interviews

Insiders – Maria Gieseke

This month we had the immense pleasure of interviewing Danish-born Maria Gieseke, who we keep running into at every red carpet in Berlin. She’s best known for her career in the fashion business, where she both made her name for herself as a model and for running her own model agency.

Hey Maria, we’re so happy to have you! Your instagram account tells us you were at the GQ awards last night. Are you a notorious Berlin party hopper?

I’m actually not! I mostly get invited by friends and honestly – I can hardly believe my luck every single time. I’m very thankful to be blessed with such great friends.

What did you do before you came to Berlin?

I was born in a small town called Odense in Denmark, where I made an apprenticeship in the textile industry and became store manager with 18. I then worked 60-hour weeks as a headwaiter for some time, before meeting my ex-husband. I fell in love with a popular hairdresser from Düsseldorf who was touring Denmark. Four months later I moved to Düsseldorf and started curating the stage design and music for my ex-husband’s shows and organised his shops. My first time in Berlin was in 1992. My first impression was that everything was awfully grey.

You now live in Berlin. What changed your mind? 

About 4 years ago I accompanied a good friend to a Michael Michalsky fashion show and we had an absolute blast. I realized then how inspiring this city can be and I’ve grown really fond of Berlin since. You can be who you want to be here, there’s no false pretense and the next surprise is never far.

Like what…?

Like when your Iranian taxi driver suddenly starts to rap in german with his own lyrics…

Happens to us all the time. Being well-experienced in the fashion business, what do you think about the thinness-craze?

Absolutely terrible! I’m so happy we’ve been moving on from that non-sense for some years now. At my agency I always made sure my girls ate and they knew what they were eating. Especially in Paris the use of illegal substances isn’t uncommon, which makes it even more important to put your models and their health first. I once had to deal with a photographer who tried to slip drugs in a girl’s water before the shooting, but I got her out before any harm was done. I’m very much against drugs, they do much harm and absolutely no good. Having a model agency means having an enormous responsibility for the young boys and girls and being a role model. It’s a bit like being a mother.

What’s your opinion on the emerging vegan-eating trend?

Everybody has to decide for themselves. A good friend of mine is vegan and she feels great about it. I love down-to-earth meals and these often include a hearty portion of meat. My favourite meal is pork neck with crust, cooked and served by my mother! It’s so meaty you have to belch and sometimes get a stomach ache. It’s the best. I also love simple Danish Smørrebrød.

We hear your meatballs with mashed potatoes are a real hit. Are they really that good?

I don’t like bragging, but I do enjoy cooking. To me it’s like meditation. I often find inspiration on food markets, where I try exotic new fruits or vegetables and get ideas for new dishes. I’m a bit of a culinary adventurer.

What’s your favourite place to eat in Berlin?

I love the Chicago William BBQ on Torstraße. Their pulled pork and spare ribs are amazing. Also Dae Mon near Mon-Bijou-Platz is a real culinary gem.

What’s a great place to hang out in Berlin?

I love to have green tea at Soho House. It’s the perfect place for quiet contemplation or a nice chat.

Thanks so much for your time, Maria! 

Insiders – Monika Vögel

This month’s interviewee is former model, night club owner and make up artist Monika Vögel. She was one of the biggest icons in Berlin in the 1970s and has worked internationally until recently.

Hey Monika. We’re so glad to have you! First off – you’re 70 years old and still radiating with life. What’s your secret?

The secret is: There IS no secret. I’ve always been this old, but younger… which is also the title of my forthcoming book, by the way.

What are you best known for?

I started modelling at 14, ran two night clubs and a student restaurant, I’ve released an album and I’ve worked as self-taught make up artist for many years for TV, movie and big opera productions. People used to say for a joke that I don’t belong to the scene – I am the scene.

You came to Berlin in 1966. The hippie era was just taking off – what did you do then? What was Berlin like?

Berlin was super super super super SUPER! I was really fascinated by the hippie culture and soon became a hippie myself. Sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll, baby! Well, for me it was sex, love and Rock’n’Roll. I never liked drugs, but in the hippie time, people were crazy for them. Berlin was crazy back then. There was so much freedom, love and joy in the air. I had friends from all over the world from Turks, to Italians to Germans to my neighbour and even to David Bowie. If you think Berlin is crazy today, you should have seen it in the 70s!

In your time as a night-club owner you must have lived through some crazy stuff. What comes to your mind when you think back to that time?

I had this friend, Jean-Claude Baker. He opened a mixed club for heteros and gays in Berlin called „Pimm’s Club“. Since I already had some experience with running a club from my time at Sgt. Peppers, I took over the Pimm’s Club when Jean-Claude left for New York to open the first French cable TV in the USA. There were more scandals at Pimm’s Club than I could tell you about in a lifetime… once a month I did a travestie show with my friends, even playing myself, bunt gemischt mit freunden. It was the best time ever. Once I had to take up a fight with all the street pimps, because I wouldn’t allow them in the club. They lured me outside and formed a circle around me, ready to attack. I told those assholes that I knew all their bosses, and if anyone so much as dared to touch me, they would be dead! I didn’t have trouble with them again after that.

You left Berlin in 1981 and didn’t come back until almost 15 years ago. Where did you and why?

