Crippa Almqvist is Swedish artist who lives and works in Berlin since he moved in 1996, he says he is an ‘The Incredible Strange Creature Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up…with weird comix.” and not unfair either; he is one of the most interesting profiles in europian modern comix movement with his splatter lines, laconic humor, collabrations with different artists, old school punk attitude and Garfield abstractions. Also he is an important part of the Berlin based underground comics festival Bilderberg Konferenz, a DIY comic feast that makes many talented artists have found their way to an international audience.
And now is the time to talk and get to know this festival’s creator artist Crippa Almqvist and let’s see what he will tell us!
“And nowadays I fast get bored of having to write and post the same ol’ shit again and again all over the place on social media. It feels like I’m trying to shovel my own shit into people’s throats ’til they f**kin’ choke. It’s veeery annoying.”
Hello Crippa, we have been following your drawings and comics for a long time. For readers who don’t know you, would you like to tell a little about yourself?
I was born on the 6/7-67 in a small town called Finspång, just outside of Norrköping in Sweden, by two Finnish parents. There I lived my first 2 years before moving to Västerås. It was in Västerås I lived my important part in life called childhood and teenage ..and it was also there I discovered comix and punkrawk. In January 1996 i moved to Berlin, Germoney, where I’ve been living for over 27 years. I was a Finnish citizen until 1989, when I changed it into getting a Swedish citizenship. This just to get rid off having to do the mandatory Finnish army service. ‘Cuz there I would’ve been forced to cut my then very long hair to become really short. (Hmm, is this enough of “telling a little about myself?”)
When have you been started to interested in art? What drew you to this underground comics adventure?
I became interested in so called “comic art” at the early age of 4-5 years in 1971-72. It was then I discovered kids’ comic books like Pellefant, Bamse and Peo, which I loved even though I couldn’t read. Then after I learnt how to read, I moved on to classic Franco-Belgian comics such as the Smurfs, Spirou, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Gaston and of course Hergé’s Tintin. But my absolute fave was the great Swedish adventure comic “Felix” by Jan Lööf. And it still is, actually. Well, at least one of them. Felix is known as the Swedish Tintin, but has a more typical 1970s radical left wing political view that nearly all Swedish childrens culture had around that time. Especially most stuff made for kids on TV. Jan Lööf was also part of the great classic Swedish TV-series called “Tårtan” (=The Cake), plus he made an amazing stop-motion series called “Skrot-Nisse” (=Scrap metal-Nisse). But I wouldn’t say that “Felix” was an underground comic, even if Jan Lööf probably was quite inspired by some American underground comic artists, I guess. Felix is more an all-age adventure comic, just like Tintin, but drawn in a black and white really cool and somewhat naive style. It was first in 1979 that I discovered real underground comix. And like most other people it was by seeing iconic comic drawings such as “Keep on truckin’ “ by Robert Crumb.
“Cuz I know that when I see other people just using social media to always sell something, it then has a pretty negative effect on myself. That I then chose not really to follow and read what they post up.”
Was it punk rock scene or comics that drew you to the underground publishing? What types of fanzines have you published so far apart from comics?
Well, I started to draw comix before I even knew what punk was. As an 11 year young kid I dreamt of creating my own Tintin/Felix- character who would experience weird adventures full of thieves and monsters that then would be released in album format by Carlsen Comics. It never happened. In 1979 Semic started an amateur comic book called “Svenska Serier”, to which I was about to send in my comics. And even if I knew about Swedish comic zines after reading some issues of Thud! (now called Bild & Bubbla), I still never actually thought about doing my own comic zines.
