On September 15th, at an “Underground Europe” record fair and swap in Berlin, visitors will have a chance to add their collections one-of-a-kind underground vinyls without the hassle of going to dozens of shows, junk sales or using auction websites. At this year’s third edition organized by Goodwill Records at Cassiopeia venue, guests will be able to find a lot of record stores, mailorders, record labels and private exhibitors, and use special “flying tables” to sell their own records! We sat down with Adam, who organizes this unique event, to find out more about his reasons, the details behind the fair, this year’s Fluff Fest, and a lot lot more. See the interview below and check out Goodwill Records’ new release from BYSTANDER, featuring Greg Bennick of TRIAL, coming up on September 1st!
Hey Adam! What’s up buddy? How was Fluff Fest? How are you?
Hey Karol! Long time no hear. All is good here. Fluff fest was good as usual, although I had very hard time finding a vehicle to rent and take my distro there. In the end I managed to find something but had to miss the first day because of that.
The festival itself was solid. Many, many bands, most of which I didn´t know, to be honest. There wasn´t many “big” names and the price went up a little, so perhaps this combination of things resulted in lower attendance. In turn, the queues for entrance, food, drinks, ice cream and toilets were much faster and this made the experience more enjoyable.
I enjoyed Ruiner and Loma Prieta and also a band called Pacino that I discovered right there, at Fluff. They were a breath of fresh air compared to everything else going on and had a bit of then 90s emo vibe about them that I appreciated a lot. At the end of the day, bands are not the main reason for me going to Fluff but rather seeing people that I see once a year. Izumi, the other part of Goodwill records, and all the people I meet there once a year. I shared the stand with my friend Robert of Refuse records, so I could always check how accurate my knowledge of the Polish 80s HC/Punk is. It´s good to have someone who can keep me in line on that topic ;)
Fluff is also great for everything else going on there, from the talks to the very tasty vegan food and ice cream. Some people told me that their main reason for going is the swimming pool there, so I guess there is something for everyone. :)
Haha, sure. The pool tribe of Fluff Fesst goers is a one hell of a pack. You better not mess with them haha.
Robert is a close collaborator of mine and I bet he’s a walking encyclopedia of Polish and European punk!
Did you acquire some gorgeous vinyl at one of the distros available there?
Oh yes, I got some Jawbreaker and Government Issue LPs from Milan (another Polish guy) and a few other records. And I finally got me the first Post Regiment LP. I only had it on tape released by QQRYQ back in the early 90s, when I used to trade with them. I think the name of the guy was Zbygniew. We traded fanzines and some other stuff. I think that´s how Zips & Chains got distributed in Poland and I got some stuff they released like DOA, Post Regiment, Schizma,…
Fluff, on the other hand, is always great for trading. On the last day everyone is doing rounds taking their records to different stands and trading for everything that came out since the last time. That´s a lot of fun. There was Emergence (Fr), Powertrip (Ger), Long Walk (Pol), Reality (Bel), Nikt Nic Nie Wie (Pol), Ugly and Proud (Bul), Refuse (Pol), Alerta Antifascista (Ger), Contraszt (Ger), Inhumano (Swi), and of course Goodwill records. It´s great to see old friends and check out what stuff has been out in one year or since the last Fluff you both attended.
Given all these years of attendance at, have you made some observations about how you’d like this festival to grow and evolve? If you were the organizer, what would you change in its format?
That´s a very difficult question, Karol. Of course I have thought about it as well as talked to friends about it, but it would be an ungrateful task to put oneself in organizer´s shoes. You know the saying: if you want to find out how this country should be ruled, just go get yourself a haircut. Barbers and taxi drivers always know it better than the politicians or football coaches. The truth is, when you only have half the information, it´s easy to make assumptions and say how things would work better.
The fact is that Fluff is probably the biggest DIY festival that is still relatively cheap, that charges fair prices for the food, charges nothing for stands if you want to sell records or else there and offers free facilities like showers, toilets, drinking water,… If they´ve been going on for close to two decades, there must be a reason. I was talking to a friend the other day and he said he got this from the organizer: “The bands I like have oscillating popularity. Some years they are very popular and other years they are not, hence the popularity of the fest oscillates as well.” Fair enough.
Personally, I´d love to see some of the older bands that past editions used to have (7 Seconds, DOA, Endpoint, MDC, Doom, Burn,…) but not this one. And perhaps just a little more variety on the main two stages, although with so many different tents/stages and different bands, they are doing fairly good job on that. Fluff fest is an institution and I hope it continues for many years to come.
FLUFF FEST » GO HERE to see videos from this year’s edition!
What other festivals would you recommend for somene who enjoys the atmosphere at Fluff?
