Spin Magazine – February 1986
By Bart Bull
Submitted to the Shrine by Hagenpaws
In and out of the chakras with that kooky krautzer babe with the new-wave hooker wardrobe:
You only get one guess who Nina Hagen's favorite star is. This is her loft (if the pot on the stove is any indication, we're all going to be having boiled potatoes a little later), and the walls are covered with souvenirs from the brilliant international career of someone truly special to Nina. You know: posters and photos and paintings of the really special people, icons of inspirational heroes, pictures of lovers near the bed, photos of friends taped to the refrigerator next to the kid's current finger painting triumphs. And here at Nina's place – her space – right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles's struggling but brave postindustrial art-loft district, the walls are plastered with posters and paintings and photos of Nina Hagen. Here's a poster from a concert last summer in Germany – Nina as a pink-haired Jayne Mansfield in bazooming flashbulb ecstasy, from the cover of her latest album, Nina Hagen in Ekstasy. Up by the stairway is one from another show a few years back – Nina as Batgirl, pointed ears and all. Over there, an earlier shot, from the cover of her first American record – Nina in a black leather jacket with "Mein Kampf" stenciled over the pocket, a gilded coronet atop her head, and her lips painted into the elaborate, exaggerated cupid's-bow kissyface of a Hamburg whore. Up there, near where she's sitting, the cover of her 1983 album Fearless is pinned – Nina hieroglyphing her limbs n dance-club semaphores, a gold tinsel Cleopatra wig, a black bra set strikingly against skin white and pasty enough to do the Pillsbury Doughboy proud, with a couple of graphic-arts arrows aimed at her image just so nobody misses the point. The other side of the album shows her as an ectoplasmic TV vision – Botticelli's Venus with bad reception – being sucked up into a flying saucer. But the biggest picture of Nina Hagen in the whole joint is a sis-by-six-foot painting modeled after the cover of her Nunsexmonkrock album. It may be the single most restrained picture on any of her records, or on any of her walls. It may be the most restrained Nina Hagen picture in existence. No startled eyebrows akimbo, no Little Egypt eyeliner, no Catwoman cape 'n' cowl ensemble, no Mata Hari harem pants, no stiletto heels – just a humble woman in a Virgin Mary veil, her lips a little less bee-stung than usual, her look calm and placid, her baby Cosma Shiva in her arms. Madonna (not that one) und child. except that in the painting's version of the record cover, Cosma Shiva is no longer the sweetly bewildered babe in arms with a built-on halo. Instead, the artist has transformed the swaddled infant into a maniacal Mad magazine cartoon baby with bulging eyeballs and dangerous, grinning teeth. Halo's still there, though. Nina doesn't want anyone shooting photos of Cosma Shiva – it's OK if they take pictures on Nina herself up there on the meditation pad, but she's – Wait! Hold it! We're all going outside, all of us, up to the roof. All 25 or 30 of us, we're going to file through the kitchen, past the potatoes, up the stairs, and out onto the rooftop. But she wants us all to be careful going out there, because we're each going to have to scrunch past the building's main electrical panel box to get out the door to the roof, and she'd hate to have any of her flock go heavenward with a crisp crackle and a slender puff of smoke, hapless insects gotchaed by a bug-zapper. "There is the force, "she explains, queen bee addressing a small troop of dim but willing drones, "EEE-lek-TRRI-I-I-zity! Do not touch it! So don't die and be very concentrating when you are crossing the exit of that roof." She'll join us there once she's checked the potatoes. In the meantime, some of us Eagles – that's what Nina and Zattar, her buddy with the Rambo Springsteen headband, call our little group: Eagles. "We're all Eagles, " Zattar says. "Highly evolved beings, and it's no accident that we're all here today." In the meantime, accident or no accident, quite a few of us Eagles are feeling more like, uh, Sheep.. It's a cold, gray late Sunday afternoon here on the lofty rooftops of downtown L.A., and not everybody brought a jacket. Feeling sheepish is one thing and feeling cold is another, but feeling both cold and sheepish is – but wait, here's Nina! The potatoes are doing fine! Join hands, everybody! Everybody hold hands! Up here on the tar-bubbled rooftop in God's own gusty, gray, TV-antenna-ed sky! And just to get things rolling, Nina's going to kick this occasion off with a little Om-m-m-m-m-ing-join in! We're going to do it in repetitions of either three or seven, Nina doesn't care which! O-O-O-M-M-M-M-M-M-M-M!
