When Janine Rostron enters the offices of DFA Records in New York’s West Village one afternoon in April, the Berlin-based Brit, who goes by the stage name Planningtorock, is without costume, makeup, or her most endearing new stage piece: a structurally imperfect and strangely haunting prosthetic nose. “We’re working on a new silicone version that has the perfect shape,” she says. “We first started making a clay nose, but it was really heavy and it took about two hours to prepare because we had to make a new one each time.”
The curvilinear proboscis has become a trademark of Planningtorock’s avant-garde live show, a whirlwind blend of theatrics and visual art that caught the eye of LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who invited Rostron to join the group on their 2007 Sound of Silver tour. “It’s exciting to attach a visual aspect to what I’m dealing with in my music,” she says. “The prosthetic is quite conceptual. It’s like playing around with my gender a bit.”
This month, Planningtorock releases W, the follow-up to her 2006 debut, Have It All, and which she modestly describes as having “a bit more of a complicated arrangement” than her previous music. Carefully crafted over four years in her Berlin studio, the 12 tracks are littered with saxophones, synths, warped vocal melodies, and, on the song “Living It Out,” drums courtesy of LCD’s Pat Mahoney. Rostron, a producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, has created a spooky but euphoric body of work that she says is inspired by her time living in the German capital.
“Getting to Berlin was just an accident,” she says. “I visited, really liked it, and then months turned into years.” Those years have since turned into a decade. In 2010, along with Swedish musicians the Knife and Berlin-based DJ Mount Sims, she co-wrote the electro-opera Tomorrow, In a Year, a musical journey charting the work and personal experiences of Charles Darwin as he crafted On the Origin of Species. “Berlin is a very inspiring city to live in because I’ve met a lot of interesting artists and musicians here,” she says. “Being here has really freed me from who I thought I was, and has allowed me to focus on my music.”
Zeiss Planetarium – Prenzlauer allee, 80 +49-3042-1845 On the outside it looks like what you would expect from a planetarium, but on the inside it’s very East German, kind of lo-fi and spacey while trying to replicate the universe. It’s amazing. There’s something really innocent about it, almost like a school project. It’s a daytime destination, but hardly anybody goes there. It’s sad because it really is a remnant of the former East that just sits there without many visitors.
Musikinstrumenten-Museum – Ben-Gurion-Strasse, 1 +44-3025-4810 I like instrument museums all over the world—when I’m New York, for example, I’ll try to find one—but the one in Berlin is especially beautiful. They have some fantastic instruments, like these walking sticks from the 1600s that you open up and there’s an instrument inside. It’s really far-out stuff, inventive and strange. A lot of the pieces here are antiques. There’s another piece that’s a strange hybrid of two instruments—a violin with a trumpet attached so that it amplifies the sound of the violin. You couldn’t buy that kind of thing even if you wanted to.
Schneiders Buero – Skalitzerstr. 135 a, +49-30-9789-4131 They sell remade analog gear and support a lot of people who are making their own oscillators or synthesizers—people who aren’t making mass- produced products or effects. You can find some really unique sounds here, but I try not to come too often because then I ending up spending all my money.
Tajikistan Tearoom – am Festungsgraben, 1 +49-302-041-112 I don’t have much social time or downtime because I’m usually busy with my music, but this is a cozy Russian teahouse near the Brandenburg Gate. It’s like a crazy secret—you go into this big, white building that feels like an embassy, then you go down a set of stairs and suddenly you’re in this really dark, intimate Russian teahouse. There are no chairs, just carpets. It’s incredibly cozy and they have all of the teas you could ever want.
Pulse Percussion Graefestr., 4 +49-306-233-794 This is an upscale place, which is strange because the street is so quiet. I used a lot of percussion on the new album, so this store came in handy. They sell Chinese drums and all kinds of stuff. I live in Kreuzberg, which is not in East Berlin—it’s actually West, but it was very close to the wall, and when the wall was up all of the punks and squatters lived there, so it’s famous to this day for having a strong music scene.
Photography by Goodyn Green.