It was more after I got into punk in 1981, and having bought my first ever punk zine called “Modernes PoP” (from my hometown Västerås), that I came up with the idea of making my own punk zine called “Muzik Zwett”. I made an interview with a punk band called Slobobans Undergång after they had played a gig in Bryggis 1982. I also made a letter interview with another punk band from Gothenburg called Sötlimpa, and of course an interview with my own band called Syrebrist. (I was singing and played a 2-stringed bass, while Krister Dahlberg played drums and Conny Kronholm was on guitar and vocals. We all then were 14-15 years young kiddie punx.) When it got time to print the zine, I noticed it wasn’t gonna be as easy as I thought. I had hoped that I could sneak into the schools photocopy room, and there use their copy machine for free. That didn’t work out. Around this time there wasn’t as many copy shops as there is now, and the only place I found with a Xerox was way too expensive for my poor economy. So I ended up doing just one lousy copy of the zine for myself. Sadly this only copy got thrown away by my dad, and is now long gone forever. The zines I’ve made afterwards has all been comic zines. Some I’ve done alone, and others has been made together with the people I’ve drawn the comix with. For example “Dollmatrix Rrrrawk” I released together with Zeke Clough and Marc van Elburg. And “Skinny Mummy” was released with Zven Balslev in 2 different versions.
“The whole process of doing a zine from drawing the comix to doing the actual layout, photocopying, folding and stapling is pretty fun. It’s more the actual part of selling and getting rid of those finished zines that is a pain in the ass. It then feels like I must turn myself and the zine into becoming some kind of marketable product.”
And nowadays I fast get bored of having to write and post the same ol’ shit again and again all over the place on social media. It feels like I’m trying to shovel my own shit into people’s throats ’til they f**kin’ choke. It’s veeery annoying. ‘Cuz I know that when I see other people just using social media to always sell something, it then has a pretty negative effect on myself. That I then chose not really to follow and read what they post up. Well, I know I could also trade my zines with other people and get their zines. I have also done that. And yeah, of course there’s many great zines being made, but let’s be honest here. There’s exist plenty of shitty zines. Really boring ones that is a sad excuse for cutting down trees in the rain forest just to produce shitty zines out of. And trust me, my flat is full of them. I absolutely prefer to send in contributions to different anthologies, and let those people take care of this boring part of selling them.
I’m pretty content nowadays being a part of Bilderberg, where I just can draw my comix ..help a bit with the layout ..and then having all those zines to be given away for free to all people attending our Konferenz. Easy peasy. Btw, the last years topic for our Bilderberg publication was actually “Underground comix/DIY punk/Zine culture”, so finally I’ve now been part of releasing a punk zine as well. And it was fun to do, and it also became a really good zine. It seems like many others also liked it very much, so I now might continue to do a spin-off to our Bilderberg publication. Well, of course we will continue to do the annual zine/book for the actual festival. Our annual publication which always will investigate different genres of comics. We already been having topics such as Garfield, Chick-tracts, cross-gender Tintin(a), autobiographical Tijuana Bibles etc. But hopefully we now will continue to do a punk zine with 1 or 2 issues per year. Zines with a good mix of underground comix and art ..and interviews, articles and record reviews etc. We still haven’t decide a name for it yet, but maybe it’ll be ..uh!, “Bilderburger”, or something.
Do you have an academic education or are you a self-taught artist?
Naah, I have absolutely no education at all. Autodidact. I started to draw in a very early age, and then just continued to draw in my own quite stiff style. Well, I sometimes did try to copy other comics when I was young. It was humor comics like Knasen/Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker, and Don Martin in Svenska MAD. Yeah, you know ..stuff like that.
I had the chance to get to know you with those symmetrical portrait drawings you produced with different artists, I love the flutter on these faces. Did you produce these for a specific project or were they purely arbitrary?
Well, I don’t know exactly which of all the exquisite corpses & -faces you now mean, but I guess it might be those that was included inside our Bilderberg adaption of “HansWursts Hochzeit” by Goethe. If so, then they were all drawn together with my fellow BK conspirators Al, Daniele, Mat, Fufu and Karla for that portrait gallery which you found in the middle of the story. Goethe wrote a list of nearly 200 wedding guests with funny names, so there was many portraits that had to be done under that summer. All these portraits should be drawn as homage to Basil Wolverton and his spaghetti and meatballs school of cartooning. I thought if some of those portraits would be drawn as exquisite corpses ..that it then would produce some really funny grotesque looking faces. And yeah, it sure did.
