CONTINUED FROM PART 1 – VOMIT VISIONS AND RUNNING SOLDIERS
As far as I know, there were festivals with Rock-O-Rama bands at the Stollwerk in Cologne. A poster for 17 August 1983 lists, for example, Skeptix, OHL, The Insane, Böhse Onkelz – did they actually play there? – Stosstrupp, Vorkriegsphase and B. Trug. Did Egoldt organise this himself?
Yes, and he hired security guards from the Cotzbrocken crowd and met and greeted out-of-town bands in a pub during the day. The line-up announcement changed several times in the run-up to the event, so there are three different poster versions. Initially, Finnish bands such as Bastards and Terveet Kädet were supposed to play too, then Böhse Onkelz, who cancelled, as well as OHL and Die Alliierten. In the end, the actual line-up was B.Trug, Stosstrupp and Vorkriegsphase, plus The Skeptix and The Insane from Britain.
Any particular reason why Böhse Onkelz cancelled the gig – subcultural tensions perhaps?
As far as I know, it was a ‘normal’ cancellation on the part of the band. There were plenty of subcultural tensions at the gig, though: the security guards against the audience, and groups from out of town against the Cologne lot.
Could a punk band that signed a deal with ROR expect tours, interviews or any other support from Egoldt?
They say that Egoldt promised at the time to rent some industrial wasteland and have rehearsal rooms for his ‘protégés’ set up at his own expense. But nothing ever came of it. Later too, bands who were signed with ROR organised their tours and gigs through other connections. There was no other media coverage or support. Until the mid-80s, a selected few magazines such as Spex and Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll were sent copies of the records.
Was Egoldt well-connected with the rest of the German punk scene – did people know him personally?
Well, given the large number of records from other labels that he distributed, as well as the numerous punk and indie 70-inches and albums from abroad, Egoldt surely had a lot of contacts – and important label guys like Thomas Ziegler from Mülleimer Records or Bernd Granz from Lost & Found were also in close contact with him in the beginning. Manfred Schütz, later managing director of SPV distribution, also met him once.
His reputation in the punk scene took a turn for the worse around 1983-84. Bands such as Äni(x)Väx and M.A.F. recorded anti-ROR songs and even called for a boycott of their own records released by the label. Why?
The bands M.A.F. and Brutal Verschimmelt were probably the most extreme cases because Egoldt had simply replaced their original cover artwork with his own designs and left out some or all of the lyrics. But if you ask other former ROR punk bands today, their opinion is usually not quite as negative as it was back then. Äni(x)Väx from Münster, who were not actually an ROR band, probably picked up stories about the label from various zines, just like we did –their allegation that Egoldt was replacing cover artwork suggested by the bands with images of soldiers, in any case, is not really true. The “running soldiers” cited in the Äni(x)Väx song are seen on the cover of the OHL album Verbrannte Erde (“Scorched Earth”) – and that photo had definitely been approved by the band.
In 1984 Egoldt signed a licence agreement with the Propaganda label from Finland and pressed all manner of ‘Finnish racket’ for the German market: Terveet Kädet, Appendix, Riistetyt and similar hardcore punk combos. You already hinted that you liked these groups very much at that time. Others find their records hard to stomach or just tuneless and samey… How do you feel about them today?
I still think they’re great, because you can feel an unbridled raw energy there that is completely missing from today’s smoothly produced hardcore/metal crossover music. By the way, the book also takes a closer look at ROR’s business relationship with Propaganda Records.
Ruhm und Ehre by Die Alliierten, which came out on ROR in 1982, was the first ever German skinhead/Oi LP to hit the shelves. Can you tell us a little bit about the making of the album and the band in general?
The band was formed around 1980 in Wuppertal. Caspar Brötzmann is the man who plays the guitar on the album. He is a very accomplished musician and the son of the iconic free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Axel of Cotzbrocken was the one who put the band in touch with Rock-O-Rama at the time. The LP was recorded in mid-September ‘82 at the Studio am Dom in Cologne.
It wasn’t until 1984 that Egoldt really went for the croptop market, though. First, he published the posthumous Combat 84 release Send in the Marines and two German skinhead albums, namely the Body Checks LP – which is very poor in my opinion – and the Böhse Onkelz one, which I think is great. How did he come into contact with that scene?
Well, the United Skins compilation LP and the Back with a Bang 12″ by Skrewdriver could be found in the bi-weekly ROR distribution lists by November 1982, and a few months later he was stocking the Orders of the Day EP by Combat 84 too. For Egoldt, it was easy to establish contact with Victory Records – just as he had done before with Skeptix and their label Neon/Zeon Records. And Willi Wucher of Body Checks had already been a customer at his record shop in Cologne years earlier, when he was still a punk.
The first openly nazi release on the ROR label followed in the same year, namely Hail the New Dawn by Skrewdriver. Presumably, the band hadn’t sent him a demo tape by chance?
As I mentioned earlier, Egoldt was selling the first Skrewdriver records as early as 1978. And from autumn 1983 onwards, he gradually started distributing their 7-inch records, such as the White Power EP, the Voice of Britain single, and the This Is White Noise EP compilation. Egoldt had been fond of Skrewdriver right from the beginning, so contact with the band was established easily.
