Of all the absurd figures Germany’s pop music scene has ever produced—and there are loads—Christian Anders is without a doubt the most ridiculous.
Of all the absurd figures Germany’s pop music scene has ever produced—and there are loads—Christian Anders is without a doubt the most ridiculous. If you believe only half of what is written in his official biography, he makes other eccentrics seem as fascinating as a paint chip. He is widely regarded as the most egocentric, aggressive, lascivious, promiscuous, and manic human being to ever take up a microphone before a German television camera.
In the 70s, when he was in his 20s, he was one of Germany’s biggest talents: ten full-length albums, sales in the millions, magazine covers, legions of women. He was a national idol draped in fancy suits, his hypnotic cyan-blue eyes and blond ponytail glistening before the flashbulbs. He earned a black belt in karate and sang slow melodramatic songs about breakups, loneliness, desire, and spiritual ambiguity. Adding to the dreaminess, he refused to smile. He bought a golden Rolls-Royce and was chauffeured around Germany with a velvet cloak around his shoulders and a golden scepter in his hand as he gambled all his money away. He was eventually christened “the whores’ Mozart” after claiming to have bedded 2,000 women. All the while, he physically abused those closest to him (including his pregnant sister at a Christmas party), wrote shockingly awful books, and hosted a radio show where he talked the suicidal out of killing themselves.
Bankrupt by the start of the 80s, Anders fled to Los Angeles, where, with the encouragement of a few devoted lady benefactors, he converted to Buddhism, dubbed himself Lanoo, and wrote more books, this time claiming he could unite the religions of the world. He appeared on television in long linen robes, accompanied by a bejeweled sitar player. A decade or so later, Anders began appearing in Germany again, only this time he was espousing quasi-anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about interest-crippled monetary systems, the origin of AIDS, and a group called the Illuminati who have apparently been ruling over the world since the beginning of time. In angry clips, he demanded capital punishment for German chancellor Angela Merkel and imprisonment for former leader Helmut Kohl.
Recently, in Berlin, Anders held his first comeback concert in front of 42 die-hard fans, 822 empty seats, and me. The 64-year-old singer crooned before a colossal projection of his own grizzled mug. His voice was thin and the sound system far too quiet, but a faint euphoric rhythm of applause rose up from the elderly crowd. Though it was a far cry from Christian Anders concerts of old, he was all smiles. He invited us to join him backstage, where he distributed a round of Moods cigarillos as his wife/manager, Birgit, sipped red wine from a coffee cup. On the table in front of us was a gummy-bear cake a fan had made for him.
Vice: You’ve been in a fair share of scraps in your life, Mr. Anders.
Christian Anders: Oh, you know, the odd one here and there.
What advice can you give a coward like myself for the next time someone wants to take it outside?
First of all, show no fear. Apart from that: Fake upstairs, work downstairs. I dummy upstairs, and bang! I’ve broken your shinbone.
Is it true that in your early years you once beat someone to death with an electric guitar, in self-defense?
Er... what makes you ask that?
I read it in your authorized biography. Someone was trying to attack you with a razor blade.
Haha, that was a long time ago. I was young, just 20, but I knew what was happening. He tried to cut open my forehead. I couldn’t see anything but blood. Then I reacted, but I don’t remember exactly what happened. I ran away.
I guess that you wouldn’t exactly call yourself a pacifist?
Violence is part of human life. In my musical Taro Torsay, I look at life in the ghetto of Chicago. I generally deal with problems in my music. Most of my biggest hits have sad endings. It seems like more people split up than come together, otherwise I wouldn’t have sold over 20 million records.
What kind of music do you like to listen to at home?
Often classical—symphonies I’ve composed myself. But you can’t earn money with symphonies. I spent months writing my Malibu symphony, but the pop song “Zug nach Nirgendwo” took 15 minutes. It’s the arrangement that can take months. You often need alcohol or this and that just to stay awake.
But it hasn’t all been work, has it?
Not at all, but you just don’t see all the work that goes into these things. I arranged everything, wrote down every single note. It’s not like that anymore.
By that I assume you mean since the late 70s, when your success started to fade and you fled your native Germany.
My last hit was in 1980. Then I went to America.
Why was that exactly?
I just wanted to get away. The whole business was making me very unhappy. I spent a lot of time learning about Buddhism and politics. I developed my theory of an interest-free fiscal system. Our current economy is a complete catastrophe. Germany is amassing gigantic debts and we have to pay everything back.
Weren’t you also in deep debt when you left for the US?
I had tax debts, but it was nothing serious. They were always paid by my royalties. I owed around half a million. For example, I did production and directed the film Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps, which cost me a million. Back then I used to get $3,000 a night, so I could have easily paid it off, but I said they should just take my royalties instead. I enjoyed my time in the US. I immersed myself in Buddhism. I taught my own group.
Did you enjoy teaching?
I was too divine. Students began washing my feet and really wanted to establish me as a guru.
Which you weren’t interested in?
Not at all. They promised me a castle on a beach in Mexico with luxury mobile homes. I was supposed to live there with all my pupils. It was a huge deal. They washed my feet and I sat as their guru on a golden throne.
A real golden throne?
Well, gold-coated plastic, but you get my point. It was all too much, the responsibility. I was scared I couldn’t do it anymore.
I want to chat a bit about some of the women you’ve had in your life. Would you say you exploited any of the ladies you’ve known?
God, I don’t know. Maybe, yes. But I always had a goal. I always wanted to be somebody.
Your previous manager, Ann Busse, whom you were to marry and who later committed suicide—
Yeah. Those are the people I simply attracted in my life, people who accompanied me. My manager, Frau Busse… those were tragic circumstances. She wasn’t an altogether healthy woman. These are all tragic events that I suppressed at the time.
But you also made a bit of money off them too, right?
Yes, but she made money too. I gave this woman 5 million Deutsche Marks. I was always very generous. It always gave me great joy to make others happy.
Looking back, do you have any regrets?
I am a devout Buddhist. I don’t know regret. All I know is, you live out karma. Why one person acts a certain way to another, including sometimes using them or causing them harm—and I know this as a Buddhist—all has its root in karma. You never know what a person has done in their former lives.
Isn’t that just an excuse to never have to apologize for anything?
I apologize constantly, but only because that’s what one does. If one feels unjustly treated, you can be sure that he or she was, at some time, also unjust. Everything you do will be given back to you at one time or another.
How? By whom?
By whomever. And whoever thinks like this will naturally avoid bad karma. If I understand karma but nevertheless act unjustly, then that is a form of masochism. You’re only fucking yourself.
Let’s step back a bit. Does being driven around the country in a golden Rolls-Royce play out in karmic redistribution?
That was kindergarten stuff. The days of the Rolls-Royce were nothing. Of course, one thing is true: As an artist, you have to develop a big ego. Without a big ego—whether you’re an artist, a fighter, an actor, a businessman—things are impossible for you. This ego can also be the death of you. I was very egotistical, but I was focused: I wanted to be number one and stay number one.
How does it feel that you’re no longer number one?
Oh, at some point I wanted that.
Yeah, I wanted to get away. It’s just like someone saying: “I’ve had enough; eating nothing but caviar is no good for anyone.”
So it’s a lot less caviar these days?
Yeah, things have quieted down a little, but I’m kicking off again with this song “Gespensterstadt Remix.” We actually wanted to have a quiet life, and then suddenly it did 13 weeks at number one in the DJ charts, 50 weeks in total. So I said, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.”
What else can we look forward to? I know you recently did some television.
That was a show I did in a corner of Nordrhein-Westfalen, with 2,000 people. Earlier in my career I celebrated my biggest success there, in front of 25,000 fans. It’s different in Berlin, but I wanted to give it a go. Maybe we’ll do something bigger here soon.
Let’s hope. One more thing before I leave you to your public: Could I possibly get an autograph for my grandma?
Yes, of course you may.