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Einstürzende Neubauten (German pronunciation: [ˈaɪnˌʃtʏɐtsəndə ˈnɔʏˌbaʊtən]) is a German experimental rock band, originally from West Berlin, formed in 1980. The group currently comprises Blixa Bargeld (lead vocals, guitar, keyboard), Alexander Hacke (bass, guitar, vocals), N. U. Unruh (custom-made instruments, percussion, vocals), Jochen Arbeit (guitar and vocals), and Rudi Moser (custom-built instruments, percussion, and vocals).
The band is often classified as industrial rock. One of their "trademarks" is the use of custom-built instruments, predominantly made out of scrap metal and building tools, and noises, in addition to standard musical instruments. Neubauten has always experimented with sounds, originally in noise rock and recently in very diverse styles.
1980 (the beginning)
On April 1, 1980, Einstürzende Neubauten made their first appearance in the Moon Club in Berlin. This first line-up featured Beate Bartel and Gudrun Gut, Blixa Bargeld, and N.U. Unruh, who later went on to record music under the name of Einstürzende Neubauten. The two female members, Bartel and Gut, left the band after a short period of performing and founded Mania D. Alexander Hacke (alias Alexander von Borsig), a sound technician and multi-instrumentalist who was fifteen years old at that time, joined the band and became a long-time member.
In 1981 the percussionist F.M. Einheit (from the Hamburg band Abwärts) joined Einstürzende Neubauten and they released their first LP Kollaps (English: "Collapse"), a mixture of rough punk rock tunes and industrial noises. The industrial noises were obtained from self-made music machines, electronics, and found objects such as metal plates. The live performances with FM Einheit in the 1980s, which became legendary, included lots of metal banging and destruction on stage.
During their first German tour, Mark Chung (previously the bass player with Abwärts) joined the group of musicians. This line-up lasted for nearly 15 years.
In 1983, Einstürzende Neubauten recorded their second album Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T. (English: "Drawings of Patient O.T."). The title came from a 1974 book by Leo Navratil, describing the drawings of Oswald Tschirtner.
Also in 1983, Bargeld joined the band The Birthday Party (featuring Nick Cave and Mick Harvey) as a guitarist. The group was disbanded shortly after, but Bargeld became a long-time member of one of the bands that sprang from The Birthday Party — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (again featuring Nick Cave and Mick Harvey). Bargeld remained a full-time member of both bands, Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, until 2003, when he quit the Bad Seeds in order to focus on Einstürzende Neubauten.
1984 also saw the first release of a best-of and rarities compilation, Strategies Against Architecture 80-83.
The band's next album, Halber Mensch ("Half Man") in 1985, may be seen as a developmental breakthrough. Musical structure became more evident, and Bargeld's lyrics and, especially, his singing changed. He moved from shouted words and phrases toward organized, poetic melodies.
The band played a show in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to kick off their third North American tour. The performance was sponsored by the German Goethe Institute as part of the German contribution to Expo 86. Also scheduled to appear were Test Dept and Skinny Puppy, though not everyone was able to play.
On the tour, the group's experimental and improvised live performance style occasionally caused difficulties with venue management and law enforcement. A performance at The Palladium in Manhattan ended 30 minutes into the set after an improvised pyrotechnics display. The band ignited a small amount of paint thinner in metal pans, and panicked management stopped the performance and cleared the venue.
The one-hour film Halber Mensch (1986) by Sōgo Ishii documents Einstürzende Neubauten's visit to Japan in 1985.
The next two albums, Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala ("Five on the open-ended Richterscale") in 1987 and Haus der Lüge ("House of the Lie") in 1989, were great successes in the United States and Japan.
In 1991, the band tried something completely new, recording the soundtrack for East German playwright Heiner Müller's play Die Hamletmaschine ("The Hamlet Machine") for East German radio Rundfunk der DDR. The band image of Einstürzende Neubauten changed: Blixa Bargeld, formerly wearing punk/industrial style clothes, appeared at the live concerts in a suit.
1991 also saw the release of the double album, a best-of and rarities album, Strategies Against Architecture II. This collection included a musical setting of Heiner Müller's piece "Bildbeschreibung" ("Explosion of a Memory" or "Description of a Picture" in English).
In Vienna, May 1992, Einstürzende Neubauten performed at The Academy of Fine Arts' 300th anniversary in a show by Erich Wonder, Das Auge des Taifun ("The eye of the typhoon").
The next album Tabula Rasa (1993) was an important turning point in the band's history, their music becoming softer and containing more electronic sounds. Martin Munsch, a Factory QC mastering engineer for the album's final mass duplication in New Jersey, commented on the production as being one of their most insidious to date.
In 1993, they were booked to support U2 during their European leg of the Zoo TV Tour, but were thrown off the stage and off the tour when a band member threw an iron bar into the booing crowd.
