Mushy sandwiches, road fights and surrealism: Marlene Marder’s memoir of Swiss punks Kleenex/Liliput

Mushy sandwiches, road fights and surrealism: Marlene Marder’s memoir of Swiss punks Kleenex/Liliput

On 29 March 1978, Marlene Marder leapt into her new existence. She was watching punk band Kleenex’s first present, at Zurich’s Membership Hey, when their guitarist and solely male member declined to return for the encore. For him, the late Marder wrote in her diary, “Kleenex was a little bit of weekend enjoyable”. However for Marder, Kleenex supplied a extra profound type of liberation. She instructed bassist Klaudia Schifferle and drummer Lislot Ha that she knew the chords and climbed on stage.

The second marks punk’s Jahr null in what could seem to be the least punk place conceivable: Switzerland. Like British punks X-Ray Spex, Kleenex named themselves after a disposable object, acknowledging an more and more pervasive client tradition (paradoxically, they later needed to change their identify to Liliput after a menace from producers Kimberly-Clark). If Poly Styrene’s lyrics subverted advertising-speak to warn of its insidious creep, Regula Sing launched Kleenex past commodification by singing in varied languages, together with gleeful nonsense phrases she invented – “Hexa-pod, hell-cat, helter-skelter, hop-scotch!” – to specific the ladies’s joys, challenges, wishes. Their sound was a hungry puckish splatter: John Peel’s endorsement landed them on Tough Commerce, whose founder Geoff Travis was struck by their joyousness, a distinction to indignant British punk. “They had been unashamedly, primitively good,” he says. “The best way they chanted their vocals was not like the rest.”

Kleenex: Hedi’s Head – video

Kurt Cobain was one other well-known admirer: the inclusion of “something by Kleenex” on a listing of his 50 favorite albums launched the band to a brand new era a decade after their cut up in 1983, and led to Marder overseeing a reissue of their catalogue on Kill Rock Stars, residence to many bands from the riot grrrl motion that they had helped to encourage.

However in 1978, there have been perilously few figures to fireside Marder’s creativeness – save her hero Siouxsie Sioux – and her diary of the band’s first three years is a placing doc of self-actualisation. Her Tour-Tagebuch was first printed in German in 1986. Seven years after her demise in 2016, her humorous, biting, absorbing phrases have been translated into English, a labour of affection by the e-book’s DIY writer, Grace Ambrose. Merely titled Kleenex/Liliput, Marder’s diary is bolstered by contemporaneous (usually translated) journal and zine interviews, and the general quantity is as illuminating an outsider’s perspective on what had appeared a well-worn, male-dominated punk historical past as Viv Albertine’s Garments, Music, Boys. It’s additionally a beautiful doc of Europeans encountering the unusual banality of 70s Britain: the “soapy” espresso, the lingering spectre of the Yorkshire Ripper, a number of journeys to see the Muppet Film, a quizzical first chunk of these “these comfortable, white triangular sandwiches encased in plastic so the halves don’t come aside and curl up”.

Translation is an attention-grabbing proposition for a band that resisted legibility, eschewing the dogma of punk and feminism to specific pleasure and rage on their very own phrases. Marder got here to Kleenex having rejected the Zurich ladies’s music scene for its drab, oppression-centric lyrics and characterisation of aggressive music as in some way macho. (She additionally took strongly in opposition to their dungarees.) Kleenex’s proposition was daring, says Travis: “Barely surrealistic, barely oppositional, making a world of their very own however which was not excluding anyone however inviting you in. They didn’t appear to have any worry of ridicule.” Translator Jen Calleja, a British author and punk musician within the bands Sauna Youth and Monotony, taught herself German after transferring to Munich aged 18 and embedding within the native DIY music scene. “I labored actually arduous for [the diaries] to not sound like an ideal literary product,” she says. “It’s actually troublesome to translate a textual content that’s not literary or good and ensure it truly is consultant of the voice of the particular person.”

‘We play quick and aggressively’ … Kleenex. {Photograph}: Pietro Mattioli

On the outset, Marder performed a rented guitar and described Kleenex as taking part in “this outrageous music, technically unsuitable, however with whole conviction”. The band had been employed as a novelty fill-in act at Zurich venue the Mascotte: “All we needed to do was play our 4 songs, spit and smoke on stage – that may be punk – and nothing extra can be requested of us,” she writes. They accepted in change totally free rehearsal area, however walked when the venue house owners, harbouring ambitions of nurturing a showbiz secure, balked at their anti-commercialism. Inside months, Marder developed sturdy rules, defying expectations of feminine musicians (“we play quick and aggressively”) and railing in opposition to journalists, business bullshitters, predatory roadies and her insufficiently severe bandmates. (I contact two former members however each say they like to let Marder’s phrases stand alone.)

Not like quickly crowding London and New York, Kleenex had a clean slate for self-invention in Zurich, the place there have been scarcely any locations to play. Peter Fischli later grew to become an acclaimed visible artist alongside David Weiss, however in 1978 was a latest artwork faculty graduate who discovered his calling making imagery for town’s fledgling punks. “It was find out how to begin being an artist,” he says. “It was being liberated from the strain of doing artwork. You do one thing and you’ll see it on the street or in a store. That was enticing.” Kleenex usually wore all white, and Fischli – who dated Schifferle, additionally an artist who formed the band’s aesthetic – noticed the chance to reject punk’s already-calcified look, creating photos utilizing spaghetti and toy information, or repurposing an area bakery brand for a poster that swapped the baguette below a boy’s arm for an LP. It set them aside. “If you wish to do one thing completely different, you must know what the mainstream is,” he says. “The opposite Swiss punk bands had been just about imitating the English model.”

A poster by Peter Fischli.
A poster by Peter Fischli. {Photograph}: Peter Fischli, courtesy Klaudia Schifferle

Tough Commerce’s Travis was “astonished” that Kleenex had been from Switzerland. “I had no thought what their actual circumstances had been, what their mother and father did or the place they got here from. In these days we actually simply targeting the work. There’s a type of purity to that. You possibly can hear whether or not individuals are honest within the notes they play.” (Predictably, a lot of the British music press invoked stereotypes about cuckoo clocks and yodelling when writing about them.) Travis signed the band after Sounds journal made their debut EP single of the week and Fischli smuggled 500 hand-folded copies into London. In 1979 they came visiting to tour with Cabaret Voltaire and the Raincoats – till the Cabs’ girlfriends refused to allow them to tour with ladies and English punks Spizzenergi stood in.

Raincoats singer and bassist Gina Birch describes studying Marder’s account of the tour as “extremely evocative … so many ladies began bands in that interval. It was so bizarre how so many people all of a sudden discovered that we may very well be in a band, and earlier than we didn’t know we might do this.” She “cherished” Kleenex. “This naive, shrieky minimalism. However I assumed we had been higher!” Right now, she says, she hears them in another way. She recollects writers aligning Kleenex with Dada. “Possibly that was unintentional however they had been doing that in their very own means. It’s fairly avant garde. I simply heard Julian Schnabel discuss how each time he appears to be like at sure work it’s like he sees them for the primary time. Once I heard Kleenex later it was like I heard them for the primary time.”

Birch’s bandmate, guitarist Ana da Silva, recollects Kleenex encountering the unfamiliar in Britain and responding in a means that steered their joyous linguistic chaos got here naturally. “They wished to have their garments washed and in these days, clearly no one I knew had a washer. In order that they went to the native launderette and when the garments got here again, that they had shrunk. Klaudia was like, ‘Shrinky dink! Shrinky dink!’ No surprise the Raincoats seemed how we did. Our trousers had been all the time 20cm too brief. As a result of Kleenex had been fairly pristine they had been fairly shocked with the way in which we dressed! It was humorous to see the issues that had been new to them as a result of they got here from a unique place. These days all the things is identical in all places.”

Marder’s dedication grows extra fierce – angle turning into kind – as her diaries progress: “I’ll begin over 100 occasions if I’ve to,” she writes. Calleja cherished Marder’s “caustic, low-energy means of reporting issues, her vitriol and rage, and her honesty. She knew who she was and he or she would take that out on different individuals in the event that they didn’t meet her requirements.” Fischli characterises Marder as “sturdy willed”; da Silva calls her a “driving power. She may very well be fairly sharp. She wouldn’t take any shit. She discovered to try this by touring and doing gigs as a result of there’s all the time risks, confrontations, disagreements.”

A poster from the UK tour with the Raincoats and Spizzenergi.
A poster from the UK tour with the Raincoats and Spizzenergi. {Photograph}: Sam Mumenthaler

Greater than as soon as, Marder describes Kleenex being attacked on the street. “Most guys can’t cope with ladies not behaving how they’re anticipated to,” she writes of the primary of many such altercations. On the UK tour, Spizzenergi behaved like stars, says Birch – “we had been multi function van and they might yell at one another from the entrance to the again and be very show-offy” – and the speed-addled roadies’ disrespect for the ladies ranged from listening to AC/DC throughout soundcheck to watching porn backstage. (“The truth that we don’t wish to fuck doesn’t compute of their ape brains,” writes Marder.) “We didn’t see eye to eye with Spizzenergi,” laughs da Silva. “They had been a really completely different kettle of fish. The Raincoats and Kleenex did what we wished to do, not: we’ve got to do that as a result of a person from the report firm is saying we must always do that to be extra profitable or extra lovable.”

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There have been additionally challenges nearer to residence. Marder writes overtly about Kleenex’s inter-band strife, significantly with Regula Sing, who she suspected was being bodily abused by her boyfriend. The band slagged one another off within the press and Sing departed after the tour, changed by a run of singers that settled with Astrid Spirit. “It’s very actual,” da Silva says of Marder’s unvarnished account of their combating. “Individuals all the time color or keep away from sure issues [of their recollections]. They don’t wish to offend. However she was simply writing because it occurred.”

Whereas Kleenex had been away, discontent was brewing in Zurich. In Could 1980, town was overwhelmed by blazing protests after younger individuals trying to find an area to name their very own raged on the metropolis’s opera home receiving a multimillion-franc renovation whereas the deliberate youth-oriented cultural centre Rote Fabrik acquired no funding. Often known as the Opernhauskrawalle (opera home riots) and Züri brännt (Zurich burns), the unrest lasted two years and was in the end profitable. It produced a short lived youth centre, the “Autonomous Youth Centre” AJZ, and the Rote Fabrik, upending preconceptions of the Swiss music scene as a bland extension of the nation’s navy neutrality.

‘We want to have fun, entertain ourselves and forget about it for an hour’ … (L-R) Marder and Schifferle.
‘We wish to have enjoyable, entertain ourselves and neglect about it for an hour’ … (L-R) Marder and Schifferle. {Photograph}: Livio Piatti

Liliput performed steadily on the Rote Fabrik, however had been disconnected from the motion. Whereas in 1981 new saxophonist Christoph Herzog instructed German journal Spex that he took his power from the protest motion, Marder was extra apathetic: the AJZ’s future wasn’t assured, which “makes you surprise why so many individuals are nonetheless working and renovating it”, she stated. “You place all of your power into it and the subsequent day the entire thing’s destroyed. And in the event you do nothing then they’ll use that in opposition to you.” She was proper: the youth centre was closed after 11 months, though the Rote Fabrik endures.

But Marder nonetheless retained her optimism about liberation by means of music. “Everybody is aware of all the things’s shit,” she instructed Sounds in 1981, “however why write songs about it? … When there’s a gig, we wish to have enjoyable, entertain ourselves and neglect about it for an hour.” That yr’s riotous single Eisiger Wind noticed Spirit declare “For my sake I by no means / Request to melt from my means”: one critic likened it to the radicalism of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Metal. Marder’s diaries finish quickly after, however Liliput would subsequently launch the band’s solely two full-length albums, 1982’s self-titled and 1983’s Some Songs, their sound rising subtler and extra advanced, straying even from post-punk’s fertile tendrils. Their purpose, they instructed their good friend Niklaus Wyss in 1983, was “to belief in your personal energy – with the danger that you just won’t succeed”.

Liliput’s remaining incarnation of Marder, Schifferle and Spirit would cut up that yr for drably pragmatic causes, when Spirit grew to become pregnant. Marder would set up a report store and reserving company in Zurich and later work for the World Huge Fund for Nature. She died of most cancers in 2016.

Regardless of being rivalled solely by Yello and Grauzone within the annals of Swiss various music, Kleenex/Liliput are hardly a part of the nation’s cultural material: Switzerland’s arts council paid for the interpretation of Marder’s diaries, says Calleja, “however they’d by no means heard of Kleenex”. For writer Ambrose, Marder’s legacy is having the boldness to declare one’s potential. “Essentially the most transferring elements of the e-book for me are when Marlene faucets into the chic elements of constructing music,” she says. “Listening to your report on vinyl for the primary time, the unstated electrical connection you develop with the most effective of bandmates, listening to one thing in your head and eventually having the abilities to know find out how to play it in your guitar.” Whereas bodily area in Zurich was briefly provide, Marder understood that creativeness was limitless, and unconquerable.

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