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Hell-Zone Interview
March 25, 2006

As of late they’ve already caused some uproar in the mass media with their single “Gott ist ein Popstar” and the corresponding music video ;-) Recently on March 24th, 2006 their brand-new album “GlaubeLiebeTod” came out and their upcoming tour is announced. Material enough for an interesting conversation with the successful, and at the same time still down-to-earth, electro-rockers from Braunschweig.
To our delight, the trio gladly agreed to an interview.
Let yourself be surprised!

Mira Sommer:
With active support from Markus, a self-referenced musician, I met up with the band OOMPH! in Elbflorenz for a casual chat.
Setting –the art-hotel simply referred to as Kunsthaus. It turned out to be, however, a palace-like train station concourse. Thanks to that the meeting with the three very friendly gentlemen Dero, Flux, and Crap was all the more comfortable. And out of the planned 15 minute talk came an hour-long conversation. You can read the “summary” here.

Mira: How did you decide on the album title “GlaubeLiebeTod” without spaces, periods, or commas? Are these three concepts for you inseparably linked with each other?

Dero: When the songs were finished and we still had no title for the LP, I went over all the lyrics again. I then quickly realized that all the songs involved these three fundamental things. Either about religion or about love or about death, in the broadest sense. And I thought it would be great to name the album that way.
They’re the most fundamental questions that humanity has been asking itself since the beginning of awareness: where do I come from? Where am I going? What do I do in the meantime? It’s not like everything is lit up from one side. These three words are handled very critically on the disc.

Mira: “GlaubeLiebeTod” comes out in three varieties, from the deluxe model to the minimal package. How are you standing by the trend that albums as complete works of art are becoming more and more archaic?

Crap: The bottom line is that it’s always bad for an artist. From the artist’s standpoint of course it would be nicer if the consumer bought the finished product. With the finished cover design, where we also apply ourselves, in order to make the artistic package complete.

The CDs being released that way now is for the main part the record company-merchandiser aspect. Now I don’t see the great sense in getting an album for a little less money, that looks like it was burned. The record company is just trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps. For a long time there was only the possibility to download illegally. The record companies didn’t respond, there was no legal platform speaking for regulations where people could have been able to download. Meanwhile in people’s heads it’s normal to steal things. By now the mentality is just that. But we wouldn’t punish anyone for it. Putting someone in jail for five years because of such a history I find to be completely stupid.

On the other hand everyone who listens to the band should know that by burning, he’s financially cutting the ground out from under the band’s feet bit by bit, and someday that band’ll just be gone. Then it’ll strike the next band and the next, and if it keeps going on like that, someday there’ll be no more bands. They try to fight it with the three disc action. Whether that works, I don’t know. For us it would just be nicer if there was only one version, or even two for all I care. The blown-up version for the fans and then just a normal version. I saw the third version today, it’s really just the CD and a very small cover…

Flux: But there are also people who got that one. They’re guided by the price. “It only cost 9,99 EU. That’s almost the old cost of records…”

Crap: I appreciate that the record industry is trying absorb losses. The question is, how much longer will that be possible? How expensive should albums get? I don’t think the politics there are right.

The bottom line is that you as the artist have little influence, or as good as none, over it. As long as you have a record contract, you can’t say to the record company: “Now make the records for half as much.” There’s a giant machinery beneath it, and they also want to get paid. That’s just the real problem.

Dero: As a band you can be glad, like we are, if you can write, produce, and mix your own stuff independently. Who still does that nowadays? The rest satisfy the record company. If you don’t want to, then you have to make your own record company. But then again you’d also need the necessary loose change.

Crap: But if you look at bands who have their own record company, they don’t make their records cheaper either. There are still differences between distributor’s debut price and the actual sales price.
So somehow the market wants…

Dero: The media market…

Crap: (laughs) The Media market so to speak, without naming names or making any plugs.

Dero: Maybe Saturn too…

Crap: ...wants to earn from it too, but I just ask myself where that journey is supposed to go from there?

Mira: What do we always need newer, cooler complete-deluxe-version CDs for?

Dero: What does deluxe mean? The bonus version is the limited one. It’s really padded with all the extras. That’s the reward, so to speak, for the fans who get to the stores first. When the disc isn’t there anymore they can say: ”Hey we have it!!” If there are a few at the same time who say: “I don’t actually need a booklet” then they just get a slimmed-down version. I also wouldn’t have to have it that way, but if the record company thinks so, then they’d have to do it. By now that’s how it is with all Sony BMG products, whether it’s – (to Flux) give me a name…

Flux: Alexander Klaws

Dero: No, an international act.

Flux: Shakira

Dero: Whether it’s a Shakira CD or an Oomph! CD – they’re all put out that way. Or a “Revolverheld.” Others who are under contract with BMG right now aren’t coming to mind.

Mira: Speaking of Revolverheld: the track “Die Schlinge” contains a melody from Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for “Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod.” [Once upon a Time in the West]. Did you want to make a somewhat different “cover version” at some point, so to speak, or how this song come about?

Dero: Because we had always felt like musically transforming a good soundtrack. We’ve always been big movie fans, and tried it out with a few pieces. And Ennio Morricone’s “Man with a Harmonica” was the first song that worked.

Of course it was particular challenge, since the original has no text or singing melody. We thought: we’ll take the main element of the song and make an Oomph! song out of it. Of course we had to get rights from Mr. Morricone and association. That took a while, but it worked out. He thought the song was good and said “you can do it!”

Mira: Was are your personal favorites off the album “GlaubeLiebeTod?”

Crap: Very hard to say. The bottom line is we think all the songs are great, otherwise we wouldn’t have burned and (very emphasized) captured them onto the CD. For me depends on my mood. It’s also the case that at some point I won’t listen to my own music anymore. You hear it so much during composing and producing. At some point you’ve had enough of the topic. Then you take it in maybe once or twice. Then not until you’re on tour again.

Dero: The vice of making music is that you can’t have the distance of the normal consumer at all anymore. As a musician you analyze and dissect everything on a musical level, so that you can’t enjoy music unconditionally anymore. You hear a song until it’s finished maybe 500 times. Listening isn’t fun again until you’re on the stage.

Mira: Why did you just chose the provocative song “Gott ist ein Popstar” to release as a single?

Dero: Because it’s a good song! Danceable, catchy, and like people say, provocative. I think it’s legitimate to use provocation in order to draw attention to yourself. Luckily it’s not provocation purely for the sake of it. There’s a background there. But we could never have foreseen that RTL would disinvite us from Echo and Top of the Pops, even though we were supposed to be playing there. Because when we wrote the song and when it was already finished, this Mohammed caricature wasn’t around yet! Then RTL invoked that. They said more or less: “In the context of the caricature-controversy, we can’t expect that our viewers might be religiously offended.” That surprised me a little, to be honest. Because RTL isn’t a station known for sensibility towards its viewers. They show sex and crime around the clock in the American style. That’s why I don’t really understand it. I think the reason for our disinvitation had to do with the fact that in the song and the video, it’s not just reduced to the religious level, but there was evidence that we were throwing criticism at Casting [shows].

Mira: But that’s also pretty obvious.

Dero: Yeah! And it was also the man reason that they disinvited us. Because we were basically going after the sacred cow of RTL, “Germany is Looking for a Superstar”. That simply didn’t suit them. We held up the mirror in front of them too plainly. This whole pretty, ideal Pop World. But such a medium-severe scandal never did a band any real harm…

Mira: Which song will be the next release?

Crap: The next release will actually be “Das letzte Streichholz.” We filmed the video for it three days ago with a new director, Ken Duken, who’s actually better known as an actor. It was cold as hell, like in all of our videos. Our curse is that we always film at the beginning of the year. This time it was in a really old villa that had been empty for years, so it was really pretty cooled down. We filmed for two days there. It was really nice, but also pretty cold.

Mira: Am I interpreting it right, that “Das letzte Streichholz” is about abuse?

