BAP singer Wolfgang Niedecken thinks "lateral thinkers" are bogus giants – but he likes to run with FFF. His band’s new album is also about populism.
"I write the pieces from the perspective of an almost 70-year-old": Wolfgang Niedecken Photo: Wolfgang Borrs
taz am wochenende: Mr. Niedecken, at the end of August, a cross-front of Corona deniers, Reich citizens and Nazis stood on the steps of the Reichstag. In your song "Ruhe vor
‘m Sturm" against these developments and advise vigilance. So how should civil society react in Corona times?
Wolfgang Niedecken: Above all, it should not resign! But one should not overestimate these demos either. These self-proclaimed "lateral thinkers" are illusory giants. The peace movement at the end of the seventies, beginning of the eighties, that was a movement. Today, people come together who, for very different reasons, do not feel understood and heard. You can feel sorry for them in some cases. When someone with a rainbow flag marches through Berlin five meters away from a waving imperial war flag, you ask yourself: don’t they actually notice anything?
It’s a big rallying point that’s forming there. The last demonstration in Berlin with its pictures should give them a boost.
They’re being carted in from all over the country to make it look impressive. But I do not want to say with it of course that the Coronaleugner are harmless. They endanger the health of all of us.
You wrote on the BAP Facebook page to the address of the corona deniers: "I won’t let you clutter up our page with your propaganda."
Yes, our Facebook page was suddenly full of foreign posts at the beginning of August. One of these "lateral thinker" chief ideologues, whose name I have successfully suppressed, posted his videos without end on our site. We first deleted them, then it apparently continued automatically via bot. We didn’t really know what to do anymore. The Facebook group #ichbinhier then helped us, thank goodness. It’s an initiative that supports people when they’re facing a shitstorm. They do great work!
How much does the pandemic affect your life personally?
First of all, it affects us as a band. We can’t go on tour, we can’t plan ahead. We also thought about whether we should even release this album now – but "Alles fliebt" just had to come out now. We probably won’t get out of this whole dilemma until medication or a vaccine is found. That will probably take some time.
‘m Sturm" seems to be the central piece of the album. In it, you sound as if the age of populism could bring about even worse things: "Da Himmel stockfinster, naachschwazze Samt/ Et weed immer schwoler/ Ne Bletz zuck un dann/ Da Donnerschlag, als wood jet jesprengk," you sing.
That’s the first lyric I wrote for the album. In it, I pretty much processed everything that has happened since Trump took office. After Trump was elected, my daughter aptly said, "I was hoping it was just a social experiment that would eventually be resolved." Alas, it was not a social experiment.
You might say: Trump voters want a figure as president in whom they can recognize themselves, with all their flaws, the simplicity, the prejudices. You yourself have recently been on the road in the U.S. …
… I was last there in 2017, when we were shooting for Arteden’s 5-parter "… on Bob Dylan’s tracks. I learned a lot there. There are also many Trump voters to whom this does not apply. For example, I was in Minnesota, where Dylan was born. Where people worked in heavy industry. That was safe Democrat country. Until it all went to shit. In 2016, a lot of people there voted for Trump, even though the state narrowly went to Clinton. I would say: the people who voted for Trump there are very simple people who can’t even imagine the perfidy with which someone like Trump acts. They got screwed.
What if Trump is re-elected?
Then what he has done in his first four years will seem like a tepid fart. I really wouldn’t put anything past this autocrat.
Is that why "calm before
‘m Sturm" sound as gloomy as the early BAP signature song "Kristallnaach"?
The fifth line of "Kristallnaach" is: "Ruhe vor’m Sturm" (calm before the storm), I deliberately took it up again. "Kristallnaach" was more of a surrealist text. There were pictures of Brueghel and Bosch, the "Franz Kafka clock" was ticking and "ne Blinde liest nem Taube Strubbelpeter vuur". Fortunately, people still understood the song. "Ruhe vor’m Sturm" is very concrete. We have the calm before the storm now, and unfortunately we don’t have terribly many possibilities to counteract it. The song also alludes to climate change. During the lockdown, we saw how the planet can breathe again with less CO2 emissions – and if we don’t start to get the message after this Corona thing that we need to think greener, we’ll never get it. When I walked here from my hotel, I saw a slogan that someone spray-painted on the sidewalk: "Climate change is deadlier than Corona." Yes, that’s right. That’s how it looks.
This text comes from the taz am wochenende. Always on newsstands from Saturday, in the eKiosk or in the practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.
Fridays for Future also has a harder time getting through in times of Corona – do you or does BAP have a direct connection to the climate activists?
We went along with the whole family on the Cologne demonstration. I have a great sympathy for this movement. In political terms, it was one of the few joys of recent times that something like this has come about. I don’t think this movement will peter out so quickly. But I don’t think we should impose ourselves as a band without being asked.
Recently there was a discussion about whether FFF wouldn’t lose power if individual members already joined parties like the Greens.
I don’t think it’s inappropriate for Fridays for Future to organize with the Greens. I myself, as an artist, should not belong to a party, that’s something else. At some point, a party requires party-lesion, and that would be deadly for artists.
When you record an album today, what is different for you than in the early days of BAP?
First and foremost, we no longer jump over tables and benches; we now have a different role. I write the pieces from the perspective of an almost 70-year-old. Among famous colleagues, I find the artists who have delivered great works of old age particularly inspiring, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash. I couldn’t do anything with Johnny Cash for a long time. In the nineties, our tour manager at the time, Jaki Eldorado, who also worked a lot for the Hosen, was the first to come up with that. For me, Johnny Cash wasn’t a big name until after the American Recordings. This is a very worthy retirement work, produced by the epochal Rick Rubin, with a band that took a step back and paid attention to song service.
You see "Alles fliebt" as your retirement work?
69, singer and guitarist of the Cologne group BAP since 1976. With "Alles fliebt" (Universal), BAP’s 18th studio album is now released – under the name "Niedeckens BAP." 12 BAP albums, including live albums, topped the German charts. Niedecken was a co-founder of the anti-racist initiative "Arsch huh, Zang ussenander" in 1992.
I definitely didn’t want to make a nostalgic album. In the track "Volle Kraft voraus" I formulate this: "Hatt nix met Nostalgie zo dunn / eher met Therapie / Ne kleine Kurs enn Demut / Dankbarkeit un ‘C’est la Vie’". I am grateful for what I was allowed to experience with that little bit of rocking. I wouldn’t have dreamed of that when we played in Berlin for the first time in 1980 – that was in the Quasimodo under the Delphi cinema at Bahnhof Zoo. Then I thought: one or two years, and I’ll be back at the easel. I hadn’t planned my life as a musician.
How do you see the reception of BAP today? BAP never played a big role in the pop discourse.
No, apparently we weren’t cool enough for that. BAP was never a musician’s band, BAP was rather the band of the people. We also never had an image police.
Lyrics of – for example – Hamburger Schule bands are negotiated at universities, BAP lyrics rather not. Does that bother you?
No. But I discovered the lyrics of "Kristallnaach" in a Russian textbook, and there is also a translation into Hebrew. But you always have to take a detour with BAP; Cologne texts have to be translated into High German first. That puts off a lot of people. But that’s not why I start singing High German now.