Zann: East German Chaos
An interview with the heavy and chaotic hardcore band ZANN
Chaotic hardcore band from Eastern Germany, founded in 1999. The music of Zann is influenced by bands like Chokehold, Unbroken, Born Against, Gehenna, Swing Kids, Rites of Spring and many more.
As I understand you’re celebrating 10 years of Zann in 2009. Can you give us a brief presentation of the band and what have you achieved for the 10 years of existence? Do you play kick-ass gigs? What about your tours, you have been in Japan, is it your best experience as a band?
Uwe: Ok, we’re a five-piece. After Ron (guitar) moved to my home town for university and mine and Mark’s (drum) band was breaking up we thought of trying something new and it worked out eventually. Robert, as a friend of Ron, joined on vocals and after our second show our friend John joined on second guitar because he was so blown away seeing us play :) It’s going to be ten years sometime around October I think. What will we have achieved by then? So far we did around 20 releases including splits, compilations etc., played around 350 shows, did twelve tours including four in the U.S. and two in Japan. This year we plan on putting out an anniversary 7″, a tour-DVD and to go on tour in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a.k.a. Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), Israel and Europe. I can’t really say if we play kick-ass shows; I like most of them, the rest is up to the audience.
Robert: I don’t know if we play kick ass gigs :) At least I have fun playing shows most of the time and I can’t believe that this band is together for 10 years soon.We saw so much while we are touring, met tons of great people and also a couple of assholes. I don’t know if Japan has been the best experience for touring but I can say it will be never forgotten and I’m thankful that we had this opportunity twice. And hopefully there will be more tours/shows coming up and people don’t get tired of us.
Not a long time ago you released a split with Ghostlimb, Perth Express and Trainwreck. It seems you’re doing a lot of split releases, with which other bands you have splits records? Are you friends with all of them? What’s the meaning of friendship within the DIY scene?
Uwe: We have split records with lots of bands including Racebannon, Anger Is Beautiful, Blame Game, Funeral Diner, The 244 GL, Burial Year, Ghostlimb, Perth Express and Trainwreck. We know almost all of the bands and are friends with them, that’s right.
Friendship is important within the D.I.Y. scene because it’s not a business relationship. Many people do shows, records and stuff for us because they know and like us as people rather than just doing business with us.
Robert: I guess the split releases are built on friendship and also on the lack of new songs. Hahaha. With most of the bands we either toured together, have friendship in common. I think friendship is related to trust and trust is a pretty important thing for this community. I mean all the trading, booking, releasing records etc. is built on friendship, trust and all that. You have to relay on people in a world without contracts.
Do you feel hardcore music as a good outlet for depression, frustration, anger? Are the lyrics reflections of internal feelings or manifestations of what you see in the outside world, dealing with society, politics etc.? What inspires you to play underground music, aren’t there better ways to express dissent views and social consciousness than playing loud and fast music?
Uwe: Every form of art is an outlet. We’ve chosen hardcore punk music because it’s what we know and are able to do. We’re not great painters or writers, we just happen to know how to use an instrument. Besides that I think hardcore punk is an art form where “artist” and “consumer” are basically the same people, the boundary between both is fluid, most people do something within this scene. And this is great I think.
Robert: I guess it is a good way to show anger. But I don’t know if it will change a lot of stuff outside of our small community. I think it needs a lot more then an angry band that plays loud music to change the world. We have the chance to show people our ideas through lyrics and statements and we can discuss things w/ people. But at the end it needs action and not just words. Sometimes I’m pretty tired of the whole underground thing. At shows bands talk about all the cliché stuff like “fight fascism, sexism etc etc” to a crowd that already knows and every one agrees with what is said most of the time with and that makes it so easy. There is no confrontation anymore. I think that a band is just a small part for me if it comes to dealing with politics, or society. We are looking for a small niche in this world and I guess we found ours and I feel we kind of feel comfortable in it. I mean even if I don’t like all things that go on in this “underground” scene – all the time I look into other parts of society I find myself enjoying this subculture again.
What are your personal inspirations in punk music that drove you to form Zann? What are your major influences? What about the German bands that have influence on you?
