From an interview between Jonathan Demme and Werner Herzog at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, in 2008, available as one of the special features on the 2-disc edition of ‘Encounters at the End of the World’:
Herzog: … I was somehow disconnected from music because a music teacher when I was thirteen forced me to sing in front of the whole class, just wanting to break my back, and I disconnected myself from music … and then when school was over five years later, when I was eighteen, there was this enormous void and hunger for music and that’s how … without any teaching I immersed myself in music with a more ferocious intensity than anyone I knew among my peers.
Demme: How did you deal with that moment when you were being forced to sing?
Herzog: Well, everyone sang a song. At that time there was this stupid idea floating around that everyone had some talent for music or talent for painting, which was kind of ridiculous. And when it came to me I stood up and said “I’m not going to sing”, and then I became obstinate and I said to the teacher “You may do the somersault forwards and backwards, but I am not going to sing.” So they called in the headmaster and they took the class hostage, these bastards took the class hostage, and I could strangle them today if I met them. And from that moment on I seriously planned to burn the school building to the ground at night, which unfortunately I never did … And I said to myself never in my life is anyone going to break my back, it is not going to happen again, that is unique, rather dead than having your back broken again.