A really special CD/book set will be released on the 16th of November, 2007. None other than the keyboarder of our most successful German export Rammstein, Christian “Flake” Lorenz, lets us have an intimate musical and literary insight into the world of Feeling B, the band which, at the time of the GDR, he brought to the big stages and, additionally, landed a deal with the regime’s record company, Amiga – and this, as a punk band. How he got into punk, why he spent several days behind bars and other, exciting topics, can be read in this interview…
Enrico: Hello Flake, how come you have decided to bring Feeling B back into the spotlight now, with the release of ‘grün und blau’?
Flake: The reason is really quite simple – I had the time now. For the first time in ten years, we have a scheduled a small break with Rammstein. Before this, it would be unthinkable to engage in anything else, because even compiling a CD requires quite a lot of effort.
Enrico: Has this idea been long in the making?
Flake: Well, I have known for a long time that I wanted to do it. This break made it possible.
Enrico: Was it only your idea, or did your then- and present colleagues also contribute to this project?
Flake: It was only my idea, since I had all the stuff collected in my basement.
Enrico: So the unpublished songs really do come from the proverbial dark chests in the even darker basements, as musicians so often would have us believe?
Flake: Yes, that was really the case here.
Enrico: Was it your intention to give yourself a birthday present with this, since the CD/book set is released on your birthday?
Flake: That’s only a coincidence. But I did make the album a little for myself, too. In this respect, it’s true that I gave myself a gift, but originally, I’d liked to have released it already in June.
Enrico: Did the idea for the book really come from you?
Flake: No, I really just wanted to rescue the recordings and make them audible, so that the young people who didn’t already know the band could hear what Feeling B was about. The record label meant that only a few would be interested in this “East-rubbish” and that I should include a book, so there was at least something to look at. I have no idea whether the contents of the book would be all that interesting for the ones who weren’t there at the time. I sometimes laugh myself silly when I see the notes and clippings from those days, since I have the full story in my head.
Enrico: How did it feel to dig so deeply once more into the past, back to a long-gone community which only has existed in memories in the meantime?
Flake: I noticed when I worked with the old material that a lot is lost after the Turning. You can hear it prominently in the recordings, this effortlessness and joy, and I do miss that a bit now.
Enrico: How did you come into contact with Feeling B, or, how did the band come about? Did you all know each other from before, or did the collaboration spring out of an ambition to make music?
Flake: At the time, it was rather inevitable that all the young people who were interested in music and hung around Prenzlauer Berg knew each other. There were only two or three clubs where concerts and parties were held, so in the end, everyone knew everyone else. But it was a real coincidence that I happened to end up with Feeling B. The first drummer quite simply brought me into the band, otherwise I would have played in Die Firma, Hardpop or some other band. The kind of music was totally irrelevant for me, I just wanted to play in a band so I joined the first one I came across.
Enrico: So, the direction of the band, whether pop or punk or whatever, was not all that important to you?
Flake: Actually, before this I had played for years in a church blues band. That is, a blues band with religious lyrics. I just liked the blues rock. Then Alexander Kriening came to me at some point and practically begged me to join a band, which was playing German rock. I went there and quite simply jammed along, without the slightest idea about anything punk or Neue Deutsche Welle. I just tried, as well as I could, to play along and just because of that, the music became a bit more interesting since we really didn’t play like anyone else and could make an impression.
Enrico: How did the deal with Amiga come about?
Flake: Even I don’t know exactly how, Aljoscha was the one who stitched it together. He had this gift for simply walking straight up to people and in a totally carefree way, start making negotiations. It wasn’t even awkward for him to collaborate with the regime, which was completely unthinkable for us punks. Aljoscha simply didn’t have this fear of getting involved with the regime, primarily because he was Swiss and didn’t take it all too seriously, and secondly, because he was wise enough not to give a damn. The deal didn’t hurt our credibility with the fans either. Instead of hitting us over the head with it, on the contrary, they were happy for finally being able to hear us on a record.
Enrico: What were the reactions from the punk scene, did they accuse you of treason?
