Thanks so much to Mathias Hill for the great interview! You can check more about Die Busfahrer on their myspace. Now time to discover one of the strangest and most creative bands from the late 80s and early 90s in Germany.
++ Tell us a bit of the early days. Who were Die Busfahrer? How and when did you start a band? How did you all knew each other?
Die Busfahrer were, in the very beginning, two friends, me (Mathias Hill – voc. and melodica) and Tobias Usula (voc.), living in a small town called Bad Soden-Salmünster, in Hessen/Germany. We were friends from kindergarden age on and in 1986, at the age of 14, we decided to start a band. we called the band “DIE PENTECHOS” and as we didn’t have any musical basis at all, it was quite terrible.
So in early 1987 we asked Magnus G. Schmerfeld, a guy we just got to know, if he would like to play the Casiotone. He did. So we recorded our first proper song “Mofa fahrn”. After a while, it got played on the radio by our hero Klaus Walter – he is some kind of a hessian John Peel. He compared our music to Andreas Dorau and so we got into listening to his stuff as well as (a bit later) Die Merricks. And we loved it.
Meanwhile, in 1988 we found a friend from school as a guitarrist, Volker Hagemann, but after putting together a Pentechos tape with approx. 12 songs, we dissolved the band. The Pentechos were just home recording with a cassette recorder, never playing a single gig, basically just a reason to tell school mates that “we’re in a band”…
We didn’t manage to get a good reputation because we weren’t punk rock, we didn’t have a drum set or electric guitars, and i guess Magnus, who is a real good keyboarder, was a bit pissed off that his friends were mocking about him – being a Pentecho wasn’t really cool.
But I insisted to re-form the band with the same members, but a different name: DIE BUSFAHRER. the plan was: we wanted to record a tape of the busfahrer without any information about the band, so people would ask themselves: “Who are these cool guys..?”
Magnus said: “Okay, i’m in, but only if we don’t play any live gigs”. We wrote some songs like “LKW Führerschein” (“truck driving license”), “Rasenmähn” (lawn mowing) and “Cowboy Horst” and we didn’t play live until 1990.
Then came Rocko Schamoni, a nice guy from Hamburg, and asked us to take part in his tour. He was on the edge of becoming famous at that time, he had a major record deal and his album was produced by Bela B. of “Die Ärzte”, one of our favourite bands of all time!
So we played our very first gig at Batschkapp/Frankfurt in front of 500 people. Schamoni did some kind of a casting show with his support bands, and as we were quite drunk and quite charming, we won the hearts of the audience. I guess this evening was the real birth of DIE BUSFAHRER.
++ Why did you call the band The Bus Drivers?
Well, that’s easy: Didn’t you know that this was the profession of George Harrison’s father?
++ Where does the unique style of Die Busfahrer comes from? I hear some influence from maybe Die Dorau und Die Marinas? Could that be? What else was an influence to your music?
As told above, we were compared to Dorau before we really got to know his music. Of course, we knew his song “Fred vom Jupiter” because it was a massive hit (to this day, i guess almost every pop interested person in germany knows this song), but we weren’t aware of how he carried on. After being compared with him, i bought his early records and we all really liked it.
But in the beginning, we were really heavily influenced by Die Ärzte (the doctors), some kind of a fun punk/pop band with a unique sound, but to be honest: I guess you won’t hear similarities to the bus driver sound.
But we got in touch quite early with Frischluft Tonträger, a nice P!O!P!-label from Friedberg and we managed Krischan, the label manager. So the bands from this label, Honigritter, Fahrraddiebe, Der Wind in den Weiden and first of all Die Merricks became a major influence for us.
To this day, the only Frischluft long playing album (“Mit Sonnenschirmen fingen wir den Blütenzauber”) and the first two Merricks album have some kind of a holy status for us.
++ You come from a small town in Hessen, was that some kind of handicap to make your band more known? Was it easy for you to get gigs around?
It definitely was. But even if we would have been from Hamburg (were most of the really influential stuff came from in those days), we wouldn’t have made our way as we were too naive in those days. But we never complained, we made friends with Marc Liebscher from Blickpunkt Pop, with The Merricks, with I,Ludicrous, one of our favourite bands from England, and so we managed to play in Munich, Hamburg, London, Reading.
