You were born in the USA ?

Yes, I was born in Washington DC , 1952, November 28th . At the time I was born, Washington was still segregated. So, I was born at a black hospital called Freemans. And I grew up in Washington , all the way through, grew up in north east Washington . I grew up and started to play music at a very early age. My mother was mainly responsible for that, because she paid for my guitar lessons and music instruction, and after this time I joined the band in school and we started very early to play in bands, already at the age, I guess, of 10 or 11.

Yes, very early. Do you have a big family?

No, I don’t, actually, I just have 2 sisters and a brother, my sister’s in Florida and my brother’s in Detroit , so I don’t get to see them much. I wish I could see them more, actually. And my father is still on the planet, he’s written a book recently.

Really? Is he a writer?

Well, he is now!

Yes?

And it’s been a wonderful experience for him and for me because this book is actually a wonderful book. And it’s called Beyond the Rim, and it’s about one of our ancestors, my great-great grandmother. And, of course, during the first part of her life she was a slave, up until the age of 32. And when emancipation came, she was freed, and she lived the rest of her life as a free woman. She had 6 children, she actually owned her own home, as a very old lady, and she lived to be 108 years old. So, this is a highly interesting story of a very tough, tough woman. And I’m glad that her blood runs in my veins. Sometimes, when I feel like complaining about something, I think about sister Caroline. I think about all her troubles and I say “Hmm! You can make it!”

So, you said that you started to play guitar very early.

Yes.

Is it usual for children that are in families like yours to start playing so early?

Well, not all the time, but in my case, my mother was a music lover, so, as a small child, before I even knew how to play, I heard Dave Brubeck. I heard Moose Allison. Sometimes, when I hear Moose Allison, who’s still performing, by the way, I could cry, because I used to hear that as a child, before I even knew how to play. She did it as a gift to me, to buy me this guitar. I don’t know, I guess she knew I loved music. I don’t know why. But she bought this guitar for me, this electric guitar, and paid for the lessons. I have to say, that was a turning point, because there was basketball, we played basketball and we rode our bicycles and all this stuff, too! But suddenly this music became a big part. We would practise in the basement. We were fortunate, we weren’t really poor, she worked very hard, she had bought a house, so we could practise in the basement. All the neighbourhood kids would come around to listen because the band was practising. And then we actually did professional jobs while we were still in the school. Actually, one of my band mates’ father used to drive us in the station wagon, Mister Hutchinson. He actually worked at the fire department, and he drove us in his red Plymouth station wagon. Why do I remember that, I don’t know. But we did it. And we would play schools, dances. And, of course, at that time Soul music was popular. We’re talking, oh boy, late, mid sixties, so you know, Soul music. And of course we were black. And we would go often out to the suburbs of Washington to play at some of the high schools that were predominantly white. But it was a good experience. And I have to attribute that to her. And interestingly enough, if we fast-forward to now, my father, he’s 83 years old; he’s one of my biggest supporters.

He’s retired now?

Yes, although he has written a book. But when we do performances in America we stay at his house, all the band members know him, he even knows the songs. It’s been a really, really great experience. I never could have known that it would turn out like that, all these years later. And this feeling is nice because, after all, music is not an easy business and very often, in the early days, people would say “Why don’t you get a real job!” “You play!?” “What are you playing!?” Or you hear things like “You’re playing a bar!?” I said “No. I’m giving concerts! In a bar!” (LAUGHTER) But it’s not always in a bar. And that’s the thing. I’ve been very fortunate. I told somebody else the other day, that music has its’ benefit. You get to travel and travel, very often, and meet people that you wouldn’t normally meet. Gerhard Schröder. We played for Johannes Rau, for instance. I met the princess of Spain , and all these people. I wouldn’t have met them if I didn’t play music. They wouldn’t know who I was, you know. They probably still don’t know! I’m just the guy that played at their party! But it doesn’t matter! I got to meet them and see how the other parts of society work. And also there’s the other thing, and I guess it’s the biggest thing. There’s some people like me who get very --- how can I say this? --- I get energy when I see people enjoying music. In other words, we give ourselves, with our talent, to try to entertain and play our best and when we see the public enjoying it, it’s a good feeling, because we see that we have made someone happier, or at least given them the possibility to be happier. Maybe not any happier than they were before, but just for a moment, you know, to enjoy this music. It’s nice to see that, and to see that you have a part of that. That comes with performing, of course, when you’re actually there! And you actually see the people dancing, you know, and you see the guy lead with his wife and they’re arm-in-arm and you say “Oh, great!” And you go back to the lonely hotel room! But that’s okay! Because it’s like somebody doing the priesthood. Now, some people don’t take it that serious. Some people, with music, maybe it’s just like they any other job. But for some people, it’s more than that. There’s more of a spiritual meaning. And I take it that way. Personally. Anyway, I grew up in Washington and around ’89 I came to Berlin because of my girlfriend. She wanted to come to Germany because of the music scene. She’d also been in Europe before.

