Music & clubs

Reclaiming pop: Drangsal

INTERVIEW! About to return to the Berlin stage with his latest, thoroughly danceable fury of an album, Drangsal talks about some of his newfound guilt-free pleasures. He hits SO36 on Nov 16. It's sold out, so scour FB now.

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Photo by Thomas Hauser

About to return to the Berlin stage with his latest, thoroughly danceable fury of an album, Drangsal talks about some of his newfound guilt-free pleasures.

Max Gruber aka Drangsal popped onto the German music scene in 2016 with his post-punk and synth-drenched debut Harieschaim, hitting a respectable number 29 in the German charts. Singles like “Allan Align” and “Will ich nur dich” ensured accessibility for German and international indie fans alike. After appearing on the occasional remix for bands like Tokio Hotel and collaborating with contemporaries like Die Selektion, he properly returned this April with the slightly poppier – and slightly more German – Zores (“rage”).

Zores is markedly poppier than Harieschaim. Is there a new set of influences for it?

I was listening to a lot of Prefab Sprout. And I was straying further and further away from the idea that pop music was bad. I’m still looking to show people that there’s no shame in embracing pop because we have to take back what was ours. I want weirdos to reclaim it. If you look at the 1987 charts, fucking Grace Jones was number two! Where is that now?

You’re going for the top of pops: Eurovision. How did that happen?

I made these shirts that say #drangsalfüresc19. I made one for myself and people were like, “I would buy that,” so I made a lot of them and they sold out! Then the official Eurovision account posted on Instagram: “Do you know anyone who should be nominated for Germany?” And people, I hate the word fans, it’s weird, but people flooded that post: 1800 comments saying “Drangsal, Drangsal, für ESC.” They would’ve never considered me but now they have to.

Eurovision, remixes with Tokio Hotel, collaborations. You’re pretty fleißig. Do you ever say no?

I have said no. I’ve said no to Die Lochis, those two twin Youtubers that I kind of dabbled with. They asked me to come to Thailand with them for a week, all-inclusive, to shoot a video with them. I was like “I could do that when I’m 40” – people could get that it was tongue-in-cheek. But how much of a joke is it if you’re not telling people you’re doing this ironically? But I don’t believe in guilty pleasure shit and irony. I believe there’s no guilt in pleasure.

You played Popkultur last August, which has its share of controversies. The anti-Israeli BDS (“Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions”) thing for example. What do you think of that?

They can suck my dick. I wasn’t going to cancel this festival because someone there gets a €500 travel grant from the Israeli embassy. I’m sorry, I was not going to get pressured into this. Even if someone would try, I wouldn’t even care. I was going to play there and that’s it. There is nothing more to say.

Do you keep politics out of your music?

I try not to instrumentalise my music too much to send out political messages but you can’t really help it. Life is political and you just end up doing it. Kids are coming up to me and they tell me that they feel good about liking boys or liking girls because they heard that one song and I’m just like, sure! So you kind of end up sending a political message whether you like it or not and if you cancel the show, you do and if you don’t, you also do.

Some very interesting people have found their way into your music videos.

Not being in my own videos is my new thing. When “Magst du mich” came around I wanted the video to be done by Kansas Bowling, who is in the video as well. She is the youngest person to ever release a film on [indie US distributor] Troma. She wrote a movie at 15. My manager googled her and found out she is dating [LA radio DJ] Rodney Bingenheimer. He wrote her saying it would be cool if we could get Rodney on the video. I was doubtful but she said, “No, he could definitely be in it.” It was shot in LA, but I wasn’t there, I just paid her and asked her to make a video.

You’ve said that “queerness is missing in German pop”.

It’s crazy if you look at it. Festivals like Melt are doing a great job but other festivals and German pop are just filled with straight dudes. I think most of today’s music is a guy singing about a girl. I’m not saying I want a guy singing about a guy or a girl singing about a girl. See I think… no one should be ashamed of anything.

Drangsal Nov 16, 20:00 SO36, Kreuzberg SOLD OUT