I left for Frankfurt to work as make up artist in TV shows and advertisements. I landed a good job as make up artist for a cinema production from Wien and later met my 4th husband, Tommy, in Wien. After that, I stayed for love. It wasn’t long after that until I found myself confronted with a dog every day… I did make up for more than 200 episodes of Kommissar Rex (Inspector Rex)!

So… did you do the dog’s make up too?

Haha, screw you. I used to say I did his lipstick. Luckily the cast was bigger than just the dog.

You were also good friends with Falco. How did you become friends?

I was hanging at this bar in Wien when some guy approached me and invited me to a glass of champagne. I’m not crazy for drinks, but he was really nice and it was hard to say no. After the barkeeper told him my husband was Tommy, he started laughing. He knew Tommy well and from this point on, we were friends. Tommy did set design for Falco’s videos and I started doing the make up for all of Falco’s videos. One day I met Falco in the city and we talked for the best part of hours without sitting down or even moving. Four weeks later he was dead…

The best die young… well, except for you! You were quite a musician yourself in your time – in 1987 you released your album “Sag ja” (Say yes) and stormed the charts. What was being a musician like?

There was this film scene where my band and me performed 6 songs live in 22 minutes which created a big media echo and my first album did pretty well. (Un)fortunately my band was full of great artists, and of course after they didn’t like the commercial direction it was taking. I would have needed a new band, so I thought: What the hell. I’m done anyway and I need a paying job. That was right before I started with the Kommissar Rex, opera and TV productions.

With so much going on in your life, we can’t help but wonder: What are you working on these days?

I’m collecting input for my memoirs and writing poems. The book will be called „I’ve always been this old, just younger“. Expect to read a lot about the untold scandals from my days… it will be worth the wait.

Thank you for your time, Monika… we can’t wait for your book!

Insiders – Eric Wahlforss

Eric Wahlforss

This month’s interviewee is Eric Wahlforss. Eric is co-founder and CTO of the Berlin-based company SoundCloud, known for their online music streaming service with 175 million monthly visitors. Just yesterday (10.05.2016) SoundCloud has launched their new subscription service SoundCloud Go in the US, UK and France which allows you to stream millions of songs from all the major labels ad-free! 

Q: Hey Eric. Pleasure to have you here. So, you and SoundCloud, huh? How did that all start?

A: Me and Alex Ljung met in Stockholm in the early 2000s. We both played music and Alex had this studio where we started hanging out. We did some projects together and at some point decided to solve a really obvious problem. There was no dedicated online platform for musicians to share their music with people who wanted to listen to it. We realised how huge the demand was when we made SoundCloud public after 2 years of testing. The user numbers went through the roof. Today we have 12 million creators, 175 million listeners per month and more than 125 million tracks online. In comparison – Spotify and Apple music have about 30 million songs.

Q: Almost 10 years into leading a company – you must be stressed out!

A: You learn to cope with the stress. These days I try to disconnect as often as possible. My girlfriend Sophie is a big help for me. She’s also running a company and we’re amazing at being lazy together.

Q: You’re a musician. Do you still find time to play?

A: Well, I released an album in 2012. It’s made from the sounds of strings, organs and choirs. For the percussion I used only wood, stone and metal. The album took 3 years to produce and with SoundCloud going stronger than ever, I don’t really find time to play often these days. But we’ve had this concert at Berghain a few years back and me and Alex played at Burning Man last year. That was intense!  

Q: Ever feel tempted to feature your own songs on SoundCloud’s homepage? 

A (laughs): The most important thing is that the right music finds the right people. So… no.

Q: Just a trick question. What drew you to Berlin?

A: I first came to Berlin for the love parade in 1997. It was a total game changer. I had the most amazing time and went to clubs like Tresor even though I was only 17. For SoundCloud we also considered London, Vienna and Barcelona but were drawn back to Berlin in 2007 because we found an investor here. Berlin has grown up since. But it’s still rougher and crazier than other places. Compared to London or New York, Berlin is very chilled out. The energy is on a whole different level. 

Q: What do you not like about the city?

A: The service is terrible. TERRIBLE. Maybe it’s worse in Russia or Poland, but Berlin isn’t far behind. Especially when you want to bring new people to Berlin. They either have a great time and instantly love it, or they’re unlucky and have a terrible experience with human interactions here. Shouting cab drivers, unfriendly staff in restaurant, the whole service sector.

Q: Cool things you’ve experienced in Berlin?

A: Last summer Sophie and me drove around on our bikes. We heard electronic music in the distance and spontaneously decided to check it out. It was this amazing open air festival at Rummelsburg, located right at the Spree. After a little dancing we saw people swimming and thought what the hell, let’s go swimming! A few minutes later we were sitting in a small boat, drinking beers with strangers while listening to techno music. That’s the vibe that makes Berlin special and that it has always kept over the years.

Q: Your favourite place in Berlin?

A: I live between the office, my flat and Soho House, where I work out. I also really love the Piano Salon Christophori. It’s this super rough piano factory, like an old warehouse, and they also give concerts with great pianists. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Probably still in Berlin. Maybe with a family… :-) 

Thanks for your time and all the best for you!

