Noted for their irreverent style and tough but hooky tunes, German punk/metal band Die Toten Hosen are one of Germany's most successful rock bands, commanding a large and loyal following at home and in Australia, South America, and Japan many decades after they began. Die Toten Hosen (the name literally translates as "the Dead Trousers") was formed in 1982 from the ashes of two Düsseldorf punk bands, ZK and KFC. Considering that three members of the Hosen were named Andreas, they took stage names to avoid confusion: vocalist Campino (b. Andreas Frege; June 22, 1962), guitarist Breiti (b. Andreas Breitkopf; Feb. 6, 1964), rhythm guitarist Kuddel (b. Andreas Von Holst; June 11, 1964), bassist Andi (b. Andreas Meurer; July 24, 1962), and drummer Trini (b. Klaus-Dieter Trimpop; June 10, 1951). Die Toten Hosen self-released their first album, Opel Gang, in 1983, and several months later, EMI signed the group and reissued the LP. EMI soon grew disenchanted with the band (particularly after they were sued by German pop icon Heino after they parodied him in concert), and Virgin released their next album, Unter Falscher Flagge, in 1984; the following year, Trini vacated the drum stool to become the group's manager, and Wölli (b. Wolfgang Rohde; Jan. 9, 1963) took over on percussion. In 1986, the band released Damenwahl, which fared well on the charts and gave them their first taste of corporate sponsorship -- Fromms, a major condom manufacturer, helped promote the Damenwahl tour and provided samples of their products to hand out to fans. A live album followed, 1987's Bis Zum Bitteren Ende, and the group finally moved from cult favorites to a real commercial force in Germany with 1988's Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau, which rose to number seven on the German charts.
For their next album, Die Toten Hosen released a two-disc set, with one disc of new material and a second featuring singles and rarities; 1990's 125 Jahre die Toten Hosen: Auf dem Kreuzzug ins Glück confirmed the success of Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau was no fluke, topping the German charts not long after it was released. In 1991, the group released their first English-language album, Learning English: Lesson One, in which they covered songs by their favorite American and British punk bands, with members of the original acts sitting in as guests. (The album featured the final recordings of Johnny Thunders, who died weeks after adding solos to "Born to Lose.") The album also became their first American release when it was issued by Atlantic in 1994; oddly enough, that same year, the group cut another album of English-language material, Love, Peace & Money, that was initially released in Japan. In late 1992, the group issued a single, "Sascha ...Ein Aufrechter Deutscher," which criticized the rise of extreme right-wing factions in Germany; while controversial, it was a hit that raised money for German anti-racist groups, and was a preview of Die Toten Hosen's most ambitious work to date, 1993's political concept album Kauf MICH! After extensive touring in 1993 and 1994 (including a handful of American dates opening for Green Day), and releasing a best-of collection, Reich & Sexy, Die Toten Hosen took some time off, returning in 1996 with Opium Furs Volk, a collection of songs about religion, which was the band's first release on their own label, the newly formed JKP Records.
In 1997, Die Toten Hosen enjoyed a career milestone when they played their 1,000th concert. After releasing a Christmas album, Wir Warten Auf's Christkind, in the fall of 1998 under the alias Die Roten Rosen, the band returned under their own name a year later with Unsterblich, one of their most subdued efforts. Also in 1999, the group added a new drummer, Vom (b. Stephen George Ritchie, August 6, 1964), a British-born musician who became part of the group after Wölli was injured in an auto accident that made it difficult to play. The group also took another stab at the English-speaking market that year with Crash-Landing, a collection of the group's best tunes re-recorded with English lyrics. Die Toten Hosen were back to singing in German on 2002's Auswartsspiel, another hit that rose to the top of the German charts. The fall of 2004 brought the album Zurück zum Glück, and In Aller Stille followed in 2008. In the spring of 2012, Die Toten Hosen released Ballast der Republik, which brought their string of consecutive number one albums in Germany to five. It was reissued several months later with a bonus disc devoted to cover tunes. The band supported the album with a major concert tour, documented on the 2013 live album Live: Der Krach der Republik. ~ Mark Deming