BlackOrpheus has the distinction of interviewing Martin Bowes, of the seminal UK trailblazer, Attrition. Their new album "The Jeopardy Maze," is a gratifying melange of the familiar, and unexpected.
Martin, I understand The Death House was created in conjunction with a role playing game you were developing. Please, tell us about your training, and interest in gaming.
M: "The Death House" soundtrack was inspired by the film "Night of the living dead" by George A. Romero. It was the first "official" recording we ever made. They were disturbing, improvised electronics! Yes, I worked on a game to go with it! It was 1982, before computer games had any depth, so it was a board game. I made 10 copies I believe. It would actually translate well to computer though. I never allow a game anywhere near my computer! It's full of music, a little art and that is enough!
I see a lot of gimmickry, that buys 15 minutes of fame. Gimmickry doesn't sustain careers though. Do you feel a willingness to rely on technology, undermines a musicians development of the fundamentals? What does this bode for the future of music in general?
M: Everyone relies on technology...from a computer to a synthesizer to a guitar to a drum to a fork and spoon...it doesn't have to undermine anything...it is just a tool and it is up to the individual to use it in a creative way, in an inspiring way.....of course this rarely happens....but i don't think we would necessarily be better off without these tools...sometimes there are gimmicks, yes...but i think we see through them in the end...
Please give us a glimpse into your creative process. What sources do you rely upon, for inspiration? If you can, be specific as they relate to the latest album. The cover art for your records is a great example, as well as the poetry cited.
M: My inspiration can come from anywhere...of course the obvious music, art, film and literature...but really the greatest inspiration comes from my everyday existence....a chance meeting, a turn of phrase, an overheard word....everything I write is about everyday life, and specifically about my life....mostly my songs are concerned with many things at once...the way we live is much the same...but occasionally I focus on an issue...vivisection for example going back to "Monkey In a Bin"...."The Jeopardy Maze" is like much of my work in that it is concerned with the great struggle with life, death, love, sex, god and our religions...
I have heard Attrition described as industrial, gothic,darkwave, ethereal, ambient and a host of other inadequate misnomers. If you had to describe the music, how would you characterize your own music?
M: I have probably used some of these myself! It is difficult...people need labels and yet we are labeling something that can never be..."a little slice of life" perhaps...
Tell me about the creative relationship that exists between you, and Julia. How has her involvement in Attrition, influenced the bands direction with each successive album? Tell me a little about her background, and interests. I hear her voice described as "operatic" continually. How would you characterize it?
M: I have worked with Julia, on and off, for many years...although she has not appeared on every album....really it is my own work that has influenced the bands direction, although Julia's input was great and very important...I am now working with a new singer...Christine...who is very powerful...but not in an "operatic" way...more gospel/rock....it is interesting...Julia may or may not reappear!...it has happened before!
Classical stylings seem to be an ongoing theme in recent Attrition releases. I think it suits the music extraordinarily well. Can you tell me about when, and why you made the decision to delve into this sound to the extent you have? Please tell me how you, and Franck Dematteis came to be acquainted. What do you feel your collaboration together brings to the music?
M: I have been inspired by classical music for a very long time...but only more recently could I realize it within Attrition...Franck was a long time fan...he's been into the band for 10 years before he wrote to us and offered his services...it worked very well on the "3 arms & a dead cert" album, bringing in his classical training on violin and viola and this led to the "classical" work of "Etude" and later collaborations...and more in the future...i feel his organic, natural approach complements my electronic programmed work perfectly....two completely different sound sources working together to create something greater than both...
What kind of climate exists in the UK, as pertains to the support of the arts? How are music, and musicians encouraged? Alternately, how do you feel the support at home, compares to that afforded musicians in the US?
M: I don't know if musicians are encouraged greatly....it is never a "proper" job....but there are openings here...and even courses aimed at training people in the use of music technology...( I teach one when I get the time!!!....)...I don't know about the US, I suspect it is less supportive than here as everything is based on a financial footing there....you could probably tell me!
