NewsWolfgang Niedecken: "BAP is not an oldie band"

Wolfgang Niedecken: "BAP is not an oldie band"

Created: 10/14/2022 5:04 p.m

BAP stehen live gerne drei Stunden auf der Bühne.
BAP likes to be on stage for three hours live. © Eduard Bopp/Imago

BAP singer Wolfgang Niedecken in a FR interview about funny situations on stage, performances in difficult times and why being close to the audience is important to him.

Mr. Niedecken, in our last conversation you regretted that your 70th birthday, which was planned with a big concert, had to be canceled due to the pandemic. That was now made up for in March. How was it?

It was great. But we had to rehearse first because we hadn’t played together for ages. Then we rehearsed for five days in Celle and played three warm-up concerts – Hanover, Bielefeld and Münster. And then we went to the Cologne Arena. It was an incredible thing, a real celebration. People had great fun.

The tour starts at the end of October: few days off, you play three-hour concerts almost every day in different cities. Where do you get the energy for this?

For example, by sitting on the exercise bike for an hour a day. I don’t find it tiring at all. For me, the three hours fly by because we are also very spontaneous on stage and hear a lot from the audience. It’s not a concert like any other, I haven’t found a single second boring.

Five days of preparation are enough for the big concerts?

Yes. We are well established and know what we are doing. If the band came together unprepared, that would be a different story. Everything just has to be coordinated and we have to see which song fits behind which. You often get it wrong. If you do a concert like a Kneipp cure – cold/hot – then you make mistakes. You need a bow. That arises during rehearsals, but still theoretically, because the audience is missing. And after the first concert you will know, after that there are usually the most changes.

Speaking of mistakes. Do they still happen on stage with such an experienced band?

If so, then negligence error. Sometimes funny mistakes happen. Missed a cue or someone plays in the wrong key – things like that happen from time to time. For this we have an award in the band, the “Heinz” – that’s how you earn the Heinz. (laughs)

Who gets the Heinz most often?

I can not say that. There are some who like to have the Heinz. (laughs) There is also the “Heinz plus” for special merits. It has even happened that someone gets the Heinz and the Heinz plus in the same concert. The Heinz are those little flags that truckers used to hang on their rear-view mirrors. With her first name on it. We have the blue one, that’s the Heinz plus, and the white one. It’s always funny, unbelievable things happen.

For example?

The most beautiful Heinz on our last tour was when our keyboarder forgot that we were playing the piece “Ens Em Vertraue” a tone lower than usual. This has a honky tonk piano intro. And then he plays it in the old key. Everyone reacts in a flash and plays it like him. We turned the key down because I can handle my voice better then. Nobody in the audience noticed. Only my guitar was tuned down, so I had to put it down. Then one of the crew came directly from behind and awarded him the Heinz. The best Heinz was in the previous tour in the piece “Ruut-Wieß-Blau, Querjestriefte Frau”. The horns were supposed to cross the stage from right to left at a certain point, like a marching band, and then disappear again. But then they didn’t come (laughs). Everyone waited and thought, “okay, then they won’t come”. Then suddenly they came a stanza later. The trombonist already had Heinz hanging on the trombone.

How does it feel to be back on stage after Corona? During the pandemic, you said that your main concern was your crew, who would be unemployed as a result.

Thank goodness the guys on our crew are all pretty busy. Then they could do other jobs. Some have gone back to a “bourgeois” job, one as a dental technician, which we sometimes felt very sorry for with people we have been with for more than 20 years. But they also have to feed their families. But everyone really fell on their feet, everything went well. And we are happy that we can continue to work with our core staff and that there hasn’t been a major change.

Wolfgang Niedecken gastiert mit Niedeckens BAP am 3. November in der Frankfurter Jahrhunderthalle.
On November 3rd, Wolfgang Niedecken guested with Niedecken’s BAP in Frankfurt’s Centennial Hall. © Christoph Hardt/Imago

How is the music scene getting out of the crisis as a whole?

That depends on many factors. In some cases, ticket sales have plummeted completely. Some colleagues have had to cancel tours. Many are very cautious and it will be interesting to see how things will turn out next year. There is still a rescue fund. We haven’t had to access it yet. But next year it won’t be there anymore and then many people will have to think about which concerts will definitely work. Pay to play doesn’t make any sense at all. In the coming year we will only play concerts that we can be 100% sure will go well. I’m also doing a small program with a pianist friend of mine – Mike Herting -, “Niedecken reads and sings Bob Dylan”. We don’t have a great production effort there, so you can sometimes reschedule an appointment due to the corona. But with the whole apparatus of BAP, even if we always deliberately keep it small, it is a certain effort and it takes time until we start making money from it. A few people have to come to the concert.

You’ve become a grandfather. So you could safely enjoy the compulsory break with more time for the family?

I wrote my Dylan book in freshman year and my two grandchildren were born. That was pure idyll here in our house. My daughter Isis came to Cologne from Berlin for several months, the child was born here, we spent most of the time in the garden and the little man came straight into our extended family, that was wonderful. The son of my son Robin lives in Cologne anyway. In the second year, the Elbphilharmonie asked me if I would like to do a program for Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday. Read from the book and play Dylan tunes in Kolsch or English. Then I called Mike Herting to see if he was interested in taking part. Then we developed the program and finally asked ourselves: How? Are we only doing this once? It’s too bad, and then we went on tour with it. Because the effort is so small, we were able to flexibly tour nationwide. I personally did not suffer during Corona.

Well, BAP has always been a political band. How difficult is a tour in times of war in Europe?

At the very beginning, when we played the birthday program, I thought: How will that work? Everything was still very fresh. And I stand on stage and sing things that made me ask myself: are you even allowed to sing that? What are we doing there? I had to find my own point of view first. Then I said: Folks, it’s possible that individual verses – some of which were written 40 years ago – somehow don’t fit into the current situation. But other verses suddenly became red hot. Everyone has to find that out for themselves. The newer pieces are closer to the pulse of the times anyway. And then you can’t lose sight of the audience on stage. You can’t pretend like nothing is happening.

To person

Cologne-based Wolfgang Niedecken (71) , as the singer of his cult band BAP, can now look back on more than 40 years of band history. On their “Finally Infinite” tour, Niedecken’s BAP will be making a guest appearance on November 3rd in Frankfurt’s Centennial Hall. Information and tickets on the Internet at

So you pack the topicality into the moderation with the audience?

In any case. You can be up to date with the moderation, but not so much with the songs.

Do you see it as the task of artists to take a stand on such political issues on stage?

That depends on the artist. I’m a political person and I can’t turn that off. I can’t stand on stage and pretend that everything is fragrant. But there are also political artists who say that nothing political takes place on stage, only music.

Some guests in the audience also expect to simply switch off for a few hours.

Sure, I can understand that too. It must not become an obligation to express oneself, that would be cramped. If you don’t want to say anything political, you shouldn’t do it either.

How do you personally feel about the situation?

I’m holding my breath, but I’m not going to be fooled either. If you let Putin have his way and he gets away with it, then things will get really bad. The question then is, which country will he invade next? Everything that has happened so far – these are all unbelievable outrages. This sham referendum is a farce. The attacks on the oil pipelines, it’s all so incredibly yesterday, brutal and cynical. I didn’t think he was so stupid that he thought he could seriously get away with it. And I’m glad that we have a responsible government and that there are no hotheads out there who fail to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. It’s a giant chess game and you always have to wait for the next move to react correctly. Because keeping your nerve, that’s the big task of the traffic light.

Finally, a question about the upcoming tour: What can the audience expect in Frankfurt?

I like to play in the Centennial Hall, it’s a good size. If people can still see the whites of our eyes, that’s what I like best. We play a program with many classics, but we also dare to play some of the new album, which is often difficult with a band that has been touring nationally for over 40 years. We play about 30 songs in one evening, nine of which are from the new album spread over the program. That’s never happened before, usually it’s more like four or five. If you only play the classics, you become something you don’t want to be. I always want the band to develop, for the audience to notice that we’re still creative. Otherwise you get so smokie-y. Nobody needs that. BAP is not an oldie band. When everything becomes predictable, you have given up.

You also sound as if the sentence from our last conversation “I have enough desire to do this for all eternity” still applies without restriction.

Yes of course. That is also somehow our soul food. If you just sit at home and think up songs and think about what it would be like if people got to hear them, I often have to think of Wolf Biermann. What was it like when he wasn’t allowed to play for decades. Sitting at home imagining what it would be like playing his songs. It’s bad if you never get anything back.

Interview: Andreas Sieler

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