Ernst Horn »Johnny Bumm’s Wake«
Interview at Sonic Seducer 1998


As a musician from Qntal and Deine Lakaien, Ernst Horn is well known to most people, but he is also the producer and composer of several unusual radio plays and two solo albums. The first of these albums, entitled “The Skies Over Baghdad”, dealt thematically with the Gulf War and will now be re-released parallel to the current work “Johnny Bumm’s Wake”. JBW is also a concept album that is all about the influence of the mass media on people. Particular emphasis is placed on television reporting, with a particular focus on German reunification. Not exactly squeamish, but always with a smile on their lips, German politicians, sports idols and television greats are unmasked by merciless samplings. All in all, advertising appears again and again. Be it through announcements of advertising breaks, such as that of Lilo Wanders, or directly through snippets of a well-known nut nougat cream spot with all our Boris. Why he has dealt with this topic is best explained by Horn himself.

E.H.: “I have been interested in the problems of the mass media for a long time. The influence of television in general is an age-old debate. The concept of virtual reality came up towards the end of the 1980s because people had realized that there was a wider impression. People understand their reality more and more only from television. With the advent of the remote control, you no longer watch a film continuously, but “zap” around. This has a decisive influence on the dramaturgy. Spectators must always be kept in line. The rise of private broadcasters, who approached the medium with a completely different kind of ruthlessness, also played its part. With the reunification, the “golden German years” came into the picture, together with the uniform groaning and great self-deception. Of course there were a lot of exciting things that could be recorded on video for later processing. Unfortunately, this took a long time for me because I was always busy with other things.”

Sonic: So the fact that Alexander developed his solo album finally gave you the necessary freedom?

E.H.: “Yes, too. Johnny Bumm’s been around a long time, though. In the first years after my career as a conductor was over, things started to happen before the lackeys really got going. Under the alias Johnny Bumm I also sent a cassette to a competition on Bavarian Radio. The tape promptly won first place with the title “Wurstsemmeln”. As a result, a record company contacted us, and together we broke a somewhat unfortunate maxi-single. Things went completely to hell, however, until Johnny Bumm woke up again. The break, which arose after the last lackeys, was caused by several things. On the one hand Alexander’s solo project, but on the other hand also some private things like marriage and fatherhood. So it was clear that I could only do one project that I could approach in a relaxed manner and without a time schedule or other specifications”.

Sonic: How did you come up with the above-mentioned sample combination, which is also rhythm-forming, from the word “Wurstsemmln” and the sound of a burp surrounded by a cute child’s voice?

E.H.: “The idea was to combine very contradictory things. On the one hand this was something very pretty in the form of my little niece, who could sing very sweet and cute and on the other hand something very disgusting. But I stole a little bit, I must honestly admit. Because I read a demand for more sausage rolls sometime in a toilet, in Austria I believe, under very many typical sayings. That was the craziest toilet line I’ve ever seen. It’s a strange thing to remember. There was even a video of an older version of the piece. “We performed the whole thing as a Punch and Judy show where the crocodile burped.”

And someone should say again, the musicians of the black scene have no humor. At least one truly exceptional artist proves the opposite with this production, which is certainly bulky for many. Rarely has anyone created such skilful sound collages that can make you laugh, but which are always based on a certain seriousness.

Text: Peter Heymann