“Could I please get my burger grilled rare?” Schneider kindly asked the waiter at the Blockhouse restaurant in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. But the waiter replied: “We always serve our burgers well done. This is according to German hygienic law.” Schneider didn’t understand: “But when I eat a burger at Hasir Burger or at Burgermeister’s, I always can get it rare.” But the German waiter replied: “I told you, this is the law!”
Back home in Berlin Neukölln with some friends, Schneider watched both Walt Disney’s Jungle Book and Andrej Tarkovsky’s Stalker in a row, while they enjoyed a bottle of Arneis. Impressed by the haunting and meditative narrative of Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, he asked himself the question why nobody is shooting films like that anymore.
A word about watching films over and over again: The first time, V2 Schneider had seen Stalker, he was sweet sixteen years old. Back then, he hadn’t understood a word of what the writer, the scientist and the stalker were talking about. He intuitively felt, however, that their discussions were elemental and essential, and that he maybe was too young to understand the problems of a pondering adult who live in a permanent state of doubt. Not to mention the visual language of the film, as overwhelming then as it is now.
Soviet officials were critical of the film when it was released in 1979. On being told that Stalker should be faster and more dynamic, Tarkovsky replied:
“The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theater have time to leave before the main action starts.”
The Goskino representatives then explained that they were only trying to give the point of view of the audience. Tarkovsky supposedly retorted:
Watching the film for the seventh time in his life, Schneider was especially moved by the scenes that take place in the bar. The neon tube is jittering. No music is being played. People that gather in this bar to drink beer are negotiating the principal things in life. You might call it an existentialist bar, even though Tarkovsky would certainly disagree, being the religious man that he is.
If V2 Schneider would ever open a bar, he would design it like this imaginary one. Of course, he wouldn’t open his bar in viewing distance of a nuclear power plant.
Around 9 p.m., V2 Schneider walked to the bar of the .HBC and started to spin some records. It was the closing night of the Berlin Musikfilm Marathon.
Popul Vuh: ‘In den Gärten Pharaohs’
Jack Kerouac: ‘American Haikus’
Billie Holiday: ‘I Cover the Waterfront’
Music from the Kling Klang Machine iPhone App
Einstürzende Neubauten: ‘Fiat Lux/Maifestspiele’
Bernard Hermann: ‘Diary of a Taxi Driver’
Massive Attack w/ Mos Def: ‘I Against I’
Decoder OST: ‘Muzak for Frogs’
Frank Sinatra: ‘Strangers in the Night’
“Little” Jimmy Scott: ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’
The general theme for the evening was film music, though Schneider also felt free to experiment with his newly downloaded Kling Klang Machine app. He connected his iPhone with the battle mixer and programmed a slow electro beat that he underlayed with an abstract melody, also from the app. He let the machine repeat the beat endlessly, constantly changing details in the pattern or the melody. Before long, the crowd fell into a meditative mood, listening to the constant, subtly-shifting rhythm. After half an hour, he began to mix in Einstürzende Neubauten’s melancholic love anthem ‘Fiat Lux’. The Kraftwerk beat aesthetic and Neubauten’s urban blues amalgamated perfectly. The climax of his set was, in true Schneider spirit, FM Einheit’s field recordings of the Berlin Labor Day riots from 1987.
But Schneider’s selection was only the overture for a night to truly remember. Einstürzende Neubauten’s guitar player Jochen Arbeit took over and played even more eclectic variety of movie soundtracks. It was beautiful to hear how Arbeit wove in Howard Shore’s (one of Schneider’s favorite soundtrack composers) score for David Cronenberg’s film Crash.
Customers who bought this item by Howard Shore bought also other items by Howard Shore: The Fly (OST), Departed (OST), Videodrome (OST) and Seven (OST).
In fact, Billie Holiday’s haunting rendition of ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, even though not written by Shore (but nonetheless included on the original soundtrack to David Fincher’s movie) was one of the tunes that Schneider was periodically playing when he was regularly DJing.
In the still and the chill of the night
I see the horizon, the great unknown
Next on the bill was Frank Behnke, former guitarist for German doom metal outfit Mutter. Though his former work was distorted and heavy, his DJ performance was rather the opposite.
