I was born in Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia. My first memory is picking crushed mulberries up from our street, and dropping them down the sewer. I remember the strange smell of mulberries combined with the stink of the drain. The kids next door were squashing bugs, squealing with excitement.
When I was a child, Yugoslavia started imploding. Me, my brother and my childhood friends grew up in a country on its deathbed. The adults around us spoke fondly of a land we never got to live in. Yugoslavia was a pleasant memory that people hung on to, but the reality was very different. To us kids, things seemed fake, dusty and uncertain.
I moved to West Berlin with my dad and brother a year before the wall came down. We used to travel to East Berlin to compare East and West German ice creams, cakes and sodas, but soon enough East Berlin became a memory too.
The new Berlin was very vibrant, full of run-down buildings, immigrants, squats and punks. I roamed the city streets. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. At the same time, Belgrade was never far from my mind. I thought of the people I’d left behind and the impossibility of sharing our daily experiences. I tried to balance Belgrade and Berlin but they were difficult to connect.
I’d been playing the guitar since we moved to Berlin. I didn’t much enjoy playing covers, so from the very beginning I started to write my own songs. Soon I was drawn to punk and hardcore – the explosive combination of solidarity and destruction seemed so natural to me.
I moved to an old squat full of punks and dogs and played guitar for Allee der Kosmonauten – Avenue of the Cosmonauts. The band was named after a street in East Berlin that had kept its name, although the cosmonauts had left for good. To me it made perfect sense: Yugoslavia – East Berlin – Avenue of the Cosmonauts: all memories of a world left behind.
ADK was a very ambitious band. Our songs were like satellites, built with great precision. We released a split 10” and two LP’s, then broke up and headed off to different parts of the planet.
I set out to find a new home. I wanted a place with no connection to my past, and lots of uninhabited space. I chose Helsinki. It took me five years to get fluent in Finnish and find an actual home. Once I was settled, songs began popping up all over the place.
My first solo album was recorded in Zurich with the help of Aurélie Mermond, a close friend from the days of the Berlin squats. She and her friends had to leave their apartment in Zurich, and we spent two days recording in her empty room. Zurich Files was based on friendship, spontaneity and the DIY punk spirit.
Later the same year I recorded Helsinki Files in Samu Montonen’s kitchen in Kallio, Helsinki. We used every microphone in his apartment, even one that was designed for a computer game. Helsinki Files was recorded in two days and includes one song in Finnish.
Since all good things come in threes I decided to make another album. I wanted to follow the rules I’d created for the first two:
1 – it had to be recorded by a friend
2 – it had to be recorded in a space that wasn’t a studio
3 – it had to be recorded in another different city
I contacted the old ADK drummer Budi, who was by this time living in London. He agreed to do the recordings and accompany me on drums and double bass. Budi was looking after a closed-down pub in North London. We started practicing next to the pool table. The bar was fully equipped and looked as if it had shut in a hurry. A little storage room in the back became our studio. We slept, ate and recorded in Pub 85. The London Files were ready in a week.