Im Interview: Divided Heaven

Durch einen kleinen Fehler meinerseits könnt ihr erst jetzt das Interview mit Jeff Berman lesen, besser bekannt als Divided Heaven! Als ich vor einigen Monaten vor dem Laptop saß und überlegte, an welche Musiker ich einen etwas ausgedehnten Fragebogen schicken könnte, stand dieser Herr ganz weit oben auf meiner Liste. Die Zusage war auch schnell da und somit bekam er Fragen rund um Corona, #blm, The Berman Hour und Live Streams- zusammengefasst gesagt ein kurzer Schnitt durch die letzten Wochen und Monate dieses sehr speziellen und brisanten Jahres.

Divided Heaven. Ein Musiker, mit dem ich am Anfang tatsächlich nicht direkt warm geworden bin, aber heute? Heute liebe ich seine Alben & EPs- ganz vorne dabei zum Beispiel Pacific Avenue -ja, das war ein indirekter DIREKTER Aufruf zum sofortigen Reinhören! Unaufgeregt, gradlinig, aber alles andere als der gewöhnlicher Einheitsbrei: hoher Wiedererkennungswert, mal kraftvoll und ausdrucksstark, mal zerbrechlich und seufzend. Mal punkig und roh, mal zurückhaltend und Detailverliebt. Abwechslungsreich, erfrischend und definiiv einer der Musiker, dessen Songs niemals altern werden, sondern wirklich immer in die jeweilige Zeit passen- und das muss man auch erstmal schaffen, stimmt’s? Eben!

Genug von mir: hier jetzt endlich die Antworten von Jeff!

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Corona

At the beginning Corona was not taken seriously in many countries and was labeled as a normal ‚flu‘. What was going through your mind when the infection and death rates continued to rise?

I have had a few key moments in my life where someone says something to me and their statement cuts through the cacophony, the confusion and the bullshit and rings true. One of those moments happened with my Mother in late February, when she said to my wife and I, “this is about to get very bad…” and ten days later we were sheltering-in-place in Los Angeles. Now, what my mother said wasn’t entirely profound, nor is she one for premonitions, but it just set the truth for me. I’m guilty of being inside my own bubble, especially on social media, and many people I knew were dismissing covid as non-serious and non-threatening; and the more people dismissed it, the worse feeling I had. Now, everyday is such a shock for our (American) mishandling and willful ignorance…it makes me sick.

People drink disinfectants or detergents to protect themselves from Corona. What goes through your head when you hear something like that?

My first inclination is to disregard such stupidity. Upon deeper reflection, I feel compassion for those people. How incredibly desperate they must be to, a) look to someone as callous and hideous as Trump for advice, and b) how desperate they must be, and feel, to believe such blatant lies. They failed themselves and we, collectively failed them, too.

Trump has made some missteps (again)- how do you think he should act in this crisis?

My best friend John told me something that really resonated with me, and I often apply it to Trump: if you find yourself as the smartest person in the room…you need to find a new room. Trump notoriously touts himself as the smartest person and never relents, ergo, his followers act with brutish confidence that isn’t founded it fact, truth or reasoning. He should follow the guidance of the CDC, the WHO, and scientists and experts. In other words, he needs to find a new room, preferably a jail cell.

How did you feel about the lockdown?

I was scared. I was stressed. I understood it was necessary to tamper down the rising number of cases and I agreed with it. We should be in lockdown now.

What do you think about people who won’t wear a fucking mask?

People who refuse to wear masks are either staunch Trump supporters, science deniers, believers that god is on their side and their religion will save them in this live or in their afterlife, or just assholes…or all of the above. I don’t want associate these people during normal times, so I don’t wan’t to give the benefit of my time or energy to them now.

What’s your opinion on the conspiracy theorists?

I believe my time, my art, my life, my energy and my platform are of worth. I do not lend space or oxygen to people or groups or politicians who espouse dangerous information. I would not debate, or retweet, a Holocaust denier in order to make them seem less-than and the same applies for covid deniers; I rob them of oxygen, deny them their place on the figurative debate stage and I only focus on the truth. Conspiracy theorists aren’t truth seekers; they’re opportunists.

Which thoughts and worries are your constant companion- especially in those times?

Too many to mention, really. I am focused on my family at the moment.

Many musicians offer live streams: what do you think about it? Which pro and cons do you see in live streams?

I think it’s great. As a solo artist, I have a love/hate relationship with livestreaming and I felt that way long before this lockdown. It helps people feel connected and entertained in a turbulent time, so that is important to me. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my newest venture, HelloooTV; a livestreaming concert series produced in Nashville and broadcast worldwide for free. A team of touring artists and crew members all found ourselves unemployed, so we started HelloooTV to entertain music fans and raise money for charity.

How do you think concerts will change?

I honestly have no idea. Distance, safety and collective values are essential for concerts to return; we don’t see that in America, so I don’t even know where to start.

Pacific Avenue EP

Scott #1: ‚Should I stay or should I go‘ – How do you deal with difficult decisions?

I would write a song, or many songs, about said decision, haha. Truthfully, I feel my best lyrics and songs always came from a notion, an idea, or a decision that I was wrestling with. This lyric is also a nod to The Clash, obviously. During the process of recording a song, releasing a song and then performing it 100 times a year…the meaning of the song usually wears away. ‘Scott #1’, despite the inside joke of the title, remains bold in my memory: I remember writing it, I remember working on it, I remember feeling that it was powerful, I remember why I wrote it, I remember who and what it is about…. This is an important song to me. The ‘Scott #1’ brother song, even though it was released first, is ‘Musser Park’ off of 2014’s Youngblood. ’Scott #1’ was the question and ‘Musser Park’ was my answer.