Insiders – Måns Herngren

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This month we interviewed swedish A-list celebrity Måns Herngren. He’s a famous movie director, produces his own tonic essence and was part of the winning team at the synchronised swimming World Championships in 2013. So technically he’s an A+++ celeb who swims super well.

Q: Hello Måns! You’re a man of many talents. Movie director, swimmer, tonic essence producer… How did you get to do all these things?

A: As my kids grew older, I suddenly found I had a lot of time. I’m a very curious person. Someday I wondered what tonic tasted like before it became the tonic we know today. How did it taste before the British brought it here from India? I did some research, read some books, and then somehow one thing lead to another.

Q: You’re also a famous TV and movie producer. How did that start?

A: I was a child actor when I was 10 and really started working in the TV business when I was 16, doing interviews and such. Sweden is a small country and back then, we only had two commercial channels. It was relatively easy to be on TV if you really wanted it. In the early 90s I moved over to doing movies, but ever since HBO kicked off the trend for high quality series about six or seven years ago, I’ve found my way back to TV. These days I’m working both on movies and TV series.

Q: For the past three years, you’ve been living in both Stockholm and Berlin. Why did you choose Berlin?

A: We filmed the ending of my movie Allt Flyter here. That was when I found my love for Berlin – and for synchronized swimming.

Q: Not exactly a hobby that too many people share!

A: True. Allt Flyter is about a group of guys who become synchronized swimmers and attend the finals in Berlin. I didn’t want to use body doubles – which would have been hard to find anyway – so me and the actors started training together. Synrchonized swimming, once a week, for 6 months. Nothing helps bonding more than having someone else’s ass in your face while you’re underwater and almost naked. I’m still doing it every Wednesday.

Q: That sounds tempting. You’ve been commuting between Stockholm and Berlin for 3 years now. What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Berlin reminds me a lot of New York in the 80s. Things in New York have changed so much in the past 30 years, but they haven’t in Berlin. Total freedom of self-expression. Nobody cares if you go and buy breakfast in your joggers. A lot of people said that New Yorkers are inpolite and rude and they said the same about Berliners, but I’ve never experienced it that way.

Q: What was the craziest thing you experienced in Berlin?

A: I think I was the craziest thing that happened in Berlin!

Q: Stories! We want stories!

A: One time I was out having a fancy dinner with Henrik and my wife. I was dressed in a classy suit and to be honest I looked pretty snobbish. But someone Henrik managed to get us into Berghain at night. Don’t ask me how. When we got in, people looked at me like I was crazy. They wondered: Who’s that guy? How did he get in? It’s really hard to make people lift an eyebrow in Berlin, but somehow I managed.

Q: What projects are you working on right now?

A: I’ll start shooting a sequel with my brother for his movie The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared later this year, which will be shot partly in Kreuzberg and partly in Budapest. Also I’m looking to found a gin and tonic label with a friend and visit all the little distilleries in Berlin.

Q: YES! Uhm.. I mean. Yes. You’re a man after our taste. What makes you happy, apart from gin and tonic?

A: With 50 years I’m quite old now. But five years ago I felt really, really old. What made me happy again was realizing that age is just a number. Some people say after 30, you don’t really meet a lot of new friends. But that’s not true. You just have to be open-minded and be open to the world and age won’t matter anymore. My wife and I started taking German lessons recently, so we could start talking with an old lady in our house who doesn’t speak English.

Q: Das ist wunderbar. Last question. What would you do if you had 10 million dollars?

A: I would buy a huge airplane and fly refugees over to Europe. It’s really embarassing how Europe is one of the strongest economies in the world and doesn’t help people in need. I’m really proud of Germany to be supporting the refugees. Together we can do it!

Thanks for your time, Måns! See you in Berghain! ;-)

Insiders – Dennis Creuzberg

This month we’ve met Dennis Creuzberg, who’s better known as one of Berlin’s finest hairdressers. International top stars like Jette Joop, James Blunt, Charlize Theron or Paris Hilton already trusted Dennis to spice up their looks.

Q: Hey Dennis! It’s quite astonishing that right after your apprenticeship you started working at Studio Steimel, one of the best hairdressers in Cologne. After that you worked at Udo Walz’ place in Berlin. How come you started right at the top of the food chain? Or rather, hair chain. 

A: I was rather lucky to get invited for a work trial. I had to prove my talent and from there it wasn’t such a long way to get hired. Also, male hairdressers were still a bit of novelty back then, so that was a plus point for me, too.

Q: What are the requirements to become a great hairdresser?

A: Even though there is lots to be learned, not everything can be learned. A certain portion of talent is essential for the work. You also have to be fashion-conscious and follow the latest trends.

Q: What is the price range for hair cuts at your salon?

A: The standard treatment for men starts at 55€, including consultation, massage and haircut. A haircut with colour and all the trimmings will be around 250€, and time-consuming desires like extensions might end up costing up to 2000€.

Q: How did the beauty scene change in the past 10 years?

A: By the end of the 90s, men had a bit of a low point when it came to styling. When I got here in 2003, only few Berliners were willing to spend much money on good haircuts. It was the time of cut&go hairdressers, who charge about 10€ for a haircut. Everyone looked remarkably unremarkable and didn’t want to catch too much attention. But as Berlin became more fashionable and expensive, people developed a new attitude towards that topic.

