Interview: Grabbel and The Final Cut

Grabbel and The Final Cut - Photo by Andreas Tamme

Grabbel and The Final Cut – Photo by Andreas Tamme

There’s something interesting to be said about the music industry today when broken-up bands of decades past are getting back together and going on reunion tours. Even more interesting is when former 80s and 90s bands that never achieved any level of fame are being “discovered” for what feels like the first time.

One such band is Grabbel and The Final Cut, a shoegaze group from the strangest of places: Germany.

Formed in 1989 in the small town of Lüneburg, a city just southeast of Hamburg, Grabbel and The Final Cut was the attempt of four 18-year-olds – Stefan Zachau (guitar, vocals), Gernot Dornblüth (bass, vocals), Sascha Kotzur (guitar, keyboard) Christian Grabowski (drums) – to emulate the style of their favourite noise pop and fuzz bands.

In September of 1991, the band released a three-song cassette tape, “Get Your Feet Back On The Ground,” an EP which was recorded with a four-track and cheap microphones. But with no real backing or traction, it didn’t travel far beyond the borders of Germany. And although the band recorded more music, eventually they broke up in 1996 with very little to show for it, at least publicly.

Fast-forward 20 years, when Mike Sniper of Brooklyn label Captured Tracks contacted the group with a proposition: that he rerelease the songs.

Admittedly, the band was surprised when Sniper first contacted them, but they did know that their music was on the radar of the music blogging world. Just one month before, they had noticed recordings uploaded to two-and-a-half years prior were being downloaded more frequently. Then they were contacted by a university radio show in the U.S., asking if the band’s songs could be played on air. Next, the music bloggers starting plugging the band, and then the thing with Sniper came along.

“There was something happening,” Zachau said, explaining the build-up.

And so, the whole thing was remastered and released in January as a 7-inch on limited edition color vinyl. Since then, things have really taken off.

First, there was the newly generated interest. This led to the band getting back together. Luckily, the break-up hadn’t been messy, and in fact, the three years after Grabbel and The Final Cut consisted of another band (named Stereo), made up of the same members. The sound was similar, albeit with what Zachau described as a punkier approach, with less use of guitar effects.

And there was one major difference: German lyrics.

“At that time…there weren’t many good bands around singing in German. But that somehow changed in the beginning of the 90s,” Zachau explained, referencing the movement known in Germany as Die Hamburger Schule. “When those bands start playing, I realized it was possible to have German lyrics that did not sound too weird, which was, well, an impossible thought for me…because somehow German lyrics were always a bit funny.”

Yet as families and personal lives took over, this band also faded into obscurity.

Of course, that didn’t mean the members went their separate ways. In fact, they stayed in the same town (or its vicinity) and still made a point of meeting regularly, sometimes to jam, other times just to drink beer and watch soccer games.

So getting back together was the easy part. It was relearning the songs, and giving them a present-day edge that presented its challenges.

“We’re still not really good musicians but it’s easier to play certain things,” Zachau shared.

They played a show in their hometown, at Lüneburg University, to celebrate the record release. At the time, the members all thought they would just play the one show, but instead, a snowball effect of concerts occurred.

“It was so much fun to play and the reaction from the people was so fantastic that we thought we [should] do some more shows,” Zachau.

Included in these shows were two dates in May with German musician Phillip Boa, of whom the band’s members been fans since they were teenager.

Just last week, the group released a live album, “Feedback Part II, featuring recordings from those two dates, in Cottbus and Hamburg.

Then, in November, Grabbel and The Final Cut also has plans to release a compilation on Captured Tracks, which will feature miscellaneous recordings of the band from 1989 through 1996. The as-of-yet unnamed album will be available on vinyl and CD, as well as by download.

And when 2013 rolls around, Zachau is insistent there will be more shows and an album of brand new material – an “ut with the old and in with the new” of sorts.

“That’s a good end to the old chapter of the band,” he said.

Grabbel and The Final Cut plays tonight at Roter Salon in Berlin as part of Popfest Berlin 2012. The show begins at 19.00.

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