Most of our readers will be aware of the ongoing saga of UK politics and the same arguments about our relationship with Europe cycling endlessly around social media, so we thought we’d take a different tack for this month’s State of the Nation and find out what’s going on on the other side of the Brexit split. German indie-punks The Deadnotes‘ describe their new album Courage, due for release on 14th February through their own 22Lives Records, as a call to “put your anger and frustration into action and try and make changes for the better,” so they seemed like our perfect guides to the state of affairs in the EU’s most populous nation.
Many of our readers won’t be aware of your home city of Freiburg, could you give us a flavour of the place?
Sure! Freiburg is a rather small town in the southwest of Germany just right next to the Black Forest, very close to the borders of Switzerland and France. It’s actually a pretty nice city, very liberal and if you visit Freiburg for the first time you will probably call it a very “idyllic” place.
It’s also a student city but at the same time extremely expensive to live in. I think it’s even the most expensive city to live in in Germany. This unfortunately has negative effects on the cultural landscape and music scene. Right now we’re experiencing that more and more bars and live venues in Freiburg have to shut down, which is a real shame!
We’ve been so wrapped up in our politics in the UK recently that we don’t often hear of anything going on in Europe that’s not directly related to Brexit, but the general impression that we are given is of an increasing level of dissatisfaction with traditional ruling parties and a rise in support for parties and figures at the extreme ends of the political spectrum. With the end of Angela Merkel’s time as Chancellor, have you noticed a similar pattern in Germany?
Unfortunately yes. The right-wing populist party called “AfD” has been rising in Germany over the last couple of years. It’s name translates to “Alternative for Germany” which is very hypocritical and dangerous. It can’t and should never be an alternative to vote for a party that’s obviously racist or denies climate change. At the same time the traditional social democrats “SPD” are dramatically losing voters. The green party “Die Grünen” is rising at the moment enhanced by the growing awareness of climate change and climate politics in our society but it’s to be expected that they won’t be able to bring a change but rather become the new conservative middle.
What do you consider to be some of the most important issues currently facing German society, whether on a specifically political or more generally social level?
I think there are many issues that need to be solved immediately. I’ve already been talking about the high rents in Freiburg that you nearly can’t afford anymore especially as a musician or artist.
We have massive problems with right-wing and populist parties gaining more and more votes all over Germany and spreading their hate-speech unfiltered and unquestioned in various media. I wouldn’t want to break all this down to one key problem because that would be way too easy.
I think the capitalist system we live in and the conservative politics and parties like CDU, SPD, FDP and also the Green Party and the growing strength of the lobby have promoted war, short-sighted growth in economy and competition instead of solidarity for way too long now. These politics privilege only a few and it is destroying our climate, environment or planet.
What’s the take on Brexit where you are, on its potential effects in Germany, the UK and more widely?
To be honest. I think Brexit is absolute bullshit. There are many problems within the EU and I definitely agree that many things need to change here. However Brexit is not only something I’m practically afraid of as it affects every smaller band, every touring musician and so many good friends from the UK in a negative way, it’s also an unbelievably reactionary and regressive sign for all of Europe. We have to overcome borders and boundaries and mustn’t build new fences and mustn’t isolate each other.
The video for ‘Hopeless Romantic’ depicts a panel show of a kind that will be depressingly familiar to our readers – to what extent should the media take responsibility for the divisions that have sprung up in society, and how would you like to see them change their approach?
When you look at mass media in Germany like the “Bild Zeitung” that only tries to increase their profits through political agitation, big headlines and lies, you can’t deny that this has a huge affect. Media plays a huge role in our society wheather it’s TV, newspapers, radio or online media. This is maybe the big dilemma itself. Media always claims to be independent but they are often dependant on profits, money and competition.
I believe that media has to balance itself between the two goals and be more aware of their responsibility. Is it worth a big headline when you provide a platform for hate speech and right-wing fake news?
You’ve spoken about the division caused by the competitiveness inherent in the capitalist system and called for people to connect and work together – is there much of a coherent group of politically active bands currently where you are?
I wouldn’t really say so, no. I mean of course there are a few bands at our level and a lot of classic, old school and gruff punk bands who have a very clear political point of view and do amazing work, for example running NGO campaigns, writing political songs and lyrics and mobilising different people. But especially pop music is often kept unpolitical but I think artists not only should but must use their platform to make a statement!
In these times it’s so important to stand up against all the bullshit!
To what extent would you describe Courage as a political album? And if you would describe it as such, was this a conscious decision at the outset, or something that developed during the process?
I wouldn’t call Courage a political album. We’re reflecting on experiences, feelings and private challenges. I think what’s definitely new compared to our debut I’ll Kiss All Fears Out Of Your Face is that we tried to see issues in a wider context. We are a part of a big, confusing and difficult society and there are so many people around us who struggle in the same way as we do. Things could be way easier if people would start working together instead of working against each other and that’s where politics come in. It’s all linked.
