Ranking the discography: Donots vocalist Ingo looks back at 30 years of making music
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Friday, May 3, 2024 - 11:50
Ranking the discography: Donots vocalist Ingo looks back at 30 years of making music

Celebrating an impressive three decades of playing punk rock is only given to a select few. Even fewer manage to do it with as much grace and success as Germany’s Donots. Hot on the heels of last year’s #1 album ‘Heut Ist Ein Guten Tag,’ the band has a whole bunch of shows mapped out (which are selling out quick) to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

We caught up with Ingo, the charismatic vocalist and punk rock royalty, who took on the daunting task of ranking Donots' entire catalog so we wouldn't have to. From the band's early DIY roots to becoming one of Germany’s most exciting bands and the evolution into something that transcends punk rock: it's all captured in these releases. Their sound may have become more expansive over the years and their lyrics may all be auf Deutsch nowadays, but Donots still pack the same enthusiasm, positive attitude and kickass songs.

(photo credit: Danny Kötter Zitterman)



Ingo: Well, I suppose every band out there has to have their least favorite album in their discography. Or let’s just say an album you have mixed emotions about. "Got The Noise“ was sort of a dead end for the early DONOTS formula. We started to sort of emulate ourselves, things got a little trite and in a way we didn’t quite surprise ourselves anymore which is creative stagnation in a nutshell. What’s more: by the time the album was out we didn’t want to be with GUN Records/Supersonic anymore as we felt wrongly represented. We had to get lawyers involved to get us out of the deal. Bottomline: All that background struggle and miscommunication can sort of be heard on the album. It’s not terrible. It’s just not that good and if ever there was a time of complete uncertainty in our career, it was exactly then.




Ingo: Our first official album on GUN Records/Supersonic turned out to be a complete disaster for the label as we were young punks and in complete denial of all the promotional ideas that the people at this sub label of Sony/BMG had for the DONOTS. When the album came out it was already dead in the water because we didn’t feel like being on sketchy TV shows or in glossy magazines for teenagers. It sold some 30.000 copies back then (which would be amazing numbers nowadays!). The recordings were great fun though: We hung out in Spain for some 3 weeks to record with Die Ärzte producer Uwe Hoffmann. It was basically paid holidays in the sun and we were super proud of the album. Nowadays, I don’t feel as enthusiastic about these tunes anymore since half of the songs were re-recordings of our DIY album "Tonight’s Karaoke-Contest Winners“ and we didn’t nail them as much the 2nd time around. It still was a great official start for us as we got to tour quite a lot afterwards, which was always our main focus as a band till this very day.




Ingo: Ain’t it funny that some of our songs ended up on Nippon karaoke while our 2nd DIY album from 1998 was blatantly called "Tonight’s Karaoke-Contest Winners“? This record sort of marks an early transition for our band and its songwriting: we went from having no clue whatsoever to sort of finding out who or what we could be one day. The first production in a bigger studio (with Vincent Sorg whose first engineering efforts can be found on this album) and a complete DIY environment. We spent hours on end packing boxes and shipping the album to zines, labels, promoters of shows, squats and clubs. Next thing you know: Samiam take us out for a first European tour and we eventually sign a deal with GUN Records/Supersonic. Could our band be more than just a great way of killing some time?




Ingo: The follow-up album to our breakthrough record "Pocketrock“ took things to a whole new level and had us travel the world for the first time. We toured Europe extensively with "Amplify The Good Times“, broke new ground in Japan and had our first US experiences with songs like "Saccharine Smile“ and a cover version of "We’re Not Gonna Take It“ by Twisted Sister. People were waiting for us at the airport in Tokyo, billboards in Shibuya would play our videos, songs of ours could be found in Japanese karaoke machines - and five dudes from Ibbenbüren, Germany were having the time of their life.




Ingo: Our second album sung completely in German was an amazing experience back in 2018. The shackles and inhibitions of writing in our mother tongue finally came off and it felt like music and lyrics went hand in hand even more than before. We knew what we wanted to do, we knew what we didn’t want anymore and we finally got to a point where we could truly envision what powers came along when making use of our scope, taking a point blank political stance and getting younger kids interested in topics like anti-fascism, questioning authority and DIY positivity. "Keiner kommt hier lebend raus“ and "Eine letzte letzte Runde“ would be the definite songs to stand the test of time on this record.



To kick things off on "The Long Way Home“ we had our friend Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music leave us a message on our answering machine in our band HQ and used that sample for "Changes“, one of my all-time fave DONOTS tracks. I love the time it takes as an intro song only to explode into "Calling“, probably the most iconic DONOTS live song - an absolute key element on every setlist. Also "Dead Man Walking“, sung by Guido our guitarist, can‘t be left out on a DONOTS show. The rest of the album is pretty much a mix tape and tries on various styles ending in an epic „Parade Of One“ - probably the closest we ever came to an opera, hahah! Nowadays this song would be too much for my short punk attention span but you know…. Been there done that!




Ingo: Our new-found love for experiments since "Coma Chameleon“ left marks on all DONOTS albums to come and "Wake The Dogs“ was no exception. With a tip of the hat to UK punk influences and old-school punk rock aesthetics, we took the freedom to follow no strict songwriting formula but to infuse "Wake The Dogs“ with a very nostalgic vibe while maintaining a modern sound standard (produced by our old pal Vincent Sorg who started out as a producer pretty much when we started out as a band). The title track is a must on every DONOTS show sure to turn both tiny squats and huge festivals upside down once the beat kicks in. An even bigger necessity and an absolute DONOTS fan classic till this very day is "So Long“, the closing track of the album AND the final song to every DONOTS show. We invited our good friend Frank Turner to do guest vocals on that one - and boy, did he deliver! 




