Berlin – The Crest Of A High and Mighty Wave

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The cultural tapestry of “Berlin”, as always, is ever-changing, manifold, complex.

Old threads rub and burr. New patches are sown, overlayed, translplanted. Eventually garments are recycled, buried, turned to rags, rehemmed….

For those of us familiar with the feel of the Berlin aspalt for even 10 years or so (and previously, perhaps by way of film and music exports), the haggard wraiths of nostalgia can loom intimidatingly large. Films like ‘Berlin Calling’ are fascinating case-studies in the über-revisionsm. Tropes which effectively sell (literally) second-hand dreams – notions of an homogenized, officially sanctioned version of  ‘underground’ culture – filtered through the blinding lens of extreme self-consciousness.

Such wistful half-light.

Posts on Reddit, Wunderground, Resident Adviser and countless other parody sites, attest to the fact that the cultural sands have long-since shifted from the mid 90s. Infact, they have never ceased to shift.

The simpified myths of a nebulous rave-revolution rebuilding a broken “Kinderstadt” have never reflected the complex reality of a diverse cultural landscape. Not then. And not now,  least of all, as Germany’s role in wider Europe continues to markedly change. Thank god for the shake-up, too – revisionism is cultural quicksand – mercilessly bleaching diversity and vital counter-narratives.

I’d rather be burnt by reality, than wallow in the quagmire of non-reality.

And yet…there’s a sort of cellular-implanted tendency for the former cultural ‘gatekeepers’ to bemoan new models, financial realities, an a radically democratized musical literacy (the sort which means that a Deadmau5 or Skrillex can knowingly site/reference Aphex Twin or Jamie Principle whilst earning their $100,000 a show paychecks.).

Because NO-one owns culture. Not UKIP, ISIS, The Green Left Weekly, Russel Brand, nor Berghain…

Particularly in the face of Berlin’s radical ‘mainstreamification’ of club culture, the old gods scream as they feel themselves dying. But they are not dying – merely changing form.

The ‘dream’ that so many desired (a summer holiday in Berlin! A move to techno-city to become a dj!) is a salable reality – much like the ‘year in London’ which I recall being the post-graduation ritual in the early 90s for many of us in Sydney.
Buoyed by a new economy of young middle-class migration, Berlin now has a US Burger Joint serving imported 30 euro American steaks, an Australian café serving ‘flat whites’, and (finally) more than a handful of Japanese restaurants which actually serve Japanese food.

This ‘dream’ – this strange hybridization of semi-regulated capitalism and socialist ideals – has also transformed Berlin into something of a ‘neu-heimat’ for aspirant young professionals; for artists, designers, coders and musicians who have – for the first time – began flirting with the notion that one can ‘make money’ in this town.  This quiet upsizing of the ‘poor but sexy’ orthodoxy is fascinating to me. Meanwhile, the wraiths rattle their chains…

Of course, for those of us blessed/cursed enough to have made a ‘home’ in club-land as djs/producers, the clarion call is sharp and clear – “adapt, or die, change, review, quit, burn the whole fucking ship to the ground, or just run…run…run”.

Lately, I’ve heard many dear friends speak of the the latter as a feasible option.  Askew, out of place, confounded, I frequently flail with the question “what the fuck am I actually doing with my craft?”. Many pioneering friends are sweltering under the weight of a new rise in ‘aspirational’ dj culture – talented new waves of producers, djs – marked by a keen sense of competition, technology and great press-shots.

But this is ok. It’s honestly ok. Let’s loosen our grip again. Let’s practice this with every breath.

For many of us (myself most certainly), ‘electronic music’ was an accident which we just seemed to wind up in. A watering hole to gather around, an experiment, and confounding smear of color and light, promise and tears, terror and release and catharsis. We flirted with the notion of ‘career’… and then suddenly, ‘career’ happened. Or, moreover, our obsession transmuted into something almost economically viable. God knows how, or why. The years tend to erase much of the fine-print. The years also tend to ossify apocrypha into gospels…

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.” – Hunter S Thomson

Like The Hacienda or New York’s Studio 54 – the formerly queer-culture walls of lauded “Berghain” fetishised club-culture have long since started to erode, too.

Different rules of engagement are at play.

Madonna’s ‘Vogue’  has long since re-cast (and as DJ Sprinkles plaintively observes) revised notions of the ‘outsider’, and of the role of club-culture in mediating this ‘otherness’.

“It makes no difference if you’re black or you’re white, if you’re a boy or a girl”.

Actually, it still seems to.

If only these ‘differences’ didn’t scream from the hetero-normative banners of Pasha, Ibiza, or reek like effluence from the new spin from messrs
Guetta and co. It makes ‘no difference’ if, like Madonna, like Guetta, you are white, slim and wealthy with an iPhone and disposable income.

But all of this is just what it is. And that’s ok, too.

