City Of Reinvention: Æ Mak’s Guide To Berlin
Æ Mak has been through some changes. A shift in location brought long-held questions to the surface, with the Irish born artist relocating to Berlin. Immersing herself in the city’s labyrinthine creative communities, she’s adopted a path of evolution, on both a personal and artistic level.
Out now, her ‘Berlin’ mixtape takes Æ Mak in a fresh direction. Defiant art-pop fuelled by club tropes, her vivid, revelational songwriting is packed with character.
Here, Æ Mak offers a bird’s-eye-view of Berlin, the city that re-made her.
I am an Irish woman who makes and performs badass electronic art pop music. Yes, self-proclaimed badassery.
I moved to Berlin properly last July, July 2022, after dipping my toes – feet – wiggly bits in here and there for stints of time over the previous year.
For the first six months; I was depressed, anxious, self-conscious, jealous, unsure of my identity. The move and the city itself triggered a lot of insecurities in me, awakened some I wasn’t aware I had. I was stuck in this hollow warp at the back of my head and wasn’t quite sure what was happening. Looking at it now from a slightly healthier, happier and more secure place I can finally cut myself a bit of slack in the knowing that the impact of the severe contrast culturally, societally and emotionally; between Ireland and Berlin is very real. (Spiritually, Eire is mine). It is confronting. It is scary. It is exciting. It is challenging. It is hard and as difficult as it has been to contort and somewhat change my mindset of some learned and some inherent shame and fear riddled structures of thinking/feeling/behaving, it is ultimately a freeing city.
You can recreate yourself here, find yourself, lose yourself, whatever way you want to put it. It is a playground for connection. It is open. It welcomes you to express yourself and fuel your spirit and yet at the same time it feels transient, it feels impersonal. Maybe that’s why the element of feeling like anything is possible, is possible. Even though it is steeped in history, in the bricks and mortar – more so in the air – the temperature – the taste – there is a fresh feeling of progression. From my experience, it very much feels like a temporary home for the youth that have immigrated here. The creatives, the dreamers – while they transition and change.
RE. Energy / Dancing / MOVING
I went to ‘Dose of Pleasure‘ last Monday after a weekend in recovery mode and isolation following a run of shows we’d just done in Ireland and the UK. I was feeling lonely and disassociated and needed to get back into my body. Dose of Pleasure is a guided dancefloor meditation practice that’s on bi monthly in Tempelhofer Feld. It’s free flow ecstatic dancing and everyone throws their brains away for two hours and channels everything else that they are. I went on my own and it was so affirming, I was like, yep. I’m meant to be here, I can feel the good stuff again. There are so many communities and classes like this that you can flow in and out of whenever your heart desires.
Motion’s Berlin I do experimental dance workshops here and they are incredible. Tension – filled – primitive – itching – movement versus deep swoosh flow wide arching movement. Pretty much my buzz for the stage shows.
RE. Venues / Clubbing / nightlife / attitude towards sex – consent – respect
If you want an experience to explore your catholic guilt, I would recommend KitKat for gasness. The KitKatClub is a nightclub opened in March 1994 by Austrian pornographic filmmaker Simon Thaur and his partner Kirsten Krüger. I wrote about it in verse two of ‘Baked Cheesecake’ off the ‘Berlin’ mixtape:
“I’ve got my dog collar on
Make love to dead men’s dreams in the night time
She’s got the Britney pants on
ID and breast checks, please
Presenting Ireland in harpy screams
Dragon queen since 16
We’ve got our time kissed off
Serving our church girls in pool club cloths
Emotionally unavailable sexuals…”
Spandex piggies come to mind when I think of this club but it is a supportive, respectful, celebratory and shame-free sexual expressing queer space.
Funkhaus is gorgeous. It’s a former GDR broadcast centre built in the 1950s, located overlooking the River Spree in east Berlin. Famous and beautiful as a concert venue of course and music recording studios that house the likes of Nils Frahm but it also hosts club nights and dance music festivals (good dance music) throughout the year in its black warehouse-y space beside the recording studios. Crazy special. Beautiful brutalist architecture. The perfect setting to live out your hipster gremlin dreams.
Same heads, Richardstraße
Looks a bit like a hairdressers for some reason with its bright lights and checkered floors but it’s a good sweaty buzz if there’s a good DJ playing. Small hobbit hole of a dance floor, in a good way.
Cocktail D’Amore, at CLUB OST
A queer sex positive party night held in Club OST in Friedrichshain
Pinky Promise, at CLUB OST
A sex party for beginners – full of workshops and queer performances
Madame Claude, Kreuzberg, former brothel
There are small shows / open mics in here every night in the lil black room except for on Wednesdays. Some characters in there, ghouls, furniture on the ceiling type buzz.
Prachtwerk has some lovely chill shows on most nights, lots O folk music. I saw Anna Mieke Bishop play a few months ago, heading to JFDR there next week.
Columbia Theatre, a red and wooden, intimate feeling venue. One of my favourites that I’ve been to here. We caught Whitney there a couple of months back.
RE. Spoken word / poetry nights
My best mate El started performing her poetry last year and introduced us all to the queer poetry scene here.
Her favourite is Queer Poets on Stage hosted by Jakob @herznsgut at Silver Future bar in Neukolln
Queer Open Stage (bi monthly) hosted by @elioicaza also at Silver Future
Berlin Spoken Word at Das Gift which is on every Thursday.
They are all beautiful nights of celebration and depth and connection. I beam bright everytime I see that woman perform her writing alongside the rest of the up and coming spoken word artists in Berlin.
RE. Parks/ Nature
I live in Kreuzberg near the canal. I walk down it every day and it never gets old, it’s just so pretty.
Mauerpark is great on sundays. There are markets with different food stalls and vintage clothes and there is karaoke in the afternoons in the little amphitheater pit when the weather is good. The crowds get LIT.
Down the road from me is Tempelhofer Feld – an old military airfield turned into a state park, airplane runways and grass forever – it’s alway sparkling with skaters, boarders, dancers and people just lying out in the sun with bottles.
Treptower: A forest in the city.
RE. Food & Drink – some faves
La Maison along the canal in Kreuzberg is great for coffee n brekkie/ lunch bits and is cheap enough
Gorilla backerai – also great. Does beaut slices of sourdough pizza too!
Dinner bits – cheap!
Hamy Cafe: Vietnamese curries/ wonton pho and mango lassi’s – seven quid for a creamy curry so so good drippy drippy mouth.
Sahara kebabs: Halloumi / doner w famous peanut sauce, so fucking good.
Mustafas kebabs across the city are THEE BEST just so fucking good
Markethalle neun: Market Hall with loads of different cuisines so so si good and wine and cheese stands and it’s just delicious and a great buzz. Always rammed.
Gorgonzola Club: In Kotti. Italian super simple super tasty super cheap. Romantic candle-lit wooden-y vibes. Big bottle of primitivo. Delish. Bit more medium priced.
Peter Schlemihl: Traditional southern German food off Bergmannstrasse. Try their basil smashes. So good.
Sushi Gang: Me and Kev had the best sushi meal of our lives here. And it’s an experience in there. Pop art jungle vibes, birds in and around your ears in the bathrooms. Lil spenny, but worth it.
Villa neukolln: Looks like a big speakeasy out the back, red velvet buzz
Nathanja and Heinrich: Super chill classic wooden Berlin bar, delicate and quiet and pretty
Manu cafe: Vibey, little tree house levels to sit in, best espresso martini I’ve ever tasted.
I’ll stay ‘til Christmas I think.
‘Berlin’ is out now.