Thanks so much to the great Peter Hahndorf for being up for this interview. It is an honor to finally interview one of the nicest friends I’ve met through indiepop. So if you don’t know who he is, well, probably you are reading the wrong blog. Peter is the biggest indiepop activist on Earth!!
++ Hallo Pete! It was so nice to see you again in Berlin, and Indietracks! How does it feel to be back in Bremen after so much traveling?
It’s quite weird; my life style here is so different compared to the last two years on the road in Latin America. I spend most of time working in computers which is fine, I did miss that, but otherwise life is very uneventful and trips like the ones to IndieTracks and the popfests in Berlin are a welcome change. I am already looking forward to my next big trip.
++ Talking about Indietracks, why do you think nothing like this happened back in the late 80s or early 90s, they heyday of indiepop?
I think IndieTracks is a unique event, the location is terrific and it’s great that people with such fantastic taste in music are willing to do the organising. There were the large festivals in the 80s like Glastonbury and Reading where the bigger bands played. And also some smaller one-day festivals usually put on by a label. I guess email and the internet also makes it much easier to organise these things and publicise it with a much smaller budget.
++ What were your highlights of the festival? Do you still insist that that Madonna song is the twee-est of all time?
I thought the Pains were fantastic, it was also great to see The Pooh Sticks, Primitives and Orchids again and they all showed they are still up for it. Of the new bands, I enjoyed The Felt Tips the most. I did miss Allo Darling but saw them later in Berlin and they were so amazing and are currently my favourites.
Madonna’s “Dear Jessie” is certainly HER twee-est, I usually don’t use the word ‘twee’ to describe any music, but here it comes to mind, maybe it is because of the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mx7nUDx3dQ)
++ By the way, did you get to take some of your records from London to Bremen this time?
I actually did ship my London record collection to Germany before I headed out to Latin America back in 2008. Storage was expensive and I couldn’t find a safe and cheap place in London. It’s nice to have the two collections together for once, I also found quite a few doubles.
++ So let’s go back in time. First thing that I come to wonder, someone so involved with indiepop, and you never got or tried to have band. Or you did?
No never, I guess the closest I got was playing tambourine on some recordings with friends. I just never got around to learning an instrument. I guess I am just a fan and help out in the indiepop community with the things I am better at.
++ How was the scene in Bremen? Where there any good indiepop bands there?
Nope, no good bands. No good places to go to either. For a while we had a great radio station and fantastic gigs in the nearby small town of Oldenburg, but otherwise we always had to travel to Hamburg for gigs and clubs. I met some other indiepop fans through my fanzines but overall Bremen never was a good place for indiepop.
++ Your brother had an indiepop label though, right? Did he discovered this music first? Or how was it? For some reason I picture you two listening to John Peel all the time together haha
I am five years older than my brother and I guess you can say I had a strong influence on his musical taste. He was in “Die Moosblüten” and released a few singles and a tape on his label “Steinpilz Tonträger”. I don’t think he listened to John Peel much, except when his band was played. The shows were on late, around midnight or so, and I would usually tape the whole thing and then copy the good songs over to another tape the next morning. That way I could fast forward through a lot of the things I didn’t like. Then I would double-check with my friends who would do the same to make sure I didn’t miss anything. My brother would then get a filtered version of the shows.
++ And then, John Peel thanked you on his show, Peter from Bremen, that must have been quite a highlight for you! What do you think is his importance for indiepop?
I guess he mentioned me quite often as I did send him German records all the time. I think the highlight was when he called me on my birthday to ask whether he could play some songs from my “Mind The Gap” compilation tape on his BBC show and read out my address so people could order it. When I got back to my birthday party nobody believed it when I said “that was John Peel on the phone!”.
I met him several times in London and also had the pleasure to stay at Peel Acres and look through his collection. He was just very important for so many musical genres. For indiepop in particular I think it was significant for a new band to be played by him, as it was one of the few ways to get heard by a national or even international audience. He helped me to discover many new bands, but I don’t think indiepop as a whole would be very different without him. It was just a nice and easy way to discover new music through the radio. I haven’t done this for a long time.
++ Most people know you because of Twee.net, the indiepop dictionary. Something that I really enjoy is that there are more biographies showing up and articles. But I know you plan in making it grow, make it more interactive as well. What updates or new additions are you planning for it? Maybe that crazy idea we talked about in Hamburg many years ago, have it have it’s own social network?!
To be honest I don’t have any big plans for it. I would love to have more content and more people writing and contributing to it. The idea of a social network was there in 1995-96 with the “who is who” list (now the indiepop directory) but I guess that was too early. In the times of FaceBook, MySpace and last.fm I don’t think there is a need for anything else. How many more social networks do you need? With the Indiepop list and the Anorak Forum and especially Facebook there is enough “social networking” out there.
I use the TweeNet Content Management System (which is used to manage the pages on twee.net) to try out new technologies that I can use in my job. I don’t spend much time on the content/public site but I am always open to ideas and suggestions.
++ You also run Clarendon Records, part responsible of the Leamington Spa releases, and also the Siddeleys and Hey Paulette compilations. Are there any other plans in releasing records? And how much of a saying you have on the releases? Oh? And why the name of the label?
Except for more volumes of Leamington Spa, I don’t have any imminent plans. I would have loved to have done the Bodines compilation, but Cherry Red is doing a good job with all these re-releases. With all my traveling going on I am not so involved with the Leamington Spa compilations either. When I lived in London I was the UK part of our collaboration and tried to find contact details for the bands and met up with them. Nowadays we get most contacts online when people are searching for their old band name.
Clarendon was the name of a venue in Hammersmith, West London in the eighties. Bands played both upstairs and in the basement of The Clarendon Hotel, which is no longer there, now a shopping mall and bus station. Many indiepop bands played there at the time including the Siddeleys who played their first ever gig there. So when I was thinking about a new name for my label before the Siddeleys album came out, this came to mind.
++ Don’t get angry with this question! But what do we do with the indiepop list and all these silly kids posting nonsense? When you go to the archive, you notice so many great discussions and interesting information. Perhaps, now the real “indiepop-list” is really on facebook or twitter?
Well, I’ve been on the list since the first day in 1994 and for quite a long time now I only follow it very sporadically. But once in while there is still an interesting discussion. Back in the day it was the only place online to find indiepop information. Now there is so much competition and in many respects Facebook and Twitter have taken over. Also, many people spend a lot of time on blogs, so Roque, rather than writing all these great blog posts on your site, you could just post them to the list, right? If everybody would do that rather than blogging, it would be a quite an interesting place again.
++ You made some fanzines, that now you can check online, even though they are in German! What happened to the writer Peter? It would be so great if you blogged or something. I know you have many stories! Why don’t give it a shot?
If you could read German, you would know that I am not much of a writer. Back then I was naive and it was okay to do a fanzine. It’s a bit similar with my traveling, I wrote quite a bit on my travelog when I was in Asia, but hardly anything when in Latin America. Maybe I just got lazy, if people want to hear stories, they have to meet me.
++ Also you started the Mind the Gap mailorder and then you let Jörg run it, right? Why the change? And why did it stopped working?
It is a lot of work to run a mail order business, and most people who do it by themselves only do so for a few years. I loved it, because I met many people through it. I was a student at the time and rather than going to university I spent my time on Mind The Gap. Eventually I decided I wanted to finish my studies and get a degree, and Mind The Gap had to go. I was lucky that Jörg took over and he did a great job with it for much longer than I did. I guess eventually he got tired of it too, or at least needed a break and like many others now sells stuff online.
++ I was impressed by your collection, and how organized you have it, even ordered with alphabetically separators. A collection of t-shirts, of pins, of flyers, of everything really. I’m wondering what are your most precious pieces in that collection and why?