There are still those from ‘the West’,  aching  to traverse this border – who need to find a home, a rebirth amid the rich earth of an ‘authentic’ sort of clubland, of deviancy, of the kind of pure ‘non-self’ experience which can be facilitated by nights spent amid heaving masses in dark rooms. These primal rituals and ‘safe spaces’ are one of the gifts of this city – and indeed, of the ‘scene’ (if we can even call it such) the world over. They are gifts we can share anywhere where imagination allows, and my recent visit to Poland for Unsound Festival served to remind me that a great, uncharted cultural expanse lies dormant and waiting to be explored.

…but our notions of of a purist ‘Berlin’, and its relationship with these spaces, this newly hyper-competetive ‘scene’ must change. We no-more ‘own’ a culture, than we ‘own’  a city.  And I refuse to be owned by either.

As ‘artists’, I believe, we have no ‘special gift’ to share with the world. This notion is nothing other than evangelicalism, capitalism – feeding the myth and fortifying reactionism We do have – I believe – a call to present questions, to be risk being subsumed by ‘non-self’, ‘queerification’, fluidity, inclusiveness, failure, brokenness and…even joy. I often think its as simple and as complex as this – and that much of the rest is best discarded.

If nothing else, I’ve come to deeply trust the words of K Pattabhi Jois:

“Practice, and all is coming”.

I think, this is Patabhi’s not-so secret joke. Savagely understated, infact quietly ascerbic, and completely ridiculous – in a manner which resonates with my latent sense of German humor.

Ultimately, there is probably ONLY practice – and all else most likely stands in the way of practice. The coming and going, the smoke and mirrors. ‘All the rest’ is available – but perhaps its not what really makes us happy. But it is a choice – and herein lies a deep sense of liberation.  A leaning towards, kindness, toward forgetting, towards death and release.

In a week or so, the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall will be marked here – signified by the release of 8000 white balloons, along a portion of the former wall’s perimeter.

A release of the old order, dissolving into sky – into the Bardo of Clear Light. Into undoing, into deep, resonant laughter…

Eternal Return

bladerunner

Its been well over a year since I last sat in “Katies Blue Cat” – my previous “Stammcafe”, here in Neukölln.

The last time I recall being here, was with my dearest friend, TJ. Possibly, or possibly not, during last midsummer. Huddled over caffeine fumes, ricocheting from café to café. Muttering jocular commentary into a digital recorder; our intention being to eventually bash our declamations into palatable form;  a review of Berlin’s best cafes for a podcast.

Nominally, at least,  we reviewed the 4 café’s we could stomach before heart palpitations closed the deal.

Inevitably, our dopamine receptors found sweet release that sunny evening, nestled in long grass at Mauerpark, in Mitte. Drowned in beer and THAT Berlin sunset; steeped in untouchable longing and boundless mirth.

TJ has since moved, with his gorgeous partner to Osaka, Japan. I’ve moved across the Kiez-line to Graeferkiez, high atop a 4th floor flat, overlooking an austere church, shrouded in trees and the gleeful howls of tiny children from the Kindergarten.

Tower of song. Walled in by synths and orchids.

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Everywhere I’ve lived in Berlin there are children. So many children. They feel like the metaphor for…. everything that is Berlin. A city of children, perhaps most of us lost; screaming with ecstasy at we slip on… cobblestones lubricated by careless icecream drips…. in….fits of laughter, and our small friends help us back up.

Katies” was my hide-out for the first few years here. Without wi-fi, the burgeoning hipsterati found their lusts forcefully castrated by the iron fist of pragmatism.

It’s quaint here, twee almost. Wood and dirty red-bricks and baked goods. A good place to read. A better place to listen – particularly today. The walls are ringing with political chatter. UN Resolutions and Feminist speeches, Bombings and Beheadings and such. Apparently Syria is to be razed in a few hours time. I’m uncertain of the efficacy of this action, given the historical precedent set by similar experiments. I can hear the ghost of Vonnegut weeping.

As the ancient Chinese curse, declares, “May you live in interesting times”.

I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha. That’s actually not entirely true. Although, I am drinking less…..less …cheap wine, at least. And damn, I’m writing a lot of music.  And studying so much German.

The last few weeks have found me smitten with an gnarly iteration of the Berlin raver-flu. Which, of course, I’ve smothered (largely ineffectively)  with beat-making , Donny Hathaway and study, hands of ginger and chilly, beetroot and miso brews.

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I’m also reading Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel, “Maus”, in dubiously translated German.

It’s beautiful, harrowing, simple and humorous. Ultimately, it’s also a compelling argument that nationalism – in any and all forms, is the surest foundation for furnishing a toxic “Kinderspielplatz” with broken glass and rusted nails.

Religion, granted, seems useful for providing some great ‘opiates’ for suffering – as long as we embrace the art of story-making, and story-telling with heart. Like codeine, sometimes religious opiates can help us dream deep and wild once more. Dream until we realize that the these stories belong to everyone. The tropes of the human-heart, bound up in our glorious shared karmas…

Sometimes I think that beer was created for religion. But nationalism … is Big Pharma idiocy – hardly mercurial ‘Treibstoff” and dull as shit.

