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Mideast edition, Friday, May 18, 2007

STUTTGART, Germany

When Denise Wilson first heard the Metallica anthem “Enter Sandman,” it was an epiphany.

Rock music had a new disciple. She knew it was time to ditch the piano, which bored her, and pick up an ax.

“It was the first song I learned to play on the guitar,” said the 17-year-old. “I play the riff today, too.”

Wilson is the guitarist for the German band Debbie Rockt! In English, that means “Debbie Rocks!” The five-girl group is being featured on German music channels and teen magazines as (maybe) the next big thing.

She is also the daughter of Robert Harvey and Voula Wilson-Harvey, Army criminal investigators in Stuttgart. Voula works for the garrison; Robert, a warrant officer, works for the U.S. European Command.

On Sunday, the band will conclude a six-show tour by playing a hometown concert at the Sudhaus in Tübingen, about 20 miles south of Stuttgart, before embarking on a summer of TV appearances and open-air concerts.

While Debbie Rockt! is made up of five females aged 16 to 19, don’t call it a “girl band.”

“We’re a rock band,” said Wilson, who lives in Esslingen. “Because a girl band is a band like the German band No Angels. They don’t play any instruments and we do.

“We’re not different from any rock band whose members are boys.”

The band’s first single and video is called “Ich Rocke,” or “I Rock.” You can see it on YouTube or catch it on the German music channels. The band has also signed a two-record deal with Sony-BMG.

As success comes, so do the critics, some who say the girls are a gimmick.

“I’m not afraid of anything other people say because they have their opinion and I have mine, and that’s OK,” Wilson said.

But her mother isn’t so cool about those taking shots at the band.

“They say they don’t play their instruments, they don’t write their songs — they do!” Voula Wilson-Harvey says.

“For me as a mother, knowing that they’re doing it themselves, and to hear that controversy, it makes me angry.”

Not only do the girls rock — Debbie rocks, too.

The girls were walking through Berlin last summer when they came upon a street musician named Debbie, who was jamming for coins.

“She was just there with her guitar, and her songs had power,” Wilson said. “It was cool. She rockt! Debbie rockt!”

And the band had a name. They’d like to meet Debbie again some day, Wilson said.

Wilson joined the band a year ago. The others — singer Sofia “Fie” Stark, bassist Rosa Stecher, drummer Margot “Tan” Cichy, and guitarist Kathi Seitz — are from Reutlingen and had been playing together for three years.

Alex Kilb of House of Music Entertainment in Winterbach, which produces and manages the band, said after recording some tracks and putting together a promotions package, the record labels were pitched.

Eventually, Kilb and company chose Sony-BMG.

“The biggest difference in this is five girls playing instruments,” Kilb said. “They make rock music. It’s unique, absolutely unique in this market. There's nothing like this in Germany.”

Though stardom is already knocking — fans now telephone her house — Denise Wilson said she and her bandmates have already lived one dream.

“I think it’s successful that we have had the chance to record our songs,” she said, “and to have a label stand behind us, and everything that I’m allowed to do now.”

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