Tuesday, December 10, 2013
GUEST POST - Sieben Zoll Musik's Danny on DIE SKEPTIKER
Hi, my name is Danny. I run a blog about 7" records called Sieben Zoll Musik in Berlin, Germany. Jason and I agreed to trade a blog post on a seven inch of our choice. While I decided to write a piece on East Berlin punk icons DIE SKEPTIKER, Jason did one on VILLAGE PISTOLS. Hope you like it.
This is the url of my blog: http://siebenzollmusik.blogspot.de
If you want to share your opinion, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay folks, be warned, this seven inch review is gonna be a history lesson of sorts. The record that I will talk about in this piece is from DIE SKEPTIKER (The Skeptics), a Berlin-based band of tremendous importance for me and a lot of East German punks of my generation. I bought it last year on a flea market, and although I had to pay fourteen euros (almost twenty US dollar) for a record with a torn cover and lots of scratches on the vinyl, it’s worth every penny.
DIE SKEPTIKER started out in 1986 and released two self-produced demo tapes soon after their foundation. Pretty impressive, actually, as they were a punk band in an authoritarian regime: the GDR. Now, that’s where the history bit comes into play. Remember the German Democratic Republic, this tiny Eastern Bloc country, the antifascist Germany founded after WWII? Warsaw Pact, Soviet Communism, Stasi, no bananas, ailing economy? Sure, you remember!
To be a punk in this environment was quite a challenge, a true act of rebellion, which went along with constant bullying in public, severe state repression and criminalization and complete social marginalization. I can only imagine what it was like in a country where punk, and subculture in general, was not supposed to exist. No records, no fanzines, no instruments, no shows, no nothing (certainly no Internet). Gatherings had to be organized secretly, concerts took place in churches or rehearsal rooms and your best buddy was probably a Stasi collaborator informing the security service on your opinions and activities.
Regardless, DIE SKEPTIKER managed to put out a 7” record with four songs in 1989 on a label called Amiga. Now, Amiga wasn’t your average punk or rock label … it was part of the GDR’s Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs and the only (!) label in the country. How was it possible that a state-owned record label released a punk seven inch, when the state itself tried everything possible to prevent subcultural activities? Mind you, we are talking about a totalitarian system here.
The answer is simple: Integration. Towards the end of the Eastern Bloc countries, there were quite a few alternative bands popping up in the GDR. Some of these punk, indie and electro bands were tolerated and promoted by the government in spite of their “otherness” and their (partly) very critical lyrics were approved by censorship organs in order to be played in East-German youth radio programs or to be published on state-run record label Amiga. These bands were called "Die anderen Bands" (The Other Bands). Officials tried to monopolize them, to integrate them in official youth culture programs and to present these bands as a part of GDR youth culture. It was like: “Look, everybody, we are so tolerant and open-minded, even people with colored hair and noisy music have a place in our socialist system.” Hardcore punks that suffered severe state repression because of their unwillingness to compromise dismissed Die anderen Bands as conformists and called them "FDJ-Punks" (FDJ meaning Freie Deutsche Jugend, the official communist youth movement of the GDR).
DIE SKEPTIKER 7” is so important to me because I was born and raised in the GDR. While I was too young to actually listen to this 7” when it was released, I fell in love with DIE SKEPTIKER’s following efforts "Harte Zeiten" (1990, Amiga) and "Sauerei" (1991, Our Choice) when I was about fourteen. To this day they are two of my favorite records.
Talking about the music on this record: If you like your punk raw, simple, energetic and melodic and don’t mind a singer with a sometimes opera-like singing style this is for you! I’ve heard a lot of people comparing DIE SKEPTIKER to DEAD KENNEDYS. While I see some musical parallels (dramatic and actually sung vocals and a rather polished than noisy sound), I think that this comparison is mainly due to the status of the band.
Fast forward to 2013: DIE SKEPTIKER are still around, their singer, Eugen Balanskat, being the only remaining original band member. A couple of months ago, they released a new record. Maybe I will give it a listen later tonight. On Spotify.
Here's a YouTube link with lots of interesting footage and documentaries about Die anderen Bands: http://www.youtube.com/user/DieAnderenBands
DIE SKEPTIKER 1989 -- with a song called "Unmut" from the Amiga 7":
DIE SKEPTIKER 2013 -- with a song called "Erwartung" from their latest full length record: