You probably remember that folky-electronic “Shore to Shore” Album every one talked about in 2010 and still does. “Listen to this” said Perez Hilton, “Infectious!” said Stereogum and German music mag Spex called it “touching”. Still now, this record of Berlin-based singer/songwriter Norman Palm is on repeat in our ponydanceclyde-land. Norman is not your average singer, he published his first album “Songs” in form of a 200 paged illustrated book, lived in cities such as in Berlin, Paris and Mexico and manages to handle a cazillion projects at the same time.
When I met with the probably nicest artist from Berlin a couple of weeks ago, we grabbed a couple of cokes and sat down by the Spree river to do this interview. Since we had such an interesting chat, I completely forgot to take pictures, so we agreed that we’d pretend Norman was still in Paris (where he just returned from holidays the night before) and we had skyped. Right in front of the Eiffel Tower. We talked about Norman’s new projects, such as the one with the Finnish lads of Odd Man Out , his electronic project Millenium or organising Berlins most eclectic block festival right now, the Torstraßen Festival.
Before getting to the interview, I would like to emphasize the amazingness of the following song:
(please note that this interview was translated from German into English)
PonyDanceClyde: Hi Norman! I must admit that I always thought you were from an English speaking country and did not think of you as being German. Why do you think that is?
Norman in Paris: I think it might be because of my name, it does not sound too German. And also because I do everything in English, I sing in English and also I do admin my artist facebook page in English. But let’s just take Torstraßen Festival as an example, last year people complained that it might be too “cool” because we do the website in English. So this time we thought, ok, but if we do that in German then many people won’t understand. And to do the website in two languages is also totally stupid, because once it is there in English only very few people need to read the same thing in German to understand it. So we split these texts, sometimes it is in two languages and sometimes it is just in English. We don’t need no rules in doing these things anyway.
PDC: I saw that you live in Mexico from time to time, are you still going back and forth?
NiP: Nope, not anymore. My girlfriend lived there for a long time and right in this moment she sits in a plane to Boston, where she is moving next. So I am going to move there too in Autumn, to stay there for about five years at least. Let’s see what comes then. So not that much Berlin anymore. I assume I will be here from time to time, but generally I’ll live over there.
PDC: So it seems you have so many projects going on currently. Could you prioritize your most important one at this point?
NiP: Well I actually have only two bands right now. I started a solo-project with two Finns, who are called Odd Man Out as a band. Our record is almost finished, and it will drop in spring next year. Production cycles are weird sometimes, the artist is has finished recording but then, for him, nothing happens for a while. So I am currently waiting for something to happen. And with my second band, Millenium, we are about to release a single this autumn. And another one after that most likely so, or an EP more like. So that is probably what I am working on most currently, because that is happening soon. The past weeks, Torstraßen Festival was my priority though.
PDC: So about Torstraßen Festival. We saw it and thought, “yes!” Berlin needs a block festival just like that, where bands play who are not that poular yet. Do you think the same, would you like to develop it further, for it to get bigger?
NiP: I don’t think it has to grow in that way. There is Berlin Music Week where a bunch of up and coming bands play, but it always has a little business feel to it. It is meant for music industry professionals, and that is not so much our priority. It is nice when industry people join our festival, but technically we are not targeting these people on purpose. So we wouldn’t invite the export music office from Scandinavia or sth, we want everybody. Then there is Berlin Festival, and also up and coming music everywhere, but there is no festival for these bands as such.
So this year we have a bunch of bands playing who actually live in Berlin, most of them are from somewhere else. And the funny thing is, they are mostly not as “present” in Berlin, because they tour where they come from, and establish contacts differently. So we had not an actual focus as far as the Torstraßen Festival line-up was concerned, but in the end we thought: Cool, we are showing everyone who lives in Berlin anyway and are not perceived as a Berlin band. And this probably is good for the city as such as well, when people realise that most bands actually come from here. Let’s take Cool Thing for instance, one member is from Ireland, one is from Australia, they used to live here and are often in Berlin, so for me that makes them a Berlin band. For other people or even for themselves they might not be. But for us it is pretty handy, to have a nice selection of cool bands here, this makes things way easier.
PDC: Who is your secret favourite in the Torstraßen Festival line-up?
NiP: Of course everybody (winks). This is quite difficult to say, because most bands would not ring a bell in anyones head yet, which is why there are a lot of secret hints. I personally love Dan Bodan. He just released his first single on MMW1 / DFA and he is very good, also a Canadian in Berlin. So he is kinda my secret hint. But as I said, there are so many and I do not want to prioritize anyone.
PDC: So we hope there will be Torstraßen-Festival number 3 next year?
NiP: Well, when enough people show up this year then yes. So I think so. I feel like this year, we even have more attention, because everybody saw how it worked out nicely last year. We actually have a different concept than most festivals, who all work with big partners, sponsors or cultural subsidies. Therefore, we are pretty much self-sufficient and finance ourselves, that means we need people who attend our festival. When we don’t get enough people we are in financial trouble. We are a little “fair trade” in the sense that the artist fees are ok, we do not want to save money there. We also had a discussion with the street itself, what we could actually place there, it’s a battle between long term residents and a bunch of new stores and brands. We hope to intermediate between all parties. But it is not easy, it is a lot of money and a large risk, which we need to take. 30 bands cost a lot of money, every flyer and every poster and one thousend things more around that cost money.
PDC: Since you have lived in so many different cities though, Paris, Mexico, Berlin, where you do you feel the most comfortable, as an artist? Which is the most inspiring?
NiP: I think all of them are inspiring. Berlin is probably the best place to work because the financial circumstances, like e.g. rent, are so cheap that I have a lot of freedom and can also do things without gaining profit from them. Therefore, a lot of things happen which would not in other cities. I’ve just been to Paris, and apparently that was the most emptiest week. That was this one week in August where everybody is gone and everything is closed, which was funny. And the music scene there is quite established and fixed, bands always play in the same places. It is not like here in Berlin, where you forget what happens in which bar after a couple of months, so it is completely different. Right now, I am therefore curious for my new home Boston. It is close to New York and they have unis there. Vampire Weekend are from Boston.
PDC: Thanks a ton for making the time Norman!
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/17979790 w=560&h=315]