[A]: Annika (selo)
1 Let’s begin at the beginning
2 “the most Norwegian person”
3 social bubble
4 entry Morton, bringing cake!
6 a mandatory discussion about Hipsterism
[A] Steve, where are you from?
[S] I’m from Scotland.
[A] Oh, I didn’t expect that.
[S] You expected me being from Norway?
[A] Yes, exactly! But how did you end up in Berlin?
[S] So, I studied sociology at Aberdeen University after that I really didn’t know what to do. I finished Uni and started working basically in various Barista jobs, just trying to figure out, what my next step would be. And around that time I started playing bass guitar, so I got a new hobby at that time. And at the same time my brother started learning guitar. So we had almost enough to start a band.
But we believed in ourselves. And we believed that we can get better.
[A] That’s actually a really good base, realizing your own terribleness. So it only can get better haha.
[S] Right! I knew I was so terrible. In my first show I would actually turn my bass guitar down gradually throughout the gig, cause I was so afraid that the crowd would hear it.
But I knew that if I just tried a little bit harder and kept practising that at some time I will get there and have a little bit fun with music and it wouldn’t be so stressful. And yeah, it became more fun. And at that time I was working in a lot of coffee shops as a barista.
[A] So the focus was on the music and you did the barista stuff to get it going?
[S] Yeah exactly. The coffee shops I worked in had really terrible coffee, actually. And I never even heard of speciality coffee. Coffee was dark and it was horrible. And it was a way for me to make money. And then, basically, to fast forward a few years, we wanted a change of scene. To change our lives quite a lot, cause we were bored of living in the same town that we grew up in. And we heard a lot about Berlin, being a nice place and it was quite international. And I just felt that it is a great place to live as a creative person. Not that I really felt that much like a creative person.
[A] And what’s about your music now, are you still playing?
[S] Yes, we’re still playing. I like to fill my time equally with the coffee shop business and music.
[A] Cool, and still with your brother?
[S] Yes, and I have another project with my girlfriend Linn and I have solo stuff as well. I just do whatever I can do when I have time.
[A] Ah, by the way, what is the name of your band?
[S] Well, we’re actually changing the names of all the bands.
[A] That sounds like a great idea, haha.
[S] So, the guitar band with my brother is going to be called Soft Crystals and it was called Milwalkie before.
[A] Okay, that is a change.
[S] It is. A big change. The band with my girlfriend Lynn was called “I am local” and might still be called that, but we’re not sure. My solo project is called “years”. I was considering changing that as well, but it’s not sure yet. This is becoming a big massive joke now. Something needs to be stable.
[A] Or maybe the stable thing is the change. So if you’re changing it every 4 month, it can become your trademark!
[A] Oh, that also could be a band name. Here you go.
[S] Maybe a name for an album. Or just a theme, haha.
[A] Sooo, drifting slightly off topic here. Let’s go back to your story, when moving to Berlin, how did you end up at the Oslo Bar? [S] So, Christian, a Norwegian Dude from Oslo. Well, he is probably the most Norwegian person you would ever meet. He looks like a wizard when he has long hair. Which he has quite often. He tends to have a haircut once every 3 years and then lets it grow. Then it gets really extreme. When he’ll read about this in the interview he will be really happy that we talked about his hair.
[S] I don’t even think that he likes it, I think he just enjoys the process of growing it. He is also a musician too. So he likes to feel like a long haired rock star. He looks like it.
[A] How did you meet him?
[S] After I took a long intensive German class back in 2012.
[A] German sucks, right?
[S] Oh, actually I quite like it. Well, it is difficult.
[A] Well yeah, let me correct, learning German must suck, 3 articles, the conjugations…
[S] But I actually really enjoy the language and speaking it.
[A] Is it hard to learn?
[S] Yes, at the beginning it was horribly difficult. But it’s because my confidence is down. So, I went to this intensive course, kind of on my own.
That wasn’t really a live that I was really keen to live any further. And I had some time on my hand, some savings left, best timing to learn German. So I did an 8 months course. That was really scary in the beginning. Because it felt like I knew nothing. I felt like I was back in school. It is a really absurd feeling that you can’t speak.
[A] Overwhelming probably.
[S] Exactly. When I made the decision to learn German and to integrate, I suddenly realised how unintegrated I was and how much I needed to do. But being in Berlin and learning German was actually a really great life. And after that I could find a job in a coffee shop.
So I started working in a really nice little coffee shop called hermann eicke which is close to Mauerpark. The owners Jan und Hannah are really nice people. And they gave me a chance, even though at that stage my German was so bad. And when I started this job I’ve actually met Morton, who is currently baking behind you. He is the assistant manager of the “Oslo coffee bar” and we became close friends very quickly and we decided that we’re going to investigate this new specialty coffee thing.
And we’re already working in a coffee shop so it felt appropriate to learn more about coffee. So Morton and I started attending coffee events like THE BARN, the leaders of the time, to see what it was all about. And it was so unfamiliar to us. And then this whole new world opened up to us and a passion for a product that I previously regarded as pretty boring.
There is much to it, especially so much culture attached to it. And we ended up getting to know people in coffee shops all over Berlin and at that time there were about 6 or 7 fancy speciality coffee shops. So, it was a really small community. And it was really nice to get to know the people there. And we felt welcome also on the personal level. And we got really obsessed with coffee. And we started this coffee blog together.
And in this coffee blog we attended more events and documented it and eventually some of the coffee shops started to think of Barista Camp. It was back in 2013, so Morton and I attended this barista camp, which was really fun. And the key people of the scene were there and talked and did presentations on their approach to coffee. And the process in general of getting the coffee from the farms to the customers. And Christian was talking about his adventures in Berlin. He just opened this place and I had never been there before. So we ended up, interviewing him. But we ended up talking about music all the time which was quite funny. And I tried to steer the conversation towards coffee but he didn’t seem to want to go in that direction, so he kept talking about the records in the shop. But that was cool for me.
[A] So, you have both 2 important things in common.
[S] Yeah exactly. It felt super comfortable to just keep on chatting. And then basically the next week, when we get back to Berlin, I decided to give him a message, letting him know that the interview was cool and that we’re going publish it on our blog. And then I came to the shop to tell him that and he asked me whether I was looking for a job. And I was like, yeah, I am actually. So I started working here as a barista.
And after two weeks I was basically working full time. And I start working lots and lots and lots. And then Christian decided to move back to Oslo. So he needed somebody to take over the management of the shop. And I think another Barista at the time also recommended me for this job.
[A] That is probably a really nice acknowledgement!
[S] Yes, I felt really honoured. And so I got this job.
[A] It sounds like a really natural development, nothing too forced.
[S] Exactly! And the more I got to know him the more I realised how many weird things we have in common as well.
[A] Yes, heard of it, but haven’t it watched yet.
[S] Well, he is a massive fan and so am I. No kidding, this show is really important for me. Actually our stories began to intervene even more, I ended up staying in his ex-apartment in Berlin after he moved away. And then I discovered that he has left a bunch of stuff. And he told me to just throw everything out. So, as I was throwing the stuff out, he had this big Twin Peaks posters, and I kept them all of course.
[A] You guys really seem to be on the same level.
[S] Yes, it felt quite natural. And that is probably why I enjoy the job so much. It’s because to me this jobs doesn’t really feel like work, more like doing a project together with friends. For people that I respect and that respect me.
[A] A little bit like your band life?
[S] To be honest it doesn’t really feel so different. And I used to feel like I had music and work, and I hated work.
[A] Lucky, that you can have this balance.
From you experience, do you think people are happier in their jobs here in Berlin?
[S] I feel like that is the case. So, I feel like saying yes. However, I do also recognise that I live in a small segment of Berlin which isn’t the true reality for many people here. Berlin is a city, of what, 4 million people? And it’s like maybe 30 percent are Turkish, maybe 50 percent are German, 10 percent are internationals like myself. And inevitably, the internationals, like myself surround themselves with other internationals in the beginning, probably due to language.
[A] So, it’s easy to live here in your own bubble kinda? [S] Yes, you can do that. I think to a certain extend I’m still doing that, although I don’t want to do that. I would love to integrate more. I have many many German friends, but I would love to have more Turkish friends, because there are a huge part of Berlin. I think that would be fantastic. I see myself living here for quite a long time and I will break out of my bubble more and more. I really think, things have changed a lot since I came here.
