The Formative Years - Weird System Records
This new series will be focussed on bands, labels and people that proved to be immensely influential during my formative years as a juvenile delinquent, and Weird System shall be the first entity to be shed light on as its focus had always been firmly set on careful curation of its catalogue and releases, which helped to broaden my horizons and exposed me to facets and nuances of punk rock.
It must have been around 1990 that I dialled the numbed that was listed on the Keine Experimente compilation. I found myself quickly engulfed in vivid conversation with a gentleman by the name of Mansur Niknam and subsequently fall even deeper in love with a German punk record label that has maintained a near flawless catalogue to this day. I was in my early teens and as I was still labouring with puberty vocal change, my go-to was to rough up my voice by puffing several unfiltered Gauloises to rough it up and transform it into what I perceived to a more bassy, world-weary older scenester voice.
It was long before the advent of the internet and in order to find out more about something you felt passionate about, you either had to travel there, send a letter and pick up the phone to get info from the horse’s mouth.
Mansur could have not cared less about my age and after some introductory exchange of pleasantries took the time to answer the myriad of questions I had burning under my nails not only about his label and the bands on it, but how he got into punk rock and the scene at large.
Needless to say that it only intensified my appreciation for Weird System and the man behind it but set me on a mission to collect all of its releases.
Weird System’s first release was the legendary compilation Waterkant Hits from 1983. As the name suggests, the focus was firmly set on bands from Hamburg and in many aspects, it is the Northern German equivalent to the fantastic KZ 36 compilations, which covered the early punk scene of West-Berlin. While the compilation is comprised of a potpourri of bands indulging in different styles, one could tell that there was an idiosyncratic common denominator to those bands that appealed to me instantaneously.
A favourite release of Weird System and one of my all-time-favourite punk records is SS Ultrabrutal’s ‘Monstren Mumien Mutationen’. While the name initially had me think that the sonic emissions must be akin to Finnish ultra-hardcore vacuum core releases of Rock-O-Rama of the time, musically the record is rooted in classic ’77 style and pervaded with a well-calibrated sense of humour that was not often found in the early days of German punk, as there was hardly anything to be found between the poles of political hardcore and non-sensical, insignificant fun punk.
The two volumes under the ‘Keine Experimente!’ compilation, an homage to Konrad Adenauer’s bonmot, should be recommended to anyone remotely interested in early German punk rock as the featured bands are the crème-de-la-crème of what the country and specifically Hamburg during the Cold War.
Razzia was a band whose influence on the sound of the scene has to be ranked amongst trailblazers like Slime and Toxoplasma. Their debut ‘Tag ohne Schatten’ is still on rotation to this day, along with literally all albums by the unique Blut+Eisen, who musically and lyrically took things to the next level.
Blut+Eisen formed in Hannover and it was not only Maximum Rock’n Roll who acknowledged that what they channelled with their debut in 1984 was one of the most intense and hardest-driving riffs-heavy albums to ever emerge from the old world. A band with a flawless catalogue of hits.
Torpedo Moskau could be claimed to have been on all-star group and albeit short-lived, their classic ‘Malenkaja Rabota’ album brought an interesting melodic tinge to the mix, which at times was reminiscent of The Wipers – a band that Weird System exposed me to later on as they re-released the first two albums of the iconic band from the Pacific Northwest.
Even more melodic was Neurotic Arseholes’ ‘Angst’, whose song-writing skills and lyrical prowess added another dimension to a scene that was on the verge of becoming stale by carbon copying the same old formula.
As the Nineties approached, Weird System Records branched out a bit and amongst locally focussed releases and compilations, such as the fantastic retrospective ‘Paranoia in der Strassenbahn - Punk in Hamburg 1977-83’, stylistically and geographically more diverse bands found their way onto the roster, by which time my interests had meandered elsewhere, i.e. American and Japanese hardcore.
Over the following years, great compilations like e.g. ‘Slam-Brigade Haifischbar - Punk in Hamburg 1984-90’ continued to document the history of Teutonic punk rock and many moons later with its 44th release, the stellar ‘Wenn kaputt dann wir Spass - Berlin Punk Rock 1977-1989’ compilation documented an era in a dedicated and thorough manner that only Weird System could.
Reworked and enhanced re-releases of classic German punk rock albums followed, e.g. Slime’s early back catalogue and retrospective discographies of bands like Abwaerts, Zerstörte Jugend, Vorkriegsjugend, The Buttocks, Toxoplasma, Inferno and the fantastic and criminally underrated Middle-Class Fantasies.
image from label website