T.Raumschmiere's new album, Blitzkrieg Pop, is rockin' shuffletechno from the new king of gnarz. It's sputterin' electropunk from the undisputed sultan of crunchambient. It's shriekin' industrialfright from the knight errant of doomstomp.
These statements go quite a way toward describing what Berlin-based producer-malcontent T. Raumschmiere (born Marco Haas) does for a living. Not that they mean much of anything at all. But T. Raumschmiere seems to enjoy generating completely nonsensical descriptors of his music. The guy who writes press releases for his label, Shitkatapult, is a good friend of the artist-label owner and shares his mind for mischief. Whenever T. Raumschmiere's next disc is ready for release, they sit around spinning abject bullshit like the stuff above, cackling like hyenas, pushing each other into new frontiers of media mendacity. One of T. Raumschmiere's track titles actually is "Rockin' Shuffletechno From the New King of Gnarz."
It's all a part of T. Raumschmiere's new approach to how artists hype themselves: Instead of waiting for a music journalist to pronounce you king of some nonexistent genre, do it yourself. Then, if people accuse you of being hyped before your time because of some ghastly new subgenre tag affixed to your name, at least you have control over the ghastliness. (Before recording as T. Raumschmiere, Haas released tracks as "The King of Gnarz." His press release dutifully slaps an asterisk on "King," with the endnote caveat that "A true punk rocker, of course, would never be crowned King due to his belief in anarchy.")
"Gnarz," according to Blitzkrieg Pop's press release, is a "nasty German word encapsulating the T. Raumschmiere sound." When asked to elaborate over the phone from the Shitkatapult office, T. Raumschmiere admits that the "word" is totally of his own invention. "You know that sound the needle makes when it's in that endless groove when the record's over?" he says. "I tried to give that sound a name, and came up with 'gnarz.'" Not surprisingly, he brewed it up and launched it shitkatapult-style at the press during interviews he gave when his music first started drawing attention.
"That's part of the game," he says through what sounds like a smirk. "My friend who writes the press sheets and I sit there and laugh so hard with what he comes up with. Sometimes I can't believe it myself, what we're writing."
It's exactly that same pseudo-underground, completely cynical spoofery perfected by Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, who passed off a group of low-caste dirtbags eager to earn their drug money as the highly committed, anarchy-spewing slayers of the Rolling Stones. This is just the sort of coup T. Raumschmiere and his faithful flack have in mind.
Hell, Raumschmiere only chose to become a musician because he wanted to avoid anything resembling responsibility or actual work. "I never learned a proper job," he declares with pride. At 15, he saw how easy it was to make a Deutschmark by thrashing around with other unemployed young men, playing all over Europe in a hardcore band called Zorn ("anger" in German). Around 1995, he crossed the Berlin Wall of lifestyle changes and started going to dance clubs, but the state of techno quickly bored him.
He started making his own version of the music, with an experimental, often angry tinge. In keeping with punk-rock decorum, his stage show consisted of him pounding his electronic gear like a hardcore drummer. (That's because he played drums with Zorn; now he does so with a punk group called Crack Whore Society. The hypeworthiness of a name, apparently, is never lost on Raumschmiere.) When the promoter for his first solo gig asked him what name to put on the flier, the only thing he could think of was the German translation of the William S. Burroughs short story he was reading, "The Dream Cops." He added the period to Traumschmiere to make it look like someone's name and unwittingly evoked the spirit of a certain monster of rock that his current work sometimes veers close to emulating -- T. Rex.
Huh? By now, you must be wondering what the hell this guy's stuff sounds like. Without succumbing to all the hyperbole that Raumschmiere lays out for people like us, we'll say that it comes across like a well-produced, not overly thought-out collaboration between Andrew W.K., Skinny Puppy, and Atari Teenage Riot. Sometimes it makes perfect sense, as on the scary-drug-rave trudge "An Army of Watt"; at other times it feels like the sort of canned attitude that Mountain Dew marketers might play behind a gaggle of mean-looking mall rats riding skateboards.
But treading the line between true grit and crass hucksterism is what Raumschmiere is all about. He doesn't hide it. Look at the preamble to his most recent press release:
"His kingdom: the underground.
"His throne: the thunderous PA on the flatbed monster truck.
"His scepter: a rivet bracelet.
"His government declaration: stay anti.
"His force: Gnarz and the 6/8 shufflebeat timing featured on his international hits 'Monstertruckriver' and 'The Game Is Not Over.'"
You can hear the cackles as Raumschmiere speeds by on his way to the bank.
"You have to make a story out of it," he says of his music. "People have to get their story every day. And someone's going to put you into a box anyway. That's why I'm glad people picked up on the gnarz thing and not something else. I can live with gnarz."
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