Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Die Engel Des Herrn - Live! As: Hippie Punks

Die Engel Des Herrn
Live! As: Hippie Punks

Released 1995 on Captain Trip
Reviewed by phallus dei, 21/06/2015ce

Die Engel Des Herrn - Live! As: Hippie-Punks, recorded June 21, 1993, released 1995 on Captain Trip Records.

22 years ago, Die Engel Des Herrn played their first and only concert. Afterwards, they promptly broke up.

For a band that existed (in theory, at least) for a minimum of five years and continuously strove to Make It Big, their paucity of live shows seems counter-intuitive. But then again, considering that DEDH was led by Klaus Dinger, it really isn’t. Because in Dinger’s worldview, less is always more, and the potential inherent behind every act is just as important as the delivery. So why value intermittent gigging when you can have the singularity of the Great Performance?

Only, DEDH Live! as-it-is doesn’t bring forth the condensed feelings of intimacy and communal identification that a Great Performance needs to offer. Yes, those feelings are there - sometimes in raw, blinding abundance - but they require a bit of digging to be found. Dinger’s Trip would have been better served had he released an edited version of Live! in LP format. Such a release would have been a vital record of a potentially great live band (much as DEDH’s album from the previous year was an enticing snapshot of a potentially great studio band). So yeah, when judged by the harsh scales of History, DEDH did not fulfill their potential, artistically or commercially. But dammit, when they were at their best, they sure gave the impression that they could.

Here, then is the essence of DEDH Live!, distilled for added potency. While this sequence doesn’t leave me feeling completely satisfied, it does leave me wanting more: Side One: Somewhere / The Song / The Waltz; Side Two: Cha Cha 2000.

So where was the setting of DEDH’s lone performance 22 years ago? The answer, of course, is “Somewhere.” In Dinger’s world, everything is reduced to Jungian archetypes - somewhere, somehow, there is a Hero in pursuit of his goal/girl. After a short mention of the song-title, the band fades in so unobtrusively that the inattentive listener may not even notice that the song has began. The lack of any immediacy brings to mind the ambient piano noodling later used by Rembrandt to open the la! NEU? concerts; likewise, the seemingly unplanned feel of the song is suggestive of the future “Satellite of Mine” off Zeeland (1997). Like “Satellite,” there is a sense that the listener has caught the band unawares, observing them in the spontaneous act of creation, before either they or the listener are cognizant of what’s happening. As Dinger so often does in his Art, he has somehow poised himself atop the precipice between existence and awareness, that initial moment of self-reflexology. And it is precisely at that shared moment where the listener realizes “oh, there is a song playing” and the band members realize “yes, we are playing a song” that the spell is broken, the band looses it, and the track abruptly comes to a halt. It’s a weird feeling akin to déjà vu, as if something long buried has suddenly come to the surface, yet remains tantalizingly elusive. Like salvia or DMT, “Somewhere” delivers a profound journey within a short amount of time. Naturally, when the song is over, the audience is unsure how to respond. Their polite and evasive applause masks a deeper questioning of “what was it that we just experienced?” What they experienced was the perfect Shamanic opener, setting the stage for the shared sense of community that follows.

“Somewhere” the location becomes supplanted by somewhere “The Song.” For whatever reason, the titles appear to be referring to each other, with the instrumental “Somewhere” better named “The Song” and vice-versa. Maybe Dinger was making some wry commentary about the differences between expectations and reality, or maybe he simply got the titles confused in the heat of the moment. In any case, “The Song” fades in like it’s on the open plains, conjuring up images of the American West, as Dinger the Cowboy (a.k.a. Dinger the Hero) uses his pistol to flick up the brim of his hat (as cowboys are wont to do) before leaving town on his horse. “Somewhere in the cities,” Dinger moans in an authoritative fashion. “Somewhere you may hide...” There is a sense of longing in his voice as he begins to transmit a Universal-speak that is vague enough to be accessible to all. Although Dinger is predominately known for His Beat, his skill as a lyricist is also of note, as he’s able to express complex feelings with only a modicum of words. “Sometimes only... only tonight.” But just as things are starting to get really interesting, Dinger decides to show off the skills of his “students.” (1) First up, there is Gerhard Michel with –

- the worst guitar solo in history? It’s practically cringe-inducing! “Somewhere here; somewhere there,” Dinger mumbles, as The Song starts to loose all momentum. Thankfully, when it’s Klaus Immig’s turn to shine, he lets loose with a heavy handed beat that brings things back into focus. Klaus Immig does not have a gliding Dinger beat, he has a pounding Dinger beat. And then the whole band collectively orgasm, and they are surprised by the spontaneity and intensity of it as well, and what’s more, it’s an orgasm that never subsides. But rather than being overwhelmed by it, the band rides its wave into infinity.

And we hear one of the great accomplishments by Klaus Dinger, one of his gifts to mankind. Here, at least, no can one say that “anything is possible” because all energies of all possibilities have coalesced into This Moment, This Groove. It is the sum of all possibilities; everything else is negated. And I’m not just being superlative. It’s like the parallel universes of string theory have condensed to the Singularity. And when Dinger gives out a “Hey all right, come love you tonight,” the audience, the band, and you have all experienced something transcendent, the equivalent of an “event” as descried by Alain Badiou.

Within Klaus Dinger’s extensive catalogue, Live! As: Hippy Punks is his summer album. It works best with beers and pot. Imagine a summer night in a small club, amidst an intimate crowd that is suitably high. The band’s set is their stab at transcendence, an attempt at creating something real, when the pressures of the “real world” have been lessened and the environment is conducive to such a venture. It’s an attempt at taking the live gathering into a collective unknown. Live! As: Hippie Punks is Dinger forming a cosmic union between himself, his band, and the audience within the confines of what he takes to be grunge. That’s why he’s wearing ripped white overalls!

The cover is Dinger defacing DEDH’s previous cover with a splurge of hot neon pink. Kinda like Duchamp’s readymade of the Mona Lisa, but with the qualifier that Dinger’s work is self-referential. The “total artist” is the self-referential artist. Dinger’s Art is his monument, his religion, his testament…to himself! The “objective” lack of success doesn’t really matter. Creating an internally coherent self-mythology is sufficient in itself. It’s up to the listener what to do with it.

Dinger is so easy to manipulate precisely because there is so much empty space. It is possible to imprint yourself on Dinger. “Dinger” becomes a model or a suit that you can wear, and become a sort of “replacement Dinger” by which you aspire to achieve your own dream. Now we bear witness to Gerhard Michel’s attempt at living the Dinger Dream.

“The Waltz” is the one GM song that makes the cut. It starts with a weird fade-in and you can't tell that it’s Gerhard Michel singing until he hits the high notes. At that point you slowly start to realize that no, GM’s not gonna make it. He’s not going to be famous. The Titanic is going down, and GM is one of the people who didn’t get a life raft. So he’s there with the others in the bar, getting as absolutely shit faced, as absolutely high, as he possibly can. One last drunken waltz before death…

And I actually feel kinda sad for GM. ‘Cause out of all the members in DEDH, he had the most to loose. He invested the best years of his life to the project. And what did he get from it? How much more would GM have developed if he hadn’t come under KD’s wing? (2) When GM’s voice gets emotional – is it because he regrets the experience, or is it simply that he regrets that no one else witnessed it? What good is a personal triumph if no one else is there to pat you on the back?

Then the guitars bring the song back to life, and for as long as it can, The Waltz pounds away just like early-90s rock should. There is a bittersweet realization among the players that this is The End, but there is also a shared feeling that even if they had known the outcome beforehand, they wouldn’t have chosen any other way. Because the social function of DEDH was to be the band whose deserved success lay perpetually just-ahead.

You turn the record over and find a side-long version of Cha Cha 2000. From today’s vantage point, this particular rendition of Cha Cha 2000 might seem a tad underwhelming. Comparatively speaking, it’s simply a warm-up for the 100 minute Live in Tokyo. Why settle for the diluted version when you can experience the real thing? Simply because this version of Cha Cha, though following the established template, is still a convincing journey of personal & collective renewal in its own right, and its message is more relevant today than when it was performed.

Proving the truth within SNL’s parody of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” it’s when Klaus Immig takes up the call for “more cowbell” around the 4 minute mark that the song really kicks in. At that point it goes from being yet “another Cha Cha 2000” to this specific “Cha Cha,” i.e. a version with a life & feel of its own. Dirk Flader takes center stage, playing a greasy soundin’ slide guitar with the confidence of a rodeo star, whipping his lasso around the horns of a bull. Flader’s guitar adds the necessary drunken sheen that separates DEDH the studio band from DEDH the live band. (3) It amplifies the sense of community that the live experience provides. And it’s such an intimate affair that you can’t help but dance to the album alone in your living room. You sing along to the lines you know so well: “We all have to change!” Yeah! “And care for the weak!” “And share with the poor!” And as you sing, you imagine what it must have been like for the audience, and how the rousing message of the song would have felt even more powerful, more tangible, in the presence of others. In such an environment, individuality would have dissolved into a sea of collective yearning, and ideas which are normally dismissed as “radical” and “dangerous” would have appeared to be the epitome of common sense. Indeed, what’s keeping us from making this paradise?

Live! As: Hippie Punks suggests a synthesis of the “punk” and the “hippy” camps. The hippy commitment to change the world, combined with the punk belief that we’ve been fooled so many times that we only have ourselves to trust. Or does it? I would argue that Cha Cha 2000 is in fact a plea for leadership. For a political party (dare I say a vanguard party?). It’s not a punk call for anarchy, but a manifesto for a genuine mass movement where we, as members, not only “try try try,” but also agree to follow our “better leaders” who “love us and don’t cheat us.” And why shouldn’t we be willing to follow a worthy cause? Isn’t it time we admit that the nihilist creed of “don't trust any one but yourself” has only weakened us? What have we accomplished politically since the late 1970s?

The failures of the past need not discourage us - what is important is the conviction that change is possible. It’s like Samuel Beckett said; “Try again, fail again. But fail better.” And realize that “we all need to change” entails more than just “stop drinking hard / and smoking and doping.” It requires a critical engagement with our culture & history. (Cultural critique is not just a luxury for post-war German youth!) We need to rigorously examine ourselves, our culture, and past movements (both the popular & unpopular ones).

By the summer of 1993, the brief optimism that had greeted the end of the Cold War - and which formed the basis for the Cha Cha 2000 version on the DEDH studio album - had revealed itself to be ill-founded. Cha Cha 2000 v.93 is thus not about seizing the optimism of the moment (as was Cha Cha 2000 v.89), but about building a movement capable of creating the kind of world that our current “leaders” tell us is “naïve” & “impossible.” In our contemporary post-2000 nightmare, where “choice” means nothing more than an infinite variety of the very same thing, the message of Cha Cha 2000 continues to tick like a bomb. Let’s collectively work to explode it.

1. At its core, DEDH remained a hierarchical relationship (like Japandorf), and not a relationship of equals (la! NEU?). Despite attempts at presenting DEDH as a group, the band remained singularly Dinger, even when the “other guy” sang.

2. After spending a decade to recover from his failed Dinger experience, Gerhard Michel co-founded Musiccargo in 2003. Publicity for the band prominently described Michel as “a student of Klaus Dinger.”

3. Dirk Flader provided similar embellishment for the Live in Tokyo albums, as well as the live-in-studio “D.-22.12.95.” He also played with Dinger in a 1987 concert which has (so far?) remained unreleased.

Reviews Index