Dero: Of course that’s also one level of interpretation. I always try to set up my lyrics so they leave as much room for interpretation as possible. So everyone can paint their own picture in their own emotional world. Often people come up to us after our shows and say “Man, I just felt this way with this or that song,” where I sometimes think then: “I wasn’t actually thinking of that, but it can see how you’re telling me you could interpret it that way,” which I find fantastic. There’s nothing worse than music that can only be interpreted one way and is the same to everyone. That would be completely boring. Yeah, of course this title also presents the abuse-level.

Mira: Soon you’re going on tour. What’s the preparation for the show like? Can you you reveal any little things about what the visitors and long-time fans can expect live?

Flux: Naturally we’re already in preparation for the tour. Of course there’s still a little bit of time. The tour starts on May 18th. But we’ve already given thought to which pieces we’ll play, and in the next few days we’ll be meeting with a few light and stage designers in order to decide what concept we’ll be using. In any case we want to have visual support for the music again, like last time. But in the end for us it entails for the most part, that the people can hear the music and see the performer. That the performance comes across full of energy and that we can have a real party with the fans.

With us you won’t see what’s there already is to see with other bands. Flames and constant explosions and so on. That’s not our thing and won’t ever be in the future.

Dero: There are a whole lot of bands who do a sort of monologue on stage. Somehow the band is just celebrating themselves on stage, and I find that a bit negative. At the end you should leave the concert hall and say that you felt like the band and the audience were one. In the first place the band should really always send the signal that it’s thankful for every individual who came and should have a party with every individual. And that’s always worked out well for us. I always talk to the audience. For me that’s the most visual, the most physical way to show the people that you’re one with them.

Mira: It’s not just on stage that you try to become one with your audience. You just had a discussion forum with students in the framework of a religious class. How was that?

Dero: That was great.

Crap: The most interesting part was that they didn’t know we were coming. It was 2 or 3 Religion teachers who planned it. It was a whole class of 10th graders, all 17-18 years old. The homework on the day before was: “If the band was there theoretically, what would you want to say to them?” and so they thought about the question. The next day they actually heard that we were there. Then there was a big uproar and it was really nice, and they asked very intelligent questions.

Dero: Let me cut in for a second. Anyone who’s 18 in 10th grade must have done something wrong.

Crap: Weren’t they 18?

Dero: No, they were about 15.

Flux: 15, 16.

Crap: Didn’t they say 18?

Dero: In 10th grade of high school you should be…

Crap: But I saw at least one or two 18-year-olds.

Mira: Sometimes they look older

Crap: That could also be it, yeah.

Flux: They looked into songs generally on the topic of god, beliefe, and religion. As well as Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” And…

Dero: Xavier Naidoo, probably…

Flux: …Xavier Naidoo and the Soul singer Rapsoul, who’s also on our record label. They talked about the songs and had really thought about the question and they had prepared little pink cards. RTL was also there, surprisingly, and filmed it. But it was RTL-Regional, so you can only see it in West Germany. At least they meant to bring the whole thing. There were also questions that we answered about the RTL-Echo disinvitation thing. We don’t know how the report looked afterwards. Maybe they cut that out. We still haven’t seen the report.

Markus: You’ve been making music for 15 years. But it didn’t really get going until 1999. Looking back, did your mentality change at all after the success?

Dero: Not at all. Of course you’ve always gotta say that when you develop as a person you naturally develop as a musician. At least when you reflect your emotional status quo in your music. I think there are enough bands who don’t evolve. The main reason for that is: “Playing it safe. It was commercially successful, so I don’t need to change anything.” But really that’s false, because usually everyone changes as a person in the course of time. Musically you’d usually evolve or change analogously. That means that bands who sound the same after several albums are lying after some time.

Markus: So are you thinking of certain bands?

