An Interview about Seattle and Berlin, with Camea
Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström gives in to yet another one of his obsessions, the one with Seattle, while interviewing Berlin based producer Camea.
Recently Profet has directed plenty attention toward Berlin and its electronic music scene. Most topics for Profet features come from obsessions of mine, or ideas I have on how I would like to change myself. Berlin is one of my current fascinations, so I believe the universe (or whatever you choose to call it) has brought me musicians from the German capital so I’ll be able to investigate my hang up. Of course it’s interesting to explore the ongoing electronic movement as well, but honesty lasts the longest and my honest opinion is that my own fixations are more important for me to examine. I’m happy that I at least can combine my borderline unhealthy soul searching with interviewing some of the world’s most captivating artists. Now that I’ve done so in countless articles, I think my next challenge would be to interview someone based in Berlin and not write about my feelings for the city. When you forbid yourself from writing something that you’re used to, other perspectives are allowed passage.
Producer, record label mogul and radio host Camea covers two of my interests in one; she has moved from Seattle and now lives in Berlin, not entirely unlike Eric Maltz (interviewed in the Profet piece »A Tale of Two Cities« ) who left New York for the same European electronic music Mecca. Seattle was the city of my dreams right after Los Angeles (when I dreamed of living like Guns N’ Roses) and New York (when I idolized The Ramones) and I bet you can imagine what about Seattle caught my attention. That’s right, grunge. I habitually exaggerate the past which I haven’t consciously lived through, and the 90’s is a particularly awe worthy period for me. The fashion (much of it originated in Seattle), the music (some of it rooted in Seattle), the people (some of the most admirable ones hailing from Seattle) are all woven together like a mythological pattern that I love to study, to inspect and to admire. I am clever enough (believe it or not) to understand that I picture the 90’s as legendary lore because I went through it in an unconscious state of childhood, and I can never experience what it was really like. It’s almost touchable, but out of reach, and that’s what I like. This feeling can be compared to what I experience in my distant love affairs with cities like Berlin, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. The only difference is that I can seek out my dreams and find out that these places are nothing like I thought they would be.
»I want to give people all of myself as an artist, if that makes sense.«
My battling with my dreams and expectations are almost fully disclosed in the Profet interviews »A Walk Down The Sound Path« , »A Tale of Two Cities« , »A Quieter Love« and »Loud Fascination for Lord Fascinator, part II« among many others, written for you to step into my dream world and maybe build your own.
Camea has lived in Berlin since 2007, and after I’ve wished her a belated happy mother’s day (since she mentions her toddler might wake up during our video link interview) I ask her directly if she still thinks of Seattle every once in a while.
- I try to go home once a year, she says, and when I’m on tour in the States I’ll base it in Seattle.
- And you’ve dedicated your new release »NAF 97« to Seattle? I ask her in a stereotypically pop journalistic way, already knowing the answer before I ask.
- Yes, NAF Studios is an old venue where I went to my first parties in ’97 and ’98. It was just this warehouse rave space that we’d go to every weekend and this EP is sort of an homage to that. The A-side is a ravy, trancy techno sound and the B-side is more of a DBX »Losing Control« type of homage. I remember when I bought that record – I bought like three copies – how amazing it was, and I wanted to do a tribute to the whole thing.
My mind is blown by Camea’s story. It rarely happens during an interview (because of my widely renowned intellect and superhuman memory regarding musical trivia) that I learn something new, especially about a city that I’ve pictured as paradise for many years. I feel ashamed but astonished about hearing that Seattle not only bred flannel shirt gloom rockers, but also a pulsing techno scene in the ever so mysterious 90’s. I have been so naïve to think that grunge was the only musical movement to take place in Seattle, and Camea has pulled me out of this embarrassing pothole in my knowledge of the world. For that, I’m ever thankful to her. All the while, my pulse is hitting new all-time highs from learning new information on the American Pacific Northwest 90’s.
Electronic music wasn’t Camea’s niche until her first NAF parties. Up until then, she studied piano and clarinet in a classical music setting, also dabbling in jazz. In college, she discovered electronics and her life was changed.
- How did it affect your electronic music, your knowledge of classical music? I ask Camea.
- I think the place where the road met for me was many years later, she says and starts explaining: When I first discovered electronic music, it was more about the bleeps and the electronic sounds that you couldn’t make organically with instruments, which was so exciting for me. At that time I had studied classical music so intensely that I was just really ready to explore something new. So, I put all of that away for a long time and when I started producing around 2004, it was still bleepy and I was playing around with noises. Around 2011, I started becoming much more musical in the way I wrote music, and I started going back to the classical melodic roots.
I decide to let Camea in on my love story with Seattle, because I feel like being honest about my already mentioned intentions with this piece: To reveal and investigate my feelings for the two cities Camea can call her home.
- That’s funny, I was just looking at your look and thinking about Nirvana, and I was thinking »He’s got this grunge thing going on«, she laughs when I tell her.
