Thanks so much to Krischan for the extensive, exteeeeeeeeeensive, interview. It was a pleasure to know a bit more from the seminal German pop Frischluft! label. Hope you enjoy!
++ Hi Krischan! How is everything going? Any plans for the weekend?
I’m fine, but feel flattered about your interest in Frischluft! It’s weekend! I went for shopping on Friday (fruits, salad, chocolate…), skipped through some Doo Wop-compilations from Ace this afternoon, met my neighbours for supper and will look for a nice and sunny place in the countryside for reading tomorrow.
++ I have to start the interview asking what does the name Krischan means haha
It’s simply a nickname from Northern Germany. Rumours that I would be Chinese haven’t been confirmed yet. Although I could have created a nice él-type monarch founding on that (maybe Kris-Chan – The Emperor Of Oranges…)
++ When and why did you decide to start a label in Germany? Could it be considered that Frischluft was the first indiepop label in your country?
After the demise of Die Fahrraddiebe (named after the De Sica-classic I’ve never seen – the TV guide showed a still from the film with some Pale Fountains-styled kids – short trousers, slipovers, shaved backs) the Honigritter took over the torch. Still at academic high school we had romantic ideals and were longing for the definite pop statement: a 7“ record. Inspired by labels like Subway, él and Ata-Tak the summer and autumn of 1987 Matn, Sirken Sikora and me spent all our afternoons on creating every little detail of the Frischluft!-world snitching the Spectorian Wall Of Sound, the aesthetics and diction of Wirtschaftswunder-era Germany, the D.I.Y.-ethos of (post) punk and the enticing artificiality of Mike Always stable of Would-Be-Reals. Frischluft! aimed at being a wondrous world leaving the visitor with tears of joy. Finally a few days before Christmas 1987 we received the desired pieces of wax and sat the whole afternoon in my parent’s living room listening to the Chesterfields and some early Sixties German Schlager sticking together the Honigritter sleeves. In the evening nearly the whole edition was sold at the Christmas party at school. The Discjockey was spinning US sixties garage psych. We felt like pop stars!
++ Why the name Frischluft? And how easy was back then to press records in Germany? And what about to sell them? Was there a big crowd? I ask this because all of your releases are from bands singing in German, but maybe there was an international crowd for them as well?!
Listening to pop music should be like breathing fresh air (= Frischluft!)! I enjoy staying in the woods during holidays catching cool breezes of fresh air. It keeps me alive!
Ewald, our agent from the pressing plant, mainly was dealing with licensing 50s Jazz and Be Bop. So we were trying to show our Beatnik aspects although I’m not sure if he classified our psychedelic patterned anoraks as existentialist. He was living in the Taunus mountains (which were later sung about by Der Wind In Den Weiden) with his mother. One day we arrived just in time for plum jelly for afters. He didn’t get what we were all about, but I guess he had a soft spot for us…
Besides my home town Friedberg there were some very small focal points for guitar pop like Worms, Seeheim-Jugenheim or Hamburg linked by some few pop-kids swapping self-made records and fanzines. Apart from gemm.com
Hamburg all of these towns were small towns. Crowds seems to be a euphemistic term in this context. Everyone went for the Groove Farm’s maxime „Make a record for your friends to play“. The first to break into this secret circle were the Japanese. In the Beikoku Ongaku magazine I saw a photo of Hideki Kaji surrounded by his record collection with the Der Wind In Den Weiden and the Purzelbaum Im Badeschaum-7“s lurking out of his shelf.
++ Did you press many copies? Your records seem so hard to come by!
We had runs of 100 up to 1000 copies. The Honigritter “Kellergeister in unserem Haus” and the “Durch’s Schlüsselloch in des Mondgärtners Sternenhain” retrospective albums were limited to 10 copies each. Most records ended up in our friend’s collections, some were sold by Rough Trade in London, some by generous European patrons like Thierry in Belgium. All the remains were loaded cargo from little Friedberg’s train station directly heading for Shibuya.
++ The artwork from Frischluft is up my alley, the aesthetics of the label are so pretty. Was the presentation very important for you? How careful were you with the design of it? Who designed all of the catalogue by the way?
Frischluft! was following the ideal of L’Art Pour L’Art oscillating between German 1920s Dada non-sense and an elaborate corporate identity as with the semi hit factories of visionaries like Tot Taylor, Alan Horne or Patrick Moore. Before even writing songs or piecing together a band every release went through all stages of intellectual pregnancy summoning in the birth of a brain child. All the sleeves were designed by Matn, the Honigritter’s trumpet player often spotted wearing his white sailor suit, and me. Our treasure chests were small flea markets, our parent’s lofts and cellars. Scissors, glue sticks and pencils were our weapons when we took over the local copy shop. The lady watching over the place earned a living from our endless conceiving and rejecting ideas. In the evening we literally fell asleep between the Xerox machines kept warm by the machines still working.
