1 – Well Erich, let`s start this with a cliche: what have motivated you to start the band in 1987 and what led to it`s demise in 1988?
Erich: What has made us to start the band (and it`s predecessors) was simply a love for the music of it`s kind. It has always been a dream of mine to create my own music – music as I had it in mind, tunes I`ve been pregnant with for years before Fear Of God. Do when things involved in the time from 1985 − 1987, I realized that now I had to concentrate my energy into that project – and in the end, in spring of 1987, Fear Of God was born. The band got off immediately cause I think others in the band, Tschosi and Dave, felt the same way as I did and we just perfect for each other, so Fear Of God got the shit together quickly.
What led to it`s dismiss? Well, we were exhausted, burned-out, disappointed about the direction the whole thing started to take (the form became more important than the content oh-so-fast, the sell-out was at hand and those with the loudest mouth seemed to blend in the quickest). On a more personal level and in retrospective, my personality went through changes in the time as well. More and more, I started to realize, that there must be more to life that this music-thing, which I had done for so many years, which made me quit my education, led me more and more into a rather lonely position of being the guy who dedicated his whole life to the underground, having no friends, not knowing much about anything generally – so while I was still in Fear Of God, my mind started to expand in another direction already, I started to read more and more, giving myself a hand-made philosophical, literary and historical education by reading and writing enormously (but it still took me 15 years more to finally going to university and actually I start using what I had learned).
Up to this day, I still find it difficult to bring these two elements together, the intellectuality and the love for music. I struggle with these two sides often – which way should I take? I still don’t know and probably never will. The music-thing seems to be a life sentence (as Seth from Anal Cunt once put it in words in a letter to me).
2 – After that what went in your lives? I know that in 1992 there was a not successful Fear Of God reunion, what went wrong? Did you keep in contact with the other guys?
Erich: The 1992 reunion was a mistake. We weren`t ready for it, well, maybe I was, but the others weren`t. We rehearsed 2 or 3 times with a new drummer (I think Ricky was his name), it sounded good but the feeling wasn`t there. Still we agreed to play a gig in Leipzig, Germany, but only days before that gig, Tschosi and Dave called it quits, so in the end, because I felt kinda obligated to do so, I went there lone and ended up with Seth (Anal Cunt) and some guy from Feedback Recycling, making improvisations of Fear Of God songs to a huge crowned of incredibly stupid metal heads and I standing on stage, preaching my political mission of that time… in one word: HORRIBLE! Up to this day, I can`t even play the live-tape of it, I`m still so embarrassed about it all. Please, never watch the video of it! It`s not Fear Of God, it`s Erich Keller`s silly ego-trip.
Tschosi, Dave and I lost contact after that. Totally! Dave and I were still very loosely connected to each other in a way, but Tschosi broke with me. Years after, I found out that Tschosi had also broken with Dave and the whole Fear Of God thing, and so has Osi, our drummer, who seems to be a Tschosi disciple in a way. Well – no bad words about them. They changed and that is perfectly okay with me.
Nowadays, Dave and I lively closely together, 5 minutes on the bicycle, in the sam neighborhood of Zurich, we have as much in common, as we are different, but I`m happy to say that we`re back together: neither of us would be in Fear Of God without the other.
3 – Anyway Fear Of God is back now, could you tell us how do you feel coming back after all these silent years? How is to practice again, do new songs and have the chance to play live and touring everywhere? Tell us something about the new line-up too.
Erich: It feel strange, still. Of course it does – the band had been, as you say, silent for 15 years (let`s put aside that 1992 thing which only lasted 2 weeks or so). we`re now mid-30s (speaking of Dave and me), had difficult years and all – but as strange as it is, as good it is now! The distance from which I perceive things nowadays is a great asset! No need to work about “the scene” anymore and all that, you know.
The practice-sessions now are much in the same mood as they had been in the original band: we are concentrated yet cheeky, excited yet picky about what we do. Making new songs or changing the old ones a bit is just a wonderful feeling – I mean, this is why we`re doing it, right?!
That feeling, you walk into a room with a tune inside your tea, you let it out, work on it, and a few days later there`s a new song where there hash`t been one before! This act of creativity is the core of our ban – we put a lot of energy into it and miraculously, we`re getting back more energy from it in return! It`s the sphere of “art” rather than of “life” – in the physical world, you will always lose energy, but in our microcosmos, we`re generating another form of energy that is longer lasting – fuck, this is great!
The new line-up is, besides Dave and I, Diego Dolp on guitar and Andre Gerber on drums, Diego is still very young, he`s in his 22 now, but he`s a lover of harsh music as we are, and that`s the most important thing in a band like Fear Of God, really. He`s more technical than Tschosi, has a better equipment too (ha! times are changing, eh!?!) and puts a lot of work into Fear Of God, forking maybe a bit more concentrated than the before mentioned. And – he`s a nice and funny and intelligent guy, has wit and charm.
Andre, the machine, is in his mid 30`s too, a smart ass, funny and professional at the same time. And he`s actually a jazz drummer, has a musical horizon that is different from the band`s rest, and I think this can only be good in the long run. We`re happy to have him in the band!
4 – Some bands are well known because are playing for several years and became “cult”, as for Fear Of God, it seems that you got a cult status for the long time in silence! What do you think about the fact that there are still a lot of people worldwide who are still into Fear Of God after all these years?
Erich: Of course, this is a great feeling and maybe a bit of a burden too, But hell, let`s not go and say, “ou, you know, it`s not important because we do what we do anyway” – I feel privileged being interviews or that people interested in what our band does.
Maybe that`s what made us a “cult band”: the years of silence, the refusal of cashing-in or selling-out, or maybe also, at least I like to think of this way, the seriousness the band always had in what it did, do or din`t. But this “cult band” label gives us a hard time too – we`re fans ourselves, and there`s just trillions of bands of which I feel, wow, these bands deserve more attention or acknowledgement. But then again, I don’t wanna bitch about it. Let the people choose and not the bands.
5 – Did the bootlegs help to keep the band`s name alive or are they just a bunch of senseless records?
Erich: The relation between bootlegs and popularity is of course a dialectic one. The more popular a band is, the more bootlegs it`s likely to get (unless the band has a massive output anyways) – and the more bootlegs a band has, the more popular it gets. In the first place, the bootlegs made me feel good, but these anonymously published pieces of junk like “ Grind Masters” LP, for which we had to pay ourselves in order to get a handful, are a disgrace. Don’t buy these bootlegs, please! Don’t make them who had nothing to do with Fear Of God (or any other band being bootlegged) make money of of our work. It`s just a very capitalistic aspect of the production of culture gaining value for those who sit in between the audience and the laborers, sucking all money up. It makes you sick.
6 – What do you think about the whole hardcore-noise development that at first became a ridiculous competition of the “noisiest”, and the “fastest” and then in the late 80`s gave light to the label grind core and created some famous bands.
Erich: Well, it just went down the drain as every other subculture before (and none since, cause to my strongest belief, punk/hardcore and it`s children was the last classic subcultures before the mass media and the major dominated the whole of the “scenes” and the entire youth of our period).
7 – Do you follow the nowadays scene? Have you heard any new bands?
Erich: I know some metal stuff from today, like Nasum and the countless other polished grindpop bands, which I sometimes really dig for a good kick (but not mor than that) – hardcore, well, that`s really sad. There´s either some copy-cats still going under that label or then, which is the majority, it is just plain metal, selling with some hip-hop-style merchandising and behaving, and also being labeled “hardcore”, but in fact it`s the most fucked and ridiculous shit I have ever heard (no name dropping here).
8 – You once wrote me that in the beginning when you just re-started Fear Of God, you thought you`d calm dawn a little because it seemed like every other bands are playing fast and brutal nowadays, but after, you noticed that you still have a lot to offer in terms of musical destruction. Well, so let us know what the old Fear Of God fans could expect of you and what you have to offer to a young generation so used to noisy bands.
Erich: Yeah, that`s true – we first thought, hell, there`s so many bands around these days catching up to what we did so many years before and they sound fresh and all, so why not calm down a little, trying to find a sound of ours? But then, when we started getting into our old stuff again, we realized that the old songs still work (for us) and there`s nothing like playing high-speed noise, putting as much aggression and brutality into it as you can – you just stand there and think, fuck, this is REAL. So all I can say is that no, we don’t calm down, we`re still what we always were known for: musical brutality with radical lyrics and an overall seriously towards what we do. Our new songs are maybe a bit more complex than the old stuff, the sound is maybe a bit cleaner too – but we`re trying to deliver what`s called “grind core” with a strong noise-edge combined with groove. We`ll be putting out new recordings in summer 2003 and then you can judge for yourself, whether it`s crap or whether is still works.
9 – The band`s discography “Zeitgeist” wasn’t released yet and can be already considered a kind of paradox since the Cd version will come out on a well-know label owned to the non-less known Mike Patton while the double Lp version will come on my own small and unknown bedroom label! Could you say something about?
Erich: I heard stories about Mike Patton walking into record shops in Zurich and asking for Fear Of God records years before. I thought they were a joke, cause honestly, Faith No More was a joke. But when I met Dave again I learned that he`d been in touch with Mike for years, even having him do a cover-version of “Circle A”, an old song of mine, and stuff – and a few months ago, I got an small from Mike asking to release “Zeitgeist” on his label Ipecac.
Why “Zeitgeist” is on Absurd, your label? Well Marcelo, if you even get the shit together and release it (ha!), it`s going to be the farewell of Fear Of God 1987-1988 – edition, I just thought it`s perfect to have a real underground label with a good guy like you putting the old Fear Of God to rest – so be it.
•interview by Marcelo R.Batista for Contravenção Zine (April/2003)
•releases on absurd: