Inside RISIKO Issue 2: A Fanzine about KRAUTROCK
In the fourth issue of the cult Japanese fanzine OBSCUR, Blixa Bargeld, the frontman of the band Einstürzende Neubauten, said: “We feel that in Germany our music isn’t understood at all. A German band for Germans is still regarded as a second-class band.” Although this was said in 1984, contemporary German rock musicians have told the Berlin based writer and editor Yukiko Yamane that nothing has changed.
OBSCUR inspired Yamane to create a new fanzine about underground German music, called RISIKO. Founded in 2020, the zine’s most recent issue, “KRAUTIE,” is an ode to Krautrock – an experimental, West-German rock movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s. The bands that fall under the Krautrock umbrella, such as Tangerine Dream, CAN, Kraftwerk, Faust, and Neu!, are not united by a similar sound as much as they are a similar avant-garde attitude. The post-war generation’s affinity for genre melding and general rule-breaking led Krautrock bands to embrace early synthesizers, hypnotic rhythms, and unusual samples, which paved the way for the later development of post-punk, new-age, and ambient music.
Drawing inspiration from psychedelia both visually and conceptually, Yamane takes readers on a whimsical ride that includes a shopping adventure at Kaufland with the band Camera, a visit to designer Claudia Skoda’s atelier, and a home-cooking lesson from musician Damo Suzuki. In the wake of the zine’s release, Yamane has also released a series of short videos that bring some of the features in “KRAUTIE” to life, in a spirit and style inspired by Mark Reeder’s Super-8 film, B-Movie.
Although Krautrock was once a beacon of German counterculture, Yamane fears that its reputation and perception has shifted over time. “That’s why we’re attempting to soften this crusty image,” she writes in the zine’s intro. “By slightly shifting our point of view, we start to notice the many KRAUTIE things around us.”
Cassidy George: Why did you choose to focus on Krautrock in this issue? Do you have a personal connection to it?
Yukiko Yamane: I’m not a Krautrock nerd, but I think that’s why I’m attracted to it.
I’ve loved music since I was a teenager and worked in a record store when I was a university student, but I listened mostly to American and British alternative rock. Before I moved to Berlin, when I thought of German music I thought of techno and metal. I didn’t know that German rock had such an interesting history and culture. RISIKO keeps a record of the music scene and active musicians who are based here, and there is a lot of German music that doesn’t get much time in the spotlight. The reasons for this vary from the country’s history to the language barrier, which have contributed to unseen, blank spaces in the music scene. In Germany, there hasn’t been a major movement in guitar music since Krautrock, Neue Deutsche Welle, or Hamburger Schule. Perhaps if we dig into our favorite scenes from the past, something will emerge in the future.
Krautrock music is interesting and is loved in various countries and by many musicians across genres but is perceived by many as music from the “olden days.” There’s a huge a generation gap. We’re attempting to soften that image and broaden perspectives, not only in relation to music.
What do you think is relevant about Krautrock today?
Krautrock was at its peak 50 years ago, but it is still around and it has influenced major artists like David Bowie, Radiohead, Brian Eno, Sonic Youth, The Fall, and The Flaming Lips. In our “KRAUTIE” issue, we feature Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 as Krautrock-loving musicians.
I also find the Krautrock stance and disposition interesting and relevant to contemporary culture today. It's a musical style that doesn't sonically categorize itself and that freely combines genres.
In this issue, we feature “KRAUTIE” musicians and artists from various countries, and by showing their favorite things and telling their personal stories, we hope to unravel Krautrock through a slightly different perspective. The zine is designed to be enjoyed by those who are already familiar with Krautrock, as well as those who are just being introduced to the genre.
Do you have a favorite Krautrock song? Or musician?
It’s difficult to choose, but my first favorite Krautrock band was CAN – and I still like it. I also love Cluster. I listened to their albums when we were editing the second issue.
Why is it meaningful for you to facilitate German-Japanese culture exchange? Do you feel that cultural pipeline is underrepresented or explored?
We don’t only want to connect Germany and Japan. We want to introduce contemporary German music and culture to foreign countries, more generally. With RISIKO, we keep a record of the German alternative music scene that allows us to explore the music that we love.