28 July 2016

Reviews: Sing Street, The Story Of O & more...

A bunch of reviews gathered in one post of recent books and films I read/watched.
If you have any recommendations, go ahead! And I hope you will enjoy this post as well.

1. Fangirl / Rainbow Rowell

This is the story: one time when Boris and I were walking to our band rehearsal, I found a bunch of books in a pile by the road. I picked some up, the above was one of them. By the first glance it looked nothing more than a fast food literature thing, made for you to read it as a cheap Hollywood comedy movie in your head. They even had illustrations of the characters inside, so you won't be exerting your little brain too hard:
seriously, this was in the book. Can you guess who the main character is? Oh, she's already on the cover, at least I think that's she, need to double check...
Besides, what kind of name is "Rainbow" anyway?
But - I was happy, or should I say relieved, to find out that it's a very cute book. It's basically your average awkward nerdy teen who starts college, and how she writes a gay fanfic in the process (of a book that purposely imitates Harry Potter).
Now, I could easily understand why the person threw this book to the streets, but in fact reading it was a lot of fun - I was happy to read something light for a change, and honestly many scenes were hilarious. The average teenage girl in all of us would relate to this.
This is as a whole a very sweet book about growing up and about writing - I loved how the main character experiences her biggest hobby and how she identifies through it.
As someone who writes gay fiction as a hobby I was embarrassed (in a good way) of how much this book spoke to me. So if you're looking for a "popcorn read" that will leave you with a very positive feeling in the end, this is it!

2.  The Story Of O / Pauline Reage


So the books I found by the road? This was one of them as well. 
I had no idea what this is until I read the description, which tempted the reader that this was a famous predecessor to Fifty Shades Of Grey.
Now, this is the best part - the cover above is the same as on my book, only on my book the words "before Fifty Shades Of Grey" were hidden with a white sticker, presumably to cover up the embarrassment of reading this on public transport!!!!! At this point, I had no doubt that the person who threw out the books was female (the power of deduction!).
So I have never read an erotic novel before and honestly had no expectation for this, other than it being very trashy. Here are my conclusions:
  • It is very sexual, and very graphic and erotic and everything else you would expect from this type of fiction.
  • It doesn't matter where you are in the book - open it on a random page and you won't be missing any of the "plot" - she's still being fucked, or treated like dirt, or being degraded by a man.
  • There are some quite disturbing anal sex scenes, which I was very sorry to read happened through PAIN and FORCE with the consequence of BLOOD, which made me feel very uncomfortable for women who would, through the pages of this book, read about anal sex for the very first time. That's not how it is you guys, please, go watch a how-to youtube video or something.

From a feminist perspective this is a complete disaster, and while I find absolutely nothing wrong with submissive fantasies of women by the hands of men, some sentences in the book made me cringe. And well, the whole idea of the husband of the main character bringing her to this huge sex mansion for other men to torture her because he "loves her" made no sense at all. That's not how you start a healthy sub-dom relationship, let alone fix your marriage. Just go read a wiki-how, you will get more of a "hands on" approach.

And here's the juicy part: reading arouses me. Reading of any fiction, of any topic. Processing words through my mind somehow triggers something in my body, oh my! So reading an erotic novel, well - it did what it should do and it was hot as hell. I only read it till half, seriously it was enough. Unfortunately I haven't got to the lesbian sex part, silly me...

3. Sing Street

This is a movie for all 80s and/or music lovers - a group of teenagers in Dublin form a band, make music videos and style themselves up, to make their lower class lives more interesting with the dream of moving away to London some day.
It was a cute coming of age movie, with great fashion and fun new wave music, imitating acts like The Cure & Duran Duran in a sweet childish way. But that's pretty much it, I cannot say it was emotionally swooping or anything.
And from Boris' perspective: no one can play their first ever gig at a high school gym that successfully. It's all lies, the poor sound engineering will fail you on your first song, not to mention shitting your tight ass pants!

But if you are looking for some style inspo, this is definitely the film to watch.

