Ever since David Bowie and Iggy Pop moved to Berlin in the 1970s, the city has been a global musical magnet – with everyone from Nick Cave and Depeche Mode to Peaches and Bloc Party following suit. It’s also attracted Florida native Chad Matheny – BIMM Berlin’s module leader for our Personal & Business Development and Live Sound classes.
Chad is a composer, songwriter, educator and audio engineer with a background in science and a dizzying international touring schedule in support of various musical projects, including his noisy agit-pop solo project Emperor X. He also co-owns and helps to manage Donau115 – a jazz venue in Neukölln which has recently been honoured with the German Ministry of Culture’s Initiative Musik prize. Here he tells us all about his favourite bits of Berlin.
IF YOUR FRIENDS WERE VISITING BERLIN FOR ONE WEEKEND ONLY, WHERE WOULD YOU TELL THEM TO GO?
Friday night would begin with dinner at the delicious and scandalously cheap Azzam, followed by drinks surrounded by Marxists and economics textbooks at the very cozy Laidak where the website is a live feed of the stereo and a live camera is focused on the bar menu chalkboard, so make sure you wave when you walk in the door! After drinks I’d take them to Neukölln scene institution Loophole for a dance and other electro oddness.
Saturday would start off with blindfolded running on one of the runways of the abandoned airport-turned-park Tempelhofer Feld. Next would be a sweaty, well-earned outdoor lunch and coffee at Zimt und Mehl overlooking the Landwehrkanal. Then a quick train ride over to Olympiastadion and a hike up Drachenberg for a view of the famed abandoned military listening post Teufelsberg. For evening/late night/early morning fun, the nightclub OHM never disappoints.
On a Sunday in summer, I’d spend the entire glorious green day with them at Schlachtensee lake. In winter, I’d spend the entire frigid, grey day indoors with them, ogling cool old trains and rockets and deep sea diving suits at the German Museum of Technology, Deutsches Technikmuseum.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT IN BERLIN AND WHY?
Definitely Azzam (as mentioned above) but Hamy Cafe is Earth’s best Vietnamese restaurant outside of Vietnam and it’s always crammed with English-speaking expats. Al Andalos is my entry into the endless battle for the title of Berlin’s best falafel sandwich, but it’s not to be confused with ‘Al Andalus’ with a U, which is a Spanish restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg that I have absolutely no experience of! I also love La Tarantella which is a legit old-school Italian place with excellent pizza and a grumpy chef who wears very comfortable elastic sweat pants.
WHERE’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC IN BERLIN AND WHY?
The gig venue Schokoladen has great programming, excellent sound, wonderful people and an intimate warm atmosphere that always feels like a Soli-Party. Performing here was my introduction to the city and I moved here six months later.
WHAT MAKES BERLIN SO DIFFERENT TO WHERE YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM?
I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida – a hyper-suburban subtropical coastal flatland. It’s beautiful in its own special way, but it’s not a great place for a young person or an artist, and in 1997 I was both… so I left. After Florida I lived in a long series of big cities across the US, a few years at a time, in places like Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York, where I was invigorated by culture and collaboration but endlessly stressed by the hectic pace and ever-present obsession with money. Berlin is not a utopia: gentrification and the concomitant financial pressures are making marks here too. But because of this city’s singular history, many communities here – artistic, ethnic, ideological, intersectional – weave together into a firm, resilient mesh that’s comparatively well-suited to resisting corrosive economic forces. It’s a dense city, and yet full of yawning open spaces, often semi-abandoned and covered in green weeds. It’s a world capital of extreme musical variety, but its inviting maze of tree-lined apartment blocks are surprisingly conducive to rest and composition, even in the harsh, leafless winter months. In these and many other respects, it’s unique on early 21st century Earth.
To find out more about our Music Production course, which Chad is a tutor on, follow this link.