[lit-ideas] Re: Europe's future, catastrophic or apocalyptic

  • From: Chris Bruce <bruce@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 02:23:04 +0200

On 11. Mai 2006, at 09:28, Lawrence Helm wrote:

In regard to just what statement Rammstein might be making by dressing up as they have, Berlinski asked them that very question and didn’t get a good answer.  She didn’t think the Rammstein singers were especially bright.  The menace she was most concerned about wasn’t the menace that emanated from Rammstein although they did strike her as menacing, especially the lead singer.  The menace that most concerned her was from the fact that they were the most popular group in Germany and that what they presented was not so very far in appearance from the appearance of Nazis in World War II.  The fact that so many Germans were attracted to what they presented struck her as ominous. 

As I said, the popular entertainment industry is a very strange place, and its workers can indulge in (what sometimes appears to those outside of, and with poor understanding of the workings of, that industry as) extremely odd behaviour.

What qualifies as 'a good answer' to Berlinski and what qualifies as same to the members of Rammstein will be most likely two very different things. Allow me to digress with an anecdote. A couple of decades ago I had friends in what was then an up-and-coming Canadian band. A local (major Canadian city) newspaper decided to publish a feature article on them and invited them for an interview, which they then ran with a picture of the band members on the cover of the weekend colour supplement. Somehow that organ of investigative journalism did not recognize that *none* of the people in that picture - or at that interview - were in fact band members (or even band member look-alikes). My friends had thought it would be 'interesting' to see what happened if they sent members of a completely different (and not wholly unknown) band to the interview and photo sessions. (I don't think my friends would have given Berlinski a 'good answer' when questioned as to what 'statement' they might be making with this action. What 'statement' was Andy Warhol making when he used to send look-alikes to interviews, paid lectures, etc.?)

She didn’t think the Rammstein singers were especially bright. 

And Berlinski is the world authority on what constitutes 'brightness'? Another anecdote: I recently attended 'Kielowatt' - a 'metal event' here in Kiel which featured local bands from various metal 'streams (which one can mix and match)': Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, Melodic Metal, Death Thrash Metal, etc., etc.

I noticed two things in particular:

1) those young lads can play their instruments in ways that would blow away most of the professionals from the era in which I was their age,


2) as amateurs, or at most part-time workers in the popular entertainment industry, they weren't quite up to professional standards in one important aspect: their personae (i.e. masks) kept slipping. In performance they were as demonically menacing as Berlinski would no doubt (dis)like them to be, but in the wings, or while tuning up, tearing sets down, or even in pre-song banter and play, they were who they were behind the facade - a bunch of (pretty bright and highly-talented) kids essentially out to have a good time. (One of the drummers was a last-minute stand-in; he was all of 15 years old.)

The kids I watched at the local festival were new recruits or wannabe's. The masks slipped, or were cast aside with relief (It's a damn *hard* job) whenever possible (these kids were making at most pocket money, and had no roadies - so had to save some energy for taking down sets and hauling amps, p.a.'s, and drum kits).

Rammstein, on the other hand are consummate professionals. They know what their job is and they do it - as few professionals in any trade or industry can. (They don't get paid those incredible sums for being *stupid*, or in other ways bad at their jobs.) However, it is not in their job description to 'appear bright' to the likes of Berlinski - if anything quite the contrary ….

Even the consummately professional and insightful BBC doesn't fully get it. In spite of the admonition that "the audience is not given a clear look the band; they are forced to take a very close look in order to understand them", the BBC still managed to publish the following incredibly obtuse paragraph in their web-page about Rammstein:

"Needless to say, a band's stage appearance and what its members are like personally, are two completely different things. This is even more true for Rammstein. Chances are that you would not recognize them if you met them in your local supermarket. In interviews, the members will often laugh and make fun of each other. One of the stories they like to tell is of how Flake (pronounced Flah-keh), the keyboard maniac, did not want to join the band. When they first started practising, the music was too simple and too boring for him. In his own words, the whole enterprise was just 'too stupid'. The other musicians had to talk a lot to persuade him into playing with them, and he only tentatively agreed. Up to this day, and despite his being an integral part of the organism, he has still not officially given his OK."

Masks behind the masks.

How 'stupid' is 'the whole enterprise'? Bear with me and read through some excerpts from another website - recounting what some in another branch of the music business thought of some of Rammstein's music, and what they subsequently did with it - in my forthcoming posting: 'Mein Herz brennt'.

Chris Bruce
Kiel, Germany
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