Who is Panzerballett?
Panzerballett are the best German jazz-metal band you’ve never heard. They are fearless, frighteningly talented, and fun. Each of their four albums are a great blend of twisted jazz-metal cover music and originals.
Watch/Listen/Read our interview with Jan Zehrfeld, the mastermind behind Panzerballett!!
What is “jazz metal?”
I came across this video of their excellent drummer, Sebastian Lanser, tracking drums for Zappa Medley From Hell, Pt. 1 from the album Hart Genossen:
The mastermind behind the band is a fantastic guitarist named Jan Zehrfeld. The lineup of the band has changed a bit over the years, but has been pretty consistent as follows:
- Jan Zehrfeld: Guitar and vocals
- Josef Doblhofer: Guitar
- Alexander von Hagke: Sax
- Heiko Jung: Bass
- Sebastian Lanser: Drums
Touring with a jazz-metal band can be quite an expensive and difficult undertaking, but Panzerballett was able to make its way to Los Angeles in February 2013 and I drove the 7 hours from Phoenix to see them. Totally worth it. They are amazing live!
What to listen to
My favorite songs are:
- Reload, Abkrassen, and Zickenterror from their eponymous debut, Panzerballett (2005)
- M. w. M. i. O. f. R., Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, Friede, Freude, Fußball, Scorpions’ Wind of Change, Coltrane’s Birdland, and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck from Starke Stücke (2008)
- Bird Wild Web, Rammstein’s Mein Teil, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, The Mediterranean Breeze, Nicole Hohloch’s Ein Bisschen Frieden, Zappa Medley From Hell from Hart Genossen: von Abba bis Zappa (2009)
- The Brecker Brothers’ Some Skunk Funk, Mustafari Likes Di Carnival, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, and Paul Desmond’s/Dave Brubeck’s Take Five from Tank Goodness (2012)
What makes them weird?
There are many aspects of Panzerballett that make them unique. They frequently exploit odd time signatures and polyrhythms. A perfect example of this is their cover of Some Skunk Funk on Tank Goodness. I listened to it dozens of times trying to figure out what the underlying time signature was, but kept finding myself counting in quintuplets. I thought, “Man, this sounds really tricky, but no one would write a song based on groupings of quintuplets.”
Turns out I was wrong. They actually did the entire cover using quintuplet-based polyrhythms. Basically, the 4/4 feel is actually based on 4 quintuplets over an underlying tempo. Check out this live performance of it:
They obviously have a sense of humor in that they’ve done over-the-top complicated covers of The Simpsons theme, Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme, and Bill Medley/Jennifer Warnes’ Time of my Life (that cheesy song from the 80s film Dirty Dancing). I bought all their albums in one evening and thought, “This is the kind of music I’ve been trying to make for years. Now I don’t have to.
I’ll brag just a little bit before wrapping up… I’ve gotten to know the drummer, Sebastian, and he played on one of my singles from 2013: