“We all have a responsibility”

Johannes oerding is one of the hottest german-speaking pop artists. On friday, 13. July, he will play at the open-air festival on the former state garden show grounds in kitzingen. A talk about loyal fans, the demand for live performances and the social responsibility of musicians.

Have you ever heard anything about kitzingen??

Oerding: may I be completely honest? This is completely new territory for me. But that’s the nice thing about this summer tour. We play almost exclusively with small and medium-sized towns.

And there is also time to look around a bit?

Oerding: it depends on the mode of arrival. Sometimes we arrive one day before, but mostly on the same day.

Sounds stressful.

Oerding: it is. We play 60 concerts this summer, on the long weekends four days at the stuck.

After 60 concerts you’re glad when it’s over again?

Oerding: not necessarily. Thank god I am resilient and such a tour is a reward for me. But it’s true: four concerts at the stucco hose. Especially since there is work to be done at home: unpacking suitcases, washing clothes, preparing the next trip.

One imagines the life on tour much more exciting.

Oerding: rock ‘n’ roll every day and raise the cups? (laughs) at least that has become rarer. Not even possible with the workload. Being a musician is now a full-time job. With the tour as a highlight.

They played in front of 35 000 spectators at the timmendorfer beach. Are you full of adrenaline for two hours??

Oerding: i remember this concert with pleasure. In those days, we were still mainly on the road as an opening act. On that day there was a double booking of the main act and we were allowed to play for two hours. After that I knew it was possible.

Was this something like the rough chance that may never come again?

Oerding: it was clear to me that this was a unique chance to convince a lot of people. A performance like this can be a kind of accelerator that brings you closer to your goal. And so it was. Radio stations and TV stations were on the spot. That opened doors.

What goals have you set for yourself?

Oerding: as a teenager i wanted to be on stage in front of a lot of people. I wanted the fans to sing along to my songs. Then I wanted to have my own tour, record albums, appear on radio and television. I have achieved all this.

That means: no more goals?

Oerding: yes, I always set myself new goals. Bad would be however something like a final goal. Because nothing could come after that.

A profession other than musician is probably unimaginable for you?

Oerding: not at all. After school it was not yet clear to me that I could actually live out the profession. Then I tasted the forbidden fruit and quickly it became clear to me: I don’t need a plan B.

Isn’t it exhausting to compose new songs over and over again?? Finding new lyrics?

Oerding: it’s a creative process. I approach it more intuitively, less technically. I recently stumbled on a song by reinhard mey, which has inspired me. I have to be able to listen to myself, to find out what is interesting at the moment, what has to come out.

And for that you need quiet moments?

Oerding: sure, during a tour i’m not so accessible for creative work. During a writing phase, I think about it much more, so I sometimes go away by myself. I love the schanzenviertel in st. Pauli, where I live. But I also have to get out to write songs.

In the past there were only a few successful german-speaking musicians. That has changed. Why?

Oerding: we certainly have the german radios to thank for that, who play us. So the listeners get a feeling for german songs again. The music scene was dominated by the english language for a long time.

The german listeners had to learn again that their own language is also suitable for pop music?

Oerding: I think so. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything we hear is good. Everyone copies lyrics and rhythms from each other, no one is a pioneer anymore. That is a dangerous development. I already see the danger of an overstimulation by german music and that can become inflationary. There’s a lot of junk in it.

You fear a wait-and-see trend?

Oerding: I see a cyclical movement. In ten years this trend may well be over.

You were talking about junk. Kollegah and farid bang were honored with the echo this year. Although you have some anti-jewish lyrics in your songs. Is that what you meant by junk?

Oerding: there has always been provocative art and music, especially in hip hop. I see it more as a social problem. There seems to be no boundaries anymore, no decency. I don’t want to deal with the phenomenon of "gangsta rap". I’m an advocate of the fact that we all have a responsibility as musicians. We reach a lot of people.

The audience decides through their buying and listening behavior who is eligible for a music award?

Oerding: exactly. And that is the really bad thing. That’s what I meant by the social problem. Especially the hip hop was and is a real mirror of society, emphasizes and sings about the precarious conditions. The question is: how can this find such an appeal?? Why is there such a readiness for violence? Such a frustration?

If music has such an influence, you can also do something against this development. Singing against it. Or is that too naive thought?

Oerding: not at all. Many do the same. Campino is there something like a figurehead. But i really see a mission also for pop artists to deal more with these things. To write songs about these social issues and not only deal with feelings.

It is certainly more difficult to write about the extermination of the jews in the second world war than about love for a woman?

Oerding: that’s the way it is. You don’t want to hurt the audience with your music. This is a narrow burr. But there is certainly the possibility to point out important social issues without raising the index finger.

How is it with them?

Oerding: on my new album "kreise" i sang the track "weibe tauben" with sami deluxe. This is about war and peace. But these are songs that don’t work so well on the radio. The crux is: somehow we musicians depend on being played and heard. On the one hand it is important to sing lyrics with depth and message, on the other hand you also want to land hits. That is so.

But you do feel something like a responsibility that you have as a musician?

Oerding: sure. I was on tour with udo lindenberg and peter maffay. Two people who for decades have represented a clear position, who stand for openness. Your fans internalize this attitude. I am a friend of it, the public also times anupieksen to make attentive on missstande. And of course: I don’t want hateful people at my concerts.

Udo lindenberg and peter maffay are among the few artists who have actually been successful as musicians for their entire lives. Is that also your wish?

Oerding: if i live to be as old as those two, i’ll make it (laughs). No, seriously: I have been live on the road for 16 years and have collected a lot of fans in that time. A fundament of listeners, if you will. That reassures me. Even if I put out a couple of albums that flop, those fans will still come. Because of the live experience. At the moment I play in front of sold out halls, I would play even if "only" 500 people came. But the question is, if my ego could handle it.

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