Political Origins in 1980s-1990s Berlin
The origins of the band Landser are to be found in the nationalist political scene in 1980s East Berlin during the era of the so-called German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Grassroots opposition to communist rule was rising, culminating in the Fall 1989 Wende (Change) in which the communist government collapsed. Nationalists were among those at the forefront of agitation against the communist regime, and many small nationalist associations, operating in a "gray area" of legality, were forming and thriving. One of these was the youth-oriented Die Vandalen -- Ariogermanische Kampfgemeinschaft (The Vandals: Aryan-Germanic Association for Political Action), founded in 1982 and active in East Berlin. Among the members of this nationalist political club were the future core members of the band Landser, including its lead singer, then-teenager Michael Regener.
The Landser members were of the generation that witnessed the mass protests in the fall of 1989 while still youth. Some of the songs Regener has written deal with the implications of 1989 and the subsequent 1990 annexation of the German Democratic Republic by the Federal Republic (West Germany). Notably among these is 1998's Verkauft und Verraten (Sold Out and Betrayed), which contains lyrics that hint at what members of the nationalist scene, including future Landser members, underwent in the 1980s. The song begins: Ich seh noch die Zäune, seh noch die Mauern / seh noch die Scharfschützen auf den Wachtürmen lauren / seh noch jene Herren in Schlips und Kragen / spür ihre Schlage, hör ihre Fragen. (I still see the fences / still see the wall / still see the snipers in the watchtowers / still see these guys with their collars and ties / I feel their blows, hear their questions..."). The song goes on to say Die Maske fällt, die Träume zerrinnen / Großangelegte Lauschangriffe beginnen / Zwar darf man noch weiter seine Meinung frei sagen. / Aber alles bitte schön in demokratischem Rahmen. / Die damals regierten, sind schon wieder die Herren. Die damals rebellierten, wird man wieder einsperren. (The mask falls, dreams fade away / Domestic spying is here to stay / You can say whatever you want / But, please, keep it all 'democratic' / The rulers of yesterday are back on top / The former rebels, back in jail). Verkauft und Verraten is a key Landser song in understanding the band's politics: Opposition to both the western (capitalist liberal democracy) and eastern (Marxist) systems that ruled what remained of Germany after 1945. Landser thus represents a blue-collar manifestation of dissident, nationalist politics, and its ultimate fate is further testament to this.
Founding of the Band
In 1992, some members of the Vandals political club (see above) founded a band around the central figure of Michael Regener, lead singer, who was already using the nickname "Lunikoff" for himself (a nickname to which he would return following the banning of Landser in the mid-2000s). Other figures in the band were Andreas Mörike, Jean-Rene Bauer, and Christian Vennedorf.
An early suggestion was to name the band "Endlösung" (or 'Final Solution' in English), satirically mocking a term used in Holocaust propaganda, but the name Landser was settled on. Landser is a German slang word for a rank-and-file soldier, similar to the English military slang "grunt" but with a rather more affectionate intent when used by Germans.
1990s: Rise to Prominence
The 1992 release of Das Reich Kommt Wieder (The Reich Shall Return) was the first full Landser album. Landser immediately gained a reputation for its musical skill and production values that were considered very high. This album, and each of the others up through 2002, were banned by the Federal Republic, with possession or distribution of the CDs declared a crime by the authority of the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (Federal Authority on Media Harmful to Youth).
Bootlegging was common from the beginning, due to the nature of Landser material and the bans. Many who encountered Das Reich Kommt Wieder in the 1990s knew it under the name Berlin Bleibt Deutsch (Berlin Remains German), the title used by a successful and widely-distributed bootleg copy and the name of a principal song in the album.
The success of Das Reich Kommt Wieder was followed in 1995 by Republik der Strolche (Republic of Thugs) and in 1998 by Deutsche Wut (German Fury) which was commonly known as Rock Gegen Oben (Rock Against the Power) because that term appears in the CD cover.
By the late 1990s, Landser was one of the biggest names on the nationalist scene in Germany, and its songs began appearing on compilation albums, including Guess who's coming...for dinner (1998) and Die Deutschen Kommen Vol. 2 (The Germans are Coming, Vol. 2) (1999), the lead track of which was Landser's Arisches Kind, previously unreleased.
During the 1990s and 2000s, due to ongoing political surveillance and repression and government bans of its material, Landser rarely made public appearances. Despite this, live concerts were sometimes held, by invitation only, in Berlin.
Many Germans, over the years, have been found to be in possession of banned Landser CDs. Some "offenders" were issued police warnings or fines, and others lost jobs, including members of the military and police (as reported sensationalistically in the German media), a testament to the popularity of Landser.
2000s: Peak of Success and Persecution
By the early 2000s, Landser was at the peak of its popularity and prestige in the nationalist community in Germany and abroad, and this period was its most prolific in terms of musical output. Three full studio albums in a row were released in the years 2001 to 2003. With enormously rising exposure due to the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing, Landser songs were gaining a worldwide following, and even Germans were able to bypass the government ban. Landser songs were being downloaded by the millions.
