From Dayton the Fox to MC Ramon to Cornerboy, Köpenick’s flamboyant offspring Roman Geike has been surfacing in a plethora of Berlin scenes and genres over the past decade. Whether committing to full-on cheesy Schlager with techno icon Jan Driver or starring in Siriusmo’s eponymous video as Cornerboy, Geike’s chameleon-like abilities have made for a number of unforeseen turns on his path to stardom. His latest incarnation under the mono-monikered guise of Romano is his most successful one to date. With his all-genre-encompassing rap concoctions, clear-cut braids and a starter jacket collection to make any NFL fan jealous, he played the festival circuit this summer and is about to embark on an extensive tour through Germany this autumn. We talked to him in advance of his sold-out show at SO36 on October 11.
Do you think your message comes across without understanding your German lyrics?
Of course! It’s an energy thing. I’m sure that non-native speakers feel the power of “Metalkutte” (“Metal Cowl”). At the very least when the bass pierces through everyone’s bodies. Or like the erotic element of “Sextrain” or “Heiß Heiß Baby” (“Hot Hot Baby”), the Californian summer feeling of “Köpenick” or the total threat of fear in “Stahlraum” (“Steel Room”). I love music from all over the world, and I don’t understand the lyrics all the time. Often you know what a track is all about in advance anyway, and when you meet a native speaker later, your assumptions are just confirmed.
Aren’t you afraid of what will become of your beloved Köpenick, with all the hype your music is inevitably bringing there?
I don’t think about it too much. I was born in Köpenick, and I’ve moved six times within my Kiez since. I think it’s just pure love. I put on some clothes, drive into town on a daily basis, and in the evening, I’m back at Bahnhof Köpenick naked. Köpenick simply is my big personal living room, and if you like, you’re all invited to come over for Filterkaffee and Schwedeneisbecher.
Have you ever had any problems understanding Berlin because it was developing too fast or in a direction you couldn’t follow?
Nah, it’s all easygoing. The world is moving on, that’s life.
Has style always been integral to who you are?
I’ve had long hair since 1994. Every three to four months, I have my tops cut, I’ve loved NFL starter jackets and white high tops since I was a kid, and I buy every issue of Glamour. I love perfume, too – sometimes I skilfully mix some – and, of course, I take care of my nails.
From rock and drum ‘n’ bass to German Schlager, Gabba and rap, do you let yourself drift from genre to genre or are you consciously looking for something new?
I’m curious – with open eyes. I absorb, process, learn, live and love. Life is damn colourful. I simply remain open. During the chaotic days of Germany’s reunification, I got involved with the city’s techno movement. When I was 14, I ran back and forth between Bunker, Walfisch and Tresor. At the same time, I was listening to metal records at a friend’s house, and trying my first glass of absinthe. At school, I was, of course, part of this “hip hop tape business”. Even back then [in Berlin], there’s was always a lot going on at the same time. It’s still like this today. New impulses get me going. Treading water has never been my thing.
Why is this irritating to people? Do we love stereotypes too much?
I think people love to partition things to create a certain order, whether it’s concerning jobs, your circle of friends, art, social status or regional commitment. If someone out there tries to tear down your preciously built walls, it causes discomfort, irritation and sometimes rejection even. Nothing unusual! For me, it’s just too restricting.
What are your thoughts on high-end pop productions à la Madonna?
Lights, a proper backdrop and performance are important to me. If I can take the audience on a ride into my world, away from their everyday lives, if I can enchant them, entertain them and even make them think, I already achieved a lot.
One of your tracks is called “Maskenball” (“Masquerade Ball”). How important are masks in your everyday life and in the music business? How important is it to drop them?
Masks provide protection from a fear of showing who you truly are; a shiny appearance on the outside, self-protection on the inside. “Zeig mir dein wahres Ich!” (“Show me your true self!”) If you take off your mask, it feels difficult at first. You’re afraid of being judged or punished. Yet, it’s the first step towards liberation. Stand by your flaws, and learn to love yourself. The lines between past and future blur, expectations fade away, you live in the moment – and that feels great.
With “Brenn die Bank ab” (“Burn down the bank”), you show your political side.
My album deals with the mundane, with my perceptions and thoughts about this world. To write “Brenn die Bank ab”, I didn’t even have to watch TV or check the Internet. When I see pensioners in Köpenick who look through the trash for deposit bottles with their grandkids, I get furious. These people built this state after the war. Today they don’t even get paid an adequate pension. On top, the economic bubble burst. Come on, someone needs to speak up: Burn down the bank!
ROMANO, Sat, Oct 11, 20:00 | SO36, Oranienstr. 190, U-Bhf Kottbusser Tor