale imitation of “summer”?

It feels really confusing. When I moved to Oakland, back to California, I felt like I had regressed big time, like… moving back into your parents house or something, except you couldn’t live in your cool room anymore (LA) and had to move into the crappy room (the Bay Area). I really hated everyone and everything and I completely hated what I was doing and that I had left “idyllic” Berlin to do it.

I wrote these notes in my phone about how loud people talked on BART [Bay Area public transport], how fucking PTSD out-of-touch mentally ill and entitled everyone was, how fat and/or dumpy they were, how people seemed to have no coping mechanisms for the most trivial things, just public freakouts and breakdowns that only people living in such comfort/ease/pointlessness could ever justify… everything from people’s tone of voice that is totally American, like how they talk super reassuredly when they have no idea about what they are talking about (which is pretty much always – good luck trying to pluck an American off the street who is actually informed about anything, factually and from multiple perspectives, and hasn’t just read one web article written by a 26 year old about it) to how shock and surprise are kinda like the fallback interaction in any conversation. Disbelief that something is a certain way or someone did a certain thing… “I seriously can’t believe…” “Isn’t that crazy?” etc. Really just talking according to a script and switching roles – almost like acting out your entire life according to the TV dialogues you learned when you were a kid. Or thinking your shit is totally groundbreaking – beer, coffee, sustainability, paleo, locavore, whatever.

It’s just a self-affirming circle jerk fuelled by mutual social fear, a total lack of self awareness, and craving for money/status. It all boils down to fear. Like the whole society is just scared of everything, or themselves I guess, but mainly abstracted things: perception of self, failure/success, others’ perception of their own awareness, knowing stuff, “authenticity”. It was horrible. Maybe in Germany it’s just that I can’t passively understand what people are talking about all the time without lots of concentration, and it’s all the same shit… but I really don’t think so.

But then after like 10 or so months I didn’t notice it as much anymore, and I started seeing things I really liked. Little aesthetics/ideas here and there that really are interesting… mainly in the depressed places. Stuff that takes a long time to find or “get”. Stuff that is a direct reaction to the overwhelming shittiness here, and that is awesome. Whether individual people or restaurants or regional parks. Anyway, I kinda understand now why everyone always hates LA when they visit. It’s still my favorite city in the world, but it takes years to crack. Most of what you love are these gems that stand in contrast to the rest.

And it might be that way with the US at large too. Once you fall in a European mindset, where things are way, way better on a macro level, you come to the States and you are just fucking horrified. Maybe you like the SF Bay Bridge because at least it’s something to look at, but the country as a whole is full of undereducated, entitled people ignoring the people who are worse off than them, no matter how far up or down the ladder you go. And yet they’re only concerned with outwardly taking the moral high ground. But, then there’s a reaction to that. Ideas… humor… places… Things that you find that are more satisfying somehow cause “at least someone gets it” and you can get behind that, which is more fulfilling than the monotony of “everything is so awesome”.

So, long story short,

I am looking forward to coming back to Berlin because I can take the train anywhere as late as I want and everything is free and there’s a cool bar on every corner and people are skinnier and girls are hotter and I can fly to another country every weekend and the food isn’t genetically modified and even if German guys are impossible to have fun with at least they “know things”.

But… I feel like it’s another … ill-timed move. Oakland is really interesting right at this very second. And I’m exhausted from moving so much and I wanted to be here a little longer. And there is something just entitled/weird about being an expat in general. I remember in the end I was getting happy I was leaving… just on the walk from work to my apartment the parade of party/fashion tourists whose quality was tangibly lowering by the day for the past year was making me sad. I am scared of Redwood Bar and its ilk. I haven’t been yet though. But it seems sad.

What was it like living in Berlin versus living in SoCal? Pick a favourite. (Yes, really.)

