The Symphony of Berlin

Our current contest for berlin-artparasites readers offers a pair of free tickets to see James Cook live at HBC this Thursday! Send an email to tickets@berlin-artparasites.com to enter the contest. We interviewed James to talk about what makes Berlin an interesting city for a musician and artist, as well as what to do when eccentric concert-goers sabotage your show!

BAPS: You started out in London, traveled the world and have seen many
a stage from touring with Imogen Heap to winning a Czech Grammy Award. Why did you choose to settle in Berlin?

JC: Berlin has a very calm energy for a world city, especially in NeuKoelln, where i live. It is cheap and in the middle of Europe, perfect for touring. I still travel around the world with my music, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, LA, London, Prague and Vienna are just some of the places I have been to this year, but after all that travelling there is nothing better than a relaxing beer in a Berlin bar, or sitting by the canal in the sun.

BAPS: Have you seen the 1927 film “Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis”? Any impressions?

JC: Well obviously that is one of the most fascinating Berlin films ever made. The Germans really were cinematic pioneers in the early days. Its images remain in your consciousness forever, seared into your memory. Still a very modern experience somehow…

BAPS: What are the sounds of Berlin? What would you say makes up the “city symphony” of Berlin?

JC: The sound of the car tyres running across the cobbled streets? Ambulance sirens. Bicycle bells and Americans talking loudly about flat hunting. However, there is a stillness to Berlin that I love.

BAPS: No morning U-Bahn tour is complete without some tunes. Have you ever performed in a Berlin underground station or on the streets of Berlin?

JC: I have never busked in Berlin. I spent 10 years in London doing that job in Covent Garden. I prefer to play inside, and with some amplification! Although I always enjoy the street performers and give them some change. I know how hard a job it is!

BAPS: Favorite Berlin venue to play in?

JC: I have very fond memories of the old Magnet, we played some fantastic NEMO shows there between 2005 and 2008. Lovelite was a great show last month. SO36 was also a really fun venue to play. I remember RIO club too in the old days with NEMO. VolksBuhne and Festsaal Kreuzberg were also highlights when I played with The Dollhouse Strings. I am very much looking forward to HBC next week.

BAPS: Any relation to fellow Brit Captain James Cook?

JC: Well seeing as my old band was called ‘NEMO’ and my record label is called ‘DeepSeeMusic’, I think there must be some nautical blood in my veins! I have never traced my family tree, so I have no idea if we are related. I like to think he was my Great Great Great Great Great Uncle…

BAPS: Who did the album art for your latest album “Arts and Sciences”?

JC: My good friend Chris Corner from IAMX shot the image, as part of a video we made together for my first single ‘Face to Face‘. I am so pleased with the way it turned out. My friend Andrea Froehner completed the design.

BAPS: What has been the strangest thing to happen to you in Berlin (performing, or not)?

JC: I remember a very bad acoustic gig a few years ago in the ‘Ae‘ bar, where these two young people, who seemed slightly deranged, thought it was ok to get up on the mike and talk to people about politics before, after and during my show. They also sang and drummed on a table during the whole performance. I think they thought they were booked to perform with me or something. It was bizarre, and when I tried to suggest they keep quiet, they seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. In fact it only seemed to encourage their ‘performance’. I have a phobia against playing acoustic shows, and this did not help my condition at all…!

BAPS: We’re looking forward to your album release coming up at HBC! In five words or less, what can fans expect?

JC: Strings, drums, synths, guitars (and lots of) singing!!

Thanks, James! For albums and videos, check out his website!