Scène Plongeon – if one translates the name of this zine literally, it means ‘stagediving’ but it can also refer to ‘an immersion in the scene’ – was the publication my correspondent and mate Joel Person (from Saint-Herblain, near Nantes in France) did with the help of a few friends. #2 (December ’87) had interviews with HC/punk bands ‘Descendents’, ‘The Ex’, ‘Problem Children’, ‘Culture Shock’, ‘D.O.A.’, Ian MacKaye & ‘Spermbirds’, and the ska-band ‘The Toasters’; a lengthy article on revisionism, a Paris scene-report, columns & reviews. #3 (November ’88) was packed with conversations (‘Subterranean Kids’, ‘Dissent’, ‘Hate Crew’, ‘M.D.C.’, ‘7 Seconds’, ‘Verbal Assault’, ‘R.K.L.’ etc. etc.), more ska, more news from the Paris scene, etc.
Joel also did some comic-type drawings under the alias Kloporte and was the singer of the band ‘Bloody Müesli’; in the 90s he spent time in Québec where he played in another band and organised concerts.
The zine was a good way to get in touch with bands that we liked and possibly get ourselves on the guestlits at concerts, haha… Scène Plongeon was a project that gathered 3 fanzines at the beginning, one of which was Skactualités by Fred Dornier… It’s because of him that we inflated our number of pages with files about revisionism… Fred lives in England since nearly 30 years; he played in ‘100 Men’ for a while (a rocksteady band) but I lost contact in the 90s. Reynald was the major provider of vinyl novelties. He became an English teacher in Paris and left HC to become (him aswell!) an expert in Jamaican music. He settled in Brittany. At the time my brother was an absolute fan of melodic punk (‘Descendents’, ‘Naked Raygun’) and during a few years we played together in ‘Bloody Müesli’. He’s a French teacher. There were other occasional contributers, some of them that I still see in Nantes from time to time. I’m returning to university and sing in a band…
The following interview with Lee Hollis, the singer of ‘Spermbirds’, was done in August 1987 (by Reynald). That was after the release of their debut-album Something To Prove. The rest of the line-up then was Markus Weilemann (bass), Matthias ‘Beppo’ Götte (drums), Frank Rahm (guitar) & Roger Ingenthron (guitar). Around that time they also did their first gig for Smurfpunx (87-07-05), 2 more would follow… (89-12-25 & 90-01-14)
‘THEY’ ASKED ME TO WRITE AN INTRODUCTION FOR THE INTERVIEW THAT WILL FOLLOW, ‘THEY’ COULD HAVE DONE IT THEMSELVES, ‘THEY’ ARE EXAGGERATING. BECAUSE: WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO TELL ABOUT THE ‘SPERMBIRDS’ THAT ISN’T ALREADY SAID IN INTERVIEW. WELL I COULD TELL YOU THAT THEY HAVE RECENTLY RELEASED A FABULOUS 12” THAT PUTS ‘SPERMBIRDS’ AMONG THE BEST EUROPEAN BANDS (CATEGORY ‘WALTER ELF’ OF COURSE) AND OTHER THINGS ASWELL. BUT IT WOULD BE TOO EASY. A BIT LIKE MOVIE-REVIEWS IN TV-MAGAZINES, IT’S COOL, WE KNOW THE STORY, WE’RE NOT OBLIGED TO WATCH THE ROTTEN FILM.
IN THIS F**ING INTRO I WON’T REVEAL ANYTHING THAT COULD SPOIL THE EFFECTS OF MY ESTIMATED (HUM) COLLEGUE.
TO FIND OUT MORE, YOU WILL HAVE TO READ (!!) THIS INTERVIEW, IT’S AN OBLIGATION.
ALRIGHT, I’LL MEET YOU AT THE END FOR A WRITTEN TEST!
INTERVIEW WITH LEE, SINGER OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’; BY REYNALD. AUGUST 87.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ‘SPERMBIRDS’ AND ‘WALTER 11’?
‘Walter 11’ originally had another name, they were influenced by ’77 punk and did a lot of covers. Then guitarist Frank and bassist Markus wanted to play HC and they became ‘Spermbirds’, but without abandoning ‘Walter 11’. This gave 2 different styles, so 2 different bands.
IN WHAT BAND ARE YOU MOST INDISPENSABLE?
It’s pretty obvious. ‘Spermbirds’, of course! I won’t go as far as to say that it is my band but it’s the one where I have the biggest influence. I’m only the second singer in ‘Walter 11’! I did almost nothing on the LP [Heut’ Oder Nie, We Bite recs 1987], only a few appearances.
BEING POSITIVE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
Well, what’s positive is that I do what I’ve always wanted to do since I was little. There is a message that hast to come across to the public, even if it’s not that important, it’s there; it’s a pity if nothing happens. All this is very important: to be creative, meet people, talk to them, distract them, travel even if we haven’t traveled as much as we would like. From time to time, when I want to express myself on a certain point, the band gives me the possibility even if I’m not always right – far from it – I can say what I think. Concerts are where I can really do what I do best.
BUT HAVE YOU ALREADY HAD BAD MOMENTS DURING CONCERTS?
Oh yes! In the beginning people stayed outside; we still have bad concerts, the current does not always flow between the public and us, it doesn’t always work well, but not too often, fortunately…
VIOLENT SCENES SOMETIMES?
Sometimes it happens, we stop playing and we raise the finger to the troublemakers, it doesn’t necessarily stop the fight but everyone sees who’re the assholes, who then feel less at ease!
YOUR RELATIONS WITH THE U.S.?
I wanted to do things with members of old bands from Atlanta (Georgia): ‘Neon Christ’ and ‘D.D.T.’, not very well known. The drummer of ‘D.D.T.’ is very good, the others were the bassist and guitarist of ‘Neon Christ’. I wanted to sing and I thought that the formula would lead to something very strong. We rehearsed 2 or 3 times but I realised that there was a problem: the guitarist didn’t write the songs for ‘Neon Christ’. He was only the 2nd guitarist, he had no sense of rhythm; what he was doing was really too incoherent. I was really disappointed!
The U.S. scene is much larger but too focused on fashion. In Germany [Lee speaks of West-Germany, this was before the fall of the Berlin Wall.], the scene influenced by U.S. Hardcore is still young. Many excellent bands await their hour. In the U.S. it has become too big for my taste. In West-Germany, with all these new bands, I really saw excellent concerts, that’s so important to me.
DO YOU THINK THAT ‘SPERMBIRDS’ WERE THE FIRST TO HAVE A U.S. INFLUENCE IN GERMANY?
No, no, not at all! ‘H.O.A.’ [‘Hostages Of Ayatollah’; Düsseldorf area], ‘The Nikoteens’ [from Ingolstadt] had to be the first. And the Berlin bands that started about the same time as us, I believe: ‘Manson Youth’ [with Yvonne Ducksworth of ‘Combat Not Conform’ & ‘Jingo De Lunch’]. We only exist for 3 years.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’?
‘Spermbirds’ will continue as long as they are creative, will make music together and remain friends. As for the goal to reach: we doen’t make plans in advance, unlike groups such as ‘Uniform Choice’, they are 100% obsessed by their goal… Baaah! We’re not like that at all. We are together through friendship, we’ve been mates for years.
SO DON’T YOU THINK THAT IN THIS CASE YOU ARE MORE ‘POSITIVE’ THAN ‘UNIFORM CHOICE’, WHO SEEM TO HAVE VERY NARROW VIEWS?
It may well be. I don’t know much about them. I just discovered their LP. I read the lyrics, the music is great but the lyrics are enough to make me not love this band.
DO YOU THINK THEY’RE STEREOTYPICAL?
Yes, sterotyical is a very good expression. “Straight and alert”, pfff!, I think that’s stupid. “Rock together, think positive, skate hard”, ah! We are positive because we do what we all want to do. If we have doubts, if one of us loses his interest, I will speak to him, I will tell him to continue, but only if he wants to and not just to please me.
WOULD YOU TAKE A SUBSTITUTE IF ANY OF THE MEMBERS LEAVE THE BAND? OR WOULD YOU QUIT?
We would take a replacement only if we found someone who was 100% involved in what we were doing. The most important idea is friendship. I don’t mean to say that thinking that it’s noble but that’s what counts, after all that’s why we play together, money has nothing to do with it, we do not make much, so… We would try to replace him but if we didn’t find a substitute with whom we got along well, we would stop everything.
YOUR LYRICS ARE ENGAGED?
There is a title – What Do You Want – on the LP, which is directly political but lyrics-wise, I’m not sufficiently informed about politics to write serious and good lyrics about it. If I tried, people could say I was saying no matter what. It’s so easy to be mistaken.
SO IF YOU’LD WRITE ENGAGED LYRICS, WHAT WOULD THEY TALK ABOUT?
I want to be able to sing about subjects that don’t embarrass me, on which I have something to say! I think I have an idea: we will probably have a song against bands like ‘Uniform Choice’, but especially ‘Dag Nasty’, because for me their lyrics are so abstract, so point-less that they don’t mean anything to anyone. Nobody understands them, except perhaps the person who wrote them. If you have things to say, you have to say it and not say stuff like “I keep all my feelings to myself, I can’t talk about them, you know what I mean, you past by me in the street, we looked at each other but we didn’t say anything.” And all that shit…
BUT THERE ARE BANDS LIKE ‘INDIGESTI’ [Torino area, Italy] WHO HAVE MORE ABSTRACT LYRICS!
It may well be that some people don’t like the lyrics to this new song. Nevertheless, I believe that everyone can write the words they want. I don’t care. But at this moment I feel that the lyrics of ‘Dag Nasty’ are not sincere. When ‘Black Flag’ played Depression, people realised that the singer was depressed. For me it was a lyric with a strong emotional impact. That’s what I felt, at least.
BUT DON’T YOU THINK THAT CERTAIN STRAIGHT-EDGE BANDS HAVE SOME GOOD LYRICS?
Yes, of course, I’m not against Straight-Edge. The most important thing is that they themselves believe in what they say. If they really live it and express it from the bottom of their hearts, then it’s OK.
WHAT IMAGE DO YOU, AN AMERICAN, HAVE OF FRENCH BANDS?
I know that the most important is ‘Berurier Noir’. There’s a band that I liked very much: ‘Wunderbach’, I think. That’s it… It migh perhaps take more time for Hardcore to develop over there. But how many Americans know European bands, it’s about the same situation, right?
WHO MADE THE SLEEVE OF THE LP’S OF THE 2 BANDS?
For the T-shirts and the cover of the LP, the idea comes from Thomas Issler who runs the label We Bite recs. This cover is perhaps commercial but Thomas paid everything out of his own pocket, so…
ARE THESE T-SHIRTS ON SALE NOW?
Yes. For better and for worse. They cost 15 marks and can be obtained via the label (We Bite recs, Moltkestr. 15, 7400 Tübingen, West-Germany). It’s Thomas who decided to put them out, we talked about it with him, he’s not a businessman, you know. [That changed then obviously… 😉] We don’t know if we’ll make any money from them it, in any case, the bucks don’t make me crazy!
YOU’RE NOT AFRAID HE’LL RIP YOU OFF?
Oh no! We have good relations with him. He wants to do things professionally, while remaining independent; he lives of his label. But I don’t think we’re going to get ripped off at all.
YOUR RECENT CONCERTS?
We played in Homburg [Saarland], it was OK; in Berlin it was really great. But as we played much more often in the south, it is difficult to make good judgments.
THE U.S. INFLUENCE IN THE NORTH OF [West-]GERMANY, IS THAT A RECENT THING?
I believe so, yes, I’ld like to see the ‘Emils’ (from Hamburg), there’s a lot of talk about them right now in Germany. Apart from that I don’t really know, we didn’t play enough up north to get a clear idea of what’s going on up there.
IS THE ATMOSPHERE COLDER?
Yes, a little bit more. In Hamburg, a guy came up to us and said he was sorry but that the audience wanted something “harder”, but we do what we can, we didn’t know how to please them! That’s their problem.
ARE THE VENUES BIGGER UP NORTH?
It depends: in Hamburg, it was smaller than here (Homburg), but in Berlin it was really big! I was told that the scene in Lübeck [north of Hamburg] is great, we really want to play there.
Our influences always change: at first for me it was mainly ‘The Meatmen’ [Lansing, Michigan, USA], ‘Angry Samoans’ [Los Angeles, California, USA]. If we have to be compared with a band, then it should be ‘Angry Samoans’; I was very pleased that they wrote that in Maximum Rock’n’roll. It really is a major influence for me and for all of us. When I was living in Texas, Houston, there were the ‘Big Boys’ [Austin, Texas, USA] in their early days, and small bands with strange names that I thought were great, with dirty lyrics. I don’t know their names anymore.
ARE THERE NEW BANDS IN GERMANY THAT YOU LOVE?
‘Stigmatized’ is my favourite German band of the moment. Their tape is super but live they’re even better! I don’t like the ‘Ramonez 77’ (from Hamburg) because they are arrogant. They will play at the wedding of Nina Hagen (??). In Konstanz [south of Germany] they took all their time for their soundcheck. It was a festival and the last bands didn’t even get to play!
