Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Die Kreuzen singer tells the tale of his band's reunion gig / Exclusive

Daniel Kubinski leads the way for Die Kreuzen at its May 26 reunion gig. (Peggy Howe photo)

By Daniel Kubinski

Lest We Forget is/was a gathering of us punk rockers, rockabillys, avant-garde rockers and otherwise so-called "outsiders" who made up the Milwaukee, Wis., music scene back in the late 1970s and '80s.

It is a benefit for the Liver Foundation... ailments of the liver seem to thrive here in Milwaukee. The older Milwaukee scene lost many of its brethren in the last 10 years and so very many over the past year... quite sobering.

For years, my old band Die Kreuzen has been asked to do "reunion" shows and we've actually been offered a bit of cash to pull one show off... that type of thing never really interested any of us. Seems as though we'd be selling out and/or doing it for the wrong reasons, and to be honest, I think we would be denying our past.

A very good "past" or history, which had a spine and a backbone and, in part, ideas that were to fuck with the mainstream and bust up the rules, and, of course, to create on our own terms ...which was always our main focus. Be creative, try different things within our music and to try very hard never to do the same thing twice musically.

To simply have the band join up again to sell tickets and rape our band name (that we worked so VERY fucking hard on) for the sake of selling a few tickets and making some slimy promoter money from our good name seemed to fly in the face of things we believe(d) in now, and then. I'm not saying we wouldn't enjoy making money from our band... I think in fact we would like that, hence our dealings/talks with major record labels back in the day. I am saying that simply doing something because "you can" isn't always the right thing to do or the fun thing to do... things should be done for the correct reason, and that leads into Die Kreuzen's recent appearance at the Lest We Forget concert in Milwaukee.

Keith Brammer (remaining photos: Jennifer Austin)

We wanted to celebrate life and remember our friends who couldn't be with us... and fuckin' tear it up with the people still around us! You could say that gig had been building for 20 years... it was, in fact, almost exactly 20 years to the day that Die Kreuzen played its final show in April of '92. Keith (Brammer), Erik (Tunison) and myself really wanted to be part of the Lest We Forget concert-- it is a cause very near and dear to our hearts.

I believe Brian (Egeness) really wanted to be here, too, but his life is somewhat complicated and busy, and free time for him is very tight. So when Brian couldn't commit, I reminded Keith and Erik that we actually do have someone in the "family," so to speak, that might be able to help us make this appearance work. Guitarist, drummer, artist and Deputy Sheriff Jay Tiller of the legendary Couch Flambeau had actually sat in for Erik on drums at a Die Kreuzen gig in Minneapolis when Erik had mistakenly double-booked himself to work out of state (yes, we did have day jobs!) and also play our gig. You can hear that gig on a pretty decent bootleg that's floating around out there.

Anyways, after giving it some serious thought, we decided to ask Brian if it would be okay with him if we did the Lest We Forget gig with Tiller on guitar. Brian responded very enthusiastically with a "yes, but you need to play 'All White' and Jay has to use my old aluminum neck Kramer guitar" (which Jay has actually owned for 20 years or more). So we had a green light from Brian, which was awesome... now to approach Jay.

Erik Tunison, top, Jay Tiller, below

The concert organizers were working full force by the time we had Brian's blessing to work with Jay and they were busy working on getting one of Milwaukee's best-known and most popular bands The Oil Tasters back together for the show. The Oil Tasters' bass player, Richard La Valliere, lived in New York City at that point (just a few months ago) and they were starting to come to an agreement for their appearance at the concert when we all woke up to the news one sad day that Richard had died of a heart attack! After Richard's memorial service here in Milwaukee, we all went for a drink and to talk "Richard" for a while to ease our pain. Tiller and I were standing among friends together and I just knew that I should ask him now... so I did! He smiled and said "shhhhh, nobody is supposed to know yet, Keith already asked me and I told him I think we should do it!" Okay, I thought... let's make sure Erik can get here as he lives in Amsterdam and then, if he can do it... let's commit!

