German punk rock big leaguers, Donots, are currently doing the festival circuit in their native mutterland, and lead singer Ingo Knollman tells us the typical weather for the festival season is “grey, grey, rain, rain, and more rain!” We speak to the singer about the punk scene in Germany and their upcoming 1,000th gig; and also to keyboardist and live engineer, Robin Volkert, about the band getting the most out of the latest audio technology in the studio and on the road.
As we speak, the band are on their tour bus in the centrally located town Eschwege, where they’ll later be playing at the huge rock festival, Open Flair.
“Tonight is very special because we’re doing the opening slot,” Knollman tells me. “Last year we co-headlined the festival, and nobody knew we were on the schedule until yesterday when they told everybody we’re on the bill. And we’re going to get to play with Black Flag, which has been on my bucket list for a long time!”
Donots are quite easily the biggest punk band in Germany, but beyond that have done the impossible, breaking out of Europe. For two decades, they’ve been constantly part of huge punk tours in the States and in the UK. In fact, when Knollman asks me to 'name another German band apart from Rammstein', I admittedly can’t. They’ve been going since 1993, and after supporting the likes of Blink-182 and Anti-Flag, the quintet were signed with Sony BMG – although they’ve since had even bigger success since going independent. They’re currently based in the beautiful city of Münster, not far from their home town of Ibbenbüren.
Part of their palatability for the English speaking world is their decision to release music in English, however in 2014 they marked their 20th anniversary with their first ever single in German: Das Neue bleibt beim Alten (The New Stays Old). They followed the success of the track up with a full length album sung in German, Karacho. But like most international acts, they’ve had to sing in English to reach their broader audience, and Knollman says singing in German has only worked for Rammstein because “they’re like cartoon characters, like the bad guy Germans in an Indiana Jones movie! They’re great guys by the way, but unlike us, they fool around with being very Germany, which has obviously been a huge success for them.”
So I wonder what prompted them to suddenly release music in German, despite their international reach, and not wanting to be stereotypical Germans?
“Well when you’re in a band for decades,” Knollman says, “and if you’re not someone like AC-DC or The Ramones, who invented a style, then to me it’s sort of obligatory to keep moving on and trying out new stuff. So one day we were like, ‘hey, why didn’t we ever record songs in German?’ For the anniversary single, we invited Tim McIlrath from Rise Against to join us on the first ever German Donots song. I basically transcribed the lyrics into English gibberish so he could imitate the German language!”