With Nick Cave In 80’s West Berlin

When Nick Cave first came to West Berlin in the early 1980s, he was immediately impressed by the local music scene which eventually made him move from his primary home in London. Most of the time he lived in Christoph Dreher’s Kreuzberg loft. In an interview with tipBerlin from 2017, the former founder of Die Haut shared his memories.

The first tour through Germany that we did in 1982 with Die Haut was as support for The Birthday Party, Nick Cave’s band at the time. After the tour, they came to Berlin, and we showed them the city. Nick and the others lived in London, or rather vegetated, as they said. They lived in real holes, lonely and scattered, and were unhappy with the London music scene, where everyone just wanted their music on the charts and become a star. Back then I had a pretty large loft in Kreuzberg’s Dresdner Strasse together with a friend. The rent was cheap, with central heating and a shower. It wasn’t long until the loft was inhabited not only by my roommate and myself but the whole of The Birthday Party including girlfriends.

During this period I often went off with Nick to visit friends such as Einstürzende Neubauten who were recording around the corner from us at the time. When we got there, there was half a pig lying around which F.M. Einheit drummed on while Blixa Bargeld fisted his bare torso. You could tell that Nick was immediately taken by Blixa and he very much appreciated the innovative, independent and cooperative attitude of his band. They all embodied a particular low willingness to please the audience and counted more on their confrontational and experimental attitude that really demanded something from people.

In general, something happened all the time, every few days there was a concert in the Loft or at SO36, and then it went on in Risiko or Ex’n’Pop. Risiko was a kind of living room for us. A shop where musicians could drink for free. Today I sometimes ask myself how it was possible to drink freely in such dimensions. Vodka from water glasses was the usual serving format. Paired with the amphetamines, you didn’t notice much of the alcohol and simply kept drinking. Every now and then we would go to two or three other shops, but that was about it. There was no dancing in these shops except for one location called Dschungel. And anyway: musicians didn’t dance.

“At first, nobody even realised that we had been shot at.”

Christoph Dreher

I can remember a particular night when we had one of our little sessions in my loft and later noticed a hole in the window as well as a small bullet calibre in one of the walls. At first, nobody even realised that we had been shot at. It was clearly not a shot to kill. Obviously, somebody in the neighbourhood had found us taking things a little too far by having an amplified improv session in our backyard loft, which had not been soundproofed. So it did not seem unreasonable at all to us, this little warning shot. Without it, we probably would have never known that someone was bothered by us.

Over time, Nick and the others got in touch with the Berliners and the whole band lived with us for a short time. Soon everyone was staying somewhere else, only Nick kept staying with me in the years to come in a room that was actually my office. He was a very pleasant roommate: low-key, kind, funny and an extremely hard-working person. He wrote a lot, drew or sat at the piano. We read the same books and watched films on VHS cassettes.

I don’t even know if Nick ever went shopping, he didn’t eat much anyway. Food was somehow not an issue at the time. When Blixa lived with me for a few months – today he is a gourmet and writes books about it – he lived mainly on rice pudding. Well, I guess speed ​​doesn’t necessarily stimulate the appetite.