++ Which labels inspired you to create Frischluft? Do you think there’s any label or band that carries that same spirit and feel of yours nowadays?
Postcard, él, Subway, Pink, Ata Tak, 53rd & 3rd, Respond, Creation, Operation Twilight, Compact, Whaaam!, Countdown…
Cats On Fire (for the boy scout-look and jangly sound), Cause-Commotion (for the shambly sound and beautiful hand-printed sleeves), Skint & Demoralised (for the passion and soul without being pathetic), Voluntary Butler Scheme (for the desire to sound huge with little means), Cave Weddings (for the punk-spirit resulting in pure pop)
++ So let’s talk about the releases. The one I’m most curious about is the Pfadfindertreffen Auf Immenhof 7″ compilation. Why have Edwyn Collins in the cover? And what about the bands that appear on this record? Could you give me a bit of a background on them?
The idea behind this release was to create a singing contest at a boy scout jamboree at Grandmother Jansen’s paddock. Oma Jansen was the legendary landowner lady from the 60s german screwball-comedy-like Immenhof-series. Edwyn in his shirt and scarf seemed to be the perfect virtual patron saint for that imaginary extravaganza. By the way, I never spoke with his lawyer…
++ What about finding the bands? How did you end up signing them? Did they send demos to you? Were they friends? How did that work for Frischluft?
On an early flyer we had Hanna-Barbera’s 60s character Wolfie stepping into the office of a friendly manager wearing shirt and tie. We challanged anyone fitting within the categories Beat, Pop or Psychedelia to follow Wolfie’s example. (This was decades before Stuart Murdock invited people to step into his office.) This request was repeated on local radio as well.
++ Once I read from Peter Hahndorf that the Frischluft bands were “The Sound of Young Germany”, would you agree?
“The Sound Of Young America” (Motown), “The Sound Of Young Scotland” (Postcard), “The Sound Of Young Wimbledon” (Compact). So it had to wind down one more step
++ One of the most known bands in your label were Die Merricks, who had many releases after leaving your label. Why do you think they were that successful? What were the strengths of the band? Did you expect them to have a career that spanned more than a decade?
I knew the Merricks from their debut release on the Augsburgian Two-By-Art label, who were the first to release a bunch of Honigritter songs prior to the single release as well. I got to know the Merricks’ mastermind Bernd through Mission Impossible – a Merricks offshoot by their singer Günther. Attracted by their Mod name I visited a concert of the latter. Bernd was also there. I was wearing a Mighty Mighty-T-Shirt and Bernd approached me with the words „great band“. So we started talking about C86 and the mid-eighties-Mod-Scene until we found out, that he even had the Honigritter-7“. I told him about our plans to release a compilation album and we came across that Die Merricks and Mission Impossible both would contribute two songs each very quickly.
The Merricks were a band with huge musical talent on from the early days reminding massively of Dexy’s, Jim Jiminee and the likes. Bernd added his visions of the perfect pop song. I see these two points as the basis of their success. Furthermore they always were able to reinvent themselves while the musical world was ever changing. Just think of „The Sound Of Munich“ perfectly fitting with that mid-nineties Easy Listening and club pop-hype. I always thought in a better world they would have been destined for greater success. I strongly recommend Bernd’s latest project Der Englische Garten, where he returns to our beloved 7“ format.
++ Maybe my favourite band in your label is Die Honigritter, but then, I barely know anything about them! Care to tell me a bit about them?
In this very moment you’re talking to their founder and singer. Being a hopeless and sentimental pop addict I dreamt of a band combining everything I loved to create the perfect pop: Andreas Dorau’s lyrics, Talulah Gosh’s innocence, Wirtschaftswunder-Schlager, the DIY-ethos and xerox-aesthetics of punk-fanzines, the fascinating faked world of él, 50s and 60s picture books for children, American pop culture just before the British Invasion swept over it, psychedelic without the drugs and of course the strength of the straight forward 2-minute pop song. I could go on forever. The slide shows on our MySpace-site will give you a more detailed idea. My basic idea of art in general is to quote extracts from one’s favourite influences, then to reassemble these to create something new. I cannot be convinced by the denying of pigeonholing favoured by many bands. Be true to your school as Brian Wilson once put it!
The “Im Sommer…”-single was sold with a numbered leaflet you could send to us to obtain your copy of the Honigritter-Fibel (=spelling book). Finally only 5 copies were printed in green, red and black. The Fibel is presented in it’s whole extent on our MySpace-site.
++ Then let’s jump to the “Mit Sonnenschirmen fingen wir den Blütenzauber” compilation! Here there’s one UK band: Jane From Occupied Europe. I tried to get in touch with them not so long ago, but no luck. They are not that very well known, so I’m wondering how did they end up in this LP?!
We were writing to the address on the Bubblegum Splash-single trying to obtain a song by them just to learn they were no more. The Bubblegum’s flavour may have been gone, but they didn’t throw it away (as Mighty Mighty once claimed) but re-put it into shape that was Jane From Occupied Europe.
++ On this same compilation there are some bands that I’ve never heard before like The Sheets, Mission Impossible, or Painting by Numbers! Care to tell me a bit about each band on this compilation if that’s not much to ask?!
We thought of the Sheets as our ace in the hole. Successfully recreating the second generation Sound Of Young Scotland as accomplished by Lloyd Cole, The Bluebells, Bourgie Bourgie or „Knife“-era Aztec Camera soon they were tracked down by Polydor’s talent scouts. But then the major label’s (groovy) train (sic!) headed towards baggy and scally Madchester rather than Glasgow leaving the Sheets with a rumoured to exist „lost album“.
Painting By Numbers were the definite (P)Op-Art affair with black and white polka dots and floppy fringes all over the place chasing The Revolving Paint Dream back into thee cave. Their first demo was pure Psychocandy as played by The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Frank – a deadringer for Bobby Gillespie – later moved to Hamburg to join Die Fünf Freunde.
++ Another 7″ you put out was the “Thymian & Prinzengold” by Der Wind in den Weiden. Any anecdotes you can share about this band? Did you ever get to meet any of your bands? What about going to a gig of theirs?
Der Wind In Den Weiden was inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s children novel from 1908 and were meant as Frischluft!’s teen folk loner nodding into the direction of “See Emily Play” seen through the eyes of “Mummy You’re not Watching Me”-era Dan Treacy. Their only live appearance was fortified with psychedelic lidquid wheel effects, tape loops, backwards guitar and reverrrrrrb all way through. A visitor who saw the mindblowers in action said he felt like „set the controls for the heart of the sun“ taking off at the Roundhouse in ‘67.
++ I found on a web page that the Purzelbaum im Badeschaum record came with a fanzine? What was this fanzine about? Did you do any other zines?
Your source is reliable. Included was the R-fanzine, which was working in a dialectic call-and-response manner with the legendary P-fanzine run by three young pop-kids from Seeheim-Jugenheim. The R-fanzine was our Xerox-overpoke with function following form. It was intentionally put together as a final statement on a scene who once rode on the strength of post punk and was watered down by twee for twee’s sake bands in the sequel of Sarah records and the likes. You may call the 7″/fanzine package Frischluft!’s swan song… I once saw the record in the “Industrial” section of a record shop
++ I can’t find any information about the “Mit Sonneschirmen Fingen Wir Den Blütenzauber” record, what was included on this one?
The “Mit Sonnenschirmen…”-LP was conceived to mark the status quo of the scene. It featured one or two songs each by Waldmeisterträume, Merricks, Honigritter, The Sheets, Painting By Numbers, Die Fahrraddiebe, Mission Impossible and a mystery track. As most of our other releases the album was presented by Radio Luxemburg DJ Camillo Felgen besides others. I doubt that he ever came across enjoying and appreciating this homage.
According to customs the LP came with a comprehensive bundle of flyers and memorabilia following the tradition of the early Compact compilation LPs. Featured was a small mailorder leaflet offering the Painting By Numbers-demo-tape, the “Radio Tannhäuser”-compilation or a large Waldmeisterträume-art print (ltd. to 3 copies) to name but a few.
++ What about the Himbeerbubis and Tobi? Who were they and why did you release this split flexi?
Die Himbeerbubis (= The Raspberry Young Lads) should have been our label’s own Hunky Dory. They recorded only one song. The tape is lost and even the “Durch’s Schlüsselloch…”“-compilation only features the instrumental version that survived somehow. Tobi was Frischluft!’s twisted mind heavily taking on the NDW-style of Der Plan, Erste Weibliche Fleischergesellin nach 1945 or Speck Nußeck with his “Gemüselied”. The flexi was conceived as a quote of the “Klingende Post”-7″-series. Each volume featured some sound snippets of freshly released records linked by some suave boy-girl-talking flirting and praising the new hope-to-be-hits and was given away for free in german record shops during the sixties.
++ Was there any record that you wanted to release but never happened?
Five records never exceeded the status of a droll idea.
First of all we wanted to release a 7″ by The Shampoo Tears, who were the most convincing German answer to the crooning of “Rip it Up”-era Orange Juice.
Next we found a lonely chanteuse with a jazz guitar singing in the streets of the autumnal Frankfurt. We imagined her as Frischluft’s Tracey Thorn/Marine Girls/Grab Grab The Haddock.
