Interview with Mark Reeder

by Alexandra João Martins / 18 11 2017

In 2017, Porto/Post/Doc features the film B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin 1979-1989by Klaus Maeck, Jörg A. Hoppe and Heiko Lang. It will be screened on 1st December, at Cinema Passos Manuel, within the section Transmission. After the screening, Mark Reeder will take control of the DJ set cabin to lead a night's party of berliner music.

Q: Today, would you still exchange Manchester for Berlin?

A: I would never exchange Berlin for Manchester! It’s not that I don’t like Manchester, it is just that I like living in Berlin. To be honest, I don't really know Manchester anymore. It has changed considerably. It certainly has a much more cosmopolitan and European vibe than it had when I left it in the late 70s, and thats a positive development, but that is only because of the huge amount of foreign students who have brought their European qualities to the city. But it also means that when I visit Manchester now, I feel more like a tourist too. Of course, it is the place where I was born and lived for 20 years, and it influenced the way I am and my taste in music and I am very grateful for that. But I don’t feel that I have to be there to appreciate that. After Berlin, I know I could never live in Manchester again and especially more so now that Britain is in brexit mode. I am now a brexile. So being a tourist is the only way for me to enjoy it. When I see it in any other way, I get frustrated and after a while and start to remember too many negative things about its past and that always gets to me somehow: the misery and poverty of the 60s and 70s. Of course, Berlin has also changed considerably too, but also in a positive way, and I find it much more appealing. It is still an exciting and attractive place, with a vibrant music and arts scene and it is still affordable.

Q: Do you see B-Movie as a window to the recent occidental history, besides the musical approach?

A: Perhaps it might be in a way, but it is a very personal history. Our music and art scene was very different to anywhere else back then. There was nothing to compare it with. I see B movie now more as a source of inspiration for young people to absorb and learn about what we got up to in West-Berlin and the way I viewed it. It’s really only my interpretation of how the city was and our role within it. It shows Berlin in an unflattering way. It’s not about how we all became successful pop superstars, even though some musicians went on to become very successful. It’s more a story about my experiences of living in West Berlin and how I perceived it and got through it. The film doesn't shy away from sensitive subjects either, but at the same time it doesn’t dwell on them either. It depicts everything as I saw it, which was my normal daily life.

Q: Almost 30 years over, is there any risk of becoming revisionist about those times? I mean fanciful, fetishist, too nostalgic. Because I have the feeling that there was some kind of hope in that time, there was a future to come...

A: I am definitely not nostalgic, but if people ask me about the things I experienced back then, I will tell them. Until B-Movie, it never crossed my mind, but now I am very proud and feel privileged to have lived in Berlin at this time. It never occurred to me though that anyone would be interested in my life. In the 80s, West-Berlin was a backwater, almost a forgotten city, filled with weird, non-conformist people who had all washed up here. And it is strange how it really became a forgotten city, even after the fall of the Berlin wall. As to prospects for the future, we were constantly told that Berlin would be the place where the third world war would inevitably start, as the military might of the East confronted the military might of the West. There was absolutely no future to look forward to. We didn’t believe we would have one, as we all thought we’d probably be dead by 35, either from drugs, drink or nuclear holocaust. The future was in the immediate present and most of us lived for the moment. If we ever planned anything ahead, it was at the most a couple of months, because we might have had a tour or gigs.The only hope we had would be that we would survive it. Today, Berlin is a much more optimistic place.

Q: How hard was to mix your own old footages with the new production?

A: Well we only had to reconstruct about 2% of new footage, such as the record shop scene at the beginning, or a few interlinking scenes just to maintain continuity, where we had no footage. But that was a very small portion of the film. Everything else you see is original 1980s footage, from all kinds of sources like VHS, 8mm, 16mm or Beta. It just had to be digitized and then glued together. So it wasn't really all that difficult. The only difficulty was finding the appropriate material to go along with my narrative.

Q: Tell us a little bit about what isn't featured in the movie: incursions to East Berlin. A curious episode, perhaps…

A: Almost everything I experienced in East-Berlin is not in B-Movie because it is actually only about West-Berlin. All my eastern incursions were never filmed because you couldn’t take a film camera into eastern zone. The only thing we do have, was footage from the 2nd secret and highly illegal concert by Die Toten Hosen in East-Berlin. Luckily, I had befriended a US soldier who kindly helped us to smuggle a video camera and the bands guitars into East Berlin for that gig. Of course, there is the entire portion of the HI-NRG gay disco scene which I was also a part of. This scene revolved around the Metropol Disco on Nollendorfplatz and I went there every weekend. No one filmed in this club. It was much too dark and druggy and filming in the dark was simply a waste of expensive film. So you just didn’t do it, besides I had no intention of lugging heavy Braun Nizo around with me all night, as it just wasn’t an attractive prospect, especially when you went there to take dugs and dance all night. And also the fear I would leave my camera somewhere was just too much to have to think about. The Metropol was the only place you could hear deep, dark, underground electronic disco music. I took Bernard Sumner there after the death of Ian Curtis, in the hope of inspiring him to change the musical direction of the remnants of Joy Division. I would send him tapes of all the tracks and records I would hear in this club, the result eventually was Blue Monday.

Q: Curiosity: have you met any portuguese artist or musician during the 80s?

A: Not that I can remember. Probably.

Q: Can we expect Berliner music for the DJ set at Passos Manuel?

A: Yes, I will be playing mostly my own music, which was all made in Berlin.

More info about Mark Redder and his latest album Mauerstadt

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