The second consecutive Listener’s Guide to be about a band from Deutschland beginning with ‘D’, but that’s the point at which the similarities end. The DAF listener’s guide was written as a somewhat delayed tribute to Gabi Delgado, who died on the eve of the initial COVID lockdown (thankfully not from said disease itself), only for my writing to get totally derailed as my creativity ground to a standstill along with the rest of the world. I eventually completed it, but the significance of the timing was lost.
This guide, however, has been a long time coming. It’s about a band who have featured frequently in my DJ sets and past playlists. I wrote about them frequently back in my EOL-Audio days. And yet I’ve found their works remain somewhat under-appreciated amongst many of those who’s tastes I otherwise share. Too “goth” for the industrial kollectiv, too electronic for the goth-rock puritans. Too dark in tone for the casual listener, but too song-oriented for experimental elitists.
It’s time to tell you all what you’ve been missing out on.
I’ve long had issue with how poorly bands from continental Europe are covered when the Anglo/American music journos cover a particular genre. Even when the bands in question sing in English. Bands singing in any other tongue are a particularly hard sell, but every now and again, a notable project breaks through. And Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF from here on) stand out in this very small grouping due to the way they achieved a cult following in the UK a couple of decades before anyone had heard of Rammstein. This achievement was not despite the fact that they sung in German, but in many respects because of it.
When writing guides such these, it’s often hard to choose the next band to cover. Sure, I can use social media to gauge interest in specific projects, but there’s also got to be a personal motive to invest time and effort in researching and writing a piece this long. It’s a particularly big decision when you deal with exceptionally prolific artists – the timing has to be right, lest one get bogged down in a body of work too large to take in. And it just so happens I’ve been spending recent months investigating the dark and obscure corners of one of the largest back-catalogues my genres of choice have to offer. It’s time to take a look at Wumpscut. (Yes, officially the name is supposed to be bookended with colons, but if I do that here, my grammar checker will throw a wobbly).
Wumpscut was formed by the Bavarian DJ Rudy Ratzinger in 1991, inspired by the likes of Skinny Puppy, Leæther Strip and Dirk Ivens among others. The name means nothing – it was an entirely synthetic creation. His style has been referred to as both ‘dark electro’ or ‘electro-industrial’ – the terms are interchangeable as far as online discussion goes, and since few musicologists acknowledge so much as the existence of the style post-mid 1980s, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get a clear answer. Just accept that if you’re not into dark synthetic textures, hard electronic rhythms and angry vocals, dealing with some of the most unpleasant subject matters both fiction and reality have to offer, you might as well quit reading now.
Whilst this was very much a solo project, Rudy occasionally brought in guest musicians, mainly for female vocals, as well as sampling extensively from movies and bands from a variety of genres – the Alien movies are an obvious influence, inspiring as they did the project’s official logo. He also remixed other artists frequently and featured on many compilations. The one thing Wumpscut never did was play live. Rudy never had any desire to take the project to stage – neither did he feel like he could have done the music justice if he had done so.
With the retirement of the project in 2017, I am at least able to tell the Wumpscut story from start to end. I hope this guide will serve to be comprehensive, though what it won’t be is 100% exhaustive. This is, after all, a Listeners Guide, not a Collectors Guide or Fanatics Guide. Most Wumpscut albums have been released several times, in several formats, and there’s no way I can cover every version of all of them. Physical format collectors will have to check resources like Discogs.com for a full shopping list. Be prepared to shell out for the box set versions. My cupboard isn’t big enough for them.
If you’re happy to stay virtual, I recommend Wumpscut’s Bandcamp page, which has just-about-everything for 5 Euros per album. The Concentrated Camp editions are the best way to get the most complete versions of each album, and there’s also sizeable compilations covering all the loose ends, of which there are many. Devoted fans can also get vinyl masters and ‘Inheritance’ editions (draft/demo versions from the DAT tape archives), but I’m not going to cover these – perhaps someone else will one day. Casual fans can stream most of the studio albums on the regular services, but the remixes and rarities are covered inconsistently, so you might not find every track I mention.
This may be too long for many of you, so you can just Skip To The End and just find out what songs are worth listening to. But if you’re up for the full and complete text – it’s time to get started.