Hmm, I am not really much of an obsessive collector type, I just have the advantage of having enough space, so I don’t have to throw away or sell things. But I do like organizing things. I guess I have some rare records, but the items that come to mind are usually the ones that have a story attached to it. The ones that you didn’t get in the mail or bought at the local record store. I remember staying at Tim Gane’s house and he told me about the plans for his new band, and I said “Stereolab” would be an awful name. A year later I was back and helped with cutting the sleeves for their first 10”, so that record is both very rare and has some memories attached to it. Other examples are when I was looking for something for a very long time. When I was in Melbourne in 2008 I finally found a copy of the MacGuffins 7” which I was looking for since 1991. I found it for $1 in an old record store – those are moments of joy. Or the first edition of Eggstone’s ‘Shooting Time EP’, a friend in Sweden had just bought it and it was so good that he just had to buy more copies and send them to some friends.
++ After so much traveling around the world, where were you most surprised to see indiepop fans?
In most cases I wasn’t surprised at all, because I already knew they were there. I mean, even in Indonesia it is not that you meet people with Tullycraft T-Shirts on the street. All the people I met around the “third” world are people I was already in touch with. Sure in the US and Japan, you meet people at shows and in record stores, but that is expected. It is usually nice to get introduced into a local scene and see how many people are involved. This was great in Bandung in Indonesia or in Manila for example. The indiepop moments in Latin America were limited to places like Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires or your old stomping grounds in Lima. I was surprised to meet some people in Bogota, Colombia because I did not know about them and they got in touch with me because they read I was coming to town. I remember having a long chat with the guy behind a pharmacy counter in Christchurch, New Zealand about the Bats and the Chills. But for him they were local bands from his university times and he didn’t really know any indiepop bands from abroad.
++ Tell me what has been the best gig you’ve ever attended in Germany and in UK. And why?
Gosh, that is hard to tell, so many. I would throw in the Close Lobsters in April 1988 in Oldenburg, so much energy both on stage and in the audience. I would also mention the Field Mice as a two-piece in May 1989 in Hanau, at that time I got really into the Sarah stuff and that was the perfect example. For this year I have to say ‘Mighty Mighty’ in Berlin. There were many great ones in the UK and if I had to pick one, maybe The June Brides, again the energy on stage was unbelievable. Not that I only enjoy the old bands, but I guess they still stand out. Best of the 90s would be Magnetic Fields and Belle and Sebastian on a square in the old town in Barcelona in 1997. Beautiful location, two amazing performances, much better than any other time I have seen them.
++ Now, without giving it too much thought, 5 obscure indiepop releases that you’d recommend.
I guess there is not much obscurity out there anymore but here goes: Johnny Rasheed: Inspiration CD; The Whipper Snappers – You never look back 7”; The Sandkings – Rain 12”, The Mandelbrot Set – A Place Called Kansas CD; Ornamental – Crystal Nights 7”
++ How do you see indiepop 10 years from now? Do you think there are still things to fight for? Are we in the right track?
On the right track to where? I think indiepop will live on and will be around in 10 years. There will always be ups and downs. I mean right now I walk into HMV in London and they have The Pains and Allo Darlin as released by Fortuna Pop, that’s great. There will always be fantastic new bands that get me excited; I don’t see that stopping any time soon. The internet brought the community much closer together, but I hope we can keep physical labels and records alive, it would be a shame to lose that. It seems there are always new young enthusiastic people like yourself or the Berlin pop crowd that bring in new energy. We have too much of a good thing to let it go.
++ And last question, what has indiepop given to you?
Many, many very good friends.
++ Oh okay, now seriously, one last question, are you still up for making the indiepop museum in London? 😉
I’d love to, my records are collecting dust at my parent’s house and with me traveling around the world most of the time, it would be nice to put them to a better use. The problem of course is money and a place to put a museum. So if anybody in London has a nice big room, let me know. I think it would be enough to open one evening a week. The idea is to have not only all records browsable, but also fanzines, flyers, T-Shirts, badges etc. and to be able to listen to any indiepop through some listening stations. Next time I live in London I will look around, rent is just bloody expensive there. I would also need donations from other people, as my collection is nowhere near complete.