Then there were some street musicians playing Eastern European folklore dressed with the most beautiful traditional semi-uniforms and blue Russian boots. These should have been our él band. We were afraid they themselves never heard of neither the London Pavilion nor The King Of Luxembourg. So we didn’t dare to ask them to mime and pose on the sleeve in a Nick Wesolowski manner.
The Worms scene spawned a hauntingly beautiful boy/girl-duo called Celestial. Their „the man who lived in his dreams“ should have been a one-sided single with etching on the flip we wanted the duo’s girl singer to do, who lived in the most beautiful painted room with light-blue and white bordure in an antique Roman villa-style.
Last but not least Frischluft!’s own Waldmeisterträume intended to do a double-7″ to be played in sequence on two turntables with sides one and three on one single and sides two and four on the other and successive sides overlapping enabling the listener to mix them seamlessly. Musically this should have been our “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. Matn had recorded some turn-of-the-century poems from pre-psych-head Arno Holz’s “Phantasus”-cycle spoken through a hosepipe directly into an aquarium to give it the otherworldly treatment. The double single was conceived as a “From Birth to Death”-story snitching the idea from The Pretty Things 1968 epos “S.F. sorrow”. The bubbling poems should mark the beginning of the protagonist still swimming in the amniotic fluid. Furthermore we intended to work with samples of obscure erotic records trying to cash in on the success of “Je t’aime” circa 1970 (Christine Lamour, Marianne, Michelle Et David, Er & Sie et al.) This idea was partly realised some years later with Miss Soixante-Dix. We bought some corduroy jackets and wanted to stitch an amorphous mushroom on the back to stress on that 60s garage psych „band as a gang“-tradition.
++ What are the correct ingredients for a perfect pop song? What term do you prefer to call our music? twee, C86 or indiepop? why?
Most importantly you have to be a visionary. A good pop song for me is a highly artificial and constructed thing successfully pretending to be the most normal thing. I always would favour a imaginative and rich production over so-called “honest” (=boring) music. Simple but highly memorable melodies or a short guitar solo relying on one string will stick in your head and persuade you to listen to the song over and over again. Basically it’s everything major labels are trying to achieve but missing the aspect of the visionary. There have been periods where all of these issues have been considered resulting in great and(!) good selling pop artifacts (sic!) like The Beatles mid-period catalogue, ABC’s “The Lexicon of Love“ or Haircut 100’s “Pelican West”.
I see twee and C86 as two completely different things. C86 was a European thing drawing it’s influences from (post) punk and/or the UK- and US-sixties. When “indie pop” turned into “indiepop” during the early nineties it turned into an American thing shaking off completely that Thatcherite oppression, Red Wedge Movement, “kick a ball or play a guitar”, red brickstone houses, anorak/black 501s/Clarks desert boots etc.-image in favour of Hello Kitty, trainers and other bubblegum devotionals. But the most important difference for me was the absence of the punk spirit! In my opinion a lot of twee/indiepop bands (I’d take these for synonyms) lack of pop-historical and contextual awareness stressing too much on the fey and innocent aspects.
I saw that awareness creeping back in in the mid-nineties with the massive aspect of retro-culture/easy listening hype on “our music” resulting in magna opi like “algebra spaghetti”, The Legendary Jim Ruiz groups “sniff” or Belle & Sebastian’s “The Life Pursuit”. The internet en passent helped to connect local scenes spread all over the world making it a truly global and vitalized scene again, which offers so much to detect!
++ Why did you stop releasing records? Were you involved with any music activities after?
The end of Frischluft! went along with my diminished interest in a scene which had lost it’s original peppiness and it’s visionaries. I was involved with one-off Miss Soixante-Dix in the early nineties (rising from the ashes of Karl Kaiser und die Halbstarken Todesfahrer) examining the seeds sown with records like The Times “Et Dieu Crea la Femme” or The Teenage Filmstars “Star”, but rather concentrated on record collecting than producing them. Thus I consciously closed a chapter, which was running on my heart’s blood whilst being opened!
++ What does Krischan do nowadays? Are you passionate about other things aside from music?
I’m a teacher for mentally handicapped children in a little village in the countryside.
I’m passionate about a lot of things besides music: I like going to flea markets, swimming, riding my bike, graphic design, wandering through the woods, confectionery, spooky fairytales, German everyday culture from the late fifties to late sixties, potatoes whatsoever, sentimental American films from the late 60s, the books of Otfried Preußler…
++ Thanks for the extensive interview, hope it wasn’t too much! Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m the one who has to thank!
To dive deeper into the world of Frischluft! feel free to visit www.myspace.com/frischlufttontraeger
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