Music Interviews

Search JoyZine with Google Site Search!

Nina Hagen

interview by Joy Williams
published in Artist Magazine, San Francisco
cover photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

Nina Hagen cover Artist Magazine

Nina Hagen
Kabuki Theatre, San Francisco, CA, 1/20/84

photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

“I was starting to believe in Jesus... I was in a church in Poland—I was trapped in Poland—I was singing in Russia and coming back, and I was trying to get to the West. I didn't want to go to work at a job. So I went to Poland, which is a place with many beautiful churches. And I smoked marijuana, because in cemeteries, they grow it there. And He was bleeding on the cross.”

Rock'n'roll as a musical form is utterly amazing. The range of expression, the room for everyone from timid to outrageous souls seems boundless. So perhaps Nina Hagen should be no surprise. But she is. In a world people with some of the most bizarre characters in the world today, Nina has no compère.

Her background is unusual in itself. She was born in the Eastern sector of Berlin on March 11, 1955, to actress Eva Marie Hagen and writer Hans Hagen, who divorced when she was two. Seven years later, the dissident poet/singer Wolf Biermannson became her stepfather. She was kicked out of the Freie Deutsche Jugend, a socialist youth movement, a month after joining at 13, because of her involvement in a Biermannson protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by East German troops.

She left school at the age of 16 to join the Studio für Unterhaltungsmusik (Studio of Popular Music), form her first band, Automobil, and record a song that has become legendary in East Berlin, "Du Hast den Farbfilm Vergessen".

In 1976 Biermannson was expelled from East Germany and Nina decided to go, too. On December 9, 1976 she arrived in the Federal Republic of Germany. A year later, she and guitarist Bernard Potschka formed the Nina Hagen Band. In 1978 they release their debut album on CBS Records and took the German media by storm, making Nina a star almost overnight. The LP was certified gold within months, live gigs evolved into spectacular events with regularity, and Nina eventually became a European and Australian punk superstar.

By the time the second album, Unbehagen, was released the band existed only on paper. Nina, in a surprise move, walked out on her band. She went to Holland and made the film Cha Cha with Herman Brood. Portrait of a Drinking Woman followed in Berlin. Both were underground productions, as Nina consciously steered clear of professional projects. She became a cult figure.

The spring of 1981 found Nina in New York where she came under the guidance of Frank Zappa's manager, Bennett Glotzer. His first plan, a club tour, had to be abandoned after just a few shows—Nina had become a mother. Her daughter, Cosma Shiva, was born on May 17, 1981.

Since then, Nina Hagen has moved to Los Angeles where she has a nice house with a swimming pool, I'm told, and where she has spent the last 2-1/2 years raising her daughter, working in video and recording.

On January 20, 1984 she came to the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco's Japan Town for a show, preceded by a small, intimate press conference. She walked in, a slight, pretty woman with outlandish makeup and even more outlandish hair—shaved blond on the sides, pink and purple on top, and with a very long, bright blue pony tail. Lots of people these days have outlandish makeup and hair, but offstage are just as normal as you and I.

But let me tell you, there is nothing normal about Nina Hagen. Not her looks, not her singing (what an incredible range of growls-to-squeeks-and-soaring-peaks this woman emits), and not her thoughts.

But why don't you judge for yourself?

Q: You're from East Germany originally.

NINA: Yes.

Q: And then you escaped to the West?

Nina Hagen c Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

Nina Hagen
Kabuki Theatre, San Francisco, CA, 1/20/84

photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

NINA: No, I did not escape. I wrote a letter [to the government] and I told them that I want to get out, otherwise I would become another Wolf Biermannson. Wolf Biermannson was my stepfather, and him they kicked out because he did too critical, rebellious songs. He mentioned names in high functions.

Q: And they just let you go?

NINA: Yes. I had the courage to do something outrageous.

Q: The last album centered around...

NINA: I don't think it is about anything else but fun. It's about flying saucers and the beauty of my boyfriend, whose baby doll I want to be.

