Spermbirds is a band which have been on the road for many many years and they become better for every record they do I think. The drummer Beppo send me the answer on the interview and here we go….october-2013
Boring question, but tell me a little about the band and how you came together?
-We were Punks in an smalltown called Kaiserslautern, and there were only a few of us. All the other kids were into hippy music or hardrock, so we were this little group of outsiders. Of course we felt like the cultural elite, and we thought we were very clever and everybody else was stupid, old-fashioned and basically the typical “boring old farts”. We had this typical punk arrogance. Since the famous Punk bands never made it in our city, we started to form bands an do our own punk shows. A few of us knew how to play instruments, and those who didn´t started learning one. Two of those bands that were founded were Spermbirds and Walter Elf, which in the beginning were exactly the same people. I was drumming for Spermbirds, singing for Walrter Elf, and writing songs for both bands.
Please tell me a little bit about every member (in the group now), work, family, age and something bad about every one?
-Lee (vocals) is single at the moment, no kids, and he´s working for one of the finest bars in his hometown Saarbrücken (very close to the french border). The bar has the funny name “Karate Club Meyer” (Meyer is a typical german family name). Lee also sings in his second band “Steakknife”, writes books with short stories and reads them to audiences all over Germany
Roger (guitar) lives together with his girlfriend in Cologne and is wating for his first child to be born. He works for a local newspaper and has a second band called “Zehn Nattern”
Steve (guitar) comes from England and lives in Berlin. He is single, works as a sound engineer and travels with various bands all over the world. One of the bands is called Honningbarna from Norway, they are fantastic, especially live. Check them out!!
Markus (bass) is single, has a little girl and works as a craftsman on trade fairs. He lives in Berlin, too
I´m the drummer(Beppo). I am married, I have three boys, and I´m living in Cologne, like Roger. I am an editor for the federal radio “Deutschlandfunk”. I have another band called “Kick Joneses” (the follow up of Walter Elf), which is working at its 5th CD at the moment.
Have it been a lot of different members in the band?
-Actually we had only very few changes in the line up. Joe, our first guitarist, left us in early in the eighties and was replaced by Frank who stayed with us for about two decades and wrote some of the best Spermbirds Songs. Frank left the band a few years ago because of health an motivation problems and was replaced by Steve. Everybody else is in the Spermbirds since its beginnings (Well, almost: Roger joined about one year after the band was founded. The Spermbirds is a friends thing. We know each other since the early eighties, and we really like each other. I guess thats why the band had very few personal changes.
How can a band go on for so long, what drives you?
-Well, one thing, as I said, is the friendship. We live in different cities, and playing with the band is an opportunity to meet each other again. The other thing is that at our concerts, the old bond between band and audience is still there, working. Spermbirds gigs have its own kind of magic sometimes, and that´s is a very nice thing to have for a musician after all theres years. Besides, you get to see cool places with this band like Serbia, Croatia or even Australia or South Africa, where really nice people had us invited for absolutely fantastic tours and experiences.
-Easy answer: Our singer Lee is american, and when he started with the Spermbirds, he couldn´t speak german (he does now).
The latest record was in 2010 , nothing new on it´s way?
-Not at the moment, sorry. Currently Roger is busy with renovating his new home, becoming a father and producing the first CD of his other band. Thats why the Spermbirds are having a little brake at the moment. I guess we´ll start writing and rehearsing new songs not before the start of 2014.
Which is your most popular song that the audience always want to hear?
-“Try again” and “Only a phase” are definitely the two songs which are most often asked by the audience.
How does the average Spermbirds-fan look like?
-Well, he got older like we do. Most of the time Spermbirds people are really nice guys (or girls), often with a family and a job and a lot of life experience, but still with the Punkrock spirit. They share a history with us, and very often our songs were a part of the soundtrack of their lifes. It is very touching when people in a land on a different continent tell you that a song like, lets say, “Something to prove” meant a lot to them when they were kids. One guy in Australia told us: “You have no idea how many bedrooms I trashed while listening to “My god rides a skateboard”.
Is there any type of people you miss on your concerts?
-Well, it definitely would be cool to have more Women at the shows. There are always some, but I wish it would be more. I am glad to see, though, that not everybody in the audience is as old as we are. There are younger guys, too, and that is good. Cause otherwise it would feel like a Crosby, Stills and Nash-Concert with old hippies.
-Except from the countries I mentioned above, we have played in the US and in most of the european countries. Well, there are Poland, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and a few others missing, but still: I got to see so many different countries with this band, it´s fantastic. Not to mention all the really nice people we met there.
-I have been in Sweden a few times, but never with the band. My parents love sweden, that´s why I´ve been there as a kid. I remember we had a holiday near a village called “sandhem”, but I had too look it up in the internet: It is in Västerrgötland near the Vättern lake. In the nineties, i twice spend a holiday in a town called “Åmål” – as in the movie “Fucking Åmål”. My aunt comes from there and she has a house at the Vänern lake. The band once played a few shows in Scandinavia including Sweden in the nineties, but I could´t go with them because I had my exams on University. They took a replacement drummer and experienced a lot of nice and funny things there. Even today, they keep telling me stories from that tour, and I`m always a little sad that I missed all this...
-Some of my favourite bands are swedish, but unfortunately most of them seem to be unknown even in Sweden, because when I ask swedish musicians about them, they have never heard of them. Most of these bands don´t exist any more, too, I guess because of a lack of success, which is a miracle to me: There were all these really great Pop-Punk bands from Sweden in the middle of the nineties and the world just didn´t seem to notice - not even the swedish. One of my favourite records of all times is called “Something smells good in Stinkville” from the band “Grass Show” – i think they were from Malmo, but I´m not sure. The record was released in 1995 and it is a fantastic mixture of Punk and Pop. Another CD I like a lot is from a band called “Naked” (Cd has the same title). It was released in 1996 on Trampolene records, a swedish label, I guess. I bought it in the swedish town of Karlstad. Another great swedish band: “Melony” with the CD “Satisfaction” also from 1996. And then there are the Wannadies, of course, which at least got some of the popularity all these other bands deserved, too. I have all their records. Two of the first Punk records I ever owned were swedish, too. My mother brought them from a visit to your country. One was from a band called “Date X”, I wonder if you ever heard of them. The other (and better ) band was “Ebba Grön” which you might know. They had a great song called “Staten och Kapitalet” which musically inspired me for a Song called “Provinz” that I wrote for my band “Walter Elf”.
-If I compare my life with the living in some other parts of the world, I am actually very happy to live in Germany. I have three kids, and I´m glad that they can grow happily in a peaceful surrounding. I am fully aware, though, that Germany is not perfect. There are still too many Nazis (not as many as in a lot of other european countries, but every nazi is one too many). There are far too many people in Germany who can´t live from their work because their wages are too small – thats another thing that has to change in this country. And just recently it came out that German companies sold a lot of chemicals to syria, and the government didn´t stop it and thats a crying shame. So: You will never experience me saying “I´m proud to be German”, but I sure am happy to live there. Just imagine parents in Syria, Nepal, Irak or Somalia – just to name a few: They would give anything to be able to raise their kids under the circumstances I do.
I think you have many influences and I compare you to bands like DOA, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Minor Threat? Which are the bands you use to be compared with and which is the most peculiar that you have being compared to?
-Most bands we were compared with were bands that did influence us: In the beginning – you named the right ones - it was indeed Minor Threat, Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys and yes, also D.O.A, you could name the early Bad Brains, too. But the more we developed our own style, the less we got compared to other bands, and the more often other bands were compared to us. Later in the end of the eighties, we were influenced by bands that developed the slowness for punk like the Bad Brains on their “I against I”-LP or Verbal Assault on their “on”-EP, also the later Dag Nasty. On these records, Punk gets its impact not of being fast and raging, but from being slow and rolling – and that had a huge impact on us when we were writing songs for our third LP “Common Thread”.
Do you understand that reviews compare you to other bands? I know that every band wants to sound like they have an own sound but it´s hard today?
-Well, we were one of the earliest bands in Europa playing this american-style hardcore sound, and I guess we sounded kind of unique, so it´s understandable that other bands are compared to us sometimes. Tickles my fancy, to be honest. And you are right, it is very, very hard nowadays to do something really new in the hardcore compartment – everything has already been done. ,
Politics and music, does it goes hand in hand?
-It can, but it doesn´t have to. Actually I can only respect politics in lyrics if they come from someone who is really into the topic he sings about, an expert. Clichee political songs have never touched me.
Best political band/artist?