She’s from the US , too?

Yes. She’s a classical violinist, and opportunities in Washington DC for a classical violinist, a woman and an African-American, weren’t the greatest, at the time. So, she decided, and convinced me, that it would be better to come to Europe and try to seek some opportunities, which, I think for both of us, it’s worked out quite well. We didn’t stay together, unfortunately, but she’s still here in Germany and I’m still here in Germany and still doing music and actually got a chance to travel to many other places besides Germany . And it’s been very fruitful to get outside my own country. I think I understand my own country better, now, being outside of it, because I can see sometimes, even to the point of realising that I actually love my country! And you don’t realise it when you’re in it, sometimes. So it hurts me sometimes to see the political things that are going on that I don’t have control over, of course. Wars and so on and so forth. I won’t go into that. That’s politics. It’s been a great experience to be a kind of ambassador, let’s say, of music. And sometimes, of course, because it’s music, you are a representative of wherever you are from. It’s like if you were to go somewhere, to Borneo , they’d say “Oh, that’s Christoph from…….This is how they behave!”

So, probably all people from this country behave like that!

Yeah! So, his opinions are, and I think that’s very serious because, travelling out there on the road, since I’ve been in my own groups, and I’ve gotten some attention, posters and TV and stuff, and it’s important to, I think it’s important to represent well yourself, and your country. I’m far from a flag waver, by the way. And to represent yourself in a good way, because people do formulate, especially if you don’t see, a lot of, for instance, black people, African Americans. There’s not that many of us floating around in Poland , or whatever. So, if I go through and make a drunken rampage in some town in Poland , believe me they’ll never forget it! (LAUGHTER) But if I go and just try to be a good person and do my job, which is music, you know, people are going to remember you better. And they’ll remember you in a better light.

Let’s go back to America , when you were a boy playing guitar. Can you compare this with white boys? Was there a difference between Afro-Americans and white Americans?

Well, maybe a difference in opportunities. When I say opportunities I mean just the economic condition of what the people would be in would be different. In terms of music, we actually worked with white guys. We had white guys in our band, a long time ago. Some of it was on purpose, actually. We had a chance to do a record, a demo, at Columbia . This was in 1969 and of course this was unbelievable because we were very young. And we had a guy named Chris. He was in the band. Because we wanted a mixed band, you know. Sly Stone had shown up on the scene and this idea of crossing over, Sly Stone was one of the first, not the first, but one of the first to have whites and blacks in his funk band. Up until that time it was pretty….you know…..Race is always somehow mixed up in music. Generally, we say it’s not, but in America race is right in the front of everything. That’s why Sly was so popular, because he said everyday people. And that’s one of the reasons his music is so great. I’m just using Sly Stone as an example, because he put whites and blacks in his band. So, yes, I would say the experience was very different for us, but it didn’t stop us from getting together. It all depends if the people can meet, you know, and if you have opportunities where kids can meet and exchange, they very often work together. This separation thing is something that’s artificial, you know, it’s imposed. People are….and then sometimes, of course,  it’s natural, also. People say “Oh, I won’t go over there because it’s all blacks over there.” And then there’s blacks who say “Oh, I won’t go over there because there’s all whites over there.” And then this mental thing comes into play, too. But being in music, I think musicians always want to break these barriers, you know, I mean we don’t care. And when we play music together we realise we enjoy that we’re all the same in the end. We have so much fun! Now, of course, does he goes back to his community after and you go back to yours and you don’t see him anymore? No, normally it becomes a friendship. That was a long answer to your question, I know! (LAUGHTER) So, yes, experiences were different, although I did have white friends coming up early, mainly because of Catholic school, I went to Catholic school, for part of my schooling, so I had some contact there, you know, all races.

