Interview with WIZO!
WIZO is a punk rock band from Germany which was formed back in 1985. They are one of the very few non-American bands who worked with Fat Wreck Chords. I discovered the band (and basically the rest of Fat Wreck Chords roster) when a friend borrowed me a dubbed tape back in 1997, which had Survival of The Fattest comp. on Side A and Physical Fatness comp. on side B. I personally think that they stand out among the few others because they sing in German, instead of English. They broke up in 2004 but reunited back 5 years later in 2009. They just released their 7th album called DER last August. Here's the interview i did with the frontman/singer/guitarist, AXEL KURTH.
Hello Axel/WIZO! First of all, congratulations on the release of your latest album, DER last month. The album cover this time looks more serious than your previous albums - what's the story behind the album title and the artwork? What seems to inspire and frustrate you these days?
Thank you so much! After all these years, it's still quite amazing for us, that there are some crazy punks on the other side of the planet listening to our noise! :D Our new Album is a direct result of what happened over here in the last two years: First, we finally returned back to our roots (after lots of personal and musical confusion) and played a very inspiring and successful club tour in late 2014. Second, the social and political development in our society over here reached another level of hatred and ignorance towards people/refugees, we just can't take. These people basically run from wars, that companys from our countries feed with weapons and bombs. Others came here because of hunger and suffering which is caused in horrible global capitalism and the fact, that we over here live in peace, wealth or luxury, while others suffer and die. These situations made us write lots of darker and more serious songs on "DER" than we did in the past. Living in one of the richest countries, seeing people abroad die and having idiots over here complaining about refugees and spreading their Nazi-hate just made us really mad! WIZO have always been very anti fascist, anti capitalist, anti sexist and pro human and animal rights and of course pro refugees. We also always wrote songs to laugh and smile our anger and pain away in the past - this time, there's maybe a little less laughing involved but more anger! :D
Tell us about the feedback you've been receiving on the new album so far.
Feedback is really good, we sold lots of albums, entered the official album charts and had thousands of people on our summer festival shows. We never cared for charts and mainstream "fame" - we still put out our records DIY on our own label HULK RÄCKORZ and we rather sell albums to people on concerts than in cooperate record stores. A lot of people love the fact, that WIZO speaks up and gives the protest against conservative fascist assholes a loud voice and some melodies to sing along. We don't get played on the radio and some folks just started to realize, that we're not necessarily and only the funny pop-punk band, but we love to confront them, hehe!
It seems that you no longer write songs in English language. The last English songs i recall was some songs on Herrénhandtasche back in 1995. Is it a conscious decision to stick to German?
Yes, it is. Even though, we're sorry for our English listeners, we made the decision, because we focus very much on our lyrical messages. Writing in our mother language gives us the opportunity to be sarcastic and play a lot with words in a intelligent way - all what we are simply not able to do in English, because we're too bad, haha! When we wrote English song, most lyrics have been pretty simple and easy, but in the past years we just didn't feel like writing i.e. funny love songs.
It's pretty obvious that WIZO has a very strong stance against Nazism. You have songs about it such as ANTIFA, Ganz klar gegen Nazis and Das Goldene Stück Scheiße. Do you ever receive any threats from those Nazi idiots for your stance and the songs that you wrote?
Yes, we do. But the good thing is, that when we play concerts in Germany, we usually have between 1000-2000 people coming and Nazis are mostly cowards and don't dare to attack us anymore. Nevertheless it still can be kind of dangerous, if we go out alone, but I would say, you guys over there can also always get in trouble with some kind of assholes any day, can't you? ;)
Do you mind sharing what were you up to after WIZO went on hiatus after the release of Anderster in 2004?
When we split up, we did that, because at that time we didn't feel like a band anymore. All three of us had different developments in life, that somehow brought us apart from each other. Standing on a stage, pretending we were the best of friends totally felt like a lie to the people, so we decided to split. After the break, we all needed some time to readjust and figure out, what role music in our lives has. I personally never stopped writing songs and experimented with some funny shit and worked with some mainstream people on weird dance music and ring tones. I thought this was really punk and funny, but I never questioned the fact, that punk rock music is my main way of artistic expression. So after a couple of years, our old drummer Tommy and me started practicing together again and we realized, that we strongly wanted to carry on as WIZO, because there was lots more to sing about!
