Daily Terror part 4: On a forlorn mission

Click here for part 1part 2 and part 3

The second half of 1985 was somewhat of a watershed moment for German skinheads. Not only had hooligan firms such as Dortmund’s Borussenfront adopted a ‘skinhead’ image, media portrayals of skins as violent nazis attracted a new generation of kids. Unlike the old guard, which largely consisted of ex-punks, most of the youngsters knew just as little about punk as they knew about skinhead. For many older skins, rightwing posturing had been a way to assert an aggressive identity distinct from punks, yet the vast majority frowned upon actual politics. Exceptions aside, attempts at recruiting skins had failed. In 1983, a meeting of the Action Front of National Socialists (ANS) in West Berlin, for instance, was smashed up by a cordially invited skinhead mob. ANS leader Michael Kühnen concluded, “Skinheads are crazy and stupid. They don’t use their brains to think, they only follow their instincts. They may be good fighters, but useful human beings they are not”.

For the new generation, however, membership of groups led by crusty old nazis, such as the National-Democratic Party (NPD) and Free Workers’ Party (FAP), became increasingly common. To some degree, the image constructed by the media became a self-fulfilling prophecy. On Christmas Eve 1985, a bunch of underage Hamburg skins drunkenly set upon three young Turks and brutalised them. One of them, Ramazan Avci, died from his injuries in hospital. He was the second Turkish person killed by Hamburg skinheads in 1985, and the media blitz that ensued in early 1986 was reason enough for some older skins to hang up their boots. They didn’t want to be confused with, nor have anything to do with the neo-nazi fashion skins now growing in numbers.

Others, including Pedder, stubbornly soldiered on. In hindsight, he probably didn’t do himself any favours with his second interview for Force of Hate skinzine in 1986. When asked how he felt about bands that acted as mouthpieces for political groups, he replied, “Musically, I like both Redskins and Skrewdriver. However, I don’t like when bands put themselves at the service of any particular party since that restricts them in what they can say. Even so, I feel a great deal closer to Skrewdriver. Some of the stuff that the Redskins come out with borders on idiocy. I do like that they supported the miners’ strike, though”.

On German reunification, Pedder had this to say:

“Germany’s division is unnatural and unlawful. It has to be said that the Americans bear part of the blame for the fact that the Berlin wall still stands. I think it’s very narrow-minded, even idiotic, when certain people denounce any notion of reunification, as well as the right to self-determination of the German people as ‘imperialist’ or ‘fascist’. Especially when the same people take to the streets to support other peoples’ right to self-determination”. (FoH #6, 1986).

Pedder (left) interviewed for FOH skinzine

It’s tempting to paint Pedder, who felt “a great deal closer to Skrewdriver than to the Redskins” while spouting a muddle of nationalist and leftwing positions, as some kind of Strasserite. And yet, his statements were consistent with the ‘anarchism’ of Daily Terror’s first album, where he was heard shouting, “Yanks go home, Ruskies piss off”. What’s more, Pedder had ‘common sense’ on his side: who could possibly conceive of military occupation by two hostile blocs, or a wall that separated friends and families, as a desirable state of affairs?

The first full-length album that the new Daily Terror line-up dropped in October 1986, Durchbruch (Breakthrough), was cut from similar cloth. The grim ‘99 Stunden‘ (99 Hours) chastised the entire political establishment for ignoring the nuclear threat in the wake of the Harrisburg and Chernobyl disasters. According to Pedder’s song at least, the parties of the left and right smugly agreed that no such thing could happen in Germany.

‘Stony‘ was dedicated to a friend from East Berlin doing time in a “Russian jail” for an unspecified crime committed on “a drunken night out”. Skinheads had appeared in the German Democratic Republic a couple of years prior. While not yet political, they were treated far from leniently by the authorities, not least because they were seen as a hostile ‘western export’ and cultivated contacts with their West German counterparts. The song kicked off with a sample from a 15th June 1961 speech by Walter Ulbricht, then general secretary of the GDR, promising that “nobody has any intention of building a wall”…

Pedder on the back cover of ‘Durchbruch’

Finally, there was ‘Europa’:

We are born to be free
We are a few of millions, we are not alone
Never deny where you’re from, be proud of your country
And make the best of it, it’s all in your hands

The lyrics only consisted of these four lines, which were joyfully repeated over and over. The former two were a direct quotation from ‘Wir müssen hier raus’ (We’ve got to get out of here) by Ton Steine Scherben, an early 1970s anarchist rock band from West Berlin that had greatly influenced German punk. The latter two lines were Pedder’s own. In addition, the song featured Marc Antoine Charpentier’s ‘Te Deum’, otherwise known as the European Broadcasting Union theme tune, chanted by a secondary school girl choir.

Recording ‘Europa’ with Braunschweig schoolgirl choir

It’s conceivable that the idea of a ‘patriotic European socialism’, as espoused by the Strasser brothers, held a certain attraction for Pedder – and no doubt, some of his friends knew a thing or two about it. However, in light of Germany’s historical legacy and geopolitical situation, which entailed a peculiar set of collective neuroses, perhaps he was just looking for a less self-loathing leftism. At a time when anti-immigrant attitudes against Turks in particular were widespread among German skins – and, to some degree, punks – Pedder never expressed any racist views or hostility to foreigners. Nor did he agitate against ‘the reds’ or ‘ZOG’. To the extent that his patriotism was political, he seemed mainy concerned with the idea of ‘national liberation‘.

Musically, Durchbruch was another leap forward for Daily Terror. For the most part a peculiarly ‘German’ sounding album, it contained its fair share of drinking songs and even tunes resembling Weimar cabaret. In its strongest moments, it single-handedly coined its own distinct style of skinhead rock. Imagine an alternative history where Oi takes less from Sham 69 and more from The Ruts, maybe adding a touch of 2 Tone, yet delivering all the fury and menace of the 4-Skins. Had things evolved in this direction, the rightful skinhead music of the 80s may have sounded a lot like 99 Stunden or Tanz der Teufel (Dance of the Devils). The latter, in my humble view, is skinheadism incarnate. With its raw vocals, its sense of alertness, and the percussion merely hinting at a reggae off-beat, I can’t think of many songs that distil the feel of skinhead so well.

You’ve been waiting long enough
Your patience was running low
But the time is ripe
And it’s all kicking off

The dance of the devils
Doesn’t spare anyone
It pulls you in
The sound of violence

Put on your Doc Martens
Slap on your braces
Watch people leaping out of the way
It may seem like one big chaos
But it mesmerises you too

The dance of the devils…

There‘s no turning back
Only a forward thrust
This is the sound
You were born for

Pedder (right) with entourage in Toulouse, 1987

Because of his escalating alcoholism, Pedder rarely sounded as sharp and grounded on stage as he did on the album, to which an underwhelming bootleg tape, recorded live in Dijon and Toulouse in 1985 and 1987 respectively, testifies. More notorious was Live in Schöppenstedt, a live tape recorded not far from Pedder’s hometown of Braunschweig on 5th December 1987 and distributed by Clockwork Orange skinzine. Pedder is clearly rat-arsed, bawling lyrics he only partly remembers, and his equally blitzed band barely manage to keep it together.

More interesting than the woeful musical performance are the exchanges between the band and the audience, offering a glimpse of where the German Oi scene was at. Pedder reports of anonymous threats received by the venue and warns of potential “disruptive actions”. “We aren’t looking for trouble, but if they attack us we will defend ourselves, of course”, he announces. But the only trouble occurring that night is taking place in the audience. The band is forced to cut songs short as Pedder struggles to stop rival factions from turning on each other. “Skin-head! Skin-head!”, thunders the crowd. To which the guitarist responds, “Listen, we really enjoy playing for you guys, but don’t do that” – “Do what?” – “You were shouting ‘sieg heil’. I’m an anti-fascist, so don’t do that” – “No, we were shouting skinhead” – “No, you were shouting sieg heil”…. and so on.

A chant emerges from a section of the audience: “We are German, we are German, we are German…” – Pedder drunkenly joins in. A few songs and a few beers later, he mocks the same reoccurring chant by bleating it out like a sheep. “Yeah, that’s what real Germans are: a bunch of sheep”, he sneers, momentarily forgetting he’s supposed to be a ‘patriot’ rather than his former punk self. Awkward silence in the audience…

During this period, Daily Terror began announcing their stage entrance with a recording of the theme from Das Boot. Maybe Pedder felt a bit like the submarine captain in that movie: a weathered warhorse on a forlorn mission, uncertain about its destination and cynical about some of the elements he finds himself stuck with – but persevering for better or worse.

Oh, and a dodgy t-shirt he wore at that gig…

Schöppenstedt 5 Dec 1987: Pedder with Public Enemy t-shirt (not the US group). Photo: Ugly

The Schöppenstedt extravaganza – 31 songs in over three hours without any support acts – was attended by a mixed crowd and reviewed in the first issue of Skintonic, an “anti-political” (but clearly left-leaning) skinzine from Berlin. Ugly, the reviewer, noted Pedder’s drunkenness and “skirmishes galore” among punters – including a fight between two skinhead girls that left one of them lying in a pool of blood. However, he had a good musical impression of Daily Terror and reported that Pedder, man of the people, met and greeted every group of punters individually before the gig.

Schöppenstedt 5 Dec 1987. Photo: Ugly

When chatting to me about the event today, Ugly remembers:

“It was a strange night. We had come all the way from Berlin that day, and the Wall and the border were still there, which means that it was a real journey for us. I think with the border control it took us around five hours from Berlin to Braunschweig, whereas nowadays you get there in half the time. It was the time before the first issue of Skintonic was released, and I wanted to do an interview with Pedder, which I had agreed with him weeks earlier.”

What kind of audience was there? “Upon arrival, the first thing we saw was a mob of boneheads”, Ugly recalls. “Today I know that a few of them were organised in the FAP [Free Workers’ Party] back then. It felt strange to be at a punk gig with more nazis than punks present, but we had travelled a long way and wanted to see the show.”

Wasn’t there a big divide between punks and skins in Germany at the time? “Yes, and there were hardly any punks there, plus it was the phase when Pedder was hanging out with fascists. I’m not good at guessing numbers, but I think there were around 250-400 people at the gig. If you look at my pics you can see that more than half were ‘skinheads’, but most of them were nazi cunts rather than skins.”

Schöppenstedt 5 Dec 1987: a lone punk. Photo: Ugly

According to a postscript in the second issue of Skintonic, the owners of the venue kept receiving anonymous threats until they nearly cancelled the gig, and apparently even a counter-demonstration took place in nearby Braunschweig. What’s more, Pedder compiled a 14-pages booklet documenting the concert and the events surrounding it. The text is a fairly incoherent rant by an anonymous Daily Terror fan – but probably written by Pedder himself – stressing that Daily Terror are an apolitical band, and that people only attended the concert to have fun rather than indulge in politics.

Skintonic issue 2 also mentions a “180-minutes video produced by Daily Terror, available from Pedder Teumer, Hamburger Strasse 73, 3300 Braunschweig”. I’ve never read or heard about this video anywhere else. Ugly of Skintonic confirms to me: “I never heard that anything came out of the video, and I’ve never seen it on any mailorder list either”.

If anyone knows something about it, though – get in touch!

Click here for Daily Terror part 5 – Playing with fire

Pedder’s Schöppenstedt pamphlet