In LA you’re like an autonomous agent making your way through a mass that, once you have explored enough to grasp the size of the city, puts things into this perspective that makes your life seem enchanting and charming by virtue of its nothingness. Also, there is this drone (like a real noise) that is always there in the background. In comparison to what is going on at any time, whatever you’re doing seems so “bird’s eye” rather than “first person shooter”. Like no one cares what you’re doing, so that makes it more secret and ultimately feel more “authentic” or whatever it is everyone wants now. Your memories aren’t shared by any other people except the people you were there with at that time. If you meet someone else from LA, you don’t have that shared list of usual suspects. That “Do you go to ___? I love that place.” conversation.

In Berlin it seems more straightforward. You are in a fun city with many known centers where things happen and you can party a lot – but, generally, people don’t have awesome backyards. And it is hard to stay outside for a long time for half the year. And you don’t generally go somewhere only once and expect to possibly never see it again the rest of the time you live in the city, which happens a lot in LA. Also,

everyone in Berlin loves to talk about how they live in Berlin and what it’s like, and everyone agrees about that. It seems like a unjustifiably large portion of their identity. And people in LA generally don’t seem that into that identification as much.

Apart from beer cheaper than water, and endless parties, what do you miss most about Berlin?

I think the U-Bahn and bringing your dog everywhere. And the big sidewalks. And these certain kinds of makeshift bars that just don’t exist out here. Actually, I think I miss Bohnengold the most. And schwarma, good schwarma.

Did Berlin influence your music? What does minimal nintendocore (sorry!) sound like?

I don’t know cause we haven’t written any since I lived there. I definitely “got” minimal electronic music for the first time at some point when I was there. But I think it needs context to be really compelling. Here I am way more interested in Baltimore Club or the American version of super repetitive, DIY music, but… that’s cause I live in Oakland and it somehow makes more sense right now because it’s immediate. It fills that gap. Something about the glory of the American decline, the same reason all the 80s inner city movies were amazing (Terminator, Flashdance, Robocop).

There, in Berlin, it will become interesting again, because it kind of represents the spirit of what’s interesting about the place. But it would be interesting to see what would find its way into anything new by us, I guess. I don’t think I would incorporate electronic stuff because too much of it is about sound design and beats, which I have no patience for… I like writing melody more than beats or picking sounds and tweaking them.

Did you ever think about busking?

It was actually my plan when I moved there. I was gonna do Game Boy drums and lug my keyboard into the tunnel at Stadtmitte and play our songs and dance all crazy. Haha. But then I got a job.

Any closing words of wisdom for our readers, from someone who’s lived in Berlin and survived to tell the tale?

No ????

HORSE the Band and Rolo Tomassi kick the tushie out of Magnet on Sunday 11th August. Buy tickets here.  

Music Montag: Beam Up

by James Glazebrook

Fuck, it’s been hot here. Here’s some dub to make Berlin feel even more like the Caribbean: Beam Up featuring Terrence Bowry. Over the top of a vintage roots reggae riddim, Bowry recounts the experience of living in Shanghai when the 2011 tsunami hit, enhanced by the exotic sounds of Japanese fireworks, insects and kodo drumming. Produced in the Berlin-36 studio, this is heavy stuff, but the perfect soundtrack to a blazing summer’s day.

Music Montag: Rui da Silva

by James Glazebrook

We’re in Portugal! Sending some sexy sunshine vibes back to you guys in Berlin ☀

Lucy and Bron’s Big Berlin Festival Guide

by James Glazebrook

Want to go to a Berlin festival, but don’t know which one? Never fear, because Lucy of Lucy vs. the Globe / Sexpat and the City fame has teamed up with her partner in crime, fellow Aussie “ripper” Bron, to explain which of the festivals in and around Berlin will meet your particular party requirements. Fill a colostomy bag with vodka, pack some toilet rolls, and get your head around Lucy and Bron’s Big Berlin Festival Guide! 

Lucy and Bron do Berlin festivals

MELT! (SOLD OUT) – out of Berlin but not that far.
19 – 21 July

We pretty much classify Melt! as a Berlin festival, even though it is out in Gräfenhainichen, about an hour from the city. The line-up this year is MASSIVE. I don’t care if you do or don’t vibe camping and seeing music – this is a big one. Frankly,  I’m most looking forward to Mt. Kimbie, DIIV, , James Blake, DJ Koze and like a 1000 others. Seriously, the list is like band after band after band that I want to see. Bron and I will be there – come find us, say hi – we can drink cheap vodka and get around terrible festival food! Shit’s JUST sold out, so if you get the feelings for a good bit of camping and disco hit up Craigslist/ebay Kleinanzeigen…

25 – 31 July

This one has special moments written all over it, as the legendary Berlin Atonal festival returns after a 23 year shut-eye. First kicking off in 1982 in then West Berlin, organised by Dimitri Hegemann (Herr. Tresor), this pioneering event will now take place in the suitably dramatic setting of an abandoned power plant, Kraftwerk Berlin. Living up to its legacy of unique performances the 2013 edition will feature the likes of (deep breath)…. techno godfather Juan Atkins alongside Basic Channel’s Moritz von Oswald, John Hassel, Brandt Brauer Frick, Francesco Tristano, Voices from the Lake (Donato Dozzy and Neel), Vladislav Delay, Kanding Ray, Raime, Kassem Mosse, Actress, Vatican Shadow and even more. In short – see something special in a killer setting.

Kraftwerk Berlin

GREENVILLE – out of Berlin but not that far
26 – 28 July

A musical mixed bag with a target audience I can’t quite figure out, Greenville is your least dancey of all these flavours. From Wu-Tang Clan to the Bloodhound Gang (?!), this is one that will keep you guessing for its full three day run. The big draw card for us? Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – we just wanna see the great man sing “Into My Arms” and hold a stranger really fucking tightly ’til we cut off their blood circulation. It all happens out at Brandenburg – to be honest, it’s not really our thing… but maybe it’s yours?

DOCKVILLE – out of Berlin but not that far.
16-18 August

I find it slightly difficult to understand all the nuances of this month-long (?) festival in Hamburg, as their info is mostly in Deutsch, which I don’t speak. BUT the black and white is that they are bringing art to an open forum, for artists to come together and contribute to an open air gallery to the masses. Dockville comes to a head on the weekend of 16-18 August with live music, drinks and probably a lot of mud – as shit’s held in a slightly underdeveloped area of Hamburg, which, God only knows, isn’t exactly blessed with the best weather. There are actually HEAPS of really cool acts going to Dockville, like MS MR, T.E.E.D., Crystal Fighters, When Saints Go Machine, and like really – HEAPS MORE. It’s worth the train ride, and a night in a hotel. I mean – who doesn’t like a cheeky weekender?

NATION OF GONDWANA – out of Berlin but not that far.
20 – 21 July

A non-stop house and techno See-side love-in with a strong waft of escapism in the air, this Grünefeld outlier is best suited to those with a bucketload of stamina. Having run since the late 2000s, this part-time paradise has built up quite a following with a slew of regulars returning year after year. The festivities really kick off Saturday afternoon, with headliners usually taking to the main stage around midday Sunday. This smaller scale, mostly Deutsch affair is appealing, with this year’s line-up including Beda, Gerd Janson. Der Dritte Raum (live), Joel Mull, Cari Lekebusch, Alex.Do, Monika Kruse, Dominik Eulberg, Mano Le Tough, Sven Dohse, a lake, swimming, camping, market stalls and 40 hours of a fucking good time.

Nation of Gondwana

AEROPHILIA – out of Berlin but not that far.
2 – 5 August

With its former mining site vastness and sweet beats around a lake vibe, it’s hard to avoid a few Melt! comparisons here. Hell, Aerophilia even has a big old conveyor bridge (11,000 Tonnen Stahl yo!). But what it lacks in Melt!-esque musical variety, Aerophilia promises to make up for in a smaller-scale carefully-selected (mostly) house affair. Berlin label Kallius are inviting a solid list of names to their debut event, with draws including Motor City Drum Ensemble, Amine Edge, Mano le Tough, Move D, Dapayk Solo (live) and Kink (live, and also my favourite Bulgarian!). It’s all very manageable, with a local flavour – and if it really kicks off, you’ve got debut-year bragging rights. Huzzah.