Ingo: As a long running band it’s crucial to always stay on your toes, stay hungry and to never get complacent. In 2013, we went on a month-long tour of the States with the likes of Flogging Molly, Mariachi El Bronx, CJ Ramone and a couple more. It was on that very tour that we finally had a revelation: Singing in your mother tongue hits people differently. Up to this point the DONOTS had always sung in English since we were very influenced by US and UK punk. Yet German punk was always in our DNA just as much. Hence we gave it a try and wrote our first album with German lyrics, kicking things off with a 7“ and guest vocals by Tim McIlrath from our buddies in Rise Against (singing in seamless German, go figure!).  Without hyperbole one can definitely say that German is quite a tough language and writing German lyrics is kind of like juggling kitchen knives: It’s a sensation if you do it well, it results in instant death if you don’t. Luckily we survived and "Karacho“ marked yet another next level for the DONOTS.




Ingo: Around 2006 we sort of hit rock bottom with the DONOTS when it came to creativity and a clear vision of what we wanted to do as a band. We got stuck in our own gears and things got a little too predictable. That’s when producer Kurt Ebelhäuser, a good friend of ours from the acclaimed indie-band Blackmail, dared us to do a test production session with him as he was convinced we were 'a great band but all of our albums plain sucked'. We always loved people wearing their hearts on the sleeve so we gave it a shot and Kurt turned our heads around when it came to approaching the DONOTS sound from a much more grounded and more experimental perspective. We were done with pop punk - as was the scene - and "Coma Chameleon“ saw us develop new trademarks: live in the moment, work on different riffage and take chances. It was harsher, in a way harder and definitely more sophisticated than anything we had done before. Before "Coma Chameleon“ the turnouts at our shows grew smaller and smaller and people kinda lost their interest in the DONOTS. Funny enough the slowest and softest song of the new DONOTS era, "Stop The Clocks“, was the one to get us off the ground again. All of a sudden music channels such as MTV and radio stations nationwide would put us on heavy rotation (even though we didn’t have any big backing on our first DIY releases through Solitary Man Records) and we had grown into a new band willing to lay it all on the line - again.




Ingo: When this album came out in early 2001 it really opened a lot of doors for us. For the first time in our young career we really had some sort of momentum with our band and all of a sudden we found ourselves on sort of a hype train. At times various singles and videos from "Pocketrock“ such as "Whatever Happened To The 80s“, "Superhero“ or "Room With A View“ would air on 3 TV channels plus radio stations at the same time. We pretty much toured for the better part of the year, got nominated for awards and constantly shook our heads in disbelief. To this day "Pocketrock“ holds a very special place in our hearts and its blend of end 90s/early 2K melodic pop punk laid the foundation for years of DONOTS shenanigans to come. It also marked the first time we really got a producer involved in the making of an album: Our good friend and 80s afficionado Fabio Trentini who taught us a lot about performance.




Ingo: It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that I should vote our latest album "Heut ist ein guter Tag“ to be our best effort yet. Pretty much every band would render the newest album their finest - so who am I to disagree? Some 30 years down the line we have found our very own DONOTS formula, our trademarks, we know about our strengths as a band and a lot of people out there seemed to agree: This record is our first #1 album in the German charts on our own label Solitary Man Records and its positive outlook on a world going to shit seemed to resonate a lot with a post-pandemic society trying to keep its head above the water. Oh, another reason why I chose this to be my favorite DONOTS album of all time: We get to play our biggest shows and festivals ever since we have released these 15 tracks which makes this album even more special - three decades after we started out as a band in the early 90s. Life’s good indeed!



Ingo: We also have a bunch of records which are no proper studio albums so I didn’t include them in the ranking. But here’s my take on those just for the sake of being complete:



Ingo: You gotta have a proper live album at some point in your career, don’t you? So we recorded our 25th anniversary shows and compiled „Birhtday Slams Live“. I love the fact that you can hear the audience sing at the top of their lungs throughout the whole record. And I cherish the fact that we didn’t polish any of the recordings. This is as raw as it gets. No overdubs, no second takes. Just bare bones, sweat, blood and piss. It ain’t perfect, but that is what makes it a perfect live album.


Ingo: Our very first demo CD. You can’t even really call it an album, to be honest. After two tape demos and a bunch of cover songs by The Clash, Sex Pistols, Bad Religion, Nirvana and more, we took our first steps in writing our own material. Well, you gotta stumble before you walk eventually…


Ingo: For our 25th birthday, our silver anniversary as a band, we thought it’d make sense to compile a proper singles and fave tracks album ourselves so we released "Silverhochzeit“ on our own label, Solitary Man Records, with extensive and detailed liner-notes and a neat packaging. We named it "Silverhochzeit“ to pay hommage to both our English and German songs in one mash-up title.


Ingo: Part of the deal that ended our record deal with GUN/Supersonic was a 'Best of' album. We decided to make it as worthwhile as possible so we included a second CD featuring a bunch of new songs, a couple of live tracks, hard to get B-sides and compilation tracks. Oh well, it is what it is.

Tom Dumarey
Tom Dumarey

Lacking the talent to actually play in a band, Tom decided he would write about bands instead. Turns out his writing skills are mediocre at best as well.