I'm sure you're exposed to a great deal of emerging new music. Is there anyone that piques your interest of late? If so, why?
M: Oh...I hear a lot of new music, and there is so much good music around...maybe hard to find, but it is there....I hear drum n bass, ambient, neo-clasical and much more....so much music these days...
If you had time, or the inclination to address the band's critics; what would you want to share with them? What could you say, that might enable them to listen with a more receptive heart?
M: I didn't realize we had any critics! Ha! Well, I don't mind what people think, everyone has their own path, and their own reasons for their choices....I could never be understood by everyone...I am touched that anyone at all understands what I am saying.....I hope I can pay back a little of what was given to me....
Please tell me about the response to "The Jeopardy Maze," as a record, and live. Were you satisfied with the end result? If not, which elements fell short? Which elements met, or exceeded your expectations? What's next for the band? Do you think you'll explore the use of classical still further? If not, what direction lies before you?
M: I am NEVER satisfied with end results...sometimes they come close...but I am forever searching for something more...this is what drives any artist on to the next project....it is impossible to pinpoint specific elements...every song has it's strengths and weaknesses, and personally I may criticize something that another may find perfect...but the response has been very good...and we have been offered more shows this year than we ever had before...in the USA and Europe....so in that way I am pleased...and I know I am going in the right direction...with a long way to travel...which is fine....next?....I want to expand both the use of electronics and the use of classical elements...perhaps a string section next time...and more played and sample elements....always something new....on a different level we have 2 new releases planned for early next year...a live album..."Heretic Angels"...taken from the last US tour...and an album of remixes..."The Hand that Feeds" following quickly on it's heels....we are already planning tours in Europe and the USA to support them....
check our website, and email us if you would like to be kept informed of
our various activities....thankyou
behalf of StarVox.Net, I want to thank you for your time, and your candid
replies. I wish you every success in the future, with "The Jeopardy Maze"
StarVox.Net, where even the silence does not go unheard...
Web Site: http://www.attrition.co.uk/
with Das Ich by ::CyBeRiNa
The night of the Das Ich concert in Dallas was a long one. The bands played, and finished the show early. Socializing afterwards drug out the teardown into the wee hours of the morning. Followed by a congregation at Dennyís that lasted all the way until 4 oíclock, everyone was short on sleep. Early that afternoon, the folks from Das Ich, In Strict Confidence, Beyond Hope, some of the guys in another local industrial act, Replicate, the other employees at Café Cybre, and myself all met up at the Café for more. The musicians took turns in and out of the concert room, where Beyond Hope had their equipment setup in a makeshift studio. In another corner, people congregated for an informal chess tournament. Meanwhile, I had an opportunity to speak with Bruno Kramm one on one.
CF: You tour the United States quite often. What brings you back time and time again?
BK: Its because we bring out new albums and the organizers request it. We have a representative here in the United States in New York. He's takes care of all our shows, concerning principle and all kinds of tours. He phones or emails us each time and says "Well now its time again to do a tour of the United States."
We love to tour the United States because its really different from the way we tour in the European countries. There we are really well known so we have a big trailer and everything is great and well organized. We play in these big clubs, not like normal clubs but concert halls and stages. You sometimes loose contact with the audience because you have these big barriers everywhere. Its nothing like the original club atmosphere.
That's cool about the United States when we tour here. Its like our early beginnings again. We play in these little clubs, and its great. We love that! It just brings you back to our roots.
CF: Right! Cool. Do you have any advice that you would pass on to newly forming industrial bands?
BK: First of all the best thing is to find a European label because at the moment Europe has the biggest scene for electronic industrial music. I know it from my own experiences that American companies arenít so easy to work with. You only get about 50% of what they promised to happen. In Europe, I think the companies are organized better and there is more of a kind of major label appeal so everything works out fantastically.