Mark Chung left the band in 1994 after recording Faustmusik, and made a career in the music industry. F.M. Einheit, who contributed much to the music and sound of the band, left the band a short time later in 1995, during the recording of the Ende Neu album, at least partially because of a conflict with Bargeld. The last Einstürzende Neubauten track Einheit worked on was "Was ist ist". Roland Wolf replaced them on bass guitar and keyboards only a short time before tragically dying in a car accident in 1995.
A short time later, the band released the album Ende Neu ("Ending New") in 1996. The album title is an example of word-play on the band's own name (i.e. "Einstürzende Neubauten"). The song "Stella Maris" — a duet between Bargeld and Hacke's then-wife, singer Meret Becker — became quite famous; a world tour followed the release. During this time, Jochen Arbeit and Rudi Moser (both members of Die Haut) joined the band: Arbeit on guitar, and Moser on drums, with Hacke switching to bass guitar. This line-up, accompanied by Ash Wednesday on keyboards for live concerts, has held ever since.
In 1997, the album Ende Neu Remixes was released, which featured remixes of the songs from Ende Neu by artists such as Barry Adamson, Pan Sonic and Darkus (alias Mark Rutherford); Darkus' remix tracks, with others not included on Ende Neu Remixes, were made available separately in the same year on the The NNNAAAMMM Remixes By Darkus release.
From March 27 to May 23, 2000, Einstürzende Neubauten celebrated their 20th birthday with a "20th anniversary tour", playing in the Columbiahalle, Berlin on their exact birthday, April 1, and released the album Silence Is Sexy, followed by a world tour. 2001 also saw the release of another double best-of and rarities album, Strategies Against Architecture III.
Since 2001, Einstürzende Neubauten albums and web projects have been partially produced and supported by Bargeld's wife Erin Zhu, who also serves as webmaster of the official Einstürzende Neubauten website.
In 2002, Einstürzende Neubauten began work on a new album without the backing of a record label, relying instead upon fan ("supporter") participation in an experiment of a type of Street Performer Protocol combined with an internet community and touches of the patronage system. An exclusive Supporter Album No. 1, and the Airplane Miniatures EP following, were made available in 2003.
Bargeld left Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in 2003. In order to go on tour, the band reneged on the idea of creating a supporter-only album, and cooperated with Mute Records to go on tour and release Perpetuum Mobile in 2004. Air sounds, such as blowing the plastic pipes with an air compressor, were greatly explored and used for this album: the working title of the album was, for a long while, Luftveränderung ("Change of air").
The live shows of the Perpetuum Mobile Tour were recorded by the band's sound engineers, then burned on CDRs with individual pictures of each show taken by Danielle de Picciotto and sold directly after the concerts to the visitors; numerous "official" live albums were created during this tour as a result. Unfortunately, these live albums include some cuts and errors.
In November 2004, the band went on a mini-tour, which included a supporters-only performance at Berlin's Palast der Republik. The performance was filmed and coordinated by Danielle de Picciotto and Ian Williamson and was released on the exclusive supporter's DVD at the end of Phase II.
The band also started a new project called Musterhaus in early 2005. The first CD Anarchitektur was sent out in May 2005, and was also available for download to Musterhaus subscribers. The Musterhaus project was a "line of releases intended to give the band an outlet for more experimental impulses and exploration." Musterhaus albums were released roughly every 3 months.
The second Musterhaus CD Unglaublicher Laerm ("Incredible noise") was finished on August 15, and shipped out (as well as posted for download) shortly after.
Phase II of the Neubauten Supporter's project finished in August 2005, and the official site was taken down on September 20. The supporter album Grundstück ("Floor-piece") and DVD (containing footage from the November 2004 Grundstück performance in Berlin) was shipped in early October 2005.
Musterhaus #3 Solo Bassfeder ("Solo bass-spring"), released December 8, is a collection of bass spring compositions by the individual members of Einstürzende Neubauten.
Phase III of the Supporter's project started on February 10. On February 25, the fourth part of the Musterhaus series, called Redux Orchestra versus Einstürzende Neubauten was completed. One of the new additions to Phase III started in March 2006 was a piece-by-piece album called Jewels, finally finished in August 2007.
Danielle de Picciotto, Alexander Hacke's wife and long time companion released the DVD documentary "Einstürzende Neubauten - On tour with neubauten.org" which describes the supporter project in detail, having interviewed international supporters during the Perpetuum Mobile tour in 2004.
Musterhaus #5 Kassetten ("Cassettes"), finished May 15 with release scheduled for May 31. At the same time, Alles was irgendwie nützt ("Everything of any use"), an album that had been in the work since Phase 2, were completed. The album consists of rare live tracks, handpicked by 6 supporters of Phase 2 and mixed by Boris Wilsdorf. This was quickly followed by Musterhaus #6 Klaviermusik ("Piano music"), released on August 31.