- I’ve always aimed for a look that would fit into »Singles«. I would like to look like a neighbor in »Singles«.
- You totally look like a neighbor from »Singles«, Camea says.
The »Singles« cast
Since my most intense grunge period, I have certainly changed my style and intended to do so, but Camea once again teaches me something new about myself. Though I, for the last couple of years, have tried to achieve diametrically different looks every day I think my grunge days have made a lasting impression on me. I haven’t even thought about the movie »Singles« in years, but I still get overwhelmed and flattered when a true Seattleite gives me her seal of approval. Camea explains what grunge has meant, and still does mean, to her.
- I have an older brother. When I was thirteen he brought home »Nevermind«, and I remember seeing the CD with the baby in the water chasing the dollar bill on the front. My brother was obsessed and started listening to Nirvana and Alice In Chains and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. I was still quite young, so I didn’t fully grasp the message of the music at that age, but by association I also got super obsessed with it. Even today I can go back and listen. One of my favorites is Nirvana’s »MTV Unplugged«, I can listen to that over and over. It was a really cool time in Seattle, everything changed. We were all Suburbia kids, everything was kind of picket fence and we had these cheerleader expectations. Then Nirvana came along and they were like »Hey, it’s cool to be different«. Seattle is a wonderful place but it’s very material, so when Nirvana and these bands came out it touched all of the kids. It gave us the freedom to share different sides of ourselves.
When Camea says »cheerleader«, I come to think of my first reaction to the cover of »NAF 97«. It shows a black and white deer in a cheerleader uniform with a certain anarchistic symbol on the chest. The same uniform just so happens to be worn in the most influential music video from the grunge era (if you don’t know which one I mean, you don’t have to bother reading another sentence of this interview – it will be a waste of your time and mine). Camea is very excited about me making this observation.
- Did you get it? You got it! You’ve made me so happy, thank you! NAF Studios is actually where they filmed the video, then it turned into a rave warehouse which is now ironically a publishing house for Christian books.
The »NAF 97« cover
Camea had thought that no one would get the reference in the »NAF 97« cover, and I’m happy to see her so thrilled that someone actually did. To me, the uniformed deer is subtle enough to be the perfect homage to an iconic era, that obviously has marked both me and Camea individually.
All releases on Camea’s own label Neverwhere, from »Hello Earth EP« (2016) to »NAF 97«, have been graced with similar artwork. The theme is black and white, and features hybrids of humans and animals. I must say that »NAF 97« has the most striking cover of them all, but I might say that in my state of inebriation from understanding its reference. Camea is a fan of surrealism, and has wanted to transfer that into her visuals.
- For me, the visual aspect of a release is just as important as the audio, she says.
Not many musicians would say so, but I most certainly agree with her. The world is divided in two groups, there are the ones who appreciate the album format, and the ones who are comfortable in this one track minded state we’re experiencing right now. Camea vividly remembers seeing the cover of »Nevermind« from when she was thirteen, and I clearly remember laying eyes on the first Ramones album, where the boys are lined up against the wall looking like they can’t be bothered with anything. Our visual experiences made its way into how we listened to these two classic albums, and the covers have secured the records’ immortality. Camea has reacted strongly to how making an album today is less important than it used to be.
- The whole thing with doing the Neverwhere label is my way of trying to preserve the art of releasing music, and trying to put my whole heart into a release. The whole concept was to make music that is very personal to me, to title it in a way that I feel is connected to the music and then match it visually. I want to give people all of myself as an artist, if that makes sense.
It does make sense, to me. I very often (maybe too often) write about my ambitions with Profet and with specific articles, and that’s because I want to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of them. Someday, when enough eyes have rested on my words and enough minds have grasped my concept of wanting to offer something that should be impossible to find anywhere else, then maybe I can stop writing about it and simply focus on doing it. Until that day, I will continue to explain myself, and I will continue to understand why Camea feels the need to do likewise.
Neverwhere started on the ever so inspiring Ellen Allien’s label BPitch Control, with the release of an EP back in 2013, at a time when Camea was going through challenging personal changes. When she was finished with the »Neverwhere« EP, she felt like she still had more to say, which resulted in the beginning of Neverwhere Radio.
- It’s a monthly two-hour show, Camea says. I do a one-hour mix of music that I’m into, and then I have a guest in the second hour. That’s also a very personal thing to me, my connection to them. I love connecting with people and helping them get a spot in the music world.
Camea is very humble and grateful for the Neverwhere Radio listeners, yet aware of the impact the show can have based on plenty of feedback from friendly followers.
- It’s sort of surreal, thinking that someone half way across the world had an emotional experience because of something you did in your apartment. It’s really special.
I have felt what Camea’s describing at a few points in my short but intense career as a self-centered, but still centered pop journalist. I’m afraid I am not as humble (but nevertheless grateful) as she is, more intoxicated and empowered by it. But, since she managed to teach me a few things about myself just during a brief interview, who says it’s too late for me to learn how to be humble?