"Now," she announces, "we are all going to tell the others what we pray for. Zattar, will you begin first?" Beginning first, Zattar establishes the tone for the prayers that follow, and as a result, the new-wave hippies, new-age punks, and post-punk seekers assembled here in one big hand-holding circle all come off like reverent hopefuls in a Miss Universe pageant. The wishes for world peace, universal brotherhood, and (true!) unity with the animals are more fervent than anybody's heard since the glory days of Bert Parks emceeing eh Miss America broadcast live from Atlantic City. Oh, one wisenheimer prays that it won't get any colder out here on the roof, and a bearded guy with wild-looking eyes prays that all heaven and hell will open up before us here today, which probably yanks at lest a few hand-holders' memories back to "UFO," the last song on Nunsexmonkrock, the one where Nina summons the spaceships and then bursts suddenly into a gleeful, growling chant: "Earthquake in Los Angeles! Earthquake in Los Angeles!" Aside from that, it's positively inspirational up here on the rooftop with the video cameraman following the prayer chain around, truly uplifting to hear so much reverence and global goodwill and selfless anti materialism gathered together and flung forth in the face of so stiff a wind-chill factor. And that's why it strikes such an odd and unsettling note when the prayer circle finally winds its way around to little Cosma Shiva Hagen, sweet-faced little 4-year-old Cosma Shiva, really a cute little thing, with a set of springy antennae tipped by glittery stars bouncing and waving merrily over her head. "Cosma – it's your turn to pray," her mother reminds her when the little girl hesitates too long. "You know how to pray." Cosma knows how to pray, and she knows what she wants to pray for as well. "I pray for a house with a yard," she says, and her sweet little 4-year-old voice is surprisingly strong in the chilly rooftop wind, and more than a little pissed off. "I pray for a house with a big yard," says Cosma Shiva, "so I can have a kitty and a puppy and a horsey."
Nina Hagen's tale is along the lines of a Teutonic Marching Tour of the Western World-she hasn't invaded Russia yet, but that doesn't mean it's not on the itinerary. Born in East Berlin in 1955 to an actress and author, she left East Germany under some duress. Enthusiastic literature from her record company-"Over the Wall and into your arms; Nina Hagen, from East Germany to you"-would urge you to believe she was expelled by the godless communist state for treason, rock'n'roll, and general subversive behavior. The same biographical copy also claims that Nina Hagen records "are
not available where Truth is suppressed." Her East German difficulties began, purportedly, with a dishonorable discharge from her youth organization (like being bounced from you socialist Brownie scout troop, maybe), and under the influence of both the stirring times (the 60s began late behind the Iron Curtain) and her mother's new boyfriend (a noted folk singing dissident), she proceeded to enrage all authority with her wild, verboten music (which included at least two Janis Joplin numbers). Finally she was booted over the Berlin Wall. (You've got to figure that the publicists who chronicled Nina's colorful history most likely checked their facts only about as far back as whatever Nina had to say in the bio just before this one. However much of all this is actually true is certainly a whole lot less interesting than how purely appropriate it is for a docudramatic made-for-TV-movie. I say let's go with it, if only for the sake of an action-packed story.)
She lands in West Germany sometime n the pungent early days of punk and proceeds to miss the point entirely. Well, not entirely entirely. Punk filtered through every Anglo-European country and colony in a different way, after all, with peculiarly different effect. And ever since occupation by Der Elvis (1945-60, approximately), what the Germanic hordes have gone for in a big way-punk or no punk-in their rockmusik is the sternest and stiffest beats, the loudest and crunchiest Nietzchean noises, the most Wagnerian donner-und-blitzen production, the clobberingest powerchords. Witness those stage-stomping, stark-minimal Silver Beatles in Hamburg's Kaiserkeller; witness Munich's Eurodisco, most especially Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder's proto-Devo "I Feel Love,' the 12-inch single that launched a thousand English haircut bands; witness Abba and Kraftwerk and Boney M and the funk-musik section of '99 Luftballoons'; witness 'Climb Every Mountain' from The Sound of Music by Nuremburg's Rodgers und Hammerstein. Plainly, the groove that moves the master race's booty is the music you can swing your beer stein to. In large groups. In unison.
Thus it's not completely surprising that at a time when punk was still mildly annoying, and concerned consumers everywhere were crying out for stricter laws against guitar solos, Nina should leap the Berlin Wall (tunnel under it) (break the East German women's non-steroid-assisted pole vault record) (Steve McQueen her way over on a soaring '66 Triumph motorcycle, sailing past barbed wire and incredulous goose-stepping guards, land squarely on a CBS record contract, and screech to a stylish halt) and before you know it, she's a West German rock star, mit der punkrock hair und mit guitar solos both.
Weirdly enough, it worked-mainly through the force of Nina's unique combination of soap-operatic charisma and yodel-odel chutzpah. Her first record was a remake of the dead-tired FM-radio staple 'White Punks on Dope'(hers was called 'TV-Glotzer') that managed to jump-start its heart just one more time. After that, she knocked off a version of new-wave Phnom Lene Lovich's tick-tocking 'Lucky Number,'a tune that ought to have been impossible to out-gimmick. Nina's take ('Wir Leben Immer Noch') sounded like she'd unscrewed the back of the song, lost a few of the parts, and then set about using the tock-ticking remains for what certain ads in the back pages of magazines might call a personal pleasure item.
Career creation accomplished, commerciality demonstrated, cover tunes ripped asunder, she delivered her first manifesto. 'African Reggae' was a precision-fitted ga-chunk-ga-chunking German reggae, a thumping, mug-clinking Euroreggae, with Nina ululating across an Alpine meadow-Heidi Goes to Kingston-waxing operatic for a moment before invoking Jah Rastafari over a state-of-the-art '70s-style twin-guitar lead line stolen from some Linda Ronstadt session hacks' out-takes, while a synthesizer farted violently nearby. Weird was not the word, but it was closer than most. She wanted, she sang, to go to Africa, to the black Jerusalem, to the black kultur-ooo-yoodel-oodel-ooo. She wanted a whole lot, and she was apparently inventing German dub (either Nina or her producers; if it was them, it doesn't matter, because she dumped 'em as soon as possible). She was headed for the Heart of Darkness, naturlich, to the black Jerusalem. She was looking to meet up in Mombassa with Rimbaud, Gauguin, the Rousseau brothers, and all the other noble Eurosavages. She wanted to split this nowhere scene. in other words, Let's blow this pop stand, man!
She ends up in the United States (swims freestyle) (makes first transatlantic solo flight going the other way) with a record contract from the local CBS franchise and an attractive set of well-labeled new-wave novelty luggage. American radio is already assembling entire conceptual playlists around the excited, squeaking bimbette and the simulated novelty tune, and as two mints in one, Nina's timing couldn't possibly be more perfect. The novelty appeal is present in spades. I mean, you got this kooky krautser babe with the new-wave hooker wardrobe making kissyface with the camera, batting the ultra-lashes fast enough to fan u a solid breeze, and who cares what she hollers at the microphone so long as it sounds good with a goofy German accent? Is this a hit act or what?
Now it?s Nina?s turn to pray. Cosma Shiva?s rather blatant offering threw a minor materialistic wrench into the spiritually uplifted works, but she?s just a kid, after all. Nina isn?t the least bit fazed by it. If Cosma?s prayer came with a few barbs attached, none of them seem to have snagged Nina. In fact, she launches into her prayer with terrific enthusiasm. The balding blond guy with the hand-held video camera is hovering loyally, and Nina seems nearly transported. It?s as though she?s the featured guest on today?s rooftop talk show, and the host-God, maybe, or Merv-has just asked her about her new movie. ?I pray for a TV station,? she tells the studio audience. So she can make some really good programs and bring down the UFOs. In fact, she has a whole bunch of other things she wants, a regular Christmas list of goodies she?d like to see delivered, including a radio station and even Cosmas Shiva?s suburban dream house, but it?s the TV station that?s most important. It?s a relief when Nina says all the Eagles can go back downstairs to her loft.
Once she?s lotused up front on her metallic meditation pad again, she explains the videotape they?re making-?We are making it with my healing meetings and everything that goes on around here, and then we can show it to people, and they would give me much money so I can make a movie or a show out of it. Because we need good equipment, better than this we have. ?Now, the question is: Does everybody know what a channel is?? Quite a few Eagles turn to each other-are we still talking television here?-but Nina hasn?t left enough of a pause after her question for anybody to say anything anyway. ?A human channel? a medium? OK, a medium is a human channel who realizes its ability to channel or to be used by spirits. I know this woman in Los Angeles, she?s channeling some Scottish spirit, and, uhm, that?s also pretty interesting, but I really like people who are able to channel real high spirits, like Jesus Christ, or Archangel Michael, or like Seth-this person in Glendale is channeling Seth. She turns to faithful Zattar. ?Seth is a person from a higher dimension, right?? Zattar is terrifically energetic too, and he seems especially enthused about getting his own shot at sa
ying something. ?Seth is a personality that has done all the earth cycles, and his job is, like, to tell people what to do and what goes on. He basically lets you know that you create a place responsible to all life and that-? Nina bursts in, too terrifically energetic to hold back any longer. ?Yeah, you create your own reality! You create whatever you believe you are. You create your own belief systems. You create your won belief is God. You create your own enlightenment. And you create?- This time it?s Nina who gets interrupted. It?s Cosma Shiva, with a ?mommy, I need you outside? sort of 4-year-old request, and Nina makes all the absolutely perfectly unexasperated motions of a suburban dream-home mother being hassled in front of the Wednesday afternoon bridge club. ?Don?t interrupt us now, Cosma,? she says in an exceptionally even tone. ?Let?s go to the other kids and show them all your toys. She has Cosma by the hand and takes her out to the kitchen. ?you know how it goes when somebody is entranced…?-and here she makes with one of her famous lowdown, otherworldly Nina Hagen grrrrowls-?… .and doesn?t want to be disturbed. Right?? ?Right? says Cosma.
In Nina?s motherly absence. Zattar has taken advantage of the opportunity to talk. ?It?s not bullshit,? he?s saying. ?We have the potential if we don?t blow up. And if, God forbid, things get really out of hand, the Space Brothers will come and take us away. He?s wildly enthusiastic. of course, and sets about telling everybody the importance story of his very first UFO experience, about the time when he?d just finished his mediation and was walking his dog in the Hollywood Hills when he saw two silver discs! The tears came to his eyes and he said, right there in the Hollywood Hills, ?Whoa!? He feels he needs to explain, to fill us all in. All of us here may be highly evolved Eagles and everything, but some Eagles have maybe soared a little higher than others. ?What it is, is conscious evolution, mysticism, magic, occultism. conscious awakened kundalini – and that?s what the space brothers are, that?s just another part of out evolution to the New Age. Even the mere mention of the New Age sets certain drowsy heads into Nodsvills, but the real Zzzz-factor here, the real sleep induction principle, is not just our regrettably unawakened kundalini, or even Zattar himself. You see, Zattar, what it is, is with you up there on the meditation mat droning away about your chosen favorite's from the spiritual smorgasbord … well, hate to say it, Zat old buddy, with your well-intended headband and all, but your star-wattage is a wee bit dim. We could go into any health food co-op juice bar and stand around the paperback rack and toss around some Monday-morning quarterback conscious-evolution kundalini jazz, swap a few past-lives trading cards, exchange a fe tarot readings for a radical spine realignment, and we could have an actual two-way conversation in the process. A small dose of comic one-upmanship goes a long, long way, Zats, and while we?re only too willing to sit here patiently and take it from Nina Hagen-who is, let?s face it, spirit made manifest: a Star-you yourself are sort of under impressive. A message is forming in the collective unconscious of a number of us Eagles, growing larger and clearer every second you drone on. ?it?s bigger and plainer by the second, Zat baby, and it says: Put a lid on it, buster.
