“Hackfleisch is a punk fanzine, the way I always wanted it: no concert-announcements, no record-reviews, but compacted anger, frankness and the willingness to make enemies.”
I got to know Karl Nagel (real name Peter Altenburg, orinally from Wuppertal) around the time he was the singer of ‘Militant Mothers’ (a band from Hannover that played a gig for our Smurfpunx collective; 90-03-03). He seemed like an intelligent, well-read, erudite person but most of his writings were in German and since my kowledge-level of it is that of secundary school, I lack of the nuances and often misunderstand the irony/sarcasm. Hence I never fully read the zine he did: Hackfleisch.
There were 6 issues (1982-1986), all in German. Almost no band-stories or interviews, mostly punk-scene experiences, developments, stories about the chaos days, etc. Karl sent me PDFs of #2 (pogo on the tram, an ‘untermensch’ reports, heil Nagel – destroy Nagel, nazis = skins ?, anarchism & punk; women’s power, etc.) & #3 (youth ’85, anarchy, punk, the phantasy of power, chaos days, leftist dreams, etc.), and an excerpt from his book Reflux that shines a light on his intentions with the zine (which I translated with his help):
Leader visions and failure frustration
My chances of a life as a human wrecking-ball seemed not bad: Punk was at the centre of the ‘zeitgeist’ and failures can also cause a lot of commotion here. In my eyes that was the core of the idea behind punk. My failure of my science fiction fanzine Whistler seemed like a qualification for a career as a punk fanzine editor. Fantasizing, big-talking, typing, awkward graphics and combining everything into a tangled mess – I can do that!
Yes, chopping up a wonderfully inferior anthem for rioting losers, that’s it! Fuck rock’n’roll “culture” and politics in all body-openings and process it into minced meat!
Hackfleisch [minced meat] – that should be the name of my punk fanzine! Written and designed for people like me!
The thought ignited, the starting-shot sounded. I had hardly any money and started out small as a loser, in DIN A5 size. A bit dwarfish for the intended world-conquest, but Hackfleisch should appear every two weeks – that seemed doable to me, with a size of 12 pages. Created as a news fanzine, I wanted to put a briquette on every issue and finally make my magazine a disgusting mirror [Der Spiegel; Germany’s largest, most influential weekly], the leading voice of punk. And become Rudolf Augstein [journalist; founder of Der Spiegel] of the depraved and the broken ones.
When I copied and stapled the first issue , a new fanzine had appeared in Hannover shortly before: Pogoflittchen. [Pogobitch] My timing was bad but the mood was good.
I sold a few zines to friends and through the local Govi record-store [mail-order company]. I really wanted to rake in at a concert in Korn [Unabhängiges Jugendzentrum (UJZ) – independent youthcentre – Kornstraße]. Punks all over – perfect target-group, easy job! I thought it would be fun. Getting to know people and stuff. Girls, maybe. By myself, without a girlfriend, Hackfleisch seemed like a suitable tool to draw the attention.
I posted myself at the entrance. A copy of Hackfleisch in hand, the rest of the zines in a plastic bag.
“Hey, dude, wanna buy a fanzine?”, I said to the first one.
The guy with a beer in his hand and punquette on his arm stopped and looked at me first, then at the magazine. Took it in hand, leafed through it. Acted as if someone wanted to sell him a CDU [Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands; conservative political party] leaflet, or a refrigerator or a car.
“Is it free?”
“Nah. 50 pfennig [1 DM (ca. 0,50 Euro) = 100 pfennig].”
“Ill take one if you give it as a gift to me.”
“You just want to make yourself look important. You and your commercial shit.”
I would have gladly punched him in the face for this, but I knew that my thin arms were not made for fights. So I switched to agitation, propaganda and whining.
“Come on, dude … you also get something out of it when people in the scene do something, don’t you?”
“I don’t care.”, the guy said, leaving me and my zines behind. The asshole’s girlfriend laughed.
Many laughed and smiled, others threatened to punch me out of their way.
Half an hour later, I put the zines back in the bag and stashed all the shit behind the counter. I didn’t feel like a fight that I would lose anyway.
Better to have fun like the others!
The idea of publishing Hackfleisch every 2 weeks soon landed in the bin. The final straw was an action that was announced in the zine. ‘Tempo’, one of my punk-pals, had designed and ad for his band ‘B-Test’. He had the idea for Pogo in der Straßenbahn [pogo on the tram], and ‘B-Test’ would play there. It was scheduled for Saturday, January 29th, 1983.
When I reached the meeting-point at the final stop of line 14 at exactly half past six, a few dozen punks (plus hippies and anarchos) had already arrived.
My joy about the newly discovered punk reliability quickly vanished when the first spike-head patted me on the shoulder.