And I think its best for a band from here to have a good demo. I prefer a band from America to have already done all the production work. It should sound perfectly, and not just be a simple demo. Its just too expensive for a label to bring over a newcomer band to produce them in Europe. Its best if the band does the whole production work with a good, but not too expensive producer here. Have a kind of finished product with artwork and everything already.
Perhaps video tape your show, that's an important thing. We use PAL [video formatting] and not NTSE, so you need to find a place to convert your video tape to PAL. I'm sure its easy to find a good deal.
There's the Internet. You can find all the addresses for all the major labels. So its not so hard.
CF: Míkay. Right!
BK: Get organized, that's all.
CF: <laugh> Yeah! No doubt. You began releasing music about the same time that the Berlin wall came down. How did the Berlin wall's demise effect art and music in Germany?
BK: When it happened, it didn't effect it so much in the beginning about art. Its interesting because we have actually 10 years now since the wall came down
CF: Right! This month.
BK: There's a lot of discussion on German TV and radio right now. I watched a series on TV talking about what changed. Some basic influences from the artists of the Eastern part of Germany switched over to the Western part. Finally they had to say about literature, about theater, and about music that its really sad that alot of the stuff that came from East Germany got erased and oppressed by the Western culture. Its really sad.
I think its not good because the same point comes up that alot of people in Eastern Germany are really frustrated about everything changing. When Germany first unified again and the wall first came down it was like "yeah!" and a big, big rush, and everybody was happy about that. But finally everybody came down to the point that it was just a thing about economic systems, and how we tried to push our capitalistic system to the East Germans. So people in the East German are forming Communist parties, and trying some of their basic ideas again.
For a long time in America, Communism was the evil kind, or whatever. I think that was just to meet some kind of basic social ideas because everything is only based on egoistic masterplans for getting more money. For that reason, we need some more influence from the Eastern part.
But actually, on the artistical things its like everything, even art, is now part of a construction of business. Today art is business, you know? If you can call yourself an artist, they ask "Are you selling?" Like that. So you see today its also a thing about business.
I don't think that the Eastern art scenes get a big influence out of the whole of Europe. Its sad after 10 years when you see what happened. Its really sad at the moment.
<very softly> Okay.
Umm. Your music has been described as "the alienation of the individual"
BK: Oh no.
CF: And "the holocaust of self-contempt in modern human society."
BK: Oh my God. Yeah, I think that came from our bio.
CF: <blushing and laughing> Yes it did!
BK: My God! <chuckle> I have no idea who wrote that!
CF: <giggle> Can you go into a little more detail of the ideas of your music?
BK: I have no fucking idea. You know? <chuckle>
CF: <cracking up>
BK: That must be something the label manager wrote. Just listening to the music getting drunk and writing some cool lines. The basic idea is to just do music and to bring different styles together. Privately I came from classical music.
CF: Myself as well.
BK: Wow! Cool. Yeah, I've always wanted to bring that to the music. I just hate that really boring, simple electronic music. You know that ďBOOM BOOM BOOMĒ where nothing happens about harmonics and melodies. That was the basic point; to bring that in.
Also, we tried hard to work again with the German language because after the second world war it was kind of erased. Nobody worked again with German language in their own music and culture.
If you watch the German scene, its only stupid kind of 4X music and that kind of stuff. In the last 10 years it came back in, and some people tried working with their own mother language. Like the hip hop we have now is kind of German hip hop. Its really interesting because it has its own culture. Like in France, they have a French hip hop culture.
And in the darkwave/electronic industrial scene, it comes up now alot and people are working more and more with the German language. There is no basic meaning, though. There is nothing behind it. We have a different concept from album to album.
CF: Good deal. Umm.. Now, I understand that Stefan attempts to capture the same theatrics from dance and theater into your shows.
BK: Yeah, I think Stefan is always doing the show by reacting to the music, and expressing the music in his own dancable way. He has no real concept about that. Its a lot of intuitive dancing. When he speaks about that he says only that he tries to improvise on himself. It comes like that. He just has the talent.
