Stirb nicht im Warteraum der Zukunft: Don’t Die in the Waiting Room of the future. Tim Mohr. Translated from English by Harriet Fricke and Frank Dabrock.
In these days of Big News raining down like meteorite showers, maybe the time is precisely right to take a step back, relax a little and investigate the mechanics behind this huge circus that we know today as Rammstein.
Without necessarily chasing down and interrogating old school teachers about childhood antics (which would, admittedly, be fun), there are still plenty of accounts of interest.
Punk and Politics in the GDR
There’s been a lot written about the Turning, when two German states became one, as well as about the separated states’ differences in lifestyle, politics and, above all, culture.
In the wake of peace negotiations following WW2, The German Federal Republic, also known as West Germany, was divided up into US, UK and French sectors, whereas the relatively short-lived German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, was the slice of land assigned to the Soviet Union. Thus, East Germany took off on a completely different tangent than the rest of Germany.
Whether you call it Ostalgie (East-nostalgia), or just look at it as a drastic, social experiment with a whole population as lab rats, it seems as if the thirst for new accounts of life in the divided Germany will never be quenched.
For music fans in general, and Rammstein fans in particular, book titles like “Mix Mir Einen Drink”, “Der Tastenficker”, and films like “Flüstern und Schreien”, are familiar, covering the contemporary music scene of the GDR before, during and after the Turning. A turbulent time by any standard.
On March 20th, 2017, “Stirb Nicht im Warteraum der Zukunft” by the American journalist and one time DJ in East Berlin, Tim Mohr, was published by Heyne Hardcore Publishing House. Quite the tome, it opens in East Berlin sometime in the seventies, in the middle of the urban counter-culture among punks with homemade band patches on their jackets, small transistor radios tuned in to the West’s army base broadcasts out of West Berlin and impromptu staged punk concerts, or happenings, in church basements and parish halls throughout the city.
“Perhaps a lot of people have forgotten just how much the police in the GDR turned a blind eye on fascist behavior, or they just don’t want to admit it was a reality. Then it is highly commendable that Tim Mohr sheds a light on the particular shady side of how the socialist system actually worked, in a delightfully written, 560-page book. Anyone who knew a punk in the 80s, even if only ever so briefly, hardly needs to jog their memory, but Mohr’s book even helps the initiated to complete the picture. Those for which this is a virgin territory are in for some serious shivers down the spine.”
Sturm und Drang
“No Future,” yelled Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, speaking for the disgruntled youth of the West. But for the punks of the GDR, he should have hollered, “Too Much Future” instead: life was already all neatly lined up for the youth of the young state. School, military duty, apprenticeship, assembly line labour and death. A conformist, grey collective trudging along, biting down and accepting their fate. This, of course, needed to be rebelled against. And along came East Punk, a very unique brand of rock music which was both veiled protests and unbridled joui de vivre, simultaneously.
The punk movement started around the same time in the East and the West of Germany, but whereas the Western kids tore up their clothes, put safety pins through their ears and might have had a good telling off, Eastern kids were risking jail for the same behavior. It’s fair to say that the movement split right at the beginning and took on completely different forms.
The book tells the survivors’ stories with the backdrop of East Berlin, from the seventies up to the upheaval of the Turning, the fall of the Wall, and the subsequent Unification, the transformation of the city’s club scene from three-chord punk shows to dance halls and electronica in the nineties. Among the voices in the book, and most noteworthy for Rammstein fans, are Paul Landers and Christian Flake Lorenz.
“It was a different story in East Berlin. Here, punk was truly a subversion, sternly penalised with severe reprisals. Tim Mohr’s book, “Stirb Nicht Im Warteraum der Zukunft” is dedicated to the East German punk movement before the Wall came down, and devotedly tells the story of the GDR punks. A youth movement that in Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden maybe only tallied a few hundred people, whose clashes with the State and its authorities were deemed so dangerous that the implications could be prison, penalties and even expatriation.
Mohr tells the stories of the few punks of the labourer- and farmer state, he’s collected documents, conducted interviews, examined Stasi-files and consulted those who were there at the time but unfortunately can’t tell their own story.” – Berliner Zeitung
“I didn’t even know that Heyne had an interview up, ha!” comments author Tim Mohr from his Brooklyn residence to Rammstein Press’ query about the information given on the publishing house’s website. “The Feeling B chapters in the book turned out really cool,” he continues, surely grasping what Rammstein Press is most interested in, and adding: “One of the unique things about this book is that it tells the story in a cinematic way, trying to put the reader there in the scene, as opposed to an oral history or dry reporting. That makes it quite different from most of the existing books on the subject.”
Although the script of the book was initially written in Mohr’s native English, it is translated into German, which is interesting in itself. Sächsische Zeitung: “And along comes an American author and journalist, who moved to Berlin in 1992 for an adventure and worked as a DJ, and pulls off the feat of neither rabidly admonishing, nor downplaying the events. He’s far off both, but at the same time, just honestly curious enough. A stroke of luck for this kind of subject. Primarily, Mohr lets Stasi-files and eyewitness accounts have the narrative and they speak for themselves.”
With a veritable treasure of pictures, and to the standing ovations of the German press, “Stirb Nicht im Wartenraum der Zukunft” is telling the Eastern Punk story in a new and very interesting, way. Berliner Zeitung deems it, “a wonderful book”. Rammstein Press has read it, and it is a compelling book, and hard to put down, if a bit scattered at times. But the images also tell a story, all by themselves. It’s not for the reader who wants a chunk of juicy gossip, nor the scientific research buff. It’s for people who want to know what it was like to be there, among the rogue kids who played three-chord rock on imported guitars…
Now, we hope for Tim Mohr to publish his original manuscript in English.
Just on the tail of the publication of the book, a string of readings is booked throughout Germany, hosted by the punk performance artist, Brezel Göring, which makes it more of a happening than a recital. Göring has been active in a lot of bands, but perhaps most notoriously, and well-known outside of Germany, in Stereo Total. Rammstein Press Field Agent was on site in Berlin.
“Between reading a few chapters from the book and showing footage from the old Stasi archives, the author and his co-host, Brezel, talked about punk in general and East Punk in particular. About Feeling B too. What was so cool was that it was such a mixed congregation for an audience: young music fans beside the middle-aged and some older folks who started sharing their own memories of that time.”
Tim Mohr is an American author, journalist and award-winning translator who spent most of the 90s as a DJ in Berlin. He’s previously worked with Hunter S. Thompson until the latter’s death, written articles for the New York Times, the Huffington Post and Time Out, among others. Mohr has also translated numerous books from German to English, and acted as a ghost writer for the biographies of Paul Stanley of KISS, and Duff McKagan of Guns’n Roses, and many more.
Mohr lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Complete list of references can be obtained from rammsteinpress.com