Aug 25, 2016
The Brooklyn 100: Oliver Ackermann, DIY Pioneer & Pedal Maker
Being the frontman of A Place to Bury Strangers (or “the loudest band in New York”) and founder of the legendary Death By Audio–Ackermann certainly has made waves in the sphere of Brooklyn music. While his band rages on, Death By Audio sadly closed its doors in 2014, falling victim to a building buy out. While the space is now closed, it ignited a conversation about shared spaces, live music, and how to preserve the DIY spirit of music in ever-expensive Brooklyn. The pedal shop that Ackermann ran within the space lives on though, relocating to a modest location in the Navy Yard, where you can still find the crew shaping up custom pedals.
You, Matt Conboy, and Edan Wilber created what is arguably one of the most influential venues to hit Brooklyn’s music scene. What was lacking in the music culture at the time that made D.B.A. so essential, and how do you think things have changed since then?
Well, I can’t really take responsibility for that one. All the staff, all the artists, and all the bands were the really big muscles that made all that super inspirational. At the time, I didn’t know if anything was lacking. There were other venues that were putting on killer shows and people working their asses off to host them. I think Death By Audio was a bunch of good people who were passionate about the music, and people got that performing there and seeing shows there. I think New York is always changing, so you just kind of have to go the path of better things, going on and ride that wave. If you end up hanging at a really cool Wal-Mart, go someplace else.
D.B.A. was an important to spot to so many burgeoning artists and showgoers alike, providing a unique experience when consuming live music. What inspired the venue to take on a mission wider than just “seeing bands”?
I think seeing bands is pretty much the best mission to have, or to be the artists that makes something to be seen. Artists and bands are all different and should speak for themselves, and if they can in a place that works with what they want to do, then great.
Your band, A.P.T.B.S., has also made waves for many years, locally and everywhere else. What makes it special to play for a Brooklyn audience? Is there always a “homecoming” feel?
It is most fun to play with your friends around. I think that really inspires me to make sure I give the show 110%. 110% is more than 100% by 10%. But there is actually always this calm during the show which is unlike any other place. You’re home. You’re hanging with your homies.
While not making music or running the venue, you’ve also been building and designing custom pedals. Tell us a bit more about the shop, and the role it plays with local musicians.
There are some local musicians over here who I work with at the pedal building spot and we’re always building pedals that people around here use and people buy who are traveling through. It’s pretty insane to think tons of artists I look up to are using something I made. Really weird how things can turn out.
Brooklyn’s music scene has such a rich culture and history—and I think the way we celebrate its history is what makes Brooklyn really special. While those rooted in its history, like yourself, venture on, how do you think we can continue to preserve this history? And make sure that the future of the scene can live up to its legacy?
Shoot, I’m just trying to get by and make some cool stuff, and hopefully that inspires some people to make something better.
See more about Death By Audio in the upcoming documentary Goodnight Brooklyn-The Story of Death By Audio. Rough Trade is hosting a panel discussion on the final days of Death By Audio on 8/25, event details.
To see the rest of the 100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture list, please visit here.
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