Were Skrewdriver already well-known in the German skin scene at that time – i.e. did Egoldt know there would be demand for their products?
Yes – that’s why, for example, he put a picture of the two Skrewdriver 7-inches I just mentioned, as well as the Built Up, Knocked Down EP (1979), on the front page of a distribution list published in early 1984. An in-house Top 100 list published in Clockwork Orange #2 zine in the spring of 1984, which contained quite a few titles by Skrewdriver, Böhse Onkelz, Combat 84 and Body Checks, confirms this too.
ROR also released the compilation series No Surrender, the first volume of which (1985) was a licensed pressing from White Noise Records, the house label of the British National Front. Most bands would have contributed to this project enthusiastically (Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack…), while others at least didn’t seem to mind (Indecent Exposure). No Surrender Vol. 2, on the other hand, looks like it was cobbled together by Egoldt himself – and it’s hard to imagine that Vortex, Alliierten or Böhse Onkelz had given their consent to appear on it.
There was no direct agreement from any of these three bands to be part of the compilation. The thing was, though, Egoldt had better distribution and more financial leeway than others. However, I don’t want to reveal more at this point.
In the course of the 80s, ROR became the biggest RAC label in Europe. Competitors never really managed to cut the ground from under Egoldt’s feet – even if they, like Rebelles Europeens, went for more explicit imagery. What do you think was the secret of Egoldt’s success, and is it true that RAC made him a millionaire?
Egoldt made a lot of money selling far-right rock music. The fact that similar labels couldn’t hold a candle to him was probably because he put out a great many records in a very short time – especially CDs, which he could produce quickly and cheaply with his in-house pressing machine.
How did Böhse Onkelz, Vortex and the German skinzines of the time react to No Surrender Vol. 2 and Egoldt’s later machinations – were there any critical voices with regard to his business practices, as had been the case in the punk scene a few years earlier?
Many of the later ROR bands – with the exception of Böhse Onkelz, of course – were undoubtedly glad to have a record deal at all. After all, the situation with other labels looked rather bleak, either because of the financing or because of reservations about the lyrics. And Egoldt’s records sold well to very well. Some of them were re-released several times, so maximum distribution within the scene was guaranteed.
The Böhse Onkelz debut came to the attention of the Federal Review Board for Publications Harmful to Young People as early as 1986. From today’s point of view, it’s hard to fathom why. The lyrics are no different from those of British Oi bands such as The Last Resort: a bit of flag-waving, a bunch of hooligan slogans, but nothing racist or nazi. Apparently, the LP was confiscated for “glorification of violence” and “pornographic content”, which rather sounds like a flimsy excuse. Why did the authorities target the band?
There was a demonstration outside the ROR shop in the Weidengasse in June 1986, which was organised by several left-wing groups and attended by some 75 people. Subsequently, there was TV report on Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and then several youth welfare offices from North Rhine-Westphalia filed requests to place Rock-O-Rama recordings on the list of Publications Harmful to Young People. The official report on the Böhse Onkelz LP Der Nette Mann states that the group’s songs “openly or covertly incite racial hatred, glorify violence or threaten violence against those who think differently”. The Cotzbrocken LP was also put on the same list, followed soon afterwards by the first OHL album. It was claimed that on the whole, the recordings constitute a “moral threat” to young people. [The official decision meant that the Cotzbrocken and OHL albums could no longer be advertised or made available to minors; the same initially applied to the Böhse Onkelz album, which was then banned from sale altogether – Editor]
I can’t even work out which song they mean by “racial hatred”? At most, ‘Frankreich 84’, but you’d have to be exceptionally humourless to read “racial hatred” into its anti-France Euro Cup banter… As to “violence against people who think differently”, do they mean people who think differently about Frankfurt’s football club? Either way, the ROR shop in central Cologne closed its doors for good in 1986. Why, actually? In many independent record shops in Germany, the real nazi rock albums by ROR were still openly available into the early 90s.
Because of the demonstration outside his shop and the subsequent growing media interest in ROR. Egoldt preferred to continue working in secret. His subsequent warehouse address was therefore known only to insiders or regular customers. But you’re right: even in Cologne’s Saturn record shop, which was not far from the ROR shop, records by Skullhead were still available years later, thanks to the influence of the person purchasing records for Saturn at the time.
The promo blurb for your book states that ROR was “constantly in the crosshairs of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution from the mid-nineteen-eighties onwards”. Is that true? I thought problems with the state security only came in the 90s, after the anti-immigrant pogroms of Rostock and Hoyerswerda.
The state security had certainly dealt with ROR as early as the mid-80s and even investigated where Egoldt had relocated his business. In the 90s, of course, the situation got even worse when there were various house searches and confiscations – but more about that in my book.
Looking at the table of contents in your book, there are individual chapters for all the punk albums on ROR. You already mentioned that you didn’t cover the RAC phase of the label as comprehensively. But why no chapters on more moderate Oi LPs such as the Vortex albums or the Snix album – is that for reasons of musical taste?
I deliberately only gave the bands from the early punk era their own chapters. This was mainly for personal reasons – simply because these were ‘my’ bands from the past that I loved. I never got into Vortex because of their anti-punk song, which was absolutely not my thing. And all we ever heard about the French skins from the scene around Snix and Brutal Combat was nasty stuff: that they were hired as security at punk gigs, where they were shouting anti-punk slogans and roughing up the audiences.
However, this doesn’t mean that I have omitted these bands altogether – it’s just that they aren’t represented with their own individual chapters. I made an exception for Böhse Onkelz, though, because their first album pretty much heralded the transition of the label from punk to skinhead music, and because many people in this country only know about ROR because of Böhse Onkelz.
A lot of people stopped ordering records from Rock-O-Rama from the mid-80s onwards because they “didn’t want to support nazis”. To what extent did ROR customers really support nazis, though – did some of the revenue benefit far-right organisations, or did Egoldt’s customers only make him rich as a private individual? Also, do you personally think it’s politically/ethically tenable to buy from companies such as ROR?
It made Egoldt richer first and foremost – and this, of course, also helped popularise his musical protégés and spread their political messages. The question is whether it’s ever been necessary to be an ROR customer at all, because other products outside the RAC range can certainly be purchased elsewhere.
What’s your position on state censorship, then?
State censorship usually only promotes interest in the banned material.
ROR is considered something of a cult label today, not least because it was such an oddball enterprise. Looking back, though, which releases do you think were actually good, and which ones do you think were crap?
You know, the punk records that ROR put out were and remain part of my universe – they’re my kind of thing. Most of the later RAC stuff, which can easily be found on the internet, I find fairly trivial from a purely musical point of view.
So, what would be your personal Rock-O-Rama top 10?
OK, let’s see. My Top 10 ROR albums are:
- Stosstrupp – Wie lang noch
- Die Alliierten – Ruhm und Ehre
- Terveet Kädet – Halloween
- V/A – Die Deutschen Kommen
- Cotzbrocken – Jedem das Seine
- OHL – Verbrannte Erde
- The Skeptix – So The Youth
- Kansan Uutiset – Beautiful Dreams
- Bastards – Siberian Hardcore
- Vorkriegsphase – Auf In Den Tod
And my Top 10 ROR songs are:
- Stosstrupp – Ferien In Afghanistan
- Die Alliierten – Skins und Punx
- Terveet Kädet – The Free North
- Fasaga – Pogo In Der Strassenbahn
- Cotzbrocken – Wie Sieht Der Denn Aus?
- OHL – Bürgerkrieg
- The Skeptix – Got No Choice
- Chaos Z – Abmarsch
- Der Durstige Mann – Wo Geht’s Hier Zum Bahnhof
- Kansan Uutiset – Dog Is Better Police
Tell us something about the vinyl LP that will be released to coincide with the book.
In the course of my intense research, I came across some previously unreleased recordings by Fasaga, Stosstrupp, OHL and Cotzbrocken, all of whom are featured on the 1982 ROR compilation Die Deutschen Kommen. The highlight among these recordings is undoubtedly a 7-song tape recording by Fasaga, the existence of which few people knew about until now, and the discovery of which is probably a big surprise for many. Titled after the book, the compilation is called Als Die Deutschen Kamen – there are 18 songs in total. The LP version is available at Lärmattacke Records, the CD will soon become available at Hörsturzproduktion.
What’s your verdict on the Herbert Egoldt character and the Rock-O-Rama phenomenon – are you glad the label existed, or do you see it more as a stain on the history of the German music industry?
I see it more as an oddity. When all is said and done, Egoldt just met certain demands at the right time, which wasn’t so different to his later activities in the real estate market: he invested in property in central Germany after reunification, which was advantageous from a tax point of view.
Will we learn anything about his private life in your book, or will the man remain an enigma?
Herbert Egoldt didn’t even allow his closest business partners any glimpses into his private life. That’s why he also avoided giving interviews. And if a protest took place outside his house, he simply lowered the shutters.
There was another label in the 80s-90s called Metal Enterprises, whose owner Ingo Nowotny reminds me a bit of Egoldt. His metal records were often pure exploitation releases: barely listenable basement demos were summarily pressed on vinyl and marketed as ‘studio albums’… He also had Böhse Onkelz on his label for a couple of years, and then he tried his hand at far-right bands such as Kahlkopf. In the 90s, he reissued an LP that had session musicians, a drum machine, and an anonymous female singer performing ‘rock’ versions of old German chansons by Marlene Dietrich and others. It was a strange record to begin with, but he put it on the market as the “new Kahlkopf album”, since he still owned the rights to the name of the RAC/bonehead combo… Can we expect a book about this titan of trash from you next?
It’s certainly an interesting topic, and quite a bit of obscure and outlandish stuff such as Thrash Queen, A.O.K. and Extreme Napalm Terror can be found on that label too. But it isn’t really my thing, because I wasn’t into any of Nowotny’s releases back in the day.