Q: What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Diversity. Today you’re getting a coffee with your joggers on and tomorrow you’ll sit at an event in your suit. There is no fixed direction in Berlin, you just go where the wind takes you. I love that!

Q: What do you do on a Saturday night?

A: I like to meet with friends and enjoy the Berlin food scene. I don’t really go out much anymore…but when I do, going to Berghain wouldn’t be so far fetched.

A: Berghain? Are you a techno kid?

Q: When I was 20ish I went dancing to techno a lot. We used to get our game on at the Wartesaal Club in Cologne, and afterwards head over to a little club in Neuß, where everyone met for the afterhour. There were lots of great parties back then!

A: Do you think Berlin has become a trendsetter?

Q: Definitely. In the last years Berlin has really developed a deep vein for fashion and has given itself its own distinctive face. Under the slogan “I do what I like and I am what I am” Berlin’s face represents the need for freedom, for every person on an inidividual scale – but also for fashion on a general scale. I think the whole Hipster trend developed from that mind set, and has become really popular world wide.

Q: What funny things happened during your career?

A: I once had this customer in Cologne. He was a pimp. One day he asked me if I wanted to come to his brothel to cut his girls’hair and well… I said yes. So once every month I would pack my things an stay at the brothel for two days and cut the girls’ hair in the private area. They were really grateful to have someone come by who wasn’t just there for the one thing. When I started cutting they would just start chatting away… I got to know some names of really prominent customers.

Q: Like who?

A: I wouldn’t tell.

Q: Just a test. Do you already know beforehand when prominent international figures come to your salon for a haircut?

A: Not always. When James Blunt came for a haircut, they told me it was him just minutes before he arrived.

Q: Last but not least – whats your favourite place in Berlin that you can recommend to our readers?

A: My favourite place is my couch!

Q: But we can’t send our readers to your couch…can we?

A: You can try! But no. There’s this lovely Italian place called Delizie D’Italia on Kollwitzstraße. Real Italians, real Italian food, real Italian flair. Not the prettiest of places, but the realest. I’ve been going there for years.

Alright! Thanks for taking the time Dennis. We’ll see you at the next haircut! 

Insiders – Zoe Rasch

Zoe Rasch is head of the Berlin based booking agencies Birds and Bells and Mint Booking.

Q: Hey Zoe. Great to have you here. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

A: Sure! I’ve been a Berliner for close to 20 years now. I originally came here to study, but soon fell in love with the city and it’s evergoing rythm. I went out dancing a lot and one thing lead to another: I became a DJ. I was spinning records in Berlin and performed all over Europe. The past 5 years I’ve been building up my own booking agency called “Birds and Bells”, supporting aspiring female artists, who often don’t get the support their male counterparts do. Last year me and Ena Lind gave birth to another booking agency called “Mint Booking”, which also represents female artists, but only from the electronic music scene.

Q: Only female DJs play at Mint parties. They regularly go through the roof. How did you come up with the concept?

A: Ena and me realized how incredibly hard it was to get booked as a female DJ. Lots of the club owners and party hosts are men and often give playtimes to their friends or people within their network, who often turn out to be men aswell. We analysed the market and came up with a solution: creating our own network within the clubbing scene.

Q: Too often in the nightlife scene the keyword is “sex sells”. How does Mint handle that approach?

A: There’s clubs and parties in Berlin that focus on sexy DJs, but that’s not us. We’re representing serious female DJs who are appreciated for their creative approach on music. They’re liked and loved for their music, not for their neckline.

Q: Your favourite record? Like, ever?

A: Hah. I have a whole cabinet full of favourite records. Same with DJs.

Q: You have a cabinet full of DJs?

A: Not exactly. But if I have to settle for a few…I think the way Aerea Negrot handles music is both brave and inspiring. Same with the Black Madonna – disco, eighties, deep house – she really creates unique mixes within the genres. Or Tama Sumo. You never know what she’s feeling right now, until she starts playing. That’s real expression of creativity.

Q: Techno or Deep House?

A: Deep House.

Q: What does Berlin mean for you?

A: Freedom. And a raw, rough wildness. We’re at a tipping point right now, though. Berlin becomes more and more international, which brings a new aspect to the city.

Q: Coolest thing that happened while you were spinning records?

A: Well…I did feel a little funny about it the next morning. I once literally swapped shirts with Bob Young on stage. While I was playing. A moment I will probably never forget!

Q: Any tipps for aspiring DJs or event planners?

A: Building a career is like assembling a mosaic. Build a network, that’s the key.

Q: Mint is going strong. What are your goals for the future?

A: There’s just so many things that can still be done. We’re promoting the platforms popularity and want to extend the reach of female DJs. We’re looking into hosting a festival in the next 2-3 years, with workshops, discussions and of course gigs all under one roof. We’re also working on bringing Mint to more cities than just Berlin and of course we’re still looking for more artists!

Q: So if I had a gender reassignment…would I have chance to get into Mint?!

A: Haha! Yes, then you would be good to go. After applying.

Q: Favourite Bar?

A: I’m more of a warm, rustic person when I’m in private. Hence I really love Moebel Olfe at Kottbusser Tor. The people there are still real and unpretentious.

Q: Favourite party?

A: Mint, what else!!!

Thanks for taking the time Zoe! Best of luck for the future and we’ll see you at the next Mint Party!

Insiders – Interview with Hanno Koffler

This month’s interview features our favourite German actor, Hanno Koffler. Hanno is known for his amazing performances in movies like Nacht vor Augen (2008), Freier Fall (2013) and his most recent coup Härte (2015). If you only know Hanno from his onscreen appearances, this is your chance to catch up!

Q: Hey Hanno. Congratulations, you just got nominated as Best Actor for the second year in a row! How are you feeling right now?

A: I’m feeling awesome right now. It’s great to have your work appreciated by the business and colleagues, especially since I’m really proud of the work I’ve done in “Härte”. Playing Andreas Marquardt wasn’t an easy role, it was a really special and intense work, so right now I’m just feeling thankful for all the appreciation shown for the movie.

Q: Did you always want to become an actor?

A: Nah, there were a bunch of things I considered doing when I was younger. I always liked the idea of being a craftsman, like a woodworker or maybe even a gardener. Then again I also thought I was going to be a Rockstar for quite some time… which hasn’t worked out so well.

Q: Hanno the Rockstar, wouldn’t that be something. What’s your favourite band?

A: Hmm… tough question. Back in the days it used to be Nirvana, but I really like the Beatles and I’m a big fan of Elvis Presley. Depending on the mood I’m also into Bob Dylan or even Schubert and Mozart… I think I need a pre-made list with answers for questions like this, it’s really difficult to settle for one.

Q: Becoming an actor is a very profound experience – things from deep inside your soul are washed to the surface, things you maybe never knew even existed. What was the most important thing you learned about yourself in the process of becoming an actor?

A: I guess one of the most profound lessons I learned was coming to realize how acting is not about perfection, but rather about accepting your own imperfections and to let them show on the outside. It’s about finding your own truth and building up your own personality. It’s about finding a quiet and true point within yourself from which you can develop into new directions and adapt to new roles. Then there’s body language, controlling your voice and finding the way to your emotionality. It’s also about learning to let everything go.

Q: Did you already find that point?

A: It’s a constant search, really, and I’m not sure if it can ever be wholly found – however the search definitely has made me aware of some of my hurts. Learning how to act is a never-ending process, because it’s a journey to your own personality, which always transforms, grows and changes.

Q: In “Freier Fall” you’re playing the married police officer Mark, who starts a love affair with a homosexual colleague – very much to his own surprise. The film manages to create an incredible atmosphere and intimacy. How do you prepare for a role like that?

A: First of all, by reading the film script. Then it gets trickier: You have to try to understand your character’s world and try to dive into the depths of his mind. Once I feel I have good understanding of my character, I’m giving it all my passion and emotionality to get engaged with the role and just see where things go from there. 

Q: So… did “Freier Fall”  reveal a formerly unknown passion for the male sex or was it just fantastically played?

A (laughs): It was just fantastically played. 

Q: What about Freier Fall 2? Is it just rumours?

A: I really like the idea, especially since it’s extremely rare for German arthouse movies to have a sequel. We had more than 6 millions views on the trailer just from the US, so the interest for Freier Fall has grown to an international level. We have this huge audience from all over the world and lots of questions that still need to be answered, so getting the funding for a sequel would be great. Max Riemelt and me are definitely up for it if we can take a liking to the script and to achieve that the producers and writers need to raise enough money for developing a great story and for making the whole thing happen. It’s still a long way to go, though and the project needs as much support as it can get – there’ll be a crowdfunding campaign soon, so get involved, everyone!

Q: What was the craziest thing you’ve been through while acting?

A: Well, there’s always the good old house ban. We were in this shabby hotel while filming Freier Fall and had a little get-together after we were halfway through with the shooting. We had a few drinks too many and partied until the early morning… until the hotel had enough and we have to pack our things and get going.

Q: In “Härte” you’re playing Andreas Marquardt – a man who’s been through a life of violence, abuse and hatred. What was it like to play that role?

A: It was extremely intense. Above all it was a very special honour to play Andreas – he’s a very authentic person who’s been through a hell hardly anyone of us can begin to understand. 

Q: What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Home. Family. Friends. At the same time it can also be stressful and create a longing for the countryside. It’s a bit of a love hate relationship.

Q: In what ways did you experience the change Berlin has underwent in the past 20 years?

A: At one point I was gone for almost a decade and realized that lots had changed when I came back. Just a few hundred meters from here my band used to jam in a little rehearsal space in some worn down backyard. Now the place boasts a 24 hours supermarket, a health care center and tourists everywhere!

Q: Which night clubs do you go to?

A: We usually party at someone’s flat and put on a quality DJ set to get us grooving through the night. Apart from that – Kater Holzig and Berghain are good choices to have a fun night out. 

Q: Can you recommend any restaurants for our readers?

A: My all time favourite is Jules Verne on Schlüterstraße, I’ve been going there for years – there’s no way I ever get tired of their Schnitzel. Not too far from here there’s the Antillo – run by real Italians, they cook some great food aswell.

Q: Favourite bar?

A: Don’t really have one. I was having a few drinks at Viktoriabar in Schöneberg the other day, that was pretty cool!

