How grannies took heavy metal behind the Iron Curtain
East Germany’s cold war appetite for heavy metal was served by fans’ grandparents, says Kreator frontman Mille Petrozza.
And he’s paid tribute to the senior citizens who risked severe reprisals to take albums behind the Iron Curtain.
As a leading symbol of western culture most heavy music was banned in the Communist bloc, with state label Amiga only publishing a range of censored pop. But those who wanted more found their own sources – and that’s how German bands including Kreator found a well-informed fanbase in East Germany after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Petrozza tells The Gauntlet: “They found ways to get the records. Older people were allowed to travel outside East Germany in the later years, and a lot of kids would have their grandmas bring in metal albums from West Germany.
“There was an underground trading scene that developed once the albums were brought in. Our music was extensively known by the East Germans from this. They were adventurous times.”
Western TV and radio transmissions could be picked up in some parts of the Communist world. That’s where young fans got their first taste of heavy music – and they wanted more.
One “metal mule,” octogenarian Mrs Schumacher, says: “In the mid-80s they changed the law so those over 50 could leave the country on vacation. It was the first time I was allowed to leave East Germany after the war.
“My grandson and his friends would give me money and a list of albums to purchase. They had music shops near the border in West Germany, so I would take the list and get whatever I could find.
“We weren’t allowed to bring in music from the outside so my husband would stash the records under the lining on our luggage in case we were searched.”
Her grandson Kirk explains: “It was sometimes hard to convince her to buy albums depicting gore and violence on the covers. She’s always give me a look. Once I had the albums my friends and I would make copies and trade them. It was quite an underground scene.”
The result for Kreator was a 10,000-strong audience of ex East Germans at a show in 1990, all of whom knew the lyrics to the band’s songs.
Petrozza says: “We were the first metal band to play after the reunification. There was a huge anticipation, with people very hungry for bands like us. It was a great night.”