Saturday, December 22, 2007


Gristly and cantankerous faux Neue Deutsche Welle sturm und drang (geniale dilettanten variety) kicked up by two snarky teen rogues from L.A. intent on conning the sub-underground (apparently successfully) into believing that they were a legit NDW outfit, having secured releases under this ruse with two notable cassette imprints of the era. That one of said teens was in fact a barely post-pubescent Brad Laner (Steaming Coils, Savage Republic, Medicine, Electric Company and the person we can thank for this post's contents) shifts Stahlbau from merely being an amusing subcultural anecdote to a historical artifact of some heft, chronicling the birth pangs of Laner's fried sensibility en route to his life changing work with Steaming Coils some 2-3 years later, nascent flashes of which flicker during some of the most compelling moments here, particularly on Die Macht Der Reichen. Throbbing Gristle seems as much of an influence here as do the likes of Einsturzende Neubauten, especially on Todlicht Verungluckt, which starts with fangs bared but midway through begins tapping into a richer vein of juddering surrealism and art rock fragmentation before winding down with a cover of Can's "Soul Desert". Die Macht Der Reichen ups the stakes and widens the reach substantially, with scrambled art punk gestures gasping for breath in turbid pools of post-industrial sediment, sooty side steps into tenebrous ambience and stark bursts of electronic fizzle and splut all competing for airtime. Stahlbau's other member Mike Fey (a teen music guru to Brad and a member of Debt Of Nature's second line-up) penned a fake interview with himself in the guise of Stahlbau's Matthias Faller (Brad was known as Bernd Leitz) for the L.A. underground zine Unsound, which Brad also used to write for and which I've included below to both clue you into the spirit of the enterprise and to cement the legend.

"I am going to attempt to explain a few things about Stahlbau through an interview and my personal experiences with the "leader" of the band, Matthias Faller (in as far as that he can be called the leader of the band). I first met Matthias when I was 14 at a boarding school in Ottersberg near Bremen, Germany. Over the three years that I knew him he always seemed very distant from everything, a trait which most people who met him perceived as arrogance, which to a small extent, it may have been. There was one thing about him I always found amusing, even though odd, and this was his basic hatred of music. He would leave the room if you put on something he didn't like and that wouuld include everything except for the approximate 10 records he owned (all the Amon Duul albums, A few Can, Faust and Edgar Varese). These records were the only music that he would listen to. What does all that have to do with Stahlbau? Most people that I know that have heard the band are annoyed and/or intrigued by their sounds and attitude, and I believe that this can be directly traced back to Matthias' teenage years, although the group steadfastly denies there being a leader, it must be obvious that it is Matthias that dictates that sound as the influences are the exact same as the groups mentioned earlier, and it is true that he surrounds himself with those who are like minded, so as not to have to deal with what he calls "irrelevant influences". When I moved back to America in 1976, I lost contact with Matthias, and was therefore very surprised to receive a long letter and cassette in the mail in 1982, which contained most of what became their first release on Another Room's cassette label. Personally I find their material far more powerful than any other recent German band; their music is as if someone had found a way to successfully record emotions, and while most people hearing the cassette will (to an extent) assume that this emotion is pure anger and hatred, this is mostly true, but it seems to me that the main idea that the band is trying to put across is a deadly fear of what they honestly feel is our inescapable future (the story behind their cassettes is not some pretentious fable that they have recently devised to seem hip and dangeerous, but something that Matthias really believed would happen back when I first met him). There is a basic storyline behind their cassette which I will try to outline here briefly: the rich have, after war/holocaust/etc. managed to take over the world and, due to the vast financial resources that they had, were able to survive this completely unharmed. Everybody else (the few left) are too weak to make any kind of attempt to prevent this takeover. They are essentially slaves to the rich, and the rich, in order to ensure total submission, will immediately (actually have killed) anybody who disobeys, steps out of line, or does not fill their work quota (this is actually quite logical, as if the person charged is not given any chance to defend himself, cannot spread dissent, and hence, the people are governed by fear in a completely fascist state). The series of cassettes that the band hopes to put out will chronicle the events taking place there. Oh yeah, the story does not have a happy ending for the workers. The band tries to avoid all contact with their fans, not out of arrogance but because they feel that there is absolutely nothing that they could offer them outside of their music, and that any meeting between the group and a fan would be disillusioning to the fan, as the group is withdrawn around others to an almost absurd extent.

