Marcel Zürcher (guitar, keyboards) from Die Krupps
DIE KRUPPS will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next year - I took it as a great opportunity to talk to the band members about how their approach in music has changed, if they still like music making as they used to and, of course, what we can expect from the band in the nearest future. Marcel Zürcher has been an active member in the band for 15 years, but he was also involved in other projects - in the interview we talk not only about DIE KRUPPS music or creative process but also how to make a good show and what is the driving force that motivates one of the best guitarists of the scene.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Hello Marcel, thank you very much you agreed to spend a bit of your time with Reflections of Darkness and answer a few questions. I must say I always find it impressive and a bit overwhelming to talk to an artist who plays in a band that is older than myself… DIE KRUPPS was formed in 1980 and they were active in and out in the years 1980-1985, 1989-1997, 2005-present. You joined in 2005. I saw a couple of your concerts and I must say you give amazing shows. I’m wondering what does it take to keep on going in a fascinating as may be, but the challenging and intensive musical world?
Marcel: In short: The Will to Kill. For an artist, stamina like a runner, nerves of steel, and a hell of a lot of self-confidence are essential. Of course, a strong stage presence skill is also important. The attitude then crowns the whole thing. Nowadays there is also the “monster” called “social media”. It is difficult to keep up with the flood of information there. You have to constantly draw attention to yourself in order not to be forgotten. You are also responsible for it yourself. I’m still undecided whether I want to play this game or not. There used to be no digital begging for attention, I liked it better.
RoD: Do you still like it as before? How has your attitude to music changed since 2005 when you joined DIE KRUPPS? What do you think music is for?
Marcel: As soon as the music is played, it is just there and anyone who hears it can do what s/he wants with it. It fills your ears, you feel it, it surrounds you. Music accompanies you in love or mourning. It is used as a weapon or it is used for healing. It is there when you are born or when you die. It is the soundtrack of your life. It gives me the impression that most people only consume music and don’t actually live it. I come from a generation in which music had a message and its purpose was to change something. Besides, you never knew exactly what to expect at concerts. Back then there was more tension and adrenaline in the air - sometimes there was a mass brawl, sometimes the concert halls were stormed by rival groups or the bands didn't even show up. I miss that unpredictability these days. It’s gotten so predictable and common now
RoD: Could you imagine yourself doing something else? Or lead your career in any other way?
Marcel: If an interesting opportunity arises, I can certainly imagine doing something new. It can be acting or working as a songwriter and producer for other artists, which is more typical of the genre. The soundtracks are very interesting too. For example, Thom Yorke from RADIOHEAD makes incredible soundtracks, like Suspiria’s. I am actually a trained bricklayer and have had a few jobs in my life that had nothing to do with music. For example, I was a bartender for a long time, worked as a doorman, was a DJ, etc. I was even a gardener once, which still interests me. I like the idea of working as a hotel gardener in some holiday resort by the sea... But actually, I just want to go on stage! That’s the only real reason I do all this.
RoD: How do you feel your inspirations have changed? What gives you the drive and energy to make music?
Marcel: Anger is still the strongest source of motivation for me to be creative, it used to be and it still is now. That will never change either. I have an imperative to make music. Without this vent, I would not be this irrepressible. I have to write... What is inspiring for me now is simply: silence. True to the saying: Silence is sexy. When you live in a big city like Hamburg, like me, it’s not easy to find silence, so I appreciate it all the more.
RoD: Do you have a favourite guitar? What do you think is so special about a guitar that kept you faithful to that instrument for so long? Have you ever experimented with other instruments? Apart from keyboards of course.
Marcel: I’ve been a drummer since I was eleven. I come from a drummer-family and have the beat in my blood. Before I joined DIE KRUPPS, I had a career as a drummer. I played the drums in various bands such as ABWÄRTS, RAZZIA, SCHWANENSEE, LÜDE UND DIE ASTROS and even GIRLS UNDER GLASS. I still play drums today when I can. For example, with the electronic set of DIE KRUPPS or MALE, Jürgen Engler’s first Punk band. I also played bass for a long time, including for Hanin Elias (ex-ATARI TEENAGE RIOT). Then in 2006, I founded the duo FANTÔME with Hanin. I then recorded our debut album completely on my own. So, drums / bass / guitars / pianos / keys / programming etc. But the instrument I still enjoy most is the guitar. My favourite guitar is a De Armond Starfire and a Gibson Explorer Studio. The De Armond is a Hollow Body with Bigsby. It is beautiful and inspiring, which is why I compose a lot with her. While the Explorer is used almost exclusively live - it is a real hammered dulcimer.
RoD: For years DIE KRUPPS were experimenting with many genres - EBM, Metal, Synth sound, New Wave, Industrial Noise, and more - which one do you feel most comfortable in? What is your taste in music, the bands that you like?
Marcel: It makes a big difference whether you work in a genre yourself or if you are a listener. DIE KRUPPS already make use of a wide range of genres, all of which I personally like. As long as it doesn’t get too slack or one-dimensional. For me, it has to be extreme. In my private life, my taste is more towards acts like ROLLING STONES, DAVID BOWIE, IGGY POP or EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBATEN, which have really created something new. Older bands like WIPERS or HÜSKER DÜ, THE CLASH, THE DAMNED, MC5 and THE STOOGES, NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, PUBLIC ENEMY, BLACK FLAG, KILLING JOKE and of course SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES. These bands have influenced me significantly. But younger acts like RUN THE JEWELS, YELAWOLF, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB are very important and inspiring.
RoD: About live shows - do you feel it’s easier with time to give a spectacular show or rather more difficult to impress your audience and win new fans? Once I spoke to Nils (Finkeisen) he mentioned you to be his mentor. What are your tricks and secrets to make the show so ravishing?
Marcel: My preparation for a good DIE KRUPPS show is firstly a good fitness and secondly basic anger. Since I’ve pretty much cut back on smoking, I’ve found it easier to play a show. My physical fitness has increased significantly because I have better blood circulation and become more flexible. I feel lighter and more agile than before. Before every show, it feels to me as if I was going into battle. When the backstage rooms are too tight, I often feel like I’m a predator waiting to be let off the chain to finally rush into the stage. And then the two components of fitness and anger interlock. Otherwise, the trick is relatively simple: play every show as if it was your last.
RoD: You travelled a lot while touring with DIE KRUPPS - do you have a place you’d call special for you? The one you’d like to perhaps go back to?
Marcel: Definitely Tokyo! Japan is an incredibly fascinating country. It is full of contradictions that ultimately complement each other perfectly and result in a unique total. These are such wonderful impressions that you won’t let go. It’s traditional and progressive. Totally anonymous and yet so approachable. Incredibly overloaded and so quiet. So far, we have been to Japan twice for several shows and have now earned ourselves a considerable status. In the meantime, real friendships have developed from this and we visit each other. Even my son benefits from it as he was welcomed with open arms on his first trip to Japan.
RoD: Do you have anyone you could call a mentor? Someone who inspired you or gave you an important lesson about music?
Marcel: I am self-taught, by that I mean that I have taught myself every instrument. I always worried that I would be influenced too much by people or by short-term trends, who then make themselves too present in my way of making music or in my life. I definitely didn't want to be forced into the taste of a teacher or something like that. I was very happy to be influenced by NICK CAVE, DAVID BOWIE, IGGY POP, and authors such as Brad Easton Ellis and Charles Bukowski. Apart from the bands listed that have influenced me musically, it is above all my long-time friend and partner in crime Chris van Helsing (former guitarist of PHILIP BOA) who had a huge influence on my attitude and set order in my thinking in many situations.
RoD: I’m wondering what’s your view on DIE KRUPPS’ creative process - with Jürgen Engler being based in the US it must be a bit challenging to work on new material or schedule live shows spontaneously?
Marcel: Well, it would be practical if Jürgen was to sit in the room next door during production to give prompt feedback. The time difference is problematic at times. But there is surprisingly little difference whether Jürgen lives in the USA or Düsseldorf because our way of working always remains the same. As usual, we send song sketches, specific song ideas, or even almost finished songs, which Jürgen and I then work on conceptually. Most of the time I program the drums, add guitars, or vice versa. The result then goes back to Jürgen, who adds vocals or a sequencer. Then he sends me the result again and so on until a song emerges from it. DIE KRUPPS is not a band that meets in the rehearsal room and jams a bit first. When we all meet together, it’s about photoshoots, video shoots or directly to tour preparation. Then we only work on the finished material. From a logistical point of view, it would be far too much effort, since we almost all come from different cities or one from another country.
RoD: Could you tell me what is DIE KRUPPS up to now? What can we expect of you in the future?
Marcel: This year there will be another album with cover versions, as can already be heard via various streaming services, from SPARKS, THE STRANGLERS or THE NEON JUDGEMENT. Of course, we also collect ideas for the next real DIE KRUPPS album. And last but not least, we’re working feverishly to make live shows possible again for 2021; 2021 is namely the 40th anniversary for DIE KRUPPS so a lot can and may be expected.
RoD: Thank you very much for your time!
Marcel: It was a pleasure! Stay clean...
All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)