„To do an own mag was awesome”

Jörg and Mr. Einstein

Editor Jörg Schnebele is about legendary German fanzine Live Wire – Part I

Back at the early 80’s, when the metal scene started getting bigger, Germany became very soon the biggest part of the metal community. A lot of bands and fanzines started popping up from Teuton soil. One of the first German written fanzines was Live Wire and the editor Jörg Schnebele was so kind enough to speak detailed about this legendary ’zine. Enjoy!

So Jörg, how did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal music particular? What did you find so exciting in this music?

Well, I was born 1960 in a countrified little town, far away from world affairs. I was always interested in music, but in the 60’s and under the influence of conservative parents, I heard only German pop songs. In the 70’s we had in Germany a music show called „Disco” on TV, and there they showed actors from Germany as well as from UK and the States. „Disco” brought me in contact with the Glam bands, who I liked very much: Slade, Sweet, T. Rex, Alice Cooper etc. One day Deep Purple played „Fireball” and this was key moment for me, to search for harder music. The rampant energy of Purple was fascinating impression, which I follow till today.

What were the first albums/tapes that you bought or got from your parents, friends etc.? What kind of influence did it have on you?

I started with 7” records. The first „real” 7” record was „Jeepster” from T. Rex. „Fireball” from Deep Purple followed. UFO’s „Prince Kajuku”, Led Zeppelin’s „Rock ’n’ Roll”… The 7”s I had to buy by myself, cause my parents didn’t understand my music taste. Some 7” records I got as birthday gifts from my friends. My father called all men with long hair loafer; so every musician. For him it was unthinkable that such kind of music will come over our doorsill. But it was too late; but he didn’t recognised this.

Some day I saw a picture of Deep Purple’s „In Rock” album and I put this on my Christmas wishing list. The cover was so cool… My parents were foolish enough to fulfill my heart’s desire; big mistake. 🙂 From this day they recognised that they’ve lost and the „real” music were omnipresent in our house. From this day I was hooked on this kind of music and I never left this way.

Were there any record stores in your area, where you could get or buy magazines, vinyls, tapes etc.?

In the early 70’s there was only one record shop in our town. Advantage was, that they played the records, if you wanted to hear the music. So it made decisions really easy, to buy or not. Magazines, as we know from the 80’s, fanzines etc. didn’t exist at this time. Only one teeny magazin, which is still existing: „Bravo”. They brought a lot of stories about international bands, but not really informative. But they showed, what went on in the big wide world. Mid of the 70’s I discovered the magazine „Music Express” which merged with „Sounds” later on.

The first issue

At which point and how did you turn into the underground world? How did you discover fast, brutal music?

For me (and my parents) even Slade and Sweet was already „underground music”. 🙂 For me the next step into the underground world started, when I finalized school and started studies in Bonn. There I found music store not only with a lot hard and heavy music, but also fanzines: Aardshock, Rock Hard… At this time I heard by accident about british magazine, Kerrang. Some years I subscribed this „master information mag”.

What did/does mean to you underground respectively to be underground?

For me all the stuff, which is not available in media: press, TV, radio. In a time of Facebook etc, the borders become blurred more and more. And of course there is a permanent development. Metallica were underground in the 80’s; who will argue today, that they are still underground?

Did you also get involved in the tapetrading scene very soon? How did it happen?

When I worked with Live Wire, tape trading was one of our base, to do our mag. It was really difficult: without internet, Facebook and Twitter it was first of all your target, to bring your name out in the world, so that bands recognised, that we were there. Sometimes bands called you and announced, that they will bring tape on the way… And then you had to wait sometimes some weeks, till the tape came in. The more our fanzine reached more and more people, the more we received tapes.

At which point did the fanzines enter in your life? Do you still remember which fanzines did you get in your hands for the first time?

As I said before, first fanzines I could hold in my hands were Aardshok, Rock Hard, and some more smaller mags. Live Wire developed from club magazin of the in Bonn located „Hard Rock Club”. I was member of this club, lost later on little bit the contact and met some of the guys during a concert. They told me, that they have started the club mag under the name Live Wire. Some years it was published with subtitle „Fanzine of Hard Rock Club Bonn”. For number 5 (1985) they asked me to write story about at that time existing metal scene.

How did you like them? Was this a brand new world for you?

To do an own mag – even such small and nonprofessional – was awesome. It was absolutely new for everybody of us. We had the chance, to be a small part of this unbelievable scene.

How and when did you end up joining Live Wire fanzine? When did the Live Wire start exactly?

Live Wire started in 1984; my official start was with number 6 (1985) as free employee; 1986 I became part of editorial office and more or less 1988, I took leadership in the team.

Did the name refer to the Mötley Crüe song on the Too Fast for Love record or…?

No, not Mötley Crüe, but AC/CD’s song „Live Wire” was responsible for naming.

Were the guys aware of the existence of the British punk fanzine Live Wire, that was established around the late 70’s?

No, never heard about the british Punk mag.

How about the staff? How did you get to know each other at all?

We knew each other from Hard Rock Club Bonn; well, Live Wire was a project of fellows. Later on we hired some guys, which were not involved in club group. Some worked as editors for Live Wire, but were musicians, who met us somewhere, got in deeper contact and enjoyed opportunity, to change to the „other side of the metal street”.

What was your motivation, goal with the fanzine? What did inspire you founding a fanzine?

Basic inspiration for my colleagues to found a fanzine, to be part of the scene. No one of us was a musician, but there was another chance to influence: as an editor. First targets were only to publish the mag for friends etc.. Very soon we tried to reach more and more people and at the end we aspired a position in German fanzine scene, side by side with mags like Rock Hard, Aardshock and others.

Did you have contributors/helping hands as well?

When I started with Live Wire, there were only fans, writing for fans. Everybody wanted to make photos at concerts, interviews with bands; but at the end of the day, everything had to be prepared to print it. So, a lot af administrative things to do. The deeper I came in, the more I took care for helping hands outside our internal group. Don’t forget, at this time nobody of us had a computer; writing the interviews and reviews of the records were done on a type machine. Afterwards we had to go to a copyshop to prepare layout etc..

On the other hand even distribution had to be organized, and last not least the financial stuff. So I hired an extern typing pool for writing the stories on computer. Without internet I had to provide stuff personally and as soon as stories were ready, they put it in an envelope and sent by post. Sometimes I had to pick it up personally as well, to keep our deadline. Layout was made by my wife and myself in our living room: endless scrap of paper on the floor, clippers and glue were our tools to produce the mag. And last not least for financial things I could hire a friend of my wife; she had nothing to do with „our” music; just responsible for business related stuff.

Would you say that Live Wire belonged to the first fanzines from Germany? Do you perhaps remember, which fanzines started earlier than Live Wire? Shock Power, Blitzkrieg, Metal Warriors, Battlefield etc..

I guess, we belonged to the first fanzines in Germany; a lot of other mags started the same time. But I’m not really sure, who started first….

Was it a kind of metal family?

Absolutely! In the beginning collegues became friends… a family. But the more we grew up, the more arised problems inside the family.

Did you, I mean the fanzines, help and support each other or was it rather a competition among you? Did you also trade with each other?

We as Live Wire were looking for cooperation with outher mags; but more to compare each other, than to practice real support. Every mag tried to outrival the others. In principle we all were competitors. Reason is plausible: to distribute our mags, we had all only a narrow market; and everybody wanted to get his part of the cake.

The first issue with coloured cover

Was it clear for you to write German instead of English? Why did you choose your mother language?

At this time not all of us spoke English; and the others such bad, that it was nearly impossible to do interviews. It was a horror for us… But we did it. So this was one reason that we never thought about doing our mag in another language. On the other hand our market was 95% Germany, 5% Benelux, Switzerland and Austria…

At the early/mid 80’s a lot of new heavy/speed metal bands were popping up such as Grave Digger, Helloween, Avenger/Rage, Atlain, Running Wild, Living Death, Warrant, Gravestone, Stormwind, Warlock, Vampyr etc. from every part of Germany. Did you keep an eye on what’s going on in the German underground scene at this point or were you only caring of your own things? Were you familiar with these bands at all?

As a German mag in the center of the new scene around us, of course we were aware of all the bands. In fact, that they played at this time in the underground, it was a mutual support. We needed the bands to get stories, they needed mags lake Live Wire to get in contact with the fanbase.

Can Düsseldorf, Hamburg and the Ruhr area named as the most important parts as for German metal scene?

Indeed, especially the Ruhr area for the Thrash scene and of course Hamburg as well. Up to that even Cologne and Bonn had an interesting scene with some nice bands as well.

With these hugh amount of bands that started their career at this point, was the situation in Germany the same as in the UK with the NWOBHM movement? Were you also familiar with the British outfits?

It was similar but not such big, as the NWOBHM. Germany created it’s own scene, which was influenced by the NWOBHM. But the German bands tried to do their own thing, not only copy, what they heard from England. For us as a German mag was very interesting, what grew up in England and of course we were very close to every info, we could grab.

In your opinion, were the German bands easily distinguishable from each other in terms of songwriting, producing, sound etc.?

As I said, they didn’t want to copy the British bands and created own way to write and produce their music.
At this time you recognised from the first seconds of the songs, if it was German or British root. At this time very often a blemish, cause the German bands wanted to sound international, but were detected directly as a German band. Even Scorpions are a good example, how negative it could be, to be recognised as German band. The language, pronunciation etc. BUT, the criticism came predominantly from Germany, less from other countries.

How did you get in touch with bands that were interviewing/featuring in each issues? How did you choose the bands that you wanted to interview/to feature at all? Did it depend on your personal musical taste or…?

We tried to grab everything, we could get at this time. Metal record companies grow up, who presented their new bands, on the other hands bands without record deal looked around to find mags, who could support them. First of all we followed our own taste to check out for interviews etc.. Later of course record companies demanded stories and reviews, cause they had to push their bands.

Was it easy to get in touch with the outfits?

We reached very soon status of importance, which made it easy for us to get all the stuff, which was published.
Contacts to record companies were really good, not only in Germany but also European wide.

Did you always use own material or did you perhaps borrow articles from other fanzines, too?

We used and created only own articles, interviews and record reviews.

I would ask you to give us every details about the issues of Live Wire! I mean, how were they done, what about the content of each issues, how in depth were the interviews, how were the reviews, how many issues were released, how much time did pass between each issues etc.. I’m interested in everything what come to your mind!

Oh, let’s see…. In general we tried to publish four issues per year; but this was more or less a great dream. 🙂
Very often we had to wait for advertisements coming from record companies or promotion companies.
To do interviews was not such a problem; more to write it down… Reviews worked fine as well as long as the team was waiting for a special output. Unknown material or bands, we didn’t like so much was more a problem. And, as I said before, final finishing happened in our living room: two people, who had to take care for approximately 60 pages. Afterwards coordination with print company etc.. At the end we published 26 issues, before I made the decision to stop it…

(to be continued)

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