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Interview with
Nina Hagen
at El Corazon
Nov 4, 2005

DW Hamilton, Martina Law and Ronald Albrecht backstage with Nina Hagen and a small crowd of her friends and family.


EW:  How old were you when you first came up on stage?  

Nina Hagen:  I can’t remember anymore. 

EW: I mean as a teenager, a teen, or a 12-year-old or 11-year old? 

Nina: I can’t remember. 

EW:  It is just that you have this indomitable spirit – as if you belonged there always. 

Nina:  Always.  I do.  Yes, because I was looking for the truth. 

EW: Who isn’t. I assume everybody is. 

Nina: … and the truth was looking and looking and looking, and it took a long time.. And bit by bit it was revealed, and it was the truth, and nothing but the truth.  So I was really searching for it for the longest time, and then I found it, and it was  graciously given to me.  And then I was more happy about my place in the world. But I was singing and doing art before my quest for the truth., My vision quest was fulfilled. 

EW: You actually were born behind the Iron Curtain? 

Nina:   No, I was born in a hospital (laughs) You, too.

My father was a half-Jew, because my Grandmother was from Germany, and my Grandfather was Jewish.  And then they had three children, including my father, when they were allowed to marry, eventually.  And then there was World War II, and most of our family we made it out by immigration.  But my father was not only a half-Jew, he was also an anti-Facist, so he was fighting in Spain with the other anti-Fascists, and he was conquered there, and he was brought to a jail, and tortured, he had swastikas ripped inside his skin everywhere on his ass cheeks. 

EW:  How awful. 

Nina:  Yes.  And my father, and later also my stepfather, they were both German.  And I wouldn’t be here if the Americans had not liberated us. They finished the whole thing off. 

EW:  And then the Communists came, right? 

Nina: Oh, they were there before. 

EW: They were there before? 

Nina:  Yeah, and they were not so bad before, but then they came into power.  And  that what happens with many, many people  and with Communists and any other ‘ists.’ They became a little ugly when they get the power. Before they promise to be very humble, and then they get the position … 

EW:  You were allowed to leave East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Is that correct? 

Nina:  Yes.   

Martina:  Actually, they were begging you to leave, wasn’t it more like that? 

Nina: Well the divine destiny construction consignment company said, “You stay 21 years there,” and then that happens. 

Ron:  Nina, I just recently saw my name in a Stasi file. 

Nina:  Really?  How interesting. 

Ron:  Have you ever gone in and searched for a file on you? 

Nina:  Yes, my mom did.  They  were listening to telephone calls.   

Ron:  Isn’t that amazing? 

Nina:  German telephone calls, conversations we had with friends where we were discussing art and Dostojevski. We were very intellectual young people then in East Germany. Oh my God! (laughs) 

EW:  What kind of music could you find in East Berlin?  How did you start? 

Nina:  Oh well, that’s Janis Joplin and the Beatles fault.   I got nothing to do with it. 

EW:  No Sex Pistols, no Ramones?

Nina:  The Sex Pistols were much later.  That was basically many, many years later that inspired me to find my way. 

EW:  I can see that now, you are still creating very prolifically. 

Nina:  Yes, but I am also an actress – a very funny one.  I perform in comedies (laughs). 

EW:  Your eyes are very expressive, and so is your face.  Do you practice in front of the mirror? 

Nina:  Yeah, of course, (screams). Don’t we all?  We all should keep practicing that. 

EW:  Perhaps I should. 

Martina:  I heard you sang a Nirvana song today.  Have you ever had any contact with Kurt Cobain? 

Nina:  Yeah, after he died.  He  came into my dreams a couple of times, and I was praying for him, so when you pray for someone who died, then of course somehow you  make a connection.  We are very good friends, by the way.  Just for the record. 

Ron:  I remember being in Berlin, and listening to your music, and Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop.  And there was always this rumor that all of these people were always hanging out in Berlin. 

Nina:  They did, yeah.  But that was before our time.  That was before 1976. [Nina took the opportunity to leave to country when her stepfather, the dissident poet-songwriter Wolf Biermann, was expelled from East Germany in 1976] 

Ron:  Boy, your songs sure brought back some memories. 

EW:  What other creative things are you pursuing? 

Nina:  I am a movie star.  We even had our premier at the Tribeca Film Festival this year in May.  [The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center.]

EW:  What’s it called? 

Nina:  It was called Seven Dwarfs – Men alone in the Forest, and it is a comedy adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  And my daughter plays in it, my real life daughter.   She plays Snow White, and I play the Evil Queen.  And we did the sequel. Cosma is still Snow White, but I am not the queen anymore because the queen gets a punishment. She has a horrible hairdo. And now I’m a witch.  I mess up a spell because I forgot the most important ingredients.  I am trying to make an invisibility potion. And I cannot get the most important ingredient, that sort of frog creature. Kröte. What is it called in English?  Die Kröte. 

Martina:  The toad. It is called toad. 