Re-reading some of Adolf Hitler’s rants about his Christian ‘savior’ (1922….) it’s disconcerting, to see how the 2 fantasies  (faith and nationalism) can serve to e consummating their mutual lust for recognition by birthing something horrible, hysterical, bound in dirt and sand and the myth of ‘security’ and a ‘homeland’. It’s heartbreaking to see how much it reminds me of Australian Prime Minister’s current spate of right-wing rants….

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose…” – Adolf Hitler, Munich, 1922

Surely the greatest potency of the Trinitarian Christ-myth is anything but triumphantalist? And before that, any liberal reading of the  Torah, the Kabbalah.

I’m frequently asked these days if I’m Jewish. I’m not. But I like good stories, and …well…my wisest atheist buddies have all been Jewish.

In the “Deities Got Talent” show , the interesting ones end up failing the judgment-panel test.

I have this hazy image of Christ on a Dali-cross somewhere. It’s the same Christ and the same cross which exists in our school-massacres, and jail-electrocutions, and bombings of  Syria, and World Trade Center attacks, and refugee-camp rebellions.

There was only ever one cross, really.

“Im not dying for you, not for me, not for anyone.  I’m dying because I’m being killed. There is no  ‘why’ in this moment. Look – wounds. My hands, my side. Don’t you see? This happens to all of us, as it has happened before. This is all there is…and the flowers and the sunset and dogshit, unwanted iTunes albums, tinnitus and, flat-tires and overfishing. And babies who emerge (miraculously afresh!) from a battered old wombs. And kittens, and sex and Sriracha chilli-sauce and Ayn Rand and yoga, and fracking, ex-girlfriends and incontinence. And be-headings and plantings and paintings and puppies and meth, bread-making and cougar-moms and lost-packages and Donny Hathaway and Blawan and hacking-coughs at 3am, and autumn leaves. And forgetting everything eventually. This is the way of things. This…”

Chop wood, carry water. Consider the lilies of the field. Eternal Return. Listen closely – there’s a beautiful poetry in this humor.  And a pretty vital call to compassion, I think. Hidden in the undergrowth.

We’re made neither of spirit or flesh or stardust or facebook memes. We’re probably just made of stories.  The best stories improve with the re-telling and ALWAYS with forgetting the punchline.

Reading the passionate work of Mathew Remski, and the Jewish Daily Forward’s own  firebrand Jay Michaelson. have been so crucial to me this year.

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Lots of releases and gigs still to come this year, and plenty I’m still offering up for free on Soundcloud, now and in future. This week, of course, the long awaited “Haitian Rum Runner” on Tim Xavier’s superb new Face To Face label. Hope you dig.

US/CAN SUMMER TOUR 2014 – FINAL SHOW!

Deepchild at Haus NYC

Just a quick reminder, and massive THANK YOU to all who’ve attended shows this summer in:

DENVER
IDAHO
SEATTLE
DALLAS
HAWAII
VANCOUVER
CALGARY

Now, to celebrate, and wind things up, its time for the FINAL 2014 summer-tour show at Haus New York , before I head back to Canada for 10 days of rest/recover…

….and then Berlin for more at the end of July. beginning with a huge charity show for Its Bigger Than Second Anniversary on August 1st!

Deepchild at Haus NYC

Deepchild at Haus NYC

 

Its Bigger Thank 2014

A Freeform Transmisson From Vancity

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After 3 nights of solid shows, and nary a wink of sleep (Honolulu, Vancouver, Calgary) I’m safe in beautiful Vancouver, pausing to decompress before the final show of this year’s North American tour – at Haus, New York…

I the last couple of weeks, I’ve played Denver, Idaho, Seattle, Dallas, Honolulu, Vancouver and Calgary – a compressed run of fantastic shows, with several more booking requests which we were unfortunately unable to accommodate this time ‘round. After New York, I’m excited about taking a proper break for 10 days or so, here in Vancouver, prior to heading back to Berlin for more bookings.

At this juncture, a massive debt of gratitude to al the fans, bookers djs and expansive music community who’ve been a part of this experience. For those who’ve given me hotel-rooms, beds, food and shelter. In the face of “EDM” and its radically polarizing co modification of club-land, tours like this are a unique commodity – made possible by only by way of a non-localized international community of shared values, risk and graces.

I’m reticent to risk essentialism here (*disclaimer – I know I frequently do!) but beneath the topsoil, smoke and mirrors – there’s a vital and muscular underbelly which (at best) electronic-music culture seems to give rise to. Almost uncannily shared questions, values, realms of exploration. I’m adamant that there’s a fairly profound confluence between the body-politic of clubland, and the values of a post-national identity. I’ve not only seen this – I’ve experienced it first-hand repeatedly on this tour – homies travelling, working, dancing together on a band of shows from Idaho thru Seattle thru Vancouver.

