Meet Station 17, Germany’s Hottest (Disabled) Rock Band

Feb 19, 2014 at 7:52 AM ET

If your knowledge of modern German music ends with the likes of Falco, Nena and Milli Vanilli, then you have been sleeping on some real gems—chief among them Station 17. While the band has received scant coverage here in the states (see: Vice’s write-up circa 2002, which wouldn’t pass the Palin test), these guys have been pumping out the jams on the reg for the past 25 years. Oh yeah, and just about everyone in the band is either mentally or physically disabled.

Station 17’s origin story is pretty straightforward. The year was 1989. After a five-year tenure as the frontman of a punk rock group, The Painless Dirties, Kai Boysen decided to to settle down and get a real job—as a social worker. He found employment working at a home for the disabled. During therapy sessions, he noticed the positive effect that music had on the disabled people he was helping, so he decided to invite a group of them into the studio. With only minimal guidance from Kai and other professional musicians, the band recorded a series of long jam sessions and released their debut album, Mercury.

After hitting the scene, the band made a notable impression, especially in the eastern bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They were booked across Europe for events ranging from local festivals to weird cooking shows to a stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In recent years they have collaborated with some of Germany’s most respected acts, ranging from Robocop Krauss to Thomas Fehlmann.

In recent years the band has undergone a transformation. Not only has their sound changed, but as old members have moved on, new blood has joined. Kai has transitioned into a more managerial role within the charities that run the band, and Peter Tiedeken, another punk rocker turned social worker, has taken the reigns of the group. He abides by the democratic process of songwriting that has brought Station 17 to where it is today.

Soon the band will embark on a new tour that’s sure to open minds and hearts across Europe.