IF PEOPLE ARE SAYING ‘SPERMBIRDS’ ARE ONE OF THE BEST BANDS IN EUROPE NOW, HOW DO YOU RESPOND?
I didn’t realise that too much. It’s possible, after all!
WHY ARE ‘SPERMBIRDS’ SO POPULAR? BECAUSE OF THEIR SINGER?
Probably … What do you think Tylo? (Ed.: TYLO IS A BIG FAN OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’) [Because they are good of course!] What a decent guy… If we are known, I won’t complain, I like it.
BUT PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS GIVING ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT ‘SPERMBIRDS’ HAVE A AMERICAN SINGER, ISN’T IT A BIT FASHIONABLE?
[No, it’s because of their music! It is funny, well done; there are also good singers in Germany] (Ed.: THAT’S TYLO SPEAKING). (LEE) It’s not because I speak American since my childhood that foreign singers cannot do equally well. Take ‘L.U.L.L.’ [‘Leben Und Leben Lassen’ from Odense, Denmark], ‘Everything Falls Apart’ [Munich, Germany] or ‘Tudo Hospital’ [Bochum, Germany] for example. Perhaps it’s a bit fashionable to sing in English, I don’t know … German sounds good for Hardcore. Especially ‘Challenger Crew’ [Homburg, Germany] surprised me. I didn’t like the vocals of the old German bands.
IF I TOLD YOU THAT YOU ARE IN A BAND TO GET GROUPIES, WHAT WOULD YOU ANSWER?
Ha! Ha! If we had groupies, then I’ld say you’re right! That would be great! As for groupies: they must live their own lives.
DON’T YOU WANT TO BE A ROCKSTAR THEN?
No, I just want to be a man, hahaha!
THOMAS ISSLER WOULD LIKE YOU TO PLAY IN SUPPORT OF METAL BANDS. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
He talked about it with ‘Beppo’, our drummer; it’s true that I’m not against playing in front of a much larger audience, I’ld like to try it, in fact it can be good; but not all the time. It’s a fashion right now (speedmetal). We don’t have anything to do with this stuff (crossover); as they said in Metal Hammer (Ed.: German Hell magazine, that reviewed their LP). We do what we want, we don’t need these categories. No need for this shit.
We will try to rehearse more often in order to expand our repertoire. We don’t always want to play the same stuff, that would annoy our audience in the long run. If all goes well we’ll have an EP out for Christmas, we really want to be a band that lasts longer than an LP.
DO YOU THINK IT’S MORE PRUDENT TO WAIT MORE BEFORE RELEASING A 2ND LP?
We’ll take the time it takes. But we would really like to play elsewhere than in Germany. Maybe we will play in the U.K. in November or this winter, nothing certain. We also want to play in France, see if there are any groupies.
AND WHAT DO YOU SAY TO OUR READERS, THE IDIOTS (IT’S NOT TRUE, YOU’RE NOT STUPID)…?
We’re not sexists. Some people believe it but it’s not true. Some songs can be confusing, I know… These are old lyrics, it’s ancient history, because of influences. We love women. I like my mother who is a woman. And we hope to see you all very soon.
‘THEY’ HAD ALSO ASKED TO WRITE AN EPILOGUE TO THIS INTERVIEW, ‘THEY’ DEFINITELY DON’T DO THINGS HALF-HEARTED. I DON’T KNOW IF ‘THEY’ WILL BE SATISFIED, PITY FOR ‘THEM’.
SO YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE READ (AND UNDERSTOOD, IF POSSIBLE) THE CONVERSATION WITH LEE HOLLIS, AMERICAN SINGER OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’. WHILE LENDING A CAUTIOUS EAR WITH TO THEIR LP (WHICH IS GREAT I REMIND YOU).
GOOD, GET OUT YOUR PENCILS AND PAPER.
FIRST QUESTION: NAME, NATIONALITY AND FUNCTION OF L. HOLLIS, AMERICAN SINGER OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’? SECOND QUESTION: WHAT IS THE PREFERRED MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION OF THE GOD OF ‘SPERMBIRDS’? THIRD QUESTION: IT SEEMS THAT IN THE SONG AMERICANS ARE COOL, THE AUTHOR IS VERY SARCASTIC. WHY? DO YOU AGREE? FOURTH QUESTION: WHAT A BITCH IS?
I WILL COLLECT YOUR ANSWERS IN HALF AN HOUR.