While we were at the opening night of BIMM Berlin (the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Berlin) at Fluxbau, we not only talked to Anthony Giles (see last week’s interview with him) about BIMM and what it was up to in Berlin, we also talked to their local partner – Noisy Rooms: A name known to every Berlin musician. Originally as a place where you could rehearse cheaply and unproblematically, and then also for their masterclasses, seminars, training sessions, equipment hire, shop and ever-expanding set of services for the indie musician.
Noisy Rooms has been one of the columns holding up the independent music scene in Berlin for the last fifteen years. We were lucky enough to meet the man who started Noisy Rooms, Christian Rüsenberg, and his business partner Robert Witoschek.
indieberlin: How did you meet the people from BIMM?
Robert: While running Noisy Rooms, I was also working at Musicpool Berlin, we advise musicians on how to orient themselves within the music business, and two girls from BIMM were in Berlin checking things out, making contacts and trying to set up a network, finding out where the musical hotspots in Berlin are, and they came to us for some advice.
But I thought, perfect: They’re looking for somewhere to start BIMM, it fits perfectly to us, so I said that I was a partner at Noisy Rooms and we had some spare space in the building there. They were looking for a partner in Berlin, we were interested in expanding our services at Noisy, they were immediately likeable, and I said, you don’t have to look any further. Just talk to me. We had a few meetings and it was straightaway obvious that we fit well together.
indieberlin: I know Noisy Rooms of course for a few years, and to be honest, if BIM had come and asked me who they should try working with, I would immediately have said, Noisy.
Robert: Yeah. So it’s just starting properly now, although we’ve been planning for a while, and obviously we’re planning for the future as well. Right now 60 students are starting for the first year and we’ll go from there. It’s a new experience for us too, having students coming every day for a long-term thing. It’s a challenge…I mean we’ve had to change our opening times, we’ve been starting every day at 11, now we’ll be opening at 9….(laughs).
So we’ll be redefining things, and it’s cool, it’s a good chance to newly define ourselves after 15 years.
Please, meet Chris…he founded Noisy Rooms and I came and joined a little later…
indieberlin: So Chris, how and why did you start Noisy?
Chris: It was 2001. I had a lot of musician friends, although I’m not a musician myself. They always had problems, no money, no equipment, nowhere to rehearse…so I got involved, I was busy studying at the time, and then someone phoned me and said, Chris, someone is renting out his place, three rehearsal rooms, he doesn’t want to do it anymore. I thought, great, I can do something with that, maybe make a little money. Of course in the end I couldn’t make any money with the rehearsal rooms themselves, but I brought it somehow in line with what my friends needed, so we started it up in 2001…
I renovated and set up seven rooms, all by myself, and then ran them, it wasn’t so easy…we were open 24 hours a day, so for example, once I was with my girlfriend on Christmas Eve and I get a phone call….had to go…
indieberlin: Is she still your girlfriend?
(Everyone laughs) No, it didn’t survive that – the best relationship couldn’t surivive that! But yeah, I ran it kind of by myself, and built it up.
indieberlin: And Robert, when did you come to it? How did you meet?
Robert: It’s a very boring business story, I was working for a business consultancy, specialised in public funding, and Noisy Rooms applied for a grant to try and do something similar to BIMM, and Chris contacted my old company, to get some business advice. I was still cleanly shaven, with a tie and everything…
I went along to his office, thought it would be smart, and I went into the office and on the desk there was a record player and on the wall a black flag, I thought, I’ve got to work here.
indieberlin: So you never went back to the company…
Robert: (laughts) No, that was it…moved out….
Punk rock rules!
Robert: It took a few days but yeah like that.
Chris: It was a punk rock thing, I grew up with punk rock, so did Robert, and you have this connection, and it was like that with Noisy. Also with people from the Berlin music business, there’s always this punk rock filter. Whether it’s someone from Watergate or people from the fahsion business, the genesis is very similar…
indieberlin: Although we’re not punk rock…
Chris: Yeah, but punk rock isn’t just three chords and some safety pins, it’s an attitude.
indieberlin: Exactly, for me punk rock is all about the attitude – fuck what other people think, we’re going to do it how we want, and just make it happen.
Exactly. That’s how I started with Noisy…
indieberlin: That’s how we started indieberlin…
Chris: Yeah, if I’d studied business economics or something it would have been the death of Noisy, I would never have started it…
indieberlin: Seen straightaway that it wouldn’t have worked.
Chris: Exactly, I would have gone into business communication and ended up at Mercedes Benz…
Robert: But it’s cool to take different worlds with you, you take that with you. We also have B2B contacts, we also work with companies together, it’s not bad to talk to Mercedes Benz as well and know how they think, since more and more brands are associating themselves with music in the advertising branch….
indieberlin: I find it interesting that we’re in this new music economy, you have to find new ways to make money and make sure that you can wake up the next day and be able to make music as well.
Robert: Yeah, it’s great to just be a crazy freaked out rocker…of course it’s cool being creative and doing crazy things, but at some point you’ve got to come down from your high horse and know that music is also a product, and know how to talk to people, how to communicate with people, and to win their trust. I mean it’s also a job – everything’s a job.
indieberlin: I think a lot of people forget about the passion of it. I worked in MTV for a while and everyone wanted to be cool and everything, but they forgot often that they could only do all that if someone was making the deals to pay for it all.
Chris: So, we’re very excited about seeing what the future holds for us with BIMM, you’ll have to come and see how it works out!
indieberlin: Can’t wait! And thanks for the interview.
Also read our interview with the guys from the BIMM Berlin Music College!
Interview by Noel Maurice and Mia Morris
Pictures by Mia Morris
Interview translated from German by Noel Maurice
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.