19th March 2019
Review By: Claudia Black
Oomph finally came back to the UK after a gap of 4 years, and on the 19th of March they played a show at the O2 Academy in Islington supported by Heldsmaschine. 2019 is their 30th anniversary and they celebrated this milestone with the release of their 13th album, ”RITUAL”, back in January. I caught up with Dero and Flux down in the bowels of the venue before the show to ask them about life/motivations/music and the current state of the world we live in:
The name ”Oomph” meaning energy or excitement, what was the actual genesis of the name?
Oomph: Well, we found it in an old obscure English Dictionary older than we are. It was called ”Current English Dictionary” but it not current any more (laughs). It was absurd for us to see a word with double O and the exclamation mark and I was like, wow, this is strange. For us as Germans it felt really weird. The explanation was also cool, like, energy, enthusiasm, sex appeal, you know, that certain something. For example, Marilyn Monroe had lots of oomph.
So, German words did not have the same effect, they didn’t roll off the tongue?
Dero: That’s right! Is it a word you’re still using or was it old fashioned and coming back?
When I was younger I’d use the word, if someone said, “Is your car fast, is it nippy?” I’d say, ”Yeah it has a bit of oomph”. But it’s not a word I hear a lot these days, the younger generation don’t use it, I think it’s a bit anachronistic. It would be good to bring it back!
Dero: Uh huh. We’ll bring it back! We’ll make oomph great again! (laughs)
You did some music for the soundtrack of Alien vs. Predator a few years ago?
Oomph: Yeah, one song called ”Wach Auf”. We were approached by the alien and the predator and they said, ”Do it, do it!” (laughs) No, seriously, we were approached by a distributor. I think it was the record company who called us and said they had a request from them to ask if we’d like to record a song for a movie, and then we had a second request for a movie called A Cure for Wellness, it’s like Shutter Island. Once in a while, you get a request for an already released song, this time it was requested to write a new song. But I think also that our music would fit well into porn! But I think horror genres are pretty cool, subtle horror, you know, intelligent horror, you know, like The Shining.
The first time I heard of you was around 1994 when the album Sperm came out. I bought a music magazine that had a Zillo compilation CD stuck to the front. I loved the energy, the oomph (laughs).
Oomph: It was challenging, a pioneer time for us. When we started, our very first album was pretty much electronic orientated. On the first release we tried to combine those electronic influences with rock or metal guitars so this new genre, New German Hardness, was born with this album I think. That’s why they call us the pioneers of New German Hardness, because of this album. So, it was a great time for us too!
The first album is reminiscent of Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb, that kind of sound…
Oomph: Yeah, we were pretty much influenced by those kinds of music back then, but also DAF, stuff like that, Kraftwerk also, and Einsturzen Neubauten as well. Later on, we appreciated the heaviness of Sepultura, Pantera, so we tried to combine both worlds which were strictly separated back then: everyone who was into metal hated synthesisers and that’s sad because both worlds offered a lot, so why not try and combine the two with some provocative German lyrics? So yeah, later on, bands like Rammstein said that without Oomph there never would have been our bands, so that’s cool.
So how much do you think you influenced Rammstein?
Oomph: Well, they said that without Oomph there never would have been a Rammstein. Of course, we were not the only band that influenced them; I suppose Chilblain, Type 0 Negative and Ministry did as well. Nevertheless, they said we did have a big influence on them and we still have respect for each other and sometimes we meet and invite them to our concerts, that’s a good thing. But it’s harder for pioneers than the bands that follow. Also with, for example, grunge music, everyone remembers Nirvana but no one remembers Temple of the Dog even though they invented those genres. But its OK with us. Rammstein came later but they opened a lot of doors for us all over the world, you know, because they are the well known band from Germany. But then people say, ”Oh Oomph from Germany!” And then we get invited to Mexico or Russia.
So you are still feeding off of each other now, you’re not competing with each other? Do you have something akin to a symbiotic relationship?
Oomph: Something like that, we are not in competition you know? They are so huge that you cannot compete with them and it would be embarrassing for us. That’s okay, I don’t feel any competition to any bands at all. There are fans who love the music or not, it’s a matter of taste. As long as you are not releasing an album on the same day there is simply no competition! And also we have a completely different approach to music. With Rammstein it’s more about the show and about theatre. With us, it was always about the music and creating energy on stage with your music and yourself and not with pyrotechnics and explosions and stuff, you know. So we never thought about that. But I can see why they have that success all over the world, though of course they also they had luck, for example with the David Lynch movie Lost Highway, so there were key points in their career where they knew the right person. But they broadcast the image of the typical German, you know, with the rolling R’s, which actually no one does in German which is actually strange. And the martial appearance and fire and stuff, they did it really well and it worked out really awesome for them!
Do you think that you are a provocative band?
Oomph: Yeah, I think we are from time to time, but we always have a reason why we do that, we don’t do it just for provocation itself, you know, if you use it like that then it becomes really dumb. There are some parts within society and every religious or political structure that abuse power.
With the song Pop Star you were accused of being heretical?
Oomph: Well, whatever heretical stuff is. For us it was really strange to see, I think that was linked to the first wave of Mohammed caricatures back then, so there were lots of people saying, ”No, no, we don’t want anything that criticises religion”, but I think it’s really important to criticise religious or political structures or whatever, even the queen. If you live in England then why not? Why not criticise these people?
What aspect of Christianity were you critiquing?
Oomph: The marketing aspect of it. We compared it to the modern pop star, you know, and stuff like American Idol or German Idol, you know what I mean? They were the new gods back then but this is like a change of religion, you know? As Marilyn Manson said, ”God lives in the TV”. They were the gods back then but now it’s more the YouTube stars.
Would you be openly critical of Islam, Judaism or Hinduism?
Dero: No, well, that is a good question. I think all those religions also should stand criticism but we all know Islam is a religion of peace that claims different stuff has to die. It’s not from everybody, but from the extremists. That’s sad to see, I really don’t like that. I don’t like the comeback of religion because I thought we would have gotten over it!
Certain subjects seem to be sensitive at the moment, but actually having the balls to stand up and say, “Okay, this is what my opinion is! I don’t give a damn, I need to say this and I am going to say it, even if there is a negative comeback from it!”
Oomph:- Exactly! Freedom of speech is the highest good for me in a free society. Nothing would make sense again if there was no valid reason for making a statement through your music. No one will stop you from saying that!
So, if you were stopped playing in certain areas or the media shut you down, would you consider that the price you pay for getting your message out?
Oomph: I think we have this in the past with Pop Star. We’ve been banned non-German TV shows. We’ve been booked to play the equivalent of the Brit Awards. We’ve been nominated and planned the concert 2 weeks in advance and they ban us. Because of the lyrics of Pop Star. We released the song because it was an important topic for us to talk about. And you guys know that it is about black and white thinking, that’s with society and within politics. And that’s sad because it’s the shades of the grey in between that makes society richer. The populists grow more and more on the left and on the right. That makes it hard for artists, because if you provoke a certain way, as we did for example with the song Europa, they lock you up slowly like that! People being called Nazi or fascist or right wing or left wing or whatever, it’s stupid! That’s complete nonsense if you ask me. There are so many instances within a society of people who claim themselves to be tolerant, open minded, but as long as your opinion matches with theirs, they are tolerant, but if you have a different opinion they call you a Nazi and that is not a good development if you ask me!
So, do you think the catch-all term ”Nazi” or ”far right” is used as a tool now to stifle free speech and to label legitimate views as tantamount to being like Hitler?
Dero: Definitely in my eyes, yes, all over the world, people say it but it’s not easy to make a clear line from when you can call someone that, when they’re talking like a Nazi and thinking like one, or he is a Nazi or what is it. At first, we had to define what National Socialism is. It contains the word socialism! Many people say it’s right wing, but is it really? The National aspect of it is right wing, far right wing, its socialist aspect is far left. Like the National Socialist Working Party.
Flux: The socialist thing was just lies, there was no socialist thing going on there!
Dero: I would say it was a clear hybrid of far right and far left but it was not completely far right. If you look at what Stalin did, Mao or Pol Pot and all those socialists and communists. It was so close to what Hitler did, so close that I’d say exactly the same. We don’t claim that but it was so close. I think as long as it comes to socialism and communism, national socialism or whatever it comes to a really strange policy where we have dangerous developments!
Nothing is clear is it?
Oomph: Bad people do bad things!
Speaking of bad things, what is your view on Brexit?
Oomph: (Laughs from Dero and Flux) Oh yeah, pretty soon.
Dero: Just me, but I am more into people’s democracy, I’m pretty pro-more people’s democracy. I really like that because actually, as we all know, we live in a common economical dictatorship which just pretends to be a democracy and I really like the approach more that people will get their power back with more direct democracy. I really like that if people decide to go out of the EU it’s that way but it’s a democracy. It’s democracy, after all, I have to respect that, but I’m not a Brit so I’m not the one to judge this!
Oomph: It was a pretty close decision when they asked the people to decide. It was pretty close and after this decision I think that not too many people took part in this and then after they get more information. And it was heard that not all the people who voted got all the information they needed to vote. Things we have to learn, like in Switzerland where they question the people directly for a very, very long time, and now it’s really important to get information first. They have to maybe have a lot of people to take part in it and not less, and maybe that can work. But it’s a long process and long experience. And I think the sad thing about the Brexit referendum is that the people were not prepared enough to vote. But is there any time when you are prepared enough?
Moving away from politics and Brexit, let’s talk about your new album, ”Ritual”, that came out in January. How well has it been received, especially in Germany?
Oomph: It went to #1 in the selling charts so it was pretty cool for us to see that we are still alive and kicking (laughs) and that there are still lots of people who appreciate what we do; yeah, that was a good thing for us to see and we are thankful. We are pretty satisfied that people all over the world respond to this album in a positive way. And it’s a good thing that Napalm Records released this worldwide and it’s a new opportunity for us to explore new regions.
What was the creation process from inception to completion?
Oomph: It was a long successful Russian tour before we created those songs, and we tried to save those positive emotions from the stage and to form that into new songs. There was a lot of anger, speaking for myself (Dero), and I tried to let it show within my lyrics, so it’s a pretty aggressive and provocative and sarcastic record concerning the lyrics. Those times are pretty weird and dangerous, and at times scary, and I just wanted to reflect this time as best I could, or as subjectively as I could.
Well, not speaking German, I can only judge the album sonically and I find it a good album, a really good album! I’ve played it around 5 or 6 times and it gets me moving!
Oomph: Thank you! The change we did on this album was to write most of the songs in a session after the tour. It was one and a half months we took between two touring periods to write the songs all together with instruments in our own studio. And then, later on, we worked on the songs until they’re perfectly mastered songs. On albums before we wrote on our own and then played the songs to each other and then they were worked on. Sometimes we had friends writing with us. We had co-producers on the two albums before. The last album, XXV, was not mixed by us, so the big idea on Ritual was to put as much Oomph in it as we can. Maybe this is the reason why it sounds so good and more representative of ourselves than the albums before.
So you prefer to do all the mixing yourself?
Oomph: On this one, yes, and it’s also about changes, you know, or you end up being repetitive, so this time to do it on our own again is a revival of our nineties spirit. So it’s kind of like a mixture of what we felt back in the nineties and how we feel right now. It was the first time we imagined what it’s like to travel in a time machine and go back to the middle of the nineties!
That’s a perfect segue into my next question about the evolution of Oomph the band and the band’s energy. How do you compare 90’s Oomph to 21st Century Oomph?
Oomph: Well, hopefully we are wiser. We were young and full of energy and we were also naïve when we started. There is a German saying, Welpenshutz. Do you know it?
Wet behind the ears, that’s what they’d say over here.
Oomph: People would say that, ”Yeah, they are just puppies”. So yeah, we can see that there was a clear development from the first album, which is good to see for us because there are so many bands that just repeat themselves all over again for commercial reasons or not to disappoint their fans. There are so many people in many genres who are philistines or reactionary, I don’t know why! In the genre, heavy metal, the Gothics or whatever, they think they are so damn different but they never want to change their favourite band, you know what I mean? That’s really weird to see.
You believe in authenticity and that you have to be true to yourself. Follow your path and don’t follow fashion or the opinions of others or be sidetracked from your ultimate goal.
Oomph: Yep, don’t believe that rock is dead!
Exactly! The internet opens you up to a new audience but also it creates a group of people who want fame too quickly, what are your views?
Oomph: Well, when we were kids we didn’t have this kind of thing, you know, we are becoming a more egocentric society which has advantages and disadvantages…
We were lucky, I suppose, having our teenage years in the 80’s when we didn’t have the internet.
Dero: My son, I just talked to him about this thing, he said that it’s so strange that, he’s fifteen by the way, that he has “already watched everything concerning sex even though I’ve not had my first sexual experience”, and that is really weird isn’t it? I mean, we had so much shit to explore by our own fantasies (laughs).
I think peoples fantasy lives have been compromised because they can’t make it up any more.
Oomph: Yeah, Black Mirrors.
But do you think where you are now, having gone through the musical apprenticeship you did, going from small tiny venues and up through the ranks, do think that has made you more grounded and sane individuals?
Oomph: Hopefully, I think so, I mean when we had a number one hit in Germany we were in our thirties, so that was okay. It would have been completely different if we had been seventeen years old like Tokyo Hotel, you know! But I cannot recommend huge success to young people, you have to earn this over a period of time and you have to be able to kick twenty peoples’ arses before you know what it means to kick 20,000 peoples’ arses!
So, where you are now is a well-earned position, one you don’t take for granted?
Oomph: It is! We are thankful for that fact! We know so many bands our age who have just lost ground, and they’re only on drugs or they just merged with the fantasy person they created onstage, they just lost themselves completely and that is sad to see if you ask me!
Final question, what are your plans for the next six months or so?
Oomph: Firstly, finish this tour and then maybe have some days off. Then maybe check some recordings that we did last year in Moscow. We recorded a show with a big symphonic orchestra, we recorded audio and video but we didn’t have time to check the material. So this will be our job in the next month, to check it and then maybe start to mix it. It will be just a demo for the record company to see if it’s good enough for release or not. Then we have summer festivals, and then a tour in Russia for three weeks, and then we tour in the Ukraine and Belarus. It goes on and on!
Dero and Flux, thank you for your time, it was appreciated!
Oomph: Thank you to you!