The following text has been published in Stavanger Aftenblad on September 13, 2013. You can read the original Norwegian version of the article on Aftenbladet's website (for a fee) - here's the translation. This is my personal thank you to Kaizers, a good bye, and a summary and conclusion of ten terrific years.
Ten years ago, a friend talked me into going to the Rheinkultur festival in Bonn. I didn't really care about any of the bands that were playing there, but my friend wanted to stand in the front row for the headliner, so we were there around 11 a.m. I had never heard about the first four, five bands that played. The first three were terribly boring; the fourth was Kaizers Orchestra.
At that time, I would never have believed that ten years later, I would be sitting in a hotel room in Stavanger writing about this band, in Norwegian, while they are celebrating their "Last Dance" with eight sold-out concerts in the course of just over a week. In an arena that was made up to be a festive concert hall, in front of hardcore fans that traveled to Stavanger from all over the world.
After I returned home from the festival in 2003 and told my friends about this crazy band I had seen, that performed in suits, used axe handles to beat on oil barrels, screamed halleluja, were singing in a language I couldn't even place, and had an enormous energy throughout the whole performance, my friends asked: "So, are you gonna learn Norwegian now?" - "No", I answered. "Of course not. It's just a band!"
When that band came back to Germany three months later, I drove five hours to Munich to see them. During the next tour, I traveled to Cologne and Heidelberg. In the spring of 2004, I saw them seven times in a fortnight, and by then I was absolutely convinced that Kaizers Orchestra was more than "just a band". They have created their own universe, both in the music and their lyrics, and they do everything to deliver fantastic concerts; no matter if for 200 people at Prime Club in Cologne or for 6000 at DNB Arena in Stavanger. My expectations for the "Siste Dans" concerts were huge, but I hadn't expected it to feel just as intimate and close as it did at the tiny club shows many years ago. When Kaizers played Die Polizei at DNB Arena this Saturday, it felt just like it did at Prime Club in 2004. Except that we sang "Die Polizei, lalalala lala" back then instead of "Herr Polizei, du finner meg aldri igjen" now ...
Since my first Kaizers concert in 2003, I have seen the band 170 times. With other words, I spent almost half a year of the last decade at a Kaizers concert. I'm raising my hands in the air long before Janove asks the audience to clap, I know what the members of the band do on stage at any time even if I'm just listening to a recording, and I can see during which song a photo has been taken. I'm a concert junkie, I love to go to concerts of all kinds of bands, and there are several bands that I've seen lots of times. But none as often as Kaizers, and I doubt that I could see another band as often without getting bored. It's impossible to describe what distinguishes Kaizers from all other bands; I guess it's mostly the energy and the will, and everyone who's ever seen Kaizers live before can probably confirm this. They are just the best live band in the world.
I have loads of memories from all those concerts, most of them in Europe. Crowded club shows in Cologne, Munich, Hamburg, or at ISC in Bern, which is about as big as a usual living room - and there were just as many people standing outside as there were inside. Kato in Berlin, where twice as many tickets had been sold as there was room inside, and it was so incredibly hot that Janove fainted on stage. Festival concerts in mud and pouring rain, with lots of people in front of the stage that had never heard about that band, but who were dancing and screaming halleluja and who did not want to let Kaizers go off at the end of their show. Just as many memories from some afterparties - with Kaizers cakes and birthday parties, Belgian beer, and little sleep. Helge who asked after a concert: "I never dared to talk to you, but now I just want to know ... why are you going to so many concerts, I don't get it?" Janove, the inapproachable front man who keeps his sunglasses on during interviews, but who also welcomes you with a big smile after a concert when he's at the merch stand, writing autographs. Geir who asks nicely if he, maybe, could take the empty chair, just to throw himself down on it afterwards and proclaim: "I'm a fucking rock star, I get everything I want!" Nice conversations with Rune, and one that is suddenly interrupted by "Wait, you're suddenly talking Norwegian? When did you learn that?" Well, I guess that's the result of being a fan for many years ... I've never learned any grammar or vocabulary, but little by little I picked up the language. The side effect is that I have a rather strange vocabulary (my first Norwegian words were crowbar, oil barrel, and dust bunny), and that most conversations I had with Øyvind consisted mostly of "what did you say" and "sorry, I don't understand". While normal students of Norwegian learn Oslo bokmål, Kaizer fans apparently have problems understanding any dialect east of Vestlandet. I do, at least, but anyway there were really nice, funny, and patient conversations. Also with Terje - even though he consistently talked Norwegian to me the first few years, until I started to learn the language and he switched to English at the same time, which lead to rather strange conversations where I spoke Norwegian and he English. But my best memory including Terje, and maybe the one that marked the beginning of my love for Kaizers, is from my second or third concert: When we were about to leave, he was sitting at the bar, shaking hands with everyone who left and thanking us for coming to the concert. I've never experienced something like that with another band, neither before nor after, but I'm sure it contributed a lot to me coming back again.
This - and the fans. The Kaizer family. It started at my first concerts, and the Kaizer family is growing and growing with each concert. I've gotten to know fans from Germany, of course, from the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Poland, England, and so on, even from the USA and Canada. The first time I traveled to Norway for a concert, in 2004, I was welcomed as part of the Norwegian Kaizer family right away. When I traveled to New York earlier this year for the concert there, I finally got to meet the American fans that I had only talked to online before. A fantastic experience to travel around the world and meet people who are just as enthusiastic and "on fire" about the same things! During all those years, some great friendships came about; some so deep that it hurts to know that it will be even harder now to get to see one another - because the yearly Kaizer concert where you can be sure to meet will be missing. But also deep enough that I know we'll continue to keep contact in any case.
I think that's what motivates me most to work with the fan side that I'm running: To create something that is helpful for the whole Kaizer family, so that the fans have a place where they can find all information in one place and keep up-to-date with what is happening, without having to look for everything themselves and without fans from abroad having to learn Norwegian to keep up. It's a lot of work which can be quite demanding (for example when you spend evenings during a vacation translating song lyrics, or when you have to ask again and again to get information), but first and foremost, the job is fun. And a way to give at least a bit back to Kaizers, for everything they have given us over all those years. They always trusted their fans to spread the word, and that's what we do because we want everyone to know about this fantastic band from Norway.
Now it'll soon be over, or time for "a break". Nobody knows if they will be back, and if they'll be back, when that will happen and if it will be the same band they are now. This is the end of an era. During the last weeks, I've often wondered where I would be if I hadn't gone to Rheinkultur ten years ago. If I hadn't become a hardcore fan of a Norwegian band. Then I'd never have learned to speak Norwegian. I wouldn't have gotten insights into the "chaos business" that the music industry is. I'd never have met many of those I now consider very good friends. I wouldn't have sat awake late at night, listening to Kaizer songs and crying because they are just so good. And I wouldn't have spent half a year of my last ten years at concerts with a Norwegian rumbling orchestra.
That would be such a pity. Thank you for everything, Kaizers. We'll meet again!