Photos by Jonas Lindström
Chart-topping tech-rap monoliths Deichkind have a string of hits amassed over a nearly 20-year career and regularly pack stadiums. But while every German under 50 knows who they are, they’re hardly recognised outside of the German-speaking world – even among expats here in Berlin. Time to meet them...
"Leider geil” (“unfortunately sexy/cool/ hot”) entered the German lexicon in 2012 after the song of the same name – effectively a “YOLO” for the Teutonic tongue. But Deichkind have been inventing colloquialisms for the German public since their break-out album Aufstand im Schlaraffenland (2006). By lampooning the middle class and writing sly cultural critiques that come across as party paeans, they infect German pop culture like no other band does. In 2008, they found their way into Shakespeare when theatre director Thomas Ostermeier included their hit “Remmidemmi” in his version of Hamlet at the Schaubühne and in 2012 an employee got fired for posting Deichkind’s anti-suck-up number “Bück dich hoch” on his Facebook page.
Since Deichkind’s lyrics are written in German, speaking with the English-language press hasn’t been top priority for them – until now. Members Philipp “Kryptik Joe” Grütering (photo, left) and Sebastian “Porky” Dürre (centre) granted us the band’s first-ever English-language print interview (not present: Sascha “Ferris MC” Reimann [photo, right]). With latest album Niveau Weshalb Warum out as of January 30 and latest single “Like mich am Arsch”, Germany prepares for the next addition to its vernacular... and even if you don’t speak the language, knowing the freshest sayings is pretty leider geil.
Deichkind are leider geil for a sold-out crowd at Max-Schmeling-Halle on Tuesday, April 28.
You have such a huge fanbase in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and you’re about to embark on a German tour with the new album... what about taking Deichkind international?
SEBASTIAN “PORKY” DÜRRE: Fate always kinda put a spanner in our works. We were supposed to play in China, in Shanghai, and two days before the show there was an earthquake and it was cancelled.
PHILIPP “KRYPTIK JOE” GRÜTERING: Then we were gonna play in America, at SXSW in Texas, and then two weeks earlier our friend and producer [Sebastian Hackert] died and we had to cancel it. And then at some point we were just like, alright, we’re just gonna stay here. Let the world come to us!
But you have played outside of Germany.
At a gig in London we realised that only about five percent of the people were English. The rest were Germans. And about 15 percent actually flew over from Germany to see us.
PG: We organised a gig once in London at Piccadilly Circus – in some gay joint – and played there in front of about 500 people. And we realised that about only five percent of the people were actually English. [Laughs] The rest were Germans. And about 15 percent actually flew over from Germany to see us. One time we actually did try to break through internationally with “99 Bierkanister” (99 beer canisters) – a reference to Nena’s “99 Luftballons”. But unfortunately it didn’t work. Maybe it was too cryptic.
But back here in Germany – and six records on – you guys are still on the way up.
PG: No no, it first went down. And then it went up, up, up. And now it’s kind of consistent. I think what’s special with us is the constellation of people. It always kept changing. I’m kind of the dinosaur, but there’s not a single other founding member in Deichkind anymore...
You started out as hip hop and then transitioned into electro...
SD: We did what was current at the time in Hamburg, which is where we’re from. We wanted to sound like Fettes Brot, Fünf Sterne Deluxe and so on. And at some point, people just didn’t care anymore. After our second record, we played shows and only 80 people showed up. That’s when we were planning on ending the band. But we still had to do a third album because of the contract we had with our record label. So we decided to do something silly and this is how “Remmidemmi” came about. We just told this story about a party, a true story by the way.
In that song, the targets are the parents, the Spießer. How do you explain why it became such a hit – did it strike the right chord?
PG: It’s just something that everyone can relate to. Whether you’re rich or poor, from Bavaria or from Hamburg, you always have parents that go on holiday at some point and you’re like, “Geil! I have a free house!”
On Niveau Weshalb Warum, the song “Like mich am Arsch” (“Like my ass”), throws a Facebook reference into the popular German expression for “Go fuck yourself”. You’re now rather targeting the kids...
SD: Well, we’re grandpas now. Before I went on this promo tour, I told my son: “Junge, if you tear apart my house while I’m gone, I’ll kick you out and take your Ipad away!” [Laughs]
PG: “Like mich am Arsch” definitely describes a feeling we have, because we’re also part of this whole social media game… Facebook isn’t really a thing anymore for today’s kids. They created their own spaces because their parents and teachers are all on Facebook now.
SD: It’s like our song “Powered By Emotion” where we list TV claims. I mean, who still watches TV?
Do you see yourself as part of the German music scene?
PG: Sure, just for the language alone. We definitely identify with German lyrics. I couldn’t do this in English. Whenever there are new bands in Berlin whose native language is German but who make music in English, people always say, “Oh well, you’re just hiding behind the language that nobody really listens to here.” In the US and England, people naturally pay a lot more attention to English lyrics. The best example in Germany is “Bobby Brown” by Frank Zappa. That was a number one hit here, but in the US it was banned because of the lyrics.
SD: Yeah, it’s about Vaseline and hardcore fucking, but here the grandmas love it and dance to it.
PG: That’s how I used to listen to A Tribe Called Quest or De La Soul. I didn’t really listen to the lyrics either. Or Paris, he’s totally racist.
SD: People are quite naive about that. At the Chiemsee Reggae Festival the people are being all vegan in their tents with their doobies, but then Beenie Man is playing, who’s like the biggest homophobe ever. We were playing before him and I actually got naked and went into the photographer’s pit and danced there. [Laughs] But he pretended he didn’t see me.
You do add a smattering of English catchphrases into your music. Have you ever done an entire song in English?
PG: We actually did one English single that we didn’t really release: “We know how the bunny runs”. It’s very Prodigy-style. We basically took German proverbs and translated them to English literally.
SD: Like, “This is not the yellow from the egg” (das ist nicht das Gelbe vom Ei: “that’s not so great”), or “my lovely Mr. Singing Club” (mein Lieber Herr Gesangsverein: “oh my goodness!”), or “very first cream” (allererste Sahne: “the best”). There were several people in the band who were like, oh my god, this is embarrassing, we can’t do this.
Party or politics?
PG, SD: Party!
SD: Just because it’s geil. Politics is just diplomacy and you have to talk and lament. And at a party, you can just give people a hug and say, yes, we’re having a good time. Party is love, politics is Schlange!
You’ve recorded your last three albums in Berlin. What’s Berlin to you?
SD: I actually live in the countryside in Schleswig-Holstein now, I can’t be bothered with the city anymore. I’m done with the pollution. I lived in Berlin for six years and that was around a time when everything was still unrenovated and you could get huge flats for very little money. And when that changed, I moved away. But Berlin definitely still has a lot of potential. Berlin has been pronounced dead so many times already, but it will always be there.
PG: I live here, but I always realise how much I appreciate Berlin when I’m away. Sure, the taxi drivers here are rude and have a go at you but at least they’ll show respect. And once you’ve figured out that you have to be rude, too, it’s fine.
DEICHKIND, Tue, Apr 28, 20:00 | Max-Schmeling-Halle, Falkplatz 1, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Eberswalder Str.
Originally published in issue #135, February 2015.