‘Click Interview’ with Prager Handgriff: ‘The Big Festivals Always Book The Same Bands And That’s Not Good For A Subculture At All’
After more than thirty (!) years of involvement and commitment Stefan Schäfer (vocals) and Volker Rathmann (music) gained a serious reputation as (Der) Prager Handgriff. They became a renowned formation during the 90s but still released noticeable productions since then. They last year released the album “Das Letzte Gefecht” by Infacted Recordings which I personally consider as one of their most accomplished works in time. Somewhere in between EBM and Dark-Electro Prager Handgriff don’t make compromises but simply compose the music they like. I talked about it all with Stefan and Volker.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: After the “Roburit”-album (2015) it took you seven years to unleash a new album. After more than 30 years of history I can easily imagine you’ve other things in life to care about than music. But what means Prager Handgriff to you and what incited you to compose “Das Letzte Gefecht”?
Volker: Stefan and I have been making music together as Prager Handgriff for 33 years and all in all even for more than 37 years. That’s a pretty long time. Most marriages don’t last that long. Nevertheless Prager Handgriff still means a lot to us. This mainly because we only ever made the music we liked. We did not let anybody tell us what to do and we did not need to chase after every trend. So we simply carried on as before until we had enough songs for a new album.
Q: I realized you this year will ‘celebrate‘ the 30th anniversary of your official debut album “Arglistige Täuschung”. How do you look back at this legendary album and how much of the young musicians of that time do you still recognize today?
Volker: It is difficult for an artist to judge his own work. I think we just were in the right place at the right time. We were pretty inexperienced back then. We didn’t know much about songwriting and producing. We would do a lot of things differently today. Back then we did it without thinking twice. But maybe this inexperience and carelessness was the key to success.
Q: You’re both committed with Prager Handgriff since the early debut. What makes the chemistry between both of you and how did this partnership evolved throughout the years? What have been your most intense and unforgettable moments in the band’s history?
Stefan: Volker and I know each other from our school days. We both played in a band and also attended various independent concerts together. We certainly have a friendship, even though we don’t spend much time together privately because of our different interests and circles of friends. Nevertheless, we have known each other for such a long time that we often just know how the other person reacts, what he prefers, what his opinion is or how the humor works, practically like an old married couple. Of course, in such a long time there are endless stories, experiences and anecdotes. That would blow up the time here. Only so much; it has always been fun and belongs absolutely to our life. We are grateful for that.
Q: Over now to “Das Letzte Gefecht” (translated “The Last Battle”). What is this title all about and what did you try to express by the lyrical content? How did the composing happened?
Volker: The title of our album “Das Letzte Gefecht“ is actually a quote from the German lyrics of “The International“ (French: “L’Internationale”). The English translation is ‘the last battle’ or ‘the last fight’.
On the one hand this title reflects today‘s situation in which we are. The present society is becoming increasingly brutal and gets more and more radical. This puts us in a kind of doomsday mood. “The Last Fight“ against these apocalyptic circumstances might bring about a decisive change into something good. Consequently a lot of our songs (e.g. “In Moria”, “Black Friday”, “Einig Vaterland”, “Aluminium”, “Pandemie” etc.) on the album deal with current political and social issues.
On the other hand “The Last Fight“ stands for the final struggle of a person in life. We have grown older and have had experiences with the loss of close persons during the last years. We have processed these experiences in our texts as well (e.g. “Alle Zeit Der Welt”, “Abschied”, “Für Immer” etc.). This time it was unusually easy for us to compose new songs. Because of the Corona pandemic we are forced to stay at home. So we had a lot of time and no distraction. Without Corona we would probably still not be finished today.
Q: Prager Handgriff has been always ‘engaged’; I mean you clearly reflect an opinion about the world we’re living in dealing with politics, social themes ao. How important is it to reflect and/or exorcize these themes by music and does your ‘engagement’ goes further than only music?
Stefan: We always wanted to make you think with our texts. Since we grew up in the 80s, this is certainly in the tradition of early Punk and New-Wave bands. If you have the opportunity to express something with the lyrics, to move something, so it’s almost obligatory. In addition, of course, it also serves to process their own impressions, worries and problems.
With the last CD it was really a huge amount of negative influences that affected us during the development process, such as global warming, the pandemic, the increasing right-wing pressure in society, dealing with refugees and in the end the Ukraine war. The real thread on the album, however, is the transience of life, which naturally occupies us with increasing age. As Volker already mentioned we have lost very good friends in recent years and these experiences we have certainly also processed. So it’s not always just about politics.
Q: Back to music again. I think it’s nearly impossible comparing the time spirit of the early 90s together with contemporary (r)evolutions like social media, streaming platforms vs. decreasing CD sales and labels closing their doors. How do you perceive all these evolutions? What do you see as pros and cons? And how do you see the future of Prager Handgriff?
Stefan: There has actually been a rapid development. At the beginning of our band history we worked with demo tapes. We sold an amazing number of copies of our debut CD. Then came the time of illegal downloads through the mp3 format, so that the music industry had to reinvent itself. Now there are almost no more illegal downloads because of the streaming platforms. That’s a good development for now, even if you can certainly criticize the distribution mechanisms of the platforms.
The artists now produce their albums in order to be able to go on tour. After the pandemic, this works well for the really big acts, but the smaller bands and also small clubs suffer massively from the lack of advance sales. The big festivals always book the same bands and that’s not good for a subculture at all. Personally it’s not relevant for us, because we both have never lived from music and never had to live from it. It’s still a great journey and if it comes to an end, then it comes to an end.
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