“Love and hope are so strong and so underestimated because they’re so romanticised” – In Conversation with Lie Ning

An interview taken from our digital issue FIGHTERS! Lie Ning’s music is like the embrace of a hug – warm, comforting and without judgement. Times are exciting for the Berlin-based artist, with the release of Ning’s upcoming single “Offline” coming up on the 30th of September, followed by a studio album on the 21st of October.

KALTBLUT caught up with Lie Ning to chat about what it’s like to grow up in a squat in the early 2000s in Berlin and how the city has changed in general. As everyone would know: It’s kinda hard finding real Berliners in Berlin, so as soon as you find one, you ask them all the questions about what it’s like growing up in a city that’s so rich in history, change, and culture.

I’ve seen that you grew up in Prenzlauer Berg just after the Berlin Wall fell. Can you tell me a little bit about what your childhood in reunified Germany was like and how it shaped you as a person and musician now?

Lie: I, unfortunately, didn’t experience east Berlin as much as I could have. My mother and the people I was living in this commune with 25 people who were all mostly from Western Germany. They migrated to East Berlin because of the cheap buildings. There used to be this programme that helped people buy the property and rebuild completely rundown houses.

There were so many abandoned buildings! There was this huge movement of renewal, which had an impact on me. As a child, I remember not being able to go anywhere and being in contact with people you wouldn’t be in contact with now – especially in Prenzlauer Berg!

I remember one of my Kindergarten teachers was from East Germany. They were very loving but very tough. I remember their style was a lot simpler compared to people from Western Germany, I loved it. There was so much potential, everybody felt this huge opportunity to create and build from scratch. Because of this newfound energy, there was no judgement. Another thing was uncertainty and not knowing what was going to happen – nobody knew if the wall was gone! But, at the same time, all of a sudden, you could just freely move sides. I was brought up with that kind of energy.

At that time, I was living with many creatives who based their work on topics like freedom. I guess that really shaped me and is still something really important in my work.

Can you tell me about that commune you grew up in? It sounds very unconventional and cool!

Lie: My mother is one of the founders. She helped to rebuild and refurbish this house for over two years. They lived on a construction site. They were young people that wanted to try to live by a different concept. Rather than sharing just the necessary necessities, it was a proper community. One person was cooking for the 25 people that lived there, we had political organisations, there was a food stall where we could get local and seasonal produce, and we had neighbourhood parties. There was a lot to it!

That’s so interesting because nowadays, Berlin can sometimes be a cold and lonely city for a lot of people. It seems within this short time, the city must have changed drastically. Do you miss the Berlin you grew up in?

Lie: It changed so fast, and I lived with the change. I still appreciate how it is now. However, Berlin as a city is missing something, for sure. It is a missing opportunity for people that cannot afford the high rents. That’s a general problem: These kinds of safe spaces are missing. There’s still the Tuntenhaus at Kastanienallee, which we were very much connected to. These places create spaces for people that are not legal in this country, because they are better connected with lawyers, etc. I think you can feel the lack of these places in the city.

When you’re saying the city sometimes feels cold, I agree. There are still areas that have a communal feeling. But, slowly even they are becoming more and more exclusive and based on profit and physical exchange.

Berlin as a city is missing something. It is a missing opportunity for people that cannot afford the high rents.

It’s almost like it’s turned into a business in some way. And what were your first encounters with music like?

Lie: My mother was always into music. I was very young when we started going to concerts. I remember Seeed was one of the first concerts I went to, which is incredible. I still love them. They create such a beautiful vibe and space when they’re performing while projecting that sense of unity. They come from that time in Germany where there was a movement of black and brown people in the 90s. Unfortunately, it died out over the years. Back then, a lot of people were coming here – Berlin was this melting pot.

Why do you think that is?

Lie: I think it’s coming back. From what I’m feeling in the music scene, it’s still small, and it’s not supported as it should be. There’s a big scene of Neo-Soul artists, which are connecting over the borders of industry. The German industry is so tight and outdated, that it’s time for someone else to move into it. I don’t think it’s possible to do so from within. It has to come from the outside because it needs a new perspective.

I want to talk about your music. If you had to describe your sound in three words, what would they be?

Lie: Warm, loving and radical.

I like that! When it comes to starting as a musician in Berlin. Do you think it’s easier for you because you’re doing something else besides Techno?

Lie: Honestly, I think so. For the stuff that I’m writing right now, I want to integrate a little Techno. I grew up with Techno and I desire to create something when the party is over, and you want to feel embraced. I want to get to that point after an energetic line-up and be like: “Okay, we’re here now. You can come down. You’re not alone. Whatever you’ve taken, whatever person you got off with. It’s all good, you’re good!”

Read the full interview in our new issue: 

Lie Ning is going on tour soon. You can purchase tickets here.

Follow @lie__ning on Instagram to keep up to date on his upcoming music.
Photos by @zachow_pictures