Holzfeuer, lead vocalist for the Bay Area action-adventure rock sextet ArnoCorps, stands before a giant poster advertising the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando. For the man who pointedly calls himself a vocalist because all "singers" are marshmallow-assed girly-men, this poster is a source of deep cultural shame.
"You may ask yourself why we are having these pictures of this Arnold Schwarzenoodle guy up here too, right?" he asks, in a patently ludicrous Austrian accent he never stops using.
"Blasphemy," spit his bandmates behind him, in equally fake proto-Schwarzenegger-speak. "It's all bullshit."
"A lot of times the fans, they come to our shows, they're confused about ArnoCorps," continues Holzfeuer, whose name translates into English as Log Fire. "They hear the songs 'Commando,' 'Terminator,' 'Running Man,' and think, 'They must be singing about Arnold Schwarzenoodle movies and all these kinds of things.'"
This misconception upsets Holzfeuer.
"They're WRONG," he shouts. "Originally when we would get these posters from fans, Toten Adler would use them for target practice over dere."
Bass player Toten Adler (Dead Eagle in English) asserts this notion between sips of his protein shake: "I would wipe my ass with them right dere! You see these streaks right here?"
He points to the military face paint that adorns Arnold's grimacing mug.
"That's my shit! Come on! Forget about it!"
The assembled members of ArnoCorps shout and laugh heartily.
"We put this up as a reminder," Holzfeuer continues. "This is a reminder that these stories that we bring to America for the very first time have already been exploited, misinterpreted, sold to Hollywood. At first I thought this guy was a victim. I thought he was a victim of the American culture -- they took all of his culture, and turned it into films. But then I realized: He was purposely selling these stories, and then starring in the movies. Making all de money."
This state of affairs upsets Holzfeuer.
"These stories have been passed down around the campfires for years, generations," he says. "My grandmother first told me about 'Total Recall.' We're sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows. And first thing she said to me was, 'Holzfeuer, when you roast this marshmallow, keep in mind what's happening here. It's a symbol of burning the fat. And you cannot get lazy and soft like marshmallow dere. You gotta remember: Burn it. And the best way to burn it is to feel the Pump. And the best way to feel the Pump is to listen to these fantastic stories and spread them to the people.'"
ArnoCorps endeavors to make you feel the Pump.
ArnoCorps is a hardcore punk band that performs songs that, by sheer coincidence, deal solely with the action films of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The lyrics, too, address situations and images that parallel these movies exactly. "Don't drink and bake!" Holzfeuer warns in "Raw Deal." The sing-along chorus to "Total Recall" is "Get your ass! Get your ass to Mars!" Etc.
But as Holzfeuer's grandmother has already explained, "End of Days" and "True Lies" were campfire stories lovingly passed around Austria long before Schwarzenegger exploited them to service his Hollywood career. These epic tales of heroism and valor -- which the band insists must be delivered through songs, not films -- inspired Holzfeuer to first create ArnoCorps in 1989.
"Absolutely, absolutely," he says. "I started this band with all of my friends from the neighborhood, and we rocked the fuck out of everyone in Austria. We went to England, took over dere. I tried to go back to Austria, they told me I could not go back because I was exiled because of the lyrics of my music. Bullshit. So I went to England, I recuperated, got new members, all these things, tried to come here, crashed in the Alps, they all died, and I was by myself. Then I came out here, and I got these new members."
By "here," he means Berkeley.
The ArnoCorps compound announces its presence via the lamp adorning the front window -- a female mannequin's disembodied leg with a lampshade covering the thigh. Just like the one the dad brings home in A Christmas Story.
Inside the house one discovers a huge collection of old-time monster masks and action figures dominating the living room. On the coffee table is a Physicians' Desk Reference and a copy of Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics. A skull-patterned shower curtain and back issues of Penthouse await you in the bathroom. And upstairs, in the ArnoCorps rehearsal space, one finds the shit-streaked Schwarzenegger posters that pain Holzfeuer so.
He purges this pain via a genre ArnoCorps has created called Action-Adventure Hardcore Rock 'n' Roll. "You have lyrics like 'COME ON! I'M HERE! KILL ME! DO IT NOW! OHHHHH! GET TO THE CHOPPER!'" Holzfeuer robustly shouts. "That's an expression of anger, anguish, challenging of yourself."
The first American subjects to feel the Pump and be so challenged did so in January 2001 at, appropriately, 924 Gilman.
"Start them when they're young," Holzfeuer explains. "A lot of them completely lack discipline. A lot of them are getting caught up in things that are not very important, like grooming their hair into little shapes and Mohawks and colors and all that crazy things. Discipline was necessary. So we brought this to these kids out dere. Fantastic."
As for the Pump itself, Toten Adler compares the experience to orgasm.
"For me, the Pump, it's about power, it's about self-expression, it's about individuality," he says. "It's about going into a club and feeling the vibes dere, feeding off all the energy, and getting bigger and more pumped up. Come on! And not taking shit from anybody!"
And with that, Toten resumes guzzling his protein shake, measuring his biceps -- "Twenty inches around, do you see that? Fucking forget about it! Exactly! All right!" -- and shouting "What's going on!" at the gray cat that pads about the band's rehearsal space.
"I hear people talk about ArnoCorps behind our backs when I'm hiding," Holzfeuer says. "I wear de black, I'm hiding in the shadows, I'm listening to what's going on. Sometimes they will say, 'What's with the egos, why are they so -- how you say -- egotastical.' They're saying we're ballsy. Like we're supposed to apologize for being ballsy. Bullshit. And it's all because of the Pump. When you feel the Pump, you feel ballsy."
Thus, ArnoCorps shows deliver a delightful mix of hardcore punk and calisthenics: The crowd finds itself ordered to run in place, do jumping jacks, and, should the impulse strike, drop to the ground and pound out a few one-handed push-ups.
Meanwhile, majestically mulleted drummer Gellend Adler (Screaming Eagle, and Toten's long-lost brother) unveils a special percussive treat. At the age of four, Gellend was kidnapped by corrupt Austrian wheat growers and forced to grind grain into breads and strudels and all these kinds of things via the Wheel of Pain, a particularly sadistic farming implement. Now that he's escaped and joined the ArnoCorps fold, he pays tribute to his tormented childhood via the Wheel of Pain drum solo.
Furthermore, in the event you're skeptical as to ArnoCorps' power, feel free to challenge rhythm guitarist Halstucha (Halstucha) -- the band's sole female member -- to an arm-wrestling match. Be warned, however, that she possesses the strength of three -- three -- men.
As for the current discussion, however, Halstucha sits silently on a futon, rolls her eyes, and tries to figure out how she got into a band full of hooting dudes wearing army fatigues and berating the cat in terrible Austrian accents.
Lead guitarist Vielmehr Klempf (Rather Klempf), meanwhile, forgets how to spell his name, and also struggles mightily to explain his current peculiar situation. Vielmehr, you see, is from the future, and recently celebrated the birth of his own mother. When asked to explain his mission or motive in traveling back in time, Vielmehr picks up an acoustic guitar and barks out a brief tune addressing the situation.
Its chorus is "Running! From! Machines! Running! From! Machines!"
Let us now address a few frequently asked questions:
"What does a doctor treat?" he adds.
"Patients, that's right. What is the elbow of my jacket doing?"
"It's bending, dere," Toten Adler offers.
"IT'S WEARING THIN! AHHHHH!" Holzfeuer thunders. "My patience is wearing thin with this whole Schwarzenegger Arnold guy!"
In fact, oddly enough, the only realm in which ArnoCorps attempts to defend Arnold is with regard to his troublesome history of allegedly groping and harassing women. "With Austrian culture, we come in here, we have certain ways we are," Holzfeuer explains. "It extends to everything: how we deal with a toaster, how we deal with tying my shoes, and how we deal with grabbing buttocks and breasts."
"If you see a fantastic ass walking down the street, what are you gonna do?" Toten Adler asks. "Of course you're gonna go up and slap it. That's the way it works, right?"
Toten would also like to offer his services as a personal trainer to the female public at large. "This guy is a physical fitness expert," Holzfeuer asserts. "He can give people advices. Sometimes there's a lady in the crowd, she's trying the jumping jacks -- maybe a little overweight, right? Maybe she's a huge 130 pounds or something. Come on!"
In the event you are indeed a 130-pound marshmallow-ass, ArnoCorps will gladly cure you, and redeem its glorious Austrian folk tale heritage in the process.
All you have to do is get to the chopper.
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