Light a candle. Draw the required sigils. Now, raise your arms above your head and slowly, gently, exhale your soul. You won’t need it here. This is Audioccult, and it’s time to get low. Illustration: Simone Klimmeck
Halloween isn’t really a big deal in Berlin. Despite the large number of North American and UK expats, it’s a holiday that just hasn’t really taken off. However, though I’ve forsaken my homeland and have begun the arduous process of German languaging, I’m still an American. Like all Americans, I project the aura of America in a foot-wide radius all around me, and the fact that October 31st is also my birthday means that nothing less then the hardest, costume-wearingest party will do. So naturally, my friends and I made our own. This year, Drop Dead Festival begins and ends with bass and gold. There will be prizes for the coolest costume, so wear one. I bought myself a big feather headdress and some arrowhead necklaces… you guessed it, my Halloween costume is ‘clueless white model in boring lookbook’.
Even if you can’t make it to our Halloween BloodRave, I want you to have the best night of evil possible. If you’re looking for new sounds to bring the right touch of darkened dance to your party, but don’t want to just fall back on Ministry’s “Every Day is Halloween” for the 500th time, these might come in handy. Section 1 is for your more dance-friendly beats. Section 2 will provide you with more atmosphere, particularly Seirom’s ‘Sing Oh Sing Of Exaltation II’, which is reminiscent of a drone-metal Sigur Rós and so beautiful I wept a bit. Section 25 is a really cool band.
“Drop Dead” isn’t just something you’d say to an enemy; it’s also an invitation for friends. For the second year in a row, the underground DIY music and art festival Drop Dead returns to Berlin for five days of occult art and sexy musical weirdness. From October 31 until November 4, the Berlin Decay team, along with 40+ bands, DJs and vendors, will be holding court in Neukölln’s massive CUBE club: the perfect location to bring ten years to a close. Indeed, the word is that this will be the final edition of the festival, so fans: get your tickets!
This year’s festival kicks off with an October 31st Halloween party drenched in occult sigils and bass. Like every edition of the festival, multiple floors are used to create a labyrinthian, chaotic atmosphere and to cater to your darkest delight. Berlin noisemaking collective PURGE channel the spirit of evil with live performances from Deathface and Crim3s, as well as an all-night ‘Blood Rave‘ of pummeling bass and grimey nastiness. Other highlights of the evening include a drum installation from Einstürzende Neubauten‘s N.U. Uhnruh, esoteric art installations, an actual haunted house (something truly rare for Berlin!) created by the MindPirates collective, and a post-punk dancefloor.
This is, of course, only the beginning. All five days are arranged with a theme, with special lineups to reflect it. There’s plenty of fresh and exciting young blood appearing this year, and Pictureplane, Bestial Mouths, Young Hunting, Dandi Wind, Butterclock, Low Sea, reliq, and Animal Bodies are just a few of the shining stars in the diverse lineup. As with every Drop Dead, one of the special features is also a selection of exclusive performances and reunions of underground ’80s groups. This year includes, among others, new wave songstress Lene Lovich, French coldwavers Kas Product, and Factory Records legends Sad Lovers & Giants. This wide variety of sounds assures that, while wandering from room to room, you’ll always be hearing something new, from shoegaze to throbbing dance beats.
Check the full lineup and schedule here. After the marvelous mayhem of last year, we’re already salivating in anticipation. Get out your best blue lipstick, paint your nails black, and get ready for five days of Drop Dead delights.
The Berlin-based BL4CK M4G1CK collective, creators of the popular-underground PURGE bleakrave events, are returning for their genre-reconceptualist party #gHashtag (pronounced like GASH). They’re joined by the creator of the international art music festival Drop Dead, now celebrating its 10th anniversary and in Berlin for the second year in a row, who is launching her new party The Future Was Now. Described as the kind of party where you can hear just as much coldwave as grime, it’s a theme that’s perfectly in tone with a festival as diverse as Drop Dead (the 30+ band lineup includes Pictureplane, Crim3s, Deathface, Black Rain, and Dandi Wind as well as ’80s underground legends like Lene Lovich, Sad Lovers & Giants, and Kas Product) and after last year we definitely can’t wait for more.