CF: Now, I heard that you in the 80s you had a band called Farenheit 451.
BK: <grin> Oh yeah, a long time ago, yeah.
CF: Did you name it after the book?
BK: After Ray Bradburyís book, yeah.
CF: What inspired you to name it after the book?
BK: At that time, I loved that book. It was a great influence. It was the same time that I was reading books like George Orwell's "1984" or Aldof Haxley's "Brave New World." I got really inspired about the future logic.
That's not science fiction, its only analysis of how the future can go on. I was really inspired by that, and so I came up with it.
But I only released some tracks, and Farenheit was cancelled after 3 or 4 tracks. Then it was called Iva Nuvalis. I started doing a new album for that new band, and then the whole album was erased by the computer. I never did it again because there is no time.
BK: I get so many production jobs in the studio that I have no time for doing other projects.
CF: Right. In your studio, you've done quite a bit of work with the death metal band, Atrocity. What do you enjoy most about that kind of music?
BK: Its kind of strange. About five years ago, we did a join album with them called "Deliver." It was kind of a cross-over.
I started doing my studio professionally 10 years ago, so they liked my studio and asked me to do their next records. I just produced them, and the third record I did for them went really successful. It was called "80s," and it was an 80s cover version album. It went really high on the German Billboard Chart lists. It sold more than 60 or 80,000 records from that album. So from that point it became that all the metal bands were asking me to do production work. And actually, I fucking hate metal music.
BK: But you know, after that successful album there are now other bands like Crematory, like I had this American band called Saviour Machine in my studio. Many, many other bands in this dark metal whatever kind of stuff think that when they come to my studio they will have a similar success like Attrocity. Its really sad at the moment. I'm just doing metal bands, but I don't like it. <grin> But its good for the bucks because I get a lot of money from doing those bands.
BK: But its definitely not my music.
CF: Tell us more about your studio, Dans Macabre.
BK: I started it 15 years ago, but at that time it was not professional. The first step to doing a professional studio was about 10 years ago, and it was in the beginning just a project studio with like 16 tracks. In the last 8 years it really got bigger and bigger, and really professional. So now, its a really high quality studio and there are not many in Germany for that kind of style.
Its completely digital. We have more than 120 channels there. We have a really huge mixing desk. For electronic people its a wonderful studios because we have synthesizers from all decades. We have tons of synthesizers there, and samplers. The same about recording equipment. All kinds of analog and digital recording systems. So its getting bigger and bigger.
2 years ago I moved to a new place, a castle. What's so great about that castle is that I have more and more recording room. So I have a big recording booth for every project, and one for extra stuff. Its really getting to be a huge complex for production, and that's cool.
<There was an interruption due to a telephone call from a DJ at the local gothic club inviting everyone out to the club for the evening. It took a little longer than expected as there was a bit of confusion regarding the spelling of the German names of all 7 touring artists.>
CF: Allright, so we were just talking about your studio. Letís see. Often when you know someone in town, you will stay in people's homes instead of hotels. What is your draw to that?
BK: We love to meet people. We have met a lot of really cool people. Everybody spreads up. That guy wants to stay with this person, and that with that person. Its just easier than having one hotel room. We try to have on normal show days hotel rooms because then everybody is at the same place. But when there's an off day like today, everybody spreads out you know? Its just fun having parties, you know? Its just not only business on tour. We want to have fun. We do not get the big bucks from touring the United States. Its just having some fun and a vacation.
CF: You mentioned that you recently moved into a castle. What's the history of the place, and how did you end up moving in there?
