Tina Schnekenburger has worn a number of guises over the years.
From the punk scene in Kraftwerk’s home town to the world of modern art, she is a card carrying member of the avant-garde.
Schnekenburger can be seen in the new Conny Plank documentary, operating backing tracks for DAF. In leather, with cropped hair, she is effortlessly cool: a Teutonic Siren behind Gabi Delgado’s beat-fuelled leaps.
A long-time friend of DAF, she is credited with typography on the liner notes for Die Kleinen und Die Bosen, the very first album on Mute (cat: STUMM 1).
As an early member of Die Krupps, her contributions to the rhythm section can be found on key recordings.
Recently, Schnekenburger held her first showing of modern art. A long-time painter, fans pushed her to present her dramatic artwork to a wider public.
It’s on the back of her Berlin show, Colors and States of Mind, that we took the chance to catch up with Schnekenburger from her base in Germany.
You were part of the German punk scene. What was it like in those days, and what inspired you to start making music?
When I moved from Spain to Düsseldorf, I had a heavy drug and drinking problem. For the first few weeks in Düsseldorf, I kept on drinking and using. Then, one day, I somehow ended up in Ratinger Hof, and the music just hit me!
Punk and me – that was love (or rather hearing) at first sight. From then on, I was in Ratinger Hof every single night. I stopped drinking, smoking and using all together, from one day to the next, because I finally had something that actually touched me inside and gave a meaning to my life. As clichéd as it may sound, you can truly say that punk rock saved my life.
As punk gave me the feeling that everything was possible, even when you were a girl (which was not normal at the time), I thought about getting into making music myself.
As it happened, one day there was a party at the house of Thomas Schwebel’s parents in Solingen.
First, we ruined the garden by kicking a ball around, and then later the guys started jamming (Thomas had all the equipment there). At some point, I just grabbed the bass guitar and joined in. That was that.
Next thing I played bass in Die Rächer, together with Eduardo and Olga Delgado (brother and sister of Gabi).
How did you originally connect with DAF?
Well, Ratinger Hof was the place to be, so naturally I met absolutely everybody there, including the guys of DAF.
I got to know Gabi at the pinball machine. Jürgen Engler, Gabi, Wolf-Dieter Lauenroth and I were the best pinball players around, and you would find us at the pinball machine quite often.
Did you ever have to sleep on the floor at Daniel Miller’s house in London?
Of course! For about six weeks, as far as I recall. That was so nice of Daniel – I will never forget that.
When DAF reduced to a duo, you joined them for live shows. Those were high energy but incredibly stylish events. What was it like for you being on stage with them?
I was incredibly nervous every single time!
First, just putting on the tapes was not as easy as it may sound. You had to wind them exactly to the beginning of the song, and you were always afraid of “Bandsalat”.
Second, it’s not easy at all to have nothing to do between the songs and still look cool. But apparently I managed quite well.
In Die Krupps, you had a role in production and songwriting. What kind of sound were you going for? Did you have specific influences?
That, in fact, is a bit too much credit. I know that in some place it says that I was involved in the production but that was Jürgen’s part.
When I joined, Volle Kraft voraus was nearly finished but it still needed lyrics. So, I wrote some of the lyrics, together with Jürgen.
In Entering the Arena, which still is my favorite, I wanted to go back to the roots – i.e., “Wahre Arbeit, Wahrer Lohn” – something more high-energy and danceable.
You might say that “Wahre Arbeit, wahrer Lohn” was my influence at the time – a great song that is working live still.
When you left Die Krupps, were there musical ambitions you still wanted to fulfil? Will we see you return to stage?
After I left Die Krupps, Jürgen (Engler) and I founded the label Atom H. We released bands like Rumble Militia, a punk-/metal-crossover band from Bremen with a strong political message.
There was also, for instance, Protector, a Thrash Metal band that reminded one of Slayer.
At that time, New Metal was the thing, and there were lots of amazing new bands. It was a great time: we went to lots of gigs, almost every night. It was totally rock’n’roll.
After a while, I got tired of the music business – and especially the people in it – so I left Atom H. I moved to Berlin, just in time for the Wall to come down, where I took up photography again. I later returned to painting.
In London, I was in an all-girl reggae band where I played the drums, and it was always in the back of my head to go back to drumming; so, last year in May, I started taking drum lessons.
Whenever I can find the time in between painting and getting my next exhibition organized, I practice. I am dreaming of playing the drums in a rock band in the future – maybe in 2020.
You are also becoming known as a painter. When did you start? What do your paintings express?
I have been painting since I was a little kid and kept doing it until the age of 16, when I left school.
My mother took me to an art school in Stuttgart (at the time we were living in Heilbronn) to apply – successfully, but I never went. By that time, I already was heavily into booze and drugs, so I didn’t get anything together. Instead I hitchhiked to Torremolinos in Spain, where I lived until I moved to Düsseldorf.
Inspiration is coming to me in two different ways: One way is entirely from inside me, resulting in the darker paintings such as Suicide, the Tatort series and so on.
Those paintings are very much inspired by blood, which for me is the essence of life itself. Without blood we simply wouldn’t exist. Also, I very much adore the color of blood, which you can clearly see in my paintings. Red is dominant.
The other kind of inspiration comes from the outside world; solely driven by a specific color; inspired by something I see – for instance, a scene in a movie.
When I look at something, at first I notice the colors – always! Colors and the composition of colors. As Marie Pellicone (of Marie Pellicone Gallery in Soho/New York) said: I am truly a colorist.
You recently showed your paintings in Germany. Was the reaction encouraging?
Very much so! I even sold a painting weeks after the show, a lady bought one of my drawings for her husband as a birthday present.
Tina Schnekenburger's Colors and States of Mind shows in Hamburg from 7-10 September, 2018. Pop-Up Gallery BloodRedArt, Jungfrauenthal 3 in Hamburg (next to U Klosterstern).
All photos of Tina Schnekenburger by Krichan Wihlborg.