By Mr. Jimijam (James Riley3)
The dressing room of The Bayou (R.I.P.) in Georgetown, Washington, DC. I read in the music press earlier this year that Nina Hagen had left Los Angeles and moved to the island of Ibiza off the coast of Spain for artistic and spiritual reasons.
I have always been fascinated with her. On June 6 of 1987, the PETA/Animal Rights concert happened at the Sylvan Theatre at the base of the Washington Monument, Nina was supposed to be one of the headline act along with the The B52S and LENE LOVICH. On the day of the concert, Nina was a no-show, various announcers gave various answers to explain her absence. I was bummed, I had even thanked her for some unknown reason on the cassette insert of my album FINAL DAZE with my band REVELATION which was released by OLIVE TREE records in 1986. In July of 1987, Nina and her band did a month long US tour billed as the NINA HAGEN FOR PRESIDENT tour and a gig was scheduled to appear at The Bayou on July 8. I decided to try to interview her and ask her about the PETA incident and to thank her for her music. So I asked GORDON GORDON, my editor at THE WDC PERIOD, about it, so he called Bill Kitchen at Cellar Door Productions and then I called Bill, and then I called F.B.I. Management, and then the road manager for Nina, and then I had the interview. It was so easy, I freaked out. I give special thanks to Bill Kitchen and Steve Knouse for being so helpful. Hey Gordon, Bill told me to say to you, “Hey I ain’t such a bad guy after all." My friend James and I breezed down to the Bayou, breezed into the club, I love guest lists, we went upstairs and got our passes and waited for the show. I talked to my friend JlMl SIN who is the guitar player for VACATION. There was an incredible variety of people in attendance: freaks, rockers, college kids, fashion plates, gays, suburban couples, and several bizarre people. BIG BANG THEORY opened the show, but I missed them. The lights went down and Nina and her band took the stage, behind the band was a giant backdrop that was painted to look like a graffiti covered wall, mostly the names of the original punk bands. They opened with a hurricane fury, blasting out with a cover of the SEX PISTOLS’ "Holidays In The Sun". They kept up the pace with a barrage of songs: a BOB MAR LEY cover, JIMI HENDRIX’s "Foxy Lady", the MONKEES' "I’m A Believer", and the TUBES' "White Punks On Dope", both in German, "Russian Reggae", and "New York, New York". She introduced several new songs: one for the Free South Africa movement, one for all of the B-Boys in NYC which was a totally grooving funky fresh hiphop style song, and one for the Nazi fascists in her homeland, and the people at CBS Records, who she constantly referred to as "dirty fucking cunts". The "fucking cunts" who never let her do what she wants; by telling her either who she should associate with, or what she should do on her album to help her career. She talked about how in Ibiza, she was arranging to have a big circus tent set up so artists could have a place to create art twenty-hours a day. She announced that she was running for President, then she let the band rip. The band was tight, the musicians were former sidemen for LENE LOVICH. Their chops were on target, you tell they enjoyed being on stage with Nina. They launched into what seemed to be a spiritually inspired version of ‘Don’t Kill The Animals’ that dosed the show. I went upstairs to wait for my turn to talk with Nina Hagen.
I have not interviewed anyone with the magnitude and fame of Nina Hagen before; so right when it was my turn to talk with her, I got butterflies in my stomach and all my questions flew out of my head. lroquois, her husband was standing near me and he turned and asked me if I had a ‘fag’. His question caught me off-guard and I was thinking “Wah!" but luckily my friend knew he meant ‘cigarette’ and offered him one. Nina seemed to be lost in thought when I approached her, I asked if I could ask her some questions. She looked up and said, ‘What is this? This is crazy. These are too crazy”, as she surveyed the crowd in the room and started laughing and the interview began.
JR3: I found out that you dig Yma Sumac, the female singer from Brazil, who was big during the 30’s and 40’s, and that you consider her one of your main influences?
NINA: Yeah I like it!
J: Yeah, I was listening to some other music before the show.
N: I hear it in the sixties, I hear it a lot at home.
J: What turned you on to her?
N: The record player !!! (laughter)
J: What did you like about her that influenced you ?
N: Its not describable, you can't describe, um, that.
J: The music and the singing remind me of being in the woods communing with the trees.
N: She’s unique in what she does.
J: Do you talk to trees?
N: Everything, I guess.
J: A lot of rumours have going around about the circumstances concerning your no-show at the PETA/Animal Rights concert on the Washington, DC mall on June 6. What was the real reason?
N: Yeah ! Because they only sent me one ticket and I never, go alone anywhere, either with my friend, or I go with my child or somebody, you know, who helps me and when I go overseas from Germany, I would never go just on my own and they just send me one ticket. Because they thought, you know, they would get me over, and so I don't do it.
J: My experience from the concert was that PETA was kind of bogus.
N: You know, I had a bad experience with some people from Germany, the animal liberation people, they make fake actions and just to get the press down there, and they get like, huh, prominent people like celebrities, er, down, to like, er, watch. And they say, “We just rescued these dogs and the press is coming any minute, please come by, so you can also make a statement.” So I say, “Yes, of course, I’m coming…”And I get there and I found out it was a fake action and these dogs were already living with people and stuff, it was horrible and this one dog escaped and they had to search for: it all over the city. It was a stupid thing. And thought, you know, “I make this song with Lone two years ago, we went on a double tour and we featured the song and we made lots of video and stuff and also PETA made a video and it had its input and stuff. And I know that, um, you can talk to people and say don’t eat, please don't eat meat because it’s not good and lala. It don’t make sense, no matter what you say, you can’t change things by saying them. So I thought why should I go there, Lene can sing the song. She does it since two years, sing the song, sing the song also since two years by myself, yeah! Because we, er, do, huh, different actions… So why just team up like a fucking hit team or something. She can get the message across and I'm there in spirit and if the animal people don't believe in my spirit and get mad at me and I don't come because they only sent me one fucking ticket.