Then, when I started to browse through your comics, I realized that you had been dealing with these jobs for a long time. Would you describe yourself as an illustrator or a comic book artist?
Dunno. Probably as a cartoonist when I draw comix, and maybe illustrator when I just draw stuff. But I think I’ve actually never called myself an illustrator. Sounds pretty ..uhhm, “pretentious” to me. Same goes for the word artist. You know, like:
-“Hellö, I’m Crippa. And I am an aaawrtist!” Naaah, I just draw silly comix, so that makes me a cartoonist, I guess. But hmm, mostly I just say that I draw comix.
How do you publish your works? Were there any magazines you drew regularly? Or are you more active in independent publishing and fanzine world?
I selfpublish my own comix under my own label called “DeepPressInk”. These zines has all been photocopied, since I have a genuine love for such cheap and great looking punk aesthetic. Otherwise most of my newer comix has been published by Bilderberg in different printing techniques. Everything from Xerox and laser print to risography and offset. I also have contributed with comix, drawings and collages to the great Dutch successful megazine called “Kutlul”, which is edited by fellow Bilderburger Dirk Verschure and Joost Halbertsmaa. I’ve never drawn regularly for any magazine, and I think I never will. This since I presume no-one will ever ask me for doing so. And I’m still happy doing independent D.I.Y. publishing in the fanzine world.
I want to talk a little bit about Bilderberg Konferenz. How long have you been organizing this Berlin-based comics festival?
Me and Oska Wald already started to talk loosely about doing our own festival in 2010, but never really came to it. Then in the springtime of 2015 we both felt that we had enough of all the existing comic festivals in Berlin. We thought they were just getting more and more lame. It felt like they tried so hard to be taken seriously, and were more directed to commercial graphic novels, than they really cared about the Berlin underground comix scene. Me and Oska had just been to the Millionaire’s Club in Leipzig, and thought that such cool underground zine festival was exactly what Berlin was missing. A festival that would show people how much both underground comix and punkrawk has in common with D.I.Y. attitude. Berlin also has a very much alive and thriving punkrock scene, and we both personally know many people playing in bands here. Especially Oska, since he himself plays in both Chuckamuck and Die Verlierer. And of course we also know most of the other underground comix artists living here in Berlin. So we asked them one by one if they wanted to join, and soon we were a loose group of over 10 people. Our first festival was on the 23rd of September in 2015. It turned out great, and we all had a real cool time, so we decided that this we had to continue doing. And that’s how it started.
“…it’s exactly this somewhat anarchist approach with a slight chaotic feel to it, which also is what makes that certain charm of the whole Bilderberg Konferenz.”
You mentioned that you work as a group of near 20 people as Bilderberg-Konferenz, would you like to talk about how you act as a team and the division of labor?
Well, we’re a loose group of around 15-20 people, with no leader. Everyone has as much to say and decide what we will do in a most democratic way. The inner crew members who mostly attend our meetings are the following:
Me, Oska Wald, Al Burian, Hannes Niepold, Andrzej Wroblewski, Fufu Frauenwahl, Dirk Verschure, Caro Wedekind, Daniele Murtas, Shou, Harald Kuhn, Vinz Zurwesten, Tinet Elmgren, Mariana Acebal Rodriguez, Cristina Vivez Brozgol, Ernesto Lucas HO, Romig Le Ourle, Ricaletto, Charlie Ramsbrock and Christian Zomber.
