Noise Pollution: Interview with Lärmbelästigung Fanzine
Lärmbelästigung fanzine was published in Hamburg, Germany from 1993 to 2022 and had a place for every subgenre of metal. We asked editor Karim Daire and contributor Martin Kosbab-Zillmann to share their reflections on the fanzine and on metal. Why did you decide to publish your fanzine? Was it easy to start?
Karim: I guess the reason for starting a fanzine was the same as anyone elses... I was a total freak when i delved deeper into the metal scene in my teens. I started copying every CD I could get my hands on, got into tape trading with international friends etc.
For me it was the logical continuation after spending years in the Amiga Computer scene with a similar manic enthusiasm. All the copyparties, exchange of demos and the appearance of the first scene discmags. I was part of a group that made one of the first of these scene mags for Amiga on disc (it was named „I.C.E.“ by Cytax), so the fanzine thing came naturally after excessively listening to underground metal for some years.
Soon I started playing in a metal band myself. We were named INTO OBLIVION and released some demos, some of which has been preserved on Youtube: https://www.facebook.com/IntoOblivionHH/ The contacts in the German and international scene grew like the collection of demotapes traded. My main reason to start the Laermbelaestigung zine was to spread information on all the bands we traded with, to continue writing like I did for the discmag before and honestly to interview SLAYER as I was a total fanatic back then. So the gods gifted me with one of the most boring interviews with Kerry King sitting in his Jacuzzi right for the first issue of Laermbelaestigung Zine. And it all went more and more underground from there. Martin: I moved to Hamburg in 1995, coming from a small village nearby Kiel without any “scene”. I started checking out local record shops, bought albums and also several fanzines, among them Laermbelaestigung #1 in 1996. Karim, the editor, mentioned in this zine that he was looking for writers, so I called him. We met, got along well and so I started my writing “career”. It was a new world for me, being a Metal fan for many years and now being able to listen to advance tapes, doing interviews etc. Really exciting times…
Your fanzine name Lärmbelästigung is pretty unique. Why did you choose it?
Karim: If you translate it to something like „Disturbing the peace“ it's not so unique anymore, but obviously it sounds heavier in German, especially when rolling the R, haha. I honestly don't remember why I chose that name. I always tried to not fall into the typical clichés of the genre and subgenres and humour was a big part of that. So choosing a German name and using cut out newspaper letters like a punkband surely was motivated by that as most metal mags had English names and few bands had German lyrics or names as far as I can remember. Martin: Since I joined for the second issue, I didn’t have anything to do with the name. When I later had the idea of doing my own mag – which never happened – I thought about names like HEAVY ARTILLERY (R.I.P. Algy Ward) or NORTHERN LIGHTS. I got used to the unusual name quite quickly although it was always tough to explain it to people who didn’t speak German.
Lärmbelästigung, as most of German metal fanzines and magazines, was written in German. Was it a default choice, or did you put any consideration in deciding whether to publish in German or English?
Karim: Demo- and Tape trading and doing interviews with international band massively fueled my English skills, and I am really thankful for that. But I never wanted to write in English, especially because humor from your native tongue often does not translate or sounds forced. That's why German language for the mag was initially the choice.
I remember that we had a discussion about changing to English, especially as the bands featured got more underground for a smaller scene which naturally is better to be reached in English. But it never happened... maybe it was force of habit, I absolutely don't remember why we stuck to German. Martin: We focused on the German scene, so it had never been the question of changing to English, as far as I remember. Lärmbelästigung featured a big variety of metal genres, including power metal, progressive metal, thrash metal, and brutal death metal. Was it always the intention to have such a broad coverage and was it easy or difficult to keep it this way? Karim: I started the fanzine on my own and the first two issues were mainly bands i loved for years or just stumbled over recently. Most of these were on the more aggressive side... fast Thrash to brutal Death Metal but also some local friends. First issues of Laermbelaestigung Zine had SLAYER, CRYPTOPSY, ROTTEN SOUND, but also ANATHEMA, EYEHATEGOD or ULME.