Spirit made manifest-for sure. There comes a point at which any attempt at tracing Nina Hagen?s path chronologically-or aesthetically-or philosophically-or at all-just kind of bogs down in a skirling whirl (oodel-yoo-OOOdel-oo-oo!) of weird. Arriving in America (first woman to scale the Statue of Liberty in spike heels) seems to have helped her get over some of her inhibitions. With the green light to go new-wave novelty weird, she raced for the goal line of weird instead, passed right through the end zone, and headed off in the direction of a whole new version of the Wall. No more cover tunes and fake reggae-not at first, anyway. Now there was fake funk and fake punk and fake MGM musical orchestrations and fake fake punk and Las Vegas lunge-funk and hardcore cocktail mambo rock and Eurodisco Gregorian chant and the Archangel Jim?s ?Third Stone From the Sun? and Alvin and the Chipmunk?s ?Tribute to Krishna,? all with more whizzissimo effects than a quadraphonic hi-fi test record. They may be some of the funniest records ever made, but the more you listen, the less she seems to be kidding. Her Nunsexmonkrock has a distinctive sound-although Yoko and Lene and the B-52 gals would all probably like to strangle her-that somehow never strikes you the same way twice. It?s probably as whim-driven as any big-label new-wave pop could possibly be-and then some-but it?s also possible to see something like a thematic strand running through it. It may be unraveling all over the place, but it?s a strand all the same. Listen to the song titles: Flying Saucers. My Sensation. Prima Nina in Ekstasy. The Change. Anti-World. Future is Now. Gott Im Himmel (God in Heaven). Spirit in the Sky (a cover of Norman Greenbaum?s loopy Marin County Jesus-freak boogie). UFO. Gods of Aquarius. Universal Radio. Atomic Flash Deluxe. The songs feature someone who falls asleep in front of the TV and gets ?News flashes?; whose body is a radio; who lives at 1985 Ekstasy Drive in Los Angeles, California and has a direct line to heaven; who seeks ?the big solution?; who sees revolution, reincarnation, and interstellar transportation everywhere; who welcomes in the Aquarian Age and demands the fall of Babylon; who was born in Xixax; who sings ?I Am the Chosen One?; whose own miraculous baby?s birth is reenacted in a recording studio with a countdown and a rocket blast; who issues prophecies of transubstantiation and nuclear war more lightly than most people sneeze.
Nina?s back from the kitchen with a big, translucent, pink plastic bottle of Evian water, sitting up front with Zattar on the meditation mat while a few of the Eagles tell their own thrilling UFO experiences. It?s pretty amazing how once you get to telling flying saucer experience stories, everybody in a highly evolved group like the Eagles seems to have at least one real doozy. Even so, you can tell that deep down inside Nina hates to waste all this time when we could be getting to something meatier, something more meaningful. Like her first UFO experience. She fidgets, cracks open the bottled water, takes a good solid slug, puts the cap back on, and fidgets some more. She can?t stand the suspense any longer. She asks the woman who?s currently talking if she saw bright colors with her UFO> Because Nina did-which reminds her of the time of her own visitation, when she was pregnant with Cosma. ?During the fourth month, I stand up in the night. I was already asleep. I go to the window and push the curtains away-? And the phone rings, which annoys her-she was just getting to the good part. Somebody picks it up and she carries on. ?It was hanging over me. It was… it was mesmerizing me. I couldn?t move anymore, I didn?t think anymore. I didn?t feel all the old patterns of feeling anymore. The only thing was I was standing there with an open mouth and I was totally intent and mesmerized, paralyzed. They showed me all different kinds of colors. They showed me green to the fullest extent-nearly fluorescent. It?s like when you are tripping on very good LSD, you can see a sense of colors and how alive the color
s are. Like the colors were real intense.?
