Moving to East Berlin has reinvigorated Meteor Award winners Humanzi
One night a couple of years back I stumbled into the monolithic, disused DDR radio HQ on the wastelands of East Berlin. There were no lights or welcoming signs. I was lost. Then from down a corridor of gloom I heard a Dublin accent. It was a member of Humanzi, the Dublin band who'd won the Meteor Award for Best New Band in 2006. "Du liebe scheise!" I exclaimed. How could this be?
The band who many thought had disappeared had relocated in Berlin and were working on a new album. Suitably titled Kingdom of Ghosts, it's with us now and if a record might capture the sound of collapsing empires, this is it.
It's a sonically tougher, more worldly proposition than the band's 2006 debut album, Tremors. This isn't greasy kid's stuff. It's high-stakes urban apocalypse ramalama.
"I'm not sure what led to the album turning out the way it is," muses multi-instrumentalist Gary Lonergan. "I think it was that we got away. We needed a bit of space. We were living in Dublin and writing and recording music, but it didn't feel like we were living it. We were rehearsing in Temple Bar and we'd just have five hours. In Berlin we have our own space where we can go any time of day or night. We did that every day until we had the right amount of songs for the album."
The old city has worked its magic for countless musicians from David Bowie to U2. Humanzi have lived there longer than most.
"Berlin is an amazing spot," says Gary. "There's a great music scene. We managed to establish a base in Berlin and picked up quite a following. We can play a big gig in Berlin now and know that there'd be an audience there to see us. In much the same way as you would in Dublin, you start from ground zero and work your way up."
Having to start from scratch again in a new country made Humanzi a more focused creative unit.
"It was a new learning experience for us," says Gary. "We'd done a lot of travelling but we'd never lived outside of Dublin. When you're in Dublin you notice a lot more trends in music. In Berlin we don't have TV or radio and we don't read any of the local publications 'cos we don't have the language. So we'd hear music but we wouldn't have the trend thing. The next big band wouldn't be playing in Berlin every week. We were in our own world. That did have a big influence on the sound of the album."
Recorded in the same room as the infamous East German national anthem, Kingdom of Ghosts is out on The Mighty Stef's indie label (The Firstborn Is Dead). And Humanzi are considering a major gig back in Dublin. But not until drummer Brian Gallagher returns from paternity leave. -- EC
Humanzi -- Kingdom of Ghosts is in shops now and on iTunes