My Heavy Metal period was rather short as I quickly was attracted by the heavier stuff and never really could take lyrics about swords, dragons and leather serious, but when I met Martin Kosbab and Holger Andrae we tried mixing the genres which was again motivated by not following the common formula of fanzines. I remember that it was kind of hard to please diverse readers because you always got negative feedback from the Death/Grind fans about the Heavy/Power Metal contents and the other way around. I think the last issue had a much higher percentage of Death Metal again. Martin: I guess at the beginning it was my input that the variety became that wide. Karim started everything and he was into Thrash, Death and strange Psycho stuff which I mostly liked but never had been totally into. I’ve always been a fan of classic Metal, especially US-Metal and Progressive/Power Metal (not to be confused with the stuff people call “Power” Metal these days!) so I left my fingerprints on the zine writing articles and reviews about bands I liked. Karim was open for that and when further writers joined us the mix even became crazier. I loved it that way but looking back I think we could have been a little but more focused. I reckon I was too excited being a writer back then to think about that style cocktail, I wanted to feature stuff I liked.
Your line up of contributors was pretty big. For example, almost 10 people contributed to issue #7. Please tell a bit about the process: how were you dividing and coordinating all the work? What role did you take personally?
Karim: The whole thing grew unexpectedly with every issue. I think issue #3 was the change to really mixing the genres and getting more and more writers to help with interviews and reviews. Martin and Holger did a lot of work for the Heavy/Prog/Power Metal side and Leif Jensen from DEW SCENTED, Lutz Korte of THORN and Thomas Westphal from NECROMANIC Zine contributed a lot, as well of many other friends from Hamburg or the German underground scene. Lutz also helped a lot on Layout and later the website and Thomas also did some layout help, especially drawing crazy borders. :)
Basically anyone could do his thing... I got the interviews and reviews and put the whole thing together. Today I honestly can't wrap my head around how I managed to do all the finishing work on my own, especially because I often did most work in the last weeks/days before getting it printed.
Martin: We were a nice bunch of writers although I guess I hadn’t even met everybody in person. Karim and I were quite close back then, Holger Andrae was a good friend in the late nineties, we are still in touch. Once in a while I hear from Heiko Sparmann and Leif Jensen, who also contributed to the zine. Karim was the one to do all the coordination, layout etc. I sometimes helped organizing ads or picking the finished zines from the printing shop – in case I could organize a car.
What fanzine-related activities did you enjoy most? Were there any you disliked?
Karim: Oh, I always hated distribution and spreading the word. That never was my world but it had to be done. I guess we could have had a bigger name if I wasn't that „autistic“ on networking and selling things.
Everything else is great memories... all the people and bands I met and worked with, crazy parties after shows, everything I learned that also shaped my path of work.
It definitely was good times, but it was obvious that we would never reach issue #10 as I grew really tired of many interviews after a while... too many answers seemed formulaic and rushed or bored. There were always great talks, e.g. Dan Swanö was always so much fun in interviews. I tried to get away from the standard questions, often not to bore myself, but I soon realized that a lot of them were ingrained and hard to get away from. So things became kind of repetitive.
One thing that definitely became a pain in the ass in the end was reviews... I used to love writing them in the beginning, no matter if positive or negative. But in the end it was a chore (and always the last thing I would do in a few nights without sleep before deadline). I felt that the negative reviews got the best feedback which made me think of how weird that process was and how it changes you. These were the biggest contributors to my enthusiasm fading. Martin: I loved almost everything about it, at the beginning I felt like a kid in a candy store. It was unbelievable meeting or talking to people who I had already admired for years. My very first phoner was with Mercyful Fate. I expected King Diamond to call and was awfully nervous - but the phone didn’t ring. I checked this with the record company the next day and we found out something must have gone wrong. So we made a new date but this time Hank Sherman should have been my partner. I changed all my questions which were originally meant for King to make them fit for Hank, the phone rang and it was King Diamond who called. Total confusion but the interview was great. After 30 minutes we ended the talk and I was happy and relieved. Suddenly the phone rang again and to my surprise it was Hank Sherman so I had the chance to ask further questions which was great. A really amazing and confusing start for me.
Within the following years there were so many great moments, speaking to popular and “bigger” bands like Forbidden, King’s X, Jag Panzer, Fates Warning or Helloween. I loved every moment and also enjoyed more underground stuff like Divine Regale, Atmosfear or Gone.
