Lord Litter ( aka Jorg Dittmar) was (and is) simply one of the most valuable and essential members of the underground music scene operating in Europe. While much of the rest of the European underground community was dabbling with electronics, beats and industrial noise, Litter was opening his ears to all of it and championing all types of creativity and expression via his radio broadcasts.
His own music has sometimes taken a backseat to his fame as a radio broadcaster but is no less important when it comes to his legacy. His voice is sometimes whiskey hued and gruff, at other times a high tenor with a bit of a nasal quality. He has strong musical abilities on guitar and other instruments. He leans towards “authentic expression”, that is, simply done, from the heart type songs with a poignant message or insight, although he has also ventured into harder rock, electronic and experimental areas.
When I met Lord Litter at his home in Berlin in 1991 I was impressed by his good humor, charming and inviting aura. It seemed everyone in the local and even international scene and had run into him at some point and he was widely acknowledged as “the guy to know”. He has worked hard day and night to keep the flame for home recording and attitudes of independence alive and vital.
Kevyn Dymond and I traveled with him ( and Das Freie Orchester) for a couple of days on a short tour of Southern Germany not far from Bavaria. It was classic with two Russian cars breaking down and being repaired on the way there, the camaraderie between these German artists, the endless laughing and finally the wild and loud live show in a small town where the audience revered this band from the big city. When the show ended the members of DFO went into a circus sideshow of physical fun and frolic culminating in a 3 man pyramid with arms fully raised in triumph. Who says Germans are always serious?
Lord Litter 2010
“It’s me with Mr. Skull, my co-host at the Shared Night .. he says the real dirty things that I don’t dare to say .. well that’s the idea .. I do whatever I like hosting the nights .. singing songs .. playing a pre-produced sketch … recently it’s internet (etc) satire .. sure also announce the musicians etc.”
Above, Lord Litter’s epic 1988 double tape release, “At The Hippodrome Of Life”. This magnum opus culled together most of the elements that Litter did well. Careening through blazing electric rock, trashy blues and pub fare, acoustic sentiments, noise and collage…these cassettes ( and the others of this 1980s period) set the parameters of what was to come for many releases. Lately though, Litter has drifted back to acoustic roots with his group, Litter and Leech, a two guitars and vocals outfit.
Lord Litter has generously allowed us to freely download or stream this classic tape.
When did you first adopt the “Lord Litter” name?
That was 1983 when I needed a name for a music competition .. it means being inspired by high class art / culture (Lord) as well as street trash art / punk (Litter). It still fits!
Does your musical activity go back to your childhood? Were you in bands in school?
Yes it does .. but at school I was member of a classical choir singing BACH etc. I was the solo voice. It was a professional choir with touring etc. .. bands that was much later.
You have a passion for “roots rock” and “no frills” kind of music. What attracts you to these forms?
All in all I think it’s the nothing to hide aspect of this music .. handmade .. so roots is a bit misleading as it became a concept to sell something. Recently I see selected standard jazz artists at the Shared Night concert series I host .. VERY inspiring!!! I also like “constructing” music with machines but that’s to often formula
and template music to me these days. Buy a good program click once or twice and the song is ready to put online as MP3 .. no way to fake that with an acoustic guitar.
Was listening to the radio as a kid a big influence?
Radio – yes .. but I stopped listening to official radio in the mid-80s, as Radio was mutating into what we have today .. well coming to think about it . selecting and buying records inspired me much more than listening to radio .. yes I think that did it ..
friends came with records .. we listened .. then I said .. well lets find out what the singer did with his prior band becauss I liked the voice … an endless journey started .. still traveling today!
Which groups or artists inspired you?
That’s a tough question because you ask it today. I see the past in a different context these days, which tells me who really inspired me. Some weeks ago I realized that PF Sloan via bands like The Grassroots had an incredible influence on my songwriting. I guess the main influence was British music from the late 1960s to the early 1980s .. I was always looking for “something different”, so it was logical that I found “different” artists .. and I was always interested in all styles .. I remember an early birthday – everybody wanted to listen to Pink Floyd .. I played Slade … then I remember in my extreme “underground” days I bought my first Bert Kaempfert releases .. well I’ll give some artists .. The Kinks .. (early) Zappa Mothers of Invention .. Bonzo Dog Band .. Antonio Vivaldi … Slade .. (early) Pink Floyd .. Bee Gees
… (early) Kraftwerk … The Move / ELO … Ramsey Lewis and more Jazz innovators .. Osibisa … and “every” artist that “no one” knew .
You have had a radio show for a long, long time. How did it first happen?
I became known as the cassette expert here in Berlin and was approached by Radio 100 to host a regular cassette scene show. Radio 100 was the first real alternative station in Germany, which died after the wall fell in Berlin and all media was bought to become todays version of ..??
One of your first underground contacts was Matthias Lang I believe, from IRRE Tapes. How did you come into contact with him?
Thomas Pradel, an early cassette activist in Germany had published the “Independent Kontakter”, a booklet that presented about 600 “real” independent addresses. I picked one address .. that changed my life .. it was the first time that I got a reaction to my own unusual music from outside of Berlin .. that was Matthias Lang ..
before that I only had contact with Joachim Reinbold (JAR) here in Berlin, who produced the Berlin Kassette, a compilation with all kind of “cassette music” .. Matthias sent me his compilations and Flyers .. one was from Andy Xport, who also produced compilation series .. on the first cassette I received from Andy I found Don Campau’s address … yup .. the rest is history.
