Oomph!: music for your body and soul

Dero - Oomph!You’d think that after twenty-five years, an artist’s creativity and sincerity would be a bit worn out by success and routine. We talked to singer Dero on the occasion of the release of Oomph!’s new album, the aptly-named XXV. To him, the band is all about permanent sincerity and soul-searching – more so than ever on this album, which seems to have been an outlet for Dero and made the band question their music, especially after the unidentified musical object that was Des Wahnsinns Fette Beute. Whether he’s expressing his emotions or just looking at the world, Dero strives to be as precise and subtle as possible, avoiding clear-cut opinions and Manichean analyses. When he talks about his life, he doesn’t leave anything out.

Oomph! have been around for twenty-five years now. During this time, the band built a rich and deeply varied discography, full of surprises and reinventions. And yet it was an offspring of theirs, Rammstein, that eventually appealed to a larger audience. As Rammstein’s historic influence, the comparison between the two projects was inevitable. And yet Dero describes two different approaches and states of mind, and his praise has a hint of sarcasm is it…

Oomph! 2015

« Many bands simply don’t change anything because they found out that their fans are conservatives and don’t want changes. So they don’t change! But that’s a commercial way of thinking, and we always try to be different. »

Radio Metal: Your previous album “Des Wahnsinns Fette Beute” did surprise a lot of people and many actually didn’t understand it. What are your thoughts retrospectively about that album and its reception?

Dero (vocals): For us it was about time to show that we are self-ironical persons! That we don’t take ourselves too seriously! I think it’s very important as an artist to be able to make fun of yourself. Otherwise, other people will start to make fun of you if you take yourself too seriously. So, yeah, it was about time. Oomph is about changes. Oomph is about surprises. Oomph is about challenging new dimensions and exploring new goals. Art is what is important, and having the greatest freedom within this art. So we’re not thinking about what our fans, the media or the press could think about our new album. We just let come out of our hearts, souls and minds what has to come out. If it’s more a satirical thing, then let it go! Let it happen! If it’s aggressive, do an aggressive album! If you’re sad and melancholic, do a sad album! You would betray art, in my eyes, if you just look at what other people could thing about it or what could sell the best… Like many bands do: they simply don’t change anything because they found out that their fans are conservatives and don’t want changes. So they don’t change! But that’s a commercial way of thinking, and we always try to be different.

Do you think that bands or, more generally, people lack self-mockery?

I found out that there are many people within the show business that avoid to make fun of themselves because they build up a certain cliché, and this cliché would crumble to dust if they started to make fun of themselves. And within the audience too, within many scene – metal scene, gothic scene, electronic body music scene, whatever -, there a huge amount of people who take themselves too seriously. So it’s hard within typical serious scenes to place self-ironical aspects. There are many bands that had problems with this, you know. One of my favorite bands ever, Faith No More, is a really humorful and satirical band, but they’re so misunderstood and underrated in my eyes! It’s really more secure to go the serious and straight way without any changes.

Your new album XXV is a departure from your previous album and comes back to a style closer to what people expect from Oomph. So was the special musical orientation on “Des Wahnsinns Fette Beute” intended from the start as a one off? Was it important to come back with a musical direction the fans would be a bit more familiar with?

Well, as I said before, Oomph is about changes. It would have been boring to repeat ourselves with this album. For us it was clean it had to be different to the former album, to surprise ourselves, mainly. So yeah, we came back to a more serious, dark and rock orientated approach. For us it’s important to keep it all fresh for ourselves. This is why we have clear differences between each album.

In the press release for the album it’s written that this new album is made of songs to dance and to think. Do you think this is actually a good summary for this album or even for your music in general, a music for the body and the mind?

I hope so! I think Oomph is about energy and enthusiasm, but it’s also about the mind, reflection and asking questions because to me it’s more important to ask questions than to give answers. If you’re able to read between the lines, you can hopefully learn a lot from our music because it reflects the world and life as we see it. And we hopefully go through it with open eyes and open minds, and if you reflect it all that way, then hopefully people can read, think, ask their own questions and maybe find their own answers.

You said that never before had you struggled with your inner demons as you did on this album. Can you tell me more about these demons?

Yeah, from the beginning, music always used to be a sort of catalyzing process to me, a catharsis where you can clean up yourself, where you can find your inner demons and your dark sides within your soul. Music is the perfect tool for me to repair things within myself that have been broken or to heal the pain a bit. We all have traumatizing experiences within our lives. Art in itself, especially music, is a good way to get along with those. For me, music is kind of like a medicine, you know, to make it all better, to make life work better because you can express yourself freely within music. Sometimes words are not enough, so music in cool to have a new dimension for this catalysis process. There are enough demons within myself to be reflected. I’ve learned to get along with them. I keep them as small as possible. Music is the best way to not let them take over. For me, it’s important to find a balance between light and darkness. You know what darkness is when you see light from time to time, and vice versa. So, yeah, music is perfect to me. It’s a self-therapy.

Oomph! - XXV

« Music is the perfect tool for me to repair things within myself that have been broken or to heal the pain a bit. »

There’s a romantic and soulful side to some of the songs that contrast with other very metal and martial elements, which are two opposite feelings. Do you sometimes feel like being caught between love and, let’s say, oppression in your life?

Yeah, I think that’s what life is about! It’s about love, sex, disappointment, luck, loss and sometimes winning [chuckles]… We’re here mainly to reproduce ourselves [laughs] and love seemingly belong to it, even though it’s not necessarily needed when it comes to sexual intercourse but, as we all know, it’s better to have it included. So, yeah, we all, at first, have to learn to love ourselves. If you’re not able to love and accept yourself with all your flaws, then you’re not able to love anybody. So, yeah, for me love is important, of course. But, as I said before, as it is with light and darkness, you have to know what hate is. You can only estimate the treasure of love if you have hated. It’s the same, you have to know both sides to decide which side is more important for you.

I know you’re generally inspired by religion and social issues, and if I’m correct, it’s been once again the case with this album. So have you been inspired by the climate full of tension that the world is currently going through, with religious fanaticism, what’s going on with Greece and Europe, etc.?

Of course! As I said before, I try to go through life with open eyes and open minds. So, yeah, I’m interested in all those things, even though I’m not a politician. It’s really hard to see the truth behind it all because media’s full of propaganda from both sides. Each part who’s involved has its own interest. So, we have to remain critics as citizens. We’re the most important link of it all. We’re the consumers, and in a consumptive society we’re the most important link. So, we can decide what we consume and we can decide in a democracy who we give our vote. It’s important, even though I realize and recognize that more and more people are tired. They tend to believe in easy answers. There are those many demagogues out there these days, who suggest to have easy answers to those complex things. I’m really, really afraid of those people because, as we all know from the bad parts of European history, especially coming from Germany, we know that it’s really dangerous to believe those demagogues with their easy answers and big mouths, who just perceive the world as black or white and no shades of grey in between – and I’m not talking about the bad movie right now [laughs]. So, I try to make my own picture out of it. I try to ask my own questions. I try to remain skeptical. I try to trust my heart and my minds. If your heart says that it’s not good to treat environment like we do right now, then for me it’s clear that we have to change something, and everybody has to beginning with himself. It’s really easy to point the finger on others but it’s hard to start with yourself. We can do a lot as single persons. There are so many people who say: “What can I do as a single person?” I say: “You have to start with yourself because you cannot change anybody else, and it’s not your right to change anybody else. You have to change yourself at first.” If somebody hopefully sees in you a good way to live, maybe he’ll follow your example. But you don’t have to try and change other because it’s useless in my eyes. You have to start with yourself, and it’s the hardest way. People are lazy. People tend to first point fingers on other instead of starting with themselves. That’s the main problem within our consumptive society and our tired industrial nation’s behavior.

By the way, do you feel in tune with the German position in the Greek crisis that’s currently shaking up Europe?

That’s pretty hard to answer. I think there are many problems that occurred in Greece because of the Greek people themselves. Now, the policy of Miss Merkel and the leading party just make those problems even heavier. As it always is in life, you have to find compromises, even if it’s difficult. I think Greece has to do a lot of homework. They have to look at first what they can do to increase their incomes with new taxes concerning their own rich people, because it’s not really healthy for a nation if the rich people don’t pay any taxes and the great amount of poor people pay it all. Now, what we have to do is to find healthy solutions. I mean, on the long term, it’s not possible for Greece to payback what they already received. So, yeah, we have to accept that and find a viable solution. But first, mainly Greece has to help itself.

Oomph! 2015

« I don’t have to be a millionaire with my music. Because, as we all know, you always pay a price on the other side. »

The album is called XXV. Do you see this album as a celebration of the band’s career?

Yeah, one year ago we celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of Oomph and this year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of being on stage with Oomph. As we all know, last year we didn’t release anything. So this album was perfect to combine those two parties, so to speak. We also found that those three roman letters represents ourselves a bit, as the three band members. It represents the X chromosome within us [laughs]. We all have female sides. And we all know that the world would be a better place if women had more impact within politics. There are many aspects to this album title. And it’s new: we never did a title like that before. I think you can put all that you want into those three letters. And the cover shows the energy and enthusiasm of the band Oomph, I like that very much too. At the same time, it has a bit of a post-apocalyptic appeal, I also like that approach to the album cover.

It’s interesting what you said about women. Is it important for you as an artist to remind people that the battle for equality between men and women isn’t over yet?

Sure it isn’t. I mean, even though we have great success with it within western European countries, for example, there’s still a lot of countries all over the world who don’t accept the equality of men and women. Men always used to have the interest to suppress women. I think the main aspect of this is that men can’t be really sure of them giving their own genes to the women. That’s why they try to capture and suppress them. But it’s a really stupid behavior because, as we all know, if we treat women more politely and give them more respect, the chance would be much higher that they don’t betray us [chuckles]. So, I think the male behavior of suppression is really stupid concerning evolution, because it’s all about evolutionary processes; it’s all about giving genes. If you want to be as sure as possible to have your own genes given to your wife or girlfriend, then try to respect her, love her and be as polite as possible.

How did it feel when you realized that you had reached a quarter of century long career?

It’s amazing to realize this, and we’re proud of still being here, even though we’re a band full of changes and surprises. And, as we all know, it’s dangerous for a musicians who tried to live from his music to be that versatile, because you always risk to lose your audience, or part of it, if you change as much as we always did. But we didn’t give a damn, to be honest! We wanted to be as free as possible! Otherwise we could have worked in a factory or whatever. If you wanna do music, then try to be as free as possible. That’s our approach to it. We’re proud, we’re happy, we’re lucky. We also wanna say thank you very much to all of those fans who still believe in us and still keep the faith, even though they never know what they’ll get when they open a new Oomph album [laughs]. We’re looking forward to release, at least, a couple of new album in the future – hopefully as much as possible. I think there are still so many new musical dimensions for us to explore and there are so many things that we didn’t tell so far. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to the work in the future. We’re still full of creative energy.

In 25 years from now, how do you imagine Oomph’s future in terms of career and also in terms of music?

If we’re still able to live from our music in the future, I’m really fine with everything. If we can be as free as possible, if we are still able to write our own stuff, to produce ourselves and to do what we wanna do, then I’m really fine with everything. I don’t have to be a millionaire with my music. Because, as we all know, you always pay a price on the other side. Success is great, of course, but too much success lowers the freedom on another aspect of life. If you’re too famous, you can’t go out anymore without being seen or recognized from everybody. And if you earn a lot of money, you become afraid of losing it all and of people stealing what you earned. There are so many people who live like in castles, with high walls around them. I don’t know. I don’t think that I wanna change with them. I’m really happy as it is right now. I can live from my music. I can go out when I’m not styled, nobody recognizes me. I’m not rich, as far as money is concerned, so don’t have to be afraid of losing it all again. I don’t have to be afraid of people kidnapping my kids because I’m famous and rich [chuckles]. I’m happy that I don’t have to pay that price for being a mega celebrity. It’s cool as it is right now.

