While the Danish rockers Pretty Maids are on tour I had the possibility to talk with the German band Parmesan. The band from the South German area are playing rock music with German lyrics. I almost talked with the singer Andreas and sometimes the other comment on it:
First a little bit about the beginning of Parmesan.
Don't you got our biography? There is everything documented.
I got the biography, but sometimes the biographies in the biography and reality are different.
Good Answer. Okay, the history: I know Blochi (the bassist, the writer) from primary school. After finishing the primary we lost contact. We met again in the guitar lessons. We discover that we both play guitar and that it's boring to play alone. So we said, okay let's play together. That was the founding of Parmesan. Just acoustic guitars at first. We were very proud to have a band, we were 12 years old. We named the band Parmesan, 'cause a friend of mine just laugh and said: 'You're crazy. You don't have a band and if it's the truth it's rubbish.' (In Germany we say it's cheese, if you translate it literally.) So I said: 'Okay, we are rubbish, we give ourselves a stupid name.' At that time the new wave of German music with German lyrics was trendy. The bands had totally crazy names. We didn't mind, but during the years people told us again and again that the name get us less sells. The people think we are a fun punk band and not a rock band. Often we tried to find another name but we couldn't found one which fit to our identity. In the end we said: 'Fuck it. It's just a name.' That's our history inclusive the origin of the name.
I think the people remember a name like yours, they keep it in mind.
I just know the new album Volle Deckung (means full coverage). Today you also played a few old tracks.
We play a few, right.
Is there a difference between the 1st and the actual release for you? Is it just a developing process, turn it out that way?
Christian: The cover of the first album been cheaper. (The whole band laughs.)
Not just the production was cheaper?
He studies management and marketing, that's the way he is....
Christian: Don't say that I study management, it's embarrassing.
Sure there is a difference between the 1st and the current album. The debut was a collection of songs from our 5 year band history. That was a chapter which we wanted to document. We just wanted to make an album to document what we make the last couple of years. We want to do it the right way, so we engage a producer. One day Ralf, he works at the label which signed us, got our album. He called us and said: "Wow, this is fantastic. I think we should talk." We hadn't realize it. Sure, we apply for a deal at all labels. We wrote to all the big companies, from BMG to EMI. We just forget Long Island Records. Then we recorded the second. We know what we wanted to do, we know which direction we wanted to go. We take more care about the songwriting, the arrangements, etc. We didn't do it on the first one. In the first days the radio stations said to us: "You have good songs on your album, but we couldn't play them." So we care about when we wrote songs for the follow-up. We didn't wrote the songs for the radio, that would be self-deception.
The gap between the first and the 2nd album was enormous. While we recorded the debut we just wanted to ban it on tape. We were young and wanted to have fun. We didn't mind about the sounds. The current was planned, we knew what we want and we found our own style. Many people prefer the debut Amok and say: "This one sounds like you are. The new one sounds more arranged, styled." The current isn't styled, just better produced. The songs are as fresh and happy as the old ones. Perhaps it's natural that the fans mourn for the old. "The first was better and so different." It's normal, but the new isn't different.
I think live it's different, more a unity.
I'm not able to make live a show like Ronnie (Atkins / Pretty Maids) such a metal show. I can't do it, it's not me.
If you would try the fans would feel it, would feel that it is a fake.
Right, I tried it once and it was horrible.
Almost it ends like that. You can't fool the kids. You are a German band, you sing in German. Don't you think that you limit yourself?
The word limit is wonderful, it fits. I would like to limit myself. Our guitarist Heiko always say: 'In the German speaking territories life ca. 100 million people. I would like to limit myself to that number. If everyone of this people would buy our record I would be happy, satisfied. The truth is that all the talking about the English speaking world is rubbish. So many people living in this German speaking area and beside that we sell records is South Tyrol. That's great. I don't need Japan, the funny thing is that we sell records there.
The Japanese buy everything which is from Germany. We often talked about.
For me it is very simple. Why should I write songs in a language which I didn't speak that well. I couldn't express my feelings, my opinion that good in a language which isn't my mother tongue and which the fans don't understand. I don't think that we will get offers to play in England or something like that. Personally I think that we would have more problems to establish on the market with English lyrics than with German words. Which bands from Germany who sing English make it big? Scorpions, okay, but they start 100 years ago. In that days the music scene was different. The only great promising band at the moment is Fury In The Slaughterhouse. They have their own sound. When you would hear our music in English we wouldn't have our own identity. Why should a German sing into a foreign language? I can't understand it. I listen to lots of English music, but when I listen to the words or read them I'm glad that I can sing in German. So much rubbish, false formutions.
Most bands defend themselves with the much bigger market.
I don't think so. I think that they write in English, 'cause they fear the German language. they fear to be direct, say clearly what's wrong and what's right. It's funny, they have a problem with their native language. I believe that they have a inferiority complex, a lingual inferiority complex not a personally. I don't want to blame anyone. I know how hard it is to write in German. I know when I write in German I have to care about every word. The people always misunderstand you or misunderstand a single word. When you write in English it's not important. But in german every word put on the balance.
Earlier we talked with some people about our song Dann kommst du (Then you are coming) from our current album. One of them said that a single word disturb him. I said you just have a problem with this word, okay, fine. But he said this word destroy the whole song from me. That's the problem, nobody would say to an English speaking person that he have a problem with the word hesitate. No one would do that.
Heiko: You can hide behind a foreign language. They can say things easily in a foreign language which they can also say in their native language with the same meaning. I Love You is a empty phrase when you say it in German they compare me with Roland Kaiser.
