Catching up with the singer of German hardcore punk monsters The Now-Denial to learn more about the band and their uncompromising message.
Hallo! Wie geht’s? How’s life? I hope you can introduce your band with a few words to our readers and give us a brief history of The Now-Denial.
Soeren: Here we go! We started rehearsing late in the year 2000 with Chris on drums, Ash on guitar, Phil on bass and me with just a microphone. We soon added Hans on guitar, who quit later on. After a while of being a 4 piece, we found Rob who is still playing guitar with us these days. But how to describe the band? We are all longtime friends, but also people who developed into different directions. We live in four different cities.
We have a very diverse musical taste. But somehow we love making music together. And so we keep on going…
So you’re at the process of recording and releasing new material soon?
Soeren: Yeah, we just released our 3rd record called “Mundane Lullaby”. It is on Sabotage Records and Sounds Of Subterania Records. Check it out. We like it!
You’re all 30+ year-old dudes. Most people at that age have a very critical look at the so called hardcore/punk scene and the DIY movement in general. What’s your view on the current trends in the “scene” and do you see it a kind of elitist or dogmatic?
Soeren: Apart from Robin, all of us passed the 30 year old border and you are right. Throughout the years the look at the “scene” changes, gets more critical, sometimes more indifferent. For sure you get more distance, emotional as well as physical. I don’t need to go to every show and don´t need to know every (hip) band. Of course the DIY scene (whatever that is) is elitist and somehow dogmatic. That keeps it alive. Who doesn’t know the feeling, when some band or trend gets popular and you don’t want to share it with the mainstream, because it’s watering down the intensity.
What is getting on my nerves though, is taking things too seriously. I tend to do so too. Or at least I did some years ago. But we have to face, that this is just a music scene. I won’t deny some specials here. Like the network you can benefit from as a band, like independent venues, labels, zines, etc. You won’t find such a well working structure in many other independent music scenes. But hey, this is important for ourselves. It doesn’t have any impact on lots of things in a wider sense. I think it is important to see all this with a realistic view and to place it correctly. It can be the most important thing in your life, but it’s not the most important thing in life in general. In the end the inflexibility of the dogmas in hc/punk are just helpful to find a place, to develop identity. For me in the late teenager years and early twenties hc/punk were the crutches I stumbled with through a world full of questions, full of expectations.
Things like DIY, straight edge, veganism and this special trust in other hc/punk kids helped me a lot. And this elitist touch makes it even closer. It only works with demarcation from other cultural appearances. But I expect from people to develop and not to stop at this point. This leads to stagnation and boredom. Too many people are feeling so well in their oh so important niche.
Your shows are famous with the highly energetic performances with high-jumping, stage-dives and fun along with talking on stage, representing the true spirit of DIY hardcore. Maybe the passionate and energetic live performance with talking to the crowd about what you think and what is all about is the best way for a band to promote its ideas, what do you think?
Soeren: What is the true spirit of DIY hardcore??? Ask 20 different people and you get at least 15 different answers. And sorry, I have to disagree you once more. I don’t talk on stage because I want to promote any ideas. For me lyrics are one part of The Now-Denial and since I know that most of the people in the audience don’t know them, it’s just natural, that I tell here and there what the lyrics are about. But there are also many shows, where I don’t say anything about lyrics, but rather talk shit, make crappy jokes… it’s just how I feel. But since a live performance always has a communicative aspect, I like it, when a band appear as more than musicians. And please don’t be fooled by good photographs. Stage-diving and crowds going crazy is absolutely not a regular thing at our shows. Which is a pity, of course…
Is it true that you’re handing out your lyric sheets at your shows?
Soeren: Yeah, that’s true. It’s an offer, because, as I mentioned above, lyrics are one part of The Now-Denial, that should be available also at shows. But to be honest, we came back from a 2 week tour last week and that was the first tour without lyric-sheets. But just because I forgot to bring them….
It seems from your band’s name and your lyrics that you’re speaking about problems, denying and criticizing without providing any solutions. Do you consider your message nihilistic?
Soeren: We don’t have one message that can be described precisely. Some lyrics may tend to be nihilistic, but some are very positive and constructive. My lyrics and I’m sure Ash’s lyrics too, are more emotional outbursts than social or political theme-songs. You’re 100% right that we don’t provide any solutions. Who are we to provide solutions? We are just a bunch of fuck ups who try to deal with emotions through our music and lyrics. And since it´s angry music and anger is a strong emotion, that I feel regular when I think about the world, a lot of the lyrics are angry!!!
If you had to sum it up what drives you to continue making passionate hardcore music and being involved in the “scene”?
Soeren: Hardcore/punk is the perfect vehicle to deal with my emotions, the perfect vehicle to express myself creatively. This scene gives me the opportunity to share this with many others. And I got to know a big part of my friends through this scene. And as long as I still meet interesting new people through this I will keep being involved!
People try to label things as easy as they can fit. Like many bands you have been described by some zines as Tragedy/HHIG style hardcore. I won’t ask you how do you label your music or whatever, but to tell us a little bit in your own terms about your music and lyrical contents. And do you really fit in that new wave of melodic crust?
Soeren: It would be stupid to deny the influence of bands like His Hero Is Gone or From Ashes Rise on our music, but, hey, we are around for 7 years in this band and played in bands before that for several years too, so I won’t limit myself to influences of such a small genre. And I think everybody who knows us or maybe has seen a live show must recognize that we don’t fit in very well. we are too diverse. None of us looks like a crusty, haha. None of the artwork of our records or shirts fit in this genre. But I’m not thinking that much about it anymore. At the latest the new record will stop every try to put us into the “neo-crust” box. We are just a hardcore punk band which likes to spice their shit with a little rock here and there, which likes their lyrics to be relevant for ourselves, which tries to find healthy compromises in artwork etc. to cover all our different tastes, which tries to benefit from the diversity of its members…
In all interviews with you there’s the question about your opinion on playing in squats, are you involved in any squatting activities? After the destruction of Ungdomshuset in Denmark several other autonomous projects in countries near Germany have been raided. Also such places as Rote Flora in Hamburg and others in Berlin and Bremen were raided due to the G8 summit in Germany and maybe the biggest threat to the autonomous spaces in Germany was the auction of Köpi. What’s your view on all those events?
Soeren: Without squats or autonomous centres not only a very important part of hc/punk-infrastructure would pass away, but first of all a space where you have possibilities to develop and experiment own rules. We are all raised under rather straight circumstances. We are deeply used to the possibilities and responsibilities offered by this society. And we can’t get rid of this socialisation. Of course we can reflect and work on it, but it will always be a part of us and we will (probably) always live in similar structures. So it can’t be valued high enough to have spaces, where this logic is at least questioned and in the best case people involved trying to tear it down. You have homophobia, sexism, racism, antisemitism in places like this as well, but they are not welcome. Most of the people try to get over it. That’s why these spaces are so damn important.
The raids in left centres and places before the G8 summit could be describes as ridiculous regarding the results “they” got from it. But it is scary that laws and rules are worth nothing, if “they” really want to get on you. Not that I was surprised too much, but it is scary nonetheless. There are still people in jail because of these raids. The construction of a terrorist group seems to be enough to put activists in jail, raid houses and so on… and in fact it gave “them” a better insight in structures and with confiscation of e.g. computers, the preparations for the G8 and other activities were hindered. Yeah, Ungdomshuset and Köpi.
What else is there? Zorro in Leipzig and Rote Flora in Hamburg and some others. Fewer and fewer. Obviously. I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder why all these places exist at all. Maybe for a while it was easier for “them” to know where the potential is. And maybe “they” nowadays think the movement (whatever that is) is so weak, that the closing down is easy enough to handle? But that’s not the case in Copenhagen, haha. But if you look at the ’80s and the big times of squatting, it’s very disappointing how few people are ready to fight for their (!) spaces today.
Maybe the younger (our) generations never had to fight for these places and so never learned it. When I was younger, there was the AJZ (Autonomous Jugend Zentrum) Bielefeld and everything was there. It was so easy to be lazy and still have a lot of possibilities…
In early June the leaders of the G8 nations met in Heiligendamm, Germany. The G8 summit is indeed only a symbol, a personified image for the abstract social and economic model. And this is a chance for revolutionary and independent groups to show their anger and frustration to the neo-liberal vision of the world. There were many controversial issues about the image of the black bloc activists and the violent confrontations during the summit. How do you deal with the tactics of property damage and direct confrontations? And do you think that activism like “reclaim the streets” parties are such an ungovernable force?
Soeren: That’s not so easy to answer. If I would answer impulsively and emotionally, I would ramble about riots and fighting back and shit, but it’s not so easy. For me there’s no doubt about violence being one part of resistance. It always has been and it will always be. It’s all a question of how and when, about taking responsibilities for others and always keep questioning the meaning and possible results. I have absolutely no problem with property damage, if it makes sense.
I have no problems with fighting back against the cops, if you do not endanger “comrades” and other people who don’t want to get into it. That was the big problem with the riots in Rostock. It was stupid and dangerous not only from the cops, but also from some testosterone macho assholes dressed in black. The positive part is, that these riots draw attention, make these summits so ridiculously expensive and sometimes are a lot of fun. Is there really an ungovernable force? Reclaim the streets-parties are nice. I’m not into it too much. It’s just a matter of time, when there enough cops to govern this force. Well, that’s of course no reason for not doing it. Just for being realistic about the effects. This could of course be an endless discussion about what kind of activism makes sense.
I’m very ambivalent about it. I don’t know. Sometimes I think “better anything than nothing” and sometimes “stop being so naive and quit that bullshit”.
It seems that you’re not fans of the CrimethInc rhetoric. What’s the most controversy that you’ve found in the modern “drop-out” counterculture activism as that promoted by collectives such as CrimethInc?