So, you came to Germany , with your girlfriend, to Berlin , just because of her and her opportunities for a job, it wasn’t a coincidence?

Well, I have to say that, at the time, I myself was a little bit fed up with Washington ,personally.

Why?

Because the music scene was stuffy, it was going nowhere, there was nowhere, the clubs were not in a good shape, there weren’t that many good clubs to play, there just wasn’t a whole lot going on where one could make music and make good money from it. Teaching is always an option for a musician, and at that time I didn’t teach. The 70s were pretty good. The 80s, it started to slow down. When disco came in there was a certain drop in the number of opportunities. So, yes, I myself was a little bit fed up with the scene. And having never been to Europe, having always an interest in Europe , because I’m an avid reader, I like to read about history and the war and what happened. So, this was a big interest. So I was fascinated by the idea of spending some time in Europe . And my girlfriend at the time didn’t like the DC school system and some other deficient things about Washington . So, I said okay. And then, I had a motorcycle stolen, which made me very angry. Then, I had another motorcycle stolen! Which made me come to Berlin ! (LAUGHTER) It was like the last straw and I said “Okay, it’s enough now! I’m gonna give DC a break for a while and try another city!”

So, since then you’ve been in Berlin ?

Basically, yes.

Do you travel around Europe and other countries?

Yes, my home base, basically, since then, has been Berlin . I do get to do my music in other countries and cities and so on. Since 1996, we’ve been performing in America at a festival. And this community is very nice in Washington . It’s a part of Washington that’s completely integrated, white, black, latinos, everybody living all together in the community, and they have a festival and we did that in 1996, although we got rained out. And since that time we’ve been performing back in DC. And that’s been also very good, really, because I’ve been able to get my feet back in the music scene in America . And we’re going to release a record, “Black Heritage Afro-Soul”. Should be out in September in America . Being done by a company called Oasis, and it’ll be available at the concert and at some special places, you can order it by mail order. So I’m excited about that.

What kind of music do you play?

With my biggest group, which is I would say Afro-Soul. Soul music with an African flavour. And with my other group, it’s basically Jazz but funky and R ‘n B mixed. Some people call it Soul-Jazz. It’s great music, it’s funky, a lot of people like to call it Soul-Jazz because it’s Jazz but it’s danceable, you know, it’s not that traditional. I use my own compositions, as well as the other group. So, I get a lot of joy out of that because I’ve been writing songs, composing, now for a long time, going all the way back to when I first started. We always did that. I can’t remember why, but we just started to compose our own songs. And also, of course, learned to play others, as a matter of survival. But I’m glad that I did that, I have to say, because it brings back a lot for me, too, to do my own music. It makes it a lot easier to deal with the negative things of the business that you have to deal with.

What kind of negative things?

Well, what I mean by that, negative things, the industry itself. The industry is not kind to non-commercial music. The music that we do, it’s not really commercial. It’s not avant-guard, but it’s definitely not pop music. And it’s a domination of large conglomerates and I think this happens in the wider world also, not only in the music industry. You have many talented artists in all forms of music, whether it be classical or jazz that you just don’t hear because it’s too difficult to continue in their art under the conditions they would have to live in. In other words, not enough money. What can you stand? Someone would come here and say “Look at my apartment!” I have friends in America with big houses. And maybe one day I’ll have a big house, too.

Musicians?

Yeah. Some that do and some that don’t. I think it’s just a matter of acceptance, you know, you have to find your own way, to deal with the economics, if you have a large family, or don’t have a large family; you just have to do it. And then also it has to be that intense love for the music, because if you don’t have it, you’re not going to stay in it, if times get tough. And when I say times get tough I mean times with no money. And also it depends if you’re on the performing side or are you a teacher. Of course a lot of people go into teaching. Nothing wrong with that, I’ve done that, too. I don’t have any students right now, but I’ve done some workshops. It’s just a matter of how well suited you are, personally, to these kinds of things, to the life. I don’t want to paint a bad picture of it. It’s a good picture. But, for instance, I had a friend recently who quit. He quit music!