Unidentified Woman: Yeah, I was backstage at the concert and I was talking to Lene and all the people, and was asking where you were and they were saying you were delayed and. should be here any minute, you. know bullshit like that, and Lene did a great job with the song, and it got the B52S and all the groups on the stage. It got to be very powerful at the end. They kept saying you were coming, you were coming, and they knew you weren't coming because I talked to the heads, the organizers, and…
N: Well, as Jesus, I am everywhere, like him, you know. (She says this in a meek questioningly way) It was something for the animals and my spirit is in there too, because I feel for them even if I don't stand there and wave my arms.
UW: Have you always been a vegetarian, totally?
N: Nooo Just since 1983.
UW: Do you eat fish at all, sushi, anything like that?
N: Yes They live a free life, uh, I thank them for giving their protein for me. I don’t feel guilty. I’m sorry! (point blankly) Um, they live free and they have a good life, but you know the Indians, they even eat meat but they do it so nicely, like they thank the animal for the surrender (apprehensive about if that was the proper word) and I think that is wonderful. They make the animal live in freedom and then one day they agree with the spirit of the animal that is now going to be going, er, another, er…
Someone interrupts with: But think that’s in certain, parts of the courtry, not all over.
N: But you know, to make an industry out of it is mean. If you live near the ocean, then you catch fish and you grill it on the beach and make a party. There is nothing wrong with that, what's wrong with something is that they put waste in the ocean and they fuck up our beautiful planet. That is what should be changed.
UW: What's wrong is they have factories and take animals and cut them up and just like making records, they wrap them up and send them out.
N: Yeah, Babylon will fall very soon, you shall witness very soon, very
J: Do you have a new album coming out or anything or are you just touring?
N: Yeah! I wrote a book it is called ‘Ich Bin Bin Berliner’, it comes out in September in Germany. And somebody is translating it into English and will come out on Bantam Books in America. ‘When I don’t know, because he is still translating it. I will have a record coming out, but a record where I decide what will be on it and what not. You know I have my own, what you say my own team. And when said today, I wasn't going to make a record, it was more or less for the person who is trying to get me a deal. He was standing next to the stage (a lot of laughter), I wanted him to know that actually I really don't give a shit if I make another record. I made seven records so far. You know as I said you can teach to the people about the good things: like God and Jesus and the UFOS, and not being cruel to animals, but it doesn’t change, it does, well what should…the flow is gone. It doesn't necessarily change them, you know you might be talking talking-talking’ or ‘singing-singing and nothing is changing. So you always only reach a couple of souls, but that shall be wonderfully enough. Yeah! At least something like that happens.
J: So what are your plans until the fall of Babylon?
N: Well as, um, Jesus said, go and fish some more souls for me, please. So
that’s what we shall do.
J: I was really amazed by the choice of covers you played in your show. What inspired you to cover Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’? It was quite awesome.
N: Well, it is because he wanted me to do that. He told me from his UFO you know. He says, “Please, I beg you… do it!” Because the song is actually about God, you know, well, it is God in his female expression, yeah! Goddess! And so when he says I want to take you home, we want to go home to her, yeah, the foxy lady. So he said, “You gofta do it!” So I said, ‘Okay!”
J: So Nina did it. (everyone giggling)
N: (Using a fake voice) If you say so, you got to sing it just like I do, okay! Yeah (laughter) I didn’t hear it for a long time so I hear it again, so I do it, really. But we’re working on putting more songs in the set.
A guy asks in German: When was the last time you were in Berlin?
N: Yeah? In Berlin? I speak English, yeah, or otherwise nobody else can understand anything, (spoken like a mother correcting a child) There was a big open air festival, rock marathon, it was one night before Michael Jackson played there. The people started a riot alter we were finished, and it was because they turned our sound down in the middle of the last song.
J: Why did they do it?
N: Because at ten o’clock we were sur posed to be finished, and it was ten o’clock and one minute and we weren’t finished, it was only the second verse, and so they turned it all down and the lights on, and then the people freaked out and they saw we wanted to go on. And of course, it was a good reason to start a riot, and then they burned the grounds.
J: So did Mikey get to do his show?
N: Yeah, but rained.
Manager announced everyone must leave the club.
J: Thanks Nina.
N: Yeah! Take care!
So we split the dressing room and the club, Nina and her crew get on their bus, and my friend and I go our separate ways. I went home quite happy.
NINA HAGEN and TROUBLE FUNK
AUGUST 6, 1986 WARNER THEATRE •Washington, DC
The mother of punk at a big show, but a $16 ticket price – I never saw so many geeks, fake freaks, arty poseurs, and suburban teen queens in my whole life – homeboys TROUBLE FUNK opened the show with their brand of drum heavy go-go music – the first twenty minutes were good to go but they began to get very repetitive as the guitarist tried to lead the crowd in a call and response chant, however white people just don't really get into it – TROUBLE FUNK seem to have lost something on their way up to the top – NINA HAGEN her band were hot, they somehow blend rock, punk, metal, techno, and opera into some kind of beautiful ear engulfing sound – her voice was like ten rolled into one, squeals, screeches, rumbles, growls, and operatic she changed outfits constantly, dayglo wigs, bondage wear, minis, maxis, metal breastplates with lights on the the nipple points they played very hot versions of ‘UFO’, WHITE PUNKS ON DOPE, SMACK JACK, a cover of Sweet's ‘BALLROOM BLITZ’, and a super freaked out version of Frank Sinatra's ‘MY WAY’ – but I do wished the guitarist played a little sharper, other than that, it was a fantastic show.