52.5200° N, 13.4050° E
'Many Berliners have the same intention: to create'
Gems in this
As half of Australian duo Mezko, Perth-born producer, musician and artist Laura Bailey played gigs like Tasmania's coveted Dark Mofo and Sydney's secret garden festival. Then, feeling the need to blur artistic boundaries and push comfort, she left home soil for Germany, and arrived in Berlin ready to start over.
Now, after more than two years and with the challenges of the global pandemic, the young artist is emerging as a multidisciplinary powerhouse. A few project highlights include solo dark disco project neu-romancer, accompanying large-scale charcoal artwork, and a spot playing synth for musician Zanias at Olympiastadion in Munich. We chat with Laura about how Berlin has served as the perfect catalyst to fuel her creative journey, and her favorite places to spend time.
On where you grew up
I grew up in Fremantle, Western Australia, and spent a lot of time in Sydney.
On getting to know Berlin
I wanted my move to be as alien as possible. The transition, however, ended up being humanising. The biggest adjustment was the energy. In Sydney, everything feels somewhat sensationalised, like London or New York. Walking around, the contrast is up, the sound is saturated and compressed — you feel everything. Berlin is more fluid. You have to know what you want and where you want to go, otherwise you tend to float, and time dissolves.
On what motivated your move to Berlin
I moved to Berlin to gain a different perspective. I always had an underlying current moving me towards someplace new. And as life would have it, I luckily ended up here.
On your relationship with Berlin
Berlin is inspiring, encouraging, independent, growing. And healthy.
On connecting with the creative community
Adventure as much as possible. I have met so many Berliners now from all over the world by walking the streets surrounding my apartment. Berlin is a melting pot of people from different cultures and contexts, many with the same intention: to create. My sense of being a part of many different communities is what makes living in Berlin so fulfilling. For example, I met the owner of Galerie GH36 while he was playing this modular synth tower installation from his space. We are now starting a streaming program together and my first solo exhibition will be held there in August. Around the corner is jeweller René Talmon L’Armée; we did a swap, where I received a stunning piece and they got a drawing. The transaction was definitely in my favor. I have been very lucky with the creatives I have met here.
'I wanted my move to be as alien as possible, the transition however ended up being humanising.'
On the most challenging aspect of the city
The U-Bahn, in particular the U8 line, can be a challenging experience. A small tip — if you have a run-in with a ticket inspector, I recommend accepting whatever they have to say, then writing directly to the BVG (Berlin’s public transport company).
On pushing your creativity
Because Berlin is a technology hub, I am beginning to imagine new possibilities combining art, technology and sound. I’m watching how installations are built and understanding how they will be experienced. I am also teaching bass guitar for the Open Music School — a part of Give Something Back to Berlin, which is an association that connects migrants, refugees and locals to engage in building an open and inclusive society. Currently we are having our lessons via Zoom, but I’m looking forward to being back at Sharehaus Refugio and enjoying that community in person again.
On current projects
Although it’s been a difficult time, it has also been inspiring. My solo project Neu-Romancer is beginning to breathe, my first HÖR (live stream set) is coming up, plus a couple of tracks may see the light of day very soon. Really looking forward to the restrictions easing so I can play again — we all miss dancing.
Aside from teaching, I also play synth with Zanias — Alison Lewis, aka Zoe Zanias — who runs a great label here called Fleisch Records, and is an extremely talented producer and musician. We toured Germany last year, playing the Munich Olympic Stadium with social distancing. It was surreal, wonderful and bizarre all at once. I also play bass in another fantastic band, VV & The Void. Our last show was on a boat in the middle of a forest for a pagan autumn festival. Other things on the horizon: I have just joined CIERŃ and I’m very much looking forward to playing with them live. There are also a few other beginnings brewing. It’s all very fluid.
On how Berlin inspires you
The support and genuine connections I have found here all come from really interesting and different contexts. However, the thing they all have in common is the pursuit for new experiences and understanding. To me, being surrounded by so much diversity is incredibly inspiring. This city is a magnet for it — you can learn from and be inspired by all creative cultures here.
'Berlin is a melting pot of people from different cultures and contexts, many with the same intention: to create. My sense of being a part of many different communities is what makes living in Berlin so fulfilling.'
On lessons learnt in Berlin
Berlin is a borderless city. I feel like I knew next to nothing about the world before I moved here. Now, there are so many more places I want to experience and learn from.
On life during the pandemic
COVID has influenced life in Berlin enormously. The sense of community is really strong, but it’s hard to tell Berliners not to party. That aside, I got to know a more gentle side of the city during this time. Without the pandemic, I also wouldn’t have discovered my love of drawing.
On where to eat in Berlin
We can’t enjoy restaurants at this stage, so here’s a list for when we get our freedom back… For a special occasion somewhere beautiful, Katz Orange is stunning. An old, classic destination of hilarity and excess, Paris Bar in Charlottenburg. For croissants and coffee in Kreuzberg, La Maison is great, especially when you can sit out the front and enjoy being under the trees. The imbiss (snack) street cafés here are mostly super good, cheap and authentic. My favorite so far is Falafel Kreuzberg.
On where to celebrate
Can’t do that just yet. Das Gift has the best jukebox. I love the billiard bars — coming from Australia, a good pool table is always appreciated. If in Kreuzkölln, head to Vin Aqua Vin for wine. For takeaway, Lager Lager is great. Berlin parks, like in the rest of the world, are seriously appreciated right now.
'Berlin is a borderless city...being surrounded by so much diversity is incredibly inspiring. This city is a magnet for it, you can learn from and be inspired by all creative cultures here.'
On your favorite spot for music
Before COVID, some favorites were Berghain, Tresor, Else and 8MM. However, there will be some new spots opening up for summer, hopefully they will be able to function within the restrictions.
On what you recommend if a friend is visiting
Berlin takes a while to get to know — it’s the kind of place you want to spend at least a couple of weeks. However, for the ideal ‘one day in the city’, Tempelhofer Feld is a priority. An airport with a huge history, the last flight was in 2008, and it’s now a space for freedom and expression. I hope it stays this way forever.
Going on a Saturday would also mean the market at the nearby Kiez will be on. Maybe then a walk along the Maybachufer side of the Landwehr Canal in Kreuzberg. Afterwards head to the galleries in Mitte, like KW Institute for Contemporary Art and Museum Island — the food and coffee around here is really good too. If it’s a weekend or you have more time, I’d also suggest a bike ride through Tiergarten, stopping at Café am Neuen See. Wholesome.
On a window or an aisle seat
The window, so I can watch the clouds go by.
On Berlin in one word