Skaggs are a straight-edge hardcore punk band from Germany, reminiscent of early Youth Crew groups like Youth of Today, and Boston ’82 bands like SSD. One of the first punk shows I ever saw in Norwich was Skaggs, Jackals and Church Slave (who later became Caged In) at the sadly now demolished Fine City Audio. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, DIY punk at its absolute finest. Church Slave played a four-minute set, I saw Jackals for the first time, Skaggs were brilliant and covered Sham 69 to the delight of everyone, and there was silly crowd-surfing galore. I also met a lot of nice people, including the members of Skaggs, who were all delightful.
I recently emailed their frontman, Fabian, to see how things were going for the band, and to ask about punk and politics in Germany.
– After two demos in 2013, 2014 seemed like a quieter year for Skaggs. What did you get up to?
Honestly, I don’t know why we haven’t released anything new in 2014. I mean, I live three hours away from the other guys in Skaggs so practicing is always something we have to plan ahead. We played weekenders and shows and I guess we had to take care of other stuff in between.
– You just put out a live album, Live at the Pit’s, which has some new songs on it; are there any plans for a studio EP or LP with those songs on?
Definitely. It’s about time we record a 7”. I’m pretty sure we will use the two new songs that are on the live tape (“Control” and “Goblin Laughter”) and put them on record. We actually wanted to have the record done by the time we’re going to tour Scandinavia in April. But yeah, I guess we have to postpone that to spring. Or summer. Or 2015 in general.
– One Skaggs song that’s really stuck with me is ‘Dying Beat’ which has the line ‘you’re the one that’s living off the carcass of a Fat Wreck!’ Hearing that resonated with me because there’s a lot of people – especially on the internet – who sneer at hardcore bands for being insufficiently ‘fresh’ or whatever while they wait around for the next record by a 30-year-old pop punk band. What inspired that song? Was there a particular experience?
I think it’s great that you get the idea behind the song because after releasing those songs I wasn’t sure if “living off the carcass of a Fat Wreck” does even make any sense. It’s exactly about those people. I came up with the lyrics after missing my train home from a show and being stranded with a bunch of “punk rockers” who were having a little party in their living room. Turned out all they’re listening to is that Fat Wreck Records crap and stuff like Hot Water Music. Don’t get me wrong, I loved NOFX as a teenager. But they were all in their late 20s and 30s and they were still hyping every new release out of that corner. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all if one of them didn’t say something stupid like “Hardcore died after SSD started playing hard rock”. I hate it when people – and especially people like that – say that hardcore died in the 80s and everything today is just a rewind of something past. And in the end the joke is on them because they keep on complaining while missing out on something cool.
– What’s ‘Breed Like Rats’ about?
It’s about stupid people especially here in Germany who get together and protest against refugees. There were some peculiar protests like that in a small town in Saxony by the time I wrote that song. It was crazy because so many people took part in it. The whole scene was very scary since those protests were infiltrated by right wing groups and nobody there seemed to care. They were marching almost every week by night with torches (that’s why “torches in the night” which is also a hint to the Third Reich) and it was just a disgusting thing to look at. And yeah, sadly those people don’t stop reproducing.
– In Germany there seems to be a lot of quite frightening far right politics at the moment. How’s this affecting the punk scene over there? Is there effort to fight back? Do groups like PEDIGA ever try and infiltrate the punk scene?
PEGIDA is a nasty phenomenon of the last few months but fortunately that movement is already destroying itself from within. But nevertheless, it shows you again and again how much racist potential exists in parts of the society. But I think by now the PEGIDA demonstrations are already outnumbered by the protests against it.
The hardcore scene – especially in East Germany – has always been in the focus of right wing groups. But PEGIDA is still different than real Neo-Nazi organizations especially when it comes to the age of its supporters.
– Are there any German bands that we should be keeping an eye on at the moment?
In my humble opinion Germany has a very weak hardcore scene compared to some other European countries. The reason why we did Skaggs was because we were bored with almost all the bands that were around Germany at that time. But there are a few bands that are definitely worth checking out.
There is this band called MIND TRAP. They meet and practice in Berlin but two of the guys are from Moscow. We still call them a German band because they’re sick. They are probably my favorite German hardcore band and you should check them out if you’re into that whole Boston ’82 thing.
DOGCHAINS from Southern Germany are one of my favorite German bands to watch live. They started as a Lockin’ Out kinda youth crew band but now they sound more like Supertouch or Verbal Assault. I used to call this the “Mental transition”.
If you dig power violence or fast and dark hardcore in general you should check out VOWELS and HIKIKOMORI. Yannick from Skaggs plays in latter band and I was told they sound like Dropdead. The singer of Hikikomori also sings in BLUDGEON BOYS which is also a Mannheim based band. I always thought they sound like a moshier and slower version of that band Stoic Violence from California but that’s probably because the singers sound alike. Other than that Yannick is constantly writing stuff for new bands. He’ll soon release the demo of his new project MISSING LINK and I’m really psyched about it. Me, him and the guitarist in Skaggs (Adrian) are also jamming on some youth crew songs right now. I’m really excited for that as well. Oh and before I forget it, keep your eyes out for a band called SPIRIT CRUSHER. I never really liked the Cro-Mags after Age of Quarrel but I definitely love the sound this new band is going for. Adrian is playing guitar for them and I will 100% go nuts for them.
– Are Skaggs ever planning to come back to the UK?
We’d love to but right now there are no plans to do it. In April we’re going to Scandinavia with PODER ABSOLUTO from Valencia. Other than that we have no plans for the rest of the year. Actually we got asked to play a few shows in Ireland this year so I really hope this will work out since I’ve never been to Ireland. It’s hard to plan ahead right now because our bass player Marco is moving to Hamburg pretty soon and we will have to see how Skaggs will work out then.
– Finally, why do hardcore bands do intros on their demos/EPs? Is that something new? My old band did an intro for its demo and I still don’t know.
Haha, I don’t really know. Hardcore bands have been recording and playing intros as far as I can remember. But you got me thinking. The earliest hardcore record I know that has a “intro” song is probably DFTS DFTS by Warzone. I’m pretty sure something like that has been done before but this song is one of the most popular intros in hardcore history. I guess the purpose of intros is to get people into the mood and deliver some mosh parts in the beginning of your set. Just listen to that Warzone intro. If that doesn’t get you hyped for the rest of the record then something is wrong with you.
[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 3, February 2015]