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Metal Inside Interview with Flux

Oomph! singing about God is nothing new. Neither is someone one or another getting mocked about it. The reaction of not backing away from death threats, however, has in the 17 years that Dero, Crap, and Flux have been making music together, not yet occurred. Since the three have always been striving for renewal and development, the gigantic waves that are hitting their new single “Gott ist ein Popstar,” are quite welcome. Flux explains to me why it’s so important, but also why they don’t come out naked onto the stage, and why Erich Kästner is more than just “Fliegenden Klassenzimmer.”

Hey Flux, your ninth album is rearing to go. Now the next phase is beginning, how’s it going with that?

Ah, everything besides going to the studio every day is good. It’s going great for us, we’re in happy anticipation about what is to come and of course we’re all very satisfied with the album, with the video, and with the single. And the record company said as well that they were really pleased with what came out, from here it’s just up to the listeners.

One this is pretty clear, Oomph! makes a new album and before its release people are already throwing a fit. On the one side you’ve got the people who’s feet you’re stepping on with your lyrics, and on the other side you’ve got the old fans, to whom the word development is bullshit…

Whose feet we’re stepping on…

Yeah, if you’d like. But God really isn’t a new theme for you, on the first album you already selected a similar setting with “Der Neue Gott.” “Unsere Rettung,” “Gekreuzigt,” “Mitten Ins Herz”…an old theme that trails consistantly through your discography.

That’s right. The album will be called “GlaubeLiebeTod,” and that’s all three themes that trail through our history. But they are all the three themes that most people in the world concern themselves with through their whole lives, but they can never grasp. In any case that’s the way it is with us. Maybe someone who’s grown up in a family living completely without religion or in some sort of direction of believing in nothing has never concerned themselves with religion. With us it’s different, Dero and I grew up and were reared as Catholics. We went through everything that comes with it. That really left a mark on us, just because the Catholic religion preaches and instructs a lot with proverbial piousness. So always after the motto: “if you do this and this and defy a command or a rule, then this and this will happen to you.” Always the same, punishment with threats. Of course that leaves an impression on a young person. You start at five years old, until your Confirmation at about 10-14, it leaves a powerful impression. When there’s a movie in the theaters with themes like God, religion, Heaven, Hell, Satan, I still catch myself being fascinated and have to see the film, just because you’re so influenced by it. I can’t view these themes unemotionally. It’s the same with Dero, he went to a Catholic school. We can’t avoid it and it’ll always play a role.

The theme is now more relevant than ever.

Exactly, there’s obviously a special aspect to the topic now, because this song was chosen as the single. If it hadn’t been so musically interesting and the record company had simply packed it onto the album, then it wouldn’t have acquired this importance at all, ‘cause now the single and the video are out. Of course now it’s newsworthy, for one thing because it was written last year during the whole story of the Pope’s death, choosing of the pope, and Church Congress. Of course for another thing also because of the different religious standpoints throughout this [Mohammed] caricature controversy that everyone’s talking about. Anything that’s a current issue is of course also an enticing issue. People all listen intently as soon as they hear something about religion and God.

That’s why the reactions towards the new song are also pretty strong. Then you get words like blasphemy, the outcry for a ban on the video, that you deliberately broke the 10 Commandments, and you even get death threats, like recently in your guestbook.

They themselves are actually breaking the commandment “thou shalt not kill,” even though they’re so religious, or profess to be. But that’s exactly what we wanted to accomplish. We fully knew the Our Father, the Holy Prayer, that Jesus taught his disciples and said: “you should pray for me,” we deliberately changed it in the second verse. So that you get stirred up and are surprised that the text is suddenly different.

Especially since at the beginning it’s still correct.

Exactly. So that’s at the latest the first arousal for people. And what we wanted to accomplish is exactly what’s taking place now, that people are discussing it. It started with us in the forum and will expand the more the video is played. Of course we want people to get upset at first, because when someone just says “you have to read between the lines about what the Pope says,” then everyone says “yeah sure, we’ll do that,” but no one actually discusses it. But through deliberate provocation in text, the people’s willingness to discuss is essentially turned upward. And it works! At least first on our homepage, and that’ll surely expand. What we want is for people to read between the lines. We have nothing against religion, totally the opposite! We just have something against the way in which religion is interpreted and exploited by churchly institutions. Or that someone puts themselves in the position and says: “my word is really God’s word, and you must follow me and obey everything I say.” People should deal with it more critically. But what you do with it is naturally up to your own devices. And we don’t want to preach and say that we alone have the wisdom, then we’d be making ourselves exactly like the next Pope. But people should question things a little.