Ran an Den Feind (Get the Enemy) was released 2001, which was also soon banned. The lead song on this album was called Indizintro (Banned Introduction) which satirizes the fact that Landser albums were always banned. "Und wenn Du gern hörst den Hip-Hop-Scheiß und Techno, Rap und Soul, dann schalte nur das Radio an, da nudeln sie Dich voll. Nur die armen Neonazis sind frustriert, die neue Landser ist mal wieder indiziert!" (And if you like to hear Hip Hip Sh-- and techno, rap and soul / then just turn the radio on and they'll stuff you till you're full / Only the poor Neo-Nazis are frustrated / The new Landser's been banned again!) The song's implication that Landser had a large following was correct, and Landser music was often played at nationalist gathering across Germany and abroad and remains so into the 2010s.
Amid this climate of growing success and influence for Landser, the German federal government began a lengthy prosecution in 2001 that resulted in the banning of the band and the imprisonment of the members. The guilty verdict was handed down in December 2003. (The Social Democrat Schroeder government was, at this time, also trying its utmost to ban the nationalist political party the NPD, a move that ultimately failed.)
In 2002, another full studio album, Tanzorchester Immervoll ... Jetzt Erst Recht (The Dance Orchestra is Always Full ... Now More than Ever) was released, followed by 2003's Rock Gegen ZOG (Rock Against ZOG), by which time legal proceedings to imprison the members of Landser were underway. The lead song on this album is also called Rock Gegen ZOG, a satirical song in which the band calls itself "Terrorists with Electric Guitars," a term that the federal Interior Minister had called Landser the previous year.
In December 2003, Landser was banned, each of its member sentenced to penalties of different severities, with the heaviest given to lead singer Michael "Lunikoff" Regener, who served three and a half years in federal prison. He began to serve his sentence after his appeal was rejected in March 2005. On October 21st, 2006, hundreds of German nationalists held a protest outside the prison at which Regener was being held, demanding his release. Regener served his full sentence, and was released in 2008.
Following his release from prison, Regener has remained active in German nationalist politics and wished to remain active in the Rechtsrock (Right-Wing Rock) music scene. Following the 2003 banning of Landser, Regener immediately formed a new band called The Lunikoff Conspiracy.
Regener had long used the nickname Lunikoff (a brand of Vodka in East Germany), and his new band was to be strictly legal. Due to the ban, the former members of Landser were not allowed to associate with each other anymore, and Regener had to find new bandmates. The lyrics of each post-2004 Lunikoff song have been vetted by lawyers to make them not actionable according to the laws of the German Federal Republic. Between 2004 and 2015, Lunikoff released four full studio albums, with a gap during the years Regener was in prison, and has cooperated with bands across the world in various projects.
Following his release from prison, Regener has remained active in German nationalist politics.
In Germany, the group has been deemed a criminal organization. Three members of Landser were convicted of "forming a criminal gang organization" in December of 2003, under laws that make the publication of politically incorrect materials about World War II or about races a crime in Germany. Two members received nearly two years probation, while the band's leader, Michael Regener (also known as "Lunikoff", or "Luni"...Lunikoff was a brand of Vodka in the GDR), was sentenced to more than three years in prison, making it the first time in Germany that a band has been declared illegal, and its members incarcerated. On March 10, 2005, Germany's liberal courts (the German Federal Court of Justice) rejected Regener's appeal of his sentence.
Regener was still producing CDs while waiting for his appeal. After the forced breakup of Landser, Regener parted ways with his bandmates and founded a new band, called Die Lunikoff Verschwörung (the Lunikoff conspiracy), in 2004. Thus far, they have made several CDs, including 2004's Die Rückkehr des Unbegreiflichen, Amalek Vol. 1 & 2, and Niemals auf Knien in 2005. The lyrics of these CDs were vetted by lawyers to make them not actionable according to German law.
On October 21, 2006, hundreds of Nationalists launched a protest outside the jail where Michael Regener was being held asking his release.
Landser recorded its music in Germany, but had the CDs manufactured abroad, mainly in the U.S., Canada and Eastern Europe. The music is distributed online, by dealers through peer to peer networks or purchased from music labels inside the United States and in some countries in Europe where they do not undergo political persecution.
Their first CD was called Das Reich Kommt Wieder. Other Landser albums include Ran an den Feind, where the title song -- a RAC remake of the 1940 German military march "Bomben auf England" -- calls for the bombing of Israel. One song glorifies Rudolf Hess and, in Opa War Sturmführer, Landser pays tribute to his grandfather, who was an SS officer.
Their music pokes fun at Blacks ("Afrika-Lied/Afrika für Affen", Turkish ("Wieder Mal Kein Tor Für Türkiyemspor", Polish ("Polackentango"), and Communists ("10 Kleine Kommieschweine").
- Landser: Lunikoff Demo '92, ~1992, MC/later CD.
- Landser: Das Reich kommt wieder, 1992, MC/later CD
- Landser: Republik der Strolche, 1995, MC/CD
- Landser: Berlin bleibt deutsch, 1996, CD (identical with "Das Reich kommt wieder", Bootleg)
- Landser: Deutsche Wut, 1998, CD (called "Rock gegen oben")
- Landser: Best of..., 2001, CD. forbidden since October 2005.
- Landser, Stahlgewitter, Hauptkampflinie (HKL): Amalek
- Landser: Ran an den Feind, 2001, CD
- Landser: Sampler, 2001, CD
- Landser: Endlösung - Final Solution: The Early Years, 2002, CD
- Tanzorchester Immervoll, 2002, CD.
- Rock gegen ZOG - hepp, hepp..., 2003, CD.
- Tribute to Landser, 2003, CD.