At the beginning it was just partying. Playing gigs and attending weird gigs. But now it feels really comfortable and I’m happy. But I think Berlin is a great place, and I think in general people end up to love their work here more, because there is not as much pressure to work, in a way. Or at least to work something traditional. People end up feeling more free and like they are allowed to decide by themselves what to do. [A] Why is that? Because starting your own business here is comparable cheap? So, it’s linked to the money question? [S] I’m not too sure, but I think the roots for that are probably going really deep. Maybe it starts there is not much traditional industry in Berlin. For example, in Scotland you have the fishing industry and you have the oil industry. And there are 100 of years of traditional coal mining. This established a very strong working class culture. People have worked very very hard. And as far that I know there is no massive industry in Berlin. And Berlin is also very shaped by the war. They really like shoot things up here. I don’t think that here is this deep routed working class struggle. This might have something to do with that. And of cause it was very different when the wall was still there, people were under so much pressure. And when it fell, people needed to celebrate the freedom. Like celebrating the freedom in art. That was a huge thing at that time. And this mind set still exist I think.
A place to come to, to follow your dreams. It’s like a cooler version of L.A.. I think that is basically it. [A] I’ve heard that it’s relatively easy to start something here, but to actually be successful in the long run – it’s not that easy. [S] Yeah, that could also be true. [A] It feels like there is an oversupply of everything. [S] I totally understand, but I think right now there is this boom and independent business started 4, 5 years ago and we are currently in a quite difficult phase now, because due to the boom there are lots and lots of people making similar products or doing similar things so they are competing with each other. But first of all, I don’t like competition, it would be really cool, if people would cooperate with each other instead. I know you guys are trying to do the same. That is really great.
So people will start to have a much higher standard, and soon will inevitably filter and develop mindsets that will let them easily filter out the fakers. So, it’s going to get easier, I guess.
[A] Good quality will shine through?
[S] Exactly. Right now, we are at the most difficult phase, because there are simply so many people doing the same thing and everyone knows how to make it look like what they’re doing is the best. But the customers are still weak to the market, they think, oh this is great, but how do I chose between all these options. This is the start of the learning process.
[S] The mix between coffee and music is definitely an important thing here. I would say it is impossible to say what is the most important, but the two most important things are providing a comfortable location for customers and making sure all our beverages and products are of a really high quality. Actually, there are 3 important things. Let’s go back in time.
Like as far as we possibly can we should be working together towards helping improving the environment. We do make a big effort to avoid plastic and to shop completely organic. But we’re not 100% there yet, because it’s really difficult. For example, even when we order organic products, it will be delivered in plastic.
[A] This is such a contradiction. [S] Yes, exactly, it’s really difficult to be 100% successful. But we’re just trying our best. For example working together with selo soda is really great, because they are effectively recycling. That is amazing. Using what is there rather than using more energy to create something else. [A] And what are you offering, besides coffee & drinks? [S] We have a simple selection of food. [A] Norwegian food? [S] Sometimes it is Norwegian. We have Scandinavian cinnamon buns. Most of the stuff is made in house by Morton. He is the sub-manager. Actually, he is pretty much the manager. He is now going to want a promotion after this interview.
[S] The RD is the newest shop where we involved in, it’s like a joint, 50/50 venture of the Oslo team and the team behind silicon allee, which is an international company which specializes on bringing together other international companies in a building.
[A] Meta level of international collaboration.
[S] Yes! It used to be an online community, then the founders Travers and Jeremy turned it into an actual building and invited people that where involved virtually to move into their office space. And they have this gigantic building. And they actually ask us to cooperate with them and to open an Oslo there. They were regulars here anyway for many years and just liked our approach to the whole thing. And in a spirit of not competing I thought it would be hilarious to open a shop right around the corner.
[A] How is the Berliner Coffee scene in general? Competitive or cooperative?
[S] Last one. I think that it’s basically on a cooperative level here. That seems to be a very special thing.
[A] Because you want the same things?
[S] Yeah, true. I work in coffee because I love coffee. But I don’t always want to drink my coffee here. So I wanna go to other places and try new coffees. So, I really want to support the others. If I make an enemy, I couldn’t do this anymore. And to me it’s a massive compliment to see a Barista from another coffee drinking coffee here. That must mean that they also think that we make amazing coffee. Well, at least I would love it, if they think that.
[S] Do you want to try something of this?
[A] Yeah of course, what is it?
[S] Pistachio and Pear cake – Very nice and still warm
[A] Oh, actually let me take a quick picture of it!
[S] But, did I already kill the photo opportunity?
[A] Well, it looks authentic now.
[S] If it’s truly authentic, the cake would already be in my tummy.
[A] Well, we can’t do photo of that, would be super difficult. Think I don’t have the fitting equipment for that. But I mean I could organise it for you, if you want.
[S] If we’re talking about X-rays that’s cool, if we’re talking about other forms…
[A] Okay, got it.
[A] So Morton, you work here as the manager I heard?
[M] The manager? Yeah, why not.
[S] He is the one holding the place together. – While I’m single-handedly trying to destroy it.
[A] So you’re working against each other?
[S] Yeah, pretty much.
[A] Are you from Berlin?
[A] And how long are you in Berlin now?
[M] 5 years now.
[S] We almost arrived in Berlin at the same time and started working together. Unfortunately, we became friends. But it was Morton’s idea.
[A] Damn it Morton.
[S] He forced me to get in speciality coffee.
[M] Yeah, I forced him to talk to Christian.
[S] Yes, that was true, cause when I met Morton, he was already a pretentious coffee loving hipster, I wasn’t.
[M] And it took him like 6 month to take that job.
[S] True, initially Morton forced me. So did my girlfriend. Which I’m really happy about.
[S] It’s like the overall Bezirk then. But Mitte is now gigantic, it has eaten up Wedding and Gesundbrunnen, as well and maybe even Moabit. But anyway, it’s massive. So I think when people referring to this Kiez here, they call it Nordbahnhof. [A] Let’s talk a little bit about Nordbahnhof then, can you tell us a little about the people living here? [S] I don’t think that Nordbahnhof has such a strong identity for its people and culture, I think that it is an interesting area for different reasons. So, our generation is deeply connected to art, expressionism and Hipsterism . And then at Prenzlauer Berg it’s very family orientated and totally amazing and in comparison Nordbahnhof seems to be quite businessy. But at the same time it’s very peaceful. There are some really beautiful streets with some quiet old buildings. And despite that people seem to be really slow key which is also very nice. [A] So it feels like, it’s not so easy to pin Nordbahnhof down to some characteristics, right? [S] I think it’s turning into something, like that it’s beginning to form its own identity. Maybe, if you fast forward 20 years it’s probably extremely interesting. And I think it has already started.
[A] This is a really specific feeling of Berlin, that you always can feel change coming along, keyword gentrification. How did you experience it? I mean you probably already experienced changes in your time here.
[S] Oh my god, yeah. Totally. It’s crazy. When I moved from Scotland to Berlin, I felt that I was moving to a place very gritty, very underground and very undiscovered one. Well, undiscovered to me at least. And now Berlin is a destination where people actually go for holiday to. So, there was already in this 6 years a huge change happening. And Airbnb has landed in town and is killing rents.
I say guilty pleasure cause it has a really traditional feel to it. I don’t know, but I have the feeling as long as we’re young we have the duty to go to cool places. But we don’t like the cool places. Morton and I like to go to mediocre places, like traditional establishments. And we go the Bäckerei at least once a month. The food is amazing. They offer proper lunch and a daily special which is always relatively exciting. Well it’s classic. And it’s always really tasty, and low priced. Well there is also Tommy’s Burger joint, which is good. Icelandic people making crazy burgers. Then the nearest coffee shop, which is interesting, is Distrikt Coffee, which is pretty cool. They are only two streets away. Bonanza Coffee Heroes in Oderberger Straße is also pretty cool. But we’re still very far away from the majority of our favourite shops.
What else, where are we going to eat Morton?
– Ah and I like Der Imbiss.
[A] … I like it, when the name literally says what it is. [S] Oh no, it only sounds like that. It’s not a Dönerladen, say it’s a fusion of Mexican and Indian food. And it’s all vegetarian. [A] … Haven’t seen that one coming. [S] Yeah, it’s meant to be ironic. And it’s really tasty food. Christian is obsessed with their food. When he is in town, he would order there 3 times a day. And he refuses to go anywhere else. So, through having to go there with him a lot of times, I learned to love it as well.
[A] So, are there things in Berlin, generally speaking, you are annoyed of?
I’m always thinking about it whether it’s irritating me or not. But in general I learned to love it. Basically, because they’re passionate about things. At least the majority of them are. Even if some of them are pretentious, they are like this, because they have strong opinions about things. And it’s mostly about artsy things. And this is a positive thing. Like, when I grew up, we had serious problems with drugs and violence and alcohol. This was very much prominent in this society.
[A] Comparable to Trainspotting standards?
[S] Yes, exactly. So, it’s not very nice. When you move to a city like Berlin and the biggest problem is Hipsterism - [M] - they are so harmless. [S] Exactly. You suddenly realise this is not really a problem. Actually, it is quite cool, only sometimes a bit irritating. [M] I think it’s like coffee for example, some are really passionate about coffee and really progressive with that and they become role models. And people start imitating that. And people want to be part of that just to get the glimmer. [S] Yeah, that are the “Can-bes”. I think of being cool, that this was a challenge in 7th grade, but we are adults now, we don’t need to be cool anymore. But it’s relaxing though.
[M] Oh, I hope so!
[A] But what is Hipsterism, anyway? It’s a term way to broadly used to analyse it properly! [M] I think it’s like mostly being superficial and trying to really express that superficiality. I think it’s fine to wear fun clothes of your grandfather, but it would be kinda stupid if this would be all you want to express. And only talk about obvious things, I don’t see the substance in it. [A] I think it’s important to differentiate between the people who are only copying and the ones who are really behind it. [M] Yes, that is exactly what I described with the coffee scene – the art people who actually do that stuff as a creative expression and suddenly it becomes a superficial life style.
[A] But this random use of the word Hipster actually stresses me out, it is used positive and negative, to describe a fashion style, but also a way of talking and thinking…
[S] Yes, exactly, the meaning behind it could be complex, but the term is too general. Well, but I definitely came to peace with the whole Hipster thing and I realised, honestly speaking, initially that’s what drew me to Berlin, the creative arty hipster scene. Seriously, that is why I thought Berlin was cool. Can you imagine a deep communist society where everybody dreams of a land where you can be a hipster, cause it’s like ultimate expressionism. [M] I feel like it is, in this harmless way. People are still very playful and trying to figure out stuff and they don’t want to be too serious or conform.
[M] Yes that is the thing, I don’t need to show other people how special I am anymore. Cause in a way, I found my real purpose in life. [S] Yes, it is really like a looking for a purpose. I think a lot of people come here and find mutual friends, they can belong with. [A] Isn't it funny how fast the term Hipster developed? [M] Yes!
[S] I heard it for the first time in Estonia, back in 2011, the guy who took us on a tour around the city, his name was Mark and we actually became friends and have the same tattoo now. It’s hilarious and he came to visit Berlin also. [A] Whaaat, this sentence left me with so many questions. First, what tattoo? [S] A tattoo on our right arm, from a geeky film called “Star trek troupers”, I don’t expect you to know it. [A] So specific, haha. And no, I don’t know this movie. [S] Super weird. And he actually mentioned the word on the tour and I didn’t know what it was. He described it to me and all I could think was, that you look exactly like what you are describing. [A] So you might have met the inventor of Hipsterism. [S] Yah, I think so! He had a really interesting personality, was a really cool guy. Actually I want to see him more often. He came to Berlin. And we got this tattoo together. [A] Ahh, you got it together? [S] Yes! We kept in touch via email and he came to Berlin after I moved here, super cool. [A] And then you just decided to get the tattoo? [S] Yeah we watched the movie and we were both long term fans of the film. And then here we go.
[A] The rational conclusion of that.
[S] Yes, it had to happen. And Morton got the same as well.
[A] Nooo way!
[S] And so did my brother and two more friends.
[A] Oh wow it’s like an infection, haha.
[S] An infection with no goals and being completely aimless.
[A] There we have a good band name again!
[S] Yeah totally, “No goals and ideals”.
Ah, and Morton this is all being recorded by the way.
[M] Oh, really?
[S] Yes, so how would you like to be seen?
[M] I dunno.
[M] German lad –
[M] I like mornings.
[A] Oh, really?
[M] Yes, cause I sleep then.
[S] He likes mornings because he doesn’t see much of them.
[M] I also like food.
[A] Some finishing words?
[S] Oh actually, yes I have some!
[M] Read it out!
[S] I’m going to end this:
Annika, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.