The group's next cassette will be out on Aeon by the time you read this.

The following is a short interview with Matthias conducted by Michael Fey, in August 1983.

Us: How long until the tape series is finished?

Matthias: Three, maybe four years. You see, we only record as we are asked to. When somebody desires to release our music we take up where we left off on the last tape and continue. This is good in that there exists absolutely no outtakes of ours that may be released at some other time. This affords us all the control over the music as we could hope for.

Us: As a German band it is a bit unusual for you to have no German label; to only be dealing (so far) with American labels. You are all but unknown in Germany, right?

Matthias: This is true, but then we have never geared our music for any specific market. Most of the people over here who heard our first music hated it, and this made us all the more determined to get it released. While it would have been nice to have had the cassettes put out on a German record label, the attempts to have this done were frustrating and degrading. You know, by having sent the cassette to Americans has shown how easy it was to generate interest. Too us it only matters that the music is released and our message heard. Germany had it's chance, and they lost it. Nobody here cares about the band, why should we care about them? Besides, as I said, we make the music as it is desired from the label. Most German labels would want a finished product and are not at all willing to wait six months to a year while we finish it for them. We feel that we have had much luck with getting music to people and have little to complain about. Besides, I think it to be quite novel being a German band without a German label, do you not?

Us: Will you tour?

Matthias: We will not be treated like animals while touring. If our conditions are met we will tour. So far promoters have found our proposals unacceptable, Until they are met, we won't tour. Live shows are uncomfortable to do for us, and if we do them, then we must have a very good reason to do them. Our conditions are these reasons.

Us: Why do you avoid contact with your fans?

Matthias: There is nothing we can say to them that would be of interest to them. Most who meet us are disappointed and think of us as cold, arrogant people.We are not, we just find it extraordinarily difficult to communicate with those whom we have never met and find being put in that position very uncomfortable. Look at it this way: If you are a fan of somebody's you probably have a very high opinion of them. But what if when you meet them and they are very worn out, or are not what you expected? Then you dislike that person as they have disappointed you, right? By avoiding contact with our fans, we also avoid disappointing them, which in the long run is better for both us and the fans, do you not think so? Our music says all we could say to them as strangers. Our music is our communique to our fans."


Get Todlich Verungluckt here


Get Die Macht der Reichen Here


Anonymous said...

Two minor corrections:

1) It's Mike Fey, not Fay

2) I was in the second Debt Of Nature line-up, not the first.

frostymug said...

I used to have the Todlich tape in '84 and had no idea it wasn't German.
When I unpack these in Winrar I get invalid file name warnings. It did fix them but please be aware that us Windows users can't tolerate file names with periods (.) inside the file name. But it worked out ok in the end.

Anonymous said...

A third minor correction, Unsound was from San Francisco, not Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

If you get file errors with winrar, then just use winzip or 7zip. problem solved.

Sean said...

Can you please re-up Die Macht Der Reichen?

Anonymous said...

Get Die Macht der Reichen re-up please PLEASE or it's lost forever!

Anonymous said...

Classic "interview". Saw DON at some place in Silverlake I believe in early 80's. With Mike in the band. Last I saw Mike was talking to him while he did a shift at Colors and Sounds mid 90's, which took over the old Moby space on Ventura. Had some fun conversations. Even brought in a copy of his Reptiles tape I purchased at Vinyl Fetish in '82 or so and I think it blew his mind. Mike, if you see this, you never did get me a copy of the 1/2 Japanese / Christmas show you taped at Veterans Auditorium. Not that I care much these days anyways. If your still alive..hey there.