KISSIN’ DYNAMITE – Germany’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Eargasm
August 1, 2018, a year ago
Fuck "talent" shows.
Seriously. Fuck the entire Idol empire, fuck The Voice in all its many forms, and fuck the way the trend has warped the general perception of what makes for true artistic talent in this day and age. While we're at it, fuck the sheep that buy into the format looking for five minutes of fame. You get what you deserve, which is nothing.
We've all watched this audiovisual drivel at some point, and have no doubt seen performances from wannabe stars that made a lasting impression for the better. In one particular case around 2004, a skinny effeminate-looking kid took the stage on Germany's run of Star Search and spent several weeks pulling off AC/DC, Manfred Mann, and Bob Dylan via Guns N' Roses covers to critical acclaim. He placed #2 when all was sung and done, life continued, and he was all but forgotten (by me, at any rate). With the introduction of metalhead rockers Kissin' Dynamite in 2008, however, memories of that kid came back; fronting the band was none other than the same Johannes Braun. From that point on the band was always on the radar, admittedly more out of curiosity than interest as a fan, and while they've never been a favourite, six albums in 11 years is more than enough to make a convincing argument that Braun and Kissin' Dynamite are the real hard working deal.
"I think the big difference is the reasons people have for going on those shows in the first place," Braun, now 26, says of the Star Search experience. "I did that show at a time before casting shows became so trendy. There weren't very many of them so it was an exciting new thing to do if you were an artist or wanted to become one. It was my idea to go on that show but I never wanted to do pop music or anything like that; I just wanted to sing my favourite kind of music, which was rock ‘n' roll. It was never my goal to win that show, it was more like my way of getting started and make something out of it. Most of the people that do it, they want to capture fame quickly, they have it for a while, and then it's gone."
Unlike the metal and rock scenes in Canada and America, which have been bent and broken in the past by mainstream trends, Germany's music market has always remained distortion friendly even when pop and hip-hop "sensations" have been allowed to run amok (I've witnessed this first hand for two decades). Kissin' Dynamite is an unapologetic '80s-flavoured balls-out hair band with a loyal European following that presumably wouldn't get a lot of mileage in North America beyond the M3 and Rock On The Range festivals. Thanks to a new deal with Metal Blade, they may have a chance to test the waters across the pond.
"We're a niche band in Germany, that's for sure, but it works," says Braun. "We don't feel like we have to adapt our musical style to what's mainstream or selling more records in the end because we just want to make the music we feel in our hearts. It's why we do this shit, and that's why Ecstasy is our sixth album and not our second. Honestly, if we were doing this for the money we would have stopped after album #2 because this wasn't making us any money at all (laughs)."
"We were very young when we started - I was 15 - so, as a teenager, you don't really know anything about yourself. It's a development that takes place over five or six years, and that went for the music as well. When we started and had the luck of signing with a record label, we didn't think about what direction we wanted to go in; we made music that reminded us of our heroes. Back in the day there were quite a few of them: AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Edguy, Helloween, Accept... and if you listen to our debut album you can hear a lot of different styles for that reason. This developed over the years. Addicted To Metal (2010) is still a bit chaotic stylistically, but since Money, Sex And Power (2012) we put our own stamp on our music. We went through an experimental phase on Megalomania (2014), where we tried to mix rock music with modern elements, which is something we reduced on the previous album (Generation Goodbye - 2016) and the new one. I don't regret anything we did on Megalomania, though, because sometimes you have to go over the top to find the balance and the truth in what you're making."
Ecstasy is a huge step for the band thanks to the aforementioned Metal Blade deal, and Braun freely admits it all came down to luck.
"The hilarious thing is we didn't even want to make or even write a new album. We finished our contract with AFM and they wanted to renew it, but we wanted to take a break. We'd been through a lot, last year we did a live DVD, the year before we made a studio album, so we were really busy and wanted to have some downtime and maybe see if a new record label would knock on our door. I spoke with Andy (Schnitzer), our drummer and the main lyricist in the band - we're the two main songwriters in Kissin' Dynamite - and we agreed that we wouldn't start writing for a new album. A week later we started writing (laughs). But, we had no goal, and that was the interesting thing because in our 11 career we never really wrote without a goal or a contract in place except for the first album. We just wrote songs because it was fun for us, and I think you can hear that on the new album because there are a lot of good vibes and fresh energy. We didn't even tell anyone that we were writing songs (laughs)."
"I got a call from a rep at Sony Music Germany - I have no idea how he got my number - and he told me that they knew Kissin' Dynamite didn't have a contract, so they wanted to sign us. That was the moment when I told Andy things looked like they were getting serious, but of course we weren't going to sign with the first label to knock on our door, so it was time to go shopping. In the end we stuck with Sony in collaboration with Metal Blade, which I find interesting because we've never had an American record deal before. We're able to reach a whole new audience with this deal. It's a cool thing. Maybe there will even be some hardcore Metal Blade fans that usually listen to thrash or speed metal that might like Kissin' Dynamite (laughs), but for us it's great to be working with a label in the biggest music market in the world. We're very happy at the moment."
Being from Germany, Kissin' Dynamite have a lot to live up to in terms of the metal bands that have conquered the world stage, which suits Braun and his bandmates just fine.
"Let's put it this way: I like all those big exports from Germany like Accept, Scorpions and Helloween, so it doesn't put pressure on us. It's more like we want to follow in their footsteps. Scorpions, for example, are an old band and I'm glad they're still active, but they won't be doing this forever. If people realize that Kissin' Dynamite is one of those bands out of Germany that's holding the torch, so to say, that would be an awesome thing. I love KISS, but if Gene Simmons is saying 'Rock is dead' while KISS is able to go out and play stadiums to thousands of people a night.... that makes no sense at all. A band like Kissin' Dynamite, we do well in German-speaking countries, so I definitely think our kind of music is alive and well."
Looking back on his beginnings as a full-fledged artist, Braun has come a long way since Star Search.
"I would never go to a casting show again because I know how fake it is. I'm 26 and I know how the music industry works, I know how casting shows work. I didn't know any of that stuff when I was 11, but I don't regret doing it. Not at all. It was like being thrown into cold water in the deep end of the pool, and I had to learn from one moment to the next about what a contract was, about being careful, all those music industry things. But I'd never do it again. I'm happy where I am now."