Dear Reader, I just want to make it clear “10 German Punk Bands, You NEED On Your Playlist’ is just a small selection of some great German punk bands (in no particular order). It’s not an encyclopediac dive into ALL German punk groups – it’s more a guide for the ‘uninitiated’ of Deutsche punk.
‘That may be the case,’ I hear you say. ‘but you should have included PVC. What about Feeling B? Die Goldenen Zitronen? Die Kassierer? Razzia? Betontod? Toxoplasma? 100 Kilo Herz? Beatsteaks? Alarmsignal? Radio Havanna? Akne Kid Joe?’
Okay! Okay! Alright!! We hear you! We love all these bands too, and we know that one can’t just list 10 German punk bands and call it a day! But, as we said, this is just a taster!
So… with that disclaimer out of the way, we hope you enjoy this small list of German punk bands that you need on your playlist!
Teejay, Punktuation Contributor, Berlin
1. Die Ärzte
Early Ärzte songs were along the classical punk lines of “police are jerks, the state is crap, and beer is too expensive”, however, despite the fact they once ‘championed’ these more serious topics, the band eventually took a very different musical route and became what is known in Germany as fun-punk – a genre some would say was started by the UK punk band Toy Dolls.
The songs Geschwisterliebe (“Sibling love” about incest), Claudia hat ‘nen Schäferhund (“Claudia has a German Shepherd”, about zoophilia) and Schlaflied (“Lullaby”, about a monster coming and eating its sleeping victims) found their way on to the German List of Media Harmful to Young People often called “The Index”. A list that is a little like a ‘restraining order register’ but for music!
Being listed on ‘The Index’ prevented the band from performing live and shops were prohibited from openly displaying these records on their shelves until 2004 when the Index was scrapped.
After splitting in 1988, the band reunited in 1993 and moved from CBS to Metronome records. In 1997 the band started their own label, Hot Action Records. So far, Die Ärzte released fourteen studio albums, six live albums, over 50 singles and EPs, and nine compilations. Their 45-second short video of their single Yoko Ono released in 2001 made it into the Guinness World Records as the shortest music video ever.
The band never fully abandoned serious topics such as right-wing extremism, discrimination and environmental issues. This unique mixture of political and sarcastic humour wrapped in a pop-punk sound is what makes them very popular and one of the most respected German bands.
Die Toten Hosen translates into English as ‘The Dead Pants’ a term that means “uneventful” or “male impotence” in Geman slang. (“The party last night was dead trousers”)
Formed in 1982 in Düsseldorf the band initially consisted of singer Andreas Frege, a.k.a Campino, lead guitarist Andreas von Holst, a.k.a. Kuddel, Bass Player Andi Meurer, and Drummer Trini Trimpop. The band currently consists of Campino, Kuddel, Andi, second guitar Michael Breitkopf a.k.a. Breiti and Stephen Ritchie, a.k.a. Vom on the drums.
The first Toten Hosen songs and their debut album Opel-Gang (1983) were inspired by the classic British 77 punk. However, in 1987 the band took on a different musical direction. On their album released under the pseudonym Die Roten Rosen (“the red roses”) the band covered German Schlager music (Don’t ask, just check out this schlager tune HERE… if you dare. Actually, don’t! Please!)
The 1988 concept album Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau they wrote for a theatre adaptation of the Anthony Burgess classic Clockwork Orange and represents the breakthrough in the band’s career. The song Hier kommt Alex about the psychopath who commits acts of violence with his gang, brought worldwide fame to Die Toten Hosen.
During the ’90s, not only did they become honorary citizens of Buenos Aires in Argentina, but the song Sascha – ein aufrechter Deutscher (Sascha – an upright German) became the country’s soundtrack against increasing xenophobia and right-wing extremism. The band donated all the songs royalties to the Düsseldorf initiative against racism.
Die Toten Hosen are still active. They have released 17 studio albums and eight live albums. Despite all the rumours, there is no rivalry between them and Die Ärzte when it comes to the number of albums the bands have released – just mutual respect.
This political punk band was founded in 1979 in Hamburg. The members are singer Dirk Jora, a.k.a. Dicken, guitar Michael Mayer, a.k.a. Elf, guitar Christian Mevs, and bass players Edi (till 1994) and Nici since 2010 and drummers Stephan Mahler (till 1994) and Alex since 2010.
Their first 1980 single Bullenschweine (Police pigs) and the DIY 1981 Slime 1 album ensured the band’s massive popularity among the left-wing sympathisers and activists. Due to their provocative lyrics, many Slime songs like A.C.A.B. and Deutschland Muss Sterben (Germany Must Die) made it on to the government’s infamous Index list.
In the early days, Slime played gigs with Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and Ton Steine Scherben. Their shows were frequently associated with ‘radical-left’ violence. After releasing their fourth record Live in Berlin in 1984 the band split. Some fans considered them sell-outs, the others saw them as true punk heroes. For the band that was too much so they decided to quit.