Why?

Because of economics, you know, because of what I was just saying. I’m not going to say his name, but I was disappointed because he’s a very talented musician, who just said “now, I go to computer school. I stop.” And I was shocked, you know, because it’s something I wouldn’t do, but I’m older than he is and my situation is not the same. But it’s good these things happen because it’s a wake-up call to me. To any musician or any artist, dancer or painter, there’s always that glass house that can fall down. And there’s a great deal of pressure on any artist, of course, as he gets older, to have some form of security and that is the thing that you notice when he’s past 35. Especially if you have a lot of children, or some children, you say “Enjoying this music’s wonderful, but oh-oh, do I have enough money?” Every person in every walk of life has that worry. In the end I think it just comes down to the sacrifice. People sacrifice to be a priest. To be a boxer. If you’re gonna box you gotta train and work hard. And then maybe you’ll only box 7 years because then after that it’s too much. Or if you’re running. I use that because of music. We run, we’re running, up and down, maybe with that amp you’re sitting on. And it takes time to get to that point where I’m at. And you say “Oh!” Don’t look around too hard, you’re not gonna find any gold or marble here! (LAUGHTER) But at least I am content with what I do. And I love my job. There’s a lot of people can’t say that. I have a friend of mine who really straightened me out on that one day because I was complaining saying “Oh, I don’t have no money, and oh, poor me!” And he said “Wait a minute, Mike. What are you talking about?” He said “You go all over the world, you do what you wanna do. Stop complaining. I wish I could do that!” I was actually shocked, because he’s a very close friend of mine, and I said “Oh, yeah!” (LAUGHTER) But anyway, I’m gonna get off the track here. To get back to it. You have to have that force to stay in it. And I don’t wanna keep repeating myself but it’s almost like a mantra because you experience so many things, as I said, not to dwell on the negative, but you have other things, too. Travel is hard. I recently did a tour. Travel is hard. Of course, if you can move like Mick Jagger, they move in jets and first-class everything. And still they get tired also! But if you have to travel not on that level but with trains and buses and things, the travelling is strenuous, hotel rooms, different kinds of food that you have to experience…..Some people can take it, some people just cannot. And I have to say, my last road trip, it was tough. It was enjoyable, but I was exhausted when I came back . So, that’s life. I did a tour of Poland .

With your group?

Yes. I toured with some great Polish musicians. Wojciech Karolak. and Zbigniew Lewandowski.. And these guys are absolutely great. We were a trio and we travelled all over. Gdynia . Szczecin . Some other names I cannot pronounce, I won’t try to pronounce them because I’ll butcher them. And it was a great, great tour because it also, from what I’ve seen, how well loved first of all Wojciech and Zbigniew are, they’re loved all over their country and I’m happy to be a part of that. I heap praise upon them all the time, of course. And I think it’s good when I’m with them because I always say to the Polish people “You can be proud of these guys”. I don’t know if people are aware that Wojciech has the highest medal that can be awarded to a civilian in Poland , he’s been awarded the Presidential Medal, by the Polish president, and he’s a humble man. I found that out. But the tour was hard, there was a lot of travelling.

Was it pure Jazz that you played?

No, it was a mixture. We played Jazz but with a very heavy Blues and Funk influence. And I always get a laugh or a kick out of people who come to me and say “I don’t like Jazz so much but when I heard you, I liked it!” Because we play a lot of Funk and Blues orientated kind of Jazz. Young and Broken Hearted from Memphis Slim. And of course Wojciech with that Hammond is just wonderful. You just can’t beat it. I call him the Polish Jimmy Smith, I call him the Godfather. Great guy, also, very nice, wonderful person. The tour was wonderful, I got to meet, as usual, many, many people.

And how did you like Poland and Polish people?

Oh, I enjoyed Poland very much. The driving on the roads I don’t like. They’re racing around. I guess I’ll never get used to that. But the people themselves, and everything, it’s just wonderful. Somehow I felt accepted there, and I don’t just mean for the music. I was in some place and we did a concert and the people started to call me Misko and Wojciech explained to me “Yeah, they really like you!” and I said “Yeah?” he said “Yeah, that means Michael!” I said “Ah!” and that was so cool. And I think I enjoyed that part because they liked the music but there’s something else, too. I noticed people liked me, as a person, and that means a lot. You know, there’s a certain connection because, it’s like, “I’m like you!” and I like that because I think some of them are like me! You know people working very hard and sometimes people don’t have a great deal of things but they do so much with it, and they have a certain spirit, which I like. And of course the women are fantastically beautiful. My God! That’s incredible. Not to mention the landscape. That was the first or second time I was there. Even thinking about the bad history 60 years ago, I couldn’t believe that somebody would try to take this land, but it happened. But in any case, yes, I do enjoy Poland .

u were talking about being a musician is a hard job, you have to struggle to earn money and get concerts. Painters and artists also have to do the same thing and be their own managers, go out and try to sell their pictures. Do musicians have to do the same thing, have to be their own managers?

Yes, very often you do. Not all musicians are good at it and I have to say myself I’m not very good at it. I do it because I have to. Because we have 2 bands, Mike Russell Band and the Black Heritage Orchestra, and if we don’t promote and try to sell these groups, nobody will. It’s necessary to do. I know some very talented musicians who don’t do it because they just can’t. And I understand that because to sell oneself is not easy. Now me, I’m a show-off, I’ve always been a show-off and that’s why I love to be in the front of stage, that’s for sure, but I’ve never been one to brag “I’m the greatest!” You have to do that to sell. To sell you have to sell! This is the most fantastic whatever! Now, I can do that initially but to do it on a persistent basis is hard for me personally, and then when the people say “No!” I’m mad! (LAUGHTER) So, I’m not good at it. But very often we have to because there’s nobody to do it for us. So you have to do it or find somebody to do it for you. Now, preferably, you get managers. Sometimes I envy these big rock groups. I was reading about a rock band the other day and they had psychiatrists! I mean, not only do they have managers but they had somebody, they could lay on the couch and the guy could figure out what’s wrong with the band! (LAUGHTER) I thought that was pretty hilarious. But, honestly and more seriously, one needs to do it and if you don’t have somebody to do it for you, you have to do it a little bit, because nobody is going to be into your project like you are. I was once talking to a man on the telephone, trying to get a job for the band, and I said “Oh, but you’re an agent, why don’t you help me?” he said “Yeah, what’s the name of the group?” I said “Mike Russell Band.” He said “You Mike Russell, right?” I said “Yeah.” He said “You should do it because nobody’s gonna love it more than you, right?” I said “Yeah, okay. Thanks!” (LAUGHTER) I’m making it sound silly, but maybe he’s right. You have to push. But of course, I would much rather be working on songs or be in the studio than on the telephone trying to sell. But you have to divide it up, if you’re going to have your own group. Now, some musicians or artists just play with other bands, maybe they don’t have their own group and then maybe they don’t have to call anybody. If they build up their contacts they do a lot of, say, freelance guitar work, then people would just call me and I’d play with anybody. But that’s also not easy. I’m glad I do my own music because it’s more fulfilling for me. When you do songs it’s like having a little baby. You get to do your little song and you can always be proud of your little song so you get the joy from that.

What do you think about big stars? You mentioned Jagger and Michael Jackson. What do you think about their music and their performance?

Oh, I like them, many of them, I admire many of them. Maybe not all of them but there’s quite a few I love very much. I think Michael is a great performer. Of course, he has a lot of problems, personal problems. I can’t go into that. I don’t know what’s happening there. But his performance is great. And Mick Jagger I admire very much. Mick is a person who should inspire musicians. And the reason I say that is, if you listen to Mick he doesn’t have much of a voice, but Mick has taken his entertainment skills and his voice and his presence and built it into an institution. You know, people know him like they know Pavarotti! It’s Mick Jagger! And what I admire about him is that he took what he had, what God gives us, God gives us all some talent, and then you have to take that talent and try to use it to the best of your ability, and he’s done that. And they’ve stayed together. This is a good trick. That’s not easy to do. Maybe he and Keith Richards hated each other for 10 years or more but they worked. Some of the newer performers which are manufactured, I have to say I don’t have as much respect for. I don’t dislike them. You have a whole crop of very young artists coming out now that are basically what I would call manufactured. They are models. Maybe the producers search them out because they look very good, especially the women. The women have to look a certain way. Even the men. 

But it doesn’t have the same quality? It’s artificial?

M. Well, it doesn’t move me very much because I just  came out of a different generation and a different way of seeing music and living and working in music we care for the music, we love the music, we learned how to play our instrument, we learned scales and chords. Of course, we thought “Oh, we could be famous one day!” or something like this, but basically it was for the love of the music, to make it sound good, you know, and enjoy this thing. But somehow, some of the new artists, maybe they don’t all feel this way, but it’s a business, and I imagine that’s why a lot of them don’t stay in it, because if you don’t make a lot of money and you’re just a copy of somebody and it doesn’t work, very often the artists don’t stick around. And there are also some talented new artists that I’m sure are very, very fine, but you may not hear about them, and that’s the other thing. I’ve met some very talented people but they haven’t been heard from. And I don’t just say that picking a bone about myself. That’s why we make CDs. We’re doing these CDs in America .

Why not here?

Well, we’ve done one here also, but the main thing is that America is a huge market and we want to re-enter it. And I am from America , and despite her political troubles, and I have some differences of opinion on that, but it’s still my country and I want to do some business there. I want to be able to get the group known there. We’re doing Afro-Soul music and Washington DC is a very wonderful place to do that type of music because you have a very large African community, a very large multi-cultural community, really, that appreciates the kind of music that we do even more than in Germany, only because people haven’t been exposed to it that much here. We did a concert in DC about 9 months ago and the first song people were yelling and hooting and hollering, I’m talking about African people, and white people, too! French people, from Guadalupe, from, I mean, it was wonderful! And I said “Wow!” So I enjoyed to get that back, too. Now I have to say that Berlin is multi-cultural also, because I’m sitting here in Berlin , and look at me! So, Berlin is multi-cultural. People hoot and holler here, too. But, yeah, I’m looking forward to spending more time in America .

You said that you’re not very satisfied with the politics of the United States and what’s happening now. Do you think that musicians can be or should be politically involved?

M. I think that’s up to the musician. If he or she feels that they want to make a statement in their music about how they feel, I think they should. I do it in my music. I’m not one to jump up and denounce the president playing at the president’s party. Generally, I try to refrain from that. But I do express my ideas in my songs. I’ve written a song called “The Fall”, which is about the first Gulf War. I’ve written a song about the second Gulf War, this current war. Actually, it’s not completed yet. It’s called “Twenty One Years”. It’s a blues, and it’s just a blues about a mother who’s crying on the bus because her son is 21 years old and he’s in a country that’s very hot and she’s very afraid for him, and that’s the nature of the song. And it’s just a song. And I think that’s not saying against somebody, it’s just telling life. Now what I don’t like, I have to say, is this idea that musicians are being stopped from expressing themselves, that I don’t like, you know, when people are burning CDs and putting CDs in the trash can because of somebody on the CD has a certain idea. That I don’t agree with, that’s wrong.
But it’s up to the musician. Me, you know, if you listen to the words in a song, you’ll hear it, but it’s never affected, it’s never something that somebody’s going to throw us out of the president’s party. And the good thing about it is we can still be invited to play at the president’s party. But if he listens to the lyrics, he might go “Hhhmmm….!” (LAUGHTER) But he still couldn’t say anything because it’s for the thinker, one has to think about it and just listen, and then he may even…let’s hope he’ll change into a better person. That’s the ideal thing. But that’s a little too idealistic. We wish we could change people with our music but I don’t think we can. I think that has to come from within.

How do you feel as a foreigner here? For sure it’s different from being in America Do you feel that you are not accepted or do you feel different from others?