Oomph! 2015

« [Rammstein] really supported and broadcasted a picture from a typical cliché German guy that everybody in the world wanted to see or had in mind before. That was really smart, you know, because they just gave people what they wanted to see [chuckles]! »

You’ve always been compared to Rammstein, but Oomph is much older than Rammstein and the Rammstain guys have always admitted that they’ve been influenced by Oomph. Nevertheless they became one of the biggest bands in metal. What was missing for Oomph to encounter the same kind of success?

I think there always many aspects that support a career. Luck, of course, is the main aspect. There are so many things that happen to you that are not under your direct influence. But I think, concerning Rammstein, they really supported and broadcasted a picture from a typical cliché German guy that everybody in the world wanted to see or had in mind before. That was really smart, you know, because they just gave people what they wanted to see [chuckles]! And they pumped it up with a traditional thing in rock and metal, which is fire. As we all know, since Kiss it’s a good way to support your show. They pumped it up to a huge [institution]. I read an interview where Richard [Z. Kruspe] said: “Rammstein is not a band, it’s an [institution].” That’s what it is about. They still give people what they want, you know. They do not change, pretty much. They repeat themselves over and over again because they know that it pays off, that people want their music that way. Yeah, it’s smartly done. It’s a good promotional thing that they created. It’s a working machine and you can make huge amounts of money with it!

Five years ago you released your first English compilation album « Truth Or Dare ». Was it important for you to release such a compilation so the non German speaking people could understand your songs?

It is to be seen as a gift towards our non German speaking audience because there was so many people from all over the world that said: “I like your music, I love your style and I like your voice, but actually I don’t really know what your lyrics are about!” We had a bit of time back then, so we said: “Okay, why not? Let’s try and do a proper English best of album with really well done translations or adaptations of those songs.” It was hard to transform German language into English but after all, I’m really satisfied with the results. There are still people who say: “Thank you very much for that gift that gave us the chance to learn your music a bit more and to understand more clearly your lyrics.”

How would you compare English and German language in terms of musicality?

German is a really hard, tough and rough language. To be honest, sometimes it sounds a bit Arabic because of all the [he makes various rough sounds]. English is a much softer, melodic and musical language. It’s a well sounding language. It’s really different. I think German fits perfectly to hard rock music. The English fits more to melodic music, in my eyes. You have to find each aspect and work with it because both languages are too interesting to just stick to one. I like both languages but, of course, I’m more confident with my mother tongue. I live through all of my emotions and dream in German. I can go in all my heights and depths in my mother tongue. I think you can be more intense in your mother tongue. That’s why I remain with German on our albums.

Every time we interviewed bands that sing in their native language, they told us that, when they tried to release songs in english, their foreign fans weren’t that enthusiastic about it and actually still preferred the non-english songs more, even though they couldn’t understand it. Did you get that kind of feedback from the release of Truth Or Dare?

Yeah, it was a bit like that but not in general because in the past we did some albums that were mixed English and German, so maybe our hardcore fans are used to listening to us also in English. But there were some fans who said: “Oh, thank you, it’s great but I like the German versions better!” And it’s understood. It’s the same with me. I mean, I think the German fits a bit better in the original versions. But, as I said before, it was a gift, it was a present. So it was not to be seen as the original versions. It’s just an adaptation. But I think these versions are really good because we found the point of each song without losing the essence.

Interview by phone conducted 8th, july 2015 by Philippe Sliwa.
Retranscription: Nicolas Gricourt.

Oomph! Official Website: www.oomph.de.

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