Uwe: I wouldn’t say there were inspirations needed from the punk scene to form Zann. It was just the opportunity with Ron moving to my town to try something new, and it worked out. Major influences? Musically a lot of mid-90s hardcore/punk like Chokehold, Unbroken, Threadbare, The Crimson Curse, Damnation A.D. etc. There is no German band that influenced me in respect of Zann besides Argwohn. There are some German bands most of us like e.g. Acme, Loxiran, Enfold, Sabeth but I wouldn’t see them as musical influences on our music.
Robert: We formed ZANN cause we all kinda have known each other for a while more or less and we all wanted to play the same music. I don’t know if there have been personal inspirations for myself. I guess we all have been at the same spot at the right time and even though we are all different, fight each other sometimes, having arguments etc. – we all have the same understanding about things and so are able to this for so long now. I don’t know if we have a direct influence by German bands – but I liked AGE musically and lyricwise, I like Acme, Loxiran, Systral, Akephal for the music.
As I understand you’re all straight edge. Why is important for you to boycott the alcohol, tobacco and drug industries? What is the meaning that you put in the straight edge lifestyle, is it a form of a social protest for you?
Uwe: I just don’t like the idea of losing control, be it by emotion or by substances. And the practice of paying money to someone/for something that will wreck you up and leave you addicted is just plain stupid. If people can’t even think this far, that’s real sad.
Robert: I think Straight Edge got more and more a personal thing for me over the years. I became straight edge cause I got tired of all the punks in my hometown that didn’t get their shit together besides getting wasted. I got tired of this “no future” attitude and I never understood people complaining about a 5 Euro punk show and buy beer & cigarettes at the same night for 20 Euro or so. That makes no sense to me. I never understood why I should pay a big cooperation to kill me. I mean if you wanna kill yourself there are more and cheaper ways to do that. I hate people that use “being drunk” as an excuse for acting shitty and don’t get things done. You should act responsible for how you act in any way.
Are you all vegetarians or vegans? What is the importance of the vegan lifestyle, that make it something more than just a dietary or consumer choice for Western European people?
Uwe: I’m vegan and Ron kinda is, the rest are vegetarians. Do I really have to tell all the reasons for being vegan? I won’t. Shouldn’t this be clear? Personally the most important aspect to me is to overcome the selfishness on the dietary level and stop me being part of this suffering and destruction.
What does the name Zann means? Is it coming from “The music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft?
Uwe: Yes, indeed. A very inspirational piece of literature to me. It illustrates the reasons I play music very well.
Could you give us an insight into the German DIY scene? What about all those bands, labels, zines, festivals like Cry Me A River etc.?
Uwe: I don’t know much about the screamo scene in Germany, in my opinion it’s way too much screamo. But I guess there are lots of bands and shows for this. It’s funny that people often call us a screamo band, it’s almost an insult. I mean we don’t listen to screamo, we don’t make screamo, we have a different musical background… I don’t know. CMAR is a good fest with lots of friends being there, hanging out and playing. If it wasn’t for the weird off-the-way locations and the limitation on visitors I’d say it’s the best hardcore punk fest in Germany. The people there doing a great job and we’ve been to it every year for the last four or five years now, so there must be something to it.
Robert: I guess we are pretty spoiled if it comes to venues, labels, bands and all that. Its great to see how everything still grows and people start new things everywhere. There are so much things going on and it’s difficult to put all that in this interview. But there are a couple of labels that go strong for some while now like React With Protest. There is a bunch of new tape labels etc. German bands you should look out for are Aina, Call Me Betty, Fargo, Glasses, Kids Explode, Just Went Black, June Paik, Mersault, Trainwreck and so much more.
Members of Zann are involved in the label Adagio 830. Could you give us a more information about the label? What kind of bands are you releasing, how are your releases distributed, how many do you press of each record? How does it work the global DIY conspiracy for you?
Robert: It’s actually just me that is involved with the label. ADAGIO830 started in 1997 in my old hometown while releasing an LP for the German band COLE QUINTET and from then on a lot of releases happened and I’m still excited about new releases the same way I was 12 years ago. I still just release bands I love, I feel connected with and that have the heart in the right place. It doesn’t matter what kinda music they play. We released records by screamo bands (like City Of Caterpillar, La Quiete) emo bands (Catena Collapse, Fire Team Charlie, Indian Summer), indie rock bands (like Tar Feathers Glos, Haram, Flamingo Massacres), hardcore bands (Burial Year, Zann, Ghostlimb), punk rock bands (Bullets In, Comadre). Most of the distribution we do ourselves with the help of some bigger distros like Ebulltion, Revelation etc – so people have the chance to get the records everywhere and if people want the records, we press as much as people need. We start usually with 500 copies and then repress if there is a demand. I think the DIY scene is still the best and strongest scene that is out there. Especially today where all the bigger labels struggle and sell less music – I think the DIY scene still moves a lot of records cause it’s based on support and all that. I love it.
