He’s the face of Exberliner’s trailer and the musical guest at our birthday party. But who is Rummelsnuff when he’s at home?
As one of Berlin’s most iconic and recognisable nightlife figures, it might come as a surprise that Rummelsnuff likes to keep things quiet these days. The former Berghain bouncer, fitness trainer and self-proclaimed Käpt’n with the deep voice prefers trees to techno and water to vodka. Before his June 3 performance at Haus Schwarzenberg, he invited us to his humble Niederschöneweide abode, a sparsely furnished bachelor pad amidst car service stations and auto shops, to talk about his GDR upbringing, his start in showbiz, and his favourite spot in Berlin.
Have you always been musical?
My father was a composer; my mother played the violin. So they sent me to music school when I was 10. I studied the bassoon and played in various orchestras. Later, I was in a band called Freunde der italienischen Oper. With the bassoon, we stuck out in East Germany. Even the West was interested because it was so different. There was a lot of punk in those days but we tried to do it differently, completely protest-free but very provocative. When it was about to get bigger, we broke up. The famous Zickzack label [Einstürzende Neubauten] was interested, but we didn’t quite know how to handle it.
Did you ever get in trouble with the Stasi?
Not really. As a band, we had to have a permit, which we called Pappe (carton). The authorities came to one of our concerts, but nothing serious ever happened to us. Since it was in Großenhain, in the countryside, maybe the authorities were excited to see something other than retired people playing covers. Sometimes they called me in for questioning – like right now, only different questions.
Was Rummelsnuff already in the pipeline back then?
We played with the idea of shanties back then. But Rummelsnuff didn’t come about until 2005. It was like a rebirth. I’ve rarely used my real name since.
That would be Roger Baptist. Which sounds French…
Apparently there was an artist my father knew whose name was Roger, or who had a son called Roger – I don’t know for sure, I would have to ask my mum. What I know is that he once composed a piece called Valse fantastique. I still have a vinyl single of that from the 1960s. So, maybe there were some Francophile tendencies at play.
How come you speak French, then?
I studied it from seventh grade on, and then, in the 1990s, I spent several months with body builder Jean-Luc Beltran in Paris. We did daily workouts, ate plenty of French food, and I gained a lot of weight at that time – the good and fat-free kind, of course. When I worked as a videur at Berghain’s Laboratory, I spoke French with my colleagues, photographer Ralf Marsault and tattoo artist Rudy Marchal.
How did you come up with your “captain” theme?
Maybe it’s my love for the accordion that influenced it. Lyrics like “Salzig schmeckt der Wind” (“Salty the wind tastes”) are just easy to set to music. But really, only six or seven out of about 80 songs have maritime themes in them. It’s also interpreted as a typical male topic, just like bodybuilding, all-night boozing, and workers’ songs – which come from my GDR past, but I deal with them more ironically these days.
Do you play a role on stage?
I would’ve liked to, but it never worked out. My first interviews were sort of done by Alfred Hilsberg, the boss of my label Zickzack, who answered all of the journalists’ questions before I had a chance. He used words like “Kunstfigur”; I didn’t even know what that was. In the end, I’m the same on and off stage.
When did you start working out?
Pretty early on, I did push-ups and pull-ups. In the beginning, no one noticed, and when girls whose boyfriends were thinner than me told me to stop because they weren’t into it, I thought I’m on the right track. When Italianische Oper broke up, I really had time to eat properly, sleep and work out for a few years. It also helped to work the night shift at a fitness studio. The GDR was all about sports, anyway.
What keeps you in Berlin?
Areas like these. Berlin still offers open spaces if you don’t necessarily want to live inside the Ring. The Müggelspree, for instance, is totally underrated. Most people go for the lakes, but the river is much nicer and quieter. Solitude – or rather, solitude with a selected few who share it with you from time to time – is wonderful. I used to party hard, but I don’t anymore. Things broke because of it, and I was lucky if they were merely material things. Of course now, after my concerts, there’s always the demand for beer and shots for all – but not for the Käpt’n.