Here in America we had had magazines like OP, Option, Sound Choice, Gajoob and others to contact other home recording musicians. In Europe were publications a way to contact people? If not, how did people know about each other ( there was no internet at the time)?
Yes there were many magazines .. not too many open mined ones .. most of the ones I remember where into a certain scene
.. electronic / avantgarde / “serious” music.. whatever .. I never liked these separations … please don’t ask for names because I took a different way to find all these people ..direct personal communication .. recommendations via handwritten(!!!!)letters .. addresses taken from compilation info sheets .. I think that these cassette compilations were extremely important .. one could listen to the music ..pick the addresses from artists one liked .. send an own cassette .. and perhaps there would be a new contact who would send you more recommendations .. networking!
What interested you about the home taping scene?
The complete freedom of creation – the worldwide contact with artists, with a similar attitude – the new unheard music ..
discovering a new worldwide culture .. well .. becoming part of it. I wrote my magister thesis about the home taping scene . which sure took me nowhere, no one could sell it, so besides the ones that took part in this movement, no one was interested…. it’s really always the same – if one can make a profit all is different – there was someone who wrote a magister thesis about Punk .. immediately got published .. became known etc etc .. all in all that was a golden experience to me .. my way will be undergound forever .. that made me free .. everything I do is TOTALLY FREE … yes I guess that is one result from my start in the home taping scene
You also performed live with several different bands over the years. Did you play mainly in Berlin?
No .. we traveled Germany .. and one unforgettable concert with Das Freie Orchester in Holland. With my Litter and The Lazy Sleepers we decided to only play Berlin in the end .. the world was changing and no one wanted to see unknown bands .. plus I guess we were extremely non-fashion with our Pub-Rock .. so in the end in Berlin our concerts were always packed with people who wanted to see us .
In the late 80s or early 90s you joined the improvising band Das Freie Orchester. How did this happen?
I played many of their tapes at my radioshow .. exchanged letters … I visited them several times in East Berlin before the wall fell .. somehow it was a logical move to join the band the day the wall fell .. we even had plans that I would become a “undercover” remember when the GDR still existed .. twas not “allowed” for a West Berlin citizen to be in an East Berlin band .. well history had other plans .
They were a much different band with you than with Jorg Thomasius, whom you replaced. Was this just a by product or natural result of your personality and the way you responded to the group dynamics?
The band told me later that it was me .. all in all I think several aspects came together – on the one hand, the band had an incredible female singer, who also left when Jorg Thomasius left and I joined the band after the wall fell in Berlin, which brought other “dimensions” into focus… the funny thing is that I think the band was much more “interesting” and “better” before I joined .
You have been an outspoken critic of many aspects of the Internet. What is it that really bothers you?
To make one thing really clear – I LOVE the internet! It really helped me to gain my todays freedom .. what bothers me is that people don’t think and analyze before they join what the internet offers. To me it was very obvious that uncontrolled growth of networks like Facebook, MySpace would lead to a very unhealthy way to collect data to be used in other ways. Today even the “mainstream” realizes that companies like Google could become a dangerous force .. in fact I think it already is a very dangerous force.
Do you think that social sites like Facebook or MySpace can be used creatively or are they just a waste of time to you?
That is not the question to me .. what I mean I tried to explain above. We’ll soon have a world where you can find a way to discover the color of my underwear if you follow the links offered via Facebook, MySpace etc. …or in other words – the hard core underground man talking – Facebook /MySpace etc etc are an obvious to be exploited mainstream offering .. you pay with your data, which is used in an uncontrolled way … my idea about “free art / independent creation” was something completely different when I started .. I think it’s extremely difficult for people to find a relation to the things they did before ..because the whole internet world is something completely new … probably I’m in a lucky situation that I studied multimedia (incl internet) about ten years ago .
The term “independent music” is thrown around a lot these days. How do you think its meaning has changed since the late 80s or 90s? Is “independent” a term that really applies anymore?
No .. it became a trademark to sell .. now I use the expression “underground” again, which is also no longer defining what it
used to define .. the language changed in recent years .. today a “friend” defines something completely different .. thanks to Facebook.
Over the years you have pulled back at times and reassessed your position and priorities. Has this been a good way for you to not get burned out? Is this a way to “keep it fresh”?
Oh ya!!!! .. to keep going I need to get out of situations from time to time .. it’s a bit like being 50 years old means one “must be” an “oldie” fan .. only listening to music that was new when one was young .. for me it’s impossible to find new things this way .. plus .. one gets trapped in structures, like me – in the end I was producing about 10 hours of radio shows per month for 3 radio stations. The result was I started to hate to listen to music .. started “checking” CDs no longer listening to them .. I started to think in categories .. this is a good “radio song” ..etc etc .. analyzing is important! I once loved music .. suddenly I realized that I put it into categories to get rid of it .. I was shocked!!
Today I produce one show per month presenting the music I listen
to at the moment .. so I’m getting inspired by the music and have fun producing a show with the music I love at this very moment.
What have you learned about yourself from your own art?
I see my own development .. coming closer and closer to my very own “truth” .. about one month ago I had a major breakthrough – I realized that I finally can create in a “controlled” way. If I want a song to go a certain direction . and incredible finding.. after years and years of slowing down recording more and more I’m completely addicted again .. I could record daily at the moment .. ALL ideas come to a result that REALLY satisfies me. In the old days I was controlled by coincidence .. example: I recorded 10 songs and thought 3 are ok. So what I learned is that my idea of “keep going” that I live in recent years is absolutely perfect .
Thanks for the interview!!
“Listen to his double tape, At The Hippodrome Of Life