Born into a blueblood Russian-Polish family the von Underbellys in the late 1950s, Zigfrid showed an early artistic talent and had no interest in the family’s worldwide pharmaceutical business. With the eyes of the family corporation everywhere and brothers, sisters, uncles and cousins in every city one could imagine, Zigfrid migrated towards the punk underground world of the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.
Here at last he was free. Multitalented as an artist, writer, singer and businessman, and fluent in seven languages, there was only one thing that eluded him: Ziggy could not play guitar. Having been under the spotlight all his life as an heir to the von Underbelly fortune, Ziggy hated attention. However, he never lost his inherited business acumen and invested heavily in a young company in America called Microsoft. Rumour has it that Zigfrid is in that very first staff photographs of that then young company. His androgynous beauty and sense of style made him impossible not to notice. He reclusively spent his time in his Berlin power station. “The Station” as it was known was fast becoming the adopted home of displaced beautiful punks and artists from all over the globe.
In 1977 the station was the centre of the Berlin avant-garde with people hanging out from all over. A visit from a young punk called Sid Vicious and an Irish musician called Phil Lynott drew Zigfrids attention to the English and Irish art and music scene. When the punk scene finally broke through to the mainstream, Ziggy was still only 20, but was secretly behind a lot of the renegade deals that we now look back on as legendary moments.
Zigfrid held on in Berlin until the wall fell and then he was ready to spend time travelling el mundo. In New York he spent time in the East Village, in London it was Hoxton that caught his eye. His life at the station in Berlin and the scene it created made him want to create spaces that punks, artists, musicians, IT people and all around cool heads and free thinkers could inhabit. He focused on Hoxton Square and linked up with some of the Goldsmiths graduates who had a studio there. They were Paul Daly. Garry Hume, Sarah Lucas, Richard Patterson – all young punks.
Ziggy and Daly struck up a friendship and decided to open a space that brings together people of all ages. Zigfrid was getting along with the family again and wanted somewhere he could feel at home. Zigfrid von Underbelly was born: a home from home eating, drinking and thinking establishment aimed at people who believe “free your mind and your ass will follow”.
At the moment nobody knows where Ziggy is and as usual he is running things from the shadows and tall trees. He’s back at the heart of the Berlin electronic music scene I bet.
The story as told by Paul Daly:
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