Joy: I’m Joy Frempong, a singer and musician. As well as OY, I’m part of several bands and musical collaborations from electronic to improvised music, leaning towards pop – I’m always on the search for a little twist and surprise within music.
Lleluja-Ha: I’m a musician, songwriter and producer. Over the years I worked as a composer for theatre and cinema and played electronic based dance music as well as pop and folk. Apart from OY, I’ve been releasing music under the name Sun Of Moon through the label Motor Music here in Berlin. Joy is part of it as well.
How long have you been in Berlin?
We moved here five years ago.
What brought you here?
J: Escaping from the neatness of Switzerland? – a country I still love – it might be the same love-and-hate relationship I have with my hair… or the opposite rather. In Switzerland on first sight everything seems to be quiet, neat, well organised and under control, but if you dig into scenes you’ll find many wild, lovely and very creative people – Berlin of course offers a huge density of creative in- and output, and loads of space for body and mind.
L: I worked a lot in various European cities and at the end of the day Berlin just felt the best. Indeed it’s first of all that space around and inside me that strikes me whenever I enter my new home town.
What are your five favourite things in your neighbourhood, and what is so special about them?
Les Valseuses, a great French restaurant on Eberswalder Strasse with a very nice crew and a relaxed atmosphere.
Mauerpark! It’s where Woodstock seems to have left its illegitimate child.
Kücük Kanarya, a beautiful little café at Rhinower Strasse where I discovered the puppets that I use on stage as trigger objects. They were exhibited there. Coffee and small bites are great, as well the owner’s taste in music.
Shoemaker, Pappelallee. If you want to get high on a sniff of glue, bring a pair of your worn-out shoes to this shoemaker. Run by young people with a very old-school attitude.
El Rief for great falafel, quick and yummy – it keeps us alive during too-busy days, when we have no time to cook!
For OY music, videos, updates and tour dates stay tuned to oy-music.com.
We’ve just got back from visiting my brand new niece in England, and while I’m not exactly broody, seeing the little cherub melted my cold black heart a little. So it’s only fitting that this week’s MM features The Benja Men, who’ve produced an indie-pop rock opera for children called Goodbye Smile Mile. We love a good concept album, and reckon that even grown-up expats will identify with the story that runs through this pretty awesome double album:
When fanatical singer Jolly Joe and his family leave idyllic Smile Mile, he faces the greatest challenge of his life so far: making new friends. Join him for a musical adventure about the heartache of moving, the joy of doing what you love, and the danger of infamous kid-eating bears! This double album for kids includes English and German versions of the exciting story in 12 songs to sing along.
Produced in Berlin by a talented bunch of American, English and German musicians led by Ben Arntz (who used to teach English and music to kindergarten kids), Goodbye Smile Mile is a lively collection of catchy, clever songs that manage to delight children while not actually annoying adults! We have a handful of copies to give away, so if you want to start your little one on the path of appreciating progressive concept albums – but think they aren’t quite ready for The Dark Side of the Moon – just leave us a comment along with an email address we can contact you on below.
(Photo credit: Mirko Goletz.)
Hey, so when I was three my playschool had a nativity play and I was picked to be the angel I was freaking out like crying cos I didn’t want it you had to put this long white dress on I hated the thought of my head going through it all the mums were like wtf why are you freaking out all the other girls wish they could be angels and you’re gonna look so pretty but that shit just made me cry harder and all the other girls were like crying cos they wished they could be angels and it was like wah! little girl mutiny in a church hall in Pinner. When my mum picked me up she was like why don’t you wanna be the angel I can’t remember what I said something about the dress and I can’t remember what she said something about the dress but she wasn’t like wtf.
My mum had a pretty fucked childhood she was born in 1946 in Berlin to a seamstress single mother go figure what that was like. Her father was a Soviet doctor she never knew him cos her mother just hung out with him after the war for protection and politics, you know? I dunno how they met mate it’s not important my mother was always like what’s the point? when people asked if she’d ever track him down.
My mum was a tough little street kid you had to ask her permission to play on her turf she saw some pretty hardcore shit people were like killing themselves left right and centre once my mum and her sister were walking down the street in Neukölln cos that’s where they were from and the adults were like get back! get back! so of course they didn’t cos duh child psychology but I guess the adults were freaking out as it was dragged out of the water and I didn’t know this but Berlin has more bridges than Venice and the face was still there and the face was round and revealed something something close to despair and the sound brought the adults something close to despair and please no-one say it but it’s right fucking there and shit someone say what to do what to do when you’ve taken a thread and woven it through.
I was in Kreuzberg yesterday at the Straßenfest it was cool and it was raw I was with a girl she was cute and would send me texts full of smileys just like I like it. We go into a cafe and it’s full of barrels of nuts and olives and smells good. Some guy has a big bowl of white things and I’m like what are they and he’s like have some and I’m like I dunno they look weird and he’s like eat some and I look closely and they’re like the spent shells of seeds and the seeds have been eaten and the bowl is full of the shit you can’t eat and he looks at me with no expression and is like eat them. We turn round and the girl is like he’s taking the piss and I look down and we’re walking on loads of spent shells and we go out and the music’s loud and there’s lots to see and I look down and we’re walking on loads of spent shells.
When my mum was eight she got TB and had to go to some fucking weird hospital in the mountains and on Fridays they’d serve fish in jelly and she’d throw it up and they’d make her eat the vom and her family could visit but only through glass she was always cool with me when I was growing up she had no problem with trolls and games consoles and brands and babysitter books though she was pretty full-on about my grades. Trolls were fucking awesome they were so ugly and cute like pugs and they had friendly little eyes and their hair was a big bit of colour and they had loads of little outfits I even had a Jewish one that had a Star of David on it.
When I was ten the school I went to had a choice between religion and ethics lol I know and my dad was like a devout atheist so I was in the ethics class. The teacher was like this half-assed dumb-ass and one time she’s chatting about boys and girls and like what you should and shouldn’t do and it’s pissing me off and I think about who she is where she is why she is and I know just what to say and how to say it I can sense an open nerve I can see it spitting sparks I can feel it flicking round like an angry tail so I take it in my mouth put my little teeth round it and bite good and hard. She rises up goes a colour opens her mouth and loses it her eyes are like boiling and every word she says makes it worse and I just sit there in silence a smug little shit my face like ha ha. At the end the kids are like wtf and leave while she gives me one last bollocking then goes and finds my mum cos my mum was a teacher at the school fucking nightmare and was like “Your daughter has been disrupting my class” and my mum was like ha ha that woman’s an idiot.
He’s got a tattoo of Sharon Tate on one arm and a Star of David on the other and I said I once thought about getting a yellow ‘Jude’ star tattooed onto my upper arm and he’s like don’t do it and I’m like yeah no-one likes that idea except me repenting with a tattoo and he’s like repenting is Catholic and I’m like I know and he’s like are you Catholic and I’m like no and I’m like tattoos aren’t kosher and he’s like I know and I’m like are you Jewish and he’s like no and I’m like interpretation is creative and when Charles Manson got a swastika he trusted too much.
My mum was like obsessed by the Holocaust she had shitloads of books and she would always wanna talk about it and she would get a lot of shit for it. When she taught her kids history they had a day where they all dressed up and spoke about who they were. It was hilarious there were loads of little Churchills Hitlers Mussolinis and Luxemburgs running round drinking Capri Suns and eating Haribo some of the other teachers were not into it at all but the kids seriously were.
When she was fifty she got really fucking sick that was before people had the internet so you’d spend your evenings in bewildered isolation it wasn’t skin cancer but you could see it from the outside turning in on itself like something unbridged. It took ages to operate cos things were complicated she was vomming the whole time and getting poisoned and what you know slips away I was sixteen a self-absorbed little fuck I failed her I would tip- toe past her room when I should have gone in and been like mum! fuck! are you scared? I love you! but instead
I gave her the gift of bitter isolation and her life’s love and her life’s work said sorry you’re wrong this is it now you’re alone and she checked her options realised they were shit and kept breaking down in tears.
It’s feeling like summer now I buy an ice cream and go for a walk to the Bierpinsel. There’s a fountain underneath it which doesn’t suit it and when I moved here it was full of ice. A family come up mother child grandmother. The kid is playing around in the fountain, trying to grab a handful of water. When he chucks it there are only a few droplets left but the grandmother acts it up nice and reacts like she’s just been hit by a water cannon. The kid’s delighted I laugh we all smile.
