Photo by Sandra Thiedecke
Hanin Elias and Mary Ocher have a few things in common, both iconic women, activists and artists based in Berlin, with strong – some might say shocking – imagery, both collaborating at Your Mom’s Agency, and both involved with the Berlin Music Video Awards. The inaugural BMVAs have gained a lot of discussion in recent weeks, alighting debate in Berlin’s video scene. The night will involve four selection rounds before the announcement of a final winner, with some networking and music in-between. Whether this will be a night for collaboration, or a night for artists pulling each other’s hair, remains to be seen.
What do you make of the idea to organize a Berlin Music Awards?
Hanin: I think it’s great when artists and musicians have a single platform where they can meet and work on things together, big names, labels, smaller names and video artists alike.
What do you think of the videos so far?
Mary: It’s hard to judge only by the promo video of the show… I guess it will be a surprise!
Hanin: I saw about a third of videos submitted are from France, I didn’t know there would be so many French video artists participating in the event but that’s brilliant. It gives us a chance to work on bigger projects with a European-wide scope.
What is your role in the BMVAs?
Mary: Looks like I’m nominated, not sure in which category yet; and I’m also playing live.
Hanin: I was asked to be in the jury. I will not perform at the event and will not be showing any new videos, but I’ll be participating with the view of forging interesting connections and collaborations.
How do you envisage encounters between the Berlin and Neukolln video scenes going down at the awards?
Mary: I imagine there being little comradeship between the acts. I tend work outside of everything so I can’t say for sure, perhaps being in the same room will change things, but personally I think it’ll create tension and competitiveness, instead of creating opportunities to collaborate. That said, Hanin’s participated in the film I’m currently working on…
Mary, you’re a solo artist but you also have tried out playing with bands, what’s up with that?
I’d been playing in bands before drifting off on my own. Bands are harder to pull together and maintain but are also much more rewarding. It’s just that I’m used to being responsible for everything from A to Z and when more people are involved the logistics become more complicated as well.
Hanin, you’ve worked for years as part of a band, what influenced you to make the move to performing as a solo artist?
I love collaborations, performing my songs with different musicians, as well as classical performances with strings, cello and piano. After being in a band for 12 years I enjoyed the freedom of writing my own songs and collaborating with whoever comes along now. I always get inspired by new styles and different musicians; they wake up parts of me that I haven’t explored yet.
Mary and Hanin, what do you think of women in your alternative music scene?
Mary: Women are way behind in numbers, and many still hide behind a boyfriend who takes care of all of the technics, plays the instruments, handles the equipment, etc. The technophobia is tragic and so is relying on somebody else to do the work. There’s not much to it if you just step beyond the initial hesitation. Behind the scenes there’s loads of female promoters, bookers, label folk and PR agents, but it’s a male dominated industry no matter how you look at it. In Rock & Roll, Punk or Garage there’s even less ladies than in electronic music, I’m generalizing a bit of course, but it’s true. It’s dude music and dude territory – white and straight dudes. You can be good, even very good, but they just won’t accept you in. Rock & Roll relies on tradition and nostalgia, rather than innovation and breaking any codes, and most beat bands consisted of 4-5 young boys, as did psychedelic bands in the following decade. Disco, Punk, Post-Punk and Goth changed that a little, but almost all genres were and are male dominated, partly because gals are still afraid to pick up a guitar and shred away.
Hanin: When women do music from their inner passion and get great results out of it they’re still always put into the ‘women’s’ corner, which seems somehow odd. For guys it seems natural to be a musician, using a guitar, handling technique and drum machines, so they have their own personality and style. If a woman does it, everyone makes a big deal out of it and tries to put her in a feminist perspective, which immediately puts a tag on her and ends up castrating her freedom to do what she wants. People are more critical when it comes to judging women in music industry. A guy somehow is always cool and will not be questioned. We somehow are not allowed to have personality, we need to be put in a category and fulfill clichés. Once you’re in you can’t get out.
What are your future projects for after the awards are over?
Hanin: I just came back from touring in South America and I’ll be working on a new video for the single of my new album. The upcoming album is a collaboration with Marcel Degaz, who plays guitar in Die Krupps. It’s a great process. When we sit together and write songs it’s neither his or my style, we create something new that is only possible when we’re together. No one would expect anything like it from either one of us.
Mary: I’m releasing a new album mid-June on Buback, some upcoming live shows, perhaps adopt a puppy one of these days?