Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle, Vitamin A, Stromspere and Ixtoc-1 were part of the scene of the first Berlin DIY punk venue KZ 36 (36 – old zip code of Kreuzberg, KZ short for “Kulturzentrum”). In its short existence between 1980 and 1982, Karl Walterbach – a guy ten years older than most of the teenage punks of the collective – managed to release two KZ 36 albums that documented the bands from that scene. Volume II also features RZSK, Vitamin A, Stromsperre and Ixtoc-1. Walterbach later capitalized on the booming German amateur-punk movement through his label Aggressive Rockproduktionen. Tired of being exploited, the four bands took a radical anti-commercial stance and formed their own collective – VISA-Tonkooperative (Vitamin A, Ixtoc-1, Stromsperre and initially Actosin Pervers. When they broke up, Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle stepped in). In 1982, they put out this political DIY punk record.
The complete works of Stromsperre and Vitamin A have been re-released on vinyl in the early 2000s by the Berlin punks of Rotten Totten Records. Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle and Ixtoc-1 have not been re-released. After more than 30 years, I think it´s time to take a closer look.
Like many other punk bands, members of Stromsperrre and Vitamin A grew up in Berlin-Gropiusstadt, the high-rise ghetto made famous by Christiane F. It still makes my mind boggle, how politicized these ghetto-teenagers were. Nurtured by Social-Democrat politics, leftist teachers and the very visible 1970s radical movement of Berlin, these guys were decidedly brave and idealistic. In the 1980s, the conservative backlash changed German society. In general, working class kids were no longer encouraged to get higher education. Today, this type of politicized working-class teenager has vanished. In fact, teenagers today don´t seem to claim any identity of their own. When I became a Teddy Boy and later discovered Hardcore-Punk, I was 14 and 16. We were all just kids. Working class kids met with rich kids through youth-subcultures. Today´s kids mostly stay were they were put by their parents. I´m stressing the word “kids”, because you can hear it on the record. Beside all the serious politics there´s a lot of goofy kids stuff on this record.
Like this short a capella introduction by Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle:
Metamorphose should have been a hit. The saxophone gives it a post-punk feel, but it is also a political song full of bitter sarcasm:
“Soon we´ll be at the end/ Of the great experiment/ We´ll love the taste of gasoline/ We´ll need exhaust fume to breathe/ Onward, onward to the next step of metamorphosis”
Despite their silly and misleading name, Rucki Zucki Stimmungskapelle were the most musically and lyrically ambitious of the four bands. Their songs Clockwork (Uhrwerk) and Softanimals are also the only non-topical songs.
“People are scared/ Afraid to walk the streets/ I´m a colourful rocking horse/ And I´ll lend you my super-ego/ I wear a red striped shirt/ And I´m eating mom´s mail”
Softanimals is a direct translation of the German “Weichtiere”, so called Mollusca – spineless animals like snails, clams and octopuses. A funny song on a serious topic:
“Soft animlas have a hard life/…/ That´s why everbody wants to be hard and angular”
Another goofy bit by RZSK. You can hear that these guys are not some West-German small town transplants, but local Berlin teenagers.
The door is locked. Their buddy “Duffy” is sent to get a key….
Ixtoc-1 named themselves after a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on 3 June 1979, shortly before they were forming. Again, despite its clever political implications, Ixtoc-1 was not a good choice for a punk band name. Ölpest (Oil Spill) would have been better. Or Katastrophe. Or Blowout. The band also recorded the 12″ Gut ist was modern ist in 1982, that was more refined and progressive, while still largely remaining punk. Why Do Things Have To Change blog posted it in February and you can get it here. The early Ixtoc-1 is a great mix of political and goofy:
Staat (The State) is an anarchist song:
“Greed rules the world/ Anything and anybody is for sale/Corruption in politics/ People want to govern people/ That´s what they call democracy/ I hardly ever works/ The good thing about the state is/ Death!”
Von oben (From The Top) is another anarchist song:
“What´s you life worth?/ Do you have the right to exist?/From the top / They want to control you/ You´re not supposed to think”
Teenage Love is a song about masturbation.
Teenager indeed! Very young looking Ixtoc-1 vocalist Harald Gantzberg on the cover of a book about punk (Last Exit. Punk, Leben im toten Herz der Städte, Rowohlt 1982).
