Like moths to a flame, musicians have been drawn to Berlin’s creative atmosphere for decades. The most famous example is, of course, David Bowie, who lived in the Hauptstadt between 1976 and 1979. But plenty of modern bands, bands like Liars and Crocodiles, have also relocated to Berlin for a couple years with the intention of writing a new album.
Walter Schreifels is another musician who came to Berlin some 25 years ago and found that he couldn’t resist the pull of the city. And so he got an apartment, and, though he primarily lives in New York, makes a point of visiting regularly.
“I happened to be in Berlin the week that the Wall came down. I had just finished my first European tour with Gorilla Biscuits. Having seen the Wall up just six months before while I was here with Youth Of Today, it was an amazing experience that impacted me deeply,” he said. “In the meanwhile, I’ve made lots of great friends here and kept many since my very first visit. I love the scene here for most of the same reasons everyone else does: the freedom, diversity. It’s a cosmopolitan city in the heart of Europe that maintains an aura of artistic possibility, though I’m starting to sound like a travel brochure.”
Though he’s kept plenty busy over the years as a member of the aforementioned Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits, along with Quicksand, Rival Schools, and a handful of other groups, Schreifels added another line to his musical CV when he officially embarked on the solo route in 2010 with his album, “An Open Letter to the Scene.” His second full-length—which features “more of a blues rock direction, like Cream or Black Sabbath”—is due out next year, but in the meantime, Schreifels will be releasing a 7-inch on Thrill Me Records with his backing band, The Dead Heavens.
Additionally, Schreifels is the singer of Vanishing Life, a side project featuring members of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Rise Against.
“There will be a 7-inch coming out on Collect Records from New York,” he shared. “It’s thinking man’s hardcore, or at least that’s what I’m thinking.”
And of course, earlier this year he collaborated with Berlin band the Beatsteaks, helping the members with their lyrics on the self-titled album that came out this month.
“It was very informal and super fun,” Schreifels said. “I’ve known those guys for many years, but working with them in the studio was magic; it’s easy to understand why they’re so successful. It’s difficult to explain the creative process, [but] the sound you hear is us playing with words and music, telling stories.”
Writing lyrics seems to be a specialty of Schreifels, who also wrote the lyrics for CIV’s 1995 debut, “Set Your Goals.” As he’s been putting pen to paper for years, one might think he’s exhausted himself, but Schreifels doesn’t look at it that way.
“For me, the key has always been having words to suit the feeling of the music—could be about anything, meaningful, wise, silly, or abstract. I think it’s OK to cover the same ground from a different perspective, or even the same perspective, if you’re able to do it with panache,” he explained. “When I was writing for the CIV album, I was revisiting a lot of the same themes that I had approached in GB just four or five years earlier, and I bet it still sounds great.”
When he’s not busy with music, Schreifels dedicates a lot of time to parenting his daughter, something which he admitted has put his interests and priorities into perspective.
“I think being a good parent requires presence and consistency. Since becoming a father, I try to limit my time away from home to what is necessary for me to grow as an artist and earn money for my family,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m happy to be home, taking my daughter to school [and] the playground, having conversations…she’s a very interesting conversationalist for a 6-year-old. As for my work, I appreciate it more because time has become more valuable to me.”
Making the most of his time is necessary, not only because of having a child, but because Schreifels is continually finding inspiration in art (citing White Fence, David Bowie, Roman Polanski, Richard Linklater, and Mark E. Smith as artists he’s currently interested in) and coming up with new ways of being creative.
“I have too many ideas for records, projects, books, films, businesses, etc. that I’d like to do in the future,” he said. “I wish I had less. I’m a classic ADD case, I suppose. I have at least a couple of music projects in front of me at the moment that I want to be focusing on; maybe when they are complete I might ponder new non-musical possibilities.”
Walter Schreifels plays tonight at Badeschiff in Berlin. The show begins at 20.00.