Then we also have a couple of outer crew members who never attend our meetings. This since they have no time for it, or they don’t even live here in Berlin. There’s been some people coming and going as well. Being a loose group with no leader can sometimes lead to unnecessary misunderstandings. Still we’ve managed to now do 8 festivals, with as many publications. That’s 8 festivals with even more great concerts. On our meetings we try hard to become a more functional team that divides the things between us. It’s not that easy, since we all get older, and some also have other real jobs and families to support. Still I think we’re just getting better organized for each year that goes. I presume it’s exactly this somewhat anarchist approach with a slight chaotic feel to it, which also is what makes that certain charm of the whole Bilderberg Konferenz. Please also remember that when I now talk about Bilderberg, that I’m then just speaking for myself, and not for the entire group. ‘Cuz we sure are a group of very many different individuals.
What kind of difficulties do you encounter when organizing a festival without sponsors?
I wouldn’t say that there’s any more difficulties as if we actually would have sponsors. Well, maybe with sponsors we then wouldn’t have to pay for the beer and drinks out of our own pockets. I mean, we probably could ask some local brewery to sponsor us with free beer, but that would then just mean having their shitty logo plastered all over. Maybe even having their logo printed in our publication. And how very un-R’n’R would that be on a scale from 1 to 10? I’d say 11. We’re quite OK with paying everything from our own pockets, just so we don’t have to see any such stupid logos in our publication or elsewhere. And as long as we get enough money from the Zwangsspende and selling beer to cover all the costs for rent, PA, paying the bands a little money and for the printing of the book/zine and hopefully also having spare money over for next years festival ..yeah, that’s good enough for us. We all do this for the fun of it, and not for earning money. We just want to create a fun festival for everyone with rawkin’ bands, and release a great zine/book that goes with it. This also to show others that it actually is possible to create an uncommercial event, if you just find a bunch of like-minded weirdos who all are willing to work for free.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to organize similar events?
Just do it. Find enough friendly weirdos with a similar interest, and then just do it. You don’t have much to lose really, and absolutely more to win. ‘Cuz it actually isn’t thaaaaat difficult to start an underground comix festival, if you just set your mind to it. Of course it’s good if you find a place with cheap rent to have it. And maybe knowing people who play in bands. A comic festival is mostly fun, but can become a bit boring after some hours if there’s nothing more for people to see there than just comix. Like having great bands playing. Or people doing amazing live animations. Or people doing some kind of vaudeville circus show. Or showing animated short films. The more fun different weird stuff going on ..the better.
How many times has the Bilderberg Konferenz been held so far?
As I already mentioned before, then our first Konferenz was on the 23rd of September in 2015, and we’ve done an annual festival ever since. This year will be our 9th festival. So yeah, next year in 2024 we will actually have our ..ta-daa!, 10th anniversary. Yay! ..time to celebrate!
“We want every underground comic artist all around the World to become a part of our Bilderberg Konferenz.”
We know that there are many different comic book festivals organized throughout Europe, as Bilderberg Conference, are there any points that you think make your festival special in Germany and continental Europe?
Well, I don’t wanna come off as a used car salesman here by saying that our festival is sooo veeery special. I just honestly think it rawks. Yeah, much more compared to the others here in Berlin. This due to that we not just have tables full of great comic books and -zines, posters, t-shirts etc, but also a lineup of really great rawkin’ bands playing. And often having Shou doing her amazing live animation, and also Ernesto entertaining us all with his unique and most wonderful personality. Hopefully our festival shows people how much underground comix and good ol’ punkrawk has to do with the genuine D.I.Y. culture. This by seeing how things actually can be done just for the love of doing cool stuff for yourself and others, more than doing it for a profit. I think we share a similar D.I.Y attitude as other underground comic/print festivals such as Crack in Rome, Gutter Fest in Barcelona or F**k Off Angoloueme in France etc.
Is there an opportunity to participate from abroad, or are only local artists included?
