German acoustic rock band ‘Black Rust' on their brand of music

Munster, Germany. The annual ‘Euro city fest' is on in full swing at the city centre as innumerable bands, vaudeville acts, dancers and theatre artistes from across the country lead the revelry. One of those that literally rock the festival is ‘Black Rust,' an up-and-coming six-member band of 20-somethings from the small town of Ahlen in the Westphalia region of Germany, known for their signature, vaguely Neil Young-ish eclectic melancholic rock. Their bluesy English numbers interspersed with pop music so impresses audience member Rajesh Padmanabhan, a Malayali working in Germany, that he decides to get in touch with the Goethe-Zentrum in the city to try and bring the band to Kerala. And that's how, yesterday, ‘Black Rust' came to play what was a smashing “concert under the stars” at the Nishagandhi auditorium in the city in front of denizens of rock music buffs.

“After the release of our second album Medicine & Metaphors last year, and the hectic tours that accompanied it, we were taking a break to decide on the way forward. That's when we got this gig. Since the band has not played anywhere outside of Europe nor ever been to India, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to broaden our horizons and, naturally, jumped at the chance,” says Jonas Kunne, who co-founded the band in 2002 with childhood friend Julian Osthues. While Jonas is the lyricist and the lead vocalist who also plays the acoustic guitar, Julian O. handles the backing vocals, the mandolin, the blues harp, the trombone and the other acoustic guitar. The others in the sextet are Julian Jacobi (contra, double bass), Christoph Seller (piano, keys, accordion and backing vocals), Adrian Hemley (drums) and Norbert Kunne (percussion).

“We actually checked in over 20 different instruments for the flight here!” says Julian O., with a laugh. “Each of these instruments influences the variety that is our music, which is really a mixture of Americana, folk music, country rock, Indie, alternative and pop. After Jonas writes the lyrics and tries them out on the guitar, we all contribute with our ideas and instruments. Creating our music is piecing together a jigsaw puzzle,” he explains adding that the band prefers to sing in English because “the guttural tones of German” do not gel with the genre. Although for the first time yesterday they did play a few numbers in their native language “to give the audience a glimpse of German music.” Their first album So Much Weakness and I Lost My Sense was released in 2004.

Biggest influence

The biggest influence on the band, though, is rock legend Neil Young; a name that keeps popping into the conversation in at least every other sentence. Apparently even the name ‘Black Rust' is inspired from Young's song ‘I am a child/ what is the colour when black is burnt' (“it becomes the colour of rust, hence Black Rust”). Makes you wonder why a young band from a country that has a great (and thriving) tradition of hard rock would pattern itself on the acoustic folk rock tradition of the 60's and 70's, doesn't it? “Young inspires us because his kind of music is timeless. Bob Dylan's and David Ryan Adams's too for that matter. They work by the principle that the roots of good music lies in song-writing. Rock is so popular that every other band in Germany plays it and we wanted to do something different. In the nascent melancholic rock scene we found our groove,” says Julian J. “Heartbreak and hangovers” are the other two influences. “That's when you hit the heights of melancholy!” grins Jonas as the band head of to the beach work on their suntans.