Schleimkeim ("Slimey Germs") from Erfurt are probably the best known East German punkband, they were among the first in East Germany (German Democratic Republic, or GDR), and were the first one to release a record (at least in West Germany).
The band was founded by brothers Klaus and Dieter "Otze" Ehrlich and mutual friend Andreas "Dippel" Deubach in 1980; they (like most early GDR punkbands) formed after listening to a West German radio station playing the Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones and the likes for the first time. Even though none of them really knew at that time just what punk was all about, they well understood that it was angry and rebellious and just the way to react to the boredom of the stiff East German society and music scene. Otze once said: "In the beginning punk meant for me: I stuck a safety pin in my cheek, hung a chain on it and thought, that rocks! And on my back I had an Elvis patch. We had heard two punk songs on the radio and we immediately tattooed 'punk' into our arms with a needle."
During the first two years, their instruments and PA could be considered rudimentary at best: Klaus built his guitar himself, some wires from a bicycle had to do as strings; bassist Dippel played an old semiacoustic bass; and drummer/singer Otze owned a mere two drums and one old cymbal. Their amplifiers were built from old radios. The band's first practice space was in the washroom of Otze's parents' farmhouse. Bassist Dippel said about this early stage: "Thinking back I have to say, I never heard such music, as it was played in that washroom back then, again!" Obviously, their equipment was just not good enough for real music!
It took them two or three years to buy some real intruments. Drummer Otze financed his kit mostly by selling brassknuckles to hooligans; after all monthly pay for an average job in East Germany was at 200-400 Marks, while a simple fuzzbox cost about 1000 Marks! They played their first gigs (like all underground punk bands in the GDR) in churches; churches were the only place were the authorities and the Stasi (Staatssicherheit, the secret police) had no power; so naturally all the resistance against the state was formed there! More rarely, they played art galleries or universities, because artists and students were sometimes involved with (illegal) civil rights movements and the likes.
After one gig at a private party some time in 1982, the band was approached by Sascha Anderson, singer of the "Art-Band" (something like the early New Wave bands) Zwitschermaschine; Anderson had connections to West German artists, musicians, and even some diplomats (!); one of his contacts had told him that Karl Walterbach, owner and head of one of the leading West German punkrock labels AGR intended to release an LP of punk and underground music from the GDR, and Anderson wanted this to be his band Zwitschermaschine, one more art/punkband called Rosa Extra and, after seeing them live, Schleimkeim. Their music was primitive (at that time, the band had no real musical abilities), rough and featured angry anti-GDR lyrics, which was just the right mix for the album! Anderson told Schleimkeim not to be worried about the secret police (the crime they were about to commit was "illegal contact with enemy forces"!!) which made them suspicious; but still, they considered that being the first GDR punkband ever to release an LP was worth the risk. In fact, they were right to have their suspicions about Anderson and his idea, because he indeed was an agent for the secret police, which should result in severe problems for the band!
One year later, Anderson had organised a "studio" near Dresden (well, it was a recording studio by East German standards) for the three bands to record their music. Some time after the session (which took only one day for the three bands together!), agents from the secret police contacted Rosa Extra; they had found out that this band was about to release a record in the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany, aka West Germany). Why the agents didn't approach Schleimkeim, nobody knows; Anderson and his band were on the safe side; after all, he was an inofficial agent for the police. Rosa Extra quit the project because they were threatened with prison sentences between 5 and 10 years!
￼Later that year, one of Anderson's diplomat contacts smuggled the mastertapes of Schleimkeim and Zwitschermaschine into the FRG and sent them to Karl Walterbach, who released them as an LP. On that LP, called DDR von unten/eNDe ("GDR from below/eNd"), Schleimkeim had assumed the name "Saukerle" ("Pig Brats") in order to avoid detection by the secret police. This, of course, didn't work out, and as soon as the LP was released in the FRG, agents of the Stasi raided the farmhouse where Otze and Klaus lived with their parents. Both were arrested and held in solitary for several weeks. Singer Otze was questioned for 13 (!) hours at a stretch during which he denied everything, but to no avail, because bassist Dippel confessed. They were accused of "contacting enemy forces" and "anti-national agitation" and threatened with prison sentences of 5-10 years, but were luckily never tried in court. Still, they suffered for their LP; for the next seven years Otze was regularly arrested and held in prison for several months every year.
Because of this trouble, Klaus quit in 1984. After losing one of their founding members, their lineup changed frequently, with Otze rotating between all instruments. Other members included Fozzy of the band Fanatische Frisöre, Andreas of Mandata, Lippe (who later became the new permanent drummer) and Imad of L'attentat.
For the next several years, they played at churches and parties all over the GDR, "released" several demotapes (which were copied by hand and given or sold to other punks, who in turn copied the copies and so on; this was the usual way music was spread in the GDR). During these years, they became the most famous, most legendary and (probably) best liked punkband of the GDR.
Right after the collapse of the East German regime, founding member Dippel quit the band, after which Schleimkeim disbanded for the first time, only to regroup with new bassist Hagen. In the early nineties they were contacted by Andreas Höhn aka Höhnie, owner of the West German label Höhnie Records, and released several EPs and LPs, as well as contributing to the now legendary Sicher gab es bessere Zeiten, aber diese war die unsere ("Certainly There Were Better Times, But This One Was Ours!") compilations, which featured mostly old East German punkbands. (Avoid their first LP Abfallprodukte der Gesellschaft; all the other releases are great, but this one truly sucks! Check out the other stuff instead, because in my opinion this record might spoil this cool band for you!) Also, they continued irregularly and legally played live all over the reunited Germany.
￼Sadly, during these years, Otze gradually became an alcoholic (rumors say that he even did heroin and other heavy drugs, too; but I can't confirm that), and in '95 he had just about enough and the band disbanded for good. Still, Höhnie Records, in collaboration with Nasty Vinyl Records, kept releasing old Schleimkeim material on CD and vinyl. Otze himself kept recording music, too, but he now concentrated on funny and weird electro music. Still, times kept getting worse for Otze as he more and more succumbed to alcohol and drugs. In January 1999, he flipped and killed his father by smashing his head with an axe! For this he was arrested and sentenced to prison or mental asylum, I don't know the details, just the rumors. The German tabloid media claimed that he even tried to cut up his father's body with a chainsaw and dumped it into a septic tank, but this just isn't true!
This definitely meant the absolute end to the band, but there's still enough of their old material which has never seen the light of day (except on GDR demotapes); it is gradually being released on vinyl by Höhnie Records. Even though (or more likely because of) the music and the lyrics were never very sophisticated, quite primitive even, Schleimkeim was THE classic GDR punkband and are still among the all time favorites of many East AND West German punks.
Dieter „Otze“ Ehrlich (guitar, drums, vocals)
Hagen Schröder (bass)
Mario "Lippe" Lippmann (drums)
Andreas "Dippel" Deubach (bass)
Klaus Ehrlich (guitar)
After Otze's death, Lippe and Hagen foundet Aggressive Scum.