Dero: You have to decide for yourself which bands are playing it safe. There are enough bands, where you’ve heard one song and already know the whole LP. But that was never the case with us. We’ve always been a band that can bring moments of surprise. For example the recent album is the first time that I’ve done a song with “Spoken Word Performance” with a poem. At some point we did the first duet with Nina Hagen. We’re always trying musically to open new gates and develop further. That definitely means that we’re always surprising the listener. Of course it also has to mean a lot of versatility. With us you’ve ultimately got to be able to tolerate enough transformations. In place of our versatility, just looking at the transition from our debut album “Oomph!” to our second “Sperm” – the debut album was relatively dominated by electronics and the second was relatively guitar-heavy. So anyone who withstood the crossing over from the first to second, who has stayed true to us until now, to the ninth album. It’s a great thing that we’ve acquired a wide fanbase that’s relatively open and relatively tolerant. No musical inbreeders. Maybe that’s a reason why we have a relatively colorful audience during our concerts. It’s not only one shade of people that I’d find boring. It ranges from typical gothic-freak, to Metal Heads and hardcore or punks, to average-Joes or old electronic-body music fans, everything that exists, and I think that’s great.

Markus: You worked together with L’ame Imortelle, who stand more just for goth. How did that come about? Were you hunting around in other areas? Or was it a challenge for you to get a little bit of a claim on things?

Dero: That came about by chance because we’re with the same record company.

Crap: The song is by us. We always decide pretty spontaneously when we want to make such duets. We had the song and there was the consideration as to whether we should maybe make a duet out of it. We took in Sonja’s voice - yeah her name is Sonja - simply because it was interesting. It was also that way before with Nina Hagen, it was a super spontaneous idea: the song was there first. We thought about who could bring a nice contrast to Dero’s voice. And then we came quickly to Nina Hagen. Then we called her, she already knew us and thought we were good and was all for it. With L’ame Imortelle it was just the same.

Markus: You also do your own producing…

Crap: We do all the composing, producing…

Dero: Control freaks!

With all our duets it was that we’d wrote the songs and then looked for a duet partner. The song actually should have been called “Oomph! featuring Sonja Kraushofer” but she wanted L’ame Imortelle to be named.

Markus: Dero, you started studying psychology five or six years ago. Are you still carrying on with it?

Dero: Obviously at the moment I have absolutely no time for it anymore. You actually have to study pretty intensively. I’m still interested in it on my own and always buy various literature on the topic, but you can’t do any intensive studying. I’m not excluding the idea that someday when there’s no more Oomph!, I can finish it. I think there are enough rich fellow musicians who I could give therapy to (laughs.)

Markus: What semester are in you right now?

Dero: I’ve only been studying a year and a half. So nothing you could brag about.

Markus: You guys have become friends with each other, and know each other from childhood days. What takes priority: the friendly relationship or the demands of your work?

Flux: You shouldn’t balance them against each other. For us they go hand-in-hand. On this interpersonal level it’s like it is with an old marriage, where you know the pros and cons of the other person. That has an advantage while working because I know exactly who’ll help me when I’m not progressing. On the other hand, in discussions and disputes it can get hurtful very quickly, because of course you also know the weaknesses of the others. When we discuss music – and the three of us always have very strong opinions on certain topics – then we often come to the point where it’s really just a matter of taste and you could say “I think it’s good, I think it’s bad” and we don’t just stop, but we keep discussing and look for arguments and then naturally it drifts into personal things. There are very long and hard discussions. But we’re not girls…

...evil glance from Mira to Flux, then laughing…

Flux: We don’t bitch and moan. The next day everything is good again.

Dero: We orderly smack each other in the face and then the topic is settled.

Flux: There are actually only two models in a band that work, either there’s a dictator who’s the boss and the others comply and are also satisfied in this roll and have no aspirations to contribute creatively. Or the model of a band being democratic. And that’s the case with us. Yeah!

Dero: With us there’s the real existing dictate of the proletarian.

Markus: There only are proletarians.

general laughing

Dero: Exactly!

Mira: Thanks a lot for the interview, we hope that you enjoyed it?

Dero: Of course! Like one says so nicely after good sex: “Was it as good for you as it was for me?”

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