October/November 2014

by Tom Young

Postcards From Berlin: Freddy Fudd Pucker

by Tom Young

Postcards From Berlin: Freddy Fudd Pucker

Mixing equal parts of tequila, vodka, gin, galliano and lemon juice with four measures of orange juice will get you pretty much Freddy Fudd Puckered. More healthily you could search out the former Dunedinite oddball folk-punk artist known by that moniker – Tom Young to his mum. Freddy Fudd Pucker‘s 2006 self-titled debut album included songs of equal parts honesty and profanity, like Smells Like Teen Binge Drinking and Romeo Is A Rapist, to give novices some idea. After a stint in Melbourne Freddy moved on to Europe, where he has resided for almost two years and from where he kindly sent NZM this postcard, complete with insightful reflections of life in and around Berlin.

As I see the relentlessly horrifying things that the dominant culture of my species does to its home on a daily basis, sometimes I want to grow scales, gills and fins. Devolve. We fucked it up! Back to the swamp! Back to the soup that we came from!

Human guilt is a shitty feeling… you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you won’t be comfortable anywhere on this earth. Packing up your baggage and moving to a new place (i.e. running away) is not a good way to deal with shit. However, if you can find a way to joyously sing and share yours with an understanding of the fact that everyone is also wading through the same swamp, and do this with a lack of shame, then you might be on to something worthwhile…

Like it has for so many other humans, art and music have kept me sane in a seemingly insane world. To me a good show is when there is a feeling that both performer and audience are acknowledging the fact that while everything outside of this living room, basement, gallery, club or bar is really messed up, here we are, joyously sharing our shit with each other… better out than in!

Freddy Fudd Pucker has toured a lot. Touring is madness. Especially touring in a DIY fashion. Booking shows in Hungary, finding booze in Mississippi, staying awake while driving from Zürich to Vienna in a blizzard, sleeping in truck stops the world over, trying not to get arrested in Texas… You have to continuously slap yourself in order to avoid slipping between realities. It is my favourite thing to do, but it is not easy.

In early 2013, four or five years into almost constantly touring NZ, Australia, the US and Europe, I found myself asking some questions about ways to make this lifestyle socially, financially and most importantly, mentally sustainable. I was asking things like, ‘Where can I live cheap enough to not work much, giving me time to dedicate myself to creative stuff?’ ‘Where can I tour a lot, nurturing a small, but growing fanbase while constantly finding new crazy places to try?’ ‘Where can I find a mix of the inspiration that comes with chaos and at the same time find the time and calm for this inspiration to manifest into songs, etc.?’ ‘Where can this NZ passport get me into for more than three months at a time?’ ‘Can I seriously still go to a bar, pay $10-$12 for a pint of beer and look myself in the mirror tomorrow afternoon?’

After asking these questions, Berlin was the winner. Considering its popularity with the cool kids, Berlin is still relatively cheap. If my monthly rent is not much, then I don’t have to worry so much about working. Heck! Sometimes I can pay rent from being a touring musician. Crazy idea huh?

Berlin’s geographic location is superb to tour Europe from. So, as long as you’re willing to put in long hours booking (by this I mean developing real and constructive relationships with people that organise shows in their town), there are shows to play in weird places all over Europe.

Actually, Freddy doesn’t really perform so much in Berlin. I prefer to book regular, small tours around Germany and Europe. Mostly, I use my time in Berlin to take in the weird stuff other weirdoes do, work on new songs and projects while drunkenly ranting to friends by the canal in my neighbourhood… yes, the beer is cheap and affords me this luxury.

Berlin is a genuinely multicultural city with a vastly diverse array of people living in it. For me this is probably the most charming and inspirational aspect of living in one of the biggest, dirtiest, poorest capital cities in Europe.

It is easy to think of Germany and just think of fat, pinkish-white dudes eating würst and drinking huge beers. Although, of course, there is a portion of the population that fits that description, that perspective is very skewed. For example, Berlin is home to the most concentrated population of Turks anywhere in the world outside of Turkey. It also has one of the most concentrated Vietnamese populations outside of Vietnam. Poles, Ghanaians, Russians, Australasians, Americans, Serbians, Spaniards, Roma and Sinti, a huge amount of Arabs mostly from Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. To me, every ethnicity and culture is an integral part of this city. They are celebrated by the everyday hustle on the streets and in the process get morphed into new cultures. (Fun meat fact: the döner kebap was invented in Berlin, not Istanbul.)

postcards ffp in bar nzm157

It is a city full of longtime residents, immigrants, transients and refugees. To me this almost harmonic chaos is interesting and inspiring. If only this could occur without the horror of international borders (the same way money does).

I’ve never found any real worth in nationalism. So, the juxtaposition of being a New Zealander abroad and my ideals of a world without nation-states can sometimes pose personal/social problems for me. Although I feel intensely connected to Te Waipounamu, the land where I was born, I’ve never been overly proud of my government or passport – though I am grateful that it is not one that border guards inherently hate. In my experience, although New Zealanders’ patriotism doesn’t have the same militaristic sting that often accompanies that of the US and other countries, the blind, vitriolic, We’re all on the same team vibe can still be awful. Nationalism breeds the very dangerous idea that one life is more important than another purely due to birthplace.

I love having visitors from home and meeting New Zealanders here. However, it is important to remember when hanging out with New Zealanders abroad, that we share a connection because of maybe growing up amidst similar socio-economic scenery, or that we both hate John Key, or both read the same Margaret Mahy books as kids or got stoned and watched Braindead as teens. NOT because we share the same nationality. People should be judged according to their actions, not by their passport (or lack of one).

For me, right now, living in Berlin is great. It is an incredibly creative time in the life of Freddy Fudd Pucker and this city, in all its diversity, is helping to nurture that. In the last year or so I’ve written and recorded a load of songs, played over 100 shows around Europe including several with musical heroes of mine. I’ve made bad decisions, woken up on the pavement and proceeded to write songs I think are great. All the while, I’ve made amazing friends that just never stop doing stuff.

Cities are not the same as seas, mountains, beaches and forests. They are not naturally beautiful. Actually they are scars on the landscape. Buboes in Gaia’s armpits. What makes cities special for me, what helps alleviate some of my human-guilt, are the people that do creative stuff and the creative stuff they do. I think one of the worst things someone can do is move to a place with their shit on their back, talk shit and hope living in that place makes them smell better.

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