Q: But it's not just a "party, party, party" atmosphere, you have a lot of other things going on.

NINA: Yah. Being creative. A documentary movie is being made about my past. We are going to make a 20-minute Nina Hagen picture where you can see me when I was 18 and an East German monkey.

Q: Where do you consider your home to be these days?

NINA: My home is where my treasures are, or my babies. We all have a planet... And we can become, can enter the legend of human ghosts.

Q: Do you write your songs spontaneously?

NINA: Of course, what comes out of me must have gotten in, so when I write something it must come from someplace.

Q: You talk of UFOs. Do you believe in people from other planets?

NINA: Well, I saw them myself in 1981 on the Malibu Beach. One night when I was pregnant in my fourth month, I was waking up and going to the window and pushing the curtains away. And there was a huge, round light above me and I was overwhelmed with a very heavy feeling and my mouth was falling down. And I saw great colors, much stronger colors than you see in the bubble gum commercials. And they didn't hurt. They were very beautiful colors with some powers. I think the nice healing must have come from the colors. And then they took the colors away and I could look inside. There were beings walking around there like the CBS office building. They didn't talk to me, and I didn't ask them anything.

And then another experience when I was 17 and cried after a long cramp on my first LSD experience. I took the first acid, I was terrified. I thought I was totally out of everything and I thought, "This must be hell." There was no way out. I couldn't control it and I couldn't get away from that feeling. It was so strong and it was so terrible and it hurt so very much. It was cramping in the stomach and in the brain and it was going up and down and up and down. I was so afraid to die, and I wanted to go back to where I was before I took the pills, but too late. The time pills... And so I had to ask God to help me. I said, "Oh, God, help me, please." And I meant it. I didn't know, but I asked for it. And then, I guess through that act of faith, I could hear His voice saying, "I can give you advice. You should die now, Nina. And then you can come to me." It was a very nice voice and I was following the voice and I was doing what the voice said, and I did. Then I had a little vision while I was dying on the operation table in the hospital. I was seeing all of them, I was going out of my body. It was very funny because I knew going back there would have been boring because I just had a voice inviting me to come some other place. The voice was so strong that I had to go this other way.

And then I met some angels sitting on my bed with me and then the next morning I found out it was a friend of mine sitting there. But in that moment, it was not a friend, it was somebody [else] and He was talking to him. He was using him as a channel for what I know today. And he was very beautiful, like a very beautiful picture in the movies. He gave me a feeling of love and a feeling [that] he knows all about me. He came from a place where he had so much peace, and he was sitting there overrunning me with his love and his knowledge. I was just sitting there and looking at him and realizing that he loves me. And I was so happy and dazzled, and I know today that nobody ever loved me like that. From the first moment we met, he must know me or something. Then I said, "Who are you?" And I said, "What's your name?" And he said, "My name's Michi," like Michael. Then a few weeks ago I read in a book that God has four cherubim and one of them is called Michael. With him I had a long conversation and he told me about the four things there are and he showed me images—the meaning I couldn't tell you today. But He knows all about it, God does. I am very honored to know him and because I know, I know that what He knows is very good for me to know, too, but I don't have the words, I don't know everything now.

So I just go on with what I have to do now, doing songs and getting saner, and having much fun doing everything I'm doing. I feel everything is OK and we can start getting everything settled for getting a better situation with our planet. And the UFOs to give us much advice, which they already do in many books they are writing about them. We could have cars that would not pollute the air. They are beings, they have names, and they have something to say. I have become interested and because you have 1984, we have to work against the dark forces and we have to spread the word of light around. UFOs are very much light. I would love to get more clear about that, and I hope that one day I will be able to talk show with him. Make people believe. But I don't push anybody to do anything.

Q: You once said, "This is not 1943, it's not 1968, the future is now."

