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The eternal punk: Wolfgang Müller

THE BOYS OF KOTTI SERIES! It takes a certain kind of character (and yes, apparently some testosterone) to stick it out around Kottbusser Tor. We talked to the bikers, shopkeepers, artists and punks who’ve made the Kiez their own.

Image for The eternal punk: Wolfgang Müller
Photo by Maria Runarsdottir

Wir tanzen im Viereck,” screamed Wolfgang Müller in Die Tödliche Doris’ infamous 1981 punk anti-manifesto “Tanz im Quadrat” (subsequently covered by fellow Kreuzbergers Stereo Total). It’s hard to picture this 50-something man in casual button down apparel gesticulating naked on stage while covered in gold face paint, as he did in his band’s heyday. Instead, your first impression is of a seasoned intellectual with a keen in terest in the esoteric, just as likely to pontificate on contemporary Icelandic politics as he is to wax nostalgic about the old Kreuzberg punk scene.

Kotti’s always been avant-garde. Not just for art and politics, but for criminals, too.

Müller moved to the neighbourhood around Kotti from Wolfsburg, West Germany in 1979. “I had no real education and no money. The most important thing was a cheap apartment,” he remembers. He forged his proof of employment to apply for one, but it turned out his 92-year-old landlord, a Holocaust survivor, didn’t care about that. He just wanted to know one thing: “Are you a right-wing extremist?” Müller naturally wasn’t, but the leftists in West Berlin’s purely political corner didn’t take a shine to him and the wave of young Germans moving to the Hauptstadt at the time. “They saw us as decadent, and they had really bad taste.”

Shortly after arriving, he formed Die Tödliche Doris with Nikolaus Utermöhlen and a host of others, and took part in 1981’s scene-defining Geniale Dilettanten Festival alongside Einstürzende Neubauten, Gudrun Gut and Christiane F. But Kreuzberg went south not long after Tödliche Doris’ planned dissolution in 1987, Müller says, recalling how after the Wall fell, the scene went from political and arty to the opposite with the arrival of Westbam, Dr. Motte and the Love Parade generation. “Kreuzberg was out! People ran east.”

As Kotti stagnated, Müller turned his attention to Iceland, going back and forth throughout the 1990s until lured back to Kiez life with the opening of queer drinking institution Möbel Olfe in the early 2000s. In 2013, he published his tome Subkultur Westberlin 1979-1989, documenting the Wild West days of Berlin, coinciding with a regenerated interest in the island city and cementing Müller as a prime witness to the times. But his attention is not just directed at the past – he continues painting, performing and even producing to this day. And he remains invested in Kottbusser Tor’s future. “Kotti’s always been avant-garde,” he says. “Not just for art and politics, but for criminals, too. They did it with Hutspiele [shell games], now it’s Antanzen [dance tricks]…” But Müller doesn’t seem to mind too much. In the 37 years he’s lived in the neighbourhood, he’s never been robbed or attacked. The only thing he’s observed is that “Kotti” has become a brand. And he seems amused by it.