Archive for November, 2006


Markus Wolf Died Last Night

Markus Johannes “Mischa” Wolf (born January 19, 1923) was a former head of the General Reconnaissance Administration, the former East German foreign intelligence division of the Ministry for State Security (Stasi). He was number two in Stasi during most of the existence of the totalitarian state.

Born in Hechingen (now Baden-Württemberg), Wolf was the son the writer and physician Friedrich Wolf and brother of film director Konrad Wolf. His father was a member of the Communist Party of Germany, and after Adolf Hitler gained power, they emigrated via Switzerland to Moscow because of their communist sympathies and their Jewish ancestry.
During his exile, he first went to the German Karl Liebknecht Schule and later to a Russian school. Afterwards, he entered the Moscow Institute of Airplane Engineering, which was evacuated to Alma Ata after Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. There he was told to join the Comintern, where he among others was prepared for undercover work behind enemy lines.
After the end of the war, he was sent to Berlin with the group around Walter Ulbricht to work as a journalist for a radio station in the Soviet Zone of occupation. He was among those journalists who observed the entire Nuremberg Trials against the main Nazi leaders.
In 1953, at the age of 30, he was among the founding members of the foreign intelligence service within the ministry of state security or Stasi. As intelligence chief, Wolf achieved great success in penetrating the government, political and business circles of West Germany with spies. The most influential case was that of Günter Guillaume that led to the fall of chancellor Willy Brandt. For most of his career, he was known as the man without a face for his ability to avoid photographers. He retired in 1986 in order to continue the work of his late brother Konrad in writing the story of them growing up in Moscow in the 1930s. The book “Troika” came out on the same day in East and West Germany. For the people in the East he was a symbol of the ongoing changes, because he supported the Glasnost and Perestroika policies of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Shortly before German reunification he fled the country, and sought for “political asylum” in Russia and Austria. When denied, he returned to Germany where he was arrested by German police. In 1993 he was convicted of treason by Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf and sentenced to six years imprisonment. 1997 he was convicted of unlawful detention, coercion, and bodily harm, and was given a suspended sentence of two years imprisonment. He was additionally sentenced to three days imprisonment for failing to testify against Paul Gerhard Flämig.

Had the chance to meet Markus Wolf last autumn and was very impressed by his clear attitude in these indifferent times. He marked that he is proud of his professional career and still believes in the Socialist ideal but says that the methods of the totalitarian East German state were all wrong.

Markus Wolf died last night in Berlin at the age of 83.

If you want to find out more about this highly controversial but impressing man, you can read his memories “Spionagechef im kalten Krieg”

Markus Wolf – Spionagechef im kalten Krieg
(pdf, german language, ca. 3 MB)

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A collective stretching from the early days of the hip-hop label Sugar Hill into the industrial music of the 1990s, Tackhead produced at least half a dozen albums under a variety of nominal heads — Keith LeBlanc, Gary Clail, and finally Tackhead. The group came together in the early ’80s as the Sugar Hill house band, with guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Keith LeBlanc. The trio had performed on the three best early hip-hop tunes, the Sugarhill Gang’s “The Rapper” and Grandmaster Flash’s tracks “The Message” and “White Lines.”
When McDonald, Wimbish and LeBlanc met British dub producer Adrian Sherwood (of the On-U Sound System), they moved to England and in 1986 recorded “Major Malfunction”, a street-wise funk-rock LP with doses of Sherwood’s studio trickery informing the whole. Since LeBlanc had a bit of name recognition due to his 1983 dance hit “No Sell Out,” the album was released under his name. Another Brit, vocalist Gary Clail, had joined the Tackhead conglomeration by that time, and it was his name — or rather Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System — that graced the cover of the 1987 album “Tackhead Tape Time”, on Nettwerk Records. After another collective recording on Keith LeBlanc’s 1989 album “Stranger than Fiction”, the Tackhead team finally coalesced as a stable group on “Friendly as a Hand Grenade”. The album, also released in 1989, was the first recorded as Tackhead, and the addition of a standard vocalist (Bernard Fowler) made the group that much more stable, in image if not in sound. “Strange Things” followed in 1990, with contributions from Melle Mel and Mick Jagger. The album appeared to be a conscious attempt at mainstream rock success (not unlike that of Living Colour), and failed miserably. Though they released no more new Tackhead material, LeBlanc, Wimbish and McDonald continued to play for On-U Sound System projects, such as Gary Clail’s 1991 album “The Emotional Hooligan”.

“Power Inc. Volume 2” collects more Tackhead from the vaults and the remixing board. This time out the sound is less in the didactic funk-rock mode of “Power Inc. Vol.1” and more akin to the output of On-U Sound experimentalists like African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate.
Adrian Sherwood’s industrialized take on the Sugar Hill Gang sound does reap rewards on “Move It” and “The Bubbly,” but often enough gets mired in the dogmatic funk groove laid down by guitarist Skip McDonald, drummer Keith LeBlanc, and bassist Doug Wimbish. Additionally, the disc features Tackhead and alias Fats Comet sans Vol. 1 guests Melle Mel, Bernard Fowler, Gary Clail, and Bim Sherman. And while some jazz fusion, doo wop, and soul touches help spruce up a few cuts here, Wimbish’s stab at the Hendrix staple “Crosstown Traffic” comes off as missed opportunity to marry rough electronica with acid-industrial sounds. A better collection than Vol. 1, this mix qualifies as a first-disc choice for the Tackhead curious.

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(192 kbps, cover art included, ca. 95 MB)