As we know the squats in Europe are under high pressure from the authorities. What are your thoughts on that? Are you aware of the fact that Köpi squat in Berlin is in a constant danger of eviction, as well as Rote Flora in Hamburg and a lot of other autonomous spaces throughout the country?
Uwe: I know, it’s everywhere the same. In my home state the only squat left (Topf squat Erfurt) is to be evicted in the next days. So far there were a lot of rallies and activities to prevent it and we have to see what happens next. It’s getting harder and harder to find new free spaces for people, also squatting itself has decreased in the past years.
Robert: I guess if its comes to squats we are still pretty spoiled in Germany. Many squads are “legal” today and the punks bought them from the city or the landlord (like the Kopi, the Zoro etc) and I know we are lucky to have them. I mean compared to the UK, Sweden or these countries there is almost nothing like that. The squats are a big and important part of the DIY scene cause they make touring possible and also give people ideas about alternative living etc. So if those things would be gone – there would be big hole in the scene.
What do you know about the recent riots in Greece after a 15 years-old kid was killed by a policeman? How does the average German citizen, who doesn’t read Indymedia and got all the information from the mainstream press respond to things like that?
Uwe: I know what was on the mainstream media and on Indymedia. I don’t know how the average German citizen responds to mainstream media information since I rarely talk about such stuff to them.
Robert: The thing has been in the media and also got criticized by them. But even if you have it all over the news I think many people don’t care cause it’s so far away.
What do you think about the immigrants coming to Germany after the integration of Bulgaria and Romania in the EU?
Uwe: It’s natural I guess for people to strive for better living conditions. And if that means leaving your home town, sure why not. I would move to the U.S. if I could. I don’t see differences besides Eastern European people being more discriminated while doing so.
What is your views about the Israeli assaults on Gaza? It seems there are some people within the social movements in Germany that are supporting Israel and being pro-Palestine in Germany is not the same like in other parts of Europe.
Uwe: Yes, fortunately being pro-Palestine in Germany is not the same like in other parts of Europe. Even though I believe there should be different ways to resolve this conflict, I support the Israeli actions against extremist assaults which are ongoing for years now. This is a very complex topic and can’t be broken down to few sentences. In my view I see Israel as the only progressive element in this region, being a lively democracy. Seeing countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia that still live in the middle ages and practising the Sharia with their inhuman laws I can’t no other than support civilized values and societies. Plus, how can I as a human being and furthermore one with a shameful German history support the Palestinian people led by an organization like Hamas which is anti-Semitic, is denying the holocaust and furthermore denies Israel its right of existence. These are fascist positions and therefore are mainly supported by fascists and right-wing scum in Germany. Just during this recent conflict there were the biggest antisemitic rallies in Germany since the Third Reich with tearing apart Israeli flags and calls like “Death to Israel”. This really reminds me of very dark times and it left me speechless to see that something like this could still happen in Germany.
What about your daily lives? Are you satisfied with what you’re doing? If so, any ways that could inspire others to do the same? Any ideas on how we can move forward and have a fulfilling, enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle/hardcore scene?
Uwe: No, I’m not completely satisfied with my daily life. I mean it could be way worse, I have food, a place to live, an ok job, some friends, a great band to tour with. But it could be way better too. So this is what I’m striving for. I can’t give much advice besides: ask yourself what you really long for and try to make as few compromises as possible to you while trying reach that goal.
Robert: I’m satisfied with my life. I mean I have my own record store and I tour the world with the band. It’s all good. I think if you try hard and never give up, work hard on your dreams and do your own thing it’s all good. Maybe that sounds cliché – but I kinda believe in that and I believe in myself. As long as you believe in yourself, get your shit together and be honest to yourself and other people you are on the right way.
Anything you want to add?
Robert: Live your life.
Uwe: Thank you for the interview. Any questions and comments can be directed to [email protected]