I couldn't help but notice every time before you start playing Das Goldene Stück Scheiße live, you always have something to say to the crowd - like a mini-speech or something. Unfortunately I couldn't understand anything you say. I would like to know what you were saying though.
Well, in that very song (written in 1993), I sing about some fucked up incidents, that happened over here in the early 90's, when some Nazi idiots set houses on fire, where refugees where living at that time. German politicians reacted in a totally unacceptable way, by playing things down. That's, why we present them the "golden piece of shit medal" (Goldenes Stück). So even, if these things happened 25 years ago, not much changed and just recently, idiots burned down refugee homes over here etc. So I speak about, how old this song is, but how it is still actual and could be written this year.
I consider Quadrat Im Kreis as one of the best WIZO songs ever recorded. Do you mind sharing with us what the song is about and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you! This song is still some miracle to me, because I don't know, how I could ever write a song, that seems to touch so many people (check it out on our shows, the whole crowd sings and screams - so amazing!) It is maybe, because it's a simple song about how I feel like I just don't fit in the place, that society had planned for me. I always feel like a "square inside a circle" (Quadrat im Kreis) - just never fit. And the song is about my pain and my self destructing thoughts an my thoughts about killing myself but then being to weak to do it and waking up still feeling fucked up. And it seems, that a lot of people can rely to these kind of feelings...
How is your relationship with Fat Wreck Chords these days, apart from them reissuing UUAARRGH in the US in the mid-90's, and WIZO appearing in their Fat Music compilations? Do you even consider yourself as a Fat band?
Our relationship is still pretty close and very good. We still feel as a part of the Fat Wreck Mafia, but since we have our main market and our own label in Europe and record sales went back so much, we just didn't find the right time yet to work together again. I still send all rough mixes of new songs to Fat Mike and he still seems to love it :D
What is your role in the record label Hulk Räckorz? Do you have anything to do with it?
Hulk Räkorz is mainly the child of my friend, unnofficial fourth WIZO member and our long time partner in crime FRATZ. My role is usually more a consulting one, when it comes to other releases, but I'm mostly responsible for anything with WIZO.
You have DER tour kicking off in November around Europe. Do you have any plans of extending the tour to this side of the world, specifically South East Asia?
Oh man, we would love to come over and kick your guys asses! :D We just have to be realistic, because it would cost some money and time. Our bassist RALF for example lives in Los Angeles and tours with his own band KRASHKARMA basically all year long, if he's not touring with us. We still look for ways, how we could do it!
What are the current German punk bands you think the readers of this interview should check out? Gimme 5 bands! Haha Haha, no way, there are so many more amazing and influential bands than five! Give me a break! ;) If you really wanna know more about "Deutschpunk", why don't you just start with this list: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_deutscher_Punkbands
Have you ever heard of the German female singer/songwriter named Nadine Fingerhut? She recorded cover versions of Das Goldene Stück Scheiße and Raum Der Zeit. I think she did great justice to your songs.
Yeah, she send us her versions, we still like punk rock better though, hehe!
Axel, tell us a little bit about the band WTZ. To tell you honestly, I only discovered the band this year - silly me. Is WTZ a one-off project or do you have more plans in the future?
W.T.Z. was a side project I did with my friends from "Rock'n'Roll Stormtroopers" - we started fooling around in the rehearsal room with some cover songs, that we tried to "punkify" and since I played drums (very bad) it just sounded like some very early German punk bands, we call their limited playing skills and noisy style "stumpf punk" - and we soon started writing some more songs in that style, recorded everything on my old tape machine (me playing guitar and singing in the mean time), invented the story of an old punk band from early 80ties whose mastertapes were lost, but now found again and released it with a whole band story and it all was a big "stumpf punk swindle" - but since we did it for fun and we still love the music ourselves, it was nothing, that people got mad about - in fact, W.T.Z. has a very cult status in the German hardcore/crust scene! :D
Thanks for your time answering this interview. It was such an honour to interview WIZO. Do you have any last words?
Thank you for having us, great honour! We just want to express, how cool it is to get connected with you and all other people from all over the world, thanks to the mighty spirit of punk rock! :D We all should keep this alive, no matter if we write fanzines, blogs or play in bands, make small record labels or distros, organize and promote concerts or just be a part of the scene in any way! Bleibt tapfer!
More information on WIZO: