From Berlin to Oslo: an interview with Sirid & Daniel
Hello Sirid and Daniel, thank you for accepting our invitation. We are very curious about your story. You are among some of the oldest guests of Dark Monday at the Duncker and even if you live in Oslo, you still manage to come every year to our Yule celebration. This is so great and we appreciate it very much.
How/when did you come to join the dark scene in Berlin? And how did you discover the Duncker Club?
Answer: My first contact with people from the dark subculture was at school, when I was 15 years old and studied in 9th class. I remember there was some boys in 10th which used to attend school mainly dressed in black. Those boys where the first inspiration for me regarding Gothic/ Dark Wave. However the term “Goth” didn’t exist for us yet at that time. I remember getting a music tape with Sister of Mercy’s “Floodland” from another school friend around that time, but unfortunately I didn’t have much time for parties and clubs.
The term “Grufties” (as you point out later) is far older then its definition by the West German youth magazine “Bravo” in the midt-80s.
In former East Germany and especially in East-Berlin Grufties were much earlier to be met. Grufties, as I know, those days met secretely at some several hidden places. They obviously didn’t have DJ-music, fancy bars or stylish clothes made by expensive brands. I remember rumors about something similar to a “meeting point” for Grufties in an apartment in the Anklamer Strasse in Berlin-Mitte, where a couple with a baby lived. They were supposed to have 3 coffins placed in the living room, surrounded by a thick layer of soil. It’s funny because my wife, Sirid, lived around the corner as a teenager and sometimes met some of the guys on the street. They have left an unforgettable impression on us. Unfortunately the area around Anklamer Strasse was security monitored due to its close location to the former Berlin Wall.
We heard about Grufties which got caught by the East German Secret Service (Stasi) there, who got arrested just because of their appearance. To be Grufti or Punk, or being a member of whatever subculture, in East Germany at that time was meant as a protest against the regime. It was dangerous.
Nowadays, in my opinion, many “Grufties” use to define themselves by the outfits they are wearing, height of their mohawks, or the lengths of their winkelpickers and such things only. I call it the ‘Olympic Principle’: faster, higher, longer.
In late 80s there was a youth-club in former East Berlin in the quarter of Wartenberg/ Hohenschönhausen where some EBM and dark music was played sometimes. Here I experienced my first real contact with other black dressed people. I remember clearly a documentary broadcast by the former West Berlin TV station SFB in 1989 about the Gothic subculture in West Germany and in conjunction to that, a note about The Cure releasing the album “Disintegration”. It was a revelation to me! In former East Germany it was hard to get even black clothes or black hair dying colour. So we had to be very inventive. E.g. we dyed white clothes ourselves or used shaving cream to style our hair. I got my first black trousers and shirt made by my older cousin’s former wife who was a tailor. Even later, after the fall of the Wall, we did made many of our goth-cloths by ourselves, because of money problems. Some years later I found a flyer attached to a lamppost in Berlin-Mitte, announcing upcoming Gothic parties at the “Live Club” in the quarter of Friedrichshain. The parties mainly where held by both DJs Marco “Ragnar” Philip and Oliver “Damocles” (I have forgotten his last name). So I came in touch with the club “Die Insel”. Shortly after that I discovered the Duncker Club through a flyer, that was published at “Die Insel” announcing the first “Montagsduncker” held by Ralf (Örlog). I still do have the flyer in my collection.
What do you remember most of your first years in Berlin? Was there a different approach to music and lifestyle? What do you think people were looking for when coming to Berlin in those years?
Answer: The main difference between today and in the early days was the fact that being part of a subculture meant that you were “out”, and that was both cool, and mysterious at the same time. Of course all kids wanted/liked to be cool and mysterious! Today the situation is reversed. Being part of a subculture nowadays is understood as “uncool” and sometimes almost ridiculous.
Within the subculture system, also subcultures become often commercial projects. I think many “particular” bands that play at WGT nowadays are a very good example of this phenomena. The official cultural expression of the Gothic/ Dark Wave community in a way has been popularized, so that what was alternative or part of any subculture in the Eighties, like for instance (Depeche Mode) today is easily available to every kid.
Furthermore the cultural Gothic/ Dark Wave community has flattened out. The collective consciousness (almost?) doesn’t exist anymore. The common cultural spirit of the community got lost in my opinion. Gothic/ Dark Wave nowadays often is seen as kind of a weekend-hobby for many people.
In Germany as well as abroad the dark scene has become a Milieu with many faces, and it seems like made of various groups and sub-scenes. Also, the music has split into different paths. What is your feeling about it? What do listen to in Norway?
Answer: Everything changes. The secret is how to catch the (red) Lion by it’s collar, and make use of it’s energy for a new-creation. It means to find a way to prevent the flattening-out effect of the community I talked about earlier. Opinions and people change over time, of course. The question is, are you still living I accordance to your inner values?
Often people/friends suddenly disappear from the scene. Many things change, but I think, we like many friends of ours continue to live as Gothics. Maybe we do not dress in long black coats anymore when going to work, but luckily we have jobs allowing us to wear black clothes in the office.
The problem has also a lot to do with the changing of economical conditions in western countries which, especially the last 2 decades, implemented a change in cultural expressions as well. IWhy do many of your friends move away? Often due to work. Our social environment – and so the Gothic/ Dark Wave community – has been changed by a political and economical system. I often hear friends complaining that they’re not able to attend parties any longer due to their tiring and stressful work. Gothics who’d like to attend the WGT can’t afford the high prices (hotel, travelling, food, drinks) while other people, which obviously do have enough money but clearly don’t belong to the Gothic subculture at all, neither consider themselves as part of the community are there.
My taste in music is still the same as it was 25 years ago: Minimal electronic music/Cold Wave, traditional Goth music/Deathrock, Post-Punk, Dark Ambient/ Ritual, Neo-Folk, Neo-Classic, Medieval music. Sometimes I also listen to some 50s Rockabilly music. Or, when I feel it, I listen to David Bowie, Lou Reed/Velvet Underground or other 60s, 70s and 80s bands. Last but not least Industrial is pretty important to us as well. However we see Industrial more as a form of art (the music is just the frame). That’s something many have often misunderstand in my opinion. I highly recommend to read the book “Art Sex Music” by Cosi Fanni Tutti (by Throbbing Gristle). The idea is to promote Industrial as a 360 degrees cultural expression.
Strange Ambient and Industrial music had its first impression on me when listening to some rare radio shows at former radio station RIAS 2, in Berlin in the late 80s. I remember there were shows on air Saturday late night playing some really strange Ambient and Noise music. And that’s something still fascinating to me today.
The definition „Dark Scene“ appears for the first time in 1990 in an article “Schwarze Szene, Berlin – Eine kritische Selbstdarstellung” in the Zillo Music Magazine, and it included „Grufties, Wavern und New Romantics“. Later it was also mentioned in relation to bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Death in June (Glasnost, Gothic-Press Magazin 1990). Do you feel a different approach toward the concept of „Dark Scene“ and „Gothic Scene“ in Norway? The metal-dark culture is traditionally very strong there. Could you explain a little about that?
Answer: To be honest, there almost is no serious Dark Wave/Gothic subculture in Norway anymore. Unfortunately. The situation is almost the same in Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands or Canada. We can experience such kind of erosion in all western countries. About eventual existing Metal subcultures (in Norway) I can’t say much about it as I’m not interested in it and I also see no con-substantiality between Metal and Dark Wave/Gothic at all. There’s – as I know – one Deathrock band only in Norway. It’s name is Badboner.
Is there any space/interest for „old school“ dark-wave-post punk, and gothic?
Answer: Here in Norway there’s no serious old-school (Dark) Wave/ Gothic subculture. The reason for that maybe will not be understandable for people from outside Norway (or outside Scandinavia). In Germany, and several other countries, (Dark) Wave/ Gothic usually is a way of life. In Scandinavia subcultures in general are seen as a kind of “weekend entertainment”. So people usually do frequent (whichever) subculture just for a short period of time. At least untile they marry (and have children as this is the “Scandinavian-logical” consequence of marriage). After that people disappear from the scene. Another fact or problem is the in general the monotony of the Scandinavian cultural landscape. Events outside the mainstream are extremely hard to organise because of the high commercial expectations of the club- and property owners. In Germany, and especially in Berlin, we have a kind of an special situation. There are several possibilities to get events organised as far as I know. The Duncker Club is probably a good example, as it is (?) a public property owned by the Council of Berlin. To rent the location on Mondays for Gothic events may not be difficult. And probably this is the only reason why the Dark Monday still exist. In Norway/ Sweden/ Denmark, or wherever you might be in Scandinavia, you won´t find anything comparable to the Duncker Club.
I do realize that sometimes, especially Germans, often have the wrong idea about Scandinavia.
In Berlin, and in other capital cities, many people originally in the dark-wave-gothic movement seem to shift more and more toward more electronic and techno related clubs. What is your experience in Oslo?
How would you describe the music taste in the alternative scene there? Is there this electronic aspect taking over too?
Answer: The phenomenon you describe doesn’t really exist here in Norway, but only due to the fact that modern Techno (=”Rave”) related music is the mainly preferred type of music for most of the members of the (so called) Dark subculture here. It’s a little bit strange because Techno, in it’s originally form as “Acid” once was an independent music-style too, invented by (note-mainstream musicians/ artists) like the guys of Cabaret Voltaire or Psychic TV (and another band I can’t remember now).
It seems that Berlin always offered a quite comfortable environment for alternative movements, giving people the possibility to unfold themselves and be true to their nature. When you decided to leave Berlin, did you expect to find a similar situation in Norway?
Answer: No, definitely not. The decision to leave Berlin, our home town, was related to extremely poor economic conditions in Berlin (and Germany in general) at that time. This was the depressive time of the Schröder-Administration which caused huge amounts of unemployment all over the country. We were aware about that there was no serious Dark Wave/ Gothic subculture in Norway (and the whole of Scandinavia) at all. Yes, we do miss like minded people here in Norway, of course. However luckily today we’re in an economic condition which allows us to keep up our residence in Berlin on regular basis. But there are advantages too related to 2 things: economic conditions and nature. One true and positive thing about Norway are the less aggressive working and living conditions. The living and working conditions in Germany got perverted in my opinion.
Often I meet friends who talk about the possibility of moving to Norway or Sweden. What would you advise them?
Answer: Make sure you can effort/ have the possibility to get/ buy your own house or apartment in the city of Oslo (to rent an apartment, as we know it in Germany, is definitely no option in Norway, believe me). Be tolerant; that means make sure you can handle other people and cultures (even Norway is far more different than Germany). Learn the language (to speak English is no option, at least not at work). Make sure, you have a profession which is asked for at the labour market. Make sure you can handle extremely high prices/ costs for both alcohol and car driving. Make sure you can handle mainly poor weather conditions. In case you are thinking about settling down in Bergen (West coast) make sure you can handle at least 220 days of rain a year in average. In addition a personal recommendation: Make sure to have a job (here in Norway) with conditions letting you work in accordance to actual weather conditions; meaning, to have the possibility to take off when the weather is fine in order to get out into the mountains and fjords.
Which are the pivotal questions you ask yourself when you move to another country, in this case, to Norway?
Is there a secret to find happiness there?
Answer: The only happiness to be found is a situation consisting of compromises you think you can live with. There is not goal to be searched for there. The way you do it, itself is the goal.
As you know at the Dark Monday in the Duncker Club we celebrate regularly pagan festivities. There is indeed a point in which the Berlin dark and pagan community overlap. Although they do not share completely the same music taste, yet it becomes easy to share the space and time at the Duncker Club.
Do you have this kind of pagan community in Norway? Is that connected to the dark scene?
Answer: There are some small pagan and occult circles in Norway as I know. I’m not quite sure what kind of knowledge the disciplines of these circles might be. But in accordance to what I know, all of these circles are run in an extremely excluding way; meaning they are not really interested in getting in contact with “strangers”; you need to be invited to get in. The circle of the Scandinavian O.T.O. brotherhood is situated here in Oslo. Once we met a member of it at an urban esoteric discussions evening (called: “Kjettersk Kjeller”). Another circle I know here in Oslo is a radical–feminist Pagan group. We sometimes used to attend esoteric discussions evenings as mentioned before. One can see, this group is related to the Dark Wave/ Gothic community in a minor way, but not seriously. However, due to some strange political opinions of some of the organisers, we don’t attend those events anymore. Racism unfortunately is a growing issue not only here in Norway, but in the whole of Scandinavia.
Otherwise in Scandinavia, there are several urban Freemason circles. But unlike serious free-masoning circles situated on the continent, the Scandinavian Freemason circles, as I understand, do not seem to cultivate esoteric knowledge in a proper way.
The main way to become a member of these circles is the possibility to get connected to other people for some doubt activities in the economical way. Corruption is a huge (political) issue her in Norway. Elsewise, I haven’t heard about public organised Pagan activities her in Norway, as we know them e.g. from Germany (e.g. Pagan events at “Kreuzmühle” in the Harz mountains). There’re several reasons for that. Since almost the whole of Norway is private property, it’s almost impossible to hold an organised public (Pagan) event outside in the forest, in case you do not wish to have to travel several 100 kilometres towards the Outbacks. About 2/3 of all forest surrounding Oslo community is private property, owned by 3 or 4 families and investment groups (only). The situation is even worse when it comes to seaside and beaches (e.g. at fjords or the North Sea/ Atlantic Sea). It says that approximated 90% of all accessible beaches and seasides are private properties in Norway. Outdoor events as e.g. “Die blaue Stunde” in Leipzig could never take place here because of the difficulties in obtaining the papers and permissions of the Council, Police, Fire Department etc. Besides, all these things would cost a huge amount of money. To meet up as a private closed group in the forest almost is no option either. It wouldn’t take long time until Police troops come along evicting the people from the place. We read about such a Police action in conjunction with a closed group event held in the forest near Oslo, organised by some Trans-music fans. There are no public places as “hidden” parks or similar contexts where a private Pagan event could be held. As I said before, almost every square-meter her in Norway is private property in a way. I often have the feeling that civil rights in Norway are very limited.
Which clubs, meeting points, stores or music markets would you recommend to our people in Oslo/Norway?
Answer: I don’t know any store selling serious Dark Wave/ Gothic related thing
(clothes, music, art) as e.g. “Wonderland 13”, “X-tra”, “Dark Store”, “Black Rose”, “Jungblut”, “Killerkirsche” and others in Germany. However I only know 2 Rockabilly store selling some black clothes in addition to their ordinary stuff (“Manilusion” or “Det lille sorte” her in Oslo and “Ragnaråkk” in Trondheim). Besides that we know a Norwegian Goth-couple living in Praha, running a label for Gothic/ Dark Wave clothes (mainly Neo-Romantik related) called “Dracula Clothing”.
Is there any club you would compare to the Duncker?
Answer: Here in Norway (or somewhere else abroad)? I don’t know any.