Did you want to test the tolerance of the religious nation?

Not completely the tolerance, simply its actions and the actions of the church and the questioning of its leaders. It’s always good to ask yourself and others questions concerting the system and religion. And that people try to form their own opinion and not simply trust blindly and follow. People should make up their own minds about their own actions.

In the guestbook there are a lot of different opinions, there’s the Christian who can’t at all tolerate what you’re doing, and also the Christian who simply says he finds the song excellent.

It never fails, when a lot of people come together there’s this and that. That’s the most beautiful part and the most interesting part about such a mixed community. That’s where deeply religious Oomph! fans - there should also be those fans - and Bible-reading Oomph! fans, and those who aren’t religious at all or only a little or in their own way or come from a different religion, meet. They should talk about it with each other there and find their own solution to the problem that we’ve posed questions about. Then we’re happy.

Is it generally about fanaticism in the realm of religion? I understand the song a little differently, for me it’s about the present-day worshiping of pop stars that borders the worshiping of Gods, about completely normal people who are pushed by the media into pop idols and then abandoned. Is “Gott ist ein Popstar” meant as more religiously or socially critical?

Yeah, of course it’s also about the other aspect. You can turn the whole thing around and say that it’s not only that God and the Pope are being marketed as pop stars. It also happens that there is exactly the same kind of merchandising as what you see with pop stars, both of the Pope and of Jesus with t-shirts and bags. But it’s also reversed, pop stars today are portrayed as gods. And that’s also an aspect that we’re showing in the video. After the motto: “pimp up my messiahs,” that someone is taken and made into a pop star. And that even the pop stars today are used like God substitutes. You can grasp both issues with the topic. In the video we more so grasped the second issue, because we didn’t want to edge to far into the religion-Satan corner. In the end it means the whole album doesn’t revolve around it. That’s why we focus on the other side, the pop star worship.

This isn’t the first time that you’ve made a scandal with this theme. I can remember that there were protests at your concerts before. What happened when you got on stage?

That was at a concert in 1992 or ’93 in Braunschweig much earlier for the single “Der Neue Gott.” There were devout Christians, I don’t remember what denomination anymore, who were distributing flyers. We said that they could read the paper before our show. They did that, their message being not to go to the concert because we were devil worshipers and sang such songs. It said the same thing on the flyers. Of course that was a huge laugh for our fans. Obviously the show went on afterwards. But at least we gave them the platform. And that’s also true, tolerance is something very important to us! I find all opinions are ok, even in our forum. They should make their opinions known, as long as they stay disciplined and don’t get abusive. Or deeply offending others. But everyone has the right to have their own opinion, just like we have. Luckily we live in a country where people can say what they want. Unlike the Muslims, who are blaming us that such a caricature won’t do at all, and that in the meantime someone must apologize for it. Because we ourselves have also already made enough caricatures about the Christian or Jewish beliefs.

But is it not the case that people are quite used to it by now? I mean, there are bands that have much more flagrant lyrics, like when I think of Rammstein. That’s why I’m really surprised that the reactions are so strong.

I think it’s especially easy on a homepage like that to label the thick-headed man and to vent. Maybe a few people are just waiting to finally be able to. You’re more anonymous and you can really let loose on someone. Well, if it’s fun for people and there’s actual discussing to some extent that’s also nice or very amusing.

The keyword is fan base: the hype is big once again. You’re being accused for various things by the so called “old fans”: kissing up to the media, commercialism, being tailored for VIVA, cliché Pop…do you see it that way?

Of course it’s the case that you don’t want to lose and fans and that it’s a shame when fans drift away. On the other hand we also see that such comments aren’t from real fans. Music is obviously a matter of taste. And you can’t fight over it. If the people don’t like what we’re making these days, but more what we made before, good. It’s like that with me for some bands, or turned around, that I like what they’re making now and thought the band was shit earlier. That’s a matter of taste. They can buy our current records or not. And they can tell me that for all I care or not, at the end it’s up to each person. But we believe if they insist on not listening to us anymore because we’re being shown on the TV, then it’s not about the music. For them it’s just about profiling themselves, because they can say “oh, I I’m listening to a band that no one knows of.” For them it’s not about the music itself. There were similar reactions when I was young when The Cure had the same success for the first time. It was also like that with Depeche Mode, but I don’t want to keep comparing myself with these bands. But it’s always that way with every band. There are always people who think they can hold their flags high and think “I listen to a band or discovered one that’s listened to in an elitist circle” and so on, that they define themselves by that. But for them it’s really not about the music.

You can see the same phenomenon with Apoptygma Berzerk.

Yeah, exactly the same. They also changed to GUN. And that’s not without a reason, because they saw us there. I mean, we spoke to Apop about GUN, whether or not it was a nice label. And they saw that GUN offered a platform for this kind of music, and that GUN has managed to expose their people. That’s also the reason why we use other platforms as well, even ones like MTV, VIVA, Top of the Pops, The Dome, and Bravo. People always seek what they see every day, we already learned that with “Silence of the Lambs.” If we or other rock bands didn’t do that, then kids 10-15 years old would never learn about rock music. They would think there’s only music from Alexander and the Superstars and a little hip hop. They would think that Alexander’s new single is rock music, or that Tokio Hotel makes real rock. Marilyn Manson also does it that way, and you always see Rammstein in the media as well, so all the people think “man, that’s cool music.” Apparently they’re allowed to, just not us, I don’t know. When I was 10 I didn’t buy any rock magazines or rummage through the internet for new CDs or read through any sort of reviews and then buy the CDs. I read Bravo, and if there was something about The Police, who I thought were great at the time, then I bought the new CD. Or I watched normal television. When I was a little older, there was the program “Disco” with Ilja Richter. The Police even appeared on it and I was glad about that. At the time there were no other shows. And since then I’ve been listening to rock music and through the mass media I’ve learned to know and love rock music. Why shouldn’t it work the same way now

You’re right, it was the same for me. One more time to the new album: “Ego” and “Plastik” were relatively melancholy and textually more noncritical, “Wahrheit oder Pflicht” aggressive and angry, about the depths of the human soul. What does “GlaubeLiebeTod” involve?

Religion, love, and death are the big themes that stand above all others, and they really cover the majority of the lyrics. Of course there are also a few exceptions in the lyrics, but that’s mostly how it is. Well, we also could have titled “Wahrheit oder Pflicht” as “GaubeLiebeTod,” it’s likely the same. It’s simply a summary of the themes in the lyrics. It’s just as critical as “Wahrheit oder Pflicht,” because both albums before that were more introverted. But it covers a wide spectrum. There are also things in it that we’d never done before. For example, “Spiel mir das Lied vom Tod” is a song where we took the theme of the film by Ennio Morricone. We’ve always thought the song was excellent, and then we noticed that it didn’t have any words. Obviously that worked out great, because then we could make our own lyrics and write our own singing melody. We looked at how the song worked. It wasn’t that simple, we had to get permission from Mr. Morricone. He was very particular about it. He wanted to have the lyrics, the whole thing translated, he wanted to have the song, to know how it would be portrayed, and so on. In the end he allowed it, but we couldn’t sample from him. That means we had to record the famous harmonica part ourselves.

Which one of you did that?

It wasn’t done by any of us. It was done by our colleagues from Braunschweig, Klaus Hartisch. None of us can play the harmonica that well. It was pretty difficult. At least he told us that, and it looked like it while he was doing it. It wasn’t that easy to play. But most people don’t realize that we re-created it, and of course that’s a big compliment for him.

So will we hear more guitar or more electronic sounds?

Both. You can hardly judge that, even after you’ve heard it a thousand times. But what I’ve heard so far is that we’re going back again, so again more barrowing from EBM. A lot of people have said they hear more electronics than on “Wahrheit oder Pflicht.” But the guitars are there, like before. I think it’s a 50-50 ratio. Or so we say, there are just parts where the guitar is more active, mostly in the choruses of course, and parts where the electronics are more active, mostly in the verses. Apart from that I can say it has more hints of guitar and just as many hints of electronic as before. The question is always, how they are mixed together. That was the basic content, you hear more electronics than in the albums before. And I can live with that, with our roots, “Gott ist ein Popstar” starts off really electronic and danceable. It’s that way throughout the album.

Is there anything else that’s completely new?

Yeah, we’ve never had an experiment in this form before. We took a poem by Erich Kästner and put music to it. Dero more speaks it actually, so it’s our first hip-hop song. It’s set up very epic-like, more like an instrumental where Dero’s speaking over it. It came out really well.

Which poem is it?

It’s “Eine Frau Spricht im Schlaf.” With Erich Kästner you think of “Pünktchen und Anton” or “Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer.” But it’s not like that, it’s a very serious poem that he wrote after the separation with his wife. I can really recommend it.

Are all the new songs in German?

Yeah. It turned out that way because we’ve noticed that the German songs are more touching. That’s why they’re all in German. We didn’t plan it that way but afterwards we found that, man, we only have German lyrics. No one was sad about it either.

On “Wahrheit oder Pflicht” that was also the case, and the English songs were only available on the Limited Edition.

But there still were some. It happened that they came out on the Limited Edition. But if we had compiled the others, they also might have been able to land on the album. In our eyes the songs aren’t worse than the others. But this time only German lyrics were written. I’m glad that Dero did it that way. I have the feeling that with German lyrics you simply have the chance to get directly into the people’s hearts. Without the translation in your head when you don’t know English very well yet, your head is more occupied than your heart. At least in the German speaking realm you have the unique chance to directly generate emotions with your mother tongue.

How should I imagine the formation of “Gott ist ein Popstar,” for example? You really do everything yourselves, you always write, compose, produce, and mix by yourselves.

Yeah, that’s why we always take so long and are always close to a nervous breakdown afterwards. Bands like Tokio Hotel have it easier. They get everything written, they only have to go into the studio for two weeks, sing and play guitars and drums for a little while, and then they can be sent off and do promotion, and in the process the next album is written and produced. That’s really the optimal way to get a band to the top, because you can put out a record every year and can do a lot of promotion. We always need two years.

So you started on it directly after the 2004 tour?

Yeah, pretty much after the last tour. It was the first tour, then festivals, and then in the fall we made another tour in the cities we hadn’t gone to before. Then in the winter or the beginning of the next year we started writing songs. That was relatively a lot, because of the whole story with limited bonus tracks we need about 20 songs these days. Last time I think we wrote over 22 songs. Then they were released accordingly on the different versions of the record. You need to take your time if you want to do it well.

Is It going to be that way this year? The whole limited edition story?

Yeah, for the album, for all the singles, exactly. Of course we always want to reward the fans who take the trouble to get to the stores in the first week. Then obviously we get a higher position in the charts. And the fans that are really fired up about it should also have the opportunity to buy additional tracks if they want. Exclusively on the limited edition, and of course it’ll have a better cover, a bigger booklet, and so on.

The video for “Gott ist ein Popstar” is very elaborate, I believe Jörn Heitmann has done it again. Who decided on the screenplay?

We did that together with the label. We work very, very closely with GUN and with our management in all aspects. We did that for the first time during the past year. Before that, we said that everything was ours, and in the marketing decisions at Virgin and with the record we always said it was just our thing alone. But this time we said we wouldn’t need to switch to GUN if we didn’t believe that they could do things well too. And then we thought we’d do everything a little more in cooperation with them. For the video we had a meeting with the director. He had sketched out a crude idea, gotten the song and then wrote down what had come to mind. Jörn Heitmann never wrote an actual screenplay beforehand. He said the basic idea is this and this. And then we sat down together and did some brainstorming and devised a real screenplay. He refined it once more and thought up the images and his producer assembled them and made the design.

Soon you’ll be going on tour. Are you going to be wearing those little white jackets again?

No, we’re not gonna wear those. We always try to change the concept from album to album. Last time we came up with it along with our light designer, because we wanted to have the projections on our bodies. We said that we’d either have to be naked, or we’d have to be wearing something white. That’s why they were white. What we’ll have this time on stage isn’t certain yet. But we’re discussing it with several people, and the outfits will be matched accordingly.

Maybe you’ll go naked this year then???

Yeah, this year it won’t be like that at all, Rammstein took the idea away from us. We can’t compete with the video either. We’re not such muscle men…


Well, you’ll be surprised…

Great, is there something else that the world should absolutely know about Oomph! or about you?

About me? Hmm,, not really, no. I can just thank the fans once again, who for so many years have made it possible for us to be able to make music and an album. I’m really, really looking forward to the tour. That’s always the nicest part, you get the most feedback. How the songs come out, which songs people sing along to, which songs they say “stop with this shit” to. Which has never happened yet…but I’m really looking forward to the tour.

Then I’ll say thanks a lot, Flux.

With pleasure, then we’ll see you on tour.

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