On one side of the coin, the denizens of the new-economy are quick to reduce/brand “EDM” to a series of acquirable, police-able, own-able, memes and moments – from 7UP to Beats By Dre – all outsource-able, low-nutrient signifiers of a ‘youth culture’ – one which ultimately serves to resist and restrict any maturity or ‘coming of age’, or musical ‘conversation’.

Let’s pause here, to recall that ‘electronic music’ has never stood, (at least in any essentialist sense) as a ‘youth culture’. I can’t help but feel that the slide toward its reductionist branding serves to stymie a latent power in the form. Which, of course, is convenient for marketers on a number of levels. Do we really want more music suspended in perpetual adolescence?

But I digress. Let’s free to remain knowingly amoral about all of this – it’s a needed antidote to aspirational brand-morality, which is overbearing and generally dull.

Shut Up and Spend!

On the club-floor, we’re experientially renegotiating not only notions of sexuality and intimate exchange, but the very fabric (albeit temporarily) of “self” and “other”.  This exchange is liminal, tribal, inevitable; and in the face of declamatory forms of post-industrial Protestant ‘art’, electronic-music, the music of trance and ritual remains a mighty tool for much needed fuckery of the highest order. We must continue, as a species to speak in code in order to generate new futures, and evolving fictions, democratic thievery. But don’t just take my word for it:

Enough from me for now. Time for more coffee.

There’s a lot to say here – and some fundamental questions ringing and remaining true for me about the emerging North-Australia-Merican police state, and the politics of dancing in the “new EDM economy”. What are the gender assumptions here? What are the sexual mores proving restrictive? Does anyone remember Black Music before this or this came to dominate our info-feeds? Jay Z and Kanye (and Dave Guetta and Steve Aioki) are important voices in the emerging music conversation – but they aren’t the only voices we might learn from. Obviously, as a white and privileged middle-class male, I can only speak to so much before my words become redundant….

But I’d like to try to speak to what i can, by way of lessons I’ve learned along the artists-path. So, lets’ stoke the flames a little.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Justice_and_Public_Order_Act_1994

There’s a political risk in the unmediated gathering of individuals in any shared space, particularly one which resists  completely tacit ‘absorbtion’ by corporate dogma. And yet, there’s a play and a drama here which I’m sure has yet to yield it’s deepest gifts. My desire is neither to slide into revisionist hysteria, nor to become ossified by fatalism.

My desire is for better (or at least more interesting) fictions, less starched blue uniforms tazers, and perhaps even a more vulnerable discourse over what it is we can afford to let go of, rather than ‘aquire’ – regardless of your choice in headphones.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/jan/20/john-akomfrah-migration-memory

 

Activism, Kenosis & the Second Summer of Love

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Any of you who know me, probably understand what a bittersweet relationship with activism I have.

Primarily, of course, because fear the conflict of the mob – I’m afraid of ‘feeling afraid’, and intimidated by the challenge of integrating groups steeped in unresolved anger. Afraid of my own fight-or-flight tendencies, and what idiocy or betrayal I might enact in a state of panic. I’m so conditioned to ‘fear’ the man.

It’s a slow undoing to attempt to conquer in one lifetime.

Having said this, the number of rallies, actions and vigils I’ve been involved in over the last 15 years is something I’ve lost count of, but still mark in terms of sleepless nights, panic-attacks and futile attempts at buying police officers warm coffee to ease their own frightened glances. There are, I’ve learned, few things which confuse the Police Force more than being called to control a rally, only to be met by bare-foot hippies singing mantras and offering organic cookies to their oppressors.

The language I’m most compelled by, as an ‘artist’ is, ultimately, the language of silence, of kenosis  – the kind of notions which obviously don’t easily for effective ‘protest’, in it’s traditional ‘western’ sense. The didactic prose of protest-speech reminds me too much of its corollary – the call to war, violence, division, witch-hunts and burning effigies.

It’s just not a language I’m barely fluent in. Not unless I’m particularly drunk, at least.

It’s a language where too often,  the power of the ritual, of the mythology, the creative-potential of being together is bulldozed by superlative-tropes which are ultimately too fatiguing to provoke change after the event.

If an even is framed in the language of separation and exhaustion, then what is the ultimate value of the event?

During my time working, almost a decade ago, for the Uniting Church, I rediscovered that so often, it is in fact the power of the mythology which speaks more practical/literal healing that what might be construed mere  ‘facts’. I’m happy to hold and cherish this reality. We all need stories – we demand them; even whilst governments reduce our mythologies to pithy slogans.  This is one of my life’s great personal lessons. The Jewish story of the clay Golem,  Jesus miracle of turning water to more wine for a feast already deeply enmeshed in bacchanalian chaos – what else are these but eternal truths, enriched by the democracy which only stories and their retelling (in a thousand incarnations) provides?

This is why the ritual of the ‘breaking of bread’ is a universal one – its a ritual which is an embodiment of a gratitude which transcends reductionism.

Ultimately, I’m not sure if protest-culture drew me deeper into electronic-music, or vice versa. I’m happy for this mystery to remain unresolved.  I do know, that during my honeymoon years in the mid 90s, techno WAS the music of a radical new form of story-telling for me. Our gatherings in Australia were often in warehouses, or in the forest, smeared in pot-haze, an organized chaos lauded over by NO-one and everyone at the same time. Dirty, flawed, completely impractical.

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Whilst often branded as anarchic, my ‘bush-doof’ and warehouse rave-days were usually, of course, anything but. There was simply too much mutual care, too much to offer, too little money to be made for a shared dream to be squandered. I think we all knew that. What I ultimately experienced was an experiment in controlled chaos which subsided into love, tinnitus and unplanned pregnancies.  An experiment in tenuously decentralized leadership, hybrid-mythology, acid, noise, the gift-economy, and largely ‘faceless’ sonic heroics – a far cry from much of the Ibiza mega-club triumphantalism frequently we see today.

Ohms Not Bombs

Photo courtesty Ohms Not Bombs http://ohmsnotbombs.net

 

All this, just to say (revisionist romanticism notwithstanding) rave and techno culture gave me a community, and many inspiring leaders and friends who’ve since graduated to become astounding community leaders, policy-makers, aid-workers and storytellers. I don’t think that this is mere coincidence. It’s why I still believe in the power of mythology, of storytelling, and – very much – in the power of failure, also. My life’s politics and music are inseparable – and the challenge of integrating them is the great challenge of my life.

Two nights ago, we staged a vigil outside the Australian Embassy here in Berlin – an action prompted by the ongoing persecution of asylum-seekers in Australia under successive government policies. I was asked to give an ‘address’, the transcript of which is copied below. I realize that it’s not what might be deemed a ‘conventional’ call to arm – and it is far from perfect (Germany’s own asylum-seeker policies are often the subject of of harsh critique), but I wanted to offer it as a voice in the conversation for asylum-seeker policy-change. For those of us also aching for new mythologies, and what I’d call a re-hewing of the fabric of our hearts. The ground is fallow and ready for new stories.

I hope, that, taken within the context of more discreetly pragmatic voices (and there are many great ones) it might help provide offer some salve and pause amid this madness.

Deep thanks and gratitude to all who turned up and made our vigil feel worthwhile – for the  offerings of the many candle-holders, message-writers, silent reflectives, musicians and organizers. And thanks to the German Polizei for respecting our right to gather, so kindly. Berlin continues to surprise me.

Speech for Light The Dark: Vigil for Asylum Seekers at Australian Embassy Berlin | 23 Feb 2014

“It’s an honor to share this night with you.

Thank you to everyone who has turned up tonight for our small, somewhat ramshackle, chapter of “Light The Dark” – prompted, not only by organiser Michelle O’Brien, but also by individuals like her sister Natalie O’Brien, one of thousands of younger, deeply compassionate advocates working in Sydney to help mobilise a number of concurrent events across Australia. Their voices give us hope and courage.

There are so many striving for good in Australia – and this gathering is for all of them. May it resonate as a voice of support from afar. This gathering is for our local communities, media outlets, for those who are demanding robust, transparent and compassionate discourse. This night is also for those in Berlin who have invested and engaged in an issue which is currently germane to Australia, but which is also a fundamentally global concern. This night is also for those of us who just don’t know what the hell to do right now.

So this is what we’re doing – a brief, conscious remembering, together in the hope that good things might grow from solidarity, and our shared hope might become bigger than the sum of its parts.

I offer the following thanks and reflections not as an activist or politician, but merely as an individual, as a concerned voice, swimming like so many of us in a familiar yet deeply turbulent sea. As an artist abroad in Berlin, who has previously worked for and with refugees in Australia for groups like TEAR, The Australian Refugee Association and the Uniting Church Department of Social Justice. In education, advocacy, arts-work and simple friendship with asylum seekers.

Like many of us, I’ve visited some of our horrible detention centres. Enough has been written about these gulags in our own press, much of which I don’t need to re-articulate here but which I encourage you to keep abreast of. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has a fantastic presence online and offers a great springboard for further engagement.

So then. It seems curious, for many of us who’ve left our ‘homeland’ to know what an appropriate response might be to the events we’re seeing unfold in Australia. This ‘Pacific Solution’ being, in fact, instituted by none other than Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during his previous tenure and now fortified in its current incarnation by the Abbott regime.

This is clearly a bipartisan affair and has remained so since the Howard era’s reactionary ‘Children Overboard’ scandal over 10 years ago, and the horrors of indefinite detention and temporary protection visas – which I know many of us protested against en mass at that time. These policies are a cemented by a hysteria with a deep historical through-line, a reflection of a certain ongoing crisis of our unreconciled national identity – from the alarmism of the Yellow Peril, to the Stolen Generation, Cronulla Riots and beyond. Stories and patterns ricocheting and reverberating in the echo chamber of our short, “White-Australian history” – the politically dominant history, yet only one of so many diverse stories – stories rich in grace and tenacity, kindness and re-invention.