Well, I think that, basically, acceptance is, once again, a word that you have to compare. How accepted do you want to be? (LAUGHTER) I mean, yes, I could say “acceptance” and I’ll be satisfied with that. I can’t vote, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, but maybe that doesn’t matter, I don’t wanna vote. I would say it’s basically okay, to not give a complicated answer. Berlin is very multi-cultural, people are generally friendly here. You have some rude people here, I have to say, but you have rude people in any large city, and if you go to New York you’re going to meet some rude ones, too. Generally, they’re going to be friendly but you will meet some that are not so friendly. But I would say that Berlin has been kind to me. I would never denounce Berlin because it has a certain tolerance and I think that that history goes back pretty far, actually, for Berlin . Some other parts of Germany , of course, are more conservative, you know, you may get more looks and so on. But here it’s been quite okay for me. I’m aware that I’m different. It took me about 2 years, I have to say it took me about 2 years to get used to the looks.

What do you mean? You look different?

Well, you see, I grew up in a place where everyone looks like me. (LAUGHTER) Where the exception was, if I would see somebody that looks like Christoph, then they would say “Oh!” (LAUGHTER) Maybe not! But, the thing is, when you suddenly go from a place where you are in the majority to a place where you are in the minority, it’s quite a difference. What I had to understand was that the people looking at me did not mean me any harm. Of course, coming also from a different culture, from America where if someone is staring at you, you know “What do you want!!! What is it!!!” But I realised that it was just because they hadn’t seen that many black people. There’s not that many black people here. There’s some. Now, there’s quite a few in Berlin , yeah, but in terms of Germany , there’s not so many black people. And most of the people that are looking at you don’t mean you any harm, but you have to learn that. You have to realise that, oh, he’s looking at me but he’s not a racist. He’s just curious! You know, “What’s he doing over here? See him, he’s from somewhere, where’s he from? Is he from Africa or is he from America ?” So, once you get that down, then I was more relaxed after that. I have to say, there was a few times when I probably was angry and shouldn’t have been. But it was also due to the language. You’re in a place and there’s a lot of different, you know, there’s a lot of language going on, you’re not understanding, you know, you have to be able to find a way to deal with it, for sure. And, like I said, I have had some incidents here. Now, personally, I had a musician who was attacked, unfortunately. I’m gonna mention this because it happened. Right here in Berlin . And it was painful. For him physically, because he had to go to the hospital, but it was painful for me just to see or hear about it happening. We had played a concert in east Germany and after the concert he went home, everybody went home, but, unfortunately, on the way home, they were attacked. And he had to go to the hospital. He’s from South Africa

Was he black?

Yes. Very small guy. And they beat him pretty bad. And that hurt me because he’s such a little guy. I was very, very angry with whoever did that.

And what happened to him?

Well, he recovered. He played trumpet. It could have really ruined his career but luckily he was okay and he still plays. He went back to South Africa and he’s never returned here since. I very often think that’s surely one of the reasons. I’m sure he’ll never come back here. He was also in the ANC and he had seen a lot and been through a lot in South Africa and then to come here and be beaten, it was a little bit too much. And I think that’s why he never returned, to be honest. But I also know that this is an isolated incident, that, you know, it can happen almost anywhere. And, you know, I’m from America , I know in America race is so out front, like I mentioned. But that was the one ugly thing that happened since I’ve been here. But, on the whole, Berlin has been, I’d say, positive.

How do you see your future? Are you going to stay here forever?

No, I will not. No I will not. I’m under a bit of pressure now, because there’s a great deal of interest in my father’s book, for one thing. The other point of pressure is his age and the fact that he’s in a house by himself and it’s a huge house and he needs some assistance and I have to go and assist him. That’s part of the reason why I started to do concerts in America , to have more time with my dad. And I’m increasing that gradually, to the point where I hope to live maybe half a year there, half a year there, some arrangement like this. Also, we want to work on this record release which is coming, that’s part of the plan also. I would always like to maintain some kind of presence here in Berlin , if I could, and that’s my intention. But, no, I wanna return to my original home, on a more permanent basis. But I would like to maintain this apartment here and have a chance to do tours and maybe part of the year here. But I would imagine within about a year or two I’ll be able to sort that out more precisely. (LAUGHTER)

Is there something I didn’t ask you?

No, I can’t add anything, other than to say thank you, Christoph, for the interview and the interest. I hope this interview and my thoughts can do somebody some good or help somebody with their struggle. If they’re an artist, or if they’re  --  you don’t even have to be an artist! If you work at the post office! Maybe it can help you get through the day better! (LAUGHTER)

Thank you very much.

Yeah, thank you!