The band reunited after the Viva St.Pauli gig on Hamburg’s St.Pauli Stadium in 1991. Slime felt like it was important “to send strong messages to the general fascist tendencies” in both society and in punk. Only three years after, the band decided to split again. As a farewell they left a live record from the 1994 Schweineherbst Tour at Große Freiheit 36 in Hamburg.
In 2009 the indie label Sunny Bastards released Alle Gegen Alle – A Tribute to Slime featuring Die Toten Hosen, Die Mimmi’s, Dritte Wahl, Rasta Knast, Broilers, and many others. The band was moved and reappeared in a new line-up at the Ruhrpott Rodeo festival in 2010. This was Slime’s first live appearance in 16 years.
Slime is a symbol of musical resistance against the state and fascists, police terror and injustice. It is also the soundtrack of the leftist and antifascist youth. The Swiss journalist Daniel Ryser documented the band’s biography in his 2013 book Slime – Deutschland Muss Sterben (Slime – Germany Must Die).
The band are still sensitive to the accusations of “selling-out”. In a joint interview with a younger German punk band Akne Kid Joe, Slime drummer Alex said he would like to take off the pink glasses from every punk’s head: “I would love to explain to them, ‘look how it is – here’s my bank statement, now look at it! Capitalism takes place somewhere else. Allow me my little modest life!’ But since that doesn’t work, the only conclusion is that you can’t have everyone as a friend.”
Schleimkeim (literally meaning mucus germ) was a punk band from Stotternheim near Erfurt in former DDR. The band existed from 1980 to 1996. It was founded by brothers Klaus and Dieter Ehrlich – Otze and Andreas Deubach – Dippel.
They mostly played very rough punk rock and fast hardcore punk. However, the band developed its own style, because Otze was able to play and modify many instruments (guitar, drums) and amplifiers himself.
The extremely distorted sound fits well with his characteristic vocals. Their later pieces like Geldschein (Bank note), Mein Weg (My Way), Der Tod (Death) and Leck Mich Am Arsch (Kiss My Arse) experimented with elements of ska, new wave and even techno.
Schleimkeim and all the punks in Eastern Germany were frequently persecuted by the State. The Stasi chief Erich Mielke called them “decadent” and “filth from the West”. In an attempt to avoid persecution, some of the band’s songs appeared under the alias Sau Kerle on the first compilation of East German punk – DDR von unten published in the West. Like many other bands from that time, they played secret shows at the church premises across former DDR.
Schleimkeim is considered the most influential punk band from Eastern Germany. The band’s discography consists of a total of 14 albums (e.g. Abfallprodukte der Gesellschaft) , singles and EPs (e.g. Alles in Rot) and various compilations (e.g. Nichts gewonnen nichts verloren).
In her book Satan, Kannst Du Mir Noch Mal Verzeihen (Satan, Can You Please Forgive Me), Anne Hahn documented the band’s history, the opposition punk scene, and Otze’s personal struggles with the authoritarian regime.
Dieter Ehrlich – Otze killed his father with an axe in 1999 and spent the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital, where he died in 2005. He was only 41.
Wizo was formed under the name Wieso (meaning “why”) by Johne Bix and his friends in Sindelfingen near Stuttgart in 1985. Soon after they changed the name to Wizo and had their first gig in 1987.
Wizo’s music is characterised by its combination of humorous and political lyrics with a fast, melodic punk rock sound. The band is considered part of the German “Fun-Punk” movement.
The band recorded their first EP in 1989 and founded their own label Hulk Räckorz. Their first record Für’n Arsch (For an Arse) came out in 1991. Current band members are singer and guitar player Axel Kurth, bass player Ralf Dietel, and drummer Alex Stinson.
In 1994 Wizo released the album UUAARRGH! that sold well over 100,000 copies. They opened a show for Die Ärzte and in 1997 the band released Christmas stinks! – a split EP with the Japanese punk band Hi-Standard.
Shortly after the album’s release, they received a criminal complaint from the Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Regensburg over their depiction of a crucified pig both on the UUAARRGH! album and on band T-shirts.
The Church claimed that the band “violated Germany’s blasphemy law, for defamation of religious denominations, religious societies and world view associations”. Eventually, the band had to remove the artwork from future pressing due to a court order.
In the mid-90s after the NOFX frontman Fat Mike witnessed the “unpredictable and entertaining live show that Wizo put on,” he knew the German trio could be “adored and appreciated outside their homeland’s borders,”. Fat Mike signed Wizo to Fat Wreck Chords where the band released another Uuaarrgh! 1995 edition and the LP Kraut und Rüben (Herb and Beet) in 1998.
Wizo embraces the left-wing politics and describes themselves as “against Nazis, racists, sexists, and other assholes”. They split up in March 2005 and reunited in 2009.