By coincidence, I found a profile and a photo of Ixtoc-1 in a Berlin rock music guide (Rock City Berlin – Das aktuelle Handbuch der Berliner Szene, 1985), that I bought some years ago in a local second-hand book store. By then, vocalist Harald Gantzberg had left the band. Incidentally, today Harald works as an editor in the comic book field! The line-up was Mathias Klötzke, bass: Lutz Werner, drums; Christian Werner, guitar. In 1984 the group was among the top-20 at the annual Senats-Rock-Wettbewerb, a government-funded battle of the bands. “Our music is a combination of entertainment and modesty. We´ve known each other since elementary school.”
Ixtoc-1 broke up in 1985.
Discogs says that the booklet that came with the LP has 18-pages, Sadly, mine is missing 6 pages. Stromsperre contributes a lot of small type anarchist writing. Their slogan is: “Musik als Waffe” – Music as a Weapon.
This was the first record sleeve that I ever did when I was 21 years old. Michael “Moses” Arndt, the singer of Challenger Crew was a Hardcore-Punk activist and I had been sending him my comics and illustrations to use in Trust fanzine.
When that first issue of Trust came out in 1986, I knew I wanted to be part of that. It was printed, came out regularly (first monthly and then bi-monthly) and was all about the blooming international Hardcore scene. A German Maximum Rock`n`Roll. Great!
I sent them some illustrations and they used them. Starting with issue number two I contributed to every issue until Moses left Trust fanzine to start his own Zap fanzine in June 1988.
While a bunch of people contributed to Trust zine, Moses more or less was in charge of putting it all together in those early years (check Tomasso´s comment in the comments section for some more detailed and corrected info on that). He was the one that I was in contact with. Sadly I never got to see Challenger Crew live, but I enjoyed meeting Moses a couple of times. A real energetic type, small in stature but really aggressive and passionate. (The photos are from “Trust and Maximum Rock`n`Roll presents Welcome To Cruise Country-All European Photozine”, 1987)
So we wrote back and forth just like it was back then. I used to go to the post office regularly and send out my originals by mail. I don`t remember why, but I mostly did not sent photocopies. Probably because the quality was not as good compared to originals. In the 80`s most b/w illustrations were not scanned but shot with big repro-cameras directly at the print shop. Mostly I got my illustrations back but this one for example somehow got lost. Much different than today where I send my illustrations by e-mail and the newspaper or magazines receive them shortly after.
Of course I was happy when Moses asked me to do the sleeve for his band`s first record. I was really into Hardcore and very enthusiastic about the European Hardcore scene back then and I enjoyed doing that first jacket immensely. Although it is kind of painful to look at today, because the proportions are so wrong and the figure in the middle looks like it is crippled. But I guess it still conveyed the spirit of the music and the time.
I was really proud when that record came out (clear vinyl with only 60 copies having some red spots or shades in them) and later read this review of the record in the prolific Dutch Hardcore fanzine Nieuwe Koekrand (from issue 80/81, Winter 1987):
Later that year I did a logo for Peter Hoeren`s Anti-Schelski label and contributed to the Challenger Crew/Everything Falls Apart Split-LP with doing the label illustrations and a insert drawing.
I haven`t seen Moses in many years but I read in OX Fanzine that he is happily married, has two children and is a professional doctor. He was very focused and persistent, even back then in the 80`s when most of us seemed to be just fooling around like there was no future. Good to hear that it paid off.
This is Challenger Crew`s demo, recorded in May 1986, live to a regular tape recorder in the basement of AJZ (Autonomous Youth Center) Homburg. Great ragin` German Hardcore from a time when the European Hardcore scene was in full swing!
I was never a big fan of the Talking Heads. They always seemed to be a little too pretentious and serious. So this silly cover version of their classic new wave song doesn´t sound so bad to my ears. This record is a good example of the sell-out of new wave, but then wasn´t new wave already the sell-out of punk?
Either way I like this German disco version of “Psycho Killer”. It´s still a weird song and Debbie Neon is trying her best to sound reasonably crazy…
Fancy Rosy is the world`s most successful poster-model, because her poster “Toilet Terror” was sold 3 million times. At least that`s what it says on the back of the sleeve..
Berlin and especially Kreuzberg, the area where I live, has a long history of rock`n`roll and punk rock, so I even find punk records in thrift-stores sometimes. Like this 45, a happy punk/dub ode to squatting by the Pulsaters.
In times of a world-wide financial crisis, this is a great reminder of the fact that nobody rightfully owns houses and how great it is, that some people still just take what is theirs. See also my other record about squatting in Berlin from last November.
One of the house-projects, that is currently facing eviction in Berlin, is LIEBIG 14.
THE PULSATERS, Cos We´re Squatters, 1980
THE PULSATERS, Modern Man, 1980