The party, which is being launched as a warmup for Drop Dead’s October 31-November 4th dates, takes place Saturday the 29th in Neukölln’s vast CUBE club and features two floors. The #gHashtag side, which has the support of Sick Girls, Small But Hard’s Die Soon, and Dreea (who you might recognize as Zebra Katz‘s recent DJ support), will likely be playing quite a lot of goth, future screw, hip-hop and aggressive bass, while we can expect more of a dark electro vibe from The Future Was Now (their live performances include Philly-based psychedelic house-rapper Mr. Manic and Greek post-punk act †Flesh United†). Whether you’re into dark, witchy fog music or booty-twerkin’ bass, this party has you covered. It’s definitely our weekend pick, so we suggest you RSVP now.
Don’t be fooled by the mutant mongolism; BRANES know how to use theirs. Los Angeles-based Ivy Slime and Susan Subtract have been on a slow rise since last year’s 7″ EP Anatomically Correct (a darkened slab of spastic synthpunk that hearkens back to Bay Area acts like The Vanishing and Sixteens) and 2012 finds them making their European debut later this year in August, as well as at the legendary DIY art-music festival Drop Dead. We asked them ten questions. They gave us ten answers.
1. Your most memorable show?
Ivy: We recently played Burger Records Punk Festival in Santa Ana, CA. There were a bunch of local, Southern California punk bands on the bill….and then us. We really didn’t fit in and were confused about playing the festival in the first place but we were all like “Whatever, it’s chill”. It was especially awkward when we tried to do a cover of the Devo song ‘Strange Pursuit’ because everyone was just standing there really confused while I was flailing around having a mosh with myself after having jumped off the stage into the crowd. Then my dear friend Kevin Rhea from this really sick punk band Nasa Space Universe‘s mom showed up (a local OC punk show favorite) and she was screaming at me during the whole song about how she was more punk than me and I was like “Look I’m not going to argue with you, lady. You are way more punk than I could ever aspire to be”. But it was cool because she was the only one who got the Devo reference and when I was writhing around on the floor she, like, dance-tackled me and stuff. So anyways, the show was in this fancy schmancy theater type place in Orange County and, in an effort to conspire against The OC, I decided to throw 10 bags of In-N-Out french fries at the audience during our last song and create a huge punk boy combat boot grease mush mess. I got passive aggressively yelled at by the venue owner after our set and he told me that we would never get a show in Orange County ever again.
Susan: For me, our most memorable show was at The Swamp House in Olympia, WA. That was pretty much the first show after our national tour we had just finished with Primary Colors. We had driven that tour in a roomy van loaded with a full sound system, but this time we were in a tiny hatch back car and hoping to borrow a PA. So we arrived in Olympia, cramped up and a little exhausted from the drive, and pulled up to this amazing, painted black house in the woods. Awesome. Slowly but surely, more and more mutants started showing up and people began to get really ancy for a show. At the same time, we realized that there was no PA at the house. The first band played; a bass, drums, vocals trio. The singer hooked a mic up to a bass amp. Excellent. We decided that we would take the same approach to sound. We got all set up, everything sounded surprisingly great, and then my ESQ-1 crashed. The story of how a very negative nancy in Baltimore cursed this synth can be saved for another time. The synth crashing seemed to play to our advantage because it built some suspense. There were definitely more people in this living room than there should have been. I got the synth functioning well enough, started my sequencer, the heavy drums of ‘Ramsey in the Dark’ came in, someone turned off the lights, and a weird mutant freak-out in the middle of the woods at a black house owned by a satanic dentist ensued. There have been other memorable shows, but that one stands out.
