23rd November 2019
Die Krupps - “Vision 20 20 Vision” Tour 2019 - Support: Viral
DIE KRUPPS take on a reasonably lengthy tour of Europe, with three dates in the UK covering most geographical areas. VIRAL will provide support throughout, with some additional bands added - for example SULPHER at London. Night People is a small venue in Manchester, VIRAL are the only openers for this venue. The venue is so small the stage was extended by DIE KRUPPS to house themselves and their equipment. It makes for a very intimate DIE KRUPPS experience.
This is a new band to me, and a band I’m pleased I found. They are a US band, from Los Angeles. Chatting with them before the gig I found them all to be passionate about what VIRAL is doing right now. It’s a little different too, from much of what we are currently offered in the scene. The band was formed after lead singer Frankie Cassara auditioned as the replacement lead singer for BIOHAZARD - he didn’t get the job, but became friendly with the driving force behind BIOHAZARD, Billy Graziadei. A decade later, VIRAL was formed. The band on initial listening seem to be pumping out a more commonly heard recipe - but don’t be fooled. There are huge influences and diverse paths taken to end up at VIRAL. It’s a clever mix that doesn’t particularly sound as if it will entirely work - but gels together very well and gives the opportunity to add another listening level in this genre.
General influences, and Frankies musical path include Metal, Punk, Hardcore and various style experimental bands - but with a healthy listening interest to the likes of NITZER EBB, DIE KRUPPS and Hip-Hop bands. The result is an enticing new style of Rock (I question using this term as I write), with a very healthy underpin of electronics and technology. There’s something rather clever about what VIRAL have put together, some very emotional lyrics - exploring many aspects of life, often at its darkest point. The textures within the music are the biggest stand out to me, compelling me to listen to their music more and more since I discovered the band last week. Frankie is now joined by a full band; drummer George Kokkoris along with electronics engineer and keyboardist Jorge Ruvalcava, bassist Garrett “Benjie” Conroy, and both guitarists Aaron Miller and Angel Ruiz. Chatting with various members of the band I quickly sensed a long history within the scene, healthy friendships in the early days of MARILYN MANSON as a band and a person as an example. I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting to know the band - great guys that I’m sure we will all hear about a lot more. http://www.virallosangeles.com / https://www.facebook.com/virallosangeles
Music & Performance
Things weren’t going too well this evening. After chatting with VIRAL outside of the venue (there had been an issue with the DIE KRUPPS / VIRAL tour bus getting a parking ticket) and getting clearance from the tour manager (checked my ticket and pre-arranged pass) I entered whilst DIE KRUPPS were finishing their sound check. There was a gap as I waited, and after a few minutes (it was now twenty minutes after doors opening) the public was eventually allowed entry. It was a very small crowd, the night clashed with a Manchester NITZER EBB gig, only a few hundred metres away (it had already been decided to delay DIE KRUPPS playing to 10.30pm, so people could attend both). But even with such a small crowd, literally a couple of dozen people, VIRAL had still not completed their sound check.
I was taken by surprise, as a snap decision from the band (presumably as things were running so late) meant they were playing now. There were typical American bolster shouts from the band of “let’s do this!” and as Frankie hastily entered the stage they burst into life. Perhaps a sense of frustration to the circumstance, but I sensed a feeling of urgency in their explosion of sound. One thing worth mentioning, as the reader looks at the images I took this evening, I later found out after the gig that they had no time to get changed into their stage outfits, I’ve since seen what they generally wear - and I do feel this would have added greatly to the gig. A band of this quality deserves a bigger crowd, I really felt for the band, if they were disappointed it didn’t show.
I didn’t know any of their tracks, this can make a review tricky, and in some ways, I appreciated listening to their music more after the gig. Upon my initial listening at the gig I missed entirely the depth of the lyrics - familiarity always helps with this. But I was blown away with the wall of sound at the gig. It’s not just the usual “puffed chest” wall of sound, the kind of macho wall of sound that fills the genre. Not by a long shot - even live, with all of the testosterone over spilling the stage, there is much more. It’s the complex layers and the great gelling between the musicians - these guys played tightly. A massively involving mix of so many musical components, awakens your ears to something special. It’s a beating heart machine, with its heart on its sleeve - VIRAL is a big, big experience.
If you desire the “balls out” macho approach; yes you’ll get that - but if you want to have a healthy injection of so much more, you have found a band worth checking out. It you already know VIRAL, and see them live, you’ll already know what I am trying to explain from my initial experience of the band. Powerful it is, but with that added special ingredients that not all bands find, even after many years - a true tribute to the magic of VIRAL. A massively enjoyable start to the evening.
03. No Return
04. We Love Animals
06. Dark Sun
07. Dying Comes Easy
09. You Do Nothing.
Total: 7.7 / 10
The legendary band of the scene, where so much musical influence originates from - and not just in the EBM and Industrial scene, but over-spilling into such diverse genres as Detroit Techno, Hip-Hop and beyond. As important as KRAFTWERK and EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN with big commercial names such as DEPECHE MODE, NINE INCH NAILS and MARILYN MANSON almost indisputably influenced. An almost unique aspect within this genre is two distinct styles - even the band has released “Best of” albums with two distinct volumes: ‘The Electro Years’ and ‘The Metal Years’. Even now each release has us wondering which offering they will give us - and the fans love it this way. The latest album ‘Vision 20 20 Vision’ has a guitar driven sound, as did the last - the previous more Electro. Ralf Dörper, in charge of electronics and one of the original members left for a brief spell of very big commercial success with the band PROPAGANDA.
Jürgen Engler, lead singer (along with keyboards, programming and guitar) has had a lasting career within record companies alongside the band. This undoubtedly influenced the more Metal recordings with the DIE KRUPPS back-catalogue. The band now also consists of Marcel Zürcher (guitars, additional programming), Nils Finkeisen (guitars) and Paul Keller (drums, additional programming). I cannot leave without mentioning the female guest vocalist on this tour, Lis van den Akker. She was the lead singer and lyricist for the Dutch electronic Goth Rock band MISERY for fifteen years. Since then she has guested her vocals to many bands including SYNTAX, PSY’AVIAH, FROZEN PLASMA (also solo FELIX MARC), GRENDEL, SD-KRTR, Johan Sebastian from STATE OF THE UNION, Sebastian Komor from KOMOR KOMMANDO and started a new project called NIGHTDRIFTER. https://www.diekrupps.com / https://www.facebook.com/diekruppsofficial
Music & Performance
I have seen DIE KRUPPS play live several times, but always at bigger venues, or at a festival. Tonight is a very intimate experience, the crowd are literally melting onto the stage. The crowd is now much bigger than for VIRAL, I heard that NITZER EBB were leaving the stage at 10pm, so fans could see both bands. DIE KRUPPS were due on stage at 10.30pm, but arrived on stage at around 10.15pm. The stage has no entry from the rear of house, so the whole band struggles through the crowd to get there. For the next few minutes the crowd gets larger, and from my vantage point at the side of the stage I wondered how they’d manage leaving and entering the stage for any encores - more of that later.
Once on stage it is obvious Jürgen is in a good mood - the earlier tour bus parking ticket hadn’t had an adverse effect on the proceedings. He has is usual confident stance on stage, he has a way of holding the crowd’s attention - and it’s not just due to his gesticulations with his hands and arms. He is as active on stage as he was decades ago, leaping on the famous rack of industrial metal tubes to lean into the crowd. This is repeated throughout the evening, once on the tubes he is towering above the crowd, staring into the faithful gathering, but from my favourable position, looking from the stage into the crowd, I can see just how close he is the ceiling. The performance went throughout with no head banging occurrence, but he seemed very close several times, including near the lights!
It’s a very crowded stage, with little room for the whole band, Jürgen at times resorting to explosive pogo’ing on the spot. To the right stands Marcel on guitars and Nils on guitars to the left - I say guitars as a busy stage-hand swapped and handed several guitars to them during the performance. Both performers are very active on stage, Nils with his distinctive red Mohawk has some distinctive stage moves whilst engrossing himself in the riffs - holding his head back, looking far above him. Marcel looks the master of cool, but with frequent outbursts of energy where the cool stance is dropped. Both guitar players frequently sided the drummer, with their backs to the crowd, a look that was quite effective. Marcel also played keyboards, or used a programming deck - I couldn’t quite see what he was doing as he did this with his back to the stage.
The main hub of the electronics is provided by Ralf, tucked behind the left-hand speaker, in a dark and almost impossible to see corner of the stage. I swapped positions for my photography half-way through the gig and could at least have a chance of seeing him from my second position. As nearly always the drummer is at the rear of the stage, Paul is a small guy, but I can see his characterful playing and energy from time to time as the gig progressed. The sound system seemed to pick up a little more power and clarity for DIE KRUPPS, and I was pleased to hear that the mix didn’t drown the electronics with over-powering guitars. I’m personally a fan of the “electro” era, don’t get me wrong I adore power guitar, but just appreciate the colder, distinct sounds of DIE KRUPPS when relying on electronics. The mix was just about perfect to showcase everybody on stage, the playing standard was high from everybody - and Jürgen’s vocals were clean and powerful with a full range - impressive stuff after all these years.
This leads me to the guest vocals, the delightful Lis van den Akker. I met her beforehand, chatting with her I soon realised she was mischievous and fun, but with a contrasting vulnerable persona - almost childlike in a very nice way. Not in the slightest pretentious, just a warm, likeable human being. Once she had entered the stage, initially for the VISAGE cover ‘Der Amboss’ it was clear she was the same on stage - her personality is worn on her sleeve, the warmth on stage that night brings something completely different. The whole experience of DIE KRUPPS having the addition of an on-stage female singer may seem alien to some fans, I’ve never seen them play with the addition of a female vocalist. But I was completely won over, the side of Jürgen perhaps we don’t see too often was brought to the surface. He’d been in a good mood all night, but as he sang with Lis there was something special going on, a huge chemistry between them. I was pleased to see Lis returned to stage for ‘Robo Sapien’ later in the set - fantastic. It made the intimacy a small gig venue provides even more special - pure electricity.
The gig went by far too quickly, and we were onto the encore. I’d had camera issues, so left the stage side, and from where I was stood, near the merchandise stall I witnessed the band battling through the high-spirited crowd, both ways; off stage then back on. They were greeted with warmth and huge affection from their fans with plenty of congratulations and gestures of appreciation and it passed without problems - in fact from what I could see the whole band were on a huge high from the performance as they waited to go back to the stage. Occasionally throughout the evening I wondered how well the gig would turn out, clashing dates with another big player in the game. I needn’t have worried, it was a fantastic evening, with a very special feel to it - thanks guys!
My thanks go to Frank Drake, Flag Promotions for allowing my pass - he’s been such a driving force for the dark electronic music scene in the UK for so many years.
01. Intro Godzilla 2018
02. Welcome to the Blackout
04. Nazis Auf Speed
07. Destination Doomsday
08. Trigger Warning
09. Vampire Strikes Back
10. Der Amboss
14. Robo Sapien
15. Vision 20 20 Vision
16. Metal Machine Music
19. To the Hilt
Total: 8 / 10
All Pictures by Kevin Stevens