But the set Schneider was waiting for was the one from Irmin Schmidt, co-founder and keyboard player of the legendary band CAN. Few people know that Schmidt originally studied modern composition under Karlheinz Stockhausen and György Ligeti. He was also one of the first German pianists to play John Cage. Schmidt (who was supported by his friend and techno producer Justus Köhncke) played a couple of unreleased tracks from CAN’s vaults, which are due to be released later this year. One can only use the word ‘magic’ to describe the invisible energy lines that were activated by these previously-unheard sounds. For one hour, time stood still.
Holding a bottle of beer in his hand, Irmin Schmidt whispered to Schneider: “How come you never wanted to talk to me?” “This must be a misunderstanding,” Schneider replied; “I’d love to talk.” Schmidt: “I have a beautiful house in the south of France. Be my guest. Let’s talk there.”
Schneider turned on the sound system in his office – an inappropriately massive PA – and listened to his field recordings of Kraftwerk’s Techno Pop concert at the MoMA at full volume. The bootleg was packed full of highs. To equalize, Schneider doubled the input in the 150 kHz range and cut some of the peaks. The result was something unexpected: ‘Musique Non-Stop’ without the highs sounded like an African tribal piece driven by monotonous percussive energy.
For lunch, he cut a Mozzarella di Buffala from Campania into two halves and poured some extra virgin olive oil on it. No tomatoes, no basil.
Later that afternoon, he received an email from Bernard Sumner confirming their interview for the first week of May.
Still suffering from jetlag, Schneider went home early in the evening. As the sky grew dark, he turned on his video projector and watched Lars von Trier’s Europa. In this black-and-white experimental feature from 1991, Barbara Sukowa plays the role of a Nazi femme fatale who seduces, and then marries and manipulates a young American (Jean-Marc Barr), a character who eagerly wants to “show some kindness to the suffering German people” in the aftermath of the Second World War. In a key scene, Barr is confronted by his wife while US military police are arresting her.
Sukowa: “In my eyes, YOU are the criminal.”
Barr: “How can you say that?! I was on neither side, I didn’t take sides.”
Sukowa: “That’s exactly your crime.”
Late supper with Holly Woodlawn, Niko Solorio, Nicolas Wackerbarth, Bernd Cailloux and thirty-three drag queens at the Knutbar. In the small kitchen, V2 Schneider prepared the huge Scottish salmon he had bought wholesale at the fish market. In front of his queer audience, he skinned the fish and cut the two filets into symmetrical cubes of 3 centimeters. He then chopped the garlic, the ginger, the chili and the parsley. The sauce he composed of white wine, green and black pepper, lemon leafs, olive oil and some juice from freshly squeezed lemons.
By 11 p.m., Holly was completely drunk.
Holly came from Miami, F.L.A.
Hitchhiked her way across the USA.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was she – she said:
Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.
April 17, 2012
Miles in the sky northeast of Halifax, V2 Schneider fell into a fitful, dreamless sleep. After some turbulence later, though, he was awake again. The map on the small screen located the cruising Boeing 747 somewhere south of Greenland. He imagined the ocean beneath him, cold and dark, and considered that the Titanic sank somewhere around here almost exactly one hundred years ago.
The melody of Kraftwerk’s ‘Musique Non-Stop’ never left his mind. He heard the repetitive, percussive electronic beats of the track as a never-ending loop. Half awake, half sleeping, Schneider flipped through the pages of Human Nature (Dub Version), the book he had received as a gift from Glenn O’Brien the day before. On page 73 he read the poem ‘The Key’:
In this jar is a key to the Factory.
I don’t remember which key it is.
I don’t remember what any of these keys are.
But one oft hem is a key to the Factory.
No Purple Heart, no Medal of Honor,
just a Mason jar full of keys that used to work.
There is no more Factory.
But in here somewhere is the key.
9:15 a.m. arrival at Heathrow (Int’l Terminal 5)
10:55 a.m. flight BA 0992 to Berlin Tegel
1:45 p.m. arrival at Berlin Tegel
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2:15 p.m. taxi to Berlin Neuköln
Pizza Margherita con Salsiccia and a cold Peroni beer at Masaniello’s. Power nap until 8:45 p.m. Almost ninety minutes later, Mario Gomez scores the 2:1 goal at the Champions League semi-finals in Munich against Real Madrid.