++ You toured London and Reading! How did you end up going to England? How was this experience? How different was the crowd compared to the one in Germany? Any anecdotes you can share ?! 😀
Lots of anecdotes – I was a pen pal to Will Hung from I,Ludicrous since 1988. I’ve heard of them via Klaus Walter, he played quite a few of their songs, and they’ve also been favorites of John Peel. After a while, in 1992, I decided that they needed to do a tour in Germany, So I organised a little tour for them, it was a bit chaotic, but everyone who saw it still talks about it today.
And so Will thought that the bus drivers should play in England. He put together the two gigs (in 1993 or 94?) and we drove to England with an old VW van. As we slept in the van, we didn’t need a hotel. Especially the gig in London was very good as we’ve spent a wild evening with the opening band, they were called Psychopussy and they were really nice and funny people.
The crowds really liked our stuff, especially as it was quite exotic for them that we were singing in german. (BTW: Will wrote a review of the gig, it can be found in the BUSFAHRERSTORY)
++ You released two EPs: “im Elektroland” and “in der Walpurgisnacht”! What do you remember from the recording sessions?
We recorded the first EP live on one sunday afternoon in 1991 in my bedroom. In “LKW-Führerschein” you can hear a live crowd roaring during the keyboard solo. This was a crowd we recorded on tape after a busfahrer gig and we just turned up the stereo during the solo, that’s all. No mixing, no overdubs.
(On a second sunday afternoon, we glued the covers together)
“Walpurgisnacht” was recorded by Thilo Päch/Tapp Production in a small but proper 8 track studio in Schlüchtern. The studio was above some kind of a farm and during the recordings a little girl came in and asked about the cars in the backyard – we didn’t quite know what she wanted until it turned out that one of the horses had slid and fell on Tobias’ car. Quite weird…
++ Which is your favourite Die Busfahrer song and why? Are there any more recordings from Die Busfahrer that are still unreleased?
I still like most of the songs. They have a certain innocence and naivity to them and that’s what i like about them.
Some of the unreleased songs:
“Mofa fahrn” – Our first song, recorded on tape and played on the radio – but we never managed to get a proper studio recording and we never played it live- perhaps i should make an MP3 of it.
“Rasenmähn” – Always a great live favorite, we did a studio version and it can be found on a tape compilation on Steinpilz Tonträger.
“Statist bei Stefan Derrick” – A song about being a bit part actor in the german crime TV series “Derrick”. We recorded it in the very last days of Die Busfahrer and the busfahrer version is still unreleased. But we re-recorded it with ROCKFORMATION DISKOKUGEL and it can be found on our first album (“La Bola Privada”, Apricot Records / Blickpunkt Pop).
“Primitive Busfahrer” – A cover version of the Felt song “Primitive Painters” with german lyrics about the band, some kind of a “Ballad of the Busdrivers”… Magnus and me have always been huge Felt fans and there’s even a Busfahrer version of “Voyage to Illumination”. This one (Primitive B.) is the last song the bus drivers ever recorded. It can be found on our myspace-site.
(Unfortunately, we never heard from Lawrence, I guess he doesn’t have an e-mail-account..)
++ These two EPs were released on the Eiswürfel Tonträger label. It was your own label, right? How was the experience of running a label? What’s the complete catalogue? I haven’t found much info about it online!
Let me think about it:
Die Busfahrer – Im Elektroland
7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1991), 500 copies
· Cowboy horst
· Alles klar
Some of the records have silly writings on the cover-inside.
wegweiser durch’s eiswürfelland
c-60-cassette, 20 tracks, eiswürfel tonträger (1992), lots of copies
labelsampler feat. die merricks, schade schokolade, busfahrern, blinzelbeeren, prinz eugen, im zerrspiegel des mutantenzirkus, married minds, rosecoloured pinholeburns, sofa head, dancing chromosomes, kitchen cynics,…
As far as i know all the songs are exclusive. the song “grundsuppe” by prinz eugen ist censored.
