German musician Joachim Witt is among the few survivors of the new German wave that dominated the airwaves in the early '80s: after years of struggling to regain the popularity he found with his hit single "Goldener Reiter" (Golden Rider), he managed to launch a serious comeback in the second half of the '90s with his album Bayreuth 1 and a single called "Die Flut" (The Flood), whose Wagnerian pomp-meets-heavy guitars aesthetic fit into the Neue Deutsche Härte (new German heaviness) trend spearheaded by Rammstein.
Born in Hamburg on February 22, 1949, Witt started out as an actor in the '70s, studying under Hildburg Freese in Hamburg from 1973 to 1975, and then performing at Hamburg's Thalia Theater from 1975 and 1977. During this time, he released two songs under the pseudonym Julian -- "Ich Bin ein Mann" (I'm a Man) and "Ich Weiß, Ich Komm Zurück" (I Know I'll Come Back) -- but they remained unsuccessful. He then became a member of the psychedelic rock band Duesenberg, winning an Echo Award in 1980.
In 1981, he released his first solo album, Silberblick, which featured the song "Goldener Reiter," a single that became a massive hit none of Witt's follow-up releases could match. His second album, Edelweiß (1982), featured two moderately successful singles ("Kosmetik" and "Tri Tra Trullala [Herbergsvater]"), but after two more albums -- Märchenblau (1983) and Moonlight Nights (1985) -- and the end of the new German wave, Witt's popularity had diminished. His first album after seven years, 1992's Kapitän der Träume (Captain of Dreams), couldn't change that.
Then, in the late '90s, when the industrial metal of Rammstein had paved the way for a newfound interest in German music, Witt released his comeback album, Bayreuth 1. Mixing Wagnerian pathos with heavy guitars, the album and its main single, "Die Flut," a duet with Wolfsheim singer Peter Heppner, fit into the controversial (sometimes ironic) appropriation of Germany's history and culture that was a common trait of most of the Neue Deutsche Härte acts. The album sold over 700,000 units. Criticism was launched at Witt (and Rammstein and other groups) for supposedly expressing a right-wing mentality in their songs -- Witt's love of Wagner and Rammstein's provocative image didn't help -- but he refused to accept this label, calling himself a "left-wing cosmopolitan."
A sequel to the album, Bayreuth 2, was released in 2000, featuring less guitars and a quieter overall approach. Eisenherz followed in 2002. Witt then founded his own record label, Ventil, through which he released the album Pop in 2004. In 2005 and 2006, he revived his acting career, appearing in Muxmäuschenstill at Berlin's Maxim Gorki Theater. Bayreuth 3 was released in 2006. Auf Ewig (Forever), issued in 2007, is a compilation of Witt's songs -- focusing mostly on the Bayreuth trilogy -- albeit in newly recorded versions. ~ Christian Genzel