This is what Straftanz was about.
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We never answered, no matter how often we were asked. The question is the most obvious one and yet we never publicly talked about it and never planned to. But due to recent events we decided to break the myth and resolve the riddle:
What does STRAFTANZ actually mean?
It was 2006 and we were fed up, each of us in one way or another. We felt like club culture in West Germany’s sinister scene was a stagnant ritual. A farce. The total number of prime time club hits could be reduced to roughly five, and even though VNV Nation’s Remix of “Destilat” by Das Ich was genius, it was so dominant that it felt like it was the only club track ever written. Its rhythm patterns, copied to all sorts of “ME TOO!” tracks, slapped our faces left and right like a smelly wet towel. In this situation, the scene split up into even smaller and even more obscure sub groups: EBM Fan Clubs that claimed that their music was never about Techno; older club visitors that tried their very best to drive the younger ones out; DJs playing against their audience; and the up and coming Cyber “Elite” who tried to prove that they’re not among the noobs by putting more blinking lights on their heads. People started to talk about “cleaning their scene” from the neon kids, from the Rüschenhemdschwuchtel, and from whatever was different enough to be noticed. The dominant club events were unable to create hype or legend, despite being blessed with 1000+ visitors. At the same time, smaller events diversified themselves until the group of possible visitors was too small to fill the DJ’s living room. At least these people felt superior by being even more devious than the deviants. Many of those regulars we cherished so much over the years left the clubs just like we did. We lost lots of amazing people to other places. Even some of those happier among “themselves” felt like the whole place had lost its magic.
When Krischan Wesenberg left the Eisenlager in Oberhausen on a Thursday night, frustrated yet in high spirit, he commented on the event and the whole situation with just one very simple statement. A statement so short and so elegant, that it burnt itself into scene’s history:
“Das war heute wieder ein Straftanz.”– Once again, it was a punishment to dance here.
“Straftanz im Lager, Straftanz Zeche, Straftanz im Fall, Straftanz Matrix, Straftanz im Sixx, Straftanz im Stahlwerk, Straftanz Fabrik.” – All these referred to events in the greater Ruhr area of West Germany. We tried to insult them as much as we could. Weeks later, Straftanz was a major hit in those clubs. No one really knew how to deal with that, so we decided to wait and to see what would happen. Whilst everybody seemed to dance to the track, the public opinion on that piece of music was roughly: “This is commercial mainstream bullshit. A sellout. A shame for the whole scene. These people care for nothing, but we are sure the track at least brings them enough money to buy a new car.” The only one of us that ever dared to drive a car for less than a thousand Euros was me. We’ll never forget our laughter when forum people tried to denounce the track by claiming it to be techno. This gave us lots of motivation to move forward. We knew we had touched something very sensitive and we felt like hitting it with a stick. You might rightfully ask now:
“Why didn’t you ever tell that story?”
In the beginning the main reason for that was David Benoy, promoter of the Vampire Party in Antwerp. He booked our fourth show, a band without proper release and with exactly one track in the market. At this live gig we won the hearts of an energetic Benelux audience and, more importantly, they won ours. Quickly we figured out that the naysayers on the web aren’t the people on the floor, and that another club event, another audience and a different kind of spirit was possible. On that night we decided to never discuss the name again. With this mindset our attention shifted to the wonderful, the beautifully devious, the ridiculous, the nerdy, the occult and anarchic qualities of this scene. Our concept became to reflect on what we experienced there. The amazing as much as the abysmal. We decided to move forward and to ignore the naysayers. You made that easy for us by making us fall in love.
“So why did you decide to tell us now?”
In Germany nothing changed. Instead of opening themselves up to new vibes, the German scene closed itself up even more. Goth events started to invoke dress codes at their doors, claiming that the scene is defined by clothes. While Intona Rumori in Amsterdam is capable of delivering kick-ass club evenings even with random hipsters and tourists entering the party, in Germany the scene forms “Inner Circles” to make sure that only the true members get in. -By preserving a weird idea of nostalgia they forestall innovation and make sure the scene gets older and older.
“Straftanz im Lager, Straftanz Zeche, Straftanz im Fall, Straftanz Matrix, Straftanz im Sixx, Straftanz im Stahlwerk, Straftanz Fabrik.” Except for the Matrix (they decided for a more open route after their “ages 25+” events failed) and the Lager (they offer food for free), all of the events we yelled about are gone, in one way or another. We miss the SIXX because the people were young. We never got the whole cut-yourself-with-razorblades-while -dancing-in-a-cage thing. But we miss the SIXX.
We are still here. And they are not. The Gothic Industrial Party, formerly a 1000 people event, declined over the years into a pile of wannabe elitists whose dress coded followers often appear to be fashion victims. Last weekend they left their venue, Zeche, to move the Kulttempel in Oberhausen, ironically playing Straftanz West as one of their last tracks. We do not believe in their close-minded approach, and even though we wish the Kulttempel to be successful, we think this party will die a slow death there.
Yes. This feels like winning. But it’s not because we feel a scene or sub-culture is dying. In fact it is not. It is changing and transforming. It must open up or die. We see revivals coming, we see new powerful influences and we will see who is going to vanish and who is going to prevail.
“I feel offended now! How dare you?”
Because: Fuck you.
We have stuff to do and mountains to climb with the people we love and we have little time. We all may die some day. Until then, let’s do this together.