Matula originate from the same town I was born in: Neumünster, a grey and fucked up city of medium size somewhere between Kiel and Hamburg known for having one of Germany’s most notorious nazi hang outs, Club 88, but also for its AJZ that used so be a major show location for hardcore and punk bands in the 1990s where lots of famous US bands came through. If you grew up in this town in this period of time and you didn’t become a nazi yourself it was hard not to get in touch with antifascism and some sort musical subculture, be it metal, punk, goa trance or hip hop. So over the past few years Neumünster spawned bands like American Tourists and The Detectors along with dozens that never transgressed the city limits as well as the awesome Zeitstrafe label, home of bands like Escapado, Antitainment or Kurhaus.
And then there is Matula. The band started in 2003, born from the ashes of Searching-For-Issue and started touring immediately. After a demo cd-r a 7” came out in 2004 and in 2007 they finally released their debut full length “kuddel” via Zeitstrafe. Today all four guys in the band have left the city and by now the whole band relocated to Hamburg with a little outpost in Hildesheim, where their drummer is studying. When Matula hit the stage they instantly submerge the whole room into a positive vibe. It’s hard not get caught by their overt charm. They never pretend. They are just ordinary people playing extraordinarily beautiful songs.
I used to be in a band called Kurhaus that shared a rehearsal space with Matula as well as with Captain Planet before it broke up recently. I really, really like the band and the people are some of the nicest I’ve ever met. I know I’m not quite objective here but anyway. I am very glad that I got the chance to do an interview with two of them. Unfortunately I was sick with diarrhoea that week and so we met on the internet. Read yourselves what guitarist Basti and bass player Beitz have to say:
You got these patches saying „mehr punk als du und deine freunde“ (more punk than you and your friends). What does punk mean to you?
Basti: Of course these patches were a bit of a joke. I don’t know if we are really more punk than all those folks with mohawk, beer cans and twenty dogs. It would depend on how you define punk, I guess. For me personally it is not about collecting records or drinking beer every day or something. In my eyes the best definition would be: do your own thing without waiting for anyone or anything until you reached the goals you set for yourself.
For us as a band this means always realising the things we want by ourselves or with the help of our friends, be it booking shows, making a record or whatever. Call it d.i.y. if you want. Of course there are plenty of things more that punk means to me on a personal level. More than anything it is about yourself in the first place.
Beitz: I’d like to quote Michael Andrak here: “punk is in you head not on your head.” It’s not a question of style or something. It’s rather a way of looking at things. Do your own thing, have your own opinion.
You have just played two shows with Against Me!. How was it? I mean usually you rather play in non-commercial places like youth centres and squats. Must be quite a different thing.
Beitz: That was something completely different in some ways, yes. Peeping into the professional camp with its fixed time tables, security gorillas or these horribly important Uncle Sally’s people in Berlin (the show in Berlin was an Uncle Sallys night, t. e.). Hamburg was a lot more relaxed. In Berlin everybody was so importing. Annoying. Against Me! were really nice. I got the impression they didn’t like all this fuss, either…
Basti: That’s right, Against Me! are really nice guys. And it was them who made it possible for us to play in Berlin as well. The show itself was great, too. But in terms of organization these Uncle Sally’s manager guys could learn a lot from many youth houses or autonomous centres. There were some things happening that were totally unnecessary and whose only purpose was staging some people as oh so cool.
I got the feeling that if Against Me! had stolen twenty cases of beer and spit the Uncle Sally’s crew into their faces they would kiss their asses and go like “Against Me! stole soooo much beer from us. They are soooo cool.” But if some “support” comes asking for absurd things like gas money or maybe a few more beers there ain’t no chance, of course. They should better be glad to have the chance to get to play in Berlin. Thanks. That sucked pretty much. But Against Me! are nice guys, the show itself was good and at least we got a few more slots on the guestlist off the bargain. So we could bring some more friends in for free.
Oh, you seem to be very emotional about this thing. So let’s talk about something more cheerful: You share a rehearsal space with Captain Planet, toured with them more than once and two of them made the artwork for “kuddel”. How close are you?
Beitz: It’s love, dude! They are the kind of guys you’d follow upstairs for a coffee after a date.
Basti: Arne and Marco did the artwork. Arne did the drawing for the cover and Marco did the booklet and all that. They deserve our eternal thankfulness. Besides Benni is doing our booking. No really, we like each other a lot. We do also play football together every once in a while or we go to a show or hang out.
Your lyrics are always little concrete and turn mostly around heart shit. Are your lives that tragic? And why don’t you have no „political“ lyrics or some with social criticism? Things like that are usually pretty favourable in punk…
Beitz: We are a band with a political consciousness. We support certain things by playing benefit shows or generally by playing in self-organized places. However we have difficulties putting this into our lyrics. For me it is ten times easier writing something personal than something political. It’s so easy to make mistakes there in content as well as in style like stupid sloganeering even Che or Rudi Dutschke would turn over in there graves…
Of course our lives aren’t that tragic. Quite the opposite, we like to party often and hard. Lyrics are an outlet. You just let out what’s in your subconsciousness. Sometimes it surprises even yourself.
Well, on the other hand the private life is of course political as well and with all your soft aesthetics you should be generally of no interest for nazi scum and machist bullies. You might even disgust them. Did you have some problems at shows with people who can’t behave however?
Basti: Well said, Jan. No question the private is political. If it wasn’t you could work for Amnesty International by day and drink at Club 88 by night. Maybe we are just better in writing about personal stuff than about politics. However there are a few political allusions if you only lock closely enough.
And yeah, soft aesthetics – good verbalization. Of course we don’t have enough muscles and too much hair to go for a nazi or macho audience. There is really like no windmills and kickboxing at our shows and we like it that way. Dancing however is highly recommended. The more dancing the better the show. For the audience and for us.
Beitz: Well, there has actually been a few strange incidents. Oi! punks in Hoyerswerda who let out the air of our van’s tyres for example. Or some time ago in Bavaria there was a guy with a Böhse Onkelz cap. Our drummer fixed that with some duct tape. Apart from that it’s mostly peaceful at our shows.
You recorded most of your last record in live sessions. That’s not really that simple. If you could choose again would you still be doing it this way?
Basti: I’d say for us it’s rather the other way round. It’s not so easy to record the single instruments one after another. Only by recording live we captured the drive that makes our record what it is. Yeah, it’s not all 100% perfect. There are flaws. But it has got feeling. In any case it was really hard because it is always four people who have to be on point instead of only one. It’a a question of taste mostly. Next time I’d like to try it the other way again…
Beitz: That’s only because Basti can’t play eights. The other three did really bother me with their singsong. I’m just the much better musician. Just kidding… I like the experience of recording live. But sometimes it is really like bewitched. You play the song two times to warm up and everything is great and as soon as the record button is pressed one after another is starting to make mistakes. Besides me of course. Haha…
How does one get to name one’s record „kuddel“? That’s a name for a person. Do you regard this record as your baby? Or in analogy to the cover as your puppy?
Basti: Yeah, „kuddel“ is our baby. No question. There is this photo (see above, t. e.) of us with the flesh and blood Kuddel and we really hold him like a baby. We had thought about a title so long having already rejected 20000 bad ideas when Arne finally wanted to start with drawing a cover art. So we had to come up with a title. Someone came up with “kuddel” and we took it. Personally I wasn’t so down with it but now I just love it. The title expresses everything the album is about, everything that’s in the lyrics.
Beitz: When my roommate said it would be the worst title ever I knew it was the right choice. Fooled the people’s expectations once again. Punk!
What about this one: touring to record or record to go on tour?
Basti: For all of us playing live is the best thing about being in a band. It’s just awesome. But you are right, having a record out makes it lot easier to set up a tour and at some point you also want to a record of your own between all the other discs at home.
Beitz: Playing life is just way more fun than the hard studio work. There is usually a long time between recording process and the final product. So it does also take long until people can tell you how they like what you did. When you play live the feedback is coming immediately.
If you had the chance to make nothing else but music and you could survive on it, would you? Or would you miss the ordinary life as equilibrium or as an inspiration?
Beitz: Who wouldn’t? I’d give it a try. You never know until you’ve tried it yourself.
Basti: Good question. I don’t know. On the one hand it seems to be so illusionary to me. On the other hand I see so many pros and contras. Living off your passion and passing your time with people you like. Sounds great. Then again – and that’s not just punk credibility bullshit – I fear that if you really focused on this one thing and put all your energy into it, it might very well become something little better than the temp job you have now. You just do it because it has to be done.
For all those who want to be as awesome as Matula, what are your biggest influences? What bands or whatever have shaped you?
Basti: Turbostaat („flamingo“ was one of my first vinyls ever), Muff Potter, Samiam, Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music. But for sure also Kurhaus and Captain Planet and if only because we shared stages so often and know all their songs by heart. That doesn’t mean I listen to these bands all day long. No wait, since the new Turbostaat just came out I really listen to it all day…
What’s next with Matula? What are your plans?
Basti: Priority #1 is writing a new song. We haven’t written one for one and a half years now. We definitely need something new. Apart from that: shows of course, we’ll play a ten days tour with Captain Planet in September and another four dates with Duesenjaeger and Inner Conflict in November. And so on and so on…
Any last wise words? Shoutouts? Aphorisms?
Basti: “Water comes and water goes.” No, that’s hokum. Dunno… Maybe: “start today!”
Beitz: Do whatever you want. I’m outta here…
Thanks for the interview!
The current album “kuddel” is out on Zeitstrafe as lp and cd. Matula on tour are presented by yitnp.com.