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F**k The System

(Interview With Marcel Bischoff Taken From Black Velvet 37 - Aug 2003)

By Shari Black Velvet

What do you look for in a rock band? Do your favourite bands entertain you? Do they help you forget your worries? Do they do anything else? Do they make you think? Do they stand up for what you believe in? WATERDOWN are a band that aren't just to be used for fun - although it's ok if you want to do just that - but they are meant to be taken seriously too. They're a band who have feelings and brains, who look at the world and what's going on in it, and give their opinions on it. Maybe they even hope to change it. And you. Black Velvet caught up with Marcel Bischoff, one of the band's two vocalists, to find out what some of these opinions were - and more about the band, of course.




Pop onto Waterdown's message board on their official website (www.waterdown.de) and in the 'General Discussion' section the first thing you'll see will be a sticky 'Activism' topic. There are links to Animal Peace, PETA, the Anti-Nazi League, Socialist Worker's Party and Defend Asylum to name a few. Listen to Waterdown's lyrics and political subjects arise. 'Dodging Bullets' for example includes the lyrics 'We see utopia turned into/a claustrophobic nightmare/here is life defined by deadlines/killed by success' and 'we are all captive/by the debt on our credit cards/what is left now is to celebrate the/ghettos ready for free trade' while opening track 'Bulletproof' reveals 'statesmen keep them fed/with tax money/to keep the carnage overseas/pushing weapons to antagonists war'. Yes, there's more to Waterdown than just music.
Marcel has been quoted as saying 'everything one does is in some way political'. It sounds crazy but it could very well be true. He explains; "When you drink coffee, you are political because your choice affects lives somewhere on this planet. When you choose to eat or not to eat meat, you are political because it has a direct effect on the agricultural subsidies and the amount 'produced'. When you buy in a big mall or a small shop you are political because you support either a global corporation or your local economy. This list could go on forever. All of your actions affect others as well as yourself. Politics are not only the things that happen for and with politicians."
He first discovered politics at middle school. Music, though, came first.
"From the moment on that I listened to a bad 80's song on my parents' stereo I was caught in music. Since I was a child I always wanted to perform music. The first time I actually got interested in politics was when I went to secondary school and learned about the connection between economy and lifestyle."
He decided to join a band after a failed relationship.
"It was THE absolute classic 'emo' reason: the love of my life left me and I needed some way to deal with it. So two friends and I formed our first band - a punk rock band called Diggensag.
Subject matter wasn't intensely political back then. Marcel remembers, "After that girl left me I was far too busy with myself and my emotional problems than writing about 'real world' problems." He continues, "I wrote a lot of crap political lyrics when I was a teenager but none of them found their way into a song. Luckily. It was mostly based on 'fuck the system' and 'Germany needs to die' slogans. Haha."

Before Waterdown, Marcel was part of an emo band with Axel, who later became Waterdown's guitarist.
Marcel says that he never thought about being in a band with Waterdown's musical style - a much heavier, post hardcore sound. "But now that I am part of Waterdown, I kind of found what I never searched for - in a positive way." And he likes that he can finally mosh!
Each song the band owns bears a message. Marcel believes it always depends on if and how you reach people with the message as to whether they make a difference. "If we get a single person to think about the lyrics of a song, I would consider the message a success."

The line-up of Waterdown is Marcel (vocals), Ingo (vocals), Axel (guitar), Holger (guitar), Christian (bass) and Phil (drums). Guitarist Axel had a spell away from the band though. He had always been a great fan of the band Thumb. An opportunity arose at one point for him to join them, so he left Waterdown and went to play with Thumb, later returning to the fold.
Marcel says, "after recording a new album, the band's sound developed into a direction he didn't like. Since he was one of the main songwriters in Thumb, he decided to leave them. At about the same time Claus, the guy who replaced Axel, left us for job reasons. There is a time when you have to decide between a life on the road or basic financial security - he chose the latter. So Axel rejoined us."
Now things are better than ever for the band with the fantastic 'The Files You Have On Me' album under their belt, plus some excellent tours. The band particularly enjoyed being on the road with Sick Of It All last year.
Marcel says "These guys are so great and by the way the best live band I have ever seen. I do enjoy almost everything except the crap things that always happen, mostly when you are on tour. You get ripped off of your money, someone leaves the key in the van, you have no place to sleep, no food, that kind of stuff.
Waterdown's UK tour with Funeral For A Friend is also a talking point. "The English crowd is totally out of control," he says. "We'll be back soon, count on it! Just one thing: upgrade your food. Please."

Food. Ah, now there's another subject we need to discuss. Marcel happens to be vegan. Not only that but he has been so for over seven years. How amazing is that?! As per most vegans, he believes in animal rights.
"At 16 I turned vegetarian because I was already thinking about wrong actions of humans in general for quite some time. I found nutrition to be the basis of human existence and therefore it should be the most important part of our lives. And meat is not necessary for a healthy living - in fact, it's quite the contrary - and the most logical step for me was to stop eating meat. One year later I had informed myself about veganism and found it to be the most cruelty free lifestyle that was practically convertible, at least for me. So the next logical step for me was to turn vegan. I don't want animals to be harmed and killed for my convenience, there are plenty alternatives."
It's not always easy to be a vegan on the road though, although it's something that can be mastered. Countries vary - some cater well for vegans while others don't.
"All you have to do is to look around - sometimes a little close - and ask." Marcel says. "Just today I found out that a component called talcum, which is found in nearly all medicines in tablet form, is made from rubbed steatite, a mineral. When we're on tour the situation can get very bad, especially when you come to countries more south. Many people there seem to have barely even heard about vegetarianism, let alone veganism. But especially in the hardcore and punk scene people will often care for you and get you vegan food. On the other hand I sure became inventive to get vegan food on tour."
Waterdown themselves hail from Germany.
"I read some time ago that there are 25% vegetarians among the younger people so there is a trend towards living meat-free," Marcel says of his country. "Also more and more vegetarian products become available in supermarkets, especially frozen food. The food producing industry realized the need and provided the market with them. A good example for how you can make a change through your behaviour as a consumer."
Marcel is surrounded by many friends who are vegetarian. "But I don't judge people based on their choice of nutrition, although it's very important to me. I don't try to convince people to change their lives but I am always more than happy to talk about my reasons and facts when someone is interested. I don't believe that you can "convert" anyone. The decision to change eating habits needs time to grow and everyone has to make that decision on their own."
That said, he supports organisations that aim to bring awareness to people the cruelty that animals are often subjected to, including PETA and Animal Peace. PETA are plugged on the band's album sleeve.
What does he think of people like Joe Escalante of The Vandals who is into bullfighting?
"I don't know him. But I do know that bullfighting is one of the most obsolete, unnecessary and cruel forms of human stupidity," he says.

Waterdown - a band with great morals. A band that can live life the way it should be. And their music? "We do not care for modern styles or musical hypes. We just do the music we love. Could that be a reason to check us out? I don't know. Okay... We suck. We are idiots. We are hip. Now go check us out!"

Visit www.waterdown.de for more info.


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