Japan Doll Magazine July 2008

Bio / Intro TNT

If you want to write a brief biography about the Zurich Punk band TNT, you first have to mention The Dogbodys. In 1977 they were the most active group, next to the Nasal Boys. The Dogbodys were a classic ‘77 Punk band with their musical roots in American pre-Punk, ranging from Iggie Pop to MC5, combined with a solid infusion of Sex Pistols. Unfortunately, they never released any recordings.

By September 1978, the band TNT evolved out of the last formation of The Dogbodys. The members were: the guitarist and new songwriter Dani Grässle, Smudi Gross on bass and Gianni Luder playing drums. Sara Schär, a 14 year-old singer, replaced the British-born Ray Fairbrother, the last remaining founding member of The Dogbodys, Sara previously played bass in an "all female" punk band called Züri eSeS. As of March 1979, Phil Rust took over on drums from Gianni, who later formed the band Act1 together with Sara's father.

On June 5, 1979, the label Voxpop released TNT’s first single "Züri Brännt" (Zurich is burning). This track was originally written by The Dogbodys, including the b-side "Subway Scene". The third on the record, "131" (consisting of that number of words in the song), is a true TNT offering though. "Züri brännt" is still the best known Punk song to originate from Switzerland and it ultimately became the band’s trademark. During the early 1980’s, this track quite unintentionally emerged as the main anthem for the violent "80’s youth movement of Switzerland”. No coincidence therefore that in 2005, for the 25th anniversary of “the Zurich opera house riots”, a DVD was released with "Züri Brännt" as its title.

In November 1979, the entire Swiss Punk scene flocked to the centre of Switzerland for the two-day “Swiss Punk Now Festival” held in Emmen (near Lucerne). However, Phil Rust was in London and Tomi Wydler, the drummer of the group Hertz had to step in to ensure a TNT performance. Wydler later settled in Berlin and still makes a living as a drummer for acts such as Die Haut or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. However, Phil did not return until January 1980 and Beat Schlatter, another prominent figure, temporarily substituted for TNT on drums. Having played in Kraft Durch Freude, a band founded by ex-Nasal Boys guitarist Rudolph Dietrich, Schlatter later moved on to Ladyshave as well as Liliput (ex-Kleenex) and now is a popular Swiss actor and comedian.

TNT's second single was released in April 1980 on the classic Swiss Punk record label, Off Course. The two tracks "Fight" and "Remember" are punchy and sound very much like the English Punk Rock of that time period. Yet, a third track called "Stupid Boy" was also recorded, but not included on the 7” and then completely forgotten about. It surfaced during the research for the book "Hot Love" which chronicles the Swiss Punk and Wave scene from 1976 to 1980. So, nearly 30 years later, "Stupid Boy" together with many other classic TNT tracks has been made available on CD by Base Records, Tokyo, for the first time.

Alec von Tavel’s label Disctrade then released TNT's third single in 1981. Alec had briefly played bass for The Dogbodys back in 1978. He was also responsible for the final mixing of the two songs "Razzia" (Roundup) and "They Robbed Us" – much to the dismay of the musicians who didn’t really approve. Despite the band’s discontent, "Razzia", together with "Züri brännt", actually became the most popular TNT song and, unsurprisingly, was also included on the 1986 Sampler “Definitiv”.

On February 2, 1981, Dani left Zurich for Berlin and Thomi Bickel from the group Sperma (Sperm) replaced him on guitar. The 10” EP release "Eine kleine Machtmusik" (A small power music) followed, with 9 brand new songs recorded at the Pyramid Studio of Sara's father. However, the guitar tracks had to be redone later by Dani so that only "Clowns" and "Rubber Bank" are played by Bickel. It also took 2 years to complete the record and it was released through Off Course in the fall of 1983. At this point, TNT had not performed a live set for quite some time. Consequently, the EP, limited to 1000 with a beautiful cover, went entirely unnoticed.

At the same time, Dani had already formed Manisch Depressiv (Manic Depressive) with his girlfriend Gigia, releasing the 7” single “MD” in 1983 on the Soilant label. They rehearsed in the same practice room as the group F.D.P., with whom they also often played together. Then, by the end of 1984, Dani and Sara founded a new group called The Kick and the track "Close Your Eyes" can be found on the “Definitiv” Sampler. A promo-only 7” single with the same song came thereafter and it has a live version of “Adicts” on the b-side. A final 12” release followed in 1985. Phil Rust, on the other hand, had previously joined Rudolph Dietrich's group Mutterfreuden before becoming the drummer for Niki Grandjean’s band Hertz. By 1986, he and Smudi reunited for the Surf combo The Killer Planets. 2 songs, “Hawaii 5-0” and “Pipeline", can be found on the “Definitiv” Sampler. Sadly, by the end of the 80’s, all these bands had irrevocably dissolved...

© swisspunk.ch – Lurker Grand and André Tschan  


An interview with Sara Schär, done by Lurker Grand, November 15th, 2007.

Where and in what environment did you grow up?

I grew up in Seebach (a suburb of Zurich) with my parents and my brother until I was ten. My parents were Hippies and there was always something going on. People went in and out, there were big parties and my father was far from being what one would call an “adjusted” type. He was active in “The Soldiers Committee” (proposing the abolishment of the Swiss army) and engaged as a DJ in the “Bunker” - both being well-known institutions originating from the ‘68 movement in Zurich. Of course, the entire family also participated in anti-Vietnam demonstrations. Then, when I was 10 years old, my parents separated and I moved in with my mother. 2 years later, after some detours, I ended up at my father’s place, a commune in the village of Kuesnacht (suburb of Zurich).

How did you get into music?