We’re absolutely open for having other underground comic artists from all around the world to participate in our festival. Except that we can’t pay for the travel or hotel rooms for them to come and stay here. But there always will be free tables for people to come and sell their own zines, books and stuff. No charge, ‘cept that it would be nice if they would give a free copy of their comic book/zine to our comic collector Andrzej, which then would end up as a contribution to our Bilderberg archive in the back room.
Is there any fixed date for the next festival?
Yes, this year, like always, it’ll be on the same weekend as the Berlin Marathon, which will occur on Saturday and Sunday the 24th/25th of September 2023.
Thank you very much for informing us about this interesting festival, which is not mentioned much on the internet in terms of preserving its authenticity.
Well, we like to keep a somewhat low profile on social media, since this is part of our secret Bilderberg image. There is some of us who have a genuine disgust for social media. Well, you still can find us on FB. There’s also a blogspot, but I guess there’s no one who’s updating it. We had an Instagram account, but closed it since a very stupid and most unnecessary incident happened some years ago.
Is there a political side to dealing with printed media and fanzines in this age where digitalization, internet and social media surround us and push the limits in a totalitarian way? If there is, what is it, can we learn? I don’t think you chose the name Bilderberg Konferenz just for a joke.
Well, we didn’t chosed the name Bilderberg Konferenz just as an unfunny joke. The German word “Bilderberg” also means a “mountain of pictures” in English, which fits perfect. Plus most of us Bilderberg’ers do have a somewhat radical anarchist/autonom point of view, as opposed to that other Bilderberg Group. So yeah, if now that evil capitalist elites can have their own boring Conference with God knows what evil, corrupt plans they talk about there ..well, then also we can have our most elitist underground comix Konferenz to reach World Domination. The word “elitist” is tongue in cheek. Or ..is it? I forgot. Maybe it isn’t. Hmm, but are we not actually the very elit of the Berlin comic scene? ..no?
Q: Are we not men?
A: No, we are D-evolution.
We want every underground comic artist all around the World to become a part of our Bilderberg Konferenz.
“…we’re probably already doomed.”
I think and feel that we live in a century where value judgments are overturned in many respects, including in the field of culture and art, and societies are drugged.
-You mean that Television is the drug of a nation? ..like the revolution will not be televised? Or that Big Brother ain’t watching you mate. It’s you .. you’re watching him. Or do you mean that information wants to be free? Internet maybe started as some kind of real revolution there in the 90s, but the leeches in power very soon took care of that. Nowadays it’s more used to stupify people, and keep ’em busy with their egos.
I am trying to draw attention in my own publications and in the events I organize to the fact that a bondage has emerged especially with the digitalization that has developed since the 2000s. Even though you live in a relatively rich and democratic country like Germany, don’t you think something’s wrong?
Well, I will now just speak for myself, and not for all the others in Bilderberg.:
Yes, I am pretty sure that there’s something seriously wrong with the state of the World, and how it has been ruled these last couple of thousand years. I sometimes would even go so far to say that we’re probably already doomed. There was a time when I was afraid of the coming apocalypse. Not anymore. I’d say that the human race has sadly now become sooo very stupid that we actually deserve whatever apocalypse that is approaching us. We humans do all know better deep inside ourselves, and this since a very long time, but still we’re chosing to continue rape and kill our Planet. To really save the Earth would mean that we ALL have to start living in a complete new way from how we are used to. I think most people like to say that they are willing to do so, but when it comes to a real change of lifestyle they never will. Most humans has now sadly become so very used to their comfortable modern lazy lifestyle. A lifestyle of having Deliveroo to deliver their food; or taking an electro-scooter for buying a packet of cigarettes just around the corner etc. I should stop here before I come off as a negative ol’ geezer who has lost every bit of hope that the human race ever will wise up.
“Cuz most young people of today seem to be very self-absorbed having extreme ego problems. They just care more about what other people think of them and how they look, than they ever will care about the environment.”