Needless to say, it worked out and we told the promoters to go ahead and start using the name Die Kreuzen in their advertisements.... WOW! This was going to take some work is what dawned on all of us next. Erik started to visit the Amsterdam Jam to play his drums and Keith, Jay and I started to meet up with our friend Dan Hanke, drummer extraordinaire, to start shaking off (probably more like scrape off) the rust. Rehearsals went extremely well! The early material we had picked to play actually came back very quickly to Keith and I while Jay and Dan were playing those songs really well, too. It took me a bit to get my voice where I could hit some of those high notes for the later tunes, but eventually I started to do the old thing pretty good... cool, we can really do this and we can do it right, awesome!

A few days before the concert, Erik flew into town and we started to rehearse in my living room, which is basically a band rehearsal spot. The first night, we did each tune in our set 3 times in a row; by the third time through, things were getting and sounding better. The second night we did "the set" three times in a row. The last set was perfect... exciting!!!! By Friday night, we were feeling pretty good about the set so we invited some friends over to watch/listen to our final rehearsal. Also in attendance for the rehearsals was Matt Stenger, who flew all the way in from the north of England to witness the first Die Kreuzen gig in 20 years. Matt is the curator of the Die Kreuzen fan site, "Counting Cracks, The Die Kreuzen Archive," which can be viewed here: --Matt is not only the sweetest and nicest guy ever, he has put a TON of work into the site, so please have a look!

Die Kreuzen rehearsal.

Also, it was rumored that some of today's more recognizable pop stars might be in attendance. For example, Ryan Adams wanted to see/hear the show and would call Keith to make sure things were going smooth and to say that, "hey, if you guys want to record anything, you should fly out to California and hang at my studio and create some new music".... really? Ryan Adams, you say!!? Yes, that really happened! Neko Case was tweeting about us and it was rumored that fellow punkers Keith Morris and Dimitri Coats from OFF! might fly in to check it out! Wow.... REALLY? Holy shit man! How do these people even know about our little band, and would they all really come across the country to see us play? Turns out none of them could make the show, but they were, in fact, all thoroughly excited about our "reunion." Pretty exciting for us little punk rockers, I must say... fuckin' hell, I LOVE Neko Case! Anyway I digress...

Tickets for Lest We Forget were being bought in California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, New York and even further-away places like France, England and Spain... wow, I was kinda starting to feel a bit of pressure... people are really expecting and wanting something from us. Our set time kept expanding. First, we were to play 15 minutes like every one of the other 13 bands on the bill... then 25 minutes... then 30 minutes ... then 40 minutes! Now we were doing a full-blown set!
Suddenly, it's Saturday May 26th and were are supposed to be at Turner Hall where the concert will take place at 1 p.m. Sound check at 2, doors at 5, first band at 6. Turner Hall is a massive old building just to the north of downtown Milwaukee, ancient wooden floors, a beautiful old balcony that lines two thirds of the hall and it's staffed by some of the nicest, coolest people in the industry... I was so very happy we were playing there.

It just so happens that Die Kreuzen had all been together at Turner Hall for the first time in 19 years one year earlier to accept our Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award and be inducted into the WAMI Hall of Fame. So it was only fitting that we should be playing there on that stage.
Sound check went well, although it was kind of scary for me to look out over this massive empty room that would soon hold just over 1,000 people... and the concert would sell out-- around 7 p.m., the last ticket was sold. All of our hard work, the rehearsals, the relearning of songs, the traveling, all the preparations involved were all about to come to a head.

Some of Milwaukee's finest took the stage before us: Liv Muller, The Ex Cleavers, The Dominoes, 3 on Fire, The Tense Experts and Sacred Order all threw down monster sets. You could feel the excitement in the air. All the people in the crowd were busy with "I haven't seen you in years," "you look great" and so on. I tried to walk through the crowd a few times, but I never got anywhere because there were so many old friends to talk to.... at one point, I had to stop going into the audience because when I did, I'd have to shout above the band that was currently playing to talk with people and I could feel my voice getting a bit hoarse. I needed my voice on that night, I wanted to sing it like I and the fans remembered it sounding. By the time Sacred Order had finished playing, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, couldn't wipe the smile off my face.... fuck, I'd been waiting for this moment for 20 years!

