THE HISTORY OF F.S.K.
The German independent
band F.S.K. ( originally named after the West German self censorship
institution "Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle") was founded in
1980 by four members of the underground magazine "Mode & Verzweiflung"
( Fashion & Despair ) in Munich. Today's European Quintet and German-American
Sextet/Septet/Octet still incorporates the original line up:
Justin Hoffmann, musician and art journalist, was born in the Bavarian
Forest near the Czech border in 1955. Thomas Meinecke, author and radio
deejay, was born in Hamburg in 1955 and came to Munich, like Hoffmann,
in 1977. Artist Michaela Melián was born in Munich in 1956 as
daughter of a Spanish father and a German mother. Wilfried Petzi, living
as a photographer in Munich since the 1970's, was born in rural Lower
Bavaria Close to the Austrian border in 1948.
Michaela ( bass, guitar, fiddle, organ, vocals, etc. ) had been a student
of classical violoncello, freelancing in Chamber Music ensembles and
as occasional member of a Folk string band; Justin ( guitar, organ,
piano, accordion, vocals, etc. ) has been playing in bands since the
age of 12; Thomas ( 1ap steel guitar, guitar, cornet, drums, vocals,
etc. ) had been into mutant Jug Band Music as a teenager in Hamburg;
Wilfried ( mandolin, guitar, banjo, trombone, vocals, etc. ) was playing
and singing in Lower Bavarian dance bands as early as 1970.
The first live appearance of F.S.K. was in Hamburg 1980, 6 months after
the release of their 1st record. To be followed soon by periodical tours
through West Germany, to West Berlin, the Netherlands, Switzerland and
The early records ( two EP's, "Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle"
1980, and "Teilnehmende Beobachtung" 1981; 1st LP "Stürmer",
which entered San Franciscan indie charts in 1981; EP "Magic Moments"
in 1982; like all their Continental releases from 1980 to 1989 on Hamburg's
ZickZack label; plus several compilation tracks ) gave the band the
reputation of being West Germany's most intelligent art school combo.
Living in a very americanized country meant to F.S.K. that they soon,
in means of love and hate, started to work out structures of Euro-American
heritage in their music. Not only did they so bring back the Texan Blue
Yodel to its Bavarian source, they also started to add the occasional
cover version of American standards and non-standards to their German
repertoire. The first two LP's reflecting this technique and flavour
were recorded in 1983 ("Ca C'est Le Blues") and in 1984 ("Goes
In 1985 John Peel invited the combo to come to London for their 1st
BBC Session, the same year to be released as an EP entitled "Last
Orders". The included drinking songs were also performed live at
London's Goethe Institute and the Max Headroom ICA Rock Week in Summer
1985. Enthusiastic reviews in NME, Melody Maker and The Observer.
The 2nd John Peel Session was held one year later, in August 1986. The
included version of GI song "I Wish I Could 'Sprechen Sie Deutsch'"
appeared in John Peel's 1986 Festive Fifty listeners poll as the only
not released recording.
In June 1987 the band
visited the UK for a 3rd BBC John Peel Session (to record their versions
of 4 Beatles songs), signed a contract with Red Rhino Records in York,
had a studio date at Offbeat in Leeds ( to record 4 songs produced by
Kevin Lycett of The Mekons for Red Rhino ) and another London live gig
at the ICA. A compilation LP covering the recording years 1983 to 1985
( Continental Breakfast ) was released in Summer 1987 in the UK ( with
sleeve notes by John Peel ) through Red Rhino/Ediesta to be followed
in fall by the release of "American Sector" EP (with Leeds
takes, including a re-recording of "I Wish I Could 'Sprechen Sie
Deutsch'" ) on the same label.
Immediately after their return to Germany the band recorded the 4th
LP "In Dixieland", produced by Detlef Diederichsen in Hamburg.
Dealing with various aspects of trans-atlantic Folk Music the record
contains no cover versions, only self-penned material. Scheduled for
simultaneous release in West Germany ( ZickZack ) and the UK ( Red Rhino
/ Ediesta ) in Winter 1987/88. In November 1987 the band travelled to
England for a second time within one year to play live gigs in London
( Sir George Robey ) and Winchester ( Art School ). Very good reviews
of live shows and records in NME ( 8 1/2 points ), Melody Maker ( album
of the week ), Sounds, Record Mirror. Frequent airplay of F.S.K.'s UK
releases in England and Scotland.
In April 1988 F.S.K. recorded their 4th Peel Session ( with Yodel Songs
) in London which made the band the non-British group with the most
John Peel Sessions ever. A recording date at London's Falconer Studios
( intended to be released on Ediesta / Red Rhino, but Red Rhino made
bankrupt instead ) was followed by a tour through the UK. Live performances
in Leeds ( Polytechnic ), Hull ( Adelphi ), Southampton
( Joiners Arms ) and
London ( ICA, Albany ).
In Summer 1988 re-release of F.S.K.'s 1st LP "Stürmer"
on ZickZack with original 1981 sleeve and sound. Release of "In
Dixieland" LP together with 1982 "Magic Moments" EP as
ZickZack Compact Disc. Frequent F.S.K. airplay on East German Radio
as well as American College Radio. 60-minute interview with F.S.K. on
WTUL, New Orleans. Good review of "In Dixieland" in Option
Magazine, Los Angeles.
F.S.K.'s 5th regular LP, "Original Gasman Band", was recorded
in January 1989 in Hamburg and produced by the band. It contains 12
songs in radical folk, some self-penned, some in trans-atlantic Polka
and Yodel feed-back from the New World. The LP was released in Summer
1989. The CD version contains F.S.K.'s cover of The Saints plus 1987
"American Sector" EP.
F.S.K.'s 1982 song "Viel Zu Viel" is featured on London's
"Deutschland Strike-Back" Compilation, released in Spring
1989. In Summer 1989 the English Strange Fruit label, dedicated to publishing
BBC Peel Sessions on records, released a Double Peel Sessions LP and
CD by F.S.K. containing the complete F.S.K. Peel Sessions of 1986 (
"I Wish I Could 'Sprechen Sie Deutsch'" ) and 1987 ( "Beatles
Songbook" ). German Tele 5 TV produced a video of F.S.K.'s "Pennsylfawnisch
Schnitzelbank". American clubs demand for F.S.K. live gigs in the
US. Enthusiastic reviews of current album in American music papers (
Option, College Music Journal and others; F.S.K. on position 5 in Best
Of 1989 US Indies Charts by New Orleans' Wavelength Magazine ). In December
1989 first F.S.K. live gig in ( still GDR ) East Berlin.
In Summer 1990, "Budweiser Polka" and "Cannonball Yodel"
( both recorded in London 1988 ) were released as a limited edition
single on Munich's Sub-Up label ( European home of the band since then,
distributed in the UK by Southern ). Extensive feature on F.S.K. in
Son Of Kraut. In November and December 1990, invited and produced by
GI son David Lowery ( Camper Van Beethoven ), F.S.K. recorded their
first real trans-atlantic album in Richmond, Virginia, USA. Besides
Lowery ( new F.S.K. member on acoustic guitar, voice, songwriting and
arrangements, born in Texas, 1960 ), new in the band was also ex Tony
Joe White drummer Carson Huggins, GI son with German mother, born in
North Carolina, 1951. Guests and friends on the F.S.K. Richmond recordings
at McCavitt Studios were Beatnik Folk legend Michael Hurley, Bakersfield
picker and today's Cracker virtuoso Johnny Hickman, Square Dance harmonica
man Phil Woddail, Banjo picker Mark Linkous, Bluegrass fiddler Dave
Van Deventer, and engineer John Morand on additional percussion. 1st
American F.S.K. gig ( as German-American Sextet plus friends ) in Richmond's
The album was released in Spring 1991 by Sub-Up Records in Europe (
enthusiastic illustrated review in Folk Roots Magazine, London ). In
the US it is available through North Carolina's Moist Records Mail Order.
David Lowery, Carson Huggins and Johnny Hickman ( GI son, born in Massachusetts,
1956 ) were in F.S.K. on their very successful GermanAmerican Septet
Tour ( TV, radio, magazines ) of Germany and Austria in May and June
In Fall 1991 Carl Oesterhelt ( born 1968 in Upper Bavaria ) joined the
band as their European drummer. Oesterhelt ( occasionally doubling on
percussion, organ and trumpet in F.S.K. ) can also be heard playing
the piano in Munich's pop combo Merricks ( two records produced by Thomas
Meinecke ). After a gig at Berlin's BID Congress, F.S.K. were invited
to play at 1992's South By Southwest Music Congress ( SXSW ) in Austin,
Texas. In December 1991 the Band flew to London for their 5th BBC Peel
Session ( with 4 PostWar Songs from devided Germany, 1949-1991 ) and
another gig at the Sir George Robey.
1992: Ed Ward lists the Richmond album as No.1 of his 1991's charts
in Rock & Roll Disc Magazine, Memphis. Greil Marcus places F.S.K.'s
"Hitler Lives" ( from the same record ) in his February 1992
Top Ten in Art Forum, New York. In March 1992 three gigs as German-American
Quintet/Sextet/Septet at SXSW, Austin, Texas ( Emo's, Hyatt Regency,
ThreeEleven) plus one show in Houston, Texas ( Black Forest ). Enthusiastic
live reviews in Rolling Stone and Billboard Magazines. Single gigs and
smaller European tours since 1991 mostly in German Quintet line-up:
Hoffmann-Meinecke-Melián-Oesterhelt-Petzi. Young German bands
start recording cover versions of historical F.S.K. material. First
yodels can be heard on Lowery's and Hickman's Cracker debut album.
In Summer 1992 Walter Salas-Humara invited the Quintet to be his band
for a Munich show and also went to a studio with them to record his
song "Upside Down Instead" for the Love Is My Only Crime compilation
on Munich's IRS-distributed Veracity Label ( released in April 1993
). F.S.K. was also invited to take part in this mostly American album
and recorded its only German-language title "Das Hab Ich Falsch
Gemacht" in Munich. During Octoberfest 1992 F.S.K. recorded their
6th BBC Session ( "Dear John" ) in Munich for John Peel's
English-German Euro Action program. F.S.K. now ranks ( behind The Fall
) as the band with second most Peel Sessions ever.
Later in October Carson Huggins ( now mostly on guitar and vocals ),
Kentuckian trumpeter Paul Watson ( born 1951, ex Half Japanese, Orthotonics
etc., today Sparklehorse ) and Rainer Ptacek ( born in Berlin 1951,
moved to Chicago in the 50's, lives in Tucson, Arizona as legendary
Slide Guitar artist: Rainer & Das Combo, The Band Of Blacky Ranchette,
Giant Sand etc. ) were brought to Munich by Austrian Festival "Steirischer
Herbst". In Graz, Austria F.S.K. as German-American Octet closed
"The Immigrant Song", a three days beer tent event with wild
encores that included not only the line-up of Hoffmann, Huggins, Meinecke,
Melián, Oesterhelt, Petzi, Ptacek and Watson, but also Cajun
musicians from Louisiana and Tejano musicians from Texas. Live broadcast
on Austrian Radio (ORF).
In early 1993 the Prague Goethe Institute invites F.S.K. for a show
at the Bunkr Club ( plus live radio interview in German-English-Czech
on Radio 1 ). Australian Singer/ Songwriter Robert Forster ( ex Go-Betweens
) quotes F.S.K.'s Richmond recordings as big influence on his own new
album. German writer Alexander Kluge keeps repeating his German-American
F.S.K. features on German TV stations SAT1, RTL and VOX ( as John Peel
keeps repeating their sessions on BBC1 ).
In May 1993 the five German band members flew once more to Richmond,
Virginia to record another outstanding album with their American friends,
"The Sound Of Music", again produced by David Lowery and engineered
by John Morand at Turpentine Mill Recorders ( now owned by Lowery and
named The Sound Of Music ). Lowery sings ( two Lowery originals and
one song in German ) and plays on it extensively. Guests include Paul
Watson on trumpet and alto horn, Mark Linkous ( meanwhile Susanna Hoffs'
bandleader, today: Sparklehorse ) on vocals, and young Hohner USA employee
Joshua Camp on accordion. Wild shows in Richmond, Virgnia, ( Pyro's
), Washington, D.C. ( 9:30 Club ), and Chapel Hill, North Carolina (
Local 506 ). Live radio appearances at WVGO, Richmond and WXYC, Chapel
The Country Rockers from Memphis, Tennessee start covering F.S.K. material
in their live shows. Robert Forster, back in Brisbane, Australia, records
an F.S.K. original in German ( released on Beggars Banquet ). Whereas
F.S.K., invited by the Romanian Goethe Institute, plays a live show
in Bucarest at the philharmonic of the Romanian State Radio in December
1993, broadcasted over Radiodifuziunea Romana. Interviews by Romanian
TV, radio and press. The second Richmond album gets listed in many European
polls of 1993.
1994. Normal Records of Bonn, Germany invite F.S.K. for a one-off CD
on their Return To Sender mailorder label ( with 1992 recordings of
German-American Octet). 1. Video production of "Flagge Verbrennen
( Regierung Ertränken )" broadcasted over German VIVA Television.
Extensive Germany-Austria Tour in German Line-Up. Virgin Records, America
puts F.S.K.'s "Red Sonja" on 9th Anniversary Sampler CD of
American Alternative Press Magazine (AP). F.S.K.'s 1981 recording of
"Liebe Tut Weh" re-released by Belgian label Antler on New
Wave German Class-X compilation. F.S.K. as David Lowery's Hot Pick in
Special Summer Issue of American Rolling Stone Magazine. Extensive VIVA
TV feature on F.S.K. after their powerful Popkomm performance in Cologne.
F.S.K.'s "Unter Dem Doppeladler" appears on soundtrack of
American movie "Love & A .45", directed by C.M. Talkington,
and on Immortal / Epic Soundtrax / Sony CD "Music From The Motion
Picture Love & A .45" ( on which F.S.K. are followed by The
Butthole Surfers, Johnny Cash, and Courtney Love ).
1995 started with F.S.K.'s "Diesel Oktoberfest" on "Wo
Ist Zuhause Mama" Compilation on Germany's Trikont Label and an
extensive F.S.K. live show on Bavarian and Hessian TV. F.S.K.'s "Liebe
Tut Weh" re-released on Columbia / Sony German Pop & Wave Spezial
compilation. F.S.K.'s "Unter Dem Rhein" re-released on worldwide
distributed Big Cat compilation "Sturm & Twang". The band
plays live at the release party in Cologne ( broadcasted by VIVA TV
). F.S.K.'s "G.M. Tuxedo Plunger" on "Komm Schnell"
Compilation on German Peace 95 label. Chicago based label Flying Fish
signs F.S.K. for the USA. First release is an American edition of "The
Sound Of Music" CD. Enthusiastic reviews ( CMJ Jackpot etc: ) in
the US. ZickZack records releases a 2 CD set with 44 F.S.K. tracks from
1980 to 1989, titled "F.S.K. Bei Alfred". In late Spring F.S.K.
fly over to the US again to record another album with David Lowery in
Richmond, Virginia, and to tour the States ( with David Lowery and Paul
Watson in the band ): Charleston, West Virginia ( Mountain Stage, broadcasted
over 120 public radio stations in the US, The Empty Glass ), Carrboro
/ Chapel Hill, North Carolina ( Cat's Cradle ), Charleston, South Carolina
( Music Farm, invited by Pavement ), Athens, Georgia ( 40 Watt Club
), Atlanta, Georgia ( Mid City Music Fest ), Cincinnati, Ohio ( Bogart's
), Chicago, Illinois ( Double Door, parts broadcasted on radio and cable
TV in Chicago and Seattle ), Cleveland, Ohio ( Peabody's ), Detroit,
Michigan ( St. Andrew's ), Richmond, Virginia ( Floodzone ), New York,
New York ( Mercury Lounge, parts broadcasted over cable TV ), Washington,
D.C. ( 9:30 Club ). German Arte TV films F.S.K. in Richmond, Athens,
Atlanta, and New York City. Rolling Stone interviews F.S.K. in Atlanta.
