Walking into the Berlin offices of Motor Entertainment, I gingerly shut the door behind me and turned to face an immense loft of glowing hardwood floors, busy people, and music. The songs of Herrenmagazin pumped from the label’s speakers, but the band themselves were nowhere to be seen. The label liaison collected me and directed me to a chair. Vocalist and frontman Deniz Jaspersen was finishing up a prior interview. I gazed around and fiddled with my tripod.
A door opened. Bustling forward, Jaspersen greeted me warmly. His bandmates, lurking on couches, rose and revealed themselves. Proceeding to the interview room, Jaspersen projected serene energy, stopping to pet a golden Labrador snoozing on the floor. We settled ourselves, and the interview began.
FREQUENCY: Firstly, I wanted to ask about the mood of your music – namely, “Ich glaube ja doch an die Hoffnung, aber nicht an eine bessere Welt.” (I do believe in hope, but not in a better world.) Many of your songs have this feeling – full of life, but pessimistic. Where does this worldview come from? **
Deniz Jaspersen (vocalist): Yeah, you see it in the papers, on the news… I think, this specific line, I do believe that hope can sustain a person, can vitalize you and enable you to continue. Because the world won’t simply get better.
FREQUENCY: And what gives you hope?
Jaspersen: What gives me… friends, it just makes me hopeful when I’m with good people, with the guys here…
Torben “König” Wilhelmsburg (guitarist): Well, making music, every night in another city, getting to know really nice people, likeminded, who also can’t change anything, but at least in a small circle, it works better. That’s what makes me hopeful.
FREQUENCY: How much time do you spend together, is that like 24/7?
Jaspersen: We spend a lot of time with each other – Paul and I live together, and Rasmus is also near us, Torben… we work together, and have a shared circle of friends. It’s not like we’re just business partners, and only go into the rehearsal room or on tour, we also meet a lot in private life. I think that’s – well, for me, I know I also need that, if I couldn’t hang with these guys I don’t think I could stand it.
FREQUENCY: I ask because, I’ve just read that everything on the last album was actually recorded live. I’d listened for hours and never noticed, it sounds perfect. How does one attain such a dynamic as a band?
Jaspersen: The addressed dynamic, one only gets that through playing live. And one has to prepare better, naturally, that’s clear. But um, you can also help a bit after the fact, in the post-production, exactly. When one is strict, it’s not entirely live, just so. But in any case we’ve recorded it all together in one room, and have left some complete pieces. For example, the song “Krieg,” the last track on the record, is completely live performance.
FREQUENCY: Can you describe the process of songwriting – how does that work with composing songs, do you do that all together, or lyrics first?
Jaspersen: Up until now it was generally that I essentially write the pieces, and then we work that out together, arrange it together. We hope – we’d like to change that a bit. I’d love if we could jam more, write together a bit more, because then other ideas always flow in. As a songwriter, to always write songs so structured, that can get a little boring.
FREQUENCY: Is there a band or artist with whom you’d like to do a collaboration?
Jaspersen: A collaboration? I don’t know… we’d like to do something with Claus Lüer. Claus Lüer is the singer of the punk band Chefdenker, and Casanovas Schwule Seite, and Knochenfabrik, and has other projects based in Köln, and is one of the best lyricists, I think the best punk lyricist probably, and with him we’d like to do something. Hopefully that’ll work next time.
FREQUENCY: The song “Lnbrg” – do you work specifically in Lüneburg, are you from Lüneburg? (near Hamburg)
Jaspersen: He’s from near Lüneburg [gestures to bassist Paul Konopacka], and I also went to school there. And, the song “Lnbrg” has, um…
FREQUENCY: Small town feeling?
Jaspersen: No, I once had, there was a girl in Lüneburg, that I was crazy about, so to speak, and the song is, ah, for her. “Eviscerated and buried,” yeah? [laughs]
FREQUENCY: Nice. And how do you feel right before a gig, like tonight? Do you have special routines?
Jaspersen: Hmm… drinking.
Paul Konopacka (bassist): In the meantime it’s fine, we’re on the eighth day, it’s become routine, but this is Berlin – I think we’re, well I can say for myself, that feels the most tense.
Jaspersen: I’m also worked up.
Wilhelmsburg: I’m stoked. Beastly stoked. Nice to be in a bigger city, nothing against smaller cities, but in Germany there are some really shit cities. Actually from the visuals, not from the audience, but from appearance, it’s really frustrating, some cities that you play. I’m just stoked, I’m looking forward to it. It’d be even better if lots of people come. But I also get scared.
Jaspersen: Right on such evenings, that can go wrong. Just when you’re stoked and heated, it can go askew.
Wilhelmsburg: Yeah, exactly. You can’t let yourself look forward to it, sometimes if you don’t look forward to it, it’s better.
Jaspersen: Oh, yeah, we think it’s all shit, don’t even want to… [laughs]
FREQUENCY: And so – you’re currently on tour only here in Germany?
Jaspersen: Yes, unfortunately just in Germany.
FREQUENCY: Are there any other places you want to visit, play – do you guys have any particular goals?
Jaspersen: We’d like to play more in the south – Austria, Switzerland, as a rule the food’s better, the landscape prettier…
Wilhelmsburg: We need to try Japan. If you break in there, the people go crazy, it’s madness.
Jaspersen: Don’t know, maybe there’s something there.
FREQUENCY: Another German band out of Hamburg was just in Japan.
Wilhelmsburg: Yeah, who?
FREQUENCY: Take a guess.
Wilhelmsburg: Die Toten Hosen?
FREQUENCY: Tokio Hotel.
Rasmus Engler (drummer): They’re from Hamburg?
Jaspersen: They live in Hamburg, they’re from where?
Jaspersen: They live now in Hamburg, two of them, the other two have moved to LA.
Wilhelmsburg: Also interested in South America, I think.
FREQUENCY: South America? Die Toten Hosen managed that in Argentina, the German songs went over great actually.
Wilhelmsburg: Well, they’re super successful.
Jaspersen: We’re jealous.
Engler: Now see what kind of artists…
Jaspersen: Or play sometime in the USA. He’s never been in the USA. [gestures to Wilhelmsburg]
FREQUENCY: Well, come to Seattle!
Jaspersen: Yeah, gladly!
FREQUENCY: Thanks so much! I’ll be there tonight.
** Interview translated from original German. Watch the interview with subtitles here:
Herrenmagazin released their second album, Das wird alles einmal Dir gehören, in Sept. 2010, and recently finished their German tour. The band’s music is available on US and German iTunes.