Nina Hagen c Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

Nina Hagen
Kabuki Theatre, San Francisco, CA, 1/20/84

photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

NINA: Yah. That's what it's also about—me as a Pisces, the most watery sign of the Zodiac. It allows her to be sensible. I don't know if only this has to do with my sign, but very often I feel very much like I'm very open to good thoughts—you know, what they call inner voice. I just know what is right and then I take it and get happy information and vibrations. All the other worlds and the other levels and the thing with time and space, it's all one love, one God, and we shouldn't worry about 10 million dimensions, just should know that they're probably out there, and that it's very organized, everything, and could be very perfect. Because we are very imperfect, and we as human beings must learn to use that knowledge to not make everything go in the wrong direction.

Q: Do you think people are ignoring that, though?

NINA: I think when you put God's word and the will of God in this world, you can reach many people and make them happy. You can also try to help them when you get rich, like John Lennon and Yoko Ono did.

Q: Do you think science can help us?

NINA: I think science should include the science of the soul and after death. There are so many media open to channel information, and that's what it's all about. I try to do that. One day, I hope [to have] a 24-hour program, a 24-hour love show. I think the happiest human being is the human being who can get in contact with God and then know just what you are doing, and you get information on what you could do. Like when I was a little kid, I was always calling my divorced father and saying, "I'm so bored and what shall I do now? Nobody's here." And he said, "Why don't you cut some things and give it to me on the next weekend when we meet each other." "Oh, that's a good idea," and I would have something to do for a short period. And I'd get too bored again and call my father. Today, I don't call my father in East Berlin like I call my father in Heaven, the one Jesus Christ is always talking about. And then I get my information.

Q: This inner voice, is it a quite inner voice?

NINA: Yah. And not only inner voice, it also expresses itself in the outer images. Like, "bing," I get a headline to read and it's absolutely the next title for my next movie. It comes, it's in the air. You just have to tune in the right wavelength, and then you can get it very clear.

Q: Were you religious as a child?

NINA: I was starting to believe in Jesus... I was in a church in Poland—I was trapped in Poland—I was singing in Russia and coming back, and I was trying to get to the West. I didn't want to go to work at a job. So I went to Poland, which is a place with many beautiful churches. And I smoked marijuana, because in cemeteries, they grow it there. And He was bleeding on the cross.

Q: What is it like behind the Iron Curtain?

NINA: You should go there and visit because you are going to meet the most lovable friends you ever met before. And you get to smoke the best marijuana. I like a private party thing. I'm just going to go again because there it is wonderful. You should go because it's not expensive to live there for a while and you meet very, very interesting people. It's so nice.

Nina Hagen c Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications/></p>
                    <p align=Nina Hagen
Kabuki Theatre, San Francisco, CA, 1/20/84

photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications
digital effects © Joy Williams/Artist Publications

Q: Aren't you afraid to go back behind the Iron Curtain?

NINA: No. I am sure I'm going to go there again. And I am going to sneak into the Soviet Union, because I have some good connections. I am going to be a big star there, because I know much about the attitude of the people. I know it's good.

Q: How did you happen to wind up in New York?

NINA: It was after I was finished with some involvement with a boyfriend who was a junkie. He and a group of people were ready to go on tour with me. And then he got me pregnant with Cosma. And then he was cured by a doctor with a machine (like Keith Richards). And then we went to New York and Los Angeles.


And then they came to get her for soundcheck. That was six weeks ago, and I still feel the impact of this woman. She is warm, open, kind, and in a world I do not understand. She reminds me of Joan of Arc, talking to God and angels and charging around the world, leading (in this case) an army of music business types. Luckily for Nina, this is the 20th Century and she has escaped to the "free" world, where someone as utterly different as she can find a place to survive free of life-threatening persecution. In fact, I quite admire someone like Nina, who can walk so close to the edge so much of the time and still find a way to survive, and survive well.


Back to Top
Contact | Site Map | Links | Privacy |
Site designed & maintained by Artist Web Design
Copyright © 1996-2018