Max Mutzke (42) took eighth place at the Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul in 2004 with "Can't Wait Until Tonight". For the 20th anniversary of his participation, he wants to do it again this year and will take part in the German preliminary round "Eurovision Song Contest - The German Final 2024" on February 16th in Berlin (10:05 p.m. live on eurovision.de, in the first and on ONE and in the ARD media library). In an interview with the news agency spot on news, the singer explains why he wants to take part again and why his song "Forever Strong" is an ESC song. Mutzke also looks back on his disappointing eighth place and reveals what his relationship with his discoverer and former mentor Stefan Raab (57) is like today.
Max Mutzke: My first contact with the ESC was my own participation in 2004. I come from a different musical background and never had the emotional access to it, but I fell from the Black Forest onto TV and was suddenly in a world that matched my reality had nothing to do until then. When you take part, you're so busy that you don't realize what the ESC means to the audience outside. Then last year, 19 years later, I was persuaded by Barbara Schöneberger to appear in the show in Liverpool. The city had a total impact, it was full of people and it was as diverse as you could imagine.
I didn't expect how diverse this society was. With what's happening around us in this world right now, that people simply can't get along with each other anymore, the contest, as the largest music event in the world, shows exactly the opposite. The fans simply treat each other the way we learned as children, namely with respect and love, with passion and tolerance. That amazed me so much. That's why I said back then: "You know what, next year I'll be celebrating 20 years of participation, actually you could take part again."
Mutzke: I was really disappointed with eighth place, I have to say. I had won one show one week after the other and then the Berlin preliminary round. I thought it was at least enough for third place. I've never understood why everyone still says: respectable eighth place. There are more successful examples, Michael Schulte with fourth place or Lena with first place. After I took part, I didn't want to have anything to do with the ESC anymore and didn't follow it any further because it wasn't the event where I actually see myself in my personality.
Mutzke: After the initial idea, we didn't talk about it for months. Alexander, my manager, brought it back to me a week before the application deadline. I spoke to my family because I was away so much last year and this year, due to the 20th anniversary, there is a lot coming up, even without the Grand Prix preliminary round. Everyone said: “You only have this momentum to take part again after 20 years. If they still have room and are interested in you and you can do it, then definitely do it.” There wasn't much time to finish and send in the song, which I didn't have yet.
I sat down in the studio with three friends and we literally wrote the song in one day and sat on it for three days to refine it. For me it had to be a song that had a big melody, that was classically written and comprehensible, that showed the volume of my voice. And that, like the first time, I'm going for a completely reduced stage design so that the song and the voice are in the foreground. It was also clear to me that he had to be English so that he could have better access to the ears. What I want to say is addressed to all people. English as a universal language because it is about universal values.
Mutzke: I was totally pleasantly surprised that each song is very individual. No song will be entered a second time in the preliminary round. I'm very grateful that there are so many options to choose from. There are incredibly good voices and incredibly beautiful melodies. I think there are two or three numbers that are much better than mine. They are fresher and even more individual when I think of Leona, for example. If I imagine an opportunity, it's because when I wrote the song I had the Grand Prix and its greatness in mind.
I know that my greatest asset is my voice, which must be in the foreground. The text must be universal and it must have pathos. And there must be one or two Grand Prix moments in the song. I haven't heard a song that followed that plan as strictly as I do. But that doesn't mean that the audience in Germany doesn't see things completely differently. I can totally make a mistake and the points go to other acts. I proved myself back then that it wasn't an advantage that I had been in the business for 20 years. Alongside the established acts, I was the newcomer.
Mutzke: I want to win. If I don't go to Malmö, it will take me two or three days to get over it. I know that I am an incredibly bad loser. I've often noticed this myself in the past when I've taken part in something like this. This has always been close to me. When you're on stage, you open yourself up, even if you don't win, it's like a kind of criticism. At least that's how you feel. But I know that I have a really great life with lots of sweet children around me. And I have a lot of projects coming up for this 20th anniversary anyway. That means I'll quickly be back in another film.
Mutzke: I called Stefan the day before it was announced who was taking part. He was very happy that I was there again. We are in regular contact. That may not be the case for half a year, but that doesn't matter because we simply have a very high quality of friendship. You only meet some people every two years and things pick up right where you left off. At that time, Stefan was very important to me because he was simply an important advisor on many points. He always said: "I've made a lot of mistakes that you don't have to make. If you want to have a cool, relaxed private life, then you can take the following tips or not, but you'll do better with them." With Stefan I had the confidence to take the advice and it paid off big time.
Mutzke: Like many people, I refuse to say: This is a political issue. It makes it very easy for yourself if you blame others. In addition, you can't get upset and complain about which act is going on stage for Germany, as everyone has the opportunity to pick up the phone to vote if it's important to them. It is a democratic process. Why it wasn't successful last year in particular? I would have thought that Lord of the Lost would be so polarizing that people might not like it, but there would be others who thought it was really cool. Perhaps they appeared inauthentic in international competition. That the whole thing seemed too fake or staged, even if they are exactly as they portrayed themselves. I think authenticity is always a big keyword for all ESC acts. Even for the biggest superstars like Adele, it is a great recipe for success that they are unique and authentic.
Mutzke: Unfortunately my children can't be there because of school. There would simply be a lot of waiting time on site anyway, which would have to be bridged, and Berlin is incredibly far away from us, almost 900 kilometers. Hopefully, like last time, the whole region will support me. We live in a very rural area and hopefully people think it's great that I'm back. Last time the casting show caused an incredible euphoria, almost a hysteria in our area over these many weeks. That definitely won't happen this year. That was simply unique at the time and the first time that someone from the region had taken such a step. I've been Max Mutzke, who's been living there for 20 years now.
Mutzke: No, not yet. But I'm really looking forward to discovering it. Istanbul, for example, has become incredibly dear to my heart thanks to the ESC. In the meantime I've been there a few more times and love this city. There is almost no place in the world more beautiful because so much comes together there. I find it very sad that someone like Erdogan has been dismantling everything for so long, essentially separating it out for the Western world. It's still an incredibly multicultural place, but it's lost a bit of that charm of completely free Istanbul.