“I was thrown into this world by chance – now I gotta stick around,” are the opening lines of Just Like Dresden 45, the first song I wrote, recorded in 1979 with the New York Niggers, and published in form of a 7’ vinyl recording of 1 000 black records in a white sleeve. The unnecessary bombing of Dresden February 13th 1945 commemorated in the title of my first record, now reapers as a painting in my upcoming thesis show. To drive the point home I am re-pressing the record, this time with a cover. Why Dresden, why the New York Niggers? Why now? We are still at war, we seem to have less freedom of expression now, and culturally we are moving backwards as much as forward. A life is anything but linear.
I was actually conceived during the Berlin Blockade, life was hard in postwar Berlin and my mother flew out in one of the US supply planes pregnant with me, while my father walked through the, then called, Sowjet Zone, which later became the DDR.
Since I remember having an opinion I felt disconnected to Hannover, where I grew up. I always loved Berlin. Since my grandmother and aunt remained, I visited often. I got to witness the building of the wall during my summer vacation in 61 and spent time there during the 60’s and 70’s, when Hannover often felt too small and the antiauthoritarian movement in Berlin was setting the standards of rebellion. Of course we also squatted in Hannover, formed independent bookstores, youth centers, communes, and studied the Franfurter Schule at the University.
When the mid seventies got too depressing in Germany and activists working for social change were threatened by ‘Berufsverbote’, http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0094-033X(197624)7<105:priwg>2.0.CO;2-Z
punk rock saved my life and I joined one of the early German punk rock bands called Rotz Kotz.
I had grown up with the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, American Blues and Soul, and played first washboard and then drums in bands as early as 1964. Still Germany was too uptight and I needed “to get out of this place, and if it’s the last thing I ever do (The Animals).” So, my roommates and I first hung out in Paris to celebrate the tenth anniversary of May 68 (Ca plane pour moi/Plastic Bertrant). Then I hitch hiked to London. Less than 24 hrs of no sleep later, I passed out on a $99 Freddy Laker Airlines flight to JFK.
I needed to explore the home of William Burroughs, the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, no clue that I would be playing there a few months later, and that I would meet, hang out and even record with some of my heroes. After barely making it through customs and immigration I crashed in Hollis Hotel on 8th Ave and 48th St. For $ 10 a night it was no surprise, that I was the only white person. “hey white boy what are you doing uptown?(VU)”
A couple of weeks later I ran out of money and got kicked out of Hollis Hotel. Fortunately, I had met a group of black musicians who lived in a loft on Greenwich and Canal Streets. They put me up and soon I not only lived with them, but also played in the band. Elliot Harris and Leo Faison, two friends from upstate NY, had founded the New York Niggers. The name was inspired by the New York Dolls and the Patti Smith song R&R Nigger, as well as by the conscious detournement http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/index.html of the oppressive element in the usage of the word. Patti Smith had inspired me tremendously a few years earlier, when a friend had brought back her first album Horses from a trip to the US in 1976. I thought, this is exactly the music that I’ve been trying to make.
NYN played lots of gigs, and went through various personal changes, and management. We practiced every night and called our music high energy decadent Rock & Roll. We also realized that America wasn’t ready for our name, and in the spring of 1980 the band desolved partly since my developing songwriting didn’t meet the approval of Leo Faison.
I went trough a difficult time, all the while working at Trash & Vaudeville on St Marks Place, moving around, writing songs and creating short-lived bands and projects. At my lowest point I started yoga and a year later meditation, qi gong and eventually taiji, which I study and practice to this day.
1984 was a big breakthrough year for me. I was getting up at 5:30 every morning, practiced taiji for a few hours, then ate breakfast, played guitar, all before going to work. I started the band East of Eden as the lone singer/songwriter. The band played regularly and recorded the majority of songs for an album that same year.
I continued writing, recording and making videos. When a friend took me out to Long Island Sound and introduced me to windsurfing. I rediscovered my love for the water moved to the Virgin Islands (VI), to avoid the winter (1988/89). After 10 years living in the concrete jungle it was time for a change. In the VI I immersed myself in windsurfing, racing and building experimental equipment. My last job in NY had been bike messenger, and had made a short movie about. I had also been hit a few times and realized that the longer I would ride the more likely I would be another victim lying on the concrete.
After two years in the VI, and a year after hurricane Hugo, I got a job offer teaching water exercise on the North Shore of Oahu. It was an easy choice; the job fell through though, once I arrived. I studied and taught taiji (still), windsurfing and kite surfing. Spending every day in or around the water and riding the winter-swells on the North Shore, was another dream lived.
Yet, I felt intellectually and creatively under-stimulated. For two years I took a few classes at Windward Community College and was back in school full time in the fall of 1999, eventually graduating with BA’s in psychology and art at the University of Hawaii Manoa in 2003.
Now I hope to finish my MFA in the painting program. Yet, much of my artistic practice has moved beyond the canvas. In the fall of 2006 I started a band (3rd floor), to become part of my thesis. With the Festival of Patience I am revisiting the stages of my life and am trying to make sense of what my past means now, and to engage with people, to affect the world positively, one breath at a time.
left: documenta closing ceremony 1977
I was born on the 8.8. at 8:08 according to my mother. Here are some stages in 8.
1948 - Berlin Blockade
1958 - Rock around the clock
1968 - Riots across the globe
1978-88 - The East Village
1998 - Taiji Windsurfing kite surfing back to school
2008 - art?
New York Niggers - Just Like Dresden 45, 1979 NYN records. NYC
East of Eden - Mystic Mood, 1985, Moon Records., NYC
Dieter Osten – East of Eden, 1986, Moon Records. NYC
Videos: Step into the Fire, Mystic Mood, The Pain of Love, November 18th . New York 1986-88
Books: Ott/Skai (ed). Wir Waren Helden fuer einen Tag. Hamburg. Rowohlt.1983.
My Bands: (1963-2008)
The Lonely Beats,
New York Niggers,
Festival of Patience,
East of Eden,