Curated by Felix Kubin
With the foundation of his label ZickZack in 1979, Alfred Hilsberg rapidly became a key figure in the booming German independent music scene, and even came to be known as the 'Punkpapst' (punk pope). ZickZack released records by groundbreaking bands such as Die Toedliche Doris, Einstürzende Neubauten and Palais Schaumburg who would become 'triggers' for the new movement – just before it was commercialised by the mainstream industry.
In his first English radio interview ever, Hilsberg talks about the dawn of the Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave), a term that he had introduced to readers of the influential music magazine 'Sounds'. His column 'Neuestes Deutschland' was met by such an enthusiastic response that he was eventually 'attacked by 20, 30, 40 cassettes per day coming in from all areas of Germany'.
Hilsberg and his younger colleague Frank Apunkt Schneider often use the term energy when they try to describe the anger, angst and dynamism of the Kassettentäter scene. Schneider, pop theorist and member of the Vienna-based artist group monochrom, regularly contributes essays and articles to the magazines testcard, Zonic and Skug.
In his book 'Als die Welt noch unterging'(When the World Was Still on the Verge of Downfall), an encyclopaedic topology of the German New Wave underground, he sums up the radicality of that music in a nutshell with the phrase 'Die ungerichtete Aggression der befreiten Geräusche' (the undirected aggression of the freed noises). Never before had there been such a high level of experimentation and playfulness in German pop music.Both Hilsberg and Schneider consider 1980 to mark the start of a new era in which 'the old order was not valid anymore and a new one hadn't yet been found' (Schneider).
In this cultural vacuum, under the looming threat of a possible nuclear war and squeezed between opposing ideologies, everything became possible. Arts, music, literature, film and humour had to adapt to the monstrosity of the political momentum.The words of Hilsberg and Schneider are illuminated by fragments of a historic 1983 recording: sitting in their kitchen, the notorious Kassettentäter Armin Hofmann, Klaus Schmidbauer and Handke Hesselbach discuss the current state of the underground tape scene. Their final conclusion is clear and simple: a new movement is necessary.