Interview: Alan Metzger

Alan Metzger - Photo by Jan Wagner

Alan Metzger - Photo by Jan Wagner

If there ever were a scale likening bands to relationship archetypes, Alan Metzger might just be the one that got away.

The band was formed in 1991 by four friends – guitarists Florian Dürrmann and Jovan Stojsin, bassist Heiful Sudmöller and drummer Oliver Schäfer – a quartet of German youth in their late teens living in Düsseldorf.

From the beginning, the music of Alan Metzger was strongly informed by underground bands active in America at the time. Dürrmann and Stojsin, however, functioned as the primary songwriters, and also drew from the work of old blues and jazz singers.

“We just wanted to play music that we liked and find out how to play it,” Dürrmann said, sharing how the goal was to meld those kinds of sounds together.

For the next five or six years, the band played a brand of lo-fi, dissonantly-melodic indie rock, atypical of what could be found through much of Germany. Yet Alan Metzger managed to carve a niche for itself, which eventually resulted in being signed to a Hamburg-based label.

Unfortunately, the label went into financial ruin before the band’s 10-song debut album could be released, and not long after, the band, too, began to go the way of the buffalo, its plans for continuing on together discarded.

After the initial disassembling, the members never had any notions of reforming, and although they remained friends, Alan Metzger remained a bittersweet reminder of what once was but wouldn’t be again.

While Dürrmann and Stojsin continued to play music, the other two members moved on to other interests. And the band would have remained a distant memory, were it not for Dürrmann’s inquiry into the past years later, when he relocated to Hamburg and contacted Bernd Kroschewski from the label Fidel Bastro.

“I asked him if he had some of the old demo tapes, because I thought there was music on it that even we didn’t have,” he explained. “And he found it, and I met him two weeks later in a bar, and he said, ‘Hey, this is great, let’s release it.’ And I said, ‘Come on, you’re crazy, we broke up.’”

But Kroschewski’s insistence to rekindle the long-lost liaison won him over, and the label released “Black Album,” a CD consisting of three songs from a demo tape, two live recordings, three songs from a seven-inch and the 10 previously-unreleased songs from the band’s album – or the whole of the Alan Metzger catalogue.

Naturally, the release of the album had to be accompanied by a show in support of it, so the four members agreed to play together again – twice in Düsseldorf and once in Hamburg.

Still, the actual orchestration of those gigs was not a simple process, Dürrmann admitted, because it involved relearning the songs.

“It was pretty difficult to get it all together [and] it was a little bit weird to find out how we play the same on the record,” he shared. “But on some things, it worked really good and we were very surprised that it went so well.”

He also said that overall, the band is better now than it was during its first run, namely because the members have changed, while the songs have remained the same.

“We play nowadays better than we did 15 years ago, because we’re better at playing [in general],” Dürrmann said. “[Back then], we didn’t know how guitars should sound like, how to play, and now 15 years later we are even better able to play these things.”

The band will play yet another show this year, in Berlin, but it shouldn’t be taken as an indication of anything other than a one-off occurrence. Simply put, Dürrmann said it only made sense because his current band, Kante, will play a show, and the two groups thought it would be something fun and memorable, as a nod to the past.

“And maybe it’s the last [show],” he said, suggesting no commitment in the band’s future. “We are not on the road or anything…we just try to play the old songs together.”

Alan Metzger plays Sunday at Festsaal Kreuzberg in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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