31 August

OK – so the cool thing about Torstrassen, is that it’s so local it’s almost sickening. It’s right around the corner, the tickets are cheap as chips, and you have access to some really cool acts like Iberia, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Millennium Millennium and more popping up all over Mitte.

4 – 8 September

Berlin Music Week is the week in Berlin when it’s like 100% music, and nothing much else. It’s kind of like when Fashion Week happens, and everyone is all of a sudden interested in fashion. This year it seems that the official Music Week activities have pretty much been curated by Melt! which I can’t figure out if I love or hate. But what is cool is that you have all sorts of little loosely-affiliated showcases popping up all over the city, that are running with the Music Week theme, beating to the sound of their own drum. There is literally tonnes going on here – so just pencil it and watch the Internet around this time.

4 – 6 September

OK – so this is literally for everyone because it’s sporting a few things:

  1. 3 days of Scandinavian ONLY music
  2. 3 days of beautiful (Nordic) people
  3. Good vodka.

This one is proudly brought to you by Our / Berlin Vodka and the turtle doves over at Nordic by Nature. Running in conjunction with Berlin Music Week, this will be a nice off-the-beaten-path retreat. No acts are confirmed yet – but what I know? Five acts a day, for three days straight. PURE BLISS.

6 – 7  September

Berlin Festival is the pillar of Music Week, wrapping everything up over the weekend with all sorts of varied acts. To be honest, looking through the list, it’s a kind of weird, but lovely, group. From SOHN to Hoodie Allen to My Bloody Valentine to Pantha du Prince – the acts somehow all make sense, but absolutely don’t, all at the same time. It’s going down at Templehof, so if the weather is banging summer vibes, there won’t be a better place to be. I mean – who actually doesn’t love to consume music at an old abandoned airport?

Berlin Festival

6 – 10 November

This is kind of a long way off, but what you are going to find at BerMuda is four days of alles electronic music with workshop and industry shiz by day, and club takeovers by night. The week culminates in a heavy hitting bash at Flughafen Templehof – Fly Bermuda, with a number of local faves returning year after year to annihilate those airport hangers. This year’s program for both the week and Fly Bermuda are still TBA…. but what you can expect…? Lots of homegrown electronic flavour.

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Überstyle: Daniel Werner of 14 oz.

by Zoë Noble

Daniel Werner of 14. oz Full Length

To see more photos of Daniel, visit Zoë’s blog.

Music Montag: Phia (M.I.A cover)

by James Glazebrook

The übertalented Phia performing M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” in her inimitable kalimba and loop pedals style:

For tons of great live acoustic sessions, check out Berlin Sessions, and to find out more about Phia, follow her around her Kiez for our very first Berlin Portrait. Schön!

Epic collages of vintage Berlin photos

by James Glazebrook

Tripods at Mauerpark

Check out these stunning collages from our favourite new Tumblr, Old pictures of Berliners. Ana, a journalist originally from Madrid, started collecting old photos at Berlin flea markets when she moved to the city six months ago:

There are plenty of them, everywhere, just stacked inside buckets or lying around in albums. I’ve always liked old pictures, they are tiny windows to stories from the past, how people lived, the way they behaved and dressed, and how similar they sometimes look to us. Berlin seems like the perfect place to go picture hunting because it has gone through so many changes over the years, it’s interesting to place a family pic of a Berliner on a timeline and let the imagination flow.

Originally planning to share the photos, “to bring them to light after being lost”, Ana began creating collages that introduced sci-fi imagery and other anachronisms – placing the scenes of old Berlin in new contexts:

The inspiration comes mostly from word games, or maybe songs, or just a story or image I made up while looking at a particular photo. Sometimes I just cycle around Berlin and catch a scene that would work well with a picture I bought and I take a quick snap that I incorporate later into a collage.

We would love a giant print of Tripods at Mauerpark (above) – which of these images is your favourite?

Family meal

I went picture hunting today