Roxy Munich multi-media installation and video about F.S.K. by Jörg
Heiser being exhibited in Munich ( Kunstverein ) and Zürich ( Shedhalle
). 4 F.S.K. tracks ( Red Sonja, When It Rains In Texas, Dr. Bernice,
and David's Japanese Yodel Mix of Euro-Trash Girl ) appear in the USA
on Cracker Fan Club CD "Bob's Car" ( Cracker Soul ). In Spring
1996 European release of the 1995 Richmond sessions as CD / Double LP
"International". Enthusiastic reception of F.S.K.'s new (
gender and nation transcending ) musical camp manifestations. TV documentary
Lost In Music on German TV 3sat about F.S.K. in the US. Video clip "Mark
Twain In Heidelberg" being broadcasted on German VIVA TV and British
MTV. Recording of four not song related band instrumentals in Weilheim,
Bavaria. A British TV team with John Peel visits F.S.K. in Bavaria for
TV documentary "Travels With My Camera: John Peel's Autobahn Blues",
shooting Peel and the band for three days ( broadcasted by Channel 4,
London, December 22nd, 1996, 8 pm ). Two more F.S.K. tracks appeared
on compilations in 1996: Tel Aviv on "Absolutely Live 1996"
( Almaviva ) and "Was Kostet Die Welt" on UntergruNDW ( Polymedia
). Plus "Cubano Song" ( = "Mein Kubano Girl" ) on
Sound Of Music Studios Promo CD.
1997 saw the sensational release of F.S.K.'s "4 Instrumentals"
on Sub-Up's booming techno subsidiary Disko B. Tel Aviv on "Kraut
2000" Compilation ( Polymedia ) with new, mostly electronic, music
from Germany. "1+1=3" on "Willkommen Zuhause" compilation
( Polymedia ). "Hippie Melody" on CD re-release of 1981 "Reifenwechsel
leicht gemacht" compilation ( Schlecht & Schwindlig ).
In 1998 F.S.K. record their 6 songs / 6 instrumentals Album "Tel
Aviv" in four days live at U-Phon Studios in Weilheim, Bavaria,
released on Sub-Up / Disko B ( CD version includes the 4 Instrumentals
of 1996 ). Great reviews, growing connections to the young techno /
electronic / post rock scene. Munich Techno / Punk Girl Trio Chicks
on Speed release a 7-inch single with two remixes with additional recording
of F.S.K.'s "Euro Trash Girl" on Munich's Go Records label.
Extensive chapter about F.S.K. in Richie Unterberger's book "Unknown
Legends of Rock'n'Roll" ( San Francisco, 1998 ). John Peel invites
the band among other favorite bands to play London's Queen Elisabeth
Hall in June ( John Peel's Meltdown Festival ).
In early 1999 the band is touring with "Tel Aviv" ( presented
by Spex Magazine ). Remake of Die Sterne track ( "Das bißchen
besser F.S.K. Remodel" ) on L'age d'or / Epic / Sony Records. Techno
DJ's worldwide are spinning the 12-inch in their live sets. F.S.K.'s
historic recording "I Wish I Could Sprechen Sie Deutsch" on
CD compilation "Pop 2000" ( EMI ). "Herz aus Stein"
( Version 1998 ) on Puch Fiction compilation ( Wild Orange Records ).
Limited edition of 7-inch with F.S.K. playing "Did You See Davidopoulos
Hit That Ball" ( private pressing ). Munich band Merricks open
their new album with a cover of F.S.K.'s "Move Ahead".
Summer, 2000: Recording of F.S.K.'s 10th studio album "X"
at Weilheim's U-Phon studios, nine abstract instrumentals with backing
vocals put to hard disk in three days, mixed in another four days, produced
by the band, recorded by Mario Thaler. Released in November, 2000 on
Sub-Up Records as CD and on Vinyl, to be followed immediately by a rave
review in De:Bug Magazine, Berlin. A new, again much younger audience
( crossing over from electronic music ) appears at F.S.K.'s European
live shows. Political benefit concert Rage Against Abschiebung in October,
in Munich ( together with Mouse on Mars ). At the same time Chicago's
The Catamount Company ( which started their catalogue with the legendary
band Souled American ) releases F.S.K. CD "International"
in the USA. Chicks On Speed's version of "Euro Trash Girl"
on their album "Will Save Us All" ( Chicks On Speed Records
). Hamburg band Die Braut haut ins Auge cover of "When It Rains
In Texas ( It Snows On The Rhine )" on their live album "+
1 auf der Gästeliste". Fink ( also from Hamburg ) cover F.S.K.'s
"Unter dem Rhein" on their EP "Er sieht sie an"
( L'age d'or).