4. Hangover Square / Patrick Hamilton

A while ago I googled "most depressing books" and this one came up. Apparently this is a world classic and I am yet to see the film adaptation.
Anyhow, there's this loser guy who is so obsessed with his female friend that through a weird split-personality narrative he realizes he has to kill her.
This is a sad book about sad people. It's filled with cruelty, alcohol abuse (resulting in more sadness and cruelty), aimlessness and low self-esteem. If all this sounds curious to you, by all means go read this book.
For me personally, this book was less about "decadent sadness" but more about "pitiful sadness". I just felt sorry for the main character the entire time. The way he talks to himself in all his changing moods is very interesting to read, great for watching the world decay through a loser's eyes. Alas, you have been warned.

That would be all for today, write me some recommendation on what to read next!


26 July 2016

Berlin Pride 2016

Saturday was pride parade, and Boris, a friend and I went to march with the masses through Berlin.
Fun Fact: the reason why the parade was moved to Juli and did not take place in June like everywhere else in the world is because of the soccer World Cup. Now that's Germany for you!

The amount of people was crazy, and like every year there were a ton of wagons and people dressed in costumes.
Boris and I found the parade to be too political in the unfortunate sense of the word - there were more trucks of major corporations (who supported the parade, no doubt) and (left wing) political parties which looked like they were more propagandizing their own name through the parade.
Unlike last year, there was less involvement of people from the community.  where you could see many marginalized groups (for example - LGBTQA representatives of East European countries) bringing their people together.
We had an idea to maybe suggest having a queer-goth wagon (or group) next year, we know so many people who would potentially make this happen!

Otherwise we had a lot of fun and were dead tired in the end of the day. Our friend took some pictures:

they were Czech!


19 July 2016

Studio Recording Experience

This past weekend we've locked ourselves for a 3-day recording marathon at Blackstone Studios. We were recommended the studio by two acquaintances (one of them being H.U. Unrüh of Einstürzende Neubauten ftw!!!) and the date was set in advance.

We had a lot of fun recording. Everything turned out as planned and we even managed to slip in an additional song (where I sing!) which wasn't planned. I think we worked really well together as a whole and everyone was satisfied with the process and the result so far.

The best part was working with the studio-sound engineer-guy, Gerrit. We weren't wrong to assume that he really liked our music and we felt that he enjoyed working with us as well. It's such a great feeling of having your creative process in good hands. It also works as a sort of feedback, when a person outside the band takes the song apart and composes it together again. it makes you look at your music differently, also from the eyes of a professional.
Gerrit also suggested some creative ideas here and there that were very helpful, and overall we had very good chemistry which I consider to be huge luck.

I have recorded in a studio before a few times before and it has usually been incredibly stressful for me and I felt like placing myself under a lot of pressure, with the intention of making everything perfect.
Luckily this time was different, somehow things were running smooth, maybe thanks to me being more self confident about the instrument I play and the people I play with. And again, having someone sitting at the controls that you can trust helped a lot.

Here is a snippet of when Maike (the drummer) was recording some tambourine realness:

So aside from everything else. some cool psychedelic patterns were found...

 and some deep connections were made...

Can't wait to go on from here!
Happy week everyone, saturday in Pride Parade in Berlin, so I hope to blog after that as well :)


13 July 2016

Some BAND News

Thought I'd update you on how our band Girls Like Us are doing, since all of my friends are tired of hearing about it via FB.

I am ambitiously trying to warp my head around the whole "band vs. social media" thing, mainly because my goal is to reach out to potential "fans" who would be outside of our friend circle (someone should give a damn about our music out there, right?).

I mean, we don't have anything released yet (but soooooonn...) and we don't have a cool video that people can occasionally stumble across on youtube, and digging out people from Facebook to like our page (who are not our friends!) is a pretty difficult task on its own...

So, I made this low-fi video for our song Not Enough:

And I made us a band Instagram! You can follow us at @girlslikeus.band. Now we are to conquer the internet for sure...

This whole self-promotion thing is pretty new to me, so I can only hope I am doing it right. Some people like to discover music through youtube (I am among them), so this was the thought behind making the video above. Funny though, with the VHS looking visuals the original recording doesn't sound half bad! I would have loved to upload a different song with our current drummer, but we do not have that yet.

Speaking of which, this weekend we are locking ourselves in the studio for a recording marathon, the result of which is supposed to go to labels who would hopefully release it/book us gigs/support us for life.
Whether or not that plan will work is a good question, but we can at least try. The main priority is to gig like crazy atm, which is not an easy task as it is - Berlin is a small place (can you believe it?!) and gigging anywhere out of your own city is always a good thing. Boris has been working on that, and I am focusing on social media, which has been fun so far.

I like the idea how Instagram can give you a more personal picture (pun intended) of the band, like going behind the scenes and not being as official as on Facebook. Showing something with a picture attached is always a good tactic nowadays.
But now I certainly understand the amount of promotion going in to, say, a small business, which for me is what our band really is. We don't want to stay underground, we want to be out there. And surprisingly enough not all bands want that, especially not in the gothic subculture, which we stay away from like fire. No use locking yourself in tight categories, we need to be out there, urgh!


6 July 2016

Feminist role models in music & why I dislike Kim Gordon

The topic of feminist female musicians came to my mind a few times whenever I came across it on the internet. A subject mostly talked about by fellow female bloggers or musicians, it's basically when one lists female musicians or bands that have a feminist attitude that might have inspired them or served as support.
I found myself at a loss for when I tried to think of a few, and this is why I've decided to write this post.

I almost cannot name any particular female feminist role model, since I have never had the need to search for one. Call me privileged in that sense, but in all my years of listening and playing music (classical and not) I have never came across an incident that urged me to comfort or "empower" myself with female musicians screaming about social injustice.
In fact, I am a very unpolitical person and only in recent years began reading about feminism, and liking it.

But when it came to music, it has never been a topic my thoughts have drifted to. It's just music, regardless if it's a boy or a girl making it. If it has political messages, that would be a secondary thing of interest for me, as the first one would always be the music itself, and I might as well search for other kind of support in it, which is emotional - about feelings and things in your soul that trouble you and separate you from conventional society. That's what has always been on my mind.
Of course I do not enjoy bands that place women as sexual objects in lyrics and imagery, there are enough of those out there. But in the music I have always listened to it has never been a theme - not in post punk or alternative rock or progressive rock or what have you. Maybe if you come from other genres as metal or punk or hardcore you would have a different experience.

Speaking of bands, I find some particular female band members being adored as feminist role models. I would like to mention Kim Gordon, the bassist of Sonic Youth, as an example for that, .
I am quite surprised as to how many women musicians look up to her. In my personal opinion she's just another bass player. As a bassist she has never inspired me, I don't think she plays very well, her bass lines are often stray from harmony (because it's noise rock, ugh) but I don't personally see it as a smart move for a bass part (guitar yes, not bass) and I dislike her singing voice. She allegedly wrote feminist lyrics which you can hardly understand since they're really abstract, as all Sonic Youth lyrics.
I do like the band as a whole, bus I appreciate any bass player based on the context of the music they place their bass line in. And I just don't think Kim Gordon does that very well.

I find it difficult to talk about feminist musicians since most of the feminist oriented music I heard was completely indigestible. Bikini Kill are a strong band, but their music is horrible, even from a punk perspective. And mention any hardcore feminist band and it would be even worse - how can you understand the lyrics with all the screams? How is that a good message?
Speaking of punk, I completely detest the idea of expressing political opinions through aggression and rage. That is the one thing I have always disliked about punk in general, female or male, feminist or with any other political views - you will not convince me to think like you if you scream and express hate and violence, despite being the victim yourself (which might be in many cases relatable). You will not convince me by being vegan in screaming in my ear, and you will certainly not convince the average joe like that. So with any other good political message - if the music sucks nobody will be interested.

The only feminist female band I have ever related to were strangely Jack Off Jill. Now, I know what you're thinking - how are they different with all the screams and rage and, quite frankly, all the exaggerated childish "he was a bad boyfriend" lyrics and provocative attire.
I honestly don't know why I like them, maybe because when I heard them I was a teenager and the ideas seemed childish but fun to me. And I liked the unapologetic rage, which even then I realized was an allegory, a sort of theater if you will.
But I have not met a single person who knew about JOJ who hadn't come from some dark corner of the internet, which is a shame.

So it's all a matter of perspective on music and bands, I know and acknowledge that. But let me say this - just because a women is playing in a band doesn't mean it's a feminist act. If you play shit, you're music will be shit. All depends on how one presents things. and I do not deny entering a very controversial topic here.
I would be much more convinced of feminist ideas when there would be heterosexual men screaming about it, and playing damn well while they're at it; When there would be queer people in bands; When all-male bands won't use naked women for album covers. Just because a woman is singing about something is not enough good reason for me to consider it feminist, even if the idea is close to my heart.

I get a lot more "empowered" as a person when listening to music that truly speaks to me, when the ideas comfort me and make me think that I am not the only person having these thoughts about myself and the world, having these feelings. It doesn't have to be a woman, it can be anything. That's the beauty of music. I guess I am having a hard time with the idea that listening to music should be like writing a B.A assignment for political studies. You can learn from music and build your ideals without being yelled at (I am looking at you, Crass, who I equally dislike).

Or rather - don't brainwash me with anything, just be an amazing musician, the rest will come. Don't tell me anything, let me figure it out myself.

As a counter example, here's Against Me!

I don't expect anyone to agree with my opinion but thanks to the ones who read it.


3 July 2016

A Spontaneous Alone-Trip to Hamburg

Never thought I'd use the word - but Wanderlust has made me book a bus ticket to Hamburg, which is only 3 hours away from Berlin. I've wanted to travel somewhere alone for a while, and heard some cool things about Hamburg from Boris, who played there with Totenwald. Who also was away on the weekend for the same reason (this time playing in Poland), so why sitting home alone? And I've finished an assignment for uni so I wanted to go have fun.

woah an outfit picture! #60sgoth 

Hamburg is a harbor city, which is famous for its trade and architecture, and also for its red light district (St. Puli / Reeperbahn). We're talking sailor working class atmosphere, and boy I could feel it the moment I stepped off the bus. It was also incredibly cold and rained most of the day. It didn't feel like summer at all!

Chile House. I have no idea what this is but it was pretty monumental.

the municipality building

The best part of the trip was taking a sightseeing harbor tour on a boat! We were lucky to get a very funny and entertaining tour guide, really "people of the past" kind of guy. I already walked in the harbor district but seeing all the beautiful architecture from the boat gave a different feeling to it.
I also learned so much about the city!!! Like the fact that 70% of the world's trade with China is going through Hamburg.

On my way to St. Pauli I came across a cemetery, and by a further inspection of the graves it turned out to be a Jewish cemetery! Sadly it was closed, Jewish cemeteries are open like half a day once a week. Too bad, it looked beautiful.

At that point 2 things happened: I was dead tired and as it was a saturday evening which means: drunk packs of people (mostly men) began prepping themselves before the German vs. Italy soccer game (god damn you soccerscheiß!). And by prepping I mean drinking on the streets and screaming at the top of their lungs for no reason (BEFORE the stupid game even started!?!?!). I felt quite unsafe.

I made the mistake of booking my bus back quite late so the last 2 hours I spent aimlessly wandering the streets with zero power in me only to come across a gay bar by mistake. I felt relieved since I felt actually safe there - it was half empty and cosy, plus the men there didn't mind me at all (except for the Twink bartender who was very friendly and nice). So I had a beer there before heading back to the bus station.

It was a nice trip overall. I would have loved to visit the parks but the weather was crazy and having my bus 2 hours early would have been nicer, but all in all I am happy I went. I would love to experience the nightlife there if I'd have the chance, yet with company and not by myself.

Have a lovely week everyone!


1 July 2016

July Morning

Happy 1st of July (and my brother's birthday)!
Just the reason to share this amazing song:

Uriah Heep / July Morning

I don't care who you are or where you come from, nothing can deny the ingeniousness of July Morning. The keyboard solo in the end is to die for.

Uriah Heep were also very popular in Bulgaria, as they have an entire tradition called July Morning that was popular during the 60s - 80s. People travel to the Black Sea beach to greet the sunrise on the 1st of July. Wish I were there today!

Good vibes to everyone!