Punk, patriotism and dead politicians: Join Blackout Problems in their fight against prejudice and hatred
‘The best politician is a dead one.’
This bold, damning claim comes just 30 seconds into DARK, the new album from Munich’s Blackout Problems. What follows is a 13-track collection of socially-conscious, forward-thinking electro-rock that takes an honest look at both the bleak and beautiful aspects of our planet. But while Blackout Problems’ declaration about dead politicians receives cheers whenever it’s bellowed onstage, as frontman Mario Radetzky explains, there’s more to his band’s music than hollow political posturing.
“If you think about it, that outlook is pretty fucked-up,” Mario says of the lyrics in question. “Those words come from the song MURDERER, which I wrote in response to the murder of a German politician by a right-wing fanatic in 2019. For the first two verses I slip into the mindset of the murderer, and sing from the perspective of someone who thinks that a dead politician is better than a living one who can actually make change. It’s easy to say that and cheer along to that kind of sentiment at a show, but the best politician isn’t dead: they’re young, probably female and they’re someone who cares about equality.
“The point of the song is to make people think,” he continues. “We’ve had the reaction to MURDERER of people cheering the opening lines, but then when we flip the song on its head and say that’s a bad thing and advocate for respect and love, you see their response change and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be supporting stuff like that.’ That’s the power of music in action.”
Since forming in 2012, Blackout Problems have been advocating for compassion in the face of political and societal adversity. The band – fronted by vocalist/guitarist Mario and rounded-out by guitarist Moritz Hammrich, bassist Marcus Schwarzbach and drummer Michael Dreilich – will release their third LP, DARK, on January 15. A culmination of two years’ worth of work, it’s a record that celebrates its creators’ collective love of dark electro-rock, and one which Mario claims “really demonstrates what a rock band can be in 2021”.
Put it to him that MURDERER’s intense lyrical subject matter sets Blackout Problems up as an openly political band, however, and Mario disagrees. DARK is an album that, according to their frontman, showcases how Blackout Problems are less a political outfit and more “a band with an attitude”.
“Of course, we want to be seen as a band with values and one that thinks about what they’re saying,” he offers. “But I’m very aware of the fact that just because you’re in a punk band that doesn’t automatically make you on the ‘right’ side of things – there’s more to it than that. We’re against the far-right, yes, but all we ask of anyone coming to a Blackout Problems show is that they don’t bring any hate with them.”
Mario points to Blackout Problems’ new track GERMANY, GERMANY as a song he feels is capable of cutting through the noise and connecting with audiences who aren’t necessarily looking for music that’s wholly political. Having grown up in a nation with a complex and troubled history, Mario’s goal is to use the single to provide listeners with an authentic, warts-and-all insight into German life.
“GERMANY, GERMANY is a song that takes quite a critical look at our country,” he explains. “When we started out in music, we were inspired by bands from the UK and the U.S., particularly California, and we loved the likes of Sum 41 and blink-182. Back then, we wanted to be like them, but ultimately, that’s not us. On songs like GERMANY, GERMANY we’re writing about our reality, about growing up in Germany and Austria and the problems those countries pose. In Germany, we have a brilliant healthcare system, but we have a difficult history with stuff like World War II, and even now we have issues with groups like [anti-Islam far-right movement] Pegida attracting 30,000 people to their marches. GERMANY, GERMANY rallies against the prejudices of the anti-refugee movement, but it celebrates the beauty of our country, too. That said, I wouldn’t consider myself at all a patriot.”
With an album that’s unafraid to tackle the complexities of nationhood and nationalism, and one that sees Mario embodying the viewpoint of those to which he stands vehemently opposed, he is determined to use the musical and philosophical might of DARK as way for Blackout Problems to set an example for younger fans. Having been troubled by one of his musical heroes – KISS’ Gene Simmons – showing support for Donald Trump, Mario is instead looking to the actions of musicians like Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds as a loose template by which he too can seek to inspire others.
“You have to be so careful these days about who you’re supporting, because with social media you can learn a lot about your idols,” Mario says. “In the end, though, there’s good to come from that, and I think Rou Reynolds is a great example. I love Enter Shikari’s music, and I find it really inspiring that I can go to Rou’s Instagram and see what a good person he is and the positive impact he’s having on the world. If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think I’d enjoy the music in the same way, and while I’m cautious about comparing us to anyone specific, he’s someone who is clear in his beliefs, and I’d like to think that we are, too.”
Inspired by those that do good and willing to take up the mantle of asking tough questions of both themselves and the world around them, Blackout Problems are a band whose outlook, both musical and otherwise, is rooted in compassion. And while their new album is symbolic of the darkness within our world, so too does it offer hope that Mario and his bandmates can lead the next generation of empathetic young rock bands towards a brighter tomorrow.
Blackout Problems’ new album DARK is released January 15 via RCA/Sony.