Rost und Knochen from Cologne, Germany hit our radar with their inclusion on the last Left/Folk compilation project, which was raising money for the Kurdish Red Crescent in Rojava. Rost und Knochen is a brilliant mix of a nature-centric folk, combining natural tones with a minimalist combination of strings. The most recent EP, Virus, has a red spiral of violent far-right figures who propagate lies about supposed “white genocide,” setting the tone for what the real virus is and bringing them into the growing canon of antifascist neofolk.
We joined with Rost und Knochen members Chris and Marco to talk about how this project, which is still pretty new, evolved, where the inspirations came from, and how they became a clear voice of antifascism for the genre.
How did your project first come together?
Chris: I used to play in a postmetal band for 8, 9 years or so where I got more and more unhappy. Everything seemed to be complicated and full of childish arguments. In the last year of the band i had a breakdown for different reasons. I started writing songs on my acoustic guitar, using my voice for the first time. The band broke up and Marco, who had joined that band two years earlier took part in the project with his viola. It felt great to play just with our instruments in a small room, with less effects and amps and being able to drive by bus to our concerts. That`s Rost und Knochen.
What really inspired your project?
Lo Fi depressions and high end humour.
What kind of bands, or traditional music, influenced you?
Marco: Classical music like Beethoven, Brahms and Hindemith. Oh, and John Cale as well as Holger Czukay.
Chris: My parents used to listen to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. That certainly influenced me. Then came German punk like Razzia, Aufbruch and Slime. Subsequently electronic music, noise, experimental hip hop and Doom. Especially the repetitive stuff had an influence on my songwriting. But I also like rock stuff like Rio Reiser’s music (Ton, Steine, Scherben). He wrote some of the finest lyrics in German language in my opinion.
What about non-musical art?
Marco: I`m really into painting. I love post-impressionism like Van Gogh and expressionistic art.
Chris: I love poetry, i. e. Bertolt Brecht, Mascha Kaléko, Christian Morgenstern and Sarah Kirsch. Right now I am reading the poems of Semra Ertan.
Could you walk us through your songwriting process?
Chris usually writes the lyrics and harmonies and takes them to our rehearsal room. Then we work on it together, changing this and that, writing melodies, etc. Sometimes we break with our routine and just jam, or Marco brings some ideas into the band from where we start a song.
How does the recording take place?
Bedroom style. There we recorded the instruments. The vocals were recorded in our friend Andi`s studio, called Pulsar Studio in Brühl. Virus was the first thing we did during the (first) lockdown in Germany.
Where do your lyrics come from?
Chris: Most of them are very personal, I think they come straight out of my life. They come from my inward gaze. The political songs are a look at the world and how I see it. But from time to time, we talk about the lyrics, and sometimes some lines change because of this exchange.
Marco: I agree.
What’s the concept behind Virus?
The concept of the lyrics and the thoughts behind VIRUS are visualized on the front cover. You can see a virus built from the heads of right-wing “philosophers,” politicians and mass murderers. They have a glue which binds them together, i.e. the myth of the “great replacement,” an antisemitic conspiracy myth which is about “Christian Europe people” getting replaced by muslims. This replacement is funded and planned by Jewish “big money players” like George Soros. This myth was invented by Renaud Camus, who is also shown on the cover. The fear of “getting replaced” was spread by the people of the Identitarian movement for example, but by politicians as well who are sitting in the German Bundestag right now. They are in the picture, too – just like the assassinators of Christchurch, Utøya, Halle and Hanau. Together they build this Virus.
How do you think ancestral traditions can influence music today?
Well, people do what people do… Hopefully they are not just stealing culture and know where their stuff comes from, when they are doing it. The way we make our music is in the tradition of black music as it was invented by Robert Johnson.
One thing we tried was to use 432 Hz for our tuning. This frequency is described as a frequency for a “healthier world.” Just playing acoustically it worked out very well, but since we started using some electronic elements, from which some could not be tuned from 440 Hz to 432 Hz, this “healthier world” sucked a little in our work routine.
How does spirituality influence you project?
We would not do what we do, if we weren`t looking for a meaning in it.
How do you consider yourself politically?
We try to live our lives socially, ecologically, anti-racist, standing against antisemitism and sexism . That`s our aim in short, but to be honest, we are failing sometimes. We are white men in a white world which gives us privileges that other people do not have. But it`s easy to drop beautiful-sounding words like these, when you are not directly threatened by racism, for example. So, we try to listen and learn to grow over this discrepancy.
Why is antifascism important?
Because many places in this world are turning to a far right-wing side. For example, here in Germany we have a fascist party and its leader argued in 2016 that it was okay to shoot illegal migrants on Germany`s borders. Today there are shooting, and brutal, illegal pushbacks against migrants. The party leader`s words came true within just four years. What will happen in another four years? And don`t forget the EU-Turkey refugee agreement with the Turkish president Erdogan… Germany is also full of Nazism and the legacy of colonialism continues. Why should it not be important to fight against this fucked up „normal condition“?
How do you bring antifascism into your music?
We have a limited range, but we try to support antifascist projects and other anti-fascist artists. Last year we made a small sampler to raise some money for Médecins Sans Frontières. And of course, our lyrics and the way we interact with our audience are ways of incorporating anti-fascism into our music.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a live concert, somewhere, sometime. Oh, and we are about to make a hardcopy of “Virus” on a tape together with Tito Bazilla. It will come out in the next few months via Zustandsaufnahmen a micro label for tapes and digital prints.
What other bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?
It is more Folkpunk but I highly appreciate TITO BAZILLAs music. Great lyrics, fantastic guy!
And BEETHOVEN. This dude was a rebel, against the establishment.
And if your are into neoclassical, experimental stuff – check out Marco`s old project DIE TOTEN MÄUSE
Rost und Knochen: Thank you for the interview.
Check out Virus by Rost und Knochen on Bandcamp, where you can listen to the album and purchase it. We will add Rost und Knochen to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify when they join Spotify, until then check out the playlist with new tracks by Sea Wolves of the Atlantic.