There are two different versions of the tape with two different covers and two different kitchen cynics songs on them.
i, ludicrous – we stand around
7″ep, eiswürfel tonträger (collaboration with roman carbage vinyl) (1992), 660 copies (and 6 testpressings)
· We stand around
· Quite extraordinary (live)
· Oh really
· Spock’s brain (live)
Football anthem which was voted “gloomy but optimistic single of the week” by new order in the n.m.e. in 1992.
Married Minds – Bewahret einander vor herzeleid
7″ ep, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1993), 550 copies.
· Toysoldier song
· Oedipus rex
· Kurz ist die zeit
· Gefall’ner engel
· Come again and we will see
Magnus’ solo project, quite dark , but very nice. There are two different versions with two different backcovers. this was the last time christian hauke designed the labels.
Friends Ahoj – Grandstand Girls
one-sided 7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1993), 550 copies.
· Grandstand Girls
· Have you seen that Girl?
Some of the records include a stamp out of g. gottschling’s collection and a pack of ahoj-brause. Some kind of an off-shoot from the Merricks, with Günter Gottschling singing, quite charming, very 60s-pop.
Die Busfahrer – In Der Walpurgisnacht
7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1994), 550 copies.
· Roy Black (Popstars in der Arbeitswelt, teil 1)
· Ein mann ist keine maus.
Some of the record labels have pictures of the band members sticked on them.
Various – Die Schönste Platte der Welt
cd, 19 tracks, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1994), 1000 copies. Our only CD; a compilation with Eiswürfel-related bands covering each other; with Merricks, Friends Ahoj, Schade Schokolade, Die Busfahrer, Kitchen Cynics and many more
· Schade Schokolade – Sommerlied
· I, Ludicrous – Kick into his face
· Die Busfahrer – Liebe aus der dose
· Sirken Sikora – Die krawatte. konzert für den wellenbahnhof. satz iv (frech, geschwind!)
· Married Minds – Die ersten tage des frühlings
· Die Merricks – Johnny der held
· Schade Schokolade – Tomatensuppe
· Die Moosblüten – Allein zuhaus, so ist das leben
· Sirken Sikora – Partymädchen
· I, Ludicrous – Hats off to Eldorado
· Friends Ahoj – We Might be Giants
· Kitchen Cynics – feel the hope
· Der Profi – Mona Lisa in 3-d
· Married Minds – Mistakes
· Friends Ahoj – The man who sold Manhattan (for a dime)
· Der Profi – Cheer up
· Die Busfahrer – der getarnte macho
· Die Merricks – Brian, bitte bahai
· Kitchen Cynics – It’s your own fault if you’re feeling lonely
Die Busfahrer – in: absolut klassische meisterwerke?
cd-r, cassette, eiswürfel tonträger (forthcoming, 200?). Still Unreleased.
best-of-Busfahrer, featuring live and cellar versions of the classic single tracks as well as unreleased gems such as “Rasenmähn” or “Hagemann”. If their lawyers don’t do anything about it, it will also feature guest appearances of The Merricks, I,Ludicrous and Klaus Walter.
++ What was the biggest highlight?
The whole time being in the band was a highlight!
++ Why and when did you call it a day? You did reunite after for some gigs, right? How was that experience?
We did reunite for a one off in 1997 which was also the first gig of Rockformation Diskokugel. Very strange.
And then we played on a festival in our hometown in 2006 which was very nice.
++ What are Die Busfahrer members doing nowadays?
We all have proper jobs.
Hagemann is a business man, Tobias is a craftsman, Magnus is a music teacher and me, I’m a school teacher.
And then there is Kick, a punk rocker who replaced Hagemann on guitar in 1991. He’s still a punk rocker.
++ Now just out of curiosity, what’s the typical dish of your area? and your favourite beer? and…. what team would you like to win Bundesliga next year?
dish 1 – Handkäs mit Musik – hard to explain, vegetarian, cheese, very strong.
dish 2 – Rippche mit Kraut – pork with sauerkraut, very meaty, very strong.
beer – Augustiner hell
Bundesliga – I don’t have a special bundesliga team but I’m always happy it any other team but Bayern München manages to become champion.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, I’d like to send you some photographs of the band members, as soon as i found them.!
Die Busfahrer – Roy Black