Around the World in 80 Decibels: Bermudas to Berlin, Otto Brings the Bass
Otto von Schirach in Berlin
It was a sunny afternoon as we drove into Berlin on our way to sound check at Berghain Kantine. Street after street, mile after mile, graffiti-plagued buildings lined the city and came together reminding me of an old tattooed sailor. Each tattoo was a memory of the pleasures past and for Berlin, each piece of graffiti a testament to individual expression and freedom. I stared out my window in the back seat of our Škoda automobile, shocked and amazed, as I gazed upon a cornucopia of freaks, punks, goths, IDM heads, and weirdos of all kinds packing the sidewalks.
Billboards for shows cluttered this urban canvas, offering an endless supply of first-rate avant garde entertainment. That was the moment that all the pieces to the Otto puzzle began to come together more clearly than ever before. Berlin loves Otto von Schirach. Not surprising, with a town of full-fledged maniacs and social deviants, it's a counter-culture mecca. Proof of that love and admiration lined the streets in the form of posters, depicting a caricature of our Laptop Conquistador of Bass, along with the date, venue, and support acts.
We arrive at the venue to be greeted by a few die-hard fans who help with our large bags, with an eagerness to show support for Otto any way they can. Sound check, dinner and merch set up are quickly checked off the to-do list. Only ripping it on stage is left to accomplish. Sitting at the merch table, I wondered how a show on a Wednesday night with only Otto playing would draw in Berlin.
As people emerged from the street, I realized it would not be the riotous, fan-fueled madness I had witnessed in Erfurt the night before, yet in the blink of an eye, the club is packed. Fans sporting Otto garb are the minority tonight with the majority of the crowd all grouped together and encapsulated by one frightening word, industry.
Otto commented that he now knew what it must have felt like in the '80s for Klaus Nomi to play to the likes of David Bowie, Andy Warhol, and a sea of those in the record label industry. For Otto, David Bowie and Andy Warhol are replaced by Modeselektor, DJ Ned, Kid 606, Jason Forrest and Apparat. Gone are the cocaine-sniffing, disco record label reps of the '80s, replaced thankfully by label heads from BPitch Control, Ipecac, Tigerbeat6, Cock Rock Disco, and software developers from Native Instruments who produced Otto's sound library with Fixed Noise. Friends from the LittleBig booking agency, Stars and Heroes, Ralf from the Poodle performance artists, fantastic nobodies, and a hundred or so cans of mixed nuts round out the crowd as we take the stage. Otto drops songs like "Tea Bagging The Dead" and "Subatomic Disco Divas" with the same destructive power as the bombs dropped by Russia so many years before. For Otto, it was a regular occurrence having played Berlin over a dozen times in recent years, but for me it is quite the symbolic experience.
Marching through Berlin were a superhero, Otto, a crazed Cuban-German, and sidekick, Nastie, a fucked up Cuban Jew, spawned from the Bermuda Triangle and representing the M.I.A. with a laptop, an assortment of Circuit Bent gadgetry and a bag of merch. It was a comic book come to life. We are truly on a mission, a mission of musical madness.
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