In October, Neubauten released a public DVD, the recording made at Palast der Republik.
Musterhaus #7 Stimmen Reste ("Voice Remainders") was released on December 2, consisting of vocal experiments, vocal recordings, and manipulations of voice recordings, enriched with leftover instrumental tracks made with polystyrene, electronic pulses, hammond organ, bass guitar, and metal percussion.
It was announced on the band's website that they would be undertaking a "small (mostly) UK tour" in April 2007, playing in Hannover on April 22 beforehand. Musterhaus #8 Weingeister ("Wine spirits") was released on April 6, forming the final instalment of the Musterhaus series.
A new commercial album was made available later in the year, the first release since 2004's Perpetuum Mobile. The new album, Alles wieder offen ("All open again"), was released on October 19, 2007 without the backing of a label, a move the band had intended to make with Perpetuum Mobile. Fans who were part of the paid EN community at neubauten.org received access to an album with the same tracks plus a number of extra songs, and an optional DVD about the making of the album. The band also filmed a video for "Nagorny Karabach".
The band spent the first half of 2008 touring for their new album, and played 32 dates in 19 European countries.
- Blixa Bargeld: lead vocals, guitar, keyboards. (real name: Christian Emmerich, original member)
- Alexander Hacke: bass, guitar, vocals (also known as Alexander von Borsig, since 1980)
- N.U. Unruh: special built instruments, percussion, vocals (real name: Andrew Chudy, original member)
- Jochen Arbeit: guitar, vocals (since 1997)
- Rudi Moser: special built instruments, percussion, vocals (since 1997)
- Ash Wednesday: keyboards, electronics (touring member since 1997)
- Boris Wilsdorf - sound engineer
- Erin Zhu - executive producer, webmaster of neubauten.org and wife of Blixa Bargeld.
- Ari Benjamin Meyers - frequent collaborator, with Redux Orchestra and on piano
- Danielle de Picciotto - documented the Perpetuum Mobile and Grundstück tours and Palast der Republik performance, coordinated Jewels documentation and released a documentary "Einstürzende Neubauten -On tour with neubauten.org"; also the wife of Alexander Hacke
Live at "Casa da Música" in Porto
, May 2008
- Beate Bartel: bass (original member, only in the band for a short time in 1980)
- Gudrun Gut: keyboards (original member, only in the band for a short time in 1980)
- F.M. Einheit: percussion, vocals (real name: Frank Martin Strauß, 1981-1995)
- Mark Chung: bass, vocals (1981-1994)
- Roland Wolf: keyboards, bass (replaced Mark Chung in 1995, died in a traffic accident short time later)
The band name is usually translated into English as "Collapsing New Buildings". Neubauten ("new buildings" in English) is a general term referring to buildings constructed in Germany after 1945. These are often regarded as cheaper, flimsier, and less aesthetically attractive than Altbauten, or pre-1945, especially pre-modernist buildings. Due to the extensive destruction throughout Germany during the Second World War, and the extensive rebuilding thereafter, Neubauten constitute a very familiar element of German cities.
The band's name attracted unexpected attention when on 21 May 1980, not two months after forming, the roof of the Berlin Congress Hall famously collapsed, killing one person and injuring many. The resulting media attention surrounding the collapse of the German-American icon gave the meaning of their name a new dimension.
The Einstürzende Neubauten's logo can be described as a human symbol with two arms, two legs (one much shorter than another), thin body and big round head with a circle in its middle. It was not created by or for the band, but is a cave drawing of probably toltec origin.
- M. Bullynck and I. Goerlandt: "The Semiotics of Einstürzende Neubauten's 'X'". In: Philament 7 (2005), pp. 1–8. 
- A. Spencer: "Einstürzende Neubauten und Heiner Müller: 'Kopfarbeit' or The Theatre in Your Head". In: Amsterdamer Beiträge zur neueren Germanistik 48 (2000), pp. 203–222.
- Dax, Max and Defcon, Robert. Nur was nicht ist, ist möglich/No Beauty Without Danger.
- Maeck, Klaus (1989). Hör mit Schmerzen/Listen with Pain. EME, Bonn, Germany. ISBN 3880300283
- Maeck, Klaus (1997). Hör Mit Schmerzen/Listen With Pain: Einstürzende Neubauten, 1980-1996 (Paperback). Gestalten Verlag, Berlin, Germany. ISBN 3931126099.
- Bargeld, Blixa (1997). Headcleaner: Text Fur Einstürzende Neubauten/Text for Collapsing New Buildings (Paperback). Gestalten Verlag, Berlin, Germany. ISBN 3931126129.
- (1993). Einstürzende Neubauten (Paperback includes 3" CD). Stampa Alternativa/Materiali Sonori, Italy. ISBN 88-7226-101-5.