We asked The Deadnotes to make us a playlist of songs that sum up the state of Germany as they see it today:
Deichkind – wer sagt denn das?
This song describes what’s wrong in our society in a very humorous way and tackles fake news. Deichkind bring social criticism into german mainstream-clubs. We love it!
Donots – Dann ohne mich
These guys have been singing in English for over 20 years and then released their very political record Karacho in 2015 which was their first album sung in German. To be honest I’m not always a fan of German lyrics but these guys really nailed it and the record left such a big impact on me that we even covered their song ‘Dann ohne mich’ for a benefit sampler a few years back. They re-released the album in English later but I couldn’t find it anywhere on Youtube. Damn!
Everyone with their heart at the left place should check these guys out!
Giver – Every Age Has Its Dragons (Like An Empire)
Super sick hardcore band from Cologne who also dare to question and critisise our own punk/hc and indiependent music scene. Their new single fights unrestrained consumer culture at the expenses of the poor! “I get up, turn and leave the scene/ Pull the plug, close the laptop screen/ What’s one to do about her living hell?/ I sigh, put on a Gildan shirt in L” → What a line!
Blackout Problems – Follow Me
Nonstop touring band and great guys from Munich! Their debut album Holy is a very political record dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s a political score settling with the German government and an album calling for more cooperation instead of competition. They will be touring the UK next week, make sure to catch them live. You won’t regret it!
Adam Angst – Alle sprechen deutsch
We had the honor to support these guys on their last tour. Their songs are still stuck in my head. I love how they combine humor, poetry and very serious political topics. Their video for their single ‘Professoren’ is a masterpiece!
Kate Tempest – People’s Faces
As Kate Tempest realised back in 2016: Europe is lost! Now the UK will leave the EU indeed. There is a lot of shit going on on this planet but it’s very important to look around sometimes – We’re all human. There’s so much love in this world. Don’t forget to look into peoples faces! Goose bumps guaranteed.
Itchy – Dancing in the Sun
Itchy have been hitting it hard and heavy for nearly 20 years and I’ve been listening to them since I’m 14 years old. When we got to tour together with them in 2018 I was over the moon. Super nice guys who often write political songs and lyrics and run political campaigns in cooperation with various NGO’s like “Ocean Care”.
Cultdreams – Not my Generation
We recorded our album in the UK in the same studio the week after they recorded Things that Hurt and got to hear some of the unmixed material and already got so hyped for this release. This album is literally THE aoty 2019! ‘Not My Generation’ is a song full of anger and and frustration but uses it’s power well to call out for resistance against all the shit in this world!
Fjørt – Paroli
Saw them live one year ago and they just blew my mind. Really intense and emotional performance. Post-hardcore with often very political lyrics. ‘Paroli’ is about trying to fight right-wing bullshit, populism etc.
Petrol Girls – No Love for a Nation
I guess the title of the song says it all. All the love in the world for those guys!
As a sidenote: Their drummer Zock also produced our 2017 single ‘1.20’ and did pre-production for our new album Courage.
Frittenbude feat. Jörkk Mechenbier – Die Dunkelheit darf niemand siegen.
Straight music – straight message. Frittenbude at it’s best: Fuck nazis, right-wing politics, populism and hypocritical top layer fools!
Love A – Weder Noch
One of the best lyricists in german punk music really. The song is about everyday racism. Basically a good image of the often heard “I’m not a nazi, but…”-phrase in Germany.
KMPFSPRT – Trümmer
They’re good friends of us from Cologne. We’ve been on tour with them for a few days back in 2018.
I think this song describes the indifference of people who don’t really care about what happens with society, who only care about themselves.
The Deadnotes new album Courage is released through 22Lives Records on 14th February. Catch the band on tour across Europe at the following venues:
27.02. Oberhausen (DE), Druckluft
28.02. Bremen (DE), Tower
29.02. Münster (DE), Sputnikcafé
01.03. Cologne (DE), Tsunami Club
03.03. Stuttgart (DE), Juha West
04.03. Frankfurt (DE), Nachtleben
05.03. Leipzig (DE), Conne Island
06.03. Berlin (DE), Cassiopeia
07.03. Hamburg (DE), Astra Stube
09.03. Munich (DE), Feierwerk
10.03. Vienna (AT), Rhiz
11.03. Prague (CZ), Rock Café
12.03. Lucerne (CH), Schüür
13.03. Freiburg (DE), Waldsee
16.04. Glasgow (UK), Bloc+
17.04. Manchester (UK), Gullivers NQ
19.04. London (UK), The Old Blue Last
Interview by Paul Maps