Talking Shop is a series where our authors choose five of their favourite shops. Paul Hanford is the author of Coming To Berlin: Global Journeys Into An Electronic Music And Club Culture Capital and the book captures nuances and details of living in Berlin that will be immediately relatable to fellow Berliners yet at the same time captures the city’s creative, free-living essence to anyone with a curiosity for Berlin and a love of electronic music. Paul naturally selects an all-Berlin list of record stores, book shops, bars and coffee shops.
I have a very different relationship with record shops than how I used to. Just before I moved to Berlin I got rid of nearly everything I own; all my records and my record player and books and stuff I’d accumulated ended up in a Stoke Newington charity shop. However, the appeal of Hard Wax goes into a different realm. Just off the canal in Kreuzberg, invisible from the street, up a few flights of graffiti-covered stairs, you push open doors into a significant part of the city’s club history. Founded way back in December 1989 by Basic Channel’s Mark Ernestus merely weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Staff members in the past have included DJ Hell, Marcel Dettmann and Electric Indigo. Hard Wax is a cultural service, I may not own records anymore, and my main reason for visiting, other than absorbing the surroundings, are the cohabiting book shop Echo Bücher, your friendly port of call for trusted music culture curation.
Refuge combines being a fundraising platform working in solidarity with grassroots and non-profit organisations and a radio station. The station, tucked into a snug cocktail bar is fast becoming in its very own unique way Berlin’s answer to NTS. They’re getting amazing DJs and curators playing shows, Refuge is both socially committed and sonically forward-thinking, hosting workshops and running a music school for marginalised persons, it works with social equity groups, homelessness agencies, and a shelter for women and young persons fleeing domestic violence. For me, the real magic of Berlin’s creative energy is based in collaboration, and in a place like Refuge, where people come together through cultural differences and projects happen out of this, I see this.
Coffee. It sounds like a no brainer but living in a new place, getting to know people, adjusting to a new environment, you have to think local. Buy local, drink local, sit around on chairs on the street local. And as my word count is almost entirely powered by caffeine from writing in coffee shops, drinking locally poured coffee. I never make my own coffee and Tischendorf is a beautiful space and very near the canal in Neukölln. It has curated art on the walls, vegan chocolate cake to swim in and it’s run with real love and dedication by a family-like team. Whoever is working that day always puts great music on, always capturing that day, be it some cosmic jazz on the first day of spring or Nils Frahm on a bleak as old chips midwinter.
In the book, I write about seeing Detroit Urban Resistance member now Berlin resident Alan Oldham DJing a set of 90s shoegaze gems in this Prenzlauer Berg cocktail bar. Named after the Suicide song, I absolutely love this bar. I’ve seen the new year in here, plus from my perspective from DJing there from time to time, it has such a liberating music policy, Andrew the manager actively encourages those that play to go dark – IBM, electro, new wave “play darker.”
Laidak is an intellectual poet left-wing writer heaven. Dirty, smoky, crumbly, bookshelves brim the walls, Marxist slogans are etched onto tables and the coffee is fucking disgusting and all the better for it. Laidak opens at midday and stays open till I dunno, sometime around 3am. It’s a place where it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up on your own and read a book on a Friday night. in this ever more safe and commodified world, Laidak is sacred ground, a place where you can write and chain-smoke at the same time, end up arguing philosophical bullshit into the small hours with strangers.