A relatively popular Hard Rock/Punk band from around Frankfurt, Germany. I say "relatively" because the band has gotten very little airplay due to their history of hostility towards foreign immigrants back in the 1980s, which was also expressed in their lyrics.
These days, the Onkelz enjoy widespread popularity with the younger generation. They have cleaned up their songs quite a bit in the last decade and have been able to produce a few videos that have actually been aired on MTV and VIVA (German music channel). The main theme of their lyrics is what some people might call "male proletarianism". Their songs deal with male bonding and friendship, the hardships of life, alcohol and general sex, drugs and rock 'n roll.
The Onkelz were founded in 1980 in Hösbach, near Aschaffenburg by Stephan Weidner, Kevin Russell and Peter Schorowsky, a couple youths wanting to start a Punk band. Their respective ages are 17, 16 and 17. Inspired by bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, The Stranglers and Sham 69, they start out as many bands do, their first songs consisting mostly of off-key growling. Matthias "Gonzo" Röhr joins the band a year later after a gig in Frankfurt. The band has kept this lineup ever since. Playing a few gigs in Frankfurt, the band struggles to gain acceptance like many other Punk bands of the era, being a strong contrast to the increasingly popular NDW or "Neue Deutsche Welle" genre.
Around 1983 the Böhse Onkelz start to slip into the skinhead scene. During this time they begin to shave their heads and increase the violence, brutality and general right-wing mentality in their songs. They release a demo tape that makes a few rounds in the local underground scene. It contains such songs as "Türken Raus (Turks Out)" and "Oi, Oi, Oi".
In 1984 "Der Nette Mann (The nice man)" becomes the bands first album and catapults the band to top of popular skinhead music. Less than a year later, however, all members but Kevin begin to let their hair grow again after general disagreement with the skinhead lifestyle and the scene rises. The Onkelz's songs still consist mainly of violence, alcohol and sex, though.
Over the next few years the Onkelz distance themselves more and more from the right-wing scene and in 1987 bring out the more Metal-oriented LP, "Onkelz Wie Wir (Onkelz Like Us)". At this time the German press still sees the Onkelz as a skinhead band and a posterchild of sorts for resurging nationalism in Germany's youth.
After having stopped playing live for the last couple of years, the Onkelz return to the stage. Kevin Russell begins to take excessive amounts of drugs and after the murder of a good friend of the band he completely succumbs to them. The band's lyrics of their 1990 album "Es Ist Soweit (It is time)" therefore gain a darker side with "Leiden (Suffering), "Necrophil (Necrophile)" and "Hast Du Sehnsucht Nach Der Nadel (Do you yearn for the needle)". During all this time, the German media still portrays the band as mainly right-wing and explains it's rising popularity with the Onkelz' former affiliation with the skinhead scene. Even when the bands 1992 album "Heilige Lieder (Holy Songs)" comes out, selling 200.000 times and hitting the German top ten charts, the Onkelz' music is labeled "Rechtsrock" or Right(wing) Rock. Many other German artists refuse to play on the same stage as the band. But even without any airplay or advertising whatsoever the Onkelz still fill concert halls across the country. Skinheads and other openly right-wing fans are immediately escorted off the premises. In one incident a fan raises his right arm in the traditional Nazi "Sieg Heil" greeting and Gonzo jumps into the crowd and whacks him with his guitar.
1997 is an interesting year for Onkelz fans. Sick of the years of controversy over the Böhse Onkelz skinhead legacy that now lies over 10 years behind them, the band releases the biography "Danke für Nichts (Thanks For Nothing)". Another unique event is the release of their first Live-CD "Live in Dortmund" which sells over 300.000 copies. At this point in time, the Onkelz still receive no airplay at all.
Then, 1999 becomes a milestone in Onkelz history: They start their own record label, rule23 recordings and release the single "Dunkler Ort (A Dark Place)" and with it their first music video. The controversial artist H. R. Giger is enlisted to help with the design of the video. MTV is the only station to air it, and then only with the Veejays giving it a negative slant. The single itself, though, eventually hits number 2 in the charts.
In 2002, the Onkelz release one of their most popular singles, "Keine Amnestie Für MTV" (No Amnesty for MTV). The single quickly hits the Top 10. At first, MTV simply airs a black screen during it's Charts while the song is playing, since the Onkelz have not made any accompanying video, but then decides to be witty and creates one by using footage from N'Sync and Backstreet Boys videos. This catapults the song which had already slipped to Number 8 in the charts, up to Number 2.
- Stephan Weidner - Vocals, Bass, Acustic Guitar
- Kevin Russell - Vocals
- Peter "Pe" Schorowsky - Drums
- Matthias "Gonzo" Röhr - Guitar
Apart from the fact that is very hard to find any of the Onkelz really old stuff (if you're into Oi-type Nazi-punk), even in Germany, you still have quite few options open to you, if you'd like to try out the sound.
Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) at this point in time actually has 3 CDs available (which surprised me). They are Live in Dortmund, Viva Los Tioz and Dopamin. They will cost you at least around 20$, but these are some of the better albums. Especially LID has most of the Onkelz good tracks and is one hell of a live CD. Ebay is always an option, though you'll have to luckier there. And of course there's always your best friend, P2P file sharing. Over KaZaA, Soulseek, Bittorrent or Edonkey you will always be able to find a few tracks. Personally I own Wir ham' noch lange nicht genug and several assorted tracks. If you are interested in me sending you a copy, please just ask.
The official Böhse Onkelz website is http://www.onkelz.de (German)