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Music icons

Jürgen Brendel, Dagmar Dahmen / rfMarch 21, 2013

Best Rock Group, Best Album, Hit of the Year: Die Toten Hosen were the big winners of the year at the ECHO Awards. One of Germany's most internationally known groups, Die Toten Hosen's history is that of a mega career.

Die Toten Hosen, Herbst 2012 *** Foto: Carla Meurer Die Verwendung ist unter Angabe der Credits frei.
Band Die Toten HosenImage: Carla Meurer

2012 was not to be outdone. Die Toten Hosen celebrated their 30th anniversary, their single "Tage wie diese" (Days Like These) stuck to number one in the charts for weeks, their album rose to the number two spot, and the accompanying tour was completely sold out.

But they wouldn't be Die Toten Hosen without topping that: At the ECHO Awards, sponsored by the German Phono Academy, they were the only band to be nominated in no fewer than seven categories, including Best DVD Production. After the awards ceremony Thursday (21.03.2013), they'd won in four of those categories, including for both hit ("Tage wie diese") and album ("Ballast der Republik") of the year. The DVD for which they were nominated, titled "Noches Como Estas - Live in Buenos Aires," was recorded in September 2012 and marks the 20th anniversary of their legendary performance in Argentina.

With over 700,000 copies sold, their most recent album "Ballast der Republik" (Ballast of the Republic) went gold seven times over. And the tour "Der Krach der Republik" (The Noise of the Republic), continuing in mid-May, is as good as sold out. The 42,300 tickets for their Dusseldorf appearance were snapped up within hours.

DVD cover "Noches Como Estas" from Die Toten Hosen
This DVD could receive an ECHOImage: Carla Meurer

Down to earth

Die Toten Hosen are just as much a part of Dusseldorf as Altbier (the local brew) and the Rhine River. With charismatic lead singer Campino, the quintet is a city trademark - something that Campino, Kuddel, Vom, Andi and Breiti could have hardly dreamed at their first concert on April 10, 1982.

With millions of units sold, Die Toten Hosen - the name literally means The Dead Pants, slang for Dullsville - are considered role models for social involvement and sports-related activities. During their 2012 anniversary tour, the band once again demonstrated a knack for concertizing in unusual places, including fans' living rooms and in a prison. Not acting like the big stars they are, the musicians can be spotted at soccer games, concerts and in local taverns.

"The boys stay true to themselves, and their punk rock attitude is still the same," is how music critic Philipp Holstein explained the phenomenon surrounding Die Toten Hosen. "The longer I'm in Dusseldorf, the clearer it is to me how important they are to this city and all across Germany."

Using their popularity as a podium to take a stand, Die Toten Hosen have opposed atomic energy and Nazis. In protest against the fur industry, they once performed nude. Along with other bands, they opposed the nomination of Frei.Wild, the band from southern Tirol, for an ECHO this year.

But whereas Kraftklub, loathe to share the stage with Frei.Wild, rejected their own nomination, the "Hosen" issued a more moderate statement: "We shouldn't close our eyes to the fact that there are a lot of people who like and purchase music that exploits right-wing clichés. But it's unfortunate that Frei.Wild, who play a supporting role, are suddenly getting all the attention."

The band continued by suggesting that a new category be established at the ECHO to reward artists who have turned away from right-wing extremism.

Die Toten Hosen on stage
Die Toten Hosen in actionImage: AP

The early days

The band's first big success came in 1988 with the album "Ein kleines bisschen Horrorschau" (A Little Bit of Horror Show) and the popular tune "Hier kommt Alex" (Here Comes Alex). The simple melodies and easily understood texts struck a chord. Titles like "Kauf mich!" (Buy Me!) and "Opium fürs Volk" (Opium for the People) regularly stormed the charts in the years to follow, popular with young and old alike. Parents and children can often be seen at the same Toten Hosen concert.

Uniquely, the band has been almost as popular in Argentina for the past 20 years as they are in Germany, and not only when they intone "Guantanamera."

But the punk rockers' 1,000th concert 15 years ago nearly ended their career. A 16-year-old was crushed to death in the crowd in front of the stage, triggering the band's greatest internal crisis and a period of introspection. But they went on.

Not ready for retirement

In 2007, fans held their breath when Die Toten Hosen received the renowned Krone award for lifetime achievement by radio broadcaster EinsLive. That distinction usually means that the career summit has been reached, and that it's time to step down. But not so for the "Hosen."

Campino from Die Toten Hosen
Campino's whole life has revolved around the bandImage: picture-alliance/dpa

At present, the punkers are delivering proof that the prize was awarded too early.

With so many highlights in the life of the band, even Campino is at a loss for words. "I have to admit that about 90 percent of all the experiences in my life that I find wonderful or super have to do with Die Toten Hosen," he declared.

There are no signs that the band is heading for the exit any time soon. But when the time eventually does come, the band members even have a grave site reserved together in a Dusseldorf cemetery.