Interview with German Hardcore-Skate-Thrashers Scheisse Minnelli: By Jan Röhlk

Sep 14, 2010

“Don’t drink the viper” is stolen from Street Trash, yeah, but so is the sick opening track of the second record from Scheisse Minnelli out of South Germany (Frankfurt am Main / Aschaffenburg). That entire record The Crime Has Come is one of the best new records coming out of Germany from an old school skate band, so if you have a special place in your heart for Nardcore, RKL and skatecore, stay tuned.

What makes the band totally unique for the European scene is the American slang of U.S.-native singer Sam. It comes out more cool than the usual German / European hardcore band trying to sing in English. And what makes Scheisse Minnelli interesting for all English-speaking people is the fact that they’re four convicted dudes who push their music into a new RKL meets Infest stratosphere, while maintaining a party and drinking attitude without being one of the those fun punk bands. Yes, Sam rambles about street boozing, skateboarding, drugs, crime, and nights in Tijuana but they always have a certain level of aggression on their records and—especially at the live shows—a good and unique mixture of a band which has its very serious sides and also lighter aspects. Well, just like life in general, right?!

Scheisse Minnelli (which means something like Fuck Liza Minnelli) started in 2003 as a project of two ex-Bay Area fugitives who came to Europe to make music. Those two Americans formed the band with Dash on bass and Dudel on drums—two residents of the tiny Bavarian city of Aschaffenburg. Their first gig was the “tear everything down” party from Sam’s old apartment. He stayed in Germany while his friend got homesick and returned to California. Scheisse Minnelli continuously toured Germany, made it to the U.K., Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Eastern Europe, and toured twice in the U.S.A. All that live playing made them better and better.

After their debut LP Exist to get Piss’t, which features one of their greatest hits “Skateboard the Freeway,” the Berlin-based producer Archie Alert from Destiny Tour booking asked the band if they wanted to record their next LP with him. Again, the band could enlarge their touring schedule—playing support for bands which Destiny Tourbooking represents—and they are one of the best new bands I heard (and enjoyed live) in Germany and Europe for quite a few years. Only Sniffing Glue from the Rhineland area can maybe touch Scheisse Minnelli, so I thought that Razorcake readers might want to check out what goes on in Germany from an American perspective...

Interview by Jan Röhlk, Trust Fanzine
Assisting correction department: Andrea Stork, Trust Fanzine
Photo Credits: Mario Tezacki, Marc Gärtner

Jan: The Scheisse Minnelli experience continues, even if you now have your third guitar player. The first was your American friend from the Bay Area. Are there any recordings with him?
Sam: Actually, there is a demo that we put out with him on guitar. It was called the “Umbringen”(killing) demo. It was recorded with one mic in a practice room, but it got us our first shows, which included a show with Poison Idea in Belgium.
Jan: Then came Felix who played on the first two full lengths—Exist to Get Piss’t and The Crime Has Come— and all the singles. He also did a lot of touring with you. I’ve heard something of a fight inside the band on tour a while ago?
Sam: Well, Felix was a big part of the band for a long time. He was great the first couple of years. He liked to party hard and play hard and he usually was able to keep it together even when he was really fucked up on all kinds of different stuff. The fight that happened in the Stuttgart area (South Germany) was fucked up. Felix had been up for three or four days on speed and who knows what else. After the show, we hit a bar and thought it was too expensive so we stole a bottle of Jack from the bar and went back to the club where we were supposed to crash.
A conversation starts about a bar that our friend was building in our home town. We were all helping, some more that others. Dash mentioned something and said “we” were doing this or that for the bar and Felix jumps on him and says, “What do you mean ‘we’? You have not done shit”! They get into an argument and at one point Felix says, “I wasn’t the one born with a golden spoon in my mouth,” which is total bullshit. Dash works for everything he has and, in actuality, Felix was the one working for his dad and taking advantage of that situation.
Things escalated and it almost went to blows, but I was able to calm them down. But that was just one problem we had with him. He got us banned from three different clubs with his big mouth. He also got kicked out of the U.S.A. and we had to do the second U.S. tour as a three piece. I basically had to learn how to play and sing at the same time in one day. Then we had to cancel some shows ‘cause of him that were important to us. It just all started to get really old.
The final straw with Felix was a fight he and I had in Aschaffenburg. He was mouthing off at some kids. They were like seventeen or something, and he used a racial slur. This all happened in front of the bar we always go to and we got into a shoving match. He actually quit and I told him thanks for making that easy for me. That happened in March 2009. At this moment Felix is sitting in prison for things he did not associated with the band. We hope he starts to figure out that sometimes he is at fault, ‘cause when we were in the band together, nothing was ever his fault.
Jan: With your new guitarist, Alex, I have the feeling that the band has developed into a much tighter unit. He plays smoother so that you can actually hear how good Dash is on bass, how fast but tight Dudel is on drums, and how good you actually sing. Felix played total death metal destruction on every other song with his guitar…
Sam: Yeah, Felix had a different style. I liked it, though. He was also a good songwriter, but I am happier with Alex now. Not only can he play great, he is a much more relaxed person. He likes to party but keeps it together and does not flip out. His style is, in a way, like Felix’s on guitar but also different. He knows where to do a lot and where to let the other parts of the band take over.
Jan: All of you in the band like to drink and smoke and the major part of your songs deal with drinking (“Street Boozing”), fucking things up, and skateboarding the old-school way (“Skateboard the Freeway“). You toured the U.S.A. twice (West Coast, East Coast, Southwest to Texas), just completed a two-week German tour including the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, and everyone wants to party with you. How do you stay in control?
Sam: Well, we don’t a lot of the time. We try to keep each other in check as much as possible, but the party train seems to take over sometimes. We all indulge, but we have also all been at this so long that we know where to stop… most of the time. I would say that other than the drama with Felix, most of the shit that happens is a result of drinking and then blacking out. On the last tour I had to drink so much because of an injury I had. I, basically, had to drink the pain away so I could put on a good show and because of that I blacked out four times on the tour… maybe five. And, yeah, we are known as a party band, so we get to town and people always wanna party with us. I feel bad if we let them down. So if everyone is beat up from the night before, I am usually the person that ends up partying with the people… but most of the time we all pull it off.

Jan: Do you live a quiet life in Frankfurt when not on tour?
Sam: I try to lay low. I teach English and work on other things at home, but I also live within walking distance to two venues and two others are two or less tram stations away. So I end up at a lot of shows. Sometimes I volunteer and work at them or just hang out and support local bands or other bands on tour. Sometimes, I will do a show, but that is a lot of work with my busy schedule, so that does not happen too often. I seem to tell myself so often that, “Yeah, this weekend we are not playing so I am going to chill,” but I never pull it off. I am not sure if I know how to relax. I like the action and meeting new people.
Jan: What are your limits? When does all the consumption get nasty?
Sam: Limits? What are those? As The Lewd said: “beyond moderation.” I don’t really know. I don’t set limits. My body usually tells me to slow down. Or if I see the sun creeping up, then I know that if I have to play the next day I should tuck it in… or not, depending on what is happening. Things can get nasty. On the last tour I peed in the promoter’s bedroom. Luckily, he loves me and I bought him a nice salmon breakfast to make up for it. The funny thing is that he told me I was the third person to do that. I have never done anything like that before. Shit, there is always a first time. Just crazy that it was at thirty-three!
Jan: Tell us what happened right before the last tour, the AC/DC song “Big Balls” came to reality?
Sam: Well, that is the injury I had to deal with on the last tour. We were playing a show in the Ruhrpott area. The backstage was up this staircase that all these kids were always sitting on. I got sick of asking them all to get up or move, so I thought I came up with a clever idea. I would slide down the handrail, but I would not do it dumb, I would do it right… yeah right. I thought I also should use both hands so I would not fall. So I put my beer bottle in my mouth and proceed to slide down the handrail. About a third of the way down, I start to fall back and end up doing a full flip, falling a full story and then landing between my legs on the handrail from the next story. At first, I was more worried about the teeth I chipped, but that was not so noticeable.
Then I walked off the pain as good as I could. I drank a couple of shots and thought I was all right to play the show. Well, we played the show and it went off: dog piles and stage dives. Then at the end of the show I look down and there is this giant bulge in my pants. I was like, “Fuck, take me to the hospital,” but everyone in the band was wasted. Luckily, this girl I know had a designated driver with her and took me to the hospital. We get there and they pull my pants down. I could not believe the sight. My balls were as big as two grapefruits. They said I had to have surgery. They also told me before the surgery that I might loose my left nut. At the operating table I was given the option of being numbed from the waist down or being knocked out. I took the latter option. When I awoke after the surgery, my first question was, “Do I still got my boys”? They were only happy to tell me that everything was fine but it would take time for all the blood to drain from my sack. Yeah, it was pretty hard. Nine days later we left on tour, me in diapers and everything.
Jan: Hooooo shit, man. I guess you have the solidarity of all readers here! Let’s talk about upcoming shit, the 12”split with the German band Nervous Breakdown, the third full length on Destiny coming out at the end of this year… What can we expect on these two releases, more Rich Kids on LSD meet Infest sound?
Sam: Well, we went back into the studio with Archi Alert from Inferno/Terrorgruppe fame in December. We recorded twenty-seven songs in three-and-a-half days. Alex, our new guitar planer, had to learn them all in four weeks. The songs are along the same lines as our previous stuff but also a bit more evolved. We have really found our sound and are trying to push things to the limit. The lyrics are similar to what we have done up till now—i.e. booze, skating, religion, friends of mine, and just dealing with life in general. We recorded a couple of cover songs and the cool thing is that on the RKL cover we got Chris, Barry, and Lil´ Joe of RKL to sing on it. On the Attitude Adjustment cover we got Kevin Reed, Chris Kontos, and Yapple to sing on it. That was really special. Our good friend Hoody recorded the vocals in Oakland and then sent them to Archi to mix. So yeah, we are really excited. Ten songs will be on the split with Nervous Breakdown, a really great German hardcore punk band, released by Phobiact Records in Europe and Give Praise Records in the U.S.A. Then sixteen songs will be on the full length that Destiny will release on CD and Dirty Faces on vinyl, both will be European releases. We are still looking into an American release.