We have yet to see a single ‘people smuggler’ prosecuted or named. Yet we now have thousands of personal refugee details ‘inadvertently’ publicly leaked on official websites – names, ages, nationalities, family status etc. of thousands of vulnerable asylum seekers seeking protection.

There is little logic and even less humanity here.
Meanwhile, the tendrils which seeking to ‘outsource’ Australia’s moral responsibility are extending not only to poorer nations like Papua New Guinea, but now also to Cambodia, according to recent statements from the Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

I contend that this is an endemically patronising foreign policy – the notion that poorer countries and individuals can be purchased, silenced, bought, tacitly settled and annexed via private dealings in human trade, masquerading as some sort of social responsibility, where even naming the dead is seen as subversive.

Reza Berati is dead. Reza Berati is dead.

How do we actively engage with this without becoming fatigued and bound by feelings of helplessness or betrayal? How do we radically ‘open up’ the official histories of Australia, to celebrate and honor the riches afforded us from those who’ve come across the seas? How do we frame our own stories in the light of this debt of thanks we owe to ‘outsiders’? How do we move forward – through and beyond necessary policy change, to a changing of the fabric of our hearts?
I want to suggest that perhaps, in fact, that certain answers are far closer than we may imagine.

Many of us have found our own little homes here, because Berlin has testified to the gift of slow, luminous change and healing, and in so doing has valued our voices as outsiders here. It’s a healing springing from collective confession and admission of the horrors of the past. I take great heart that by way of the model this city has embodied, we are inspired to find solutions and healing for Australia’s current challenges – by way of honesty, creativity, simplicity and a process of deep, healthy grieving.

I’m convinced a fundamental paradigm shift in how we define our official ‘Australian Story’ needs to occur, and that indeed it shall.

This small gathering then, I feel, is, not only very much for Reza Berati who was killed on Manus Island under Australia’s care, or for the countless recently injured or continuing to suffer, but is in fact also for ourselves and those who strive to live with dignity and compassion in difficult times.

The fact is, the suffering of all refugees under our government’s care is a suffering we share, and must share, and which we are all inextricably bound to. Those who suffer in detention are none other than our people, though most we have never met.

Perhaps our hope can be theirs too.

I’m reminded, curiously, of the words of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Naht Hanh, which seem to eloquently summise Australia’s ongoing crisis of identity, framed through his gentle Buddhist eyes.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

For our voices to be unified, we need not only the tenacity to demand justice, but also the salve of forgiveness, silence, and the simple ritual of being together – not only with political ‘solutions’ but with recognition of our willingness to see and become part of the process of being change, and becoming changed.

We bring open, honest, wounded hearts, and perhaps even tears tonight as an offering toward hope and mobilisation.

I know that many of us have felt frightened by our own rage, our own despair, are own unexpected panic here. I’ve found my own vitriol often so personally crippling, paralysing. How do we manifest change in a way which keeps our hearts free from the poison we fear?

I’m not sure. But a small gathering like this just may be part of what we can offer. It’s not an isolated gesture. There’s a voice, there’s a value here. One we can and must take heart in – echoed abroad.

Again, the oft-cited Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, writing about his experience in the Soviet forced labour-camps put things thus:

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

There is no doubt that the deeds being committed in detention camps around Australia are, for want of a better word, ‘evil’ – they are undoubtedly abhorrent, inhumane, illegal, unjust and cruel.

But, perhaps more accurately, they are acts and policies of ignorance which are grounded in deep, deep delusion, a temporary national amnesia, a sort of political sleeping-sickness, a spiritual malaise. Cycles we see echoed across decades of Australian history. A story must re-build together now.
There IS no ‘Great Satan’ over the waters, hiding and steering boats. The Great Satan is us … yet our story shows that there are enduring enough moments of rare light showing  that political norms can be overturned, transformed, reborn.

Australia is a nation of refugees, living as guests on indigenous land.

The fact that we are here – as grateful outsiders in Berlin – I hope can remind us of our own power and voice, as well as our responsibility to show reciprocity to our community here. We must build the Australia we want to see wherever we live, in our collective dreamings, and in the dismantling of the Walls and Borders in our own hearts. It has been done before, and change does come.

Thank you once again for coming this evening. Thank you for your offerings, hopes, prayers, tobacco, candles, beer and collective wisdom. Please continue to share them.

Shortly we’ll hear from three fantastic musicians, Ray Mann, Remarkable Shipwrecks, and Wasp Summer– but now we wish to offer five minutes of silence.

For Reza Berati.
For all asylum seekers currently detained.
For the many more who will in future make Australia their home.”

