Every artistic choise has it's reasons. Many times it relies on practical concerns. By picking up the bass, for example, because that's the only instrument you can afford or a friend can loan you, the size of your pocket decides what happens.
Other times your views and ideas form the structure of how you will respond to your needs. You may lack the technical skills, you may not have any musical knowledge. You probably do not want to also. But still want to play or more importantly express yourself. This is punk, as it has always been. Basic self expression on a gut level, energy and pathos. No need for technical skills, no need to rewrite music history, no hype. It's only punk and we like it.
Lately i have been reading a very interesteing small publication about the elements that put together the zine world and formed the network of it. They are quite the same as the ones that urge you to form a band. Frustration, alienation, lack of social skills (yes, still that in the age of social media), a denial to operate within the limits of normality, the anger and disgust that the capitalist world can put in ones soul.
By listening to the Toylettes, a punk quartet consisting of Lisa (vocals, keyboard, guitar), Alex (guitar, vocals, keyboard), Daniel (bass, vocals) and Jalla (drums, background vocals) hailing from Germany, i can definitely identify and also, with great pleasure indeed, confirm that there is no time or place suitable for the truth. Theirs and mine as well. When it's your truth, then it must be said, expressed or yelled at. The music of Toylettes, as presented in the form of the 10'' tape on vinyl and the 7 ''Achtzigertyp, could be from 1978 or 1982 or, off course, today. The beautifuly playful and ironic artwork makes them -except from the music- a pleasure to buy (yes, all of you vinyl lovers).
All the elements are there: provocative lyrics full of angst and anger, angular metallic guitars, synths that chill your brain like a cold winter morning and drums that keep the rhythm while the pose a threat to your ears. Yes they are great. Everything is in the right place and more importantly not by chance or a hipster's zeal, but by their own need of expression. So why not go and grab one?
This is d.i.y. and it still exists today.
And next you will find one of the most fun and interesting interview's ever, kept in a dialogical form, as the guys prefer it. Enjoy!
1.Why play punk?... An artistic choice or more of a personal one?
- "Because 'We are Punks, we are Punks, we are, we are, we are Punks'. So, a personal choice!"
- "It wasn't a choice at all. When we formed the band, we were not artists sitting together and developing a concept, but four people knowing they share certain musical preferences."
- "For me, it was totally clear that it would be a punk band. What else?"
- "At this time, we were going out together as a group of four a lot. Alex wanted to play in a band, Jalla wanted to play the drums and Daniel had just bought a bass. So the lineup was pretty obvious and only Lisa had to be involved. - Et voilà!"
2. D.I.Y. has a long tradition of collectivism, both in social as also in musical terms. Do you embrace that?
Yes, absolutely. Without the collectivistic approach of punk and especially in our subcultural surrounding of friends and friends of friends we could hardly do anything.
For example, we don't own (band) car, but share one with a group of people. Our rehearsal room is at the KvU, a self organized place which has a long history that goes back to the punk- and counterculture in the GDR.
Generally, our environment forms a great breeding ground for a DIY- culture, at the most places all the stuff that has to be done (infrastructure, organization, making flyers, technique, cooking, driving bands around, shifts at the bars and doors, DJing, cleaning etcetera etcetera) is (at least mostly) based on unpayed work and mutual support.
3. Is there a scene - of some sorts at least - where you live?
Berlin must have at least three or four punk scenes that are partially barely affiliated with each other. This diversification of subcultures may be a blessing and a curse at once - you'll find a place that fits nearly perfect with your preferences and character, but you risk to build a cultural ghetto...
Anyway, we're very happy to be involved in a relatively large network of people and bands that follow each others activities with interest, sympathy and support, share infrastructure and knowledge, form new bands and have great parties.
Within that you have deep friendships and you have people you at least frequently cross paths with – "what" and "who" is the 'scene' in the end depends on your point of view. So, maybe 'network' is the better, although ugly and overused, term. A beer-drenched network full of woven little hearts.
You can get a good impression of this thing with the awesome 'Verboten in Deutschland''- Sampler from 2014 and its second volume that will be released later this year.
4. Is punk in 2017 a manierism? Do you think that this medium of expression has been consolidated?
Punk, as subcultures in general, has always payed great attention to stilistic details in music, fashion, attitude or whatever. This is somewhat manieristic, but not in a bad way: It gives you creative freedom that can be more than a rebellious surface – nothing against the beautiful rebellious surface, of course! Punk refuses to be only manieristic l'art pour l'art, even in 2017 it still claims to be political and more than a specific taste in music. Sure, the punk scene is a part of society as it is, but for a lot of people it still carries the promise that everything is possible, or that something completly different should be possible. Even in case that this was a misconception, it would be an amazingly productive and life-changing misconception.
- "What is 'Punk' anyway? Alone in Berlin there are so many styles of punk that you can hardly overlook."
- "If you gave me five randomly picked punk rock releases from 2017, I'd probably not shout 'As a guy in his thirties with a bit knowledge of pop history, i can't even think of something more exciting and interesting!'. But you totally miss the point when you focus on the musical material. Punk unfolds its relevance in individual biographies and social situations."
- "I, by far, cannot identify with everything that's labeled as 'Punk'. About 80% is bullshit. I mean... Hanging around with a mohawk and drinking canned beer may be punk, but it might also primarily be beefed up alcoholism."
- "Hey, who does not have a kind of a drinking problem?!"
- "Right. One might say that punk is also a culture of intoxication."
- "At least, hard drinking still sabotages meritocracy."
- "We deeply respect that!"
5. How would you describe your music to a ten year old child?
- "I would say: 'You can also do it'!'"
- "Yes, 'You can also do it, it's easy!' But maybe one has to have
lived through puberty to understand all the hormon driven lyrics?"
- "'Don't be afraid to be loud'"
- "'Do what you want and throw all issues of your heart into it. Anger, love, pain...'"
- "'Our music is like getting beaten up by six-year-old children, but in a good way!'"
6. The most cliche of all: plans for the future? Albums, playing live, a career maybe?...
We really don't have a masterplan, the most important thing is that playing and the whole band stuff feels like fun and not like work. We'll rehearse on friday and play eight shows until the end of the year.
The farest we can even think of is that we would like to record some of our new songs, as soon as we have enough new songs, so maybe sometime next year, maybe for a 12", or maybe for a cassette, or ideally both.
7. What about the album cover art?
I (Daniel) had an early fascination with cereal box designs when i was a kid that went beyond costumer acquisitation. It must have been the first time i reflected on recurring aesthetic patterns. I even created a small collection of boxes from all over the world. Okay, from two different countries. Like others collected stamps. With a slight more critical view, this fascination holds on. It's a winsome and cute, yet impertinent and aggressive form of marketing. The fact that the stuff it promotes had, under health aspects, a much better image than it deserves makes it even cooler. It's interesting how this very basic idea 'Character eats things with a spoon' can be endlessly varied, is successful since decades and still seems fresh sometimes. (Maybe not unlike Punkrock?) I had the idea to adapt that for a tape-cover and fortunately, the others liked that idea. But it never had become more than an idea if Lisa did'nt came over with this finished wonderful drawing of this creepy cigarette-eating boy one day. We were enthusiastic about it and took it as a cover. And we're happy it still works on the 10" although it doesn't have the proportions of a cereal box anymore.