2. If you were still in high school, which clique would you belong to?
Ivy: When I was in high school I was a goth, and then I was a raver, and then I was a graver, and then I was a cyber-goth, and then I was just a goth again.
Susan: I was a queer punk that really liked irking all the macho types. I’m sure nothing would change if I were to do it all again.
3. An album that changed the way you thought?
Ivy: There are a few, but there’s one that’s sticking out to me and it’s not super cool. When I was in high school I worked next door to Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA and I would always go in there hunting for new music. I came across The Birthday Party on one of the shelves, and had heard that they were something I should listen to, but the only album they had was Live 1981-82 so I bought it. I remember immediately despising it, but then upon a few more listens wondering what it was about the music that I found so detestable…and that really intrigued me. I became so fascinated with Nick Cave‘s approach to music and looking back now it seems like it was an acquired taste or something. After getting into other Birthday Party records and The Boys Next Door it really opened a lot of doors for me to the kind of music genres that I’m so enraptured by today. I’m sure I get some of my vocal inspiration from Nick Cave’s crazy inflections. I also feel like the first time I listened to the album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. was a similar experience to what some people refer to as “FINDING GOD!”.
Susan: DEVO – Duty Now for the Future. I heard this album consistently starting at a very young age. I would say it was pivotal to the development of my current outlook on absolutely everything.
4. Name three essential artists.
Ivy: 1) Danny Elfman 2) Gary Numan 3) I think I have to say Mikey Ray-Von because we have a song called his name.
Susan: Devo, Rudimentary Peni, Front 242.
5. A film or book that greatly influenced your music?
Ivy: Gordon’s Blender Tutorials by Michael Ray-Von.
Susan: Neuromancer by William Gibson.
6. Do you believe in the paranormal?
Susan: I myself am strange and unusual.
7. Your current favorite song?
Ivy: My Last.fm account is telling me that it is ‘After The Fall’ by Klaus Nomi, but I’m not sure if I believe that. Susan and I just watched the Klaus Nomi documentary The Nomi Song. It was literally the saddest movie in the world. If you haven’t seen it, don’t ever watch it.
Susan: I’ve been really into listening to the new //TENSE// tracks on Soundcloud. ‘Static Grey II’ has a lot of plays.
8. What goes in your coffee?
Ivy: Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze.
Susan: More coffee.
9. What defines your music-making process?
Ivy: Generation Spaghettification.
Susan: Searching for the songs already written in our mind to evoke that voidal sensation – so familiar, yet so strange.
10. Together, or alone?
Ivy: I am alone, I am utterly alone. By the time you read this I will be gone, having jumped….having plummeted… off the Winter River Bridge.
The duo of Shannon Funchess and Bruno Coviello have been turning kids on to darker synth sounds for a few years now, with their single ‘Dark Allies’ becoming the de facto goth anthem for a new generation. Now, with their debut album set to drop May 1st on Mexican Summer, Light Asylum are poised to break hard this year. As both they and I hail from New York City, we share a passing acquaintance, so I was pleased to catch up with them during their brief stay in Berlin.
EB: It’s good to see you guys again. I think the last time I saw you was in Kutná Hora at Creepy Teepee last year, right?
Shannon: That was probably the only festival that we ever played, actually.
Bruno: At least in Europe. That was a fun festival though.
SF: We’ve been asked to play Drop Dead Festival but we were leaving Berlin before that was happening.
What’s been your most inspiring show in terms of bands you’ve played with?
BC: Clan of Xymox.
SF: Yeah that was awesome. We booked a show last year with them in Leipzig. It was amazing, because we booked it ourselves and I contacted them via the Internet. And I was like, “Oh wow, Ronny Morrings is on Facebook! Let’s see if we can make it happen,” and he said yes. They were amazing. Really sweet people. It was definitely one of the highlights of 2011 because we’d bonded, Bruno and I, over this band when we first met. That was great.
Shannon, I know you come from a very musical background. I saw you play with Telepathe a few years back and with !!! as well. But you, Bruno, I had a lot of trouble finding information about.