Jan: You mentioned that a book will also be released with the LP? A story of your life kind of thing?
Sam: Yeah, well, it is just that CDs don’t really sell anymore. Archi said we need to do something special to get the thing to sell a bit better. We were then contacted by a ghost writing firm in Huntington Beach in Southern California. They were interested in our story. I got the guy, Stan, on the phone and talked to him about it. He said he was currently writing the life story of Casey Royer from D.I. so I figured this was the right person to work with. I also found out that Stan was in the band that played the party in the movie American History X. That also really intrigued me. So I am currently doing interviews with Stan about all the crazy shit that has happened in my life like getting kicked out of high school, selling drugs, going to prison, getting out, and moving to Europe. There is a lot there and all of my experiences are reflected in my lyrics so it brings everything together.
Jan: By the way, is RKL a favorite of yours? I mean, you cover RKL and also GG Allin. While I am down with RKL, Wwhat is your obsession with GG? I mean, yeah, “Bite it you scum”, but… wasn’t he just sexist, fucked-up, and all full of shit? [laughs] Okay, great performer, too, and great videos, but…
Sam: I have to be honest and say that my favorite band of all time is The Fuck Ups from San Francisco. They are also just as fucked up as GG. I was totally enthralled by bands like this as a youngster just because they pushed everything to the edge and then jump off the edge. Their music was raw and their lyrics hard. It spoke to me and my teenage angst. While I am a fan of GG, I don’t agree with a lot of what he does or says. I just like the fact that he did not give a fuck. Now, yeah, RKL is another one of my favorites. Though I wanted to start a band in the vein of The Fuck Ups, I ended up with some great musicians and it just seemed to make more sense to move in RKL / D.R.I. direction. I did not wanna dumb down their talents just to push my agenda. I am very happy with the sound that we have. It is a mix of all of our influences.
Jan: Your label, Destiny Records, I guess some people might know it through the RKL Greatest Hits Double Live In Berlin record from back in the day…They are also the booking agency that represents NOFX and the Fat Wreck bands, but they are also a record label that employs the famous Archie Alert from the German old-school thrashers Inferno. I know that Jimmy Alvarado from Razorcake / L.A. fucking loves Inferno. Tell us more about it, please.
Sam: Destiny, well that just says it all. I think this was all supposed to happen. The label has been around since like 1983. It was started in Berlin by another Bay Area-born punk, Dave P. He started the label to put out bands he liked and others he played in. He was in Porno Patrol and No Allegiance. So, much like me, he was an American singing in a German hardcore punk band. Destiny put out some killer bands like RKL, MDC, Inferno, and Verbal Abuse. They also started booking tours for the bands that they put out. When the booking started doing better than the label, the label took a back seat. But Dave always kept the label going because of his love for music and the underground bands. They are releasing a lot this year: five different releases. Our new LP comes out in the fall and will be released at the same time as the re-release of the RKL greatest hits special edition DVD/CD. So we are really excited about that.
Jan: Through Destiny Scheisse Minnelli has played support slots for bigger bands that Destiny represents. You played several times with No Use For A Name and Pennywise. You will play two nights in Amsterdam with NOFX and, right now in Frankfurt, with Jello’s new band. These bigger shows, do they really have a bigger effect for your band in terms of merch sales and more people at your shows if you return to the city where you played as support?
Sam: Destiny puts us on bigger shows from time to time, but ninety-nine percent of our gigs are booked by us and done by DIY groups. I mean, Destiny started as a small DIY label and, in my opinion, they are still DIY. They are a family, just on a bigger scale. We have gone back to Berlin, Munich, and Prague after we played in those places with a Destiny band. Berlin and Munich were full but Prague, which was my favorite show that we did with Pennywise, was empty when we did it alone. I love the DIY scene but, sometimes, the promoters think they just can post a couple of bulletins on the internet and people will come. And the fact that they only give you a door deal means if they get lazy it, doesn’t matter ‘cause they have nothing to lose. Things like that hurt my faith in the smaller DIY concert groups. We even had a promoter come and tell us, “Yeah, it’s gonna be dead tonight ‘cause I did not really do any promotion.” That really hurts ‘cause we have to pay for the tour van and for gas and we are all broke motherfuckers. But, on the other hand, there are people who know what they are doing and put on great DIY shows. It can be hit or miss... but when it misses, then it hits us where it hurts: in the pocket book.
