Oct 2022 25

From the apocalyptic endzeit of the past to the apoplectic zeitgeist of the modern era, Mona Mur explains to ReGen just how she remains such a vital force to be reckoned with.


An InterView with Mona Mur

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

After four decades, Mona Mur is proving as vital, vigorous, and vicious an artist as when she first emerged in the German underground scene of the early ’80s. Stradling the lines between experimental punk, noisy industrial, and darkly textured pop and cabaret, her artistic persona exudes equal levels of class, sophistication, and outright venom. All of these qualities can be detected on her latest musical offering, Snake Island, released on GIVE/TAKE and presenting a return to the avant-garde eccentricity of her earlier output, tempered by a modernist production flair and a thematic dissolution of the current social and cultural zeitgeist. On top of that, this year has also seen the ultimate release of the original Mona Mur Band, whose all-too-brief existence from 1984-1986 is the stuff of underground music legend; featuring members of Einstürzende Neubauten, Crime and the City Solution, Flucht Nach Vorn, and Stricher, with Raymond “PIG” Watts assisting with recording and mix, the band’s sole album, as well as the group’s live raw and vivacious onstage presentation can now be experienced by listeners thanks to Play Loud! Productions. Taking time out of her busy schedule, Mona Mur speaks with ReGen to reminisce on the impact and influence of her early years to culminate in her latest artist output, the effects of nostalgia, life during and after the pandemic, livestreaming, playing guitar, Trevor Noah, and more.


First, I must ask, how are you? How is your health?

Mur: I am as good as it gets. As a very physical person, when this pandemic kicked in, I immediately went into survival mode. I radically cut down alcohol to zero, intensified my Taekwondo training, which I do since over 30 years, practicing summer and winter outdoors on the Tempelhof Airfield. I avoid public transport; go by bicycle everywhere, eat very healthy. All this kicked in quite effectively. I cannot complain.

Let’s talk about your new album, Snake Island. You’ve explained that the inspiration comes from an island off the shores of Brazil where 20,000 poisonous vipers dwell. Would you tell us more about how you first found out about this island and the sorts of personal connections you felt that led to the album’s themes and creation?
How much of the material was directly influenced by the island vs. how much was already in the works when you came upon it?

Mur: The Snake Island story is a beautiful and really strong metaphor. I would not cling to its plot; for me, the topic itself has a mysterious effect. I came across it when I already had most of the music in rough versions. Goldkind had come up with his signature electronic textures or bass lines he played in very own wild style, combined with some brutal drumming. I felt like doing another album with him if I would play most of the guitars, a passion I had fallen for three years ago. I had played guitar in my teenage years, then abandoned this skill for quite some time. So, now I took it back in my own hands. Owning a Strat, I got me another beautiful instrument from California, and there was time and space for practicing this. After three years, I had developed my own style of slow, mean, doomy riffing. Goldkind, like all my other buddies, supported this strongly. On Snake Island, everything is possible – it is rather a painting.

Your last album, Delinquent was released prior to the pandemic in early 2019. Was Snake Island written and recorded entirely in the midst of the pandemic?

Mur: I can’t say that there was a clean cut break or difference kicking in when the pandemic started. I am constantly and obsessively working on music – alone, with Goldkind, with other friends and artists, commissioned works for films and games. I am blessed with my own studio where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. I enjoy this as a great freedom, a thing worthy to work very hard for.

In what ways do you feel the global situation affected your songwriting – either in terms of the process by which you write/record, or perhaps in the lyrical themes you approached?

Mur: It seems I always have been a sinister character because the world is a sinister place. My very first release, the “Jeszcze Polska” 12-inch in 1982, was about war, violence, death, betrayal, injustice, stupidity – war as a mystery, a curse, a built-in mass psychosis, a self-destruction sequence activated when the density reaches a critical point. War is one of my great themes throughout my whole life as a musician and composer. There is wrath, and there is also fascination. I have a sword fetish, and I do martial arts. I deeply despise violence at the same time. Many of the films I am hired to score for are about war and insanity. Tragic that all my ironic, pitch black songs in the end become real. I wish it were not like this. There is, of course, love as well. So, I do what I always do.

Apart from the guest guitar performances by Gary Schmalzl and En Esch, all of the instrumentation and production is by you and Ralf Goldkind, who you worked with on Delinquent. Would you tell us about your working partnership with Goldkind, how it first began and how you feel it has evolved to what we hear on Snake Island? What is the songwriting process like for the two of you? In what ways do you feel your individual styles are defined on the record?

Mur: I know Goldkind from the ’80s in Hamburg, where we are both born; he was one of the first punk rockers. Had his own bands, then met star producer Conny Plank in Cologne, who became his mentor. He hung out with Dee Dee Ramone and Nina Hagen. Then he had a mainstream Top 5 hit. We lost track, and after more transformations, we met again in Berlin in 2016 where he outed himself as a Mona Mur fan, and we immediately started working together… in our respective studios, also occasionally together at Goldkind’s Officer’s Dressing Room Studio. Goldkind plays a mean bass, he comes up with stuff unheard of. I’d then reconstruct the tracks, arranging them for my liking with keyboards, strings, organs, then play guitar all over the place. I record my vocals whenever I feel like. I would then send the stuff back to be treated by the Goldkind bone-mill again. He is an eccentric shaman. We have a deep understanding for each other and don’t have to explain ourselves.

On the record, you also perform a cover of Motörhead’s hit ‘Ace of Spades.’ As what is perhaps that band’s best known song, what motivated the cover – just something for fun, or do you feel it had a thematic connection with the material you’d written for the album?

Mur: Oh, I was crazy about that one. To me, this is a deeply existentialistic song with crisp, clear lyrics and statements. ‘The pleasure is to play/Makes no difference what you say.’ I started programming it as a minimal electronic version à la The Normal, but I could not resist playing these verse guitars on it. Then I had Gary Schmalzl bang a fierce solo down. Who could resist?



It has been said that Snake Island possesses a creative spirit akin to your roots in the Berlin punk and proto-industrial scenes, which you have also revisited with the forthcoming releases of The Original Band, recorded from ’84-’86. Aside from the recordings themselves, are there any particular experiences from that band that you feel are exemplary of the social or cultural zeitgeist?

Mur: The old spirit has come back to me – the trooper in a potentially apocalyptic endzeit setting, dancing on the volcano, with a real threat of nuclear annihilation. This is in my ‘Schieldwall’ video of 2022, and this was exactly the feeling in Berlin I had in the early ’80s. We were the zeitgeist. The Mona Mur Band back in the day – consisting of FM Einheit, Alexander Hacke, Nikko Weidemann, Thomas Stern, Siewert Johannsen, and me – was living an extreme life in West-Berlin. I lived in FM’s laundry chamber in Hauptstraße. We got up in the late afternoon when the sun had already set. Rehearsal was at midnight in the deep dark of the icy cold war winter. Then we’d walk to the Risiko at 4:00am, where the vampire party started. I certainly do live very differently now, lifestyle wise, but artistically, this spirit is there, uninhibited.

You’ve worked with various musicians in and out of Neubauten, Flucht Nach Vorn, Crime and the City Solution, PIG/KMFDM, etc. over the years in various projects. What can you tell us about the Original Band as it existed and what led to its dissolution?

Mur: I was totally in love with everybody in an artistic way. It was the perfect match. Our concerts were notorious. Our sound was so fierce, so unique, so extreme. It was also like a painting with iron colors. The tragedy was that the guys had too many other obligations. And when a kind of big money came into the Mona Mur universe, ways got really bizarre, and the group exploded… too good to be true.

Why wasn’t the album actually released then?

Mur: Arrogance, ego, confusion.

Listening to those recordings – both from the Original Band and from the 2005 Berlin performance – surely, there is some maturity and development of style and performance since then, but what are your thoughts on the music you were creating then, the lyrics you wrote, the energy you felt when you first wrote them vs. now?
Have you found that your perceptions of it have changed since then?

Mur: I hear a young person full of passion and raw power. There is no way this can be redone or conserved in one’s life. I am glad that, with growing skills and self-confidence, there is no need any more to carry on living in such risqué and hazardous conditions, which are necessary to build a real field of fascination, means, art. I have seen and experienced enough for more than one artist life. I still draw from these sources. The songs and the music, for me, still have this energy going. Otherwise, I would never agree to release this now.

Lately, nostalgia seems to have manifested in different ways – from the resurgence of certain musical styles to several artists and bands reissuing older albums, rerecording older songs, etc. What are your thoughts on this? What do you feel has been the key factors toward these looks back to the past?

Mur: I am not interested in nostalgia. I don’t live in the past. Copying old styles… I wonder why one should do this. I do appreciate very much the interest in my back catalogue and the meticulous work the good people of Play Loud! put into these releases. These vinyls are lovely items for those who cherish them.



During the lockdowns, you and En Esch had done some livestreaming. Now that it’s become part of the norm, what do you think of how livestreaming can be better utilized to advance visual presentation?

Mur: We wanted to play live, so we did what we could. After a while, it gets sad playing just in front of a camera. It is certainly not the same; although, as a listener, I appreciate watching live concert videos on YouTube late at night in my studio, enjoying my sound system and my peace, but I am spoilt.

What do you think are the biggest difficulties with live performances right now? What do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the pandemic and use or think about going forward?

Mur: I have no idea. The entertainment overkill is over. The situation is very, very tough over here in Europe. We have a war right in our neighborhood… pretty close. People certainly have other problems than spending their money on concerts. They will need it for heating and energy. We will have to see every day what happens. It is devastating. At the same time, I just do what I always do… no other way.

What are your plans or hopes for touring in the foreseeable future?

Mur: I hope to be back in the U.S. next year for festivals and/or tours.

Aside from music, what do you enjoy most at the moment? Watching movies? Reading? Hiking? Driving in the country? Anything… what gives you the most joy?

Mur: Taekwondo training outdoors with my martial artist friends. Doing Reiki and Yoga. Going to the island of Fuerteventura again, shooting another video clip… really got into that! And yes, reading tons of books and watching tons of movies. Relaxing with Trevor Noah’s Daily Show; the only comedian in the world who is really funny, sarcastic, and charming at the same time.

Is there anything you’d like to add – anything we haven’t talked about that you’d like to include here?

Mur: I would like to point out the marvelous work of our long lost and then found again friend Jon Caffery, a world class sound engineer, who has finalized Snake Island with his great mastering skills. We had met in the ’80s when he was recording with Einstürzende Neubauten, Abwärts, Joy Division, Gary Numan. and the like. Now, we’ve work together for the first time. Actually, Jon is mixing another album I have the pleasure to produce right now, for a famous new wave/post-punk singer… you’ll find out about this hopefully soon.
I would like to thank the good people of GIVE/TAKE for their support and courage to sign a weird German singer from the ’80s and design such a beautiful, golden CD cover.


Mona Mur
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram
Website, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram
Play Loud! Productions
Website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram


Photography provided courtesy of Mona Mur


Leave a Comment

ReGen Magazine