Buenos Aires natives Carmen Burguess (vocals, drum machines, synths) and Tomas Nochteff (vocals, bass, drum machines) teamed up in 2006 to write darkly evocative music that reflects the grey skyline of their adopted city, Berlin. The band took a moment on their tour of Latin America to talk with BA about life abroad, the relationship at the core of their creativity, and how much they really hate labels.
So how did you meet?
We met here at Salon Pueyrredon, the punk music club – Carmen was on the stage. We fell in love, dated on and off for a couple of years, and then I left the country. She rejoined me in Barcelona in 2006 and we began our life together. The band started around the same time. Two years later we relocated to Berlin.
What made you think “I really want to work with this person?”
I secretly wanted to play with her but she didn’t. When she came to Europe I had a solo show and I asked if she wanted to play synth with me. She didn’t have an instrument with her so I asked a friend if he could lend me one…it was pretty shitty. So we started to play and within 5 minutes I realized my solo project was dead and we were a new band. The chemistry between us was overwhelming.
How did you decide to move to Berlin?
We were there for an exhibition of Carmen´s artwork (Burguess creates paper and digital collages, all of the band’s album art, and more). We played in the opening and received offers to play in other places, so we decided to stay in the city because we could play three times a week in comparison with Barcelona where we could only play once every three months.
So we left our jobs, got a friend to sublet the apartment we rented in Barcelona and decided to stay in Berlin to play shows all the time. We went for three weeks…that was nine years ago and we are still here.
How would you describe the Berlin music scene? What do you love most about it? Is there anything you really dislike?
Too much Techno for my liking. I mean I like Techno, I even play some techno-related noise music solo, but it’s too prevalent. What is good about Berlin is that there are underground ethics ingrained in the city and if you bring something real, radical and original people will eventually respect you. At least that what´s happened to us.
What do you love about it?
There are lots of nice venues.
What’s your favorite venue to play in Berlin?
We love to play Berghain, we did it twice in the main room, the sound is so great. We also enjoyed playing the 20th year birthday of Koepi, the biggest squathouse in Germany. Another venue we love is SO36, we played there twice. It’s this legendary punk venue that´s still there and still managed by punks – Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, Wire, Black Flag, you name it, all the legendary underground bands played there at some point. We also like to play in Urban Spree and in Fetsaal Kreuzberg but sadly that burned to the ground a year ago.
What is your favorite thing about working with the other person?
We have a chemistry beyond anything we’ve experienced before with other people. We like each other talents and sensibilities, we just complement each other perfectly.
Due to the format of my column, I often make comparisons to better known bands to describe local acts and give them context. Do you get frustrated by any musical comparisons? Is there any comparison you wish people would make?
I don’t like comparisons, but luckily we are often compared to bands that we admire like Chris and Cosey, Cabaret Voltaire, Royal Trux, Joy Division, Nico, Can, Chrome, so it’s all good.
How do you wish people would describe your music? Have you ever come up with a term you liked?
We hated being labelled because we really, really, really are following our own path. But I stopped caring about it. At some point we invented the term Concrete Rock, as in Concrete Music but rock and roll, but we did just to avoid being called “post punk post industrial blah blah blah.”
Do you think living abroad affects your music in any particular way?
Everything about our lives affects our music, but seriously I’m convinced that our music would be the same pretty much everywhere that we decided to live. However, the fact that we were living in a place with no friends, family and even without speaking the language helped us dive deeper into each other and into our band, so in that sense it was a very important factor in our history.
What do you miss about Buenos Aires?
Not much, the usual: family, friends, the sky, some streets, pizza.
The sky? Elaborate on that please.
The sky in Buenos Aires is more beautiful than that of any other big city I know. It’s deep, wide and changes all the time; I love the storms, dawn, everything. Berlin on the other hand is the most boring and depressing sky, you look out the window and it’s like somebody had put a piece of white paper on the glass. No deepness, no action, no color, it’s terrible and super bleak. It can be interesting for a while but after a few months it will start to affect you. Lima, Paris and Mexico DF are like this too, by the way.
Ok and very important – what is your favorite pizza place? I will allow one choice for muzza and one for fuga.
Guerrin and Angelin. I don’t care about fugazzeta.
Want to learn more about Argentine musicians? Check out our last interview with electronic pop musician Sobrenadar.