The Huberbuam’s Secret
By Martin Morcinek
What is it that an extreme alpinist experiences in the mountains? How does it feel when your existence is hanging on your finger tips? A band named »Plastic Surgery Disaster« could provide us with answers. Lead singer: Thomas Huber, one of the »Huberbuam«.
If it’s true that music is a key to the soul, and that with said key it’s possible to retrace thoughts and feelings, sports scientists, coaches and psychologists possibly have a once in a lifetime opportunity:»Plastic Surgery Disaster«, a live band thus far only known among insiders, hailing from Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, releases its first album.It’s called »Endless« and contains an impressive line-up of motivating songs with names like »No«, »Ghost«, or »Fear«. For fans of honest, hand-made stoner rock, this album is a return to their roots. For rock climbers, this album will certainly provide enough music for a fully motivated drive to the next rock wall. And that is not all of it.
»Plastic Surgery Disaster« will in certainly receive attention far beyond Berchtesgaden because of their lead singer, Thomas Huber. He’s the older brother of Alexander, which means he’s one half of the wild, strong Bavarian rock climbing phenomenon known as the »Huberbuam«. As speed climbers and alpinists the brothers are well known for their achievements on rock, and their appearances in shows and movies - they have the lead role in documentaries like Pepe Danquart’s »To The Limit« or the recent »Bavarian Direct«.
The recurring theme there is »the passion for the mountains as a metaphor for life«, here it is about music: Thomas Huber sings, and there can be no doubt Plastic Surgery Disaster is his band. The lyrics are his, he’s written every single line. Does this debut album provide insight in the psyche of a extreme mountaineer? As far as the music goes, its style could well seem familiar to the public. Some of »I hate this song«, one of the nine »Endless« songs, was played on an advertisement with the Huberbuam - in that case the idea probably was to provide earthy contrast to the milky, sweet bars in the advertisement.
»Endless« confirms the suspicion: This is the music of someone with boundless energy and power. Thomas Huber sings with a voice that is used to sound far up a valley, cheer from the summit, or holler rope commands into the abyss. He does this with a force that grew in extreme weather conditions, on blank rock walls and during difficult expeditions.
With his work as the figure-head and lead singer of »Plastic Surgery Disaster«, he provides us with the opportunity to take part in his inner world, and to find out more about the energy that has taken him to the most remote places on Earth and then up the steepest and coldest peaks.
»Don’t fuck around now«
All in all, this seems like a rather remarkable move. A world famous alpinist, driven by his search for adventure, his ambition and his life experience, grabs the microphone - after having reached virtually everything in the world of climbing - in order to provide room for his musical side on stage.
Nothing special for Thomas though: Extreme alpinism and singing in a band have much in common, he explains. »What I experience on a steep face, I also find in music.« Both disciplines, he says, are about passion. »I truly love both«.
On his expedition to the world of music, Thomas can rely on old friends. His brother Alexander, usually the more level-headed of the two, is not among them. On the e-guitars of Plastic Surgery Disaster, men like Manfred Rödel or Peter Schweiger build steep walls with wild, cut-off pillars. Andi Brandner provides a far-reaching, deep dynamical belay with the bass, while Wolfgang Seiberl on the drums leads tricky edges and lines. In the center of it, Thomas goes wild.
A man who knows no doubts
On Endless, they put up a sort of musical multi-pitch climb together. It could have its very own effect on the quickly growing scene of young boulder- and gym climbers. »It’s important to us to do our own thing.« says Huber. That is direct and honest. It’s about the music. The band exclusively plays its own songs. And only those they like. Looking for covers and softer songs will be in vain.
Thomas sings in English, like the bands that influenced him the most, Nirvana for example, and especially Kyuss. »I love Stoner Rock, the bluesy, heavy madness!«, he admits. It could well be that he sparks the curiosity to explore the now far-away summits of punk and heavy rock of some younger rock climbing fans. They lie in the late seventies and eighties of the last century, which means that some of it happened more than 30 years ago.
Is that enough for a comeback? In any case, Endless makes it possible that somewhere, the next big climbing talent joins the league of Wolfgang Güllich, Kurt Albert, Chris Sharma, or Adam Ondra, while listening to the motivating music of Plastic Surgery Diasaster.
»We just do it«
Indeed, the band got it’s unusual name from a rock climb. Even if the older member of the scene will rather think of an influental album from the high times of US punk rock. there is actually a direct link between the two. »In the early days, I spend a lot of time on El Capitan.«, explains Thomas, and means the adventures on a 1000-meter-tall granite wall of a famous rock giant in Yosemite Valley, California. It’s the mecca of rock climbing. Here, the Huberbuam have become immortal with their speed records.»The routes there have crazy names like ‘Bad to the Bone’ or ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’, they are often references to music.« One of the routes was named after the 1982 Dead Kennedys album »Plastic Surgery Disaster« by the first ascent. For Thomas and his bandmates these roots really mean something: » The band name is a reminder that we do not want to please. We just do it. We are the opposite of the pretty appearances of the world of pop.«
»Don’t be afraid of Life«
Is that his recipe for success? Is this the source of raw power that pushes him into the mountains, and makes him get rid of his shirt on almost every concert? As a top alpinist, Thomas has achieved virtually everything a successful alpinist could wish for - spectacular first ascents, summits, the Piolet d’Or, the most important award in alpinism, and most importantly a happy, safe return to his family. What is it that makes Thomas climb on stage with angry, harsh pieces like »Prison«, »Black Road«, or »Endless«? And why is his brother Alexander not singing with him?»I am a machine. Once I get going, I go.«, says Thomas in Danquart’s documentary »To the Limit«. This is an important trait of his personality. In »No«, the third song of the album, it goes: » I have the courage to say no«. Thomas interprets this as a positive thing: »The No is the first step towards a real yes, which is why it is so important.« Honesty towards yourself as a way for a satisfying life? Or, as they say on their slideshows: » The source that is at the beginning of everything we do is the simple joy and passion of creating.«
»A ton of adrenaline«
Translated to music, Thomas explains it like this: »Be it on a mountain or a stage, you dive into it, you no longer think, you just execute. That is the flow effect, during which a ton of adrenaline is released.« His brother Alexander, the rational physics graduate, is looking for answers in different areas of life. For Thomas on the other hand, both - singing and climbing - feed from the same source of energy: The desire for adventure, paired with the courage and the freedom to give in to this desire.
But maybe, it is not that complicated after all. Maybe the secret of the »Huberbuam« is just that they do what they like to do. Just as they like it. For less adventurous people far from the mountains, »Plastic Surgery Disaster« offers a unique opportunity to put a tiny bit of Huber’s energy into the own stereo - and then turn up the volume on the drive towards new goals.
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