Friedrich Liechtenstein is one of those Berlin artists who sometimes puzzle you. Some know him from commercials – the “Supergeil” song for a supermarket chain was clicked millions of times. At the same time, Liechtenstein does much more interesting things, for example music. On Friday he will release his new album “Good Gastein”. A mixture of spoken texts, covered songs and other pieces.
When he tries to explain the idea behind it, he resorts – very modestly – to art history. “It’s a concept album. And it’s actually quite cheeky to give it to people without describing the concept in detail,” says Liechtenstein. “Without a concept, the famous urinal, Duchamp’s ready-made, is just cheek.”
He knows that he owes people a concept, but it’s just so complex. So let’s listen. At first the record sounds like a late summer evening with “We Have All The Time In The World”, then he talks about “Tomato Love”. The 66-year-old also grows tomatoes in his roof garden, but the best are the Transylvanian tomatoes that a friend grew in Romania.
With a beard and sunglasses, a suit and (sometimes) golden fingernails, Liechtenstein has built a character with recognition value. He once filmed a series about gas stations as places of longing for the Arte television station. And brought back the word “jewellery hermit,” a recluse concept from an earlier century.
His new album has a “crispbread-like” sadness – it is a picture of the mood of the past two years, says Liechtenstein. In the first year of the pandemic, he was in intensive care himself with a corona infection. That does something to you.
The album is about chocolate pudding and fairy tales, itsy bitsy spiders and the Austrian spa town of Bad Gastein (an earlier album was called). It’s about blood-steaming bodies and again and again about Berlin. (“Oh Berlin, you’re really nothing big, nothing to kneel down. Mostly some nonsense and a lot of cocaine.”)
Liechtenstein comes from the GDR, is a trained puppeteer and has been imprisoned in East Berlin for a long time. On the new album he sings about “West Berlin” of all things. For almost ten minutes he takes you on a journey through time to places and people in the old west. For Liechtenstein also a bit of coming to terms with the past.
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“I’ve always felt that there’s such pity when people say, ‘Oh man, they took the whole east from you. You poor people! “You don’t like to hear that,” said Liechtenstein. “Then I was in Tegel on a short bus ride, and there were a lot of West Berliners on the bus. We drove through Tegel Airport – tears rolled down there too. They also complained about what was taken from them.”
“Some say: ‘You’re always complaining – but do you think our West Berlin is still there? That was also taken from us.” I found that somehow touching,” says Liechtenstein. “And I thought to myself: Okay, you can give that back and say: “West Berlin, that was nice. Let’s go over there and see if the old houses are still standing”. That’s also a bit cheeky and I think that’s really nice.”
At the same time, it is a confrontation with his place of longing in the 1980s. “One has always dreamed of West Berlin, heard about the places and the concerts, the high gloss, the Ku’damm, the cool people. On closer inspection, it’s also a bit stuffy,” says Liechtenstein. He still doesn’t manage to root himself in the West. He often goes to the restaurant there. At the end of such an evening, however, the troupe often says: “Come on, let’s go over there.” And then they went to celebrate in the East.
The song sounds a bit nostalgic, a bit ironic. “The text comes from a restaurateur and I laughed to death,” says Liechtenstein. But despite all the irony and distance, it is a great love song for Berlin. “Sometimes people get it mixed up when I’m ranting and being ironic. But it’s not for nothing that I’ve been in Berlin for so long. I don’t want to leave here either. I love Berlin.”
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