The story of how Zombie Nation became a Welsh techno anthem
It was fitting that at the end of a game that had seen Wales qualify for a World Cup for the time in 64 years, ‘Zombie Nation’ reverberated around the stands.
As a party broke out at the Cardiff City Stadium after Wales had beaten Ukraine to secure their passage to Qatar, the techno anthem was the perfect accompaniment to the heaving, joyful throng.
This rave banger has experienced quite a journey since it entered the Wales fans’ consciousness at the King Baudouin Stadium on November 16, 2014.
Before we go any further we need to spell out that the song actually isn’t called ‘Zombie Nation’, that’s the alias of German DJ and producer Florian Senfter who created the global hit, the track itself is ‘Kernkraft 400’. Although to be fair Zombie Nation does trip off the tongue a little easier.
The track itself is a remix of the soundtrack of the 1984 Commodore 64 game ‘Lazy Jones’ by David Whittaker called ‘Star Dust’. Though permission for the sampling was not initially granted, Florian Senfter paid an undisclosed sum to David Whittaker for the use of the melody.
Released in 1999 it quickly became a worldwide hit and the song for which the German is universally recognised.
Peaking at number two in the UK charts, it has been adopted by sporting teams in the States and Europe long before Wales fans and the FAW gave it such a distinctive and passionate platform.
Everybody from the Boston Bruins, Milwaukee Admirals, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Pittsburgh Steelers, to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta United, Atlanta Braves, Real Valladolid, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven have utilised the track in one guise or another since it became a global hit.
Most noticeably posted on the Wiki entry for Kernkraft 400 is this: ‘The song became a semi-official anthem for Welsh football fans during their country’s qualification campaign for UEFA Euro 2016. This stems from an incident after their 0–0 draw with Belgium at Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels, in which the travelling Welsh fans danced enthusiastically to the song being played over the stadium’s public address system. As a result, the song was played before the return fixture at Cardiff City Stadium on 12 June 2015.’
That memorable night in Brussels eight years ago proved that magic can happen in the most surprising of moments.
The draw against the high-flying Belgians left Wales unbeaten in the Euro 2016 qualifying group. It cemented belief and inspired confidence. It was the night that a nation finally believed. It was an evening of mass celebration as a tops off rave fuelled by Zombie Nation’s ‘Kernkraft 400’, left Wales – players and fans – realising they had within them to qualify for an international tournament for the first time since 1958.
Players threw their shirts into the away end and Welsh fans fuelled by Jupiler beer and footballing euphoria partied on.
Wales fan Hayley Evans was part of that amorphous mass of happiness and remembers it vividly.
“The away end was immense, we love going to Belgium, it’s always a good laugh,” she recalls. “They started playing these rave tracks at half time, stuff like James Brown is Dead by LA Style and we were all going mental, but then Kernkraft 400 Zombie Nation came on and because it was more widely recognised, having gained some chart success in the UK, everyone started singing along, as we do.
“It went crazy. They played it again at the end of the game. The rest, as they say, is history. I remember (Wales fans band) The Barry Horns putting out an appeal before the next home game, trying to find the sheet music and I found that for them and sent them a link.
“It’s amazing to see how ingrained in Welsh football it is now.”
Wales’ men’s record caps holder Chris Gunter, put out an appeal of his own on Twitter asking who was the DJ?
Just got sent this…. Who was the dj?!?! Scenes….. http://t.co/VdetUEhinD
— Chris Gunter (@Chrisgunter16) November 17, 2014
By the time Wales had landed back home, Welsh fans were calling for the track to be played at home for the return game against Belgium.
When that resulted in an unforgettable 1-0 victory for Wales courtesy of Gareth Bale’s deft finish, Zombie Nation (Kernkraft 400) was firmly established as a favourite of the Red Wall.
Wales matchday announcer at the Cardiff City Stadium, Rhydian Bowen-Phillips, admits ‘it’s definitely become an essential part of the Cymru matchday build up’.
He says: “I think of it as our last call to arms to Y Wal Goch, because once that early percussion kicks in, if you are not in your seat already then you need to get there fast.
“The whole matchday countdown is exciting from when the gates open and time goes really fast because we have so much to fit in with screen content, songs, messages and the occasional performance but once we reach ‘Zombie’ there’s so much going on with the huge flags and around the tunnel area, I’m bouncing around with my microphone along to it with the rest of Y Wal Goch.
“It’s a huge part of our Cymru crescendo. I love it.”
The story doesn’t stop there, Zombie Nation’s cultural influence continues to be keenly felt.
When Rhydian Fitter and his bride Jamie decided to tie the knot, they were keen to surprise their guests.
The pair who were recently married in Nant Gwrtheyrn hatched a plot to stage a spectacular entrance after signing the register – by dancing back into the venue wearing bucket hats to a soundtrack of Zombie Nation.
“It was Jamie, my wife that first came up with the bucket hat and Zombie Nation idea,” says Rhydian.
“We knew we wanted to do something fun for our exit from the church and she had the genius idea to do this.”
The response, as you can imagine, was fantastic with guests joining in with the bride and groom in a bout of Welsh football related throwing hands in the air.
“Everyone loved it. It’s still a talking point months on. I think some of the English guests there might have been a bit confused but seeing people dancing out of the chapel was amazing.”
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Seems Nation Cymru is having problems finding real news stories to report.
Perhaps the story has something to do with the Cymru Belgium game being played tonight, just maybe.