From a hammer and a (battered) Opel or two, actor/musician Christian von Richthofen has managed to create a rather unique orchestra. Since winning international recognition at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Von Richthofen has travelled the world with his vehicle-destroying music.
Where did the idea for your show, AUTOAUTO!, come from?
I was doing a project with unemployed youths who didn’t attend school, making music with them in order to get them on the right track and motivate them. Some of the teenagers had the habit of beating up cars with baseball bats at night. Since that led to them getting locked up by the police, I said, “Leave the cars alone at night. Come to me: I’ll teach you how to drum and we’ll destroy a car with rhythm.” They eventually decided to use shopping carts for their show, so the car idea became available again. Then my colleague and I decided to go to a scrap heap and research all the things you can do with a car.
How many cars have you used so far?
I think the number of cars I have played on is between 500 and 600.
Do you find all your cars on the scrap heap?
Yes. At the moment, the cars we get for our performances are fantastic – from all the people who have thrown away their immaculate vehicles because of the Abwrackprämie. The scrap dealers don’t know what to do with them – you don’t just destroy a perfectly good car, but they have to do it. So when two crazy guys like my colleague and I come along, they happily give us a car because we’ll do something sensible with it. In Switzerland, we had a BMW onstage… The people who see this always think that we’re vandalising it, but we only use ones that have already been thrown away.
What was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival like? Was it different from German festivals?
Of course. For one thing, we played the show completely in English. And I’m German and had only known what it was like to play in Germany until then… It was a great experience, though, and it turned out to be our international breakthrough.
Do different cars have different sounds?
Yes. That’s why we always preferred Opels in Germany. But Toyota is also a nice car. And in Edinburgh, we had to learn to play with different cars because we had a show every day. We’ve had the craziest variety of cars – but every car has a corner that sounds good.
Is the show dangerous? Have you ever injured yourself?
Oh yes. Once, I couldn’t play for two months because of an injury. You have to be careful, because the car will hit back.