We had our friend Chuck read a poem before our set, which reads:


Raise your voices up. We are not the ones who loved the silence, but the loud streams of noisy song and revelry. Revelry may kill us even as it sets us free. I rejoice in who we are, in the music which we love, in the loud laughter shared, in the private moments lost in sound, in the deafening ring trailing afterwards even into sleep, in the scratchy voices, in the lovely voices, in the shrieking voices and dissonant chords, in the bad food, in the nights continuing into dawn, in the parties, and vices, and desires met and unmet, in the wow of watching lovers kiss, and drugs taken swiftly when no one looked, in the drinks backstage or in the bar, in the endless sharing of music of every sort. No moment of silence, please, but to raise a loud triumphant scream in the face of death. Here we are you bastard, here are your bleary eyed sons and daughters, who you will sweep away with your rakish scythe. Listen to us roar, listen to us roar in a million decibels, so that the night explodes with our voices. No moment of silence for any of us, but a blast of guitar, a wailing voice unanimous, a fearless rage against the inevitable. No moment of silence. No moment of silence!

And then it happened, the second Chuck finished reading his poem and the final names of our departed friends rolled off the giant movie screen behind Erik's drum kit...Die Kreuzen walked out into the light from the shadows of 20 years and threw down as hard as we old punks could!

The smiles from the 1,000-plus people in attendance were absolutely infectious... fuck, the whole place had one giant smile! As we jammed through the set, a mosh pit broke out... young teens and 50- and even 60-something-year-olds were fucking slam dancing with each other!! Kids who had never even seen us back in the day were singing along with us. Check out some of the You-Tube vids from the audience... you can hear them fucking singing that shit with me!

I could not control myself. My body just wanted to thrash about and leap through the air. I guess that's dancing, or at least my style of dance. It was all I could do to stand with the mic and sing, I felt like I could spontaneously combust at any moment from sheer exhilaration! Not just my happiness and excitement, but also from everyone in the room-- it was electric... it was so unreal. It was like we were all in the same current of electricity.

That 40-minute set went by so fast and then it was over with. I've never felt anything quite like that before: the love, the brotherhood, the kinship.... life! We had just celebrated life in the best way that I personally could possibly imagine. We, all of us, the audience, the bands, the staff, our sound man Joe who came from his home in Pennsylvania, our production man Darren who came from Minnesota and worked so very hard and our light guy Bob... none of these guys even asked for any $... We/everybody, all of us, had all thrown down one hell of a party!

Like Chuck's poem had said, everyone in attendance had let death know it wasn't always going to be easy... we're going to make a big noise that says "FUCK YOU" and we are going to love each other, be creative, live life and be who we are no matter what anybody else thinks. Young and old, we all said it and felt it.

To use a cliche': the stars and universe were in alignment, the bands, the audience, the building itself was perfect. Then the stage was wrecked, the work was done, and we, Die Kreuzen, had fuckin' done it man... our way. We did it for a good reason, a damn good cause! We did it because we wanted to, not because someone was offering us money; we did it for our friends either living or dead; we did it because, like in the old days, we give a fuck. We did it because we're brothers, and brothers will always be close. We did it one last time!

Or will it be the last time you'll hear and feel Die Kreuzen alive? Tilburg, Holland is calling... and I hear we're selling records in Japan.


  1. Danny: your words totally captured the passion and energy leading up to this night. I became aware of tremendous electricity buzzing throughout my body as soon as I finished reading this. So cool that you were able to share this with all of us. Thanks.

  2. Agreed upon. Well done, Dan. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Well said brother. What a night... Was one of hundreds of people that could not wipe the smile off their faces.

  4. Tears of 'WOW"! Everything you said here is so potent! Yep, it was an unbelievably special night... I'll never forget it, and I'll keep on smiling because of it! Cheers!
    ~Cynthia Hernandez