Drummer Christoph “Doom” Schneider was an active member of the East Berlin music scene prior to the formation of Rammstein in 1994. In the ’80s, he was the drummer of new wave act Die Firma (The Firm), and it turns out he had two government spies in his band.
When asked by Metal Hammer about playing music prior to the take down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Schneider recounted his time in Die Firma. The band’s music had dark goth influences, indicative of his latter work with Rammstein, featuring protest lyrics that were poignant, if incriminating, given who might be listening or in the case of Die Firma, literally singing them.
“Die Firma was like a new wave punk band,” Schneider said. “The style was a little dark, with gothic influences. We had lyrics that protested against the system. This was not permitted, of course — we were an underground band. All the other Rammstein guys were in underground bands, too. We used to play in small clubs with all kinds of fans: freaks, goths, punks.”
He continued, “The government had their people everywhere, though: Secret Service spies. What was funny was that I couldn’t imagine any harder band than mine at the time, and we had two people actually in the band who were spies — the singer and the keyboard player! Ha ha! Incredible. They weren’t professionals: They were hired spies who received a little payment and every once in a while had to report about the music scene.”
Given the restrictions put on musicians and entertainers, it was par for the government to infiltrate the music community itself. To even play a show or contact promoters, musicians had to obtain a certificate that proved their legitimacy. To obtain the certificate, music acts had to perform in front of a “jury” and play mostly original material, which Schneider said forced bands to be creative. In effect, the government controlled who could perform or not and how much musicians were paid.
“In the East,” Schneider continued, “we had professional bands which had all studied music and had official permission to play music. They were allowed to work as professionals and they had the right to charge money for their shows. If you were an amateur, you had to be classified at a certain level. There were three levels, and I reached the first one! I had a certificate which allowed me to charge four Deutschmarks per hour when I played a concert. Without this certificate it was illegal to play gigs, and you weren’t allowed to make contact with promoters without one. People accepted this because they had to.
He added, “To get your certificate you had to play in front of a commission, like a jury, who decided if you had the right songs: you were only allowed to play 40-percent cover versions in your set, the rest had to be your own music. Actually it wasn’t that bad an idea, because bands had to come up with their own stuff, and so there were a lot of interesting bands at that time.”
After the Berlin Wall came down, Schneider would eventually team up with the members of Rammstein, who had their big break winning a contest for professional studio time held by the Berlin Department of Culture. The resulting demo would net Rammstein major label attention and launch their highly successful career.
Currently, Rammstein are working on new music while quarantining during the pandemic, as the band’s 2020 tour has been postponed until next year. Dates have already been set for the rescheduled European run, with plans to unveil 2021 dates for North America, as well.
Last year, Rammstein released their untitled seventh album, their first new studio LP in nearly 10 years.