Monthly Archives: April 2016

SCHLACHTHOF 5

…or what do I do in between Kurt Vonnegut and Martin Walser?

Bombed w statue

View from the tower of Dresdens City Hall 1945. The Allegory of kindness in the foreground.

In the fall of 1979 a small little known band in New York City put out a 7″ single with a white dust sleeve and no cover. In the spring of 2015, some 35 years later, the record, photos and a poster of the band with the lyrics of one of the songs appears in the exhibition Schlachthoff 5, DRESDENS’S ZERSTOERUNG IN LITERARISCHEN ZEUGNISSEN (Slaughterhouse 5, Dresden’s Destruction in Literary Records) in the Militaer Historisches Museum Dresden (Military History Museum

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To put out the record Leo Faison and I pooled our money and stopped paying rent at the NYN loft. This photo is taken by Andrea Seifert in 1979 on the roof of the building on E 10th st were Leo and I lived after.

How does a simple rock’n roll song gets mixed up with literary giants? It begins with the very first song that I wrote which has the title “Just Like Dresden 45,” and which I performed and eventually produced and recorded together with Leo Faison in our band that was called the New York Niggers. The 1 000 records printed, with no or little promotion, scant airplay, some jukebox appearances and the end of the band a year later, the single developed a life of its own, got bootlegged, put on youtube and is collected with prices fetching up to $ 500.

A shroud of mystery developed  around the record and the band over the years and every once in a while somebody contacts me from somewhere around the planet wanting to know more about the band or find out if I have any records left. In 2008 I decided to reissue the single as part of my MFA Thesis Exhibition at the University of Hawaii. This time it got a letter press cover based on a painting that was part of my thesis. 250/500 have the cover and are numbered. They are available.

 

In 2012 Eric Cecil, a young New York DJ researches the band, interviews me and publishes the best history of the band so far in Human Being Lawnmower # 3. Then in 2014 Ansgar Snethlage, the curator of the Schlachthof 5 exhibition contacts me and I send him material to use in the show. A year later the show is on and a 368 page catalog eventually comes in the mail. This catalog is well written and meticulously researched, with many photos of the city, paintings, drawings, letters and the stories of the different artists, who appeared in the show. The last 150 pages are dedicated the the different artists and their work that appeared in the show. I am humbled to find myself right between Kurt Vonnegut and Martin Walser. Looking back at the time when I wrote the song it to appear in a museum show along with all these artists and literary giants completely blows my mind, “Just Like Dresden 45.”

The catalog entry not written but translated by the author from German: “The first lines of “Just Like Dresden 45” were still written in Germany. Born in 1949 in Hannover, Dieter Runge was a member of the counter culture during the early 1970’s in his hometown and played rhythm guitar since 1977 with Rotz Kotz an early German punk band. But already in 1978 he went to New York, where he recorded the song in march 1979 as part of the first single by the New York Niggers (edition 1 000). Musically, “Just Like Dresden 45” is inspired by Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”1, raw Punk Rock in between Detroit Sound and the typical 70’s punk.

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Schlachthoff 5 catalog page 257 with cover of reissue.

The single got positive critical reviews. The British Radio DL and pop expert David Peel played the song several times in his BBC show. The single got little airplay in the US, because of the controversial band name, even though the name was consciously chosen: two afro Americans had  founded the band. The insulting name “Nigger” stood also as a metaphor for all suppressed people (just like “Rock’n Roll Nigger” by Patti Smith). Last but not least, was this breaking of taboo, typical for punk, meant to provoke.

The New York Niggers had some success in New York, but the music industry was not interested. Finally, the band disbanded after Runge quit. Runge, immersed himself into the East Village art and music scene and moved to the Virgin Island in the late 80’s and finally to Hawaii, where he lives today as independent artist, yoga and taiji teacher.

The most famous song by the New York Niggers, “Just Like Dresden 45”, plays, just like the band name, with provocation and “irrefuehrung” (to lead astray). It is not about the destruction of Dresden 1945, but mostly about the destruction of the soul of the bored and disappointed individual. Live is without meaning and empty, the contradictions of existence destroy the mind: “My brain catch fire just like Dresden 45. The banalization of “Dresden 45″serves as breaking of taboo.

Schlachthoff 5 catalog page 257
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Catalog page 258. German translation of “Dresden 45”. I did not do the translation but it was send to me  for approval before the exhibition. It had never before been translated.

Runge’s experiences in New York also gained entry into the song text. It was difficult for the young German without money and sometime without a steady home, to express his own feelings in English in the beginning. The party drug speed surpasses tiredness and can lead to a short term energy boost, which leaves the consumer burned out at the end. In this song speed stands for a “Lebensgefuehl” (life feeling) of the late 70’s that is only comparable to “Dresden”.

  1.  The influence of Iggy’s “Lust For Life” really only applies to the very early stages of the song and the verse. Iggy’s line “I’m just a modern guy” became “I was thrown into this world by chance.” Once living at the NYN loft I wrote the bridge and chorus, which were very influenced by what I learned on the guitar from my band mates, especially the rock’n roll boogie riffing, which I did not know while still in Germany.
  2. The catalog is not clear as of who is the author of this entry, but I do agree with most of what is written and it actually broadens my understanding of my own song and it is a pleasure to experience the words of someone who reflects on the song and its context in some debt.

