Thomas Thyssen, Pagan Love Songs

By on 16 March 2011

THOMAS THYSSEN

”If I listen to songs like ‘Last Exit For The Lost’, ‘Tales Of Innocence’ or ‘Some Kind Of Stranger’, I feel the build up of the songs in my stomach, I feel the increasing atmosphere up until the climax is reached, and that makes those hymns so special.”

Thomas Thyssen, the Berlin-based co-founder of Pagan Love Songs, grew up listening to The Sisters Of Mercy by raiding his brother’s record collection and rates ‘First And Last And Always’ as being ‘one of the coolest records ever written’. He’s a big fan of 80s Post Punk bands such as Joy Division and The Chameleons UK as well as the 90s Goth Rock bands, e.g. Rosetta Stone, The Wake (US) – their “Masked” debut album being one of his biggest favourites. Like a lot of people that muck around within the music industry he tried his hand at being in a band and his was Capital Hell, they had their 15 minutes of fame when they signed a recording contract in 1995, they didn’t become a super-group but Thomas learned how to promote and network.

Thomas is now far more well known for Pagan Love Songs and his writing skills but his career as a DJ kicked off in late 1992 when his brother Ralf, who had been DJ’ing since the 80s, asked him to help out at an event that he was setting up at a local youth centre. Thomas, being slightly in awe of Ralf, jumped at the chance and they’ve since worked together consistently over the last nineteen years.

Ralf and Thomas’s first regular club night was “Going Underground”, first on Thursdays, later on Sundays. The first big event that Ralf and Thomas organised was the ‘Nightmare Zone’ party held in 1995 at the Radhaus in Kleve, in the rural Lower Rhine area of North Rhine Westphalia where they grew up.  Bearing in mind that this was their hometown, a small place, Thomas says that they were able to draw a crowd of over 500 people and this has been unparalleled up to this very day.

The Thyssen brothers had been playing in a club called ‘exx’/Aratta in Moers, a club rich in its history within the scene. This, in many ways was a stepping-stone to the brothers moving on to greater things. After this spell they took a break from DJ’ing and promoting. They originally played mixed sets of Goth, Electro, Indie, and Industrial etc and in hindsight Thomas thinks that the clubbers were more open-minded back then, especially compared to how it is now. However, as the 90s progressed the Goth scene changed radically. Thomas reckons that some of it was the side effect of various drugs that were rife at the time and these were influencing the music. Remember raves, smiley faces and shouts of ‘Aceeed’ that punctuated the 90s? Techno and Future-Pop had become popular and in the end Ralf and Thomas felt that they couldn’t stand by what they were playing.

By 1998 it had become clear that there wasn’t anywhere for the old schools Goths to go to as the Goth scene had become dominated by techno-electronica. By late 1999 the two brothers reckoned that they could either give up totally or create a new event. They of course started Pagan Love Songs. This gave Ralf and Thomas a chance to guest at clubs all across Europe and the States. Pagan Love Songs rapidly became a landmark event in the scene and along with the newly increasing popularity of Deathrock, it catered for the Goths who preferred a more old school sound, giving clubbers and bands somewhere to go and to be heard.

Thomas clearly states that fans of electronic music aren’t enemies at all and he does have a fondness for some of the 80s electronica, but he believes that scenes (e.g. Techno, Industrial etc.) that were never together in the first place should remain apart. His experience over the years has confirmed this more than ever. Pagan Love Songs attracted younger visitors who, Thomas is proud to say, have been ‘taught’ about the more old school stuff. He says that most of them didn’t know about any music prior to Future Pop and he happily says that there’s still a huge amount of interest in Old School sounds. But he categorically states that it is the DJs task to mix older stuff with newer or unheard material, even if it thins out a dance floor. Pagan Love Songs is held at the Zwischenfall, Bochum and provides a variety of music with Goth, Deathrock, Cold & New Wave, Post Punk, etc. on the main floor and Minimal Electronics – 80’s Wave and electro-pop in the basement.

The credits and firsts that the Thyssens are accredited with are fairly impressive. So far there have been three Pagan Love Songs-Festivals, one at Easter in 2004, which saw the European exclusive live debut of The Deep Eynde as well as the inaugural show of The Other, Germany’s Horror Punk superheroes, one for their fifth anniversary and then a third one in 2009. Apart from the PLS festivals, they’ve also organised the “Sex, Drugs & Drum Machines” -Trad Goth-festival alongside their friends Ian P. Christ and NecroPhil from Remembrance Daze in 2008. This was Vendemmian’s reunion show after their year long hiatus as well as being the only German show ever of Solemn Novena plus the live debut of German Goth Rockers The Shallow Graves feat. ex-members of Madre del Vizio.