It didn?t end there, either. Practically everybody here has ahd a really fine UFO sighting or two, but Nina?s very first one makes all the rest seem pathetic. ?I saw the colors and each color made me feel different. Green made me real peaceful and all kinds of emotional garage and all kinds of rubbishes are gone and then the yellow light came and by the yellow light I felt really, like, very open. They showed her more colors than most people would probably want to have to hear about, but Nina knows the Eagles will be fascinated with hearing about blue and purple. ?… And orange and white, and so they went up all the scale of the colors. And at this time I didn?t know exactly which center is what exactly and it all came to me afterwards and so I know what they did with me is they put me under a shower of colors and they cleansed me of all my hang-ups. I think they did something to my chakras. ?And by the way, in the end I saw the colors go away and I could look inside and there were people like us but in one-color, as if they had nothing on, but you couldn?t see any nipples or (she gestures at her crotch) black spots. And they were going around like in an office and working on some things while walking about. And the next morning I woke up and was the happiest pregnant woman on the planet. And I knew what I had to do.?
Nina has something pressing on her mind. A great story, a morally instructive, spiritually illuminating story-the story of her very first acid trip. It seems she was 17, and- ?And I experienced the situation when you give birth. When you give birth you start electricizing and shaking-your whole body is shakement and your cervix is opening. That happened to me. I had pain forever and I experienced the place which the spiritual hierarchy under Jesus calls the fourteenth ray of the solar spectrum, and the fourteenth ray s the black ray, and that?s the place we call hell or the lowest astral plane. I said to myself, ?Wait! if I could only die, then I wouldn?t feel pain and I could be as I was before. Nina didn?t die, though-not yet. ?I said, ?O God, help me,? because I realized that He invented LSD and that He must be able to help. As I said, I was 17 and my belief in God was already quite big because when I was 14 I started to believe in God and started to check out how praying work's.. ? The way praying words, of course, is that you fill God in on what you want. ?He came right away after I called Him. He came in my head. He said, ?I am here with you, Nina. ?The upshot of all this is she died. ?And I had a vision I was out of my body.?
In any case, while she was projecting around in the astral spheres, she also ran into the Archangel Michael. She knew it was him, not because he showed her is ID or anything like that, but because he was surrounded by angelic presences who loved him so much they kept singing his name in tiny cherubic little voices just like the ones on Nina's song ?Dr. Art?-except those tiny cherubic little voices sing ?Nina Hagen, Nina Hagen… ? Some of the cherubic presences were so thrilled with how adorable Michael was, they kept calling him ?Mischi,? ?because they love him so much and because he is so well known there in his world. Just thinking back on it has Nina completely stirred up, because-?Like when I go there, they won?t say ?Nina,? they?ll say ?Nini! Because they love so much up there…?
Still, she?s not putting all her spiritual eggs in one basket. She?s shopping for a new record company, for one thing, just in case the Space Brothers run into some intergalactic holdup. She?s found herself a new band, a garage band, and she?s recording some demos with them now. ?We are the Warning Brothers. I am the Warning Brothers now, and I am going to be on Warner Bros. Oh, and she?s planning a new nightclub for downtown L.A. featuring Nina herself. It well be a new-wave new-age nightclub with Nina and her friends performing. ?And we are making a soap opera!? But the soap opera is also part of her television show, which is also part of her church- and the healing sessions she?s been doing on Saturdays are also part of it too. Which reminds her of the times she?s appeared on talk show with Merv Griffin and David Letterman. ?I got so much inspiration from these guys!? So she?ll most likely be using the talk-show format. ?This is an intergalactic TV show, and I?m the host. end
Note: In the next months issue of Spin there were two readers responses to the story:
When you maz came out, an angel told me that when the time was right yours would be the magazine to do an in-depth article on Nina Hagen. The vision has come true! Cosmic enlightenment radiated from the pages of the article. she told us of so many solutions for our planet. Jesus and the UFOs are coming, and now more people will know and believe.
Although I have enjoyed some of Nina Hagen's music artistically in the past, I feel it was irresponsible of her to glorify LSD and SPIN to present her comments in the light it did. If indeed "God" exists, "God" most certainly did not invent LSD. LSD was invented and distributed by psychochemists and psychiatrists in an effort to make guinea pigs out of institutionalized humans. The fact that is was popularized by teenagers looking for a thrill in the 60s (as Hagen undoubtably was) is a tribute to human stupidity.