The cult German band Donots is currently publishing a book entitled „Die Geschichte der Donots: Heute Pläne, morgen Konfetti“ mapping their complete career to date. With their incredibly energetic and unbeatably friendly, willing and well-known frontman Ingo, I talked about their US tour, the courage to experiment and the fact that being able to be yourself and be grateful for every little support can be just the factors, which lead to the longevity and success of any band in the world.
Your Wake The States documentary released in 2015 captures your first US tour with famous bands such as Flogging Molly or Anti-Flag. What did you experience internally when you played in such places as Whiskey and Go-Go, House of Blues, Troubadour or Slidebar, which are world-famous for fans of not only punk rock music? What did the tour give you as a band and what did it mean for you personally?
We did a whole month of touring the states on that tour and this 30 day stretch from West Coast to Mid West and East Coast is probably still my favorite DONOTS tour to date. It was truly challenging yet rewarding knowing that on the one hand you get to play all those state of the art clubs a band could only dream of (and those venues all sold out thanks to Flogging Molly, Anti-Flag or CJ Ramone) but always playing to crowds that haven’t really seen your band before. Hence we got a chance to reach out to a whole lot of people (from 2000 to 5000 seaters up to a 15.000 people festival) but we had to really use that chance and try and win over all those kids in a mere 30 minutes per night.
It went amazingly well. We got so well received and it really felt like we had momentum to come back. Even the small clubs we did in between the big dates were a whole lot of fun playing to only like 10 people on a Flogging Molly off-day, haha. We’d usually do all the tourist stuff in the morning and play a show and get smashed at night. We did another tiny tour 3 years later when Flogging Molly invited us to play a Bahamas cruise with them, Rancid, Frank Turner and more but as of now we are biding our time to go back. It’s unfortunately super expensive due to logistics, distances, permits and whatnot (and of course Covid these days) but it’d be rad to do that again. The Wake The States Tour pretty much summed up a lot of the experiences of our whole band career.
Donots originally come from Ibbenbueren, which is also home to various great punk rock and hardcore bands. Can it be said that when you started in 1993, you had all the right prerequisites and conditions to start a band thanks to the support of the local people? What was the scene and culture there like in general then and what is it like today?
I think it’s safe to say Ibbenbüren always had a great infrastructure for the scene all thanks to the youth centre „Scheune“ which had rooms for band practice, an amazing club and stage plus a policy that was very leftist and open-minded. It was a place where punks, hardcore kids, alternative peaceful people and also the misfits of our small city gathered, hung out, set up shows together and got involved and in touch with various subcultural scenes. It was a youth centre for kids run by kids themselves. We got financial backing from the city but were completely free in planning and organizing what we wanted to do. Hence we basically invited and booked our favorite bands to come and play the Scheune. Ibbenbüren would be a good place for bands to get another show in between Hamburg and Cologne for instance.
I suppose often times we got lucky and had amazing international bands play such as Green Day, NofX, RKL, AFI, Good Riddance, H20, Machine Head, Marky Ramone or Strung Out and many more. That said local bands always got great opportunities to support those bands and get exposed to new people. That totally had a blacklash on the diversity of the scenes in Ibbenbüren cause we got in touch with so many subcultural mindsets and styles. We had a huuuge punk scene, old school hardcore and metal, garage punk, indie and everything in between. Mid 90s was a great time in Ibbenbüren. Everything was exciting, everything co-existed and there were shows every 3 days despite many conservatives in Ibbenbüren trying to shut down the joint.
Nowadays it’s still an amazing and very active club yet the scene from back then isn’t really existing anymore. There’s still a bunch of great bands out there but when times change, the whole environment changes, I guess. The Donots played a bunch of benefit shows for the Scheune and we did our own open air festival there 2 years ago which was amazing to say the least. It’s still our birthplace and a home from home.
How do you think the German government is currently managing the prevailing COVID crisis, also with regard to culture, artists and other sectors affected by the crisis?
In the beginning of the pandemic I was a lot more convinced they know what they’re doing but in the course of time everyhing felt more and more random, badly organized when it comes to vaccination, a straight game plan to a real useful lockdown strategy and whatnot. When it comes to culture and the support of especially solo self-employed people working events and art it’s a disaster, to be honest. I know so many people who are still waiting for state support and most importantly a real perspective.
We all tag along peacefully from lockdown to lockdown but we feel that we have no importance at the end of the day. There’s been some financial back up here and there but it’s far from enough or effective for millions of people laying it all on the line for culture, subculture, art and entertainment.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for everybody who’s not only living off what they love but also for everything they love so much.
When we first met in person in Prague’s Abaton in 2008, it was a concert that was part of the tour in support of the album Coma Chameleon, which was a turning point for the band and from your classic signature pop punk you moved to a more raw and you can say even darker punk rock style. Did you feel that such a change was necessary for you, or was it even thoughtful and timed correctly? After all, after the mentioned change, it didn’t detract from your popularity, on the contrary, with each new album you gained more and more success.
I think if you’re not one of the pioneer bands of a certain style (say the Ramones, Bad Religion, AC/DC and the like) you are obliged to constantly work on your art and develop and evolve to not get stuck in your own gears. We have always been a band willing to experiment and Coma Chameleon was definetly a turning point for us. We started to experiment so much, even switched to German language later and it only helped us grow personally. No matter what you do: If you do it for yourself and not for financial purposes, people will hopefully acknowledge and appreciate that. Evolving doesn’t mean selling out. Stagnation is a lot worse, I’d say cause you’re not risking anything.
You’ve been playing in the same line-up for so many years, which is really admirable. You come from a relatively small German town and you have managed to work with names such as CJ Ramone, Frank Turner, Midtown, Baboon Show or the aforementioned Anti-Flag. What advice would you give to young bands who would like to achieve their dreams, or what needs to be done to last and maintain the necessary energy in the band?
Be yourself. Ask yourself what that special trademark and magic about your band is. Don’t simply copy existing bands, get inspired and find your own way of expressing yourselves. Don’t take yourself too seriously, be thankful even for the smallest support you get, reach for the sky but keep your feet on the ground. The rest is luck and a mixture of beer and fear, hahahah!