BC: *laughs* I started to make music around the late ’90s mostly as a keyboard on dance tracks and predominantly in New York City, because I grew up just outside of it. I did some soundtrack work, in particular Party Monster. It was basically the club scene in New York. A lot of those records you can’t find online anywhere because it was mostly white label, vinyl only. There’s a label called 8 Ball Records out in New York that put out some of my stuff in the late ’90s, and I was working with The Dreamies as well.
Do you have any plans to re-release any of this stuff?
BC: Yes, possibly. I’ve talked to some small labels about it.
Speaking of synths, isn’t Kraftwerk doing that big exhibition at MoMA soon? Will you be back in time for that?
SF: You think you can get us in on the list?
I think I’d have to be way more hardcore for that; my editor just got an email from Afrika Bambaataa asking the same thing!
SF: Yeah, we sat there with our laptops for hours trying to get tickets but they were gone in two minutes.
There’s also that Fad Gadget retrospective coming up as well. Why am I still not in New York?
SF: We got actually asked to do that, and we turned it down.
SF: I think we were busy – it was right around SXSW. But I think it’s a shame that MoMA makes the Kraftwerk event so small. People should be able to go see iconic electronic acts like them. It’s just crazy that in a city like New York they wouldn’t have it at a place like Madison Square Garden.
Exactly, and it would still sell out.
SF: Eight, nine times in a row it would.
Which night would you have actually gone to?
SF: Computer World, hands down.
There’s definitely a Kraftwerk influence lurking in some of your music.
BC: They are pretty much the originators of techno. I remember listening to them as kid and my brother used to DJ and play Kraftwerk around the house. I think Kraftwerk is one of those bands that people don’t even realize that they know them.
I’m very interested in how cross-genre and scene-breaking your music is. I hear it played in all sorts of places, from electro, to queer, to straight-up goth parties, to indie Urban Outfitters-y kind things, and I think that it’s fascinating how something with a dark aesthetic but a very broad reach can really just draw people in from everywhere.
SF: Okay, I’m just thinking about Urban Outfitters right now *laughs*. We played their showcase in Texas a week ago. But as far as being accepted by different scenes and parties, we welcome anyone and I think the music being dark is something that’s universal. I think some people want to pigeonhole us into some kind of particular scene, like goth or whatnot, but life is filled with darkness and so many people relate to it.
When I listen to your album I really feel like it’s trying to grab that light in the dark. Like this reaching towards something indescribable, sinister but still very shining.
SF: I think the album isn’t necessarily dark either, it has many themes. I think it’s the whole spectrum between light and dark.
I’m very drawn towards that sort of aesthetic. Maybe just because of coming from a goth scene, but as well coming from hip-hop, punk, and other multiple weirdo genres. I think that this kind of divergence from a stereotypical straight-forwardness is really important.
SF: I think that we get really good responses from crowds. We’ve been fortunate enough to open for some really good bands like LCD Soundsystem, Gang Gang Dance and YACHT. Like you said, right across the board. There’s been some kind of lines blurred where these kids or the people that we’re playing with might be more supportive at shows which might have more dance music. Well, our music is dance music as well, so maybe that’s where the commonality is. But take LCD Soundsystem, for example. We found their fans very accepting of us, even though LCD is more on the pop side in the structure of their songs. I’m really happy that our music inspires people to not be stuck in one scene and spread out a little more in their tastes in music. That’s cool.
It’s really beautiful to go to a party and hear ‘Dark Allies’ and then see everybody just pumping their fists in the air and chanting along to the lyrics – sort of the opposite of the dark mood you might expect. It feels strangely uplifting and optimistic.
SF: We try to make club anthems – something for people to pump their fists to and get inspired by. You know, move around and dance. That was our intention, so I’m glad that worked.
Daniel Jones is a music promoter and creator of the subculture reconceptualization & aesthetics tumblr Gucci Goth.