It is a truly a deep and satisfying experience to learn that a simple rock’n roll song, my very first, 35 years later through the intelligent reflection and presentation, can be elevated and seen as a true piece of art and put in context of history and other artists who I admire.

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Original typewritten text with photo of me in front of CBGB, collage with red tape and guitar string in plastic. ca winter 78/79.

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Catalog page 260. NYN flyer for a gig at Max’s Kansas City, fall 1979

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Catalog page 261

Vonnegut fin

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Xerox Art & Rock’n Roll

 

Long before I ever took an art class I was making posters, my early ones as a young boy scout, then as a political activist and finally as punk rocker and rock’n roller, promoting shows of my bands. Just as we google today we were making xerox copies then. What I call Xerox Art here, also included collages and fanzines besides posters or flyer. Is a flyer an 8 1’2’ x 11” and a poster an 11” x 17”? What about 8 1/2” x 17” ? It doesn’t really matter, but these were the formats used; what is important was a fast, irreverent and cheap way to create and fit the activity promoted. It wasn’t serious art for sure, but part of promoting a political idea or a band. Not too much thought was spend on the aesthetic, which only fully came alive when 20, 30 or 50 posters showed up in one spot.

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Leo Faison and the author posting up flyers, Oct 78

Once the poster was Xeroxed an equal amount of activity was spend with a brush and a bucket of wheat paste, plastering the posters all over town or at least the important spots. This activity often pushed the border of legality and delicate decisions had to be made as to whose posters we were plastering over.

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The section looks good; but how long will it last?

The earliest pieces in this collection are from a punk performance at the closing ceremony of the 1977 Documenta and from one of the first German Punkrock bands called Rotz Kotz. There are no flyers from this group, since we actually had a two color offset printed poster that we used for or all our gigs, writing in the actual date and place with magic marker. This poster was a derive of the flyer that hung in every German post office looking for members of the leftist RAF.

Fahndungs poster

Wanted Poster. Germany 1977

We replaced the machinegun in the group’s logo with a guitar and replaced the faces with those of the band. More pictures and stories about these times at the bottom of each section: Punk Poesie, the 70’s too

The author in front of Rotz Kotz posters. Germany 1977/78.

The author in front of Rotz Kotz posters. Germany 1977/78.

Kicked out of Rotz Kotz for hitting some wrong chords I arrived in New York City on May 5th 1978, with a $ 99 one way ticket on Laker Airlines. Three weeks later I moved into the loft of the New York Niggers and shortly after joined the band. Here things were decidedly more low-budged, which you can see by the size and quality of the flyers. The New York Niggers recorded one 7” single, that sells for up to $ 500 now and lasted until the spring of 1980. New York, Rookie YearVintage 79

New York Niggers Pt 2 – Vintage 79 – Just Like Dresden 45

Xerox collage of my first gig with NYN

The first NYN poster after the reformation in 1978, that included the author. 4 polaroids, quick lettering. No reflection on aesthetics.

The first NYN poster after the reformation in 1978, that included the author. 4 polaroids, quick lettering. No reflection on aesthetics. This is not my handwriting and after this first flyer I pretty much took over the poster design. My nickname at the time was dee tour.

.Cheap perf posterquotes cover

fist poster

 

Monday Spt 10.flyer

NYN.polaroid postcard

Several bands followed the NYN break-up, The Troubadors, Festival of Patience, Nada and a smaller side project called European Sons. By this time I had a steady job at the Trash & Vaudevile, the foremost Rock’n Roll clothing store at that time and flyer formats changed, color paper was used more often, I was able to by books again and my reading as well as listening pleasures trickled into the poster designs.

festival of P, ABC no rio

NADA July 31

flyer for first NADA show at CBGB’s

 

More about this time: Eighty one, two, three

By 1984 I had written enough songs to put a new band together and by now I was able pull in some great East Village musicians. Between 1984 and 1988 East of Eden played out, record and released a single and an album and shot some super 8 b/w videos, all with changing lineups. Many EOE flyers were larger and I developed a flyer style of sorts, a mix a primitive drawing and collage, that was echoed in the single cover. My favorite flyer though is the Rock’n Roll Revelation poster that I transformed into a woodblock in 2005.

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Rock'n Roll Revelation poster, inspired by the image of a Notre Dame gargoyle alluding to the communal almost religious experience possible in Rock'n Roll. For this philosphy of Rock'n Roll see also Patti Smith.

Rock’n Roll Revelation poster, inspired by the image of a Notre Dame gargoyle alluding to the communal almost religious experience possible in Rock’n Roll. For this philosphy of Rock’n Roll see also Patti Smith.

 

 

1984, 85,… Dreams of Eden

85, 86, East of Eden, final on 33″ Vinyl.

1987/88 Last Dance – the super 8’s

A magazine page, a pair of scissors, or ripped by hand some letters maybe, a typewriter, magic marker, glue and off to the copyshop.

With scissors, glue and Chuck Berry, NYC ca 1981-83