Germany had many fanzines, as well as famous magazines like Heavy Oder Was or Rock Hard. Was it easy or difficult to find your readers and what do you think were the main characteristic attributes of Lärmbelästigung? Karim: I was in contact with many of the underground zines back then... CARNAGE, NECROMANIAC, VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE, ETERNITY, CHAOS, MYSTICAL MUSIC, UNHOLY TERROR etc. There sure was a huge scene... I don't know how much we differed from others. I guess the biggest differences was that we wrote in German, were not too fixated on one subgenre and did not take it too seriously.
COTHURNUS mag was always so much fun to read as it was both informative and funny. I guess those lunatics were a big influence on me as I always felt humor was a big help to not become a total fanatic when focusing on one thing so excessively. So yeah... I'd like to think that humor was a characteristic of Lärmbelästigung Zine too.
How was your fanzine distributed and what was the circulation?
Karim: I think the first issue was like 100 copies or something like that. It was printed in a copyshop right next to my old school which I used until we chose to have a coloured cover and more professional printing on glossy paper. After that we printed up to 2000 copies with issue #8 and also included CD compilations.
Distribution was through mail and mailorders or records stores at first and later grew to magazine stores. I think I should have never done that... it was too much work and issue #8 kind of killed me.
Why did you stop doing the fanzine? You also had a website that continued to be run for a longer time and then also stopped, is it correct?
Karim: As mentioned before: Issue #8 was too much and after starting a fulltime job the time and energy just was not there anymore after a lot of the work became so repetitive before.
We tried to continue as a webzine without all the distribution hassle and deadlines etc., but it slowly died of lacking new content. We had a mail order that basically grew out of trading ad space for CDs and that went on for a while and I am still selling CDs and vinyl today. The site went offline with the new data protection laws as it would have taken too much money to update everything in order not to get sued. It's a shame that data protection has become a major driver for depublication and a lot of old websites being taken down and erased from history.
Martin: It must have been in 1999 or 2000 when some promoter asked me if I wanted to write for BREAK OUT. I felt honored and curious because this was a chance I was waiting for because I’d bought that mag for the first time in 1987 and liked it. I was still studying at that time so I thought it would be too much work to write for LÄRMBELÄSTIGUNG and BREAK OUT. That was the reason why I left. At first Karim was slightly disappointed because we had reached quite a lot together but there was no real bad blood. In 2005 I took the next step and joined HEAVY, ODER WAS which was absolutely perfect for me. I had been writing for them until they stopped publishing in 2012. It was a marvellous time and it was only possible because I had had the chance to start writing for LÄRMBELÄSTIGUNG almost ten years earlier.
Do you listen to metal these days? Did your taste in music change over the last 25 years and, if yes, how?
Karim: Yes, I still listen to Metal today but I am not that invested in the underground scene anymore. I am always happy to listen to a new band when introduced through friends or social media but I am rarely actively searching. I guess I did too much of that for years.
CATTLE DECAPITATION have been consistently great on their last albums and I also liked the VITRIOL stuff a lot. RAPTURE from Greece are great too... good to hear that new bands still carry the DEMOLITION HAMMER/SOLSTICE torch for fast Death/Thrash Metal. I was also surprised by the Danish band DEFILEMENTORY who renamed to DYSGNOSTIC and just released a new album which you should check out if you like dissonant Death Metal in the vein of GORGUTS. So, of course, my taste changed... while doing the fanzine it changed to more agressive and later progressive styles. I guess a lot changed to more progressive or weird styles... I am listening a lot to the IGORRR stuff lately and like newer progressive bands like ANIMALS AS LEADERS or POLYPHIA. Definitely listen to more electronic music and weird Chillout stuff like LORN or MISTABISHI. KNOWER and most of the Louis Cole stuff is great too, and I also got a late taste for Funk Music through VULFPECK and the newer bands in that genre. My mother loved CHIC, STEVIE WONDER and PRINCE and I didn't quite get it back then... sometimes it takes 30-40 years I guess, haha.
Martin: Of course I do, I still listen to Metal these days, that has never stopped. I like bands from different genres, but Metal has always been my number 1. It simply feels like home and it’s hard to describe the nostalgic feeling when I see old ads or flyers. I guess I’ll never get tired of it although I have to admit that I almost always prefer the older albums to more recent ones. If I want to listen to e.g. Kreator, I pick one of the first five albums although their whole discography is more or less excellent. The same goes for 95% of all the bands I’ve been listening to for years.
