Updated: May 7, 2021
Das Wasteland founder Martyn Goodacre discusses the birth of Berlin's latest record label, how the collaboration came about and what it's like working with some of the city's greatest musicians
The guy who took that Kurt Cobain photo, Martyn Goodacre spent the best part of the ‘90s behind a camera, bombing about the globe to shoot some of the biggest names in rock n roll history for NME, The Guardian and Kerrang! He also helped inspire fellow NME journo James Brown to launch Loaded magazine and along with Simon Spence, the three founded prank rock outfit Fabulous, infamous for their bombastic exploits, famous mates and psychedelic tour cab dubbed the ‘Fab Mobile’.
But at the turn of the millennium he ditched the UK overnight and boltholed in the tropical depths of Southeast Asia to “recover from the 90s”. Now he’s back amid the — temporarily dimmed — bright lights of Berlin and with the help of a couple of friends has conceived and launched Das Wasteland Records, a label born out of Covid-induced boredom, rekindled creativity and desire to capture the Wilde Zwanziger Klang: the sound of the roaring twenties.
When did you first say "Ich bin ein Berliner"?
I arrived in Berlin about three years ago, pre-Brexit, pre-Covid. I'd spent the last 15 years living on a tropical island in the south of Thailand recovering from the 90s, so it was quite a radical change. I had to start using my brain again. Instead of walking down palm-shaded lanes to the beach for a lazy afternoon swim with my dog, I was navigating the S and U Bahn trains in a chaotic city etched with graffiti and remarkable history. I certainly had to question my change of lifestyle but it’s great to be back in a city that never fails to inspire.
What is it about the city's scene that makes it so unique?
I don’t know about any particular scene in Berlin, but I do know there’s plenty of exciting and inspiring things going on. It’s fairly cheap to live here compared to most European cities and even though the grim reaper of gentrification threatens, it hasn’t really kicked in. I feel like I grabbed the tailcoat of something. As the former mayor Klaus Wowereit once declared "Berlin ist arm, aber sexy" (poor but sexy), and that just about sums it up for me. Berlin inspired me to get creative again. Cheers for that, Berlin!
How did the Das Wasteland collaboration come about?
I'd been toying with the idea of starting up a record label for a while and by chance my good friend Kirsty Alison introduced me to Kieran (Saint) Leonard who fired my insane idea. And then Terry, an old friend from Thailand, arrived and helped make the dream a reality.
What’s the overriding vibe on Das Wasteland Berlin: Vol 1&2?
We thought we'd test the water by making a small 250-edition compilation with a few bands from the city. Before we knew it we had a double vinyl, gatefold LP, featuring 18 artists from around the world, all with a very strong connection to Berlin. So we got carried away a little, but it's turned into a rather beautiful record in every aspect, from including original compositions to spoken word tracks, though we still intend to keep it as a limited edition with just 1,000 copies.
Which artists were you most surprised to get on board?
A huge inspiration was Berlin Diary’s track, the hilarious ‘most fucked up staircase in Berlin’, which was given to me by Gordon Dawson of Hangman's Beautiful Daughters who'd remixed it. It was also a dream to get long-time resident King Khan involved. He gave us a remarkable recording of John Burl Smith reciting a poem from the Equal Justice Initiative. Smith created the National Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama -- they had volunteers go out to thousands of lynching sites around the state and collected the dirt from the trees and to make this huge monument. He also worked with Dr. Martin Luther King and was a leader of The Invaders, a black power group in Memphis. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting but it totally blew me away. There was no going back once that track dropped in.
Indie artist and fellow Berliner Kieran (Saint) Leonard has also been involved in curating the LP. How'd that work out?
In addition to donating an unreleased track from his forthcoming LP, Kieran came up with the brilliant idea of getting Rob Doyle to record a track from his book ‘Threshold’, which turned out rather well and laid down a vibe for the LP. Another coup was Kieran getting Nathan from Fat White Family (recording under the name Brian Destiny) to give us an unreleased track, 'Nothing's Going to Come and Save us', which is a total blinder.
Who else is on the record?
Of course, any Berlin compilation would be incomplete without a track from another long-time resident, the legendary Eddie Argos and his band Art Brut. That was a special moment and the rest of the LP started falling into place after that with local artists such as Stoney Sugarskull, Otto von Bismark, Martyn Klang and Hello Pity getting involved.
Legend Mark Reeder was on board from the off and generously gave us two tracks he produced: Stolen, a Chinese band that almost blew New Order off stage here in Berlin not so long ago, and a mix from his and Alanas Chošnau’s project, the Children of Nature LP.
At the very last moment when the project had exploded into a double LP, we realised we were short of a track. The bar was high. And then Tim Burgess came through with a song that had me dancing around ecstatic with joy.
What’s the plan once the LP hits the shelves?
From the electric sounds of the compilation to the glorious sleeve, designed by Stephanie Hamer -- who not only helped us procure a trippy and wonderful Drab City track but also had to create a complete sleeve redesign, at the last minute... many last minutes -- I'm totally chuffed with how our first project has turned out. It's been a huge slog dealing with so many artists as one can imagine. It's taken around three times as long as we anticipated, but I cant wait to move on to the next Das Wasteland record. Which of course is totally confidential... for now.
Das Wasteland Berlin: Vol 1&2 is Das Wasteland Record's debut release. Pre-order the limited edition double vinyl here