Robbie Coleman Part I: Blacklisted in Berlin

After celebrating my two month anniversary of living in Berlin, arguably the city best known as creative and hipster mecca of Europe, if not the world, I thought it was time to share my interview with another creative who has called Berlin home.  

I met Robert F. Coleman back in Melbourne earlier this year, myself armed with a pink notebook and Chet Faker beanie, a fashion choice I immediately regretted after discovering Coleman was in fact good mates with Mr Murphy.  Here’s what we chatted about.   

I met Robert F. Coleman at a bar on Fitzroy’s Smith St in Melbourne.  The unofficial hipster mecca of the city, it was a fitting place to interview a man who fashioned the middle letter of his name after his favourite writer; Hunter S. Thompson.

Although he did dress the part – choice facial hair, Patagonia ski jacket like the one his Dad used to wear, checked shirt – Coleman was swift to sidestep any notion of being ‘cool’ let alone ‘hipster’.

Having come straight from his boxing class where he was gearing up for his upcoming debut match, Coleman showed no signs of battery.  Quite the opposite.

With a polite shake of my hand, I was ushered to my seat and offered a drink by an easy going Coleman who seemed to be mates with the bartender, the band and several pedestrians passing by.

With my authority as the one doing the interviewing slightly diminished, I gladly took my assigned seat sitting across the 26-year-old who couldn’t appear more at ease.

An expert when it comes to interviewing others, the young creative appeared just as comfortable with the shoe on the other foot.

Sheepishly attempting to shield my rainbow pink notebook – in my defence, a gift with purchase from last month’s Harper’s BAZAAR – from Coleman’s perplexed eyes, I whipped out my fine liner with what I hoped to be nonchalance and confidence, ready to take down all the juicy details.

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Only recently back in Australia from Bangkok, Coleman had been mid-assignment, smack bang in the middle of a modern day Thai coup d’état working on pieces for Monacle, VICE and the New York Times.

The latter being the very publication that had launched his writing career only a couple of years earlier, publishing a somewhat controversial piece questioning the creative integrity of the true hipster mecca, Berlin.

The intoxicating appeal of a city where artists could truly indulge their art drew the attention of the young writer and his band mates, who from all accounts, drunk, fucked and partied their way through three months of absolute hedonism only to come out the other end without any music to tell of.

Coleman, at least, did discover his creative juices, starting his novel The Berlin Album and embarking on a career as a “writer proper”.

In between sojourns to Europe, rampant drinking/drug taking and making music, Coleman also wrote for online publication The Thousands.  

“I’ve always written for myself, but I never called myself a writer until now,” says Coleman.  Writing for himself even entailed 110 short stories on his blog after experiencing young love and, alas, young heartbreak.

But you should never be embarrassed about anything you write!  Not even post-breakup emotional diatribe that’s on the internet for all eternity, Coleman tells me, because everything you write contributes to the writer you are today.  An argument I find slightly hard to stomach as I reach back into the recesses of my mind, remembering with a grimace the days of MySpace and first ever blog posts.

Some things, surely, you would delete if you had the chance, I challenge Coleman.  A wry smile edges to the corner of his moustache-framed mouth as he admits to some less than desirable Thought Catalog entries with his name attached to them.

“I tried to take them down but they’re on there forever!  Maybe I could email that girl, she was so NICE….fuck it, I’m not embarrassed!” exclaims Coleman.

Embarrassed or not, Coleman is certainly not sitting pretty when it comes to putting pen to paper.  Another creative pilgrimage to Berlin with the intention of writing a novel about the first time round saw Coleman pump out a manuscript in 16 days no less!

A pretty impressive feat for any writer let alone one setting out to write a book for the very first time.  An impressively short time frame, it wasn’t exactly by choice, Coleman admitted to me.

After the New York Times piece was published, the story was syndicated around the world, including Germany.  Needless to say, many Berlin inhabitants were less than impressed with being labelled “creative tourists” and Coleman found himself unable to rent an apartment.  He had been hipster blacklisted from the creative capital of the world.  



Stay tuned for Robbie Coleman Part II.  


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