The band released their last album Der in 2016. In an interview for Stuttgarter Zeitung in 2018, Axel Kurth stated, “I am glad that I never immortalized the right-wing party (AfD) by name in my texts and still hope that this puppet theatre will soon be another afterwit in history”.
6. Dritte Wahl
Dritte Wahl (“Third Choice”) was formed in Rostock in 1988 by singer Marko Busch’n Busch, Toralf Holm Bornhöft on bass, Gunnar Schröder on guitar and Jörn Krel Schröder on drums. In 2005 the singer died of cancer aged 35. The band continued with the new bass player Stefan Ladwig, and later acquired keyboard player and guitarist Holger H.
The band listens to and is inspired by AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and by punk classics like Dead Kennedys, Die Toten Hosen, Slime, and Toxoplasma. With early songs like Macht Die Augen Auf (Open Your Eyes) and Mainzer Straße (Mainzer Street), the band celebrated great scene success and took a clear stand against the right-wing and gentrification. In 2005 Dritte Wahl toured with The Exploited. Their latest album 3D came out in 2020.
Away From Life published the band’s official statement regarding the band’s 2020 song Brennt Alles Nieder (Burn Everything To The Ground) and video: “We will not bow to this in silence and will continue to oppose it wherever and whenever the opportunity arises and as loudly as we can: Against racism and xenophobia – for tolerance and peace in the world!”
In October 2020, the band’s frontman Gunnar Schröder stated in Planet Interview that “the drastic depiction was important. We also shot a video with a Syrian family, and I think it is quite moving when you see it. The song is meant to encourage contemplation, not celebration. We will release it again as a single, which we will use to raise money for the Kein Bock auf Nazis (Not In The Mood For Nazis) initiative”.
In 1998 the band founded their own label called Rausch Records, which was later renamed Dritte Wahl Records. Since then, all the band’s releases have appeared on that label. The band has released eleven studio albums, and a total of 19 live albums, best of compilations, singles and DVDs.
Terrorgruppe (Terror Group) was founded in 1993 in Berlin. The band initially consisted of Archi MC Motherfucker (vocals, guitar), Jacho aka Johnny Bottrop (guitar), and Hermann v. Hinten (drums). Ice Tüte was soon added as bass player, replaced by Fritz Spritze in 1994 and later by Zip Schlitzer. In 1998 Hermann v. Hinten was replaced by Steve Maschine West on drums, and in 2001 Zip Schlitzer was replaced by Slash Vicious.
In 1994 the band signs a contract with a small Berlin label Gringo Records. Terrorgruppe has released about 22 singles, 9 LPs and one DVD. In 1998 they toured with NOFX, Die Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte. Later also with ZSK and WIZO. In 2002 the live album Blechdose was released.
The first recordings sound somewhere between California skate punk, London 77 and early German bands like KFC, Buttocks or Middle-Class Fantasies. The later works include more reggae, ska and power pop influences. There is even a jazz sounding song on Keiner Hilft Euch record.
The lyrics of Terrorgruppe are as important as the sound: consciously naïve they cover important areas of politics, sex, religion, drug abuse, relationship stress, wage labour and “Germany as such”. As a consequence, Bavarian chain-store refused to sell their releases, regulatory agencies tried to prevent concerts, the police presence was heavy at their gigs, and radical feminists and Christian moralists wrote angry pamphlets against the band.
In 2013 a documentary about Terrorgruppe Sündige Säuglinge hinter Klostermauern (Sinful Babies Behind The Monastery Walls) was released. The same year the band announces its comeback with a performance at the Ruhrpott Rodeo Festival.
Terrorgruppe released their latest album Jenseits von Gut und Böse (beyond the good and the evil) in 2020. In Austrian magazine Stormbringer the band stated that we live in times when “punk must become annoying again”. “I hope that there will be more young bands in the future who will be more provocative and more reckless than in the last 20 years“, said Archi MC.
ZSK is short for Ziviles Streifenkommando (Civilian Patrol Unit) – the former controversial section of the Göttingen police department. The band started their career in that city in 1997 with frontman Joshi, Niki on the rhythm guitar, bass player Eike, and Flori – Joshi’s older brother on the drums. The band eventually moved to Berlin. First Benni then Ace took over the rhythm guitar and Matthias the drums.
After their first demo Keep Skateboarding Punkrock, the band released the first split CD with Blowing Fuse. Tour with the Terrorgruppe follows. In 2002 ZSK released their first full length album Riot Radio. The band then tours with The Distillers, Anti-Flag, Donots, and Bad Religion, among others.