We: ‚Constantly contradicting myself‘– In what moments do you doubt yourself?

All the time, at least as lyricist. Doubt comes naturally since I’m not an egomaniac. I remember writing that line and really loving the alliteration even though it was difficult to sing.

Caught dead: ‚In the ghost towns of lessons learned‘-What was the last lesson you had to learn?

There are lessons to learned in humility, in compassion and in kindness all the damn time and I learn them every damn day. This lyric is a reference to the changing social media landscape that was happening at the time (2012). Enough, you know? I don’t want you to be my friend on MySpace, or follow me on Instagram or Like me on Facebook…I want to connect with you through my songs, that’s the whole point.

Every drop: ‚Your touch is my addiction, it warms my blood and kills me everytime‘ – How do you get off toxic relationships?

I learned that it had to be a real severance without lingering needs or half-measure expectations.

Bipartisanshit: ‚Happiness in tact or just wishful thinking‘ – What does happiness mean to you?

‘Bipartisanshit’ is about navigating the figurative politics of being in a dysfunctional relationship. Happiness for me is internal freedom, joy and connectivity. In this case, happiness was the eggshells I’d been walking on NOT breaking.

Mourning city, bleeding town: ‚All swollen ears of old and young so easily distracted not to listen‘– What would make the world to a better place?

Truth, collective responsibility and kindness.

The Berman Hour

How did the idea for The Berman Hour come about?

In March, I was interviewed on a podcast that was stale, unengaged, and uninteresting because the host was dull, his questions were soft and his approach was boring. I tried to listen back to that interview and couldn’t. I had been flirting with the idea of starting a podcast but couldn’t get myself to commit. Then, the idea came to me to do a talk show format on Instagram LIVE, keep it fun yet informative, use it a platform to ask interesting questions. I wanted to highlight interesting people and use it as a means to check in with people during this pandemic. My academic background is in History and Broadcast Journalism and I wanted to sharpen my interviewing skills, my hosting ability and my general stage (or cam) presence. It’s been really fun. The technology is difficult sometimes, but we’re all dealing with that right now. I’ve had such great conversations with people. The response has been positive and the reaction from guests has been refreshing.

How do you prepare for that?

I keep my research to a minimum. I want the conversation to flow and be open enough that unfamiliar viewers can hop in and be comfortable with the topics. I incorporate a bit of personal shared history, if there is some. Most importantly, I ask questions that I don’t know the answers to or can’t find online. I aim for questions that people have never been asked.

How do you choose your guests?

Suffice to say there are some qualifications, there just has to be. I have to find you and your work interesting. It needs to feel timely. It needs to be authentic. I want it to be professional.

How would you describe The Berman Hour?

On The Berman Hour I interview people from the worlds of music, art, politics, journalism, education, entertainment and more. From wrestling podcasters to congressional candidates, mom-bloggers to fashion designers, NYC public school teachers to Bad Cop Bad Cop, my guests and I have covered important topics on health, democracy, artist freedom, grief, culture and beyond. If you want to hear interesting people answer interesting questions, please follow @dividedheaven on Instagram for past and future episodes of The Berman Hour.

Which 3 guests are at the top of your wish list and why would you like to have them as conversation partners?

My list is always changing. Right now, I’d like to interview a 747 or Airbus-380 pilot to discuss aviation, aviation during covid, and the retirement of those aircraft models; I’d love to interview Brendan Kelly from The Lawrence Arms on his career as a musician and a—dare I say—cultural barometer; and, I’d love to interview Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

#BLM

What went through your mind when you heard about the tragic death of George Floyd?

I was initially in shock and then deeply saddened. His death was murder and it was entirely not necessary.

Which views/statements by Trump have left you speechless?

I’m not going to give him or his statements any platform. He is a fascist and racist.

If you were the President of the United States: how would you deal with such appalling acts?

I would fund educators and collective institutions instead of police departments.

Many thought the riots at the demos were exaggerated and wanted to see more peaceful variations. What do you think about that? Were you able to understand the escalations?

The riots and peaceful protests come from the same anguish but deserve to be separated in the cultural understanding for the betterment of the cause, in my opinion. Our system is sick, it needs to be changed and disrupting the system is part of that change. I wish the violence didn’t have to happen, but I say that from my point of view. I actively work on myself to check my privilege, to better understand disenfranchisement, to better understand race in America…. I’m learning, and I hope other’s use this as a teachable moment as well.

What do you think needs to change to curb police violence and racism more and more?

Same as above, I would fund educators and collective institutions instead of police departments. Knowledge can not be copy-written, knowledge is power and where people have knowledge they have opportunities and equity. We know slavery existed in America, but we don’t understand its legacy; it is easy to know facts, dates and historical figures, it is not easy to understand the lasting effects of historical institutions such as slavery, segregation, voter suppression, etc. Part of the reason I love Germany so much is because they collectively understand their history on a deeper level than we do in America. Germany is not perfect, by any means, but their collective betterment is not entirely clouded by individual exceptionalism as is the case in America.

How do you react when you witness racism?

I lead by example. I live a good life and I’m grateful to have come of age in a subculture of punk that is predicated on helping others, being charitable, free expression and being yourself. I’m not shy about being anti-fascist, anti-racist and I don’t give credence to bigotry. That said, am I confronting every racist I see? No. Am I picking a fight with every racist on social media? No. I will continue to be my true self, to learn, to listen, to empathize, to help and to be the change I wish to see in others.