Richard Jobson talks about Joseph Beuys, altbier and Destination Düsseldorf

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“Killepitsch and altbier! Those were the first words I learned.”

A performance by Joseph Beuys in Edinburgh was Richard Jobson’s first encounter with art, and it made a lasting impression on him. Arguably, it also laid the foundations of his passion for Düsseldorf. Born in Scotland, with Irish roots, Jobson – together with Stuart Adamson, among others – founded the punk band Skids in 1977. In 2023, the band, now with a very different line-up, released their album Destination Düsseldorf. Rudi Esch, bass player with Die Krupps, author of Electri_City and initiator of the Düsseldorf conference of the same name, has interviewed Jobson on our behalf. What transpired could almost be called a declaration of love!

You’ve got a special bond with Düsseldorf. Why is that?
When I was young, my brother got us two tickets for a Joseph Beuys exhibition in Edinburgh. And there was Beuys himself in a cage with a coyote! That was the first time I realised what art means to me, and I fell in love with Beuys. He was surprised that a kid was standing right next to the cage to see his performance and he gave me a small present, a plug, which he signed for me. I’ve still got it. We never sold it! That plug remains my favourite artwork, and it’s a great reminder of my first ever encounter with art. But I feel drawn to Düsseldorf for a number of reasons, not just because of Joseph Beuys.

Richard Jobson and Rudi Esch sitting outside a café.
Having a chat: Richard Jobson (left) and Rudi Esch.

Presumably Kraftwerk also played a role. What was your first Kraftwerk album?
Radioactivity, I think. I had an older brother who had rather unconventional musical tastes. So I came into contact with Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa as a young boy. I was introduced to the progressive music scene at only twelve years old.

What did you think about Düsseldorf on your first visit?
I immediately felt at home in Düsseldorf. The local vibe matched the reputation the city had within my circle of friends and acquaintances. I’d say the people in Düsseldorf are the coolest and most laid-back anywhere in Germany. It’s simply because they are music people. As far as I’m concerned, this distinguishes them from those in the Berlin music scene, for example, who always come across as a bit fake and insincere. In Düsseldorf, things come more from the heart, and it’s easygoing. But I already associated Düsseldorf with Joseph Beuys, Wim Wenders and Kraftwerk at that point. Those are all very important influences who’d enriched my life long before I’d even heard of the place – and strangely enough they’re all from Düsseldorf.

Richard Jobson on stage
(Photo: David Hunter, 2019)

What were the first things you encountered in Düsseldorf?
Killepitsch and altbier! Those were the first words I learned. I also tried some German sausages, and then I somehow got the idea to write a song about Düsseldorf that featured Joseph Beuys, among other things.

Your album is called Destination Düsseldorf. What was your inspiration for it?
While I was making the new album I was thinking about Beuys, and I was asking myself whether to dedicate a song to him. We also have another song on the album in which we list cool things about Düsseldorf. From carnival to Japan Day, and from Wenders to Beuys. Of course we’ve also put Fortuna, the city’s football club, into the song. It’s been great fun producing it. The line “What a choice – Joseph Beuys” was born. I’ve got the feeling that people in Düsseldorf have more of a sense of humour than those in other German cities, if I can say that. I’d previously lived in Berlin for a few years, but I never felt like a Berliner. Düsseldorf is a city that is much easier to warm to. The Rhineland just has its own special vibe.

What sort of feedback have you been getting for Destination Düsseldorf?
The album was released at the end of June, and shortly afterwards I received a video in which thousands of people in Düsseldorf’s football stadium were singing my song.

What do we have to do to get you to move to Düsseldorf?
Not a lot! You’d have to give me a German passport – because of Brexit, which I hate. I don’t think that people in Germany and the Netherlands understand how much we hate Brexit in the UK. I’m sure that it was mostly older people with a prejudice against Europe who voted for it, while the younger ones simply love Europe. My mother was Irish and my father was German, so I regard myself as European, and most other people here do too.

Interview: Rudi Esch
Main photo:  Cover detail from the album Destination Düsseldorf, photo: Richard Jobson (Instagram)
All other photos by kind permission of Rudi Esch.

Bob Gruen in front of a self-portrait.

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