- Rick Bull, 24 February 2014, Outside the Australian Embassy of Berlin

 

DEEPCHILD ‘DIRT THIEF’ EP RELEASED

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Thanks to our wonderful friends at Thoughtless Music, I’m proud to announce that the long-anticipated Dirt Thief EP is finally out this week. It’s more slightly ‘garij’-infused proto-techno from myself, with some brilliant remixes by Safeword, Jens Bond and Tomas Jirku, and features one of my favorite B-side cuts of the year, “Safe Passage”. You can hear previews HERE and, incase you missed if the first time, catch a little video of myself performing the aforementioned track at Electron Festival in Geneva earlier this year – right here:

Deepchild Electron Festival from Deepchild on Vimeo.

Image credits for the Dirt Thief cover-artwork go to the ever-inspiring Michelle O’Brien
You’ll be able to grab the EP shortly from my Beatport page, as well as where all half-decent music is sold!

 

Oh, and here’s what the big-guns are saying about the release!

Originals are dope! DVS1, Hush

Nice tunes – will try out, thanks! SLAM, Soma

I’m digging the trippy, dubby, spheric building vibe around the beat – very useful. Thanks! JOEL MULL, Drumcode

Nice pack, will play the Jens Bond remix! MIHAI POPOVICIU, Pokerflat

Support – Deepchild for Resident! SACHA ROBOTTI, Robosonic

Liking the remix from Jens – will play in my deeper sets. D-NOX, Sprout

I really like the ethereal vocals here. Will definitely play out. ERIC VOLTA, No.19

Great release; Safeword’s remix is my favourite here! FABIO GIANELLI, Get Physical

Diggin’ Safe Passage, lovely arrangement. JAMES TEEJ, My Favorite Robot

Great EP! Jens made it for me. NICO STOJAN, URSL

Really cool tune – will play Dirt Thief! FLORIAN MEINDL, Riemann

Jens Bond remix for me! SOMEONE ELSE, Little Helpers

Really great package! Love Safe Passage and the Jens Bond remix of Dirt Thief; will be playing “Safe Passage” on my radio show this week! Thanks! STRYKE, Ovum

Support – I like both originals. BAIKAL, Maeve

Dope tracks!! Love Safe Passage!!! DANCE SPIRIT, Supernature

Support – will play more than one! ALEXI DELANO, AD Ltd.

All are solid, hard to choose a favorite here – will support and play. JONNY CRUZ, Touch of Class

Deepchild can do no wrong – great as always. Super nice remixes too, especially Tomas Jirku’s. Thanks. Support!! BRYAN ZENTZ, Minus

These tracks all sound amazing. DEREK MARIN, Superfreq

Will try out the Jens mix soon. Pulsing, hypnotic groove. Thanks again. TYLER STADIUS, Proton

Great grooves and vibe – Jens Bond mix for me. LESS HATE, Kindisch

Another well-rounded and diverse release from Thoughtless. Big ups! TAAL MALA, Modern Math

Great tracks. CHUCK FLASK, Paxahau

Dirt Thief original is fantastic. NICK WARREN, Hope

Support on all, thanks! DANIELLE NICOLE, Subtrak

Deepchild with Jens Bond remix – tight! Safe Passage is also badass, right up my sonic alley. MATT XAVIER, Railyard

Great EP, will support with club play and FM radio plays too! ROB PEARSON, Artform

Fantastic original and remixes. CHRIS FORTIER, Fade

Excellent release, thanks. SUMMER, Mo’s Ferry

Fantastic broken warehouse music. So good. LONGSHANKS, Subdivnet

All tracks are hot here – great work! JAMES PATRICK, Timefog

Great release! POINTBENDER, Guidance

We love all the tracks here! Remixes and originals are amazing! Full support from Mexico. SIGNAL DELUXE

DEEPCHILD PLAYS ADE 2013 (official!) + FREE DL!

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To celebrate the appearance of Deepchild on the 2013 Amsterdam Dance Event – Official Page (official!) program, for DJBroadcast International, we’re happy to offer a free, limited download of the currently unreleased “Bad Nutmeg”.

Play it loud!

More information about the ADE showcase can be found here:

http://www.facebook.com/deepchildmusic

Chicken Wings and Artistic Vulnerability as High Commerce

I’m sitting aboard Air Berlin’s morning-flight to Moscow, traveling with fellow dj’s Dave Vega and the inimitable Ewan Pearson – all 3 of us bracing ourselves for the wilds of Russian summer-hospitality and all it entails. Previous trips have involved their fare-share of surprises for the uninitiated – brothels, vodka, more vodka, pole-dancers, fried-bread and dried fish, starched white collars framing sunken eyes and thick necks, and breathtakingly beautiful women in heels which are entirely impractical to all by the highly-skilled.  If I live through further incarnations, I’ll be sure to learn the leathered mother-tongue, along with some Cyrillic. As things stand, my Russian history is in dire need of brushing-up, and my daily Deutschsprachen is keeping more than busy already.

I play LIVE tonight at Flacon Cube Club, returning tomorrow to play again in Berlin.