-I never agreed very much to the political views of the english band Crass, but I always respected that they seemed to have gained a lot of information on the stuff they were singing about, so I always respected Crass as a political band. Liked some of their music, too. The same goes for Chumbawamba, for example.
-Maybe not change it, but if you’re lucky, a song can be part of the soundtrack of someone’s life, especially of young kids. And – as you propably have experienced yourself – sometimes a song can help you to get out of a rut, out of a personal crisis. Some people tell us that “Try again” worked this way to them. That is as much as you can ask for as a songwriter.
Good band sin Germany today?
-Lots of. Try “Turbostaat”, “Pascow” or “Love A” for example. They are singing in German and they have a lot of positive power. Really nice people, too.
-To me, the common thread of Punk was always the idea of do-it-yourself, also of stripping music down to its basics, and of course the abandonment of machism and racism which you can find in normal rock. I wouldn’ t call that a lifestyle, but it is definitely more than just a label. It is a minimum agreement which connects me to other people which used to listen (and are still listening) to a similar music as i do.
What´s the difference of playing today if you compare with playing when you start to play out?
-When we started, there was all this atmosphere of something new, of something great coming up, – you know, this early punk buzz – and we were a part of it. That was very much thrilling, and I like to think back of these days. This buzz and thrill is, of course, not there anymore today. Which doesn´t mean it is that much worse nowadays. We really like the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of our gigs nowadays. No aggro, no stress – that is a value in itself.
-Belgium was always a very good place to play for us, also in the Czech republic, in Italy, Austria, England and Spain we had great gigs. And of course South Africa and Australia - it´s something special when people from that far away sing along to your songs.
-Records: I have to make it a top ten
1. The Beatles – Revolver
2. XTC – English Settlement
3. The Damned – Strawberries
4. The Ruts – Grin and bear it
5. They might be Giants – Flood
6. The Dickies – Second Coming
7. Grass Show – Something smells good in Stinkville
8. Big Drill Car – Album type Thing
9. Weezer – same
10. All – Allroys Revenge
Five Favourite Concerts: (in no pacticular order)
All – (Frankfurt, 1989)
They might be Giants (Frankfurt, 1990)
Comsat Angels (London, The Marquee, 1986)
Madness (Bonn, 2010)
The B 52’s (Bonn, 2011)
Verbal Assault (Homburg 1989)
My five most important things in Life.
1. My Wife and my kids
3. Doing music with my friends in Spermbirds and Kick Joneses
4. Watching my favourite Football Team 1. FC Kaiserslautern. By the way: Some swedish players used to play there: Ronnie Hellström (all time hero for most of the FCK-Fans), Roland Sandberg, Benny Wendt, Torbjörn Nilsson and others.
5. Treating people with respect
First, last and most expensive record ever bought?
-First record I ever bought was from a band called “The Motors” (same title). It was a mixture of rock with little punk and new wave elements - I still like to listen to it from time to time. The last one I bought was the new CD from They might be Giants called “Nanobots”. And the most expensive: “Timothy’s Monster” from Motorpsycho as a three record box with a poster.
Where do you stand when we talk about mp3?
-I only use mp3’s when I work with the band. Because we don´t see each other that often and live in different cities, we send us mp3’s with song ideas, or rehearsal recordings. Privately, I listen to CD’s or vinyl. I’m old fashioned that way.
Is it good or bad for a band like yours?
-It is never good for a band when people rippyour stuff for free instead of paying for the recordings. The band or the label has invested money for the recordings and a lot of time and energy. Some depend on the money, they live from it and have to pay their rent. It hurts especially little bands and little labels. The Big Rock stars get rich anyway by touring and selling merchandise or doing advertisement.
-We definitely want to record another Spermbirds-CD, and of course play some Gigs. It would be nice to get to play in one or the other country where we haven’t been so far. Apart from that, we don’t really make great plans anymore. We just enjoy it as long it lasts. With Kick Joneses, we’re planning to do a 7” box with ten singles with a song on each side – which makes 20 songs altogether. It should come out in the summer of 2014.
-Not really. Maybe travel a lot with my wife when the kids are out of the house – but that’s going to take a few more years. Actually I’m quite happy with the life I live.
-Treat the others like you want to be treated.
-Yes: All the best to you and your magazine – may it be read by thousands of people. I know how much work such a magazine is – I appreciate your efforts.