You and I flying high to the sky, making love on the backseat, oh you and me, baby, baby.' (Ironically) Great lyrics, it's fantastic. The meaning, I can support it. (Laughing) I don't want to blame my colleagues. I know how hard it is to write a good song, it's nearly impossible. But there are positive examples even in the English area, there have to be some. I can't remember one, definitely there are a few great lyrics.
Last time you supported Sinner, now Pretty Maids. Both are heavy metal bands. What are your experiences?
Heiko: With Sinner it was very easy, they're from the same area as we are. Pretty Maids have a harder audience as we normally play for. Often the audience didn't expect a German singing band. In areas where the people don't know us we play 2 or 3 songs and the reaction is very interesting. Do they stand in the back or do they leave? We almost made it. Today the audience wasn't that good.
We played a lot in the south of German, there we have a better audience.
Heiko: It was a worse audience for us. Offenbach wasn't that bad, but there were just a few. Vienna was terrible.
Munich, Augsburg or Stuttgart is fantastic for us. It doesn't matter if the people know us or not. They react, good or bad. Here we got no reaction and that's the worse thing. We hadn't problems personally with any band. It's the way we are, we say: "Listen, many things can happen, but we don't want trouble." We hadn't problems with Sinner, not with Mat, the rest of the band or crew. It was easy.
Is it a advantage to be on a small label?
Yes, it is. I prefer to be No. 1 on Long Island than to be No. 450 at Sony. We are very happy with Long Island. Sure, Long Island hadn't the abilities to promote us like Sony would have. But we are very lucky. Probably we will record our next album for Long Island, if they give us the chance. Long Island say: "You are our No. 1." It's a honour.
What you are doing after this tour?
We have gigs, gigs and gigs. We are almost on the road. Most shows we play in Southern Germany. It's easier for us. In Northern Germany they don't know us or just a few heard about us. It's not a tour, just single shows, but every two or three days a show.
Again I would like to talk about the words. You say it ain't easy to write in Germany, even you don't write fun lyrics. You write your lyrics about serious themes. Do you think you can motivate people to think about?
I hope, but my experiences show me the difference. On the debut Amok we wrote frankly. I frankly said these are the facts and this is wrong. For example Deutschland (Germany) it was a general deduction with our country. I said this is fucking shit and that too. I said I hate child abuse and things like that. At the current album I tried to be smart and wrote more ironical and cynical. The people don't understand, they don't under get the meaning. For example Harte Zeiten (Hard Times): a few days ago a radio DJ said to me: "To be true, you know that the times not that hard." He didn't get the grip. The people don't understand, irony is hard to catch for the people. On the next album the words will be more frankly. Another example is Wirtschaftswunder, a few people truly said: "You can take it as a hymn for the Junge Union (a political party)." They didn't understand! I wrote the lyrics after I read the editorial of the magazine Zeit. The editorial was written by the German countess Dönnhoff. I was shocked, she wrote: "We have to go back to the old virtue." And things like "We have to remember our Christian virtue and stick to the former and conservative times." I couldn't believe it! Okay, I make something about was my first thought. Our solution of the economic problems is very ironic. We need an economic miracle. I wrote the words which I intenational exaggerate. (This is just the message with Andreas words, but not a exact translation, the author. Peter Frankenfeld was an entertainer who was famous in late 50's and had an own show until his dead in the mid-70's. Ludwig Erhard, Konrad Adenauer and Theodor Heuss been very important politicians in the 1950's in Germany, all are dead): We dig out Peter Frankenfeld, we need the good mood. / The spirit of Ludwig Erhard is in every house, a picture of Theodor Heuss on every wall, we vote until our chancellor is again Konrad Adenauer.
The lyrics are so exaggerate, everybody knows that it is impossible, but the people take it for truth. That make me realize that it don't work. Next time I'll write frankly, the people don't understand irony and cynicism. To go back to the initial question, sure we care about different special themes. We don't wrote a song about racism, 'cause our colleagues from Die Ärzte have wrote a very strong song about. You can just make a cheap copy of it, they use 12 x the word arsehole. You can't top that. Other themes are important, too. For me is an important theme that I get even more fat.
On stage you wear a T-shirt against racism, I think that shows you point of view.
I agree with you. I can show my political standpoint. I don't have to make a song like Die Ärzte. The song Harte Zeiten (Hard Times) is politically too. I was at a pub in my hometown and at the table next to mine sat two girls. I heard that they talking about the next tax increase, etc. That are real problems, unbelievable (ironically). In Bosnia it is like being in hell, in Africa still kids dying, the forests dying and these girls getting upset about 5 $ solidity addition. (Every adult in Germany have to pay a proposal payment for the financing of the unity of Germany.) (Ironically) These are hard times! It's typical German that the people always complain about anything. I'm no expectation.
The people always need something to moan, especially in Germany. They would feel guilty, if they don't miss anything.
Take a look at the French or the Italian, they are more relaxed. We take care that every member of the band can agree with the lyrics I wrote. That's important, 'cause I wrote 90% of the lyrics and I won't feel comfortable if the others wouldn't agree. The present the band live as much as I do. The band have to identify with the words. We don't share the same opinion, in any case. We life in a democracy and everyone has the right of an own opinion. That's why we don't show our political standpoint. We have hints, but they are universal so that no one can find out our opinion. We are no nazis. We are no radicals, not on the left or on the right wing. That's obvious. We are not a political band, we sing in German, but we are not a political band. The times when BAP were successful are gone.
No more to say about. Only on thing, give Parmesan a chance. In this interview Andreas had the chance to show the point of view of the band and himself, perhaps he also can eliminate misunderstandings.