Jan: You were born in Oakland, California, then moved to Concord, stayed in prison, moved back to Oakland, then took off to Europe to make punk rock music. Did you really have to leave the U.S.A.?
Sam: I did not have to leave, but if I had kept living the way I was in the U.S.A. I would have ended up back in prison, hurt, or worse. I also come from a family that travelled a lot. My father has been everywhere and I always heard stories of all these exotic, far-off places. I wanted to see them too. Then, being half Iranian, I wanted to meet my family over there. I have four uncles, an aunt, and, like, a thousand cousins. So I did not set off directly for Germany. I first went to Iran and then travelled Europe for nine months and ended up staying in Germany.
Jan: Did your vision about your life in Europe come true?
Sam: I did not know what to expect in Europe. I originally thought I would live in Prague and then in Denmark somewhere, but I ended up in Germany. It was all destiny, like our label. I love living here. I feel very free and I never have to look over my shoulder because of what I do for a living.
Jan: Don’t you get homesick living in Germany? No palm trees, no beaches, no California sun?
Sam: Of course I miss home. I miss my family, my friends, and the weather! There are also other small things I miss, like real Mexican food and forties of malt liquor.
Jan: What are the main differences between the hardcore punk scenes in the Bay Area and Germany?
Sam: Well, the Bay Area scene is very close. There are like seven cities in this very small area all within an hour of each other. And you can play them all and have a different crowd every night. But the punks in San Francisco don’t really go to shows in Oakland often, but Oakland punks will go to San Francisco if the band they want to see is not playing in the EastBay. The scene is also not as PC as the German scene. People are not homophobic or sexist, but they are very sarcastic. If I used some of my Cali sarcasm in some clubs in Germany, I would be labeled an ass. But I love the German scene. It has its own special positives.
Jan: Which three European hardcore punk records would you recommend?
Sam: There are just so many… so not including the U.K.:No Allegiance,  Mad; BGK White Male Dumbinance; Inferno,Tod & Wahnsinn; Raw Power,  Screams from the Gutter.
Jan: What happened in Hamburg with Attitude Adjustment, you Nazi hooker?
Sam: Yeah, we played in Hamburg with Attitude Adjustment and our Mexican homie Yapple was playing second guitar for them. After the gig, we all hit St. Pauli to party. Well, there are hookers everywhere in that part of Hamburg. Yapple said something to one of them as we were walking by. The hooker goes on to say “No black penis, please!” Yapple is Mexican, dark but not black. So he responds, “Fuck you, Nazi hooker!” Funny-ass shit ‘cause she shut her mouth at that point.
Jan: You saw Rancid in the beginning of the 1990s in a living room in Oakland. I hate you. What was the best concert you have seen in Europe so far?
Sam: That is easy, Negative Approach. The first time was killer in Belgium with Discharge and Christ On Parade, but the second time was the best show I have seen in Europe. I got to see them in this small club. They crammed like 280 heads into this tiny club and it went off!! They played everything!
Jan: Tell us, which stereotypes American people have about Germans are really true?
Sam: I hate to say it, but they do eat a lot of sausages. Maybe not all the veggies and vegans in the scene but, as a whole, they eat a hell of a lot of sausages and kraut, too.
Jan: Scheisse Minnelli will be touring the U.S.A. again in 2011. What will be your routing? If people want to do a show with you, how can they get in contact?
Sam: We are not exactly sure yet. We will be doing the entire West Coast, for sure. We were also offered a gig in Hawaii, but I think that is a dream ‘cause I don’t think we can afford that. We may do it like the last tour: hit the East Coast and then fly to the West Coast and leave out the middle. But you never know. People can hit us up at [email protected]. Thanks Jan. See you at the next drunken night.