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Taken by Ece Sanin, edited by Nazli Deniz Akgun for NCOUNTERS, 2019

´Berlin is like a petri dish of ideas and energy constantly bouncing and evolving with every person you talk to.´

In this instalment we hear from Australian-born Toiling aka Hugh Barnard, who moved to Berlin in 2018. He details how his hometown scene in Sydney has crumbled under mounting pressure from the state government, and the dangers of over-promotion in the underground scene. Despite the usual struggles that all expats in this city are familiar with, Hugh has found a family of like-minded people that provide inspiration and opportunities for collaboration.


When it comes to his exploratory live sets, expect chaotic cosmic fluctuations and mind-bending electro pings – taking you on a visual and vibrant musical trip.

NCOUNTERS: Where did you grow up?​ How did you form your early musical aesthetics?

Toiling: I grew up in Sydney, Australia where I was mainly interested in my Dad’s music (Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan etc.). In my formative years (before my teens), I was heavily into Metal/Beat Down Hardcore, and played bass guitar in a couple of bands. I started producing for fun with some friends of mine, but didn't really fully immerse myself until I moved overseas. 

How was the music scene there, and how did you come into contact with it? Did an alternative/underground music scene already exist there – if so, to what extent were you part of it?

I didn't really get into electronic music until the end of high school. There was a booming underground Techno scene in Sydney – however, since I left, the scene and culture have started to fall apart, due to many factors. I haven't spent much time in Sydney since high school, so I didn't get very involved in the scene. I did attend a few raves, which were always an amazing experience and the perfect gateway for me into electronic music. Since I haven't been home for so long, there hasn’t been a chance to see Sydney’s underground scene first hand for a while. Although, an amazing producer/DJ (and a best friend of mine), Erin Norjte (UNDER A), has kept me informed with what has been happening: 


"The rave culture was premo, everything that you would expect to hear about in regards to any good rave scene. But as the events grew, the promoters, organisers and artist began to get recognition, it started crumbling...collectives would only showcase their own DJs. Promoters started doing paid promotions on Facebook. Which for any good underground scene is the worst thing you can do. Police now knew where and when the events would take place. Eventually there were raids at all the major warehouse locations and thus, the Sydney scene died."



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Taken by Ece Sanin, edited by Nazli Deniz Akgun for NCOUNTERS, 2019

´Australian state government is also blindly slaughtering the New South Wales music culture.´

Can you point to any changes regarding the evolution of the music scene back home? What were the challenges for emerging artists?

In the underground scene in Sydney I think it's difficult for emerging artists, we don't have the quantity and quality of parties when compared to other cities. Currently, our state government is also blindly slaughtering the New South Wales music culture. Already two festivals (Mountain Sounds & PSYFARI) have been cancelled due to a new compulsory law. The ‘user pay’ bill leaves these festivals no chance of selling tickets for a reasonable price, PSYFARI foresaw AU$500 ticket prices if they were to go ahead*. Now there will be even less chance for artists in Sydney to emerge. 


*Article on the ‘User Pay’ bill:

When did you move to the new city? How is your experience with the music scene so far, as emerging artists and migrants?

I moved to Berlin in March 2018. The music scene in Berlin is like nothing I've seen before - not only for electronic music, but also for almost anything you could want. Being very early in my music career I'm not entirely sure if I can say I have emerged yet. However, I have found it very easy to find other people to collaborate and jam with. Being an Australian migrant in Berlin is pretty easy, there's a huge expat community, which made it easy to make friends. People also seem to like Australians, I don't know if it's just our accents or also our reputation to party hard, but I'm constantly meeting people who seem happy to know us. 

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Taken by Ece Sanin, edited by Nazli Deniz Akgun  for NCOUNTERS, 2019

´Here, more than anywhere else, the people are passionate. Berlin has an internal magnet that pulls people together, creating so many opportunities.´

How did the mobility affect your artistic productions – in which ways? What are the challenges now in the new city, and the advantages?

I think being in Berlin allows for almost constant inspiration, this place is like a petri dish of ideas and energy constantly bouncing and evolving with every person you talk to. Everyone you meet is so interesting and they all have beautiful stories to share. 


Some challenges I've found here are mainly to do with work. Trying to find a job that doesn't make you depressed but also keeps you above water and able to enjoy your time here, is not easy to come by. 

The advantages are numerous, but the most important would be the people you meet, it's easy to build a family vibe here because there are so many people out here that are in similar positions. They have that 'drive' which constantly inspires you to develop your style and mind. Here, more than anywhere else, the people are passionate. Berlin has an internal magnet that pulls people together, creating so many opportunities that you wouldn't necessarily find in your hometown. 

What are your plans and expectations for the future?

My future plans include putting out my debut EP this year, it is slowly coming together and I can’t wait to get it out. Hopefully with an EP and this project, I’ll be able to show organisers that I am ready to play at parties and raves. All I want is to create interesting sounds and make people dance. That is why I make music!


Photos: Ece Sanin

Photo Edit: Nazli Deniz Akgun

Content Edit: Charlotte Collins

Graphic Layout: Gorkem Yilmaz

NCOUNTERS, Berlin (2019)

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