"We are good taste's funeral directors" -- Die Toten Hosen, The Annual Rheinland Lent Carnival Parade, '96
Die Toten Hosen are one of Germany's oldest, most prolific, hardest working, hardest partying and best loved punk rock bands. Comming out of Dusseldorf, the band originally formed in 1982, comprised of 6 members: Trini Trimpop (Drums), Andi (bass), Kuddel (guitar), Breiti (guitar), Walter (guitar), and Campino (Vocals). They had all been in bands before, and they had studied such rock classics as Gary Glitter, Slade, Chelsea, and Motorhead, as well as making some trips to London. They're first single was "Wir Sind Bereit" ("We're ready") and "Reisefeber" (Travel Bug), recorded in one afternoon at "Rudas Studio" in Dusseldorf. After its release they made their first tour, planning to play small clubs for a low cover charge-- this amounted to all sorts of choas and wild parties as the band traveled around the country meeting people, and as they wrestled with not having a place to sleep, not always being paid, etc. The press called them "The successful surviors, more or less of the first German punk movement". Sounds like they had a good time.
The story of die Toten Hosen shows an immense amount of energy and focus, which can not only be heard in their sound but is also demonstrated by their story. After the first tour they released their first albulm, "Opel Gang" in 1983, and without stopping to enjoy being suddenly called "Germany's number 1 punk band", they came out with the second albulm, "Unter Falscher Flagge" in 1984. They then participated in the making of the second film of director Wolfgang Bueld, "Formula One" in order to make some money. In May of '85, they started the "Unter Falscher Flagge" tour, and the band's 'internal database' reveals that 28 out of 38 of those shows resulted in trouble of some sort or another, fights, cancellations, and bans being the most common. At the end of this tour they flew to Hungary and dealt with a totally different set of problems behind the Iron Curtain.
In January of 1986 the band's drummer, Trini became their new manager, and they replaced him with Wölli. With the release of "Never Mind the Hosen, this is the Roten Rosen", which was punk covers of post-war German pop, the band attempted, in the words of Campino to show that "...the difference between punk and bourgeois conformity is sometimes merely a question of rythm." It was immensly successful, and the same year they released a live albulm, "Bis zum Bittern Ende" ("Until the Bitter End")
At this point they were asked by Bernd Schadewald, the director of a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange to play the band at the Korova Milk bar, which they did, and which critics liked. They came out shortly after that with the albulm "Ein kleines Bisschen Horrorshow" ("A little bit of Horrorshow"), inspired by the experience. The single "Hier Kommt Alex" ("Here comes Alex") was banned by Bavarian state radio, adding to a general Toten Hosen mania and causing that song to go platinum. In October of 1988 they started touring, hitting every possible venue from Amsterdam to Lithuania. The band was in France when the news of the collapse of the Berlin Wall reached them. The band dropped everything and headed to Berlin to take part in the historic party that happened there at the time.
When they returned to Dusseldorf they began to record their 7th albulm, "Kruezzug ins Glück", which turned out to be a double albulm. The spring after its release the band went on a bicycle tour of the new German states, followed by the tour bus with all the equipment in case of impromptu gigs.
This tour left them exhausted and burned out, but they hit on the idea while playing their first shows in London to take a step back and get back to their own musical roots. This was going to turn into "Learning English, Lesson One", a collaborative effort with a virtual "who's who" of punk rock: Johnny Thunders (who died only a few days after recording "Born to lose"), Joey Ramone, TV Smith (the Adverts), Handsome Dick Mantoba (The Dictators), Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys), Captain Sensible (the Damned), Knox (vibrators), Nick Cash, and Charlie Harper(of the UK Subs). In 1992 the band traveled the world from March to October on their "Menschen, Tiere, Sensationen" ("Men, Animals, Sensations") tour, making guest appearances in Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, England and Norway. In Germany at this time however, violence against foreigners was at an all-time high. The Hosen were inspired by this to write "Sascha- ein Aufrechter Deutscher" ("Sascha- an Upstanding German"). Proceeds from the sale of the single were donated to the Duesseldorf Appeal against Racism and Hostility towards foreigners. The single raised over half a million marks for the appeal and the Toten Hosen also took part in an anti-racist rally in the Hofgarten in Bonn with over 60,000 demonstrators present. After this they made the albulm "Kauf Mich" ("Buy Me") which was a sort of social comment on marketing, targeting not only consumerism, but also tourism, xenophobia, reality TV, and AIDS. When the albulm was released it was off on tour again, this time playing not only small and medium-sized gigs but also playing at stadiums for 60,000 people supporting U2. At this point their 'best of' albulm, "Reich und Sexy" was released, in part to give new fans an opportunity to hear what the band used to sound like. At the same time they released an English version of "Reich und Sexy" called "Love, Peace and Money". Then they toured not only Europe but the US, Latin America and Japan. It was also this year that they took part in the 300th episode of the German TV criminal thriller series "Tatort".
In early 1996 they released the albulm "Opiat of the People", which took on topics like child abuse, and the church. In the same year the Toten Hosen were invited to play the Ramones' farewell concert in Buenos Aires. The fans had the city in a state of emergency for days. Commented Andi: "When 50,000 Argentinians party, well, that's quite an experience." Their second live albulm, "Im Auftrag des Herren" ("By Order from on High") was released the same year.
The band had something of a shock shortly after that, playing at the Rhein Stadium to over 60,000 fans with the likes of Bad Religion, Goldfinger, and the Leningrad Cowboys. A girl from the Netherlands was crushed to death by the crowd surging toward the front of the stage. They were advised by police and fire officials to continue the show, for fear that if the show were cancelled there would be mass rioting. The Toten Hosen cancelled the rest of their gigs for that year and regrouped, trying to figure out if they should, and could carry on. They published the autobiography of the band at the end of that year, To the Bitter End. They had decided that the most important thing in their lives was their friendship with each other and that they wanted to keep playing.
In 1998 they participated in the Warped Festival Tour, playing 14 concerts in New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Hawaii. Returning from this tour they published "Warten Auf's Christkind" (literally "Waiting for baby Jesus" but more accurately "Waiting for Santa Claus") which was a collection of punk covers of Christmas songs. In January of 1999 the five of them toured India on motor bikes and didn't deal with music at all for a bit. When they returned they wrote the tittle track for the film "You Are Dead" and released the albulm "Unsterblich" ("Immortal"). It was also at this time that Wölli took a break from the band, replaced by his drum tech, Vom Richie, due to a lumbar disc problem. As soon as the "Unsterblich" albulm was in the shops they started touring again, this time combining skiing and performing, in thier "Four Days, Four Countries" tour in the Alps, playing shows in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. The band skied all day and then played all night in small local clubs. No one can say that they're slowing down.
Die Toten Hosen are a German institution, once called by a friend of mine, "The German Rolling Stones" what ever that means. They are a very creative, powerful bunch of guys, good musicians, internationally known, and still concerned with issues surrounding xenophobia. Most of the band bio information is from their official website: http://www.dietotenhosen.de/