The tenth anniversary show was a two day event that featured Bloody Dead and Sexy, Charles de Goal and Fliehende Stuerme and to its credit Pagan Love Songs was the first ‘event’ to put on such bands as Cinema Strange, The Deep Eynde, Diva Destruction, Antiworld etc in Europe and continued to specialise in Goth and Deathrock. Gitane Demone played at Pagan Love Songs’ first live gig back in 1999, Faith And The Muse played at the Rozz Williams Memorial in 2000, and The Chameleons UK even sold out Zwischenfall for two succeeding nights during their first reunion tour.

For Thomas, the friendships that he made during the Pagan Loves Songs years were more important than the fame and praise that was showered on the two brothers. Some of these friendships have born fruit in various ways, one of which is the connection between Thomas and Strobelight Records. Strobelight was founded by Paul Cuska, Ralf Loacker, Markus Bildstein and Juergen Jakob. They were regulars at Pagan Love Songs in the early 2000s, although they had to drive all the way from Austria to Bochum (probably 1500km round-trip). When they spun “Bleeding In My Arms” by Frank The Baptist, which became a dancefloor favourite within a mere couple of weeks, Paul was so enthusiastic about Frank’s work that they simply couldn’t believe that there was no label willing to put out his songs, hence the idea to found their own label, Strobelight Records, was born, the most popular artists on the label being Pink Turns Blue and Frank The Baptist. The guys at Strobelight, all good friends of Thomas’, have been rather inactive throughout the last couple of years due to work commitments but the next release on the label will be a special compilation completely devoted to 90s Goth in all its different flavours which was compiled by Paul Cuska and Thomas.

Over the years Thomas has written for many of the trendier publications such as the US based “Death Rock Magazine” and he became the head editor for Germany’s second longest running magazine “Gothic” which is available at news stands everywhere in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as writing for various fanzines and e-zines. Not so long back he signed a contract to write a book on the Gothic and Deathrock scene. He quickly discovered that writing a book is vastly different form writing reviews and interviews, sadly the book as yet doesn’t have a publication date due to the publisher changing the schedule.

Thomas got his first break as a writer at the tender age of 13. Subline Magazine was the only competitor of Zillo Magazine in the early 90s, Thomas decided to become a writer as he wanted to see his name underneath articles. He put a handkerchief over the telephone receiver to make his voice sound deeper and gave the headquarters a call. After sending in a couple of samples of writing, he was up and running as a freelancer.

He doesn’t DJ that much now and as of a month ago he is now working as press promotion manager for Universal Music in Berlin. Highlights over the years have been the Old School Goth “When We Were Young” special at Wave Gotik Treffen whereby he finally DJ’d alongside Paul Cuska. Thomas will again be DJ’ing at the ‘When We Were Young’ aftershow events at Wave Gotik Treffen this year. Pagan Love Songs have just co-promoted the sold out show for Chameleons Vox and additionally just hosted the very first live show of Sad Lovers and Giants in Berlin in their thirty-year history. Their next ‘can’t miss’ events will be Anne-Marie Hurst (Ex-Skeletal Family and Ex-Ghost Dance singer) alongside her new line-up in their first ever Berlin show in May as well as The Snake Corps’ first gig in Germany in what seems like an eternity, in July. Both of these extraordinary shows are going to be a joint venture production between Ian P. Christ and NecroPhil – both of Remembrance Daze- and Death#Disco-fame, and Pagan Love Songs once again – a collaboration that has already proven to be a guarantee for great gigs and parties through the last couple of years.

Thomas has been championing British bands such as Pretentious, Moi? and Ulterior for quite a while now and will continue to keep his finger on the pulse.  If that isn’t enough, this man who doesn’t appear to need sleep is currently compiling the third volume of his mid-priced-2CD-compilation series “Darkness Before Dawn” (Up Solution/Indigo) as well as the 2CD-retrospective compilation “Another Gift From Goth” (Strobelight Records/Al!ve), both due to be released in time for this year’s Wave Gotik Treffen in June. The CDs can be bought internationally via Amazon but in Germany they can be bought from well-known mail order companies, see the links below.

Picture credit – Thomas Thyssen by Katharina Schreiber (Melancholy Images)

Thomas Thyssen on Facebook HERE

Pagan Love Songs on Facebook HERE

Nightmare Zone, official site HERE

Pagan Love Songs on My Space HERE

CDs from: INFRAROT OR  GOTHIC

Discography HERE

Melancholy Images HERE

 

 

 

About Miranda Yardley

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