In 2005 German punk bands united in a common cause to send a clear signal against the right-wing. ZSK launched the anti-fascist project Kein Bock auf Nazis i(Not in the mood for Nazis) in collaboration with Die Toten Hosen, Die Ärzte, Donots, Madsen, Muff Potter, Beatsteaks, Julia Hummer and Culcha Candela among others. In addition, a free DVD was released with educational material about right-wing structures in Germany.
The band is highly critical of xenophobia, police violence, social injustices, thoughtless consumerism, rigid deportation policies, and globalization.
The ZSK mostly calls for positive change. In addition, the band promotes vegetarianism and veganism. On their most recent album, Ende der Welt (the end of the world) (2020) ZSK honoured the German virologist and pandemic-expert, Christian Drosten in a song Wir haben besseres zu tun (We have better things to do).
During the winter of 2020 the band’s guitar player Ace posted an emotional video on his IG-Account, where he called for breaking the stigma around depression and mental illness. “It breaks my heart to see how many people in my industry have not survived this year,” the musician lamented, recounting strokes of fate. Just recently, Leftöver Crack bassist Alec Baillie took his own life. At the same time, “it’s okay not to be okay (…) and to go to a clinic when you need help”, said Ace.
The band’s name literally means Fine Cream Fish Fillet. This six-piece band was formed in 2007 in Greifswald near Rostock, a region in Germany full of right-wing radicals. However, the front man Jan Gorkow – Monchi, guitarist Christoph Sell, bass player Kai Irrgang, drummer Olaf Ney, and trumpets Max Bobzin and Jacobus North are not intimidated by homophobia and fascism. They play very left-wing German punk.
The first two albums Backstage mit Freunden (backstage with friends) and Wut im Bauch und Trauer im Herzen (anger in the guts and sadness in the heart) are mostly punk with some ska in between. Because of the song Staatsgewalt (State Violence) the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Young People reviewed the debut album, but it did not get indexed.
In 2011 the constitutional protection report of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania lists the band as “explicitly anti-State oriented”. The band filed a complaint but the State’s constitutional protection court ruled they remain listed as left-wing extremists. The band thanked the constitutional protection court with a gift basket.
The third album Scheitern & Verstehen (failure and understanding) released on Audiolith Records in 2012 sounds more mature, both musically and lyrically. Due to their political engagement against the far-right, the band receives a lot of media attention and recognition within the German punk scene. They get to perform at large-scale festivals Nova Rock and Rock am Ring, among others. In 2015 the band plays along at the Beatsteaks anniversary concert in Berlin.
In 2016 Charly Hübner und Sebastian Schultz shot a documentary Wildes Herz (wild heart) about Feine Sahne Fischfilet and its frontman Monchi. The film received four awards at the 2017 Leipzig International Festival for Documentary and Animated Film. A year later the band released another album Sturm und Dreck (storm and dirt). A testimony that punk spirit is definitely not dead.
In 2018 as a response to violent anti-immigrant protests in Chemnitz, Feine Sahne Fischfilet performed at the Wir sind mehr (We are more) free open-air concert alongside Die Toten Hosen, Kraftklub, Rodrigo González of Die Ärzte and Arnim Teutoburg-Weiss of Beatsteaks. The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democratic Party) publicly supported the event.
Last but not least – there is Pisse (Piss) from Hoyerswerda in Saxony. The band formed in 2012 and started making short and fast punk songs including rough vocals, a synthesiser, and a Theremin.
Unlike most other bands, the Pisse members like to play incognito and keep their identities a secret. Their internet presence is limited to a Bandcamp profile, a very short Wikipedia description and a very-difficult to find Facebook page (which I won’t share because it seems like it was recently deleted).
In an interview the band gave in 2015 to kopfpunk, they said the band “has four members – a drummer, a guitar player, a Theremin player, and a keyboard player”. All four of them share the same given name, Ronny – for real! In the same interview, the band compared having a Facebook profile to being a member of Stasi.
Another internet legend of an archived Taz article says Pisse toured around and played a sold-out concert at SO36 in Berlin. Despite not being all over social and other media, the band is very popular across Germany. They even made it to the 2016 Jonas Engelmann’s punk book for super-nerds Damaged Goods – 150 Einträge in die Punk Geschichte (damaged goods – 150 entries into punk history). The band released their latest LP in 2020.
Those who thought punk was dead in 2021 haven’t yet heard of Pisse.!
Like this story? Check out these…
- How the First Lady of punk fashion is still rebelling
- What Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ Songwriter Thinks About Sid Vicious’ Version of His Song
- THE OFFSPRING Release ‘Conspiracy of One’ on Vinyl for 20th Anniversary
- Die Deutsche Punkszene: A Brief History of German Punk
- Don Letts: “The punk attitude and spirit has informed everything that I’ve done.”
Berlin-based drummer from Belgrade, Serbia. Nerd, former political scientist, cakes and concert junkie. Currently studying Music Business at SAE Institute. Great at memes and political incorrectness. Passionate about writing and all things punk.