Chet Baker, John Cale, Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Sven Regener
charismatic star on best behaviour
It was a long time ago. A very long time ago. Before the Wall came down – quite some time before that in fact. I can remember seeing a really good band. A friend who had done the graphics for one of their early albums had given me a ticket. The front man was clearly an interesting character. Charismatic. A useful songwriter, too. And throwing in occasional Chet Baker-style solos on his trumpet. The band was Element of Crime. The singer: Sven Regener – my latest guest on Talking Germany. These days, Sven Regener is over fifty and a family man. But he’s still going strong as “an artist”, which is what he insists on calling himself. Now he’s a million-selling novelist (at least!). They’ve made movies out of his books. He’s even dabbled in some film directing himself. And he’s still got the band. Who haven’t changed much at all. Which is a recommendation.
So I was looking forward to meeting him. Was. Until everybody on the Talking Germany team started becoming hyper-agitated. Be careful! Be prepared! Especially when you mention this, or touch on that. He might explode. He might walk out. I briefly contemplated getting nervous about the encounter, but decided against it. Just as well, as it turned out. Nice guy. Great humour. Outstanding eye for people and situations. We sat in the make-up suite, chatting amicably about, as the Germans like to say, Gott und die Welt (everything under the sun): the best parts of Berlin to live in, kids, books … and, of course, music.
We’re both great fans of John Cale, once of the Velvet Underground and more recently a challenging songwriter/performer and outstanding record producer. Turns out he produced one of the Element’s early albums. So what’s he like? “A nice guy,” says Sven. “Although not always, apparently.” And, he adds: “They used to say that he could be a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. “Like all of us,” I venture. But Sven doesn’t fall for that one: no answer.
DateAugust 1, 2014