BK: We moved in because it was just so neat. We had such high costs for rental of the old studios. It was a really huge place, and it was getting bigger and bigger. I had to rent extra space for it. Then I had an apartment, and a second apartment for my girlfriend, and all that. It was growing and growing, so I finally ended up paying about 5,000 DM, that's around $2500, only in rental. So I said "That's too much money! I need to find a place to buy." You know? And so the bank offered me, and actually my mom who bought it with me, a good deal where I pay around $1000 a month for a place. We were in search for a really huge place that everybody could live. There is me, my girlfriend, my sister, my mom, everybody because we're kind of family, you know? And Stefan also, and all the big studio recording rooms.
That wasn't easy because in the city you pay more than a million for a building like that. So it was just luck that we found this place. Its a castle located in the deep forest. Its really cool there. We got it really cheap, for about $150,000. Thatís great.
CF: Thatís really cheap!
BK: Also that means that there's a lot to rent away there. There was a lot of stuff broken so we had to do some renovation work, and its still not all finished. That should take about 2 more years.
Its the most beautiful plot in the world for us. Its from the 12th century, so we have really old cellars there, and a medievil prison there.
CF: Oh thatís cool!
BK: It is, right! Its really funny. The thing is, it burnt down in the 16th century. It burnt completely to the ground, but the cellars were still there. Then they reconstructed it in the 16th century, so its still old. You know? Since those times, it broke down so we had to do a lot of work.
CF: I would imagine!
BK: Now its doing pretty fine.
CF: If you're ever in need of more roommates let me know! <laugh>
BK: <laughing> Okay!
CF: I'd have to brush up on my German, though.
BK: <lauging> I tell you something, the winters there.. It snows, and everything like that!
CF: You know, I've never seen more than 6 inches of snow in my life.
BK: Its up to here in snow. You open the door, and kabloom! And I phoned home, and actually yesterday it started snowing like hell up there.
CF: Oh really? Glad to be in the warm weather??
BK: Yeah, sometimes. Actually for me sometimes its too hot. Especially in Florida. I fucking hate it!
CF: What's one question that you've never been asked in an interview before that you've always wanted to answer?
BK: Oh! The problem is that we've had so many questions asked of us! <thinking and humming> Oh yes. If we have girlfriends, nobody ever asks us that.
CF: Okay! Do you have girlfriends? You mentioned yours.
BK: Yes, we have! <laughing> We have, Yes. We all have kind of fiances.
CF: Well congratulations!
BK: Thanks! Sometimes we go out on tour, and everybody's doing some nasty things that aren't okay. So we come home like these dogs that know they had done something wrong. Like bawoooooOOOOOO!!!! <laughing>
<everyone in the room laughs>
CF: Thank you very very much.
BK: Hey! You're welcome.
CF: Iíll see you at the club tonight!
Coolio! Weíll have some party!
Das Ich Dans Macabre http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/das_ich/
VOICES ON AIR
Dead Voices on Air, the main project of ex-Zoviet France member Mark Spybey, are finishing up a whirlwind U.S. tour in support of their newest album, Piss Frond. The experimental, dark-ambient show which excited audiences in 26 cities included a few unusual twists, such as the inclusion of local musicians in a post-show "jam session". I caught up with Spybey in San Antonio's incense-filled ReVerb Lounge to talk about improvisation, bonding and musical trancendance.
How are you enjoying the touring?
Itís been great, though we had a bit of a wet start because our work permits didnít come through in time. Otherwise you just canít get over the border with musical equipment. Itís very strict, all very official. For the first five or six shows I had to do the tour myself with David Wright from Not Breathing, because the other two guys, we just couldnít get them through the border. I had to come over the border with David, carrying a sampler and that was about it. We flew them down later, and they joined us in Los Angeles. But other that that, itís been great, this is the first time Iíve actually headlined a tour in the United States. Thereís been a lot of support. And itís great, a real privileged position, I donít have to drive. I just sit in the van, from city to city.
How many cities are you playing in all?
Twenty-six, and if you ask me how many Iíve done, I donít know! All I know is that tomorrowís the only day off for the rest of the tour soÖI think we play something like fourteen shows after that.
Have you toured elsewhere, like Europe?