Flake: Only the true punks, who were a minority anyway. Most of the times, we had an audience of about 2000 fans a night, and only a very small part were true punks. Most of them were just normal kids.
Enrico: What was it really like then, was there any structure to the punk scene at all?
Flake: When we started out in 1983, things were a bit different. Back then, there was still underground happenings, in churches or apartments, where there really were just punks present. But the more we played and the more famous we got, the broader our audience got, and that meant that the number of punks became proportionally smaller.
Enrico: It sounds a bit as if you only became a punk because of the band – that it was more or less a coincidence that you ended up in Feeling B — a punk band.
Flake: Well, it was simply a fluid shift. It does sound a bit funny, that you could change so quickly from being a blues-punter to becoming a punk rocker: just comb your hair up and put on shabby jackets. But it was like that. The music that was available at the time had a lot to do with it too, such as the Sex Pistols and the Dead Kennedys, which influenced me quite a lot, personally. But I could just as well have played in a blues band and still ran around as a punk – there wasn’t any contradictions to it. It was the time when skinheads and punks were still one group.
Enrico: What did punk mean for you back then? What did it represent?
Flake: We weren’t an actual punk band in the true sense. The music was really just our excuse to roam around, partying, getting invited and taking part in life. We were more of a comedy troupe, if you can call it that, which made music as well to get accepted. I really liked punk and I sympathized with it, but when I mentioned that I was a punk, the punks laughed themselves silly.
Enrico: There are none of these typical “No Future” lyrics in your songs.
Flake: We didn’t have them, generally, we were more about life-affirming things.
Enrico: The song, ‘Frosch im Brunnen‘ poses the question: “Sag‘ mir doch was Freiheit ist?“ (Then tell me what freedom is.) What is freedom for you, and what was freedom for you in the GDR?
Flake: Well, there was this great freedom you think of as traveling to America, for example. But otherwise, we didn’t really think about it. We were only just 16, and I really hadn’t contemplated it a lot. I was in the East and felt free enough since I could do what I wanted – I could play in a band, I could make the music that I liked, and I had the friends I wanted. Even the things which really were restricted, I have come to think of as free lately. When I feel that I can make my own choices, I feel free. You could, or had to, join the army, but you could also say, nope, I have decided not to join the army. The consequence of this was that I couldn’t study to be a physician and that I had to hide in order to avoid being locked up. But to me, I had the free choice, and that was really enough for me.
Enrico: Did you ever feel restricted in your musical work?
Flake: No, not at all. People still came to the concerts and the regime didn’t interfere either. We also didn’t have any pressure on us, and we could develop quite freely. In that way, we were musically more unrestricted than most bands in the West.
Enrico: What does freedom mean to you now, as compared to before?
Flake: Personally, I don’t feel free anymore – everything only revolves around money. Human lives and nature are sacrificed to make a profit. There is no such thing as a feeling of dignity anymore. Besides that, I also notice the pressure to work only to survive. It wasn’t like that before.
Enrico: So there’s this big, external pressure these days?
Flake: Yes, indeed.
Enrico: I have read that you were arrested in 1986 on the grounds of planning to escape the republic. What happened?
Flake: That’s a really funny story. I was taking a walk with two friends, and three other students at our trade school desperately wanted to take off to the West. As they told all and sundry about it, the word soon got around. So therefore, they were all but waiting for the three kids at the border. The problem was that we were also three, and we didn’t hide, just walking down the street quite openly. We were followed the whole time and finally, arrested. The comical thing in this is, that the other three guys who wanted to flee, really could go through with it. They really could take off! We were arrested and put in jail until it was clear that we were really just pedestrians.
Enrico: For how long did you have to stay behind bars?
Flake: Only a couple of days, until everything was sorted. But since we weren’t guilty of anything, we made the whole thing into a joke. And since all three of us ended up in the same cell, it was a fun time, if only for that reason.
Enrico: Did these run-ins with the GDR authorities make an impression on you in any way? These issues are at least in not mentioned in the lyrics of Feeling B.
Flake: Most times, it was just amusing. We always made fun of it back then. It didn’t make an impression or influence us in any other way. Somehow, it was part of it and it was completely normal. If you were sitting somewhere in the city and a policeman approached, you showed him your ID and got asked where you came from and where you were going. It wasn’t much worse than that and honestly, it didn’t bother me.
Enrico: Who was responsible for the lyrics?
Flake: In the beginning, Aljoscha wrote the lyrics, some probably before the band even started. I sometimes wrote some texts too, when Aljoscha couldn’t come up with anything.
Enrico: What about the subjects? A lot of bands from the East used some kind of code to be able to write about political subjects without the authorities noticing. Was there sometimes a deeper meaning behind your lyrics?
Flake: Most of it is written out in the open. There are some with a little critique in them, like for example, ‘Geh zurück in dein Buch’ (Go back to your book) which is aimed toward the intellectuals. But principally, we didn’t have many worries and therefore nothing we had to make protest songs about.
Enrico: So, it’s no use to search for covert messages in your lyrics?
Flake: No, but if you try hard enough, you will find satanic messages even in Madonna’s lyrics.
Enrico: How did it come about that you incorporated medieval influences during the course of the band’s career – from punk to medieval, that is quite an unusual development.
Flake: It was a point when everyone started to play medieval things. Why this came about, I don’t even know myself, but maybe it was just the times we were living in that let this phenomena out in the open for the first time. Before this, I didn’t know a thing about it and suddenly, we were playing at a castle festival. We got along very well with the artists and wanted to do something different, musically, than this perpetual comedy-punk.
Enrico: Listening to the music, it’s evident that the songs aren’t typical punk songs at all, but rather influenced by other musical styles. ‘Herzschrittmacher’ comes to mind.
Flake: It’s said about ‘Herzschrittmacher‘ that it’s stemming from our later period. More accurately, it came about in the time after the Turning, when there already were bands like Prodigy around. In all cases, you notice it quite clearly with Paul, he was already closing in on the Rammstein-feeling.
Enrico: When you mention it, in certain lyrics, such as ‘Hässlich’, you could hear some parallels with Rammstein.
Flake: It’s quite likely with a song like ‘Hässlich’. This song, or at least its lyrics, is in all cases written rather late, so this period could also be called a transition period.
Enrico: What was your reason for quitting in 1993?
Flake: The whole thing had drifted apart a little, as you say – exactly as in a relationship. You’re together for years and at some stage, it just doesn’t work anymore, to the point where there really isn’t just one, single reason for the split in the end. We were pretty well established, Aljoscha at any rate, who was already pushing 50 at this point and had his opinion of what music was and he wasn’t prepared to go along with this change. This meant that we drifted apart, musically.
Enrico: Would you say that the Turning was the reason for you subsequently quitting the band, or was it bound to happen sooner or later, even without this upheaval of society?
Flake: Maybe it was bound to happen even without the Turning, but through the Turning it became more pungent. The perception of who was the enemy was about to change and all the artistic means which had been so effective in the GDR, just vanished into thin air in the West.
Enrico: How about video material from that time?
Flake: Everything in terms of video recordings, the titbits that is, I have edited together into a condensed format and issued on the CD as the video for ‘Langeweile’. It’s mainly Super-8 footage, since we didn’t have any video cameras in the East at the time.
Enrico: Is the chapter of Feeling B definitely closed now, with the publishing of ‘grün und blau‘ or are there still a couple of musical skeletons lurking in the closet?
Flake: No, I have cleared out the basement pretty well. There’s nothing left in there.
Enrico: The wave of Ostalgie (“East-nostalgia”) keeps its momentum and a lot of trivial stuff is being brought up again since people keep wanting to hear “new” old stories. Why are the stories about Feeling B worth telling now?
Flake: There really isn’t any use in telling them all over again. For me, it was fundamentally all about the music. I wanted to make the songs audible again, so that they didn’t dwindle into oblivion. Besides that, I wanted to show the Westerners that they didn’t invent everything that has to do with rock music. We were at least as good in the East…
Original Source: Powermetal.de
By Enrico Ahlig
Translation by Murray