Interview: ZSK

ZSK - Photo courtesy of ZSK

ZSK - Photo courtesy of ZSK

When German punk band ZSK broke up in 2007, none of the members had any plans to continue with a musical career. Yet here it is, half a decade later, and the band has gotten back together – if only for a short while – and recently completed a string of shows in December, with more dates on the way.

The band, which was once a staple in the politically-active punk scene, thought things had ended for good, but popular demand over the years wouldn’t let them stay broken up.

“We got so many mails from kids that really wanted to see us again, or even for the first time,” guitarist and lead singer Joshi said, explaining why the band decided to do a reunion stint. “That was pretty impressive. So we thought a few shows for all our friends would be nice. But we never expected everything to get so big.”

He is, of course, referencing the fact that the first date, in Hamburg, was at a venue with a capacity of more than 1,000 and all of the tickets were sold out. This pattern continued in other cities, and the crowds themselves were a mixture of old fans as well as people who only discovered ZSK after the band had called it quits.

In the time since ZSK disbanded in 2007, drummer Flori moved to the United States, and his role is now being filled by Matthias. However, Beni (guitar) and Eike (bass) remain a part of the new incarnation of the group. Lineup changes aside, Joshi admitted that the experience of playing live after all this time was akin to – as the saying goes – riding a bike.

“We were pretty nervous that it might feel strange to play again since [none] of us has been on stage since we broke up in 2007. No other bands, nothing,” he said. “But fortunately nothing changed. Everything works as if we never stopped. I guess you never unlearn playing punk shows if you have done it for more than 10 years.”

ZSK has been explicit in stating that this reunion is not a permanent deal, but rather something the members are doing for fun. Although 2012 will include a handful of shows and festivals, after the summer, there are no specified plans for the group.

As to the question of why the members haven’t continued pursuing music, Joshi said that music no longer seems to be a viable way of making a living. Furthermore, the music industry and the consumer relationship to music has changed since the first incarnation of ZSK.

“It seems weird that no one is interested in buying CDs or fanzines anymore,” he said. “Everything is free on the internet. I think the way we listen to and enjoy music changed. Everything got so random. When I was 15 it was a huge thing to get the new Rancid or Pennywise album. We would listen to it together with friends for days, checking the booklet, reading every word. I take music very seriously. I guess most of the kids nowadays don’t.”

Still, the changing scene and the inevitable growing older hasn’t made the members of ZSK complacent. If anything, they remain just as, if not more, active than they used to be. In addition to donating proceeds of shows to animal rights and anti-fascist groups, the band’s Kein Bock auf Nazis campaign is still underway and continuing to gain attention. And while the members enjoy playing these shows, they hope to use their platform to continue spreading their anti-racist, anti-fascist message.

“Now, since the band is much bigger than 10 years ago, we [have] more power to support cool political groups and ideas,” Joshi said. “I know lots of people who got totally weird when they got older. But still there are many friends who keep up the good work. If you are really dedicated to your political [beliefs] you stand up for [them] even if you get older. I am convinced everyone can do that.”

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