Stony Sugarskull: 'Berlin has a weirdness that allows for possibilities you don’t find elsewhere'

Influenced by the likes of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and Mazzy Star, Dr Monika Demmler, aka Stony Sugarskull, infuses krautrock, shoegaze, punk and psych with balancing frequencies. Stony's musical self-discovery was prompted by a near-fatal car accident on the Autobahn and a subsequent trip through the southern United States. She then returned to her native Berlin inspired to pursue her own ideas of rock and roll.

Her debut album LiONESS was released in June 2020 (vinyl) on Sugarskull Records (DE), STP Records (UK) and Moon Bus Records (US) and was described by Classic Rock Magazine as Shot through with a distinctly Berlin ennui [...] LiONESS is a trip from start to finish". Stony is currently working on her second album PRiNCESS with local legend Franz Bargmann. Oh, and her incredible song House on Fire features on our debut compilation Das Wasteland Vol 1&2.

We recently checked in with Stony to find out what she's been up to during lockdown and to discuss her latest album, lifelong love affair with Berlin and her weirdest gig... to date.

Stony Sugarskull. Photo by Martyn Goodacre

What’s been the best thing about Berlin during lockdown?

I’ve actually really enjoyed the lockdown! I don’t have to go anywhere and can just work on my stuff. I’ve been writing a new album called PRiNCESS, which is a follow-up to my debut LP LiONESS, so I’ve been focused on that and my work with sound frequencies.

Tell us about LiONESS and the upcoming album

LiONESS starts out pretty loud with the song House on Fire and then gets kinda weird towards the middle as it mirrors a breakdown. It then begins to ease up, becomes quieter towards songs such as Turtles, Beehive and Butterflies. The aim of the middle section is demonstrate a respect for nature, and peacefulness which, coincidentally, represents what’s happening right now. Everything has been quiet on the streets reminded us that we need to find a healthy balance between technological advancement the natural environment, and mind and body. I’m also researching sound frequencies — so each song is embedded in a particular frequency.

The upcoming album incorporates different instruments such as a Bavarian instrument called the zither — made famous by Anton Karas on the soundtrack to the classic movie The Third Man. There’s also a bit of accordion in there, as well as a lot of Krautrock influence. I love the hypnotism of it. I’m joined by Franz Bargmann, an amazing guitarist who regularly plays with Michel Rother from Neu! and also in legendary Berlin band CAMERA. We’re planning to record in June and hopefully it’ll be finished before 2022 and we can start playing live again very soon!

How about your research on sound frequency?

I’m really researching what certain frequencies can do to people. The Rolling Stones also did some work with this but in another way. I want to do it with a focus on health and wellness. Music has always been used to heal, so I want to explore that more. I’m also thinking about creating an app, which helps people connect their mood with the relevant music that will help them cope by incorporating these frequencies into music they would actually listen to — whether that’s techno or rock and roll.

Where’s the first place you’ll go to when Berlin is back alive?

It’s hard to say because a lot of places have closed down. I’m really excited about the places that are currently being created, though. There’s loads of stuff going on. Even before the pandemic, It’s always been difficult to say "let’s go here or go there" in Berlin. It’s more about walking around and discovering something new. In that sense, I think the city is still being created — it’s a state of permanent evolution. It’s not like when I lived in London and you always knew where the night would take you.

Stony at home. Photo by Martyn Goodacre

What venues do you miss the most?

I was supposed to have a release party at Urban Spree Gallery, which would’ve been really fun, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Apart from that, I love playing in underground places where you’re close to the audience and you have a connection with them. I really miss Madame Claude, a cool bar located in a former brothel in Berlin Kreuzberg, too.

What’s the weirdest gig you’ve played?

Ha! It was probably with Martyn (Das Wasteland co-founder) and our band Bed Monsters at a place around the corner from my place called Chez Charly on my birthday last year. It’s a wild place. It’s open around the clock and hadn’t closed in 50 years — until the pandemic. We decided to party there and we were all in a crazy mood. It’s always packed with a quirky mix of locals and artists, and the vibe is something else.

What’s your favourite track on the Das Wasteland LP and how does it represent the music scene?

There’s something in each one. I think it’s a really diverse and interesting collection of songs and styles. I think Berlin has always been a place where musicians have felt comfortable. Iggy and Bowie obviously spent time here. You can hide, relax and focus on your art if you want. You also don’t feel like you have to play a role in the way you would in somewhere like LA. Anything goes and you can just do your thing. It’s not regulated and has this weirdness that allows for possibilities you don’t find anywhere else.

What impact will the last 12 months have on Berlin?

I don’t think it’ll change soon. Berlin has always managed to keep its character. It may not be like it was 20 years ago when it had this strong sense of originality after the opening of the Wall, but Berlin is still Berlin. I always realise when I go away that I can’t wait to get back.

What would be your Berlin desert island disk?

I’d just take the Das Wasteland compilation!

Das Wasteland Berlin: Vol 1&2 is Das Wasteland Record's debut release. Pre-order the limited edition double vinyl here

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