Douglas J. McCarthy is the Nitzer Ebb frontman and EBM innovator who toured with Depeche Mode in the late ’80s, making him the perfect person to catch a brief chat with Martin Gore about Berlin, extraordinary performances, and devoted fans. Above: photo by Markus Nass, taken in Berlin shortly after this conversation took place.
How’s it been going?
Really well, yeah. The crowd’s have been great everywhere. We had one little hiccup, we couldn’t play in Instanbul. [The protests weren’t going on] when we were there, it was just the Bulgarian truck drivers on strike or blockade.
What I was thinking is what being in Berlin must mean to you, because you lived here for a bit, didn’t you?
I lived here for about two years, a long time ago now. It was like ’85, ’86 I was here, it was completely different. But we still know quite a few friends here, there’ll be quite a few people coming back tonight, and we recorded three albums here, so it does obviously have a lot of memories. It’s funny, when Bowie put out that first track [“Where Are We Now?”] from his new album, that really resonated with me, because he was talking about, “We’re going through Dschngel, on Nunberger Strasse,” and the chorus, when he gets to, “Where are we now?” all really sad, I was weeping [laughs], “Fuck off, Dave! I feel really old now,” [laughs].
Because you were really young when you were out here.
22, we came here the first time with Daniel [Miller] and Gareth [Jones] in ’83, so i would have been 22.
The first time I ever came here was with Daniel, when Gareth was still living here, but Daniel took me and Bon [from Nitzer Ebb] to Hansa [Studios] to do a remix of “Let Your Body Learn”. I don’t know, there’s just something about Berlin.
Because of the Daniel connection, we’d be in Hansa recording and Blixa [Bargeld, of Einstürzende Neubauten] would pop in and be sitting in the back of the studio while we were recording and then Chrislo [Haas] from original DAF and Liaisons Dangereuses would pop in and he’d be sitting in the back, it’s mental.
So, the Berlin Stadion, the last tour was the first time you’ve played here, right?
Yeah, it was a good one. I have a feeling in my bones that tonight is going to be really good. We played Frankfurt a couple of shows ago, and that was amazing.
Yeah, Dave said he went a bit mental in Frankfurt, and put his voice out [laughs].
But when you get so much energy from the crowd, you must do.
That’s what I was saying, you just get carried away, and you know you’re not supposed to be doing what you’re doing, but you just keep going. Do you remember back in the Music For the Masses tour, I think we were down in Marseilles or something, south of France, it was when you had the three short ramps—it was when I used to drop to my knees during “Join In The Chant”—and I went belting down the one in the middle, misjudged it, dropped to my knees and went straight off the end! [laughs] But I do think it is going to be mental—we got here quite early, came in through the front, and then the black swarm, it was actually quite terrifying. They were all running to get to the front.
I was just talking about this in another interview, someone asked me if we see some of the same faces down in the front. And I said, yes, there are about ten so far where it’s been the same people in the first two rows. And we were trying to work out, what time do they have to get there to start queuing and then run to get to that position.
There’s a couple of crossover loonies that come to all the Nitzer Ebb shows as well, and she was telling us—she’s from Florida, actually—she was saying, that what they do, the guys come with plastic cups so they can pee in them, and then the girls bring sports socks, tube socks, and they just piss in the socks and sling them back. So, of the whole of your front row is just stinking of piss because they can’t move, they’ve got to stay there!
[Laughs] We wondered about that!
It’s a little bit like when you’re on stage and you’re farting. I always love pointing at people whilst I’m farting.~
Published June 10, 2013. Words by Douglas McCarthy.