Would you call yourself a music collector? If to some extent yes, do you collect CDs or vinyl? Do you follow any rules, e.g. you need to have all records of band X or you only keep records that you listen to at least once a year?
Karim: No, I never really collected CDs and needed to have every release from my favorite band in my collection. I guess my collector times were in the tape days. Vinyl died for me when CDs appeared because my butterfingers managed to scratch every vinyl I got in my hands.
The whole vinyl comeback is a strange anachronistic thing that has a bad aftertaste... I don't get what the music industry is doing there. It's like they want to kill the last enthusiastic fans of vinyl and CDs with absurd limited edition price models. I already hated that shit when i was still active in the scene.
A lot changed with the constant availability of music on the internet. I still have my old favorite CDs, but I rarely buy a new CD unless a band totally surprises me live and has their stuff on sale. Martin: I’m still totally into buying CDs and vinyl although I’m more of a CD guy. If I really like a band, I must own all their albums (even the weaker ones), but I sometimes wait until they become cheaper after some time. I don’t have to own multiple different versions of the same album, and I don’t care for different colors of an LP. Nevertheless, I like well-done reissues or boxsets so there are some in my collection like all the Marillion albums or the nice Celtic Frost boxset that came out last year.
Do you stream or do you listen to physical records?
Karim: I neither have a Spotify account, nor a big CD collection. Always was a big movie fan but only own about 50 DVD/Blurays. I guess I always loved to see Lars Ulrich crying by his golden swimming pool. It's absurd what became of the internet for music and movies with a few giant sandboxes harassing fans and viewers and artists being fucked more than ever and Netflix making you do ratraces through their insane user interface mazes... they all suck and will not be missed when they are gone. Both has its pros and cons. Martin: We have a Spotify family account which I mostly use to listen to music in my car or to check out podcasts or audiobooks. If I discover something worth buying I tend to order a physical copy sooner or later.
How do you discover new music?
Karim: Not so much different than back then... friends, live shows, reading reviews in online magazines or social media. Of course, the occasional drunk Youtube deep dive from evening till dawn still helps but it's not the same today, because of their increasingly annoying algorithms. Martin: I almost never read online zines, I’m still a supporter of printed mags. I’ve been reading metal mags for almost 40 years now, so I know which mags or writers to rely on. When certain journalists praise a new band or album, I check it out. Furthermore, there are always some friends who know my taste quite well and recommend interesting albums or acts. It never gets boring although I’m quite often late for the party. Mags I like are Deaf Forever (fave writers: Michael Kohsiek and my friend Martin Brandt), Rock Hard (Boris Kaiser, Thomas Kupfer), back then I liked Heavy oder was?! and That‘s Metal.
Do you want and like to discover new music, or do you prefer to listen to old records you like? Can you share your latest discoveries?
Karim: I already mentioned most of the bands that stuck to me lately. I sure still like to listen to the old favorites, especially when it's about 90s Death Metal Retrotrends. I'd rather listen to the old DISMEMBER and ENTOMBED or MORBID ANGEL and OBITUARY etc. than clones that often sound exactly the same with a triggered drumkit. Even the new albums by classic 90ies bands, I prefer their old stuff. I guess it's different when you grew up with that stuff and witnessed a scene grow.
But if there is bands with a fresh approach I am always open to new stuff... I honestly hate that „Music was much better back then“ approach. It's insane considering how many unbelievably talented new young artists are around today and how easy it is to find them compared to old times when you had to get flyers and write letters around the world, waiting for the demos to arrive. Martin: I prefer listening to older records or (re)discovering bands and albums from the eighties and nineties since it was the time that made me who I am now. It’s not only nostalgia, but also in my DNA. Nevertheless, there are still excellent new releases. Anyway, there are no real discoveries but learning about bands that only released a demo or self-financed EP back in 1988 or whatever always interests me.
Could you name three bands or records that were released during your fanzine years, remained very obscure but you feel that should have received wider recognition?