Fluff is unique for its longevity. I have attended a lot of festivals all around and most of them don´t exist anymore. But one festival at which you can find very similar atmosphere and DIY spirit is Monte Paradiso in Pula, Croatia. It´s a wonderful festival that has been going on ever since the bombs were being dropped on Croatia. It started in 1992 and I first attended it in 1993 and have been back many times. It used to take place in an old fort on the hill, but it got bigger and bigger and is now taking place in the ex-military barracks. Back in the days of This Side Up, we played there in 1998 and this was the biggest amount of people we had ever played in front of. The festival always has interesting bands performing, both local and international. Some of the bands that have played there are Subhumans, Raw Power, Spermbirds, Restarts, Citizen Fish, Mob 47, Los Fastidios, Rattus, Extinction Of Mankind, EU´s Arse, Conflict, Argies, Pisschrist, Vitamin X, La Fraction, Sotatila, Citizens Patrol, Motus, Impact, Crunch,… and many many others. The town of Pula is on the seaside, so you can spend the day on the beach and the night at the festival. it´s one of the most beautiful Croatian towns and they have had a very strong punk scene ever since the late 70s (Problemi, ’77, Gola Jaja, KUD Idijoti, Pasmaters, Fakofbolan, Frontalni Udar,…). It might sound strange, but it´s also one of the most openminded places in Croatia. People are just incredibly relaxed and are used to living in a multicultural environment (several minorities have peacefully coexisted in that area for decades). If you´re thinking of a festival to go to next year, Monte Paradiso may just be what you´re looking for.
Ok, so let’s jump into the details of this year’s Underground Europe record fair. Tell us about the origins of this idea and its evolution ove the course of the last three years.
It´s difficult to pinpoint the origins. I guess it all comes from aimlessly flipping through thousands of records on flea markets and hardly ever finding anything of interest. There are millions and millions of records that were mass produced in the 70s and the 80s when it was the order of the day to actually have a turntable at home. Artists popular back then sold millions of records. Think of Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Boney M, Stevie Wonder, … Not only their original fans got older, lost interest in music, sold their turntables and their records, but there was never short supply of those records to begin with. So what we have today is maybe 10 out of every 100 records that were owned back in the day still in collections while the rest is floating on flea markets trying to find new owners that just ain´t there.
So, when a seller on a flea market has hundreds of records to offer, you flip through all of them hoping to find that one gem that you´d like to have. Is there a Crass record somewhere? Perhaps a Throbbing Gristle one? Maybe they have something by Corrosion of Conformity or even Voivod? Most of the times, the answer is no, but you don´t know that beforehand. So there you go, spending hours bending down on your knees going through zillion records for nothing.
And that kind of picture is something we have all been through so many times. So I started thinking, why not having people selling good stuff all in one place. Let´s keep all those Phil Collins and Samantha Fox records out of the picture and go through the underground stuff. Let´s browse through records that were pressed in 1,000 copies, not 100 million copies. Let´s cut some slack and save everyone some time and make flipping through records a nice experience again. It´s a little bit like going to a specialized store, except there are many stores at the same time.
So, with this in mind I started Underground Europe in 2015. I wanted to create a space where music enthusiasts will come once a year and find their vinyl fix, meet their friends, meet new people, chat about music, listen to music and have good time all around. A place where they could bring their unwanted records and trade them for something they like. Have some doubles? Have records you don´t listen to anymore? Have some records that belonged to your ex and he never picked them up after you broke up over a Descendents song? Well, bring them over and trade them for something better. It´s a very simple concept.
And how did it evolve over the course of the last three years?
We started small, but ambitious. Maybe even too ambitious to be honest. What I have learned is that no matter how much effort you put into it, you don´t create a successful record fair or successful anything overnight. It takes time and patience. So, the first edition gathered sellers from Berlin: record labels, private sellers, mailorders,… but the audience was international. We had many visitors from Poland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and all over Germany. Next year we managed to bring in sellers that aren´t local. We had several sellers from all over Germany as well as Czech Republic.
This year it´s getting a truly international shape with sellers from Belgium, Poland, Czech republic, Slovakia and Italy, plus German sellers from almost all the country´s regions. So it´s growing organically. People pass on information and ever year there are new sellers interested to join.
Another thing that is improving is the variety. The first two years we had for the most part punk and hardcore records, with some industrial, emo, crust and indie stuff. This year we´ll cover much more ground with thrash metal, psychedelia, goth, doom, stoner rock, etc. We have moved to a bigger venue to accommodate everyone which also gives us more table space and capacity.
From year one we´ve had live music and DJs and that´s still the trademark of Underground Europe. In addition, this year we have “flying tables” which are basically tables that can be rented on the spot for very little money. So if a visitor has some really cool records he wants to show to either trade or sell them, renting a table for an hour or two now he can do that.
And last but not least, we always make sure that no one leaves with an empty stomach. Vegan catering will be there this year as well. And two bars, free table football and a couple of other things that are still in the works. Basically, a lot of things going on for a single event.
Tell us more about the spot, how big it is, what’s the location, etc.
We started in a venue called Marie Antoinette and had the first events there. It´s a beautiful venue, right ON the river. You practically have water about 1 meter beneath where you´re standing. It´s a lovely place. However, Berlin´s most frequented areas aren´t on the river, as that´s where wall used to be, so it felt a little bit out of the way, since most of the clubs and bars are in different other areas. Therefore this year we moved to Cassiopeia which is a bigger venue, more centrally located and right in the heart of where everything´s going on. There are several venues just next door: Astra that hosts Punk and Disorderly festival and many bigger Punk shows like Descendents, Toy Dolls, etc. Badehous which is a smaller venue but has great live music and atmosphere, Urban Spree famous for its concerts and exhibitions, and so on and so on. In front of the venue there is a flea market and just around the corner there are many record stores, bars, cafes, screenprinting shops, skateboarding shops, etc. Cassiopeia itself is famous for hosting numerous HC and punk concerts like 7 Seconds, Adolescents, Career Suicide, Coalesce, Have Heart, Generators, Supersuckers, Sect, Metz, Ruiners, Zeke, Subhumans, No Turning Back, Bane, Murphy´s Law,… It has three floors, two stages, three bars and a nice outside area. It´s also well connected with underground, bus, tram and train systems, so it´s very easy to reach.
Can you expound a bit more on DIY venues in Berlin in general? The city is obviously known from long-running squats, counter-culture spots, street art., etc. How has this landscape and infrastructure changed over the years?
Good point. I haven´t lived in Berlin for very long, so it´s hard for me to judge. Most of the underground venues that people know worldwide are still there. There´s a line of separation between commercial and non-commercial venues and you pretty much know which bands you can expect to play certain venues and which not. When we talk about clubs, then it´s probably the genre and size of bands to determine who plays where.
A lot, though not all, of underground places that used to be squats, are nowadays legalized. Some of the oldest venues are of course Kopi, Tommyhaus, Rauchhaus,… Then there´s XB Liebig, Schokoladen, K19, Supamolly, Morgenrot, Zielona Gora, New Yorck,… They are so many that it´s impossible to mention all. Counter-culture doesn´t exist only in squats. There are many groups trying to bring different thinking to the public. I´m part of Homeless Veggie Dinner and we prepare vegetarian/vegan meals for everyone, with focus on the homeless and poor. Everyone can come and eat for free, no matter their social status and the idea is to provide the ground for socializing between people from different social backgrounds. I´m surprised that only 4-5 people who volunteer there (out of a few hundred) come from HC/punk background, considering how topics like social justice and vegetarianism/veganism are very dear to our scene. I was talking to Chad of Bystander the other day as he is also part of a similar project in the US and he says it´s even worse there. Sure, singing about certain things and doing them are two different things, but you´d expect more people to put money where their mouth is.
That said, subculture is pretty alive here in Berlin despite gentrification. Sure, things are very different compared to 15 or even 10 years ago, but Berlin remains a very vibrant city as far as counter-culture is concerned. For people interested to find out more about what´s going on in underground Berlin, I suggest Stress Faktor – a printed and online zine that brings together a list of events like concerts, demonstrations, soup kitchens, presentations, screenings, etc.
Ok Adam, so lastly, what would you wish for yourself in your future endeavours and the independent community you’re part of?
Nothing more than this, sincerely. Just to be doing things I have been doing all along. Release good music, see Underground Europe grow organically into a meeting point for friends and strangers interested in underground music, give a helping hand to those that need it, see more of this world, possibly on a bike, and spend time with my friends.
Of course, I´d like our newest band Bystander have a long and healthy lifetime and influence kids in a positive way. Nothing less for Dead Tourists, who are coming up on Goodwill next I wish to have a chance to put out some (un)forgotten 80s hc/punk on No Plan records.
And I´m looking forward to this newborn baby called Punk Rock Quiz, which is a monthly quiz for punk rockers and anyone that has knowledge of punk, hc, post-punk, crust, power pop, new wave, proto punk, emo, garage,… and all the genres that stemmed from or are related to punk rock.
Don´t take anything for granted, question everything no matter how much it´s accepted by others, and support your friends! And when you gift, do it from the heart. Don´t wait for a birthday, Christmas, mother´s day,… Those are conventions made by men and have nothing to do with feelings. Find the time for others and others will find the time for you. Peace.