“Awesome action, you do dude!”, he said. “Super organisation!”
I was irritated. “Not mine. I just published the call.”
“Oh come on … admit it, I won’t tell anyone!”
He didn’t believe me, just as many others who talked me over with similar jabbering.
I was happy when it started: We got on the tram, ‘B-Test’ made their noise, the crowd became hungry for tumult, and a tram experienced pogo firsthand. It swinged like a fishing-trawler on high seas as the atmosphere peaked. The beer flowed, the mood reached a peak.
15 minutes later, the fun came to an abrupt end: cops fought their way through our ranks to arrest people. Most of us managed to get away, and finally a small troop gathered around me.
“What are you going to do now, Nagel?” one asked.
“I’ve got no idea.”, I answered.
“But you should know what to do if you’re setting something like that up.”
I’d had enough of it, I went home. I didn’t want to be a leader making decisions for others. And the desire to make fanzines was gone, at least for now.
It took me two months to put the second issue together. I used Adolf Hitler on the cover and embarrassed myself with calculated vulgarity. I greeted my readers with ‘Heil Nagel’ and announced that the news-zine had turned into an egomanic fanzine. I thought some splashes of wickedness would make me unattractive as a leader.
Nevertheless the second issue of Hackfleisch strengthened my reputation as a scene-celebrity, but the bottom line was that nobody was really interested in the zine itself. Perhaps there wasn’t enough stuff about pussies, fucking and pogo in it; who can tell that in retrospect?
I only did 74 copies, limiting the readership, and I gave half of these away.
Meanwhile I had a girlfriend at least, I could hardly believe it myself. She called herself ‘Climax’, I was madly in love with her.
‘Climax’ was four years older than me and had a record-collection that filled an entire shelf-wall. Mind you, she didn’t understand that I was into music that came across as fierce, mean and coarse, and when I would be in a band it should sound that way. (‘Middle Class Fantasies’ or ‘Dead Kennedys’).
One day ‘Climax’ put records from ‘Bauhaus’ and ‘Sex Gang Children’ on the turntable.
“Listen to this, it doesn’t sound like your music.”, she said. “No negative shit – this is positive punk!”
I racked my brains over what was ‘positive’ about the dark and depressive sound of that music, but a few weeks I discovered newcomers such as ‘Black Flag’ and ‘Bad Brain’. A completely different league: “This is the future, not that self-piting howling!”, I told her. “Mark my words!”
The new sound was faster and sounded harder than the usual hardcore-punk that I knew from Germany or England. The American vocalists screamed their hearts out in a way that made me shiver. I hád to see that!
Soon the ‘Bad Brains’ came to Hannover, at Korn. The condensation dripped from the ceiling as they delivered one orgasm after the other on the stage. I saw pure magic – during their song Fearless Vampire Killers the singer’s hands seemed to fire lightning in the air!
They were African-American and rastas, wearing dreadlocks and paying homage to their god and emperor Haile Selassie, and that irritated me. Just as ‘Black Flag’ singer Henry Rollins a few weeks later: he creeped through the Korn pub, wearing a parka and long hair. To explode like an angry, muscular sewer-rat during Six Pack 15 munutes later, so that all German and British bands, compared to this, seemed like people on early retirement.
In fact, I had seen the harbingers of a new era, but hadn’t understood any of it. In my world, punk ruled as I knew it.
In the summer of 1983, my Adler typewriter was called into action again for a short period. Diva (the woman that did Pogoflittchen) and I made a special zine about the Chaostage [‘chaos days’, at the time a famous meeting of punks, which were accompanied with violence and destruction, and got a lot of media attention too]. They had just happened and shaken Hannover for the second time, and it was clear that we didn’t have to worry about selling a zine like that. Cash From Chaos!
We hit the shit, the zine appeared as A4. And it looked damn dirty!
The savior of punk
A year later, in the summer of 1984: my community-service was over, bloody arguments with skinheads were the order of the day. Nevertheless I didn’t return to Wuppertal. Instead, I moved to a punky shared flat; a little later, Linde shifted down a gear punk-wise, became a taxi-driver and sold me his studded jacket.
Because I wanted to be a super punk-rocker, I pierced another 200 rivets into it and painted in Gothic print – what else? – “No More Peace” on the back of the jacket, accompanied by a mushroom-cloud. Now I was part of the rivet-emperor tribe. A warrior for punk!
During the third Chaostage, everything boiled down to a huge, bloody massacre between punks and nazi-skins. 2.000 punks from all over Europe arrived, and after a short but violent confrontation with around 150 nazi-skins, the colourful dragon withdrew from the city to the youthcentre on the Glocksee [autonomous youthcentre]. There a long battle with the police began.
Rioting punks dismantled the interior of the youthcentre into individual parts and used them as projectiles. A social worker’s record-collection flew through a window onto the state-power. On the roof of the U-shaped building masked people threw with everything that they could get in hands. Below, water-cannons sprayed away anyone that didn’t look like police.
Driven by booze and drugs, the mob raged across the premises; some older punks from Hannover ran purposely through the bizarre scenery. They tried to avoid the worst. When I saw how a drunken punquette hitting a tree, shouting: “The nazis … the nazis … everyone to the trainstation!”, I had enough of it. Like everyone else who had their senses together, I made sure to got away and begged myself through a police-cordon. Others stole a canoe from the Glocksee workshop and crossed the Ihme [river]. Unfortunately, the boat wasn’t finished yet, which is why it sunk together with the people in it. When they reached the other bank (swimming), soaking wet, they were given a warm welcome by thugs of the Borussia front [extreme-rightist Borussia Dortmund hooligans].
The battle of the Glocksee continued until late into the night; I hid myself at home and didn’t dare to think about the day after. “Damned, what went wrong?” I wondered.
During the days that followed, everyone knew that something fundamental had changed. Turning point! Many now called us “jerks with coloured hair”.
After that, the majority of the punk-scene was occupied with its own decline. Some laid drunk in the gutter, others devoted themselves to hard-drugs and made fun of the street-punks who devoted themselves to excessive boozing. But not for long.
Many got out. An alternative was hardcore, fresh from America. Others didn’t feel like changing course and stayed true to their punk.
I got scared: Was No Future for punk right now? All over? Never – rather switch to megalomania: I was the ónly one who could give punk back its original sting, and therefore Hackfleisch had to be rescued from sinking! From now on, the meaning of punk would be determined by Karl Nagel, the terrible thinker! You know that villain from the Marvel comics? Always fighting the Fantastic Four, losing all the time?
One thing was clear: I never wanted to get on my knees for whatever bore. The new Hackfleisch had to have the attraction of tasty genitals! Looking so cool that éveryone wants it! I would cheer the many letters and words towards the willing buyers like the concealed stuffing of a Trojan horse. Because there were a few things that were a heavy burden on my punk heart.
My head was full of ideas clashing with one and other, accompanied by the sound of loud marching-music I put the best ones into practice. Hack! Hack! Hack!
Like an asshole in the frenzy of success
A few weeks later I was at a punk-concert walking around with a stack of papers in my hands. ‘Mengele’, a friend, had taken me in his car to Bielefeld, with two boxes of Hackfleisch.
The third issue, with a print-run of 1.000, was supposed to flood the punk-scene. Full risk, no more half matters! I had been able to convince the printer that he was facing a genius. The creator of the best punk-fanzine ever!
The printer’s name was Lutz Lieber, an old lefty who was stranded on the “Green Alternative List” (GAL). He resided in the Hannover city-council for them. However, his activities weren’t really really “green”; he was rather a cheerful communist with a lot of sympathy for everything that smelled of unrest and riot.
Lutz liked punks and apparently he liked me too, because he printed minced Hackfleisch on credit. I found that very pleasant. Or maybe Lutz was just hoping that my rubbish zine would help to break down the system, speed up the overthrow. Of course, money was secondary.
The mysterious electric typewriter that I had spotted in Lutz’s office was more useful too, for my plans to conquer the world. “You can type all your text for the zine on it if you want.”, he said. Of course I wanted because the thing was a marvel of modern technology!
It was called ‘IBM Composer’ and I was amazed when I saw what it could do: justified text, pin-sharp typeface, and you could change the font in the middle of the text and, for example, italicize individual passages! Damn! This gave the Hackfleisch a real cool magazine-look.
Like its prehistoric relative – my vintage Adler [typewriter brand] – the ‘IBM Composer’ beat the power of an electric guitar by length. Perfectly made for me because I had failed at playing guitar years before. The noisy metal of the ‘IBM Composer’ should from now on shoot a constant fire and make the world tremble for our superpowers! Somehow. Together, Adler, the ‘IBM Composer’ and I were the hottest band in the world. And Lutz the roadie, technician and groupie, all in one.
“What about the photos?”, he asked one day. “Should I scan them?”
But I wasn’t that dumb, on the contrary: I copied the small-format pictures up to page-size, copied copies of copies of copies, and subsequently painted them with indian ink, felt-tip pens and opaque white. The layout needed to be a punch in the face and by no means look gridded clean!
So it turned out that after a while I was hanging out at a punk-gig again. No, not to jump around the place on a ‘we want noise’ evening. The field-trial, the litmus-test of my masterplan, started right here and today.
A few bands were playing at the AJZ [autonomous youthcentre] in Bielefeld, but for me it wasn’t about music that Saturday, I hung out in the courtyard.
I didn’t talk to anyone about Hackfleisch but everyone could see the zines in my hands. There were a lot of them, they were big, they looked awesome! No more shameful plastic bags, no hide-and-seek game! The previously inconspicuous A5 zine now showed off in A4. No band on the cover, no Adolf, but the megalomaniac Nagel himself! The punk god! In a pose that I borrowed from a Marvel comic and then re-enacted.
A stack of Hackfleisch under the arm, with an axe between the legs – I’d bought it in a hardware-store and gave it the name “lawyer” – I stood in the courtyard of the AJZ, waiting for prey. Bringing my lawyer into the venue was an easy exercise, I knew some guys from the AJZ-team and ‘Böckchen’ had arranged everything.
“What have you got there?”, so it started? A punquette, already a bit tipsy, looked at me and my zines with big eyes. A poison-green mountain of hair grew over her forehead, the ‘Boskops’ logo painted over her jacket in full width. I called her ‘Froschkopp’ [frog-head] secretly.
The usual leafing through followed. Her attempt to transmit arrogance was accompanied by a dash of agitation. Something was different. I kept talking to someone else and paid little attention to the woman. I could play the asshole act too.
“How much does it cost?”
“Two marks fifty.”
‘Froschkopp’ seized her beer between her knees, pulled a few coins out of her purse and gave them to me. That’s why I put out a zine.
When ‘Mengele’ and I drove back to Hamburg around 2 p.m., 50 zines were gone. The whole trunk-load.
This went on for the next few months. Another reason why Hackfleisch also sold well, was the way I pissed off leftists and autonomists in it, and publicly questioned the “natural alliance” between punks and radical leftists. The Hannover political scene wanted to know what was going on. It caused a storm in glass of water and from then on the advocates of the revolution didn’t like me very much anymore. That wouldn’t change in the decades to come.
During the following weeks, more and more letters came in. Readers wanted to distribute Hackfleisch, distributers included the zine in their assortment. In the end, almost 2.000 of my masterpieces were gone (I had to print extra and Lutz got his money!). Without advertising, without sliming – that’s how it should be!
This was followed by two more issues in the same style, with (the special) #5 in between, which I put together again as an A5 with a small print-run to annoy the collectors. These already existed in the 80s too, you see.
By the end of 1986 I was at some concert with the 6th issue of Hackfleisch and pulled off the tried and tested act. The new issue of the zine was about ‘love’.
A guy with a leather jacket, black hair and studded belt stumbled out of the toilet. I recognized him immediately. It was the same empty-head that years ago called little sweet Hackfleish “commercial shit”. But the encounter seemed to have disappeared out of his brain a long time ago.
“Hey, dude … Gimme one!”, he said, pulling money out of his pocket without being asked. “Very cool what you’re doing. The others leaving real punk … the straight-edge wankers. They think they’re better because they don’t drink. But you’re holding up the punk-flag … when everyone deserts, you’ll be the last punk standing!”
But I didn’t want to be the last one to turn off the light. And especially not for people like him. For this enlightenment I gave the zine for free and went home.
After that it was over. No Hackfleisch anymore. I let my hair grow and packed my studded jacket in a removal-box. It sounded like boredom and death to worry my brain to death about how to preserve true, real punk for the descendants. The act was over.
I understood: Hackfleisch wasn’t made for “people like me”. Such a species didn’t exist. Or at least not where I was hanging out. Did they exist elsewhere anyhow?
A year later, Adler was replaced by an Atari computer. A PC followed and then a Mac. Adler was too old for the new times. The machine from the day before yesterday started to gather dust in some corner and was forgotten.
For the next 30 years, I wasn’t interested in typewriters and colour-ribbons. Instead, I had fun with ‘chaostage’, bands, pogo-anarchy and comic-production – all digitally forged! In the end, even print and paper got under the wheels of time, the triumphal march of the Internet seemed unstoppable.
Until the bell rang and the pizza came. But that’s another story …
On Karl’s Wikipedia-page Hackfleisch is described as a “punk-scene magazine that gave controversial comment on the development of the punk-scene”. Karl also published/authored comics and “litter-/nestpolluting literature“. He was also politically active (even candidate for the federal parliament for the Anarchist Pogo Party, APPD) but is best known for his involvement with the Chaostage (calling it an antifa-meeting is too simplistic, says Karl). His enemies (nazis) described him as “subversive, destructive, parasitic, anti-social and hostile”… If you don’t read German, you can also just have a look at his punk-foto archive.
“However well the enemies of the working-class disguise themselves – and no matter how many infiltrants the imperialists smuggle in – We’ll get them all!