If Rammstein can do it, so can Guano Apes.
Last year, Rammstein took its brand of full-throttle hard rock across Germany’s borders, into Europe and overseas to the United States, turning the blistering tirade “Du Hast” into an electrifying international hit.
That gives guitarist Henning Ruemenapp hope for Guano Apes’ prospects.
Unlike Rammstein, which sings in German and wields a ponderous, plodding rock sound, Guano Apes offer a balanced package of rock, funk and hip-hop – all done in English – on its RCA debut album, “Proud Like a God” (released Oct. 12).
It has such a universal appeal, critics and fans outside Germany often are surprised to learn that the group is German.
“That’s a compliment,” Ruemenapp said recently, “because people tend to really put you in a category, being in music and also being in countries. They say, ‘Okay, this is kind of a German band.’
“In the beginning, when we started the promotion and went to Austria, I remember sitting in a hotel room with Dennis (Poschwatta), our drummer, waiting for some interviews and the first one showed up. He wrote down all his questions in English, and he was really amazed when Dennis said, ‘Hello, how are you?’ in German. The interviewer went, ‘Uh? I didn’t know you were German.’ We took him totally by surprise. I like it that way.”
Apparently all of Germany likes it too. Since its 1997 release, “Proud Like a God,” powered by the single “Open Your Eyes,” has gone double-platinum in Guano Apes’ homeland, selling more than 700,000 copies. It also has been certified gold in five other countries.
What put them over the edge was the follow-up single, “Lords of the Boards,” a track commissioned for the 1998 European snowboarding championships in Austria.
Not bad for a band formed in the central Germany college town of Göttingen.
Ruemenapp, Poschwatta and bassist Stefan Ude teamed as teenagers, linked by a common affinity for everything from The Police to Primus. The only thing missing was an assertive voice.
Then along came Sandra Nasic.
Influenced by Public Enemy, Korn and Limp Bizkit, Nasic incorporated her funk roots and commanding vocals with her new band mates’ hard-rock elements, and it immediately clicked.
In 1996, Guano Apes entered the “Local Heroes” unsigned band contest, sponsored by Viva TV (the German equivalent of MTV). They won, and the prize included money to record an album and video. On the strength of “Open Your Eyes,” they then landed a deal with Gun Records.
Over the next year and a half, they played more than 300 shows, performing at all the major European festivals and opening for Marilyn Manson in Germany.
“People must think I’m crazy, but it’s still fun talking about an album that’s 2 years old,” Ruemenapp said. “We’re quite proud of the first record; it took a lot of hard work. We were a new, naive band, because we had won the newcomer’s contest and they just handed us the money and the opportunity to produce the record. It took us about nine months to finish it, but it was a great experience.
“We started this as a hobby and now it’s turned into a profession. We really love what we do. It’s entertainment, and it’s fun to go onstage and show people that we really love what we do and then getting the feedback and the connection from them. This isn’t something from a different orbit; this is four stupid people on the stage playing music. Anybody can do it. We had the luck to find the combination of four people working together.”
Now, about that group name …
“It’s just nonsense,” Ruemenapp said. “It’s just playing around with words, because we couldn’t agree on a name for like a year. At one point, it was like, ‘Okay, there are no better suggestions, so we really need to find a name so we can put it on posters and do concerts.’ We decided on Guano Apes so we could use it as a trademark for the music, not only for a weird-sounding name but also so people can decide what this name stands for. It’s four people making music together. I hope it worked.”
Guano Apes interrupted work on its second album to begin a monthlong U.S. tour with P.O.D. It opened Nov. 1 in Minneapolis and ends Nov. 28 in Austin. The video for “Open Your Eyes,” meanwhile, recently premiered on MTV’s “120 Minutes” and has been added to sister station M2.
BWF (before we forget): Go ape over the Guano Apes on the Web @ www.guanoapes.net.