As a small child I already composed my own little songs and I liked singing in primary school. From the participation in a choir I also received basic classical training and, therefore, always managed to get A’s for my grades in music.

That’s rather amusing, because for me it was exactly the opposite. Shortly before turning Punk I took the entrance examination for the teacher’s seminary in the town of Rorschach and completely failed in singing as well as reading notes.

I want to make it clear though that I did not become a Punk rock singer out of desperation! A major musical influence at the time was the band Ton Steine Scherben from the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. They sang in German, which I could understand and, thus, they were already somewhat a role model.

How did the first contact with Punk Rock come about?

The “Big Bang” came thanks to my father when he gave me some singles that he thought I should listen to, including one 7” by The Damned. I was immediately hooked.

Not bad, really.

Yes… inasmuch as I grew up with Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, simply the entire rock background. My parents were after all very young, between 19 and 20 years, when they had me.

Consequently, you must have gone out with Punks that were the same age as your parents?

Yes, that clearly became the case.

Where or how did you meet other Punk Rockers?

Somewhere, I can’t remember that anymore. Some Punks hung around though and there were also two girls, AGS and Soda. They asked me if I wanted to play bass with them, which of course I had never done before. I agreed and we called ourselves Züri eSeS. Rehearsals took place in the Mother's Ruin practise room in the village of Bäch. Funnily enough Reto, their guitarist, instantly took pictures to document us.

And 2 or 3 months later you became the singer for TNT?

Yes… I briefly researched this in my stuff and found a letter from Soda, lamenting that I wasn’t rehearsing with them anymore. More than likely, I didn’t dare tell her that I was already playing in another band.

Was it Gianni Luder, the drummer for The Dogbodys that actually asked you to play with them?

Yes, exactly. Gianni met me at the “Knabenschiessen” fun fair (held once a year in Zurich). He just wanted to get to know me and had this cheesy pickup line: “Do you want to sing in my band?” I of course immediately agreed and when we drove home together he asked me how old I was. I said 14 and he nothing more than “uff… ahh… ok, tomorrow at the practice room then." However, some other woman had been asked to be the singer for TNT and she was there too – but I simply blew her away.

No wonder, with your voice!

Incidentally, recordings were made of the first few rehearsals. Dani was totally infatuated with technology and he had set up microphones everywhere to record the sessions on a Revox tape. I thrilled them so thoroughly that they promptly announced that I was to be the new singer. This, set things in stone, I guess!

I did see a whole crate of tapes at Dani’s home.

Those I have too. However, I finally managed to dispose of about half of them, considering that I recorded every single one of our rehearsals and we practised 2 or 3 times a week.


Sure, but this was done to reflect, to find out what was good and what not, where changes were necessary.

Where did this demand for professionalism come from?

We all had it within TNT and I think you can hear it in our songs. It was important to us how our sound was received. Hence, we only took our own equipment to almost all concerts, including the SP1 speakers from the practise room. We had our own concert-PA and it had to sound exactly the way we wanted.

How did your first concert in November 1978 for the Anti-Repression Congress at the Volkshaus, Zurich, come about?

That, I truly can’t recall. However, I have recordings of it, but they sound awful, truthfully… what I just told you before was a later phase and for the first gig I just screamed while the others made noise.

Nonetheless, the Vox Pop Label people must have been mighty impressed, considering that they offered you a record deal the same night?

For them it was probably something completely new and the raw force and fury that we let out apparently must have made an impact.

The following month you played at the Hey Club and the Punks hearing you for the first time were totally blown away.

Yes exactly and after that we were legitimate representatives of our guild. That was awesome, just imagine you are 14 years old, you have a band, the people listen to you and totally flip - simply the best!

Regarding your songs, there were some that you played, but were actually written by The Dogbodys?

Yes that’s true. Subway Scene, Züri brännt, Fascist Pigs or Army were songs by Ray with typical English lyrics: “Go to the army, travelling to foreign countries, meet new people and kill them, kill them, kill them…”

If I mention some other TNT titles like Taken In Jail, Razzia (Roundup), They Robbed Us or Fight, one assumes a strong political background.

Smudi for example, was fairly radical and politically-minded. Before my time, the band also rehearsed at Wiesenstrasse and it was a house occupied by squatters. So, this politico-groove didn’t come from me, but rather was already present when I joined the band.

Does this actually remind you a little of your own father?

No, not really. I thought it was just cool to sing in a band. It just suited me.

What was TNT’s stance in the summer of 1980 regarding the AJZ (Autonomous Youth Centre)?

We were definitely not a political band and the one time we played there, was marked by a very strange atmosphere. Somehow a curious aggression that moved toward us, probably because we weren’t who they thought we were supposed to be.

But you were there quite often?

Yes, I worked there. I had finished school and had no apprenticeship yet. At the AJZ you could report for work every morning by 9 am and you were given 5 Francs (500 Yen) an hour. I did this many a times. In the movie “Züri Brännt” you can actually see a girl painting the wall of the building, that’s me. I wasn’t at the demonstrations though because they were too “heavy” for me and I stayed at the AJZ – I probably painted the whole building as a result. I’m not a person with a radical ideology it was simply my surrounding environment at the time. It became more and more cramped though, with everybody having to think and look alike, so that all fun eventually disappeared.

Maybe TNT appeared strongly political, but in fact it had more lightness to it. There was no narrow doctrine, much rather it was a means to express our frustrations. We simply transported our views through the music and lyrics and that was that. For me, this was an entirely personal contribution to the whole thing.

From the beginning and beyond the breakup of the band you stayed with Smudi, the bassist of TNT.

Yes, that’s true, I was very young and he was my first love. TNT was something like a family.

© swisspunk.ch – Lurker Grand and André Tschan