Insiders – Sarah Bowden

Sarah Bowden is an Australia-born actress, dancer and singer. She’s a real globetrotter but lost her heart to our beloved Berlin 7 years ago and we’ve been happy to have her ever since. Here she talks Berlin, the future of the entertainment scene and why Schöneberg is the place for her.

Q: Hey Sarah. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

A: I’ve been on the stage for the past 20 years performing in musicals and carbaret. You might ha-ve seen me on shows like Der Schuh das Manitu, Tanz der Vampire or We Will Rock You. Last summer I played in “Heller Wahnsinn” in the Varieté Wintergarten, now I’m hosting my own show there. I really like the Berlin carbaret scene!

Q: How did you end up performing anyway?

A: I had my first dancing lessons when I was 3 and it kind of just took off from there. My two brothers over in Australia also perform in musicals, but I don’t think it’s in our blood. My mother is a tax consultant and my dad is a construction worker…

Q: When and why did you come to Berlin?

A: I had this job here. We toured Germany and the first place I ended up in was Düsseldorf. It was horrible. I was about to pack my things and get back on the plane, but luckily we were scheduled to play in Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt soon. Those were a little better but still not really that inte-resting… it was only when I got to Berlin that I changed my mind. Berlin was different. I had the weird feeling of belonging here. I mean I was in London, Tokyo, Spain, Canada, New York but no place ever felt like home. Berlin did.

Q: Is there a special reason you’re living in Schöneberg?

A: After watching “Carbaret” with Liza Minnelli I just couldn’t help dreaming of moving to Schöne-berg one day. I’ve always related to the movie’s main character Sally Bowles, who lived in the area.. I’ve even been blessed enough to play Sally Bowles in a musical, so moving here and playing Sally really was a dream come true.

Q: How do you feel about performing in Berlin of all the places?

A: Everyone has this one dream. Some hope to jump out of a plane one day, others want to buy a Porsche, for me it was playing Sally in this city.

Q: How did the enterainment scene change over the last years?

A: It’s not only the entertainment scene, it’s the whole city that’s changed. The range of shows and possibilities the city offers has gotten much wider, so the people are for more open to new ideas. I feel the city itself is growing more commercial by the day. Just look at Ku’Damm today and 7 years back. You wouldn’t recognize it. The entertainment scene is trying to maintain the Berlin hype. The art of Berlin. They’re opening up to new concepts, for example when we did “Heller Wahnsinn” at Wintergarten. It was a mix of Burlesque, Carbaret and Musical.. they’re starting to melt into one performance.

Q: So you’re saying the future will bring some wild mix ups of different performance styles?

A: Exactly! Decades ago each discipline worked for itself. What we get to see now is a mix of Car-baret, live music, Aerial Arts, Hip Hop Dance, Musical,… there’s lots of differente influences. I can’t tell you where we’ll be in 10 years, but my guess is this trend will continue. That’s what makes it cool, the mixture.

Q: What are you up to in the next time?

A: I’ll probably be pretty busy with my new show Sally&Fred, which premieres on the 30th of March in Wintergarten. I’ll be performing alongside with Helmut Baumann. He’s a real god in the theatre scene and has brought countless international success stories to Berlin and adapted them for the German audience. He’s 76 and still rocking the stage!

Q: Where are you headed for a night out?

A: The Soho House has become the place to be I think. And in Schöneberg I’m still hanging out in the same bar that was my first very bar in Berlin: Victoria Bar on Potsdamer Straße. Some things never change, I guess…

Insiders – Stephan Hentschel

Stephan Hentschel is one of the most celebrated chefs in Berlin right now. He’s best known for his role as kitchen chef in the vegetarian restaurant Cookies Cream (which scored a very decent 14 points in the Gault Millau) , not-so vegetarian Chipps at Gendarmenmarkt and newly opened Crackers on Friedrichstraße. He’s also co-owner of the Volta gastro-pub, famous for their delicious burgers. We immediately liked him.

Q: Hey Stephan. Us at Berlinagenten, we love meat. Nice and tender, tasty and juicy. How come you’re best known for cooking vegetarian dishes?

A: That actually wasn’t up to me. I’m not even a vegetarian. It’s the Cookie Cream’s concept to only serve tasty, vegetarian dishes and I’ve been up for the challenge for the past 7 years. In most restaurants you’ll get your standard rice or pasta dish when you’re inclined to avoid meat, but we’re trying to create vegetarian meals that are somewhat out of the ordinary. If you’re a meatlover, though, swing by at Chipps, Volta or our newly opened restaurant Crackers and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Q: What’s new about the Crackers?

A: The Crackers is located right below the Cookies Cream, so obviously we went for a different concept there. While the Cookies Cream is about fine dining, the Crackers provides a cozy, leaned back living room atmosphere, where you can just hang out with friends, have some food and enjoy a few drinks while you’re at it. It’s basically just one really spacey room that you enter through the kitchen, a mix between bar, lounge and restaurant. There’s DJ nights on tuesday, thursday and friday nights in the same halls that were once home to the Cookies… it’s not as dead as you might think.

Q: Did you always dream of becoming a chef?

