After an illuminating record store tour around Hamburg’s St Paul (read about that here), GIGsoup sat down with DJ Booty Carrell at the beloved Golden Pudel Club for a spot of lunch. He’s possibly the most knowledgeable and friendly man we’d ever met, and we were curious to pick his brain about his beloved city and it’s music scene. When he’s not djing, Booty mans the desk at Groove City Records.
What makes Hamburg a special city for crate digging?
Hamburg has about one record shop per 10,0000 people, which is a great ratio. I like the vibe of the shops. Hamburg is not such a huge city. I like to go to all the other record shops (as well as my own). The great thing is they appreciate me as a colleague and not as the competition. People help each other out. So if your friends go to like a flea market and they find 15 Turkish records, they might buy them and be like- “I don’t know if you will like any of them but here they are”. It’s a really important part of the scene. That why you have places like the Golden Pudel which acts as a great meeting point where everyone can connect. It’s also a great place for people who feel disenfranchised by the mainstream nightlife. They can find their home here and get to know each other.
What are the greatest changes you’ve seen happen to Hamburg’s record stores over the years? You mentioned before that a few shops have had to move in recent times.
Of course, Hamburg had more record stores in the pre-internet days. But Hamburg has a very big community fighting for the city so it’s not like record shops are having to constantly move due to rising rents. Hamburg’s citizens have been able to keep at least some control over rents and the developments of districts. For example, a lot where the shops are now is city-owned, where they can ask for realistic rents. The key thing is that there’s a very strong movement of fighting for the city it’s not like in Munich where they gave up decades ago and they only have three record shops. So it has a lot to do with the Sternshanze (left-wing neighbourhood) and people fighting for the city.
Do you think it’s the power of these grassroots movements which set Hamburg apart from other German cities?
It’s the family vibe. Even people like DJ Koze they started playing at the Golden Pudel on Tuesday nights. People from different genres and cultures are able to connect.
We saw Gängeviertel (squat-cum-arts co-operative) in our tour yesterday and wondered if you were involved with it at all?
No, not at all. I’ve been there a few times and DJ’d there a few times but I haven’t worked with them directly. That said, they are like friends who helped the Pudel through some hard times- like the fire. And when they were struggling to get set up we would help them get set up. This goes for most of the club scene in Hamburg through. I remember when I was working the bar (Golden Pudel) and the sound system wasn’t working properly we would jump in the car and go to the Hafenklang (another club). It was a bigger club with a bigger sound system. We asked them for some speakers and they said: “Yeah sure just bring it back someday”. Because they knew we would bring it back immediately. This culture is important. If everyone was just out for themselves. Then the rents would be rising and this house (where the Golden Pudel is) would be sold.
A lot of people are talking about the Elbphilharmonie and what great benefits it’s brought to Hamburg. What are your thoughts this?
I never understood the moaning about the Elbphilharmonie. With that money, the government would buy drones or jet fighters, so compared to that it’s a good investment. Like everywhere there were problems with the planning. But they chose a very good artistic director, who really understands the city and does great programming. It’s not perfect but neither is this place (The Golden Pudel). I really appreciate that it’s in this city and city like Hamburg really needs a venue like that. But still, there’s lots of work to do to incorporate other communities. It’s still a world of white hair and white people. It’s a house of certain cultural power. I’m optimistic though that they are working on this, they can’t change everything overnight though.
But as much as the city needs Elbphilharmonie it needs other things. Other music projects where people from other backgrounds sort out music programmes and ways to make cultural life in Hamburg more colourful. There’s still a leading culture and it gets all the money, I’m not going to moan about the Elbphilharmonie but I wish they would put as much money into other things.
Has Hamburg started to promote music culture more recently?
I think there are better ways to promote music than have the city to promote music. But at the same time, the city can be very helpful. For example, when the Pudel burned down, the city was there. There were phone calls, where they said that reconstruction of the Pudel would go on a priority list and they provided help with all the stuff you need for rebuilding to begin.
When I say ‘the city’, I also mean help from people like local carpenters who offered to help with construction for free. And the pharmacy which helped by collecting money from day one. So it was the city and the citizens who helped.
Of course, the city could be more helpful (to promote the local music scene). For example, the public broadcaster could do more to promote local music. People don’t find out about (local) music on public radio. They just play Phil Collins and put maybe the more creative things on in the middle of the night. It’s a shame because public radio is so important. When I was in Munich they had stations which are for young people. And a lot of bands out of Munich, which were unknown to us like Lali Puna, initially they had such great support they put them on stage and played them on the radio. That sort of stuff wouldn’t happen in Hamburg. No way. So if I had something to complain about it would be the public radio. Though they may not be so glad to hear about such things.
Is promotion one of the main aims regarding the music educational project you’re involved in? What are the main aims of these events?
That the kids are having a good experience. That’s all. That’s the core of it. Especially with school kids, you can go “Let’s write an avant-garde composition”, you can find new musical languages with them and ask yourself the question of- “what is music”? There are a lot of themes you can explore with kids who 99% of aren’t going to be musicians or artists later. But when they call me 10 years later saying “I’ve just tuned into your radio show and I remember that was a great project, I work in shipbuilding now, but that was a nice project, it was one of the best things we did in school”. These projects don’t need to change entire lives. It’s about opening a window for someone so they can have a good experience.
So what’s important for you is helping out kids with whatever helps them at that moment, whether that be a platform to perform or training in a specific area?
Yes because the rest we can do later. Some do become musicians but we can work on these later. You got to make sure that there’s something growing, a creative energy.
You’ve been heavily involved in the Golden Pudel. What do you think makes it special about Hamburg’s nightlife?
It’s a place where people can develop. When you start playing here you have backing from the community. People invite you to play for a reason, that they see something in you. And then if there is moaning or complaints, the club will go “We decided that they were playing here. You either leave or go along and stop moaning”. It’s an easy place to go to. Cheap entry and hardly any restrictions. So it’s a very colourful place. Many people who wouldn’t be allowed into a commercial club are allowed in. So it has a creative energy and a sense of stability.
I remember when I ran a concert series there and I had this call where someone said “Hello, we’re an 18 piece brass band from Providence (USA) and we’re looking for clubs to perform in Europe. We’re looking for a place where we can be in amongst the crowd. We don’t want to be on a stage”. So I said to the booker, Victor, “Sounds interesting, but I’d be scared to put this on” And he said “Yeah it would be mad and stupid. But then if it’s mad and stupid let’s put it on!”.
So we booked a hotel for 8 people. We couldn’t afford 18 so 10 of them would stay in my house. We prepared a dinner here for everyone and they started playing on the street before coming into the club. It was this super amazing experience. You could never have it again. This group was full of regular guys- there was a dentist, two club bouncers some students. It was a group of people on the road in Europe to have an experience together. There’s a social beauty to it.
I remember when they left the next day, my neighbours would be looking at my house seeing person after person coming out. All coming out of this small apartment. I really missed them afterwards.
Where is your favourite place to go on a night out and you can’t say the Pudel?
On the right night it’s the Knust Club or the Rezonanz Raum but they only open for specific events. I’m usually very picky if I go out now. I can’t do house and techno anymore because after working the bar here (Golen Pudel), I think I had an overdose.
Is there any music in Hamburg you’re looking forward to in the next year or so?
There’s too much. Quite a few things are knitting together. I’m excited about the Jazz scene at the moment. There’s a group called the Rocket Man. I’m so curious to hear what they come out with in the future. Everyone is linking and intertwining together. It’s an exciting scene to be part of. Everyone’s willingness to work with each other is amazing.