Give a gift of bitter isolation. Be the oligarch, your guy will call. He’s found something, you’re going to like it. You’re a path she’s degraded. See it sweep in. Look, a helicopter.
Still here. Find a child. Drape it. Move it forward. There are other ways. Give it something. Now watch. Let me guess. Tell it to read our minds and then let’s leave here. Yes let’s leave here. Who washed it away? No com- ment, no more questions. No more questions now.
I go to a bar on Oranienstraße. There’s some random there and we chat for a bit but pretty soon he’s like just moved here have you? think you’re an artist? it’s people like you who are destroying Berlin you fucking tourist. I laugh in his face give him the finger but I don’t just give him the finger I pretend to run my tongue over it up and down to show him just how much of a creative little bitch I am and that really pisses him off and his friends are like leave it leave it.
When I get home my spell check is like wtf babe I can tell you’re trying to say something but I can’t figure out what. I consider uploading my entire fucking life to first-world-problems.com but I don’t because that’s bullshit. I reflect an image in Photoshop and it creates a skull. I Google ‘Facebook Star’ and take a screenshot because the returns are irrelevant. I update my status to find everlasting life and I tell you I mean it and I tell you it’s real.
Chloe Zeegen will be reading with Kevin Junk at OLFE OMG LITERALLY SO LITERARY, 19hrs Sunday 23 Feb, Möbel-Olfe, Reichenberger Straße 177, 10999 Berlin. I love myself ok? A Berlin Trilogy is available from mikrotext.
Now that all that yuletide-kindness-to-your-fell
Hello Dez! How are you?
I’m very well thank you. Enjoying a little break in between tours!
You’re beginning 2014 on tour with Protest The Hero AND TesseracT! How does this make you feel?
Extremely excited! We are good friends with both bands, and they are just awesome guys to hang out with. Add us in the mix and a splash of lime and it’s all going to be a lot of fun.
The line-up is unbearably excellent. Is there such a thing as too much prog-metal?
Thankfully, I don’t think you can overdose on prog-metal, so hopefully all should be well.
Have you been to Berlin before? And if so, then where do you like to go? And if not, why not?!
We have been twice as a band, and very much looking forward to our third excursion. We have friends in Berlin who take us out, so I wouldn’t be able to name any of the bars we have been to, but all I know is I very much like the food, coffee, drinks and general vibe of the city. Definitely one of our favourite places to tour.
Your moustache is epic. Do you think you would fit in amongst the more refined expatriates here?
Thank you kindly. When I come to Europe I always feel like less of an oddity. There aren’t many people in the UK rocking the ‘stache, although being half Turkish I do feel I am fulfilling a national stereotype.
Berlin crowds are renowned for their polite indifference at concerts, what cheesy crowd encouragement does The Safety Fire incorporate to combat this?
Offer them sex.
Your sophomore album, Mouth Of Swords, is bloody brilliant! Discuss.
Thank you. We enjoy it muchly, so are very happy to find others agree! What we did with [debut album] Grind The Ocean was to make people aware of the band, and what we were doing as a band, so MoS was an extremely important release for us. I think our sound has matured since our first album and extremely proud of what we are doing.
The blistering “Beware The Leopard (Jagwar)” features post-metal Jesus, Tommy Giles Rogers Jr., as a guest vocalist. How did this come about?
We toured with Between the Buried and Me last year in Europe and became good friends with the guys. We talked with Tommy about doing a guest vocal on stage with us during that tour, but it never came round, so I joked with him, “not to worry, we’ll get you on our next album”, which he agreed to. When I wrote that song the part felt like it suited him so sent it over and he was down. He is one of my favourite vocalists so it was a very surreal process.
One of the reasons why I left the UK is that the metal scene was shit! Why is it now only started being brilliant again?
I can’t really answer that, I suppose these things come in waves – almost reacting to the fact there is a gap that needs filling. I think the music scene in the UK in general is great at the moment with some incredibly interesting albums having been released in the last year.
And finally, what does 2014 hold for the band?
As much touring as possible. We are having a lot of fun playing this new material so want any given chance to do so. Especially if it’s on a boat! Which we are being given the chance to do in February with the Progressive Nation At Sea cruise.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions and good luck with the tour!
The Safety Fire are playing our second home in Berlin, Magnet, on Wednesday January 8th and across Europe throughout February.