Interview with Conrad Kinard, owner of Bar Sin in Kreuzkölln


You were here in the 90s, when you ran a club, involved yourself in various music art projects and so on, then you left for ten years. Why did you leave? Why did you come back? What did you do in those ten years?

In the nineties I came to Berlin as a refugee from what was then a changing NYC. It was becoming intolerable to live in for me for various reasons, one being that there was no work, the art scene was frustrating me, and it felt like it was time for a change. Berlin was always on the list of places to live as I knew it since performing here in the Academy Der Kunst in 1985 and visiting as a kid in 1972. It was cheap and at first I recovered from the stress of New York City, fell in love and had a quiet life. In the beginning I had a band called Slash Orchestra which I moved from NYC to Here. We rehearsed in the Bunker in Mitte that is now a private art Gallery of some sort. Aside from feeling as if I was running for my life when I left for personal reasons that won’t go into here, I found that Berlin, though active and amazing, was not connected to the circuit of arts/tours from the west of Europe and that the quality at the time was rather low. It was isolated in many ways and though soon to be the capital of Germany once more, it was simply a broken city that produced a lot of bad and self reflexive stuff. As one friend put it recently, Berlin is on one end of the Slacker Rainbow. This of course made it interesting but not really world class. The better days before the wall on both sides seem to have been experienced. Additionally I had become a club owner and for various reasons it began to destroy my life though it also altered it massively of the better, at the time I was simply afraid for my life so I left.
I left to try to get myself back on track artistically and life wise. From my experience in New York in the Eighties I saw that Berlin has and has all the required ingredients for a world class art town. It was a matter of time. I went back to New York in 1997 where I lived and worked under the iron fist of Giullianiism. The town was tame and dead and I became bored, I moved to London and for ten years I kept returning to Berlin. When my daughter was born I wanted her to have a second language. Not something that happens in the UK or in the US for White Euro-genepoolers it seems. When my son was born I was ill with Osteomelitus which had threatened to paralyze me or kill me. It put me in the hospital for several months in 2007 where I had a lot of time to watch to cracks in the ceiling dance as my morphine intake had reached addictive and hallucinogenic levels. That was the last straw in the UK and when I was pronounced recovered as good as I would get, it was time to look for greener pastures. Berlin seemed to be a pasture that would support a gimp and his family -and opiate drug needs (just kidding). And it really is green in the spring/Summer.

Compare, briefly, Berlin of the 90s to the Berlin of today. Not just better or worse, but how do you see the main differences, especially in how they relate to artists / arty people /wannabe artists /poseurs.

My experience with Berlin in the 90’s was split between West and East lives. In the old west, life seemed to go on as usual and there seemed to be a bit of odd denial about the fact that the city had recently expanded to about 1/3 larger size than before. The militaries were still occupying the city in the earlier 90’s and that kept a lot the same in the west I think. When I became more involved in the happenings of Mitte and other parts of East Berlin I saw how dynamic the city was. There seemed to be no limit. Little need to work and a lot of time to make art, relax, and party. Mostly in my impression it was the party that dominated. Empty Space was abundant cheap to free in the centre of town but oddly living space was difficult to get and sometimes relatively expensive. Berlin was a place where the in infrastructure worked (i.e., the U-bahn, but the buildings were crumbling rapidly. A good place for a party and art.
Today space is relatively cheap but the economic pressure is on as Everyone wants to taste the Berlin experience it seems and therefore we are all becoming nostalgic for the old days when the city was real. Well this is the real city now. Sure it will grow, get even more infested with new arrivals from all over the world, get expensive and do what every great city must do, cycle through the highs and the lows of being such an organism. It is a more modern city now with less interesting moments per second but then that’s progress…

Tell us briefly something about your new project space / bar, SIN.

SI|N actually stands for Stranded In Neverland/Shot in Negative/ somewhere (almost) in Neukölln. You choose. I like Neverland personally but I am up for suggestions. Why SIN, because Berlin is still a place to get lost in, especially for expats from all over the world. It is a town where it seems no one works and I want to be a part of that culture. Sort of. It is small, holds 40 people max, one toilet, built from Sperrmull days in Zickenplatz where possible, you can smoke there and in fact you are required to as at the moment the ventilation system is non existent. we are working on that though. Don’t worry, its on order and I expect the system to arrive today? More about the name. SIN is trigonometric in the description of sound and a triangle, pronounce this SINE but write it SIN so you get Bar SIN, the triangle is ,according to Buckminster Fuller (our patron saint of SIN) the strongest geometric base from which to create all structure……..shall I go on or are you sleeping now?…….. Later we will have COSine and TANgent I suppose.
We started with Painting and Sculpture shows in the fall of 2008 and now it is primarily sound (ooh there’s that relationship to “sine” wave and “SIN”), music, poetry nights, film, and the like. We like painters though as they are our friends.

How would you describe your music policy in SIN?

SIN is a place to try out what you are making. a place to fail. I want to try to keep the events and performances financially separate from the bar proceeds so that I won’t become just a bar owner looking for “tasty DJs” (a term I heard form a Pub manager in the UK) Though the only real policy is that the ideas musically must be interesting they don’t have to be finished. SO call this a process bar or something like that. My original policy was no guitars and no Trilby hats, no Tom Waits music and no Buskers. DO have Art sound installations in multichannel glory, visual installation, and hot chicks with laptops looking all serious and all in a lounge setting for the fractured market masses.
That has already gone to the wayside.

Is there any point in doing art anymore?

No. But art doesn’t need a point. Humans must do it or they will die, I am sure. It serves a socialisation function and a tool. but there is no great meaning to art in the divine cosmos and it surely isn’t practical. Mankind is not a practical being. That is why accountants were invented.

 What, if anything, is relevant?

All things relating to failure.

What are you hoping to achieve? Are you trying to achieve anything? Do you think it’s necessary to achieve something?

There is simply one reason to make a bar and that is money. we don’t look to get rich in this place. Just pay the rent, buy the kids new shoes and meet good people. The good people come from the art projects.

Do you think Berlin is entering a golden age? Or is that long gone, and now we’re just sitting among the wreckage?

I believe that Berlin is moving into the centre stage of cultural/ art world focus Because of this it really has to get its quality control together or it will seem like another quaint little Eurotrash city. . Oh god here comes another “Amt” I know but there is a lot of shite passed off here as good. It comes with its relative isolation and general poverty even now. It has gotten the attention of all the disaffected youth in the world. It has relatively cheap rent and a slacker life. there is still space to make in and where there is cheap rent there are enclaves of artists, makers soon to morph into Prenzlauerberglike yuppies. In a way it is 20 to 30 years behind New York and London in its process but by no means does that mean it must be held in comparison to those places. It is a different culture and the culture is shifting rapidly. Berlin. Golden Age? Wreckage, I vote for Golden Wreckage. that is the future
What question would you ask yourself? And what’s the answer to it?
Q.Does your foot itch. A. no
If Indieberlin wasn’t the name of this website thingy, what would the phrase mean to you?

I think that Indieberlin is an Indonesian restaurant chain. upscale but reaching the youth clientele.
Finger-foods and lots of satay sauce… Berlin is by nature independent but needs to let go of the label.