If we consider that Germany where in the past serious radical left organizations sproud such as R.A.F., S.P.K. can we talk about a real counter-culture for Berlin (today) has a strong political ground like in the 60s and 70s?
Well, we can talk about it if you want, yes. Except that I was born and raised in Sweden, and not in West Germoney. But I sure grew up knowing the existence of R.A.F. in Sweden as well. One of their so called commandos took hostages in the West German embassy in Stockholm 1975. And then later another commando planned to kidnap the swedish foreign minister Anna Greta Leijon, in exchange for some R.A.F. members to be released in 1977. When I was a young naive teenager I kind of had strong sympathies for R.A.F., and also for Brigada Rosso, I.R.A. etc. ..but I can’t say I still have. I think Ulrike Meinhof had some very intelligent things to say, but can’t say the same about Andreas Baader. It seems like he more wanted to be some kind of terrorist rockstar. I presume he just wanted to get laid by as many radical left-wing hippie chicks as possible. Well, nothing wrong with that maybe.
When it comes to if it exists a counter-culture with a strong political ground right now here in Berlin, then I think I am not the right person to ask. I do know that there is many young people who support Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebels and die Letzte Generation. In a way it makes me happy to see that there IS young people who DO care about the climate crisis, and who actually do wanna save our Planet. But I can’t really see their point of throwing instant mashed potatoes on artworks inside Museums to make people more aware of the seriousness of the climate change. I think the majority of that grey mass of people they want to reach with their actions ..mostly is people who follow shitty media such as Bild, RTL2, Berliner Zeitung, PRO 7 and their way on how to spread news. Meaning that the grey majority will think that die Letzte Generation just do imbecile and very annoying actions, instead of raising more concern about the climate change. And when I sometimes on a Friday evening go with the U-bahn, and there must hear what young people around me say, and see how they behave ..well, then I lose all my hope for the young generation pretty quick. ‘Cuz most young people of today seem to be very self-absorbed having extreme ego problems. They just care more about what other people think of them and how they look, than they ever will care about the environment. But maybe all young generations before has always been this very shallow? Naaah, I don’t think so. Never this amount of shallowness.
“Make comix NOT conflicts.”
What can be done to create a serious alternative to the current techno-industrial system, what would you recommend, beyond creating its own economy by making all this sub-culture and punk-rock adventure into a show?
I’m not really sure if I understand your question here, but I guess I’d say that more people should actually start to think even more about their own attitude to what they consume. I know many friends telling me that they’re sick’n’tired of consumerism, and the way how capitalism produce crap products that just rapes and kills our Planet. Still I sometimes see exactly the same people themselves buy completely unnecessary shit. Everything from new entertainment products, to cheap souvenirs as presents when they are tourists. But hmm well, to each their own, I guess. I don’t wanna come off as someone telling other people how to live their lives. This I did enough when I was young and thought I knew everything. But at least people could think a bit more about not consuming too much crap they don’t really need, or not even having the money for. “People buy things they don’t need for money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like”.
Well, just one last thing for people to think about: Maybe that all the money people actually would save from not buying unnecessary crap products, they instead could use to try making some of their dreams come true. Maybe buying a li’l cottage in the woods, and there live together with a bunch of friends and a couple of cute cats? Or perhaps releasing a nicely printed big fat book with all the best comics that they have drawn? Hmm, this maybe even I should do? F**k yeah. R’n’R.
As Bilderberg Konferenz, is there any Utopia you want to share with us, people?
Uff!, that sure is a question which I probably could continue to ramble on for hours and hours. But I better not. I just would like to say this: Make comix NOT conflicts.
Thank you very much Crippa for the interview, I tried to ask and learn as much as I could as Löpçük Fanzine, Thank you on behalf of all readers for informing us from such living city in Europe like Berlin, from the depths of the underground. If you have anything to add, please do.
Hmm. Buy my comi..more spaghetti. And don’t forget to eat your vegetables. Cheers.