Soeren: Shit, I just made one funny remark about Requiem/CrimethInc in an interview and now I’m nailed to it. Haha. I try to make it short. I respect drop-outs. If they are happy with it, I have no problem with it. But promoting this as the revolutionary act doesn’t feel good to me. I’m living in the year 2007, a highly developed, industrialized, technicized world which scares me to death sometimes. This all seems so complex and abstract that I somehow understand the wish to get back to the basics. But is this an answer to complexity in the long run? (yeah, what is an appropriate answer anyway?) I don’t think so. I don’t have any idea to deal with hyper-capitalism and an overdeveloped industry and shit. I do not think that anarchy or communism are ideas that are in any way relevant for this society. (yeah, again, what is relevant for society?).
Looking at the current leftist social and political movements around Europe it seems that in Germany there are so many contradictions. Especially throughout the antifascist movement where such extreme controversial groups as “Anti-deutsch” are spreading very confusing message.
Soeren: Yeah, that’s true. It’s very confusing, even for people living here. But there are so many different approaches throughout the “anti-deutsch”-movement, that it’s almost ridiculous to speak of the “anti-deutsch”-movement. I don’t want to defend this here, because there are so many ugly things going on that I don’t understand why cooler people still label themselves as “anti-deutsch”, but whatever. But to get back to the question. For me a lot of positions in the european left are confusing. How can you relate to the 9/11 assault positive, how can you refer to the “Jihad” positive, how can you defend Iran’s policy? Don’t we have brain enough to find a position far away from the two options with us or with the terrorists? I don’t get it. If you talk about reactionary activists in the “anti-deutsch”-movement, you have to speak of reactionary activists in the left or hardcore/punk scene everywhere. Where is the progressive part of talking about Bush over and over again. Boring!
What is the progressive aspect of repeating and supporting antisemitic clichés a la “the jews have too much influence” over and over again? Is it so difficult to think for yourself? Just to explain some more of the German situation: if you go to a nazi-demonstration in Germany these days, you see flags of Palestine, Iraqi flags, you see Palestinian scarfs and so on. You hear the same slogans against the U$A and Israel like in the “left” in Europe. And with the special antisemitic tradition in Germany, it’s very ugly and confusing. To say it clearly, I don’t think that waving American and
Israeli flags (or similar “anti-deutsch” tactics) is a good idea as a statement against this trend in the German nazi-scene. But I can demand a critical look on the sometimes simplifying rhetoric in leftist anti-imperialism. Again: I don’t understand the black and white view on this complex issue.
Are the members of The Now-Denial veg(etari)ans? How do you deal with the animal rights issues? What’s your opinion on veganism alone as an act of social/political and environmentalist action?
Soeren: I’m vegan. The only survivor in The Now-Denial. Well, animal rights are no big issue in The Now-Denial. So it wouldn’t be fair to ramble about this issue much. Of course I would say that veganism/animal rights alone, without the connection to emancipatoric views on the “world”, is a strange thing I don’t understand. But all the people I know being active in this scene are deeply rooted in a “left” context.
Since January 2007 Bulgaria became a European Union member. What is your opinion on the Bulgarian/Romanian EU membership? And what do you think of the immigration flow from our country to Western Europe, the universal currency Euro, the European constitution?
Soeren: Fucking hell! This is too complex and complicated for me. I could answer this only superficial, but that doesn’t feel right for me. I can tell you that I hate the refugee-policy of the European Union, I hate the vision to be the dominating super-power force. This whole thing seems to be so shitty and I’m aware that we, as Germans, rather profit from it. And I wouldn’t be honest, if I would deny that it’s so easy and practical for us with the Euro, but the increase of prices is pretty tough for many people… I don’t know, it’s an abstract hostility towards the European Union, whether with or without Romania and Bulgaria, but I’m far away from being well informed.
Your thoughts on education and work? I think it’s an interesting question, because there are so many Bulgarians studying and working in Germany. What’s your opinion about the very complicated educational system in Germany?
Soeren: To be honest I never thought of the German educational system as complicated. But I grew up with it, don’t know about any other in detail. It’s strange to think about it, because I have to face my privileges. I’m a well-educated guy with all the options. There was a time, when it seemed that the school-education should be restructured and there aren’t many low-education-schools (Hauptschule) anymore. But high-education-schools (Gymnasium) will be there forever. There are more and more schools for everybody (Gesamtschule), but since there are new movements to support elites, the hierarchical education system will continue. This year some universities got extra money for being universities for the elite. And fees for studying are installed at most of the universities, which make it harder for people with poorer backgrounds, because the scholarship system in Germany is a joke compared to the US for example. of course I can understand people from Bulgaria who come here to study and/or work, if they hope to get a better education or at least the option to get higher wages… I ‘m not working on carreer-opportunities, but I can’t blame people for doing it. So why not trying to achieve the best for yourself. Some hopes will turn out to be just illusions, but well, that’s capitalism…
Anything to add or any comments?
Soeren: Thank you very much for this interesting interview. I really hope that we will make it to Bulgaria one day. But there are so many ideas and options and our time-schedules are so damn tight because of work and shit… we will see. And please keep in mind, that I’m only one out of five individuals in The Now-Denial. The others are okay with my answers, but there are different opinions at one point or the other for sure.