Skintonic was a left-wing skinhead zine out of Germany that ran from 1988-1995(?). Scans of at least some of the zine’s run can be found on Internet Archive. You can also find an excellent two-part interview with Ugly, who was involved with Skintonic for the first few years at Creases Like Knives.

The following is an interview with ‘Ilja’ of Skintonic that appeared in MaximumRockNRoll #94 (March 1991). I transcribed it from a paper copy of this issue.

Skintonic is a great SHARP-oriented fanzine from Berlin, Germany. In their last issue, they present interviews with people such as SHAM 69, BAD RELIGION and other punk/hardcore bands; they also have a lot of stuff about ska, with articles on JUDGE DREAD, THE HOTKNIVES, etc. More, they have a political section that deals with the SHARP tendency in Germany. I met the people of SKINTONIC at the last London International Ska Festival, where they seemed to be preparing the new issue, which should be out when you read this.

MRR: First, why do a fanzine like SKINTONIC?

Ilja: As you may know, there are important changes in Germany nowadays. And for most people coming from East Germany, a skinhead just can be a nazi because, sad to say, most of the skins are nazis. So we feel it’s necessary to make a fanzine to teach the people that a skinhead can be something different than a nazi. Presently, we receive a lot of mail from people from East Germany who have never heard of skinheads who aren’t fascists. This statement is true for the rest of Germany – I don’t tell this just because of what’s happening in East Germany, but it’s also the for what’s happening there. Everywhere it’s necessary to let the people know this idea of anti-racist skins.

MRR: SKINTONIC first talks to skinheads;but how do you treat the other people involved in the alternative scene?

Ilja: Many people who read SKINTONIC aren’t skinheads because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, it also deals with punk and hardcore, with interviews with BAD RELIGION and CHARLEY’S WAR. It doesn’t deal just with oi! and ska. You don’t need to be a skinhead to read SKINTONIC. More, last year there was the anti-fascist festival with THE ANGELIC UPSTARTS and THE BLAGGERS in Berlin, and, together, we’ve made a tape of this festival, whose benefits are for anti-fascist actions with an alternative anti-fascist magazine. We’ve published various letters in this magazine; so, as you see, we are close to the whole alternative thing in Germany. The exchange between the anti-fascist “alternatives” and the anti-fascist skinheads works pretty well in Berlin today. Being a skinhead means a certain way of living, not necessarily violence and aggressiveness – for instance there are non-political skins, and if you go to a ska concert in Berlin, you won’t find just skinheads.

MRR: SHARP is a great thing, though in Europe you can find so-called skins who, in their minds, are still racist…

Ilja: We know problem very well. There are some skins who act this way, though they are a minority. Most of the German SHARP know which side they are on. I really don’t understand why racist people listen to ska, whose roots lie in black migrants communities…Being SHARP does not mean you have just normal relations with the Black, it also means you fight every kind of racism and anti-semitism.

MRR: You talked about “non-political skins”, don’t you think this kind of attitude is quite ambiguous?

Ilja: Yes, it is. We also know that kind of thing: there are a lot of skinheads who will claim themselves “non-political” in front of you, though they may have fascist friends. We wrote about this in an editorial, presenting a situation that could really happen. It was like, “Imagine yourself on the street with these nazis you call your friends. They begin beating a black up; what do you do? Are you still non-political?” We deal a lot with this in the columns of SKINTONIC. We want our readers to be politically conscious enough. You can’t stay non-political – there’s always a moment when you must choose your side when you must choose who you’re with and who you’re against.

MRR: The German ska bands seems much more radical than the English ones. Have you got an explanation to this fact? Maybe we know the answer yet!

Ilja: Basically, there are much more radical politics in Germany because it’s the meeting point between the East and West. As far as the radicality of the German SHARP skins, it comes from the fact that the skinhead thing is imported in Germany and on the whole European continent while in England, it’s quite a tradition: you can see people who wear as skins because they’re from the working class. So the English ska bands tend to reflect this situation of the traditional English skinheads. Even bands like the Housemartins wear skins’ traditional things such as harrington jackets or doc marteens. In England, the scene is made of normal people who just listen to ska as a music without having any consciousness behind. What is strange is that ska came to the continent through oi!, which was always very political, though there was a lot of ambiguity behind it. Since its beginnings, there was this break between the left wing and right wing. More, in the early 80s most of the skins were fascists, particularly in England, where for instance, the SPECIALS had to stop playing live because they had many problems with the fascist skins who always try to hurt physically their black members.

MRR: Well, what’s the difference, by the end, between a SHARP and a redskin?

Ilja: Well, SHARP is just against racism. The redskins are strongly organized and are in left-wing political parties. There are so many leftists, such as the one who are pro-Albania, that we don’t want to take a part in such discussions. Anyway, in the German SHARP movement, there are many redskins because the communists aren’t neccesarily racist, although they may act in racist ways locally – you know, we’ve heard of what sometimes happens in comunist-ruled cities in France. The only idea behind SHARP is that you’re anti-racist, though the main idea behind the redskin thing means you’re left-wing first. You don’t absolutely need to be a leftist to be an anti-racist.

MRR: Does it mean you can be right-wing?!!!

Ilja: (laughter) No, not at all, it’s impossible.

MRR: What about the reception of SKINTONIC? Don’t you have problems of distribution with such a name?

Ilja: First, I must tell there has been quite a change in the people who are in charge of SKINTONIC. The guy who used to rule it was not serious enough; he didn’t answer the mail, he was not making any efficient distribution, etc. So we took the power! We wanted to have a better distribution. So now you can find SKINTONIC in record shops, alternative book shops, clubs, bars, squats. Some bands like BLECHREIZ take a few numbers with them when they are to play towns where it’s not distributed yet. Internationally, we try to put on a network of SHARP activities. As far as for the reactions of the readers, we just hope that will like the SKINTONIC. If you want to know more about this, see you in 6 months!

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