A: I didn’t even know I wanted to cook in the first place! I originally started working on a construction site, but reality hit me pretty soon. Getting up early, all the while in the cold outside and just a few poorly made sandwiches for the day weren’t really my thing. At all. After that I did a traineeship at a 5 star hotel’s kitchen and realized I wanted to become a chef rather than a construction worker.

Q: Berlin wasn’t really buzzing on the culinary radar of Europe’s cities for a pretty long time. Why do you think that changed over the last years?

A: When I came to Berlin after finishing my training in 2001, there was about a handful of decent restaurants in the city. I think that transformation was due to Berlin drawing young and creative people from all over the world, more than a few of them being chefs. They came here to enjoy life, live their dreams and of course, go partying. The working hours in hotels don’t really fit these ambitions, so many of them took up jobs in restaurants, which eventually led to an increased creative quality on the menues. On the other hand there’s that great supply of organic food we’re getting now, the groceries come straight from the farmers to our restaurants. That led to a big increase of the food’s quality.

Q: Even though you’re still pretty young (33), you’re celebrated as Berlin’s next master chef and the culinary world craves for you creations. How do you handle the hype?

A: To be honest, the hype doesn’t really mean that much to me. I’m just glad I get to cook at my own restaurants and they’re going well, what more could I ask for? Sometimes people ask me if I didn’t want to have a Michelin star, but honestly, I don’t. We’re almost always booked up and having a Michelin star would just mean less guests.

Q: Less guests? I should have thought more guests!

A: Our costumers are a cool, leaned back crowd that come here because they feel we’re still down to earth and carry some of that urban Berlin flair. I feel the same way and don’t care for a star and I think neither do our costumers. Of course, there’s a few Michelin star chefs who are doing a great job at marketing and manage to create their own brand, anyway. In the end, I think the Cookies Cream is one of the top notch restaurants in Berlin, star or not.

Q: Agreed! Is there a dish you can’t stand?

A: I’m really not into food that’s still moving when it’s served. Or blue mold cheese.

Q: Where do you find our inspiration?

A: I just have a look at the groceries, really. There’s about 12 different farmers that I regularly visit and we’re talking through what can be planted or harvested soon and then I just kind of go from there. But my personal favourite is the classic french cuisine. I’m a bit of a potato-boy.

Q: The Cookies Cream is located right above the former Club Cookie. Did you often encounter party zombies that would swing by after dancing a whole night through, seeking to refill their vitamin tanks?

A: Nah, they mostly swung by in the evening, before they became party zombies. Our light fares are a solid choice for a pre-party meal. Lots of vitamins and easy on the stomach, gets you through the night every time. The next morning people are more inclined to pay their tributes to the Chipps, where they can get hearty English meals to deal with the hang over.

Q: Let’s talk clubbing. Do you often pay hommage to the famous Berliner Technoschuppen (techno clubs)?

A: I used to be a real Berghain-kiddo. Even back then, when it was still called Ostgut. I’m a huge fan of electronic music and I’m really into techno and house parties. You’d often find me at Kater Holzig, about:blank or sometimes the Watergate. Then there’s that great underground techno party culture you’ll only find in Berlin… not always strictly legal, but guaranteed to blow your mind away.

Q: Which other restaurants can you recommend? Apart from yours, obviously. 

A: I like to hang out in the Prater Biergarten on sunny days and have some classic Schnitzel along with a cool beer. Hard to beat! Other than that, there’s the Cocolo Ramen on the Gipsstraße, definitely worth a visit.

Alright! Thanks for taking the time, Stephan, we’ll see you soon!

Insiders: Berlin Legends – Lagerfeld von Xberg

Be aware, folks, this month’s interview definitely is the craziest one we’ve done yet. Nothing for the faint-hearted, either. This story’s protagonist has worked on more than 300 films and once planted a bomb in a Paris hotel room. It went off. This interview will take you on a ride – an exclusive behind the scenes ride into a real treasure cave of the Berlin art scene.

It all began at a busy intersection in Berlin Kreuzberg (Kreuzberg = Xberg). Freezing our butts off in the typical Berlin cold of the winter, we were waiting to be picked up by our very special interview partner of the month. All we knew was when and where to wait. No address, no names, strictly anonymous. He usually doesn’t invite guests into his atelier and he usually doesn’t give interviews, either, but somehow we managed to get a hold of him. Don’t ask how.

And then, there he was. Lagerfeld von Xberg. We walked over to his side of the street and were greeted by a broad smile. It wasn’t quite enough to distract from the colourful jeans (self painted), the distinctive hair cut or several scarves loosely tingling from his neck, all in different colours. The friendly wrinkles around his eyes seemed timeless, and though well beyond 60 years, the sparkle in his eyes still burned with energy and curiosity. Eagerly we followed him through the depths of several Kreuzberg backyards, slowly loosing orientation – night comes early in Berlin this time of the year and we found ourselves surrounded by a wall of grey slab buildings.

If what happened so far felt out of place, we were in for way more than that. We entered his flat. Immediately our brains started putting up a protest against the sudden visual impact the blur of colours had on us. The walls and floor plastered with collages of naked women, dressed women, graffitis, paintings, tags, posters, plaster figures. In the middle of the room ten partly molten barbies dangle down from the ceiling, body parts sticking in all directions. The upper body of a plaster figure next to us obviously required a caesarean section, the head of a barbie doll sticking out of its bloody belly. The life sized plaster bear at the opposing wall seems to be waiting. To start pissing in a bucket located right under his crotch. What was all this? It was time to start asking questions, but… where to begin?

Q: Hey Lagerfeld. Who are you and… what is it you’re doing here?

A: I’m a living being. I’m Lagerfeld von Xberg. You know, Lagerfeld of Paris loves Chanel, Lagerfeld of Xberg loves Chantal.

That much was obvious. His shirt depicted a woman with a mask on, pulling down her shirt that said “Chantal” in the direction of her bare vagina. Lovely.

Q: Right. And why do you call yourself “Lagerfeld”?

A: I once worked for Karl Lagerfeld and I think he really is a great, inspiring person. An idol of human nature. But me, I never chose to be Lagerfeld. Apparently I talk a lot like him. I mumble a little, so folks started calling me Lagerfeld. I also really liked Dennis Hopper. He had that aura of greatness and was a great guy to work with, very professional.

Q: I see. So how did all this begin? What are your roots?

A: When I was 7, a military doctor removed my tonsils by force. He tore them out, no anaesthesia. When I was 10, I was put in a nunnery with deaf and retarded children… the problem was, I was neither. I spent 10 years there, involuntarily. After I survived that, I became a window shop decorator for the KaDeWe

Henrik and me shot ourselves careful sight glances. That was some heavy stuff. But it didn’t explain how he ended up here, or how he had done 300 films, or destroyed a hotel room in Paris.

Q: So how did you end up in the film making business?

A: There once was this group of film makers sitting next to me in a restaurant. They talked about some issues they had with the special effects and pyrotechnics for their movie, so I offered help. Next thing I know, I’m working on the requisites for a movie by Fred van der Kooij. After the movie was released, Studio Babelsberg called me and asked if I wanted to do the special effects for a big cinema production they were making. But there was a requirement. They asked me: “Have you ever done cinematic movies before?”. So I replied “Hell yes I have”.

Q: But that was a lie, it was only your second movie!

A: Of course it was. I never actually said I was pyrotechnist either, they just thought so. Technically I was always very close to hearing the prison door slam shut behind me, but things never went wrong.

Q: Luckily! Like that one time, when you set off a bomb in a Paris hotel room. What was that all about?

A: I received a call, asking if I could detonate a hotel room in Paris. Hotel Marceau was planning to renovate their premises and they came up with the idea to allow several artists to reshape the interior of the rooms and create something unique before starting the renovations. Nah, I said, that’s a little over my head. I mean, come on. Then Gregor Hildebrandt came up to me – he was one of the artists given a room to express his vision – and had me convinced I was the only person for this job. So… I built a bomb. And took it to Paris.

Q: Jesus. Did you inform the authorities that you built a bomb for an art project?

A: Well… I meant to, really. But somehow that didn’t work out, so I smuggled the bomb to Paris on a train. The authorities in Paris never knew there was going to be an explosion, so I made my escape right after it went off. Just to make sure I wouldn’t be arrested.

Q: Good thinking. So… what are all those barbie dolls doing here? 

A: They were requisites for a movie we made. My daughters handed me their old dolls and I decapitated them, melted them and tore them apart. For the movie of course. Went okay, they don’t scream, don’t mind anyway and never once complained.

Q: So you didn’t do that because you think that Barbies are bitches or something, right?

A (laughs): No, my bitches are over in the kitchen. Cut them out of calendars. My cooking bitch, my dish washing bitch, my shoe cleaning bitch and my turn-me-on bitch. But the turn-me-on bitch is sitting in the corner as I don’t want her to turn me on all the time.

At first we thought it was all a little (read: very) astonishing, but listening to this old jolly soul tell his story, all the while with an amused twinkle in his eyes, you couldn’t help it but to like this guy.

Q: What does Berlin mean to you?

A: Life, I guess. But for me, Berlin – that’s Kreuzberg. You can be whoever you want here, no one is going to judge you. You can be a human here, no games, no pretending. I worked in the KaDeWe and was always glad to come back home, I was in trendy Mitte and was always glad to come back home, I visited my grandchildren in the Schwarzwald and was always glad to come back home. The people in the other districts, they’re destroying their city. They’re just not human anymore. Of course you can reside in other districts, but you can’t really live there.

Q: Do you have a few tips for going out in Berlin?

A: I’ve never been much of a clubber. Last party I went to was the Berlinagenten anniversary party, but that was an exception. Do you like coffee, though? Every day I have one at my favourite Italian restaurant, Il Casolare or the Bistro Bar Bateau Ivre, an artists’ coffee bar at Heinrich Heine Platz. They’re very good and all know me by name. The owner’s name is Lauren.

Q: Thanks for the tips. What are your hopes for the future?

A: In my heart I always felt I really was a woman, so I’m looking to have an operation soon, where I get my… well, they’re going to cut something off. I know I’m 64, but I’m starting a new life now. I’m also working on my own project now, a movie about my fate. It’s still top secret, but you’ll like it.

Thank you, Lagerfeld von Xberg, I’m sure we will. We’re glad to have you around. Stay as you are!