My life, music and me
What’s the best way to start a short, classic outline of a biography? What should I tell you about my life? Something you’ve never heard before, that was never written, said or exaggerated about me? If I take the last four years, in my mind’s eye they’re alive and intense. They were loud, momentous and full of frenzy. The years prior to our deciding to “breathe new life into the Onkelz“, as Kevin likes to call it, weren’t that special. Each of us did what they had to do to break free, even if it involved turf warfare, inflated egos and drug problems that were omnipresent on all sides. I don’t intend on expanding on the Onkelz late history here. For one, it was recently documented by one of our team and can be found on www.onkelz.de and besides I’d like to take a look at a different perspective. A perspective that doesn’t really find much space in the Onkelz concept because it doesn’t belong there. It’s too personal, too much Gonzo, but that’s exactly why you’re reading it. That’s why I’m dedicating a project to myself, something that puts my life and that of my environment in the line of focus, without being egocentric, insensitive, indiscreet or vain. An interesting challenge 😉
The things written down here on these pages are meant to prepare you for what’s to come. A story whose veracity should be close to 100% up to the last sentence, even if some of the memories are a little bent, and the eyewitnesses accounts circulating among friends and family make the overall view a little more subjective. That’s normal and that’s why it’s my story, and not anybody else’s.
It will be about my childhood in the sixties, spent in Frankfurt, how I then learned to love the harder sounds in the mid-seventies and how in 1975 at 13, I bought my first guitar, one I could call my very own. My story will also relate to how I had to deal with being a punk in the big city on the Main, who my musical heroes were (and yes, for the nth time, how I ended up with the alias Gonzo) and which bands I played in, looking for some bliss.
The story has to do with politics, our problems in society, which we have to deal with now as well as back then. It will try and explain why a punk – and much more important, why a musician, a human, needs balls of steel to assert himself in life as well as in the business. Additionally, it will tell you about that fateful day at a bus stop that a loud-mouthed punk with snake-skinned shoes tried to tell me which bus I had to take to get to the legendary youth center in Bockenheim. Next to him, were two guys, a little bit younger than I was, with equally outrageous clothes. One of them, I remember exactly, had green spiked hair. His worn-out leather jacket was covered with “Anarchy“ patches. A few days later, I hooked up with those three strange guys in their band and other than the badass parties and the total rebellion, I didn’t really expect a lot from them. Not because they couldn’t deliver much. But because they couldn’t deliver a single thing. Not to mention their name….“BÖHSE ONKELZ“.
My story is about how we felt in the early history of the band, how the spirit of the Onkelz was so substantial that there was a constant light- heartedness, bliss, chaos and a bit of revolution in the air. Nothing and nobody told us what to do or set artificial boundaries for us. We wouldn’t have accepted them anyway. That’s why this story won’t be a repeat: it’s not going to be an Onkelz’ ersatz biography, no “Thanks for Nothing II“, but rather it will approach the topics repeatedly, going into the details of different eras, which are extremely important to me in context with the band, and it will turn to the right or left, go straight ahead or run into a wall more swiftly and concisely. Those especially memorable moments that remain after three and a half decades of Böhsen Onkelz, be they good or bad, will turn up in my story.
However, and this part is just as important to me as the part about “Gonzo“ the guitar player: there will be a lot of personal stuff I’ll be processing.
How many famous, brilliant and exceptionally talented musicians, actors or other artists have destroyed themselves with coke and H ? I’ve lost count. Drugs will also have a chapter in my story. Not only because they destroyed the Onkelz and it took ten years, with a lot of luck and spilt blood, to patch the band back up, no, but also because I’ve also had to deal with this subject within my very own family.
The prevailing topic will be music, though. The world would be a sad place without music. Nietsche went as far as to say that life would be a mistake without music. My pulse rate frequency is high, there’s no time for stalemates or standing still. My heartbeat is a metronome, it pumps like a bass drum. My fingers take on a life of their own as soon as I have a pick between thumb and forefinger and guitar in my hand. My mouth turns up and mimics each note I play. I invest all of my emotions, love and esteem into every song that I play.
Stephen King once said that he has to write every day. But not because he has to but because he wants to. He said he would have never made it past being a teacher with writing ambitions if he didn’t really want to write. Because if you don’t practice a craft daily, you lose it. The same applies to me. Not a day passes, not even when I’m on vacation with my family, that I don’t play guitar, write down some ideas or do something that has to do with music. It’s my life. It’s my “way of life“, to which a lot of other issues belong to as well. But if there’s something such as the above mentioned, the ruling meta-topic which spread it’s wings of fate over my cradle and along my life’s path, then it would have to be music. In all it’s facets and beauty.
There’ll be enough space for my family. They’ll be able to have their say, as well as my closets friends and the ones who I’ve spent so much time with during my career but hardly know about the details: you. And whatever Klaus Farin can do, I can (wink wink) too, that’s why I’m calling out to all of you who have read this and are excited about what’s going to come the next years and am asking you: what connects you to music? Send me your stories, you’re welcome to send in your personal connection to me, to the Onkelz or the Matt Gonzo Roehr Band, and we’ll select parts of it and weave it into the story. Send it to
That’s about it for now. Besides working on my new solo album the next few months, I’ll be working on my story. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, to reading about you – and hopefully to seeing you again sometime soon.
Matt Gonzo Roehr June 2017