Society Suckers: Maniac Music
- Words: Vivian Host
Though his opera-singer mom despises bass and his orchestra-conductor stepfather thinks his frenetic rhythms are too African-influenced, Christian Gierden's parents still give him tips on how to improve his tracks. "All the things that go tsk tskk blblblebleb are just cheap percussion noises to them," says Gierden, who is close, personal friends with onomatopoeia. "They'd rather I elaborate on the melodies more."
Orchestral influences loom large in the music Gierden makes with partner Sebastian "Basti" Sellrich under the name Society Suckers. For instance, "Ode to the Fate of Mankind," from the duo's Karl Marx Stadt LP (Lux Nigra), is a scary, dystopian soundscape of exploding breakcore shrapnel and worried C3PO noises with a breakdown of death-knell strings that would make Wagner weep.
"Recently, I found out it's okay if I live out my fantasies of [creating] very elaborate melodic constructions on top of rough-edged things," says Gierden, who has been releasing music as Society Suckers since 1997. He and Sellrich (both 28) are best friends who met at 16 in their hometown of Chemnitz, which was built as a socialist model city (known as Karl Marx Stadt) then subsequently bombed to bits in WWII. "The idea was to make as much noise as we could with 11 seconds [of sample time] and only four channels," Gierden recalls of their earliest work. "I was always convinced that you can do anything you want with a very limited setup."
Obsessed with the electronic gabber punk of Atari Teenage Riot, Society Suckers tried several routes to getting their music released, including turning up at now-deceased DHR MC Carl Crack's house in Spandau to give him a demo tape. ("He was very happy that we didn't come at four in the morning like the French free tekno crowd," Gierden remembers.) Eventually, Something J's Kool.Pop label put out their first release, and subsequent slabs of searing breakcore madness followed on M.A.S.H, Peaceoff, and Ad Noiseam.
But if Society Suckers is famous for anything, it's live antics. While Sellrich plays it safe in a mask ("He's terrified people will see him smile," says Gierden), the massive man with a Karl Marx beard is known for screaming and banging his head until he splits it open and bleeds everywhere. In February 2005, Gierden stunned even the most jaded heads at Jason Forrest's Wasted Festival by chugging an entire whiskey bottle with no hands, punching audience members, and spitting in Forrest's face. "I later apologized to Jason," says Gierden, who is very sweet when sober. "He told me 'It's only rock 'n' roll, baby!'"
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