Nina: Ja! Die Krrrrröte!I had to stand and do it over and over again all day.  It was the second hardest job next to giving birth (laughs).  And now I am playing in a movie with Angelica Huston (laughs). It is a story about three sisters.   

Martina: So you guys play sisters? 

Nina: Yeah. I am one of the sisters.  And I will also play in a trilogy based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

EW:  Is that why you moved to LA, so you could be in the movies? 

Nina:  I have been in Los Angeles since 1980.  We are all in a movie. Everything is a movie. We are on Candid Camera all of the time.  That is why everybody is so paranoid (laughs). 

Martina:  But they said you are living in LA on an off.  So do you sometimes travel back to Europe? 

Nina:  I am an international artist, but I don’t have paparazzi following me around all of the time. 

Martina:  That’s a good thing. 

Nina:  It is a wonderful thing.  If is such an odd situation would occur, I would leave the country. 

EW:  Do you miss Europe? 

Nina:  How can I miss Europe?  I am always everywhere.  Except in the war zones. I don’t go there.  

EW:  How do you feel about the Iraq thing? 

Nina:  It is not my place to comment on that. 

Martina:  Why not? 

Nina:  Why?  Would it make any difference what I think?  It would not make any difference how I feel about anything.  It wouldn’t make a difference. It would not bring any dead person back. Only in the principle of reincarnation. Everybody comes back anyways.  But, I am not here in this country [where I’m] being allowed to work as an artist  to criticize politics – I cannot do that.  But if America goes somewhere, and makes boom-boom, I go and make a charity for that territory.  When they wanted to get rid of the Taliban, we did a huge charity w for the reopening of the hospital where the Afghan children could go.  And then me and my daughter volunteered to help open an orphanage in Kabul.  And my daughter was there already, twice. 

Martina:  So do you do a lot of humanitarian work? 

Nina:  It is not my position to take any stand on any political decisions the United States makes.  It would not make any sense and it would not make any difference. And it is not my position to take. I cannot say, “Iraq, good or evil.” No.   

EW:  It is not that simple, anyhow. 

Nina:  Anyhow. 

EW:  You had mentioned that you were doing a benefit to support gay marriage. 

Nina:  Yeah. 

EW: Awesome! 

EW:  So, how busy is your day? 

Nina:  Like yours. Don’t we have to work? 

EW:  What time do you get up in the morning? 

Nina:  What time do you get up? 

Martina:  He gets up late . . . 

Doug:  I get up later, and stay up later. 

Martina:  That’s right. 

Doug:  I have my rhythm,  but no, it is not 16 hours. 

Nina:  If you had a 15-year-old son who goes to school every morning, so maybe you could jump to conclusions what I’m doing every morning…

EW:  You are a momma. 

Nina:  Yes. 

EW:  How do your children feel about their momma? 

Nina:  You would have to ask them about that. 

Martina:  Where does your your daughter actually live? Otis lives here … 

Nina:  My daughter is 24 years young.  She does the freak when she wants.  

EW:  Does either one of them have any aspirations to perform? 

Nina:  My daughter is a most wonderful artist, and a popular actress, and she has so many awards and prizes that it would be impossible to tell anymore. 

EW:  You must be very proud. 

Unknown voice (a relative):  And she’s beautiful. 

Martina:  Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of her.  She is also very expressive.

(a picture goes around) 

Nina:  Yes, but she has so much make-up on. 

Martina:  But she is very beautiful.  Where does she live? 

Nina:  In Hamburg.  She did some interesting work in Iran with some interesting other actors.   

EW:  What else are you doing musically? 

Nina:  I also have some surprise projects coming out, which I am not gonna talk about, because otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise. 

EW:  Do you ever think you will retire?  I know right now that seems premature. 

Nina: Will I retire?  When I am old and crazy, and the Alzheimer’s sets in.  When I can say and do all kinds of old things?  Do you think I will lose my connection to the youth? 

EW:  And then you can yell at everybody.  Stop that. Don’t do this. 

Nina:  I don’t do this. Oh, and by the way I love the holistic approach of looking  the emotional possibilities.  Have you heard of Louise Hays? [Louise Hays’ books explain illness as a bodily manifestation of an emotional pattern, upset or disorder, and see bodily symptoms as metaphors.] 

EW:  A belief that one’s emotional stress can directly affect one’s health? 

Nina:  Oh, definitely.  Especially special materializations.  

EW:  There is nothing ironic about your spiritual beliefs. 

Nina:  Is there anything ironic about being a human being? No, there can’t be anything ironic about a human being, being of  a spiritual nature.  But still, we have the humor (she barks).  It is important that we can laugh, and dance, and do other normal things.

God must be amazing to create such an. . .

EW:  Complex beings? 

Nina:  Complex?  Yes. 

Voice from the crowd:  And the animals, too. 

Nina:  The animals.  Yes, of course.  Cats.  Cats are amazing.



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