Titans of Neue Deutsche Härte, OOMPH! spoke with ReGen as the band was about to hit the road for the European tour this past November.
An InterView with Crap, Flux, & Der Schulz of OOMPH!
By Stitch Mayo (StitchM)
In the ever-evolving landscape of music, where genres are often redefined but rarely created, OOMPH! emerged three decades ago as a rare catalyst of innovation. Before Rammstein, before the term was even coined, OOMPH! was the instrumental force behind the Teutonic thrust of Neue Deutsche Härte, blending the rudiments of groove metal, industrial, and techno. Now experiencing a triumphant resurgence after an unconventional hiatus, the powerhouse trio returned in 2023 with the latest album, Richter und Henker, with new vocalist Der Schulz joining Crap and Flux. During the band’s European tour, ReGen caught up with OOMPH! and talked war, village idiots, and Ghost Riders.
The addition of Der Schulz as OOMPH!’s new vocalist marks an exciting chapter in the band’s journey. Could you provide some background on how Der Schulz joined the band and your thoughts on how his vocal style and artistic presence are shaping the band’s current musical direction?
How are you guys kind of influencing each other’s directions as well with this new partnership?
Crap: For us it was important to have a singer who will work with us creatively in the studio like before. He also worked with us on all the songs, arrangements, and all the melodies. We were working constantly as three people in the studio, which is how we worked on old OOMPH! records, and this is how we continued, and it felt like the same process as Ritual, which was very successful, and we just kept on going with Der Schulz.
Richter und Henker is a huge album in scope, sound and theme. Can you take us behind the scenes of creating the album and share some insights into the album’s sound and production process, as well as any challenges or highlights that stand out for you?
Der Schulz: First… thank you!
Der Schulz: I’ve learned a lot about my voice. Using a lot of things I’ve never used, a lot of singing styles. It was a great experience.
Flux: The production itself somehow was orientated on the Ritual album, but taking it further – like a natural progression from Ritual to our next album. We always try to develop, and we always try to explore new things. Of course, you get influenced… it was four or five years ago when we produced Ritual, so of course, we change over the years, hopefully for the better.
Crap: There was of course no big goal to change our musical direction as what we do is successful. It’s already a big step to listen to a new voice on the record of a band which has existed for such a long time. Maybe on the next album, you will hear only electronic pop instruments and dance groups or whatever… I hope not! (Laughs)
In terms of audience experience, what emotions or messages do you hope listeners take away from Richter und Henker? And how do you believe this album resonates with your fanbase compared to your previous work?
Flux: Well, we’ve had a lot of reactions. Of course, it was very exciting for us first when we revealed the name of our new singer. This was the first step in in June, I think…
Der Schulz: June 22.
On the new album, were there any songs that were deeply inspired by specific events or experiences in your own lives, or by events in the world around you? If so, could you provide us with some insights into the inspirations behind these, and how they influenced your creative process?
Der Schulz: Yes, for example, we live right now in very turbulent, crazy times. So much has happened in the last few years, starting out with the refugee theme, the pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine. It’s so many things that, of course, as an artist, it inspires because it impresses on you so much that you have to write about it. We have this new anti-war song called ‘Nur Ein Mensch,’ which is of course inspired by the war and what’s going on right now there. OOMPH! already had some anti-war songs like ‘Tausend Mann und Ein Befehl,’ for example. In all of human history, there’s war, but now, when it comes so near – and it’s so unbelievable that one country in Europe tries to invade another country… so, that’s what this song is about, to say, ‘We’re all the same kind. We’re all humans.’ And then these leaders come along and say, ‘They want to get you, there are Nazis there!’ And the people go to war again. And it’s frightening. That’s what the lyrics are about there.
Another theme in Richter und Henker is how people are communicating on social media. Not only there, but there’s so much hate. There’s only black and white. When you’re not with me, you’re against me. You’re my enemy. There’s no culture of discussion anymore, and there’s an old speech, which said that Germany is the land of the poets and the thinkers – Dichter und Denker – and so this song is asking ‘Where are the Dichter und Denker? Where have the thinkers and poets gone? Now, we have only the Richter und Henker – the judges and executioners.’ And of course, Dichter und Denker, Richter und Henker works very well in German.
This album, as Flux and Crap have told me, is the album with the most ‘real’ topics, because so many things happened around us, not only around the band, but the whole world.
I noticed in ‘Wut,’ there’s a line that translates roughly to ‘anger is a plague of this time,’ which echoes in Richter und Henker too. Do you believe the current perception that social media is causative of the anger or that it brings out the anger in people?
Der Schulz: We call them ‘Ghost Riders’ in Germany.
OOMPH!: Jah, Geisterfahrer!
Der Schulz: When you’re on the highway, and you go in the wrong direction against all the others… I don’t know if you’ve heard of that?
Flux: How do you call?
Crap: I don’t think there’s an exact word for that in the U.K., but the closest I can think is probably ‘Boy Racers…’
Der Schulz: It’s very dangerous because of the risk – so we call them ‘Ghost Riders.’ You guys all drive on the wrong side already. (Laughs)
Among the tracks on the new album, is there one that stands out as a personal favorite for each of you to perform live? Are there any particular guitar, riffs, vocal performances, or elements of the music that you are particularly satisfied with, or proud of, and what makes them special in your eyes?
Flux: Well, first of all, we are all happy that we will play eight songs on the next tour from the new album, to give Der Schulz the possibility to sing the songs that he is known for. It’s unusual for us to have so many new songs on a new tour, but this time, it was very important for us.
As for songs to play live… I would say, because of the riff, ‘Nur Ein Mensch.’ It’s one of the best riffs we’ve ever written, I think, and I’m really looking forward to banging it on stage!
Der Schulz: It’s hard to pick one out, because it’s a very strong album, and it was already a hard choice to decide which we’ll play live and which we don’t play. On the album for me… I couldn’t tell which is best for me but… a special song for me is ‘Ein Kleines Bisschen Glück’, the last track, because it’s so epic and the atmosphere is so deep. The lyrics mean a lot to me. And live? I think I will enjoy very much ‘Wem die Stunde Slagt,’ because I’m so thankful for this song, and how people loved it from the first moment.
Crap: For us, it was a little bit scary with this tour, because me and Flux, we’re now onstage and we haven’t been for nearly four years, and that is a little bit strange for us, that we have so much time since the last concert we played. So, all the songs for me are now great, that I can perform onstage again. I love it! It was a long time for us… an absence being away from the stage. It’s abnormal. Last year was totally abnormal for the whole world, of course.
Der Schulz: We will all be exploring on the stage!
As artists who have navigated through the unique challenges of the pandemic, what bands, artists, or other forms of art have you found inspiring and influential over the past few years? Did you manage to explore during the pandemic era? And are there any of these influences we should be listening for on the album?
Flux: Musically, I really don’t know what artists I, especially in the pandemic years, got to know. Nothing new in music, I think. My wife is an artist, and we had a lot of time to go to art exhibitions, and this also influenced me in some lyrics and moods.
Crap: For me, nothing special. I recognized that music without playing live is not the same. That was the only thing for me. I know some other bands and artists made it work with online concerts, and for me, it wasn’t functional, it’s not the same. I talked to a lot of other people who were missing that function for themselves, and that was a good sign for me that live music is something we need. You need live music like blood in your veins.
Flux: Because we also worked solely on our songs for one-and-a-half years, morning to night, and this is probably why we didn’t listen so much to other music. When you have music all day, you want to relax with something else.
Der Schulz: I will then listen to totally different music, to clean my ears and to get away from it a little bit.
The industrial and alternative music scenes have evolved very significantly since, and because of OOMPH!’s inception. How have these changes influenced your artistic vision and direction of your music, and what aspects of the darker scenes do you find exciting or inspiring?
Crap: I think the most inspiring time was in the beginning of OOMPH!. We grew up with bands like Kraftwerk, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, and then bands like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 developed. Since the beginning, we’ve been very much inspired by Nitzer Ebb. You can hear it in our vocal styles or some of the bass lines. And then on industrial, it was MINISTRY and Nine Inch Nails, which have been I think our main influences in the ’90s. Then metal – Sepultura, Pantera, and everything groovy – a good groovy riff. And then the OOMPH! style is this melancholy and big choruses and big melodies, which comes more from our other influences like Depeche Mode, The Cure, Joy Division, and all this ’80s music. That’s the melancholic influence in our songs.
Flux: Not really listening so much to new industrial or electronic bands. That can change. I like IAMX because I liked the singer’s first project, Sneaker Pimps – the Splinter album is one of my favorites still.
And then Enter Shikari. Is it industrial? I would say no, but it’s very much what I like.
Reflecting on your musical journey, are there any moments or milestones that stand out as quite defining or transformative to the band? And how have they kind of influenced you now?
Crap: Also, the last tour. We played for the first time in the U.K., in London. I love London. I try to visit every year, and that was also a great step for us to go outside Europe, to London, the land of music. Also, the time that we played in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus – that was great time that’s now stopped, which is extremely terrible. We have friends in these countries, and it’s hard for us to see that they fight against each other. There are so many milestones for us in the last 30 years. And we played with Metallica as support, not only once!
Any plans to return to London?
OOMPH!: We’d love to! We’re thinking about adding a second part of the tour, so watch this space. It’s not so easy to travel so far.