Mogwai's Barry Burns curates a night of musical acts with links to both Glasgow and Berlin
- David Pollock
- 26 July 2018
Burns and Molly Nilsson discuss Festival 2018 event New European Music
The links between Scotland and Germany created by Glasgow 2018 have been there for some time in a creative sense, with both cities renowned for their musical and artistic output, and for their exceptional club scenes. During Festival 2018, Mogwai's Barry Burns – a Scottish expat (if that isn't a dirty word) who now lives in Berlin – has programmed a night of music by three artists who have made similar journeys to the German capital. He'll be there with his own band SUMS, making their first Scottish appearance, alongside Stockholm-raised producer Molly Nilsson (who releases on Glasgow's Night School label) and Scottish producer and designer Tom Scholefield, aka Konx Om Pax, who's now also resident in Berlin. Below, two of them tell us about the music and their journey.
Barry Burns (SUMS, Mogwai)
'I was asked by Lauren McKenna at Festival 2018 to do this, and it seemed like it would be interesting given my links to both Glasgow and Berlin. I thought about how to do it and who I would ask to be involved, with a little help from my wife as usual, and came up with three acts [SUMS, Molly Nilsson and Konx-Om-Pax] with differing but strong links to Glasgow and Berlin. We all live in Berlin but we either previously lived in Glasgow and/or we have a record label in Glasgow. I really like both of their music so it was an easy decision to ask them.
'My own band SUMS started in 2015 when David Letellier (of Kangding Ray) asked me if I wanted to perform with him at Berlin's Atonal festival. We have great fun making music together with our drummer Merlin Ettore, and I've learned a lot from David's way of thinking, performing and writing music. SUMS have an album ready to mix but we're both horrifically busy so we haven't gotten around to it yet. So the group exists mostly on a live level for now.
'We moved to Berlin in 2009, just to see how another country compared to life in Scotland, and we went into it pretty blind. It's a fantastic place to live and work, though, and I love it more than I did yesterday. The bar [Burns runs a bar in Berlin named Das Gift] was never planned, but it's fun and it lets us meet a lot of great people. I cringe at the word 'expat' though; we're just another bunch of immigrants and we like to meet other immigrants and of course, the locals. I'd say the bar is 50/50 for locals and non-locals.
'Glasgow and Berlin differ as much as they collide, I think. Glasgow has always had a good network of music-making opportunities and places to play. I feel a little bit out of the loop there now, though, so it's hard to compare them properly. I just hope we [SUMS[ pull our own show there off and that people enjoy it, the ones we've done so far have been stressful due to the fact we don't get to play much, but they've always turned out really well.'
'Barry from Mogwai asked me to do this and I immediately said "yes", I'll take any excuse I can to visit Glasgow. I've been visiting at least twice a year the last few years, it's a long, slow-building friendships with the "The Glow", as we call it. I've played with the idea of moving there but when the Brexit vote was going on I decided to put that on hold. There are so many great bands around and it's a good place to play shows for that reason, being out and seeing people perform is really inspiring. Of course, working with Night School Records has been a lifesaver, an anchor, it holds so many things together, music and people. Michael Kasparis is an incredible person to work with, for his energy and enthusiasm. I've already had a lot of special life moments in Glasgow and I'm excited to fill up on more.
'I was pretty young when I left Stockholm, all I wanted was to get out in the world and Berlin seemed like a good place to start. I'd been fascinated with the city for its art scene and history but music wasn't on my horizon yet, that happened a few years later for me, and it's a great city to try things out. Although if you weren't making techno at that time it was tricky to find places to perform, but in a way that was a blessing, because it drove me out into the world to play elsewhere, with Berlin as the place I'd always return to. It's a great city to live, for different reasons the living standard there is pretty high. It used to be so empty and I'm happy to see how it's filling up with people, and very internationally too.
'Stockholm, Berlin and Glasgow are all quite different, I think music is important to all three but in very different ways. Berlin's a DJ city, Stockholm's a lot about the music industry and Glasgow's a band city. I think I probably wouldn't have ended up a solo artist if I had moved to Glasgow instead, where music is much more a social thing, playing together and collaborating. Where I come from a lot of people just sit at home working on their own projects, so there's less of an exchange.
'Everyone in Glasgow are really great dancers! Seriously, you can tell you're in a city which loves music when people throw themselves around the dancefloor. The audiences give so much, we just have to show up and we're having a great time already. This year I've played some new places where I had to work a lot harder for some magic to happen and I learnt so much from it. I don't think I've ever played this type of event, though, so I'm hoping it will be really fun and crazy. I would want anyone walking away from one of my performances to feel really strong in their hearts, like it's a work out session for the soul. We need more fitness for our imagination.'
New European Music, curated by Barry Burns, George Square, Glasgow, Sat 11 Aug, 7.15pm, free.