Karim: DAMAGED from Australia definitely never got the attention they deserve. „Token Remedies Research“ and „Passive Backseat Demon Engines“ were great, diverse, raw and had elements to please fans from Grindcore to PANTERA. Rarely when I mention the band, I meet people who know them.
ACID BATH should have been huge... they sure got attention but their whole story is really sad and maddening because the internet could have made them into a wellknown Cultband retroactively if their label boss didn't make them disappear from all sites for ages. Any fan of Sludge and Stoner Rock should immediately listen to their discography.
And we released the debut CD „A Sunday Morning Killing Spree“ by ABUSE from Louisiana on our own label back then. They were a great band incorporating everything I love in extreme New Orleans music, but they are hardly known and their second album „Kneedeep in the Negative“ is impossible to get as they disbanded after the recording. Definitely check them out. To push the local scene... IRATE ARCHITECT were a great Death/Grind band from Hamburg and INFESTED should have gotten more attention, as they did a lot of stuff in the early days of brutal Death Metal that other bands incorporated later. I think they are hardly known outside of Germany.
Martin: There are certainly countless but among the bands that come to my mind and which I interviewed back in the LÄRMBELÄSTIGUNG days were Digital Ruin or Fiarro – excellent US-Underground stuff.
Germany has many metal festivals. Which ones do you like today, if any, and do you visit them?
Karim: I honestly never was a big fan of festivals. I went to Wacken 2-3 times, and I kind of hated it even before it became a total commercial sellout. The last festivals i visited most times were „Fuck the commerce“ back then and later the Deathfeast or Ludwigshafen Deathfest. I never was really interested in the bigger ones... I guess because i hate camping and Ballermann, haha! Martin: I’m not the biggest festival fan although I’ve been to several ones. I had the chance to attend the KIT three or four times which was always cool, especially witnessing Fates Warning with John Arch. Always highly recommended is the Headbanger’s Open Air which I attended about ten times. I always liked the Bang Your Head but these times are over. Wacken is not exactly my cup of tea.
Karim, you played in Into Oblivion and Corporectomy. Can you tell more about those bands?
Karim: Yes, thats right... I played guitar for INTO OBLIVION for quite a while. We released three demos around 1994 and then had a long hiatus and change of drummer and vocalist. We progressed from a Punk/Metal Band to Thrash/Death Metal band and later to faster and technical Death Metal, but there is only one recording from our latter days after 2000. After that in 2013 we formed a new band with 3 members of INTO OBLIVION. We are now named GUSTAV EISEN and have released a 3-track demo in 2017 and have plenty of new stuff which hopefully will be online soon. You can find us here on bandcamp. CORPORECTOMY was a fun brutal Death Metal Project started by Jens of IRATE ARCHITECT. We know them well because our old singer Christoph joined them. The band quickly evolved from idea to a complete line-up with Pavel from INFESTED on drums and Chris from POOSTEW on vocals. The whole thing was done in a matter of weeks and recorded in Jens' own studio. It's incredibly funny to record guttural vocals without lyrics and then guess if the singer had any lines and what they are.
What comes to mind first when you think of your experience of publishing the fanzine? Was there anything specific that you learned and that appeared very useful later in your life?
Karim: I learned so much and the whole thing paved the way. Learning to work with Photoshop and desktop publishing software, editing, writing, translating, coordinating and planning... all that was a major reason I had an apprenticeship in a small publishing house for books. It didn't stick and I soon went on to Web design and then editing and animation for B2B films and online content which I still do today.
If I did not start a Fanzine back then I guess my life would look completely different today. So most of it was very useful... sometimes I am thinking of writing again as this is surely a bit that is missing today. And, of course, no one wants to miss all those crazy and lovely people you meet in the underground scene. Martin: Since I only was a writer that is not so easy to answer. Maybe I learned how important networking is.
Thanks for the interview!
Karim: Thank you for remembering and making me remember. If you did not feature some of the German zines mentioned before I'd be happy to give you contacts for those I still know.
Martin: I have to thank you for a trip down memory lane and I have to thank Karim for giving me a chance back in 1996! I’m still thankful for all the experiences I could make writing for different mags. It sometimes feels like a parallel universe, so different from my job as a grammar schoolteacher for English and Religious Education. Cheers! Check out Lärmbelästigung #7 at Press of Darkness!