This month, on the eve of a upcoming (and tightly-booked!) Australian, New Zealand and US tours, I’m happy to be able to offer a couple of much-needed dj-mix updates, for your listening pleasure. Firstly, episode 6 of my Diversions radio-podcast series – my ongoing foray into all things ambient, experimental, contemporary-classical and dubwise. For me, Diversions is something of an exercise in unwitting musical anthropology, and an opportunity to weave together disparate threads of musical-influence, in a format less demanding and restricted than the deepchild ‘club’ template.  You can check episode 6 out here along with previous episodes.

Secondly, and focused squarely on the bass-bins, is a new dj-promo mix, ahead of the upcoming slew of shows. Take a listen here. On that note, I’m excited to be working with new management, in the form of the highly-respected Dan Cole, who’s currently overseeing booking and licensing-requests, and offering me further reason to ensure that my liver is in check in times of stress. Any and all Deepchild-related requests are best directed to him, via management@deepchild.com

Closer to home in Berlin, I’ve been willingly shackled to my DAW of choice, Ableton Live, working on making headway with mastering the new, and rather special Push hardware-surface, and generating new material for some new, rather lo-fi techno projects. I’ve been sifting through found-sound recordings via www.archive.org, recording the line-hum of my badly-grounded synthesizer collection, looping washes of static until they become mantras. And so it goes. Sonic anthropology, wading through the lives of others, ‘cross Bardos  and twilight realms. All whilst the Berlin sun (finally) beats down after a long, cold winter.

In the midst of increasingly busy times, I’m not only thankful for excellent management, but for unique community of friends – both those who continue to set the bar higher for artistic-integrity, and those who don’t perform music at all. Berlin’s utopic freedom can easily degenerate into myopic nihilism, were it not for the voices of solitude, sanity, and simple reminders that our ‘smears on the canvas’ are as ridiculous and inconsequential as they are needed.

I’m reminded, often, of talks with the very dear TJ Eckleberg, himself a brilliant artist – and, moreover, one who values ‘practice’ as  a central ‘dharmic’ choice, rather than a necessary evil. The older I become, the more I’m inclined to feel that ‘practice’, in a sense, is ALL there is. The practice we do for 5-7 hours a day with our instruments, our craft…the practice on stage, the practice spent on long-haul flights, the practice of every out-breath. The practice of going to sleep. The practice of learning to stop caring so much.

Perhaps it might be helpful to care a little less, and practice a little more?

“Better to operate with detachment, then; better to have a way but infuse it with a little humor; best, to have no way at all but to have instead the wit constantly to make one’s way anew from the materials at hand.”  - Lewis Hyde

When I was growing up, I was very-much sold the Anglo-Capitalist narrative that being an ‘artist’ was, in effect, being a ‘conduit for the divine’ – in a sense which implicitly denied that “non-artists” could access this special insight – that those with more mundane vocations and cares had nothing to add to the cannon. These days, I feel compelled that, as an artist, my ‘calling’ (if indeed this word is a helpful one – what of those who’ve never heard the ‘voice’?) is, at least in part,  to dismantle, to examine, to question this narrative.

The very same fables which suggests that artists are ‘specially gifted’ channels for the divine-voice is the story which sells consumer-goods to already full houses, and processed chicken-wings in buckets.

The very same voice which tells us we can ‘transcend’ or we ‘should transcend’ or ‘think bigger’ is the voice which implants and sustains neurosis of those learning the quiet joy of practice. I mean, god, what else do we want? If our dreams are always ‘too small’, how can our desire ever be satiated? There’s a darkness hidden in the shadows which demand ‘transcendence’ and increasing ‘abundance‘. What do these words REALLY mean? Are they useful, and are they kind?

On that note, some Dave Chapelle truth…

Much, too, has been spoken of about ‘vulnerability’ as being core to both honest artistic-practice, and any functional-relationship. On the flip-side, the cult of the ‘talent show’ or the ‘self-help’ blog sees a latter-day elevation of public confession and tailored vulnerability elevated to the realms of high-commerce – the post-human, the almost oddly invulnerable and codified. Tears and confessions as signifiers of ‘authenticity’. Public-confession of sins past and present as tickets to the Kingdom of  Saleability. Lines crossed, granted, by most of us, with some frequency.

I’m not interested in being callous or cruel, but there’s a corollary here, too, one I’m fascinated in following up – a particularly Western fascination with fetishising suffering, separatism, redemption, perceived ‘triumph’ over adversity – yet when ‘adversity’ doesn’t exist, the imperative seems, increasingly, to fabricate OR brutally construct it – to perpetuate the cycle of discontent, of consumption, under the guise of ‘authenticity’. There’s a tragedy here, and emotional poverty at play which is acutely dissarming.

The question remains, as ever, for the artist – perhaps my ‘suffering’ is legitimate enough – and perhaps it’s a reality which needs no justification, or clean and clear resolution or triumphant divinely-breathed artistic response.

Increasingly, too, I feel in deep debt (incase you didn’t pick it up) to artistic-cultures which embrace a sense of restraint, of silence, of leaving things unsaid. It feels like a necessary antidote to so much white-noise…

Perhaps, just perhaps our presence in the midst of practice and struggle is enough.