Yeah, I toured there with Download three years ago, and then over the last year or so I became really involved with Can, Michael Karoli invited me Ė I was invited to become a member of the Can guitarist group. Theyíve been doing a series of anniversary concerts since theyíre thirty years old, so Iím a member of his band. Iíve been there for shows five times this year, in Germany, London and Holland. So I feel like Iíve been in the air quite a bit.
Any plans to tour there with Dead Voices on Air?
Yeah, we tour in Europe starting January 24th. We are due to start in Frankfurt, and then most of the fourteen or fifteen shows are in Germany. Weíre also playing in London, Prague and Copenhagen as well. Actually itís Dead Voices on Air supporting and Michael Rother Dieter Moebius (of NEU!, Cluster, Harmonia, Kraftwerk) which is really exciting because I know those guys.
I hear you have a day job as a mental health professional?
Actually I just quit my job, two weeks ago! I had to, because Iím moving back to Europe after this tour. Iíll be living in Holland for six or seven months, and then moving back to England.
Itís been good in Canada, Iíve lived there seven years, but itís my day job thatís kept me going. But now Iíll be touring for seven months straight, and I have to make the break and move back to Europe. Iím actually going to be moving in with the Pink Dots (laughs) yeah Niels is a really good, old friend of mine.
Your latest release, Piss Frond, is quite a bit different from the other ones. Would you characterize is as more studio oriented, and less improvisational?
I started to work with a guy whoís on tour with me tonight;Darryl Neudorf, whoís a well- known Canadian producer and musician, and what we do is, I gave him a bunch of tapes with new material, and basically he transformed them into something new and I added new stuff on top of that. So, the last album, Piss Frond, was kind of a mixture between the old and the new in the sense that the second CD is kind of droney and the first CD is more like pop music. I felt it was necessary for me to make the break and take it to another level, Iím not interested in doing the same thing twiceÖ I mean, I feel itís sort of pop music (laughs) but then again I have twisted ears.
So this has been a new experience for you? A different level?
I constantly am happy about meeting Darryl, because heís opened me up to so many new ideas, heís really very brilliant to work with. Weíve been able to transform it all into a live show. Before that, live, I would just improvise Ė and we do do that within the context of the show, we have a weird way of starting out at point A and ending up at point B, not necessarily knowing how weíre going to get there, but I need those people there to give me the structure.
The good thing is, where I get bored of doing sounds, he doesnít, so he will work on them and work on them until he has transformed something good into something great.
Tell me about the show tonight and the "jam session" at the end. You also have quite a few unusual instruments on stage, I see.
When this tour came up, my immediate thought was to bring Dave from Not Breathing along, because we work so well together. What weíre doing on this tour is starting with Not Breathing, then we do our Dead Voices on Air set, then end with a set that is Not Breathing and Dead Voices on Air mixed. Itís completely improvisational. And we bring along other people as well, in different cities. Tonight the promoter of the show, Bobdog of Pseudobuddha, whoís a good friend of mine, he used to be in Pigface and Evil Mothers Ė it was obvious to us that he was have to come and join in as well, since heís an brilliant sitar player. And he, in turn, works with another guy, Quid, who makes his own instruments, so heís got this thing up there Ė I donít really know what it does, but itís a duck! (laughs)
Yeah, it looks a bit like a windchime or somethingÖin any case thereís a microphone hooked up to the duck.
Yeah, I donít know what it does! I canít tell you whatís going to happen. But he also has a homemade stringed instrument, similar to the guys in Zoviet France made when I was with them. So they will join us in the jam part, which for me is the best part of the show. This is like jazz, I guess that would be the closest equivalent, kind of like an electronic jazz, with different people and instruments, but hopefully in a very coherent way. I think itís like making composition spontaneously, and thatís exactly what we want to do.
So youíve been bringing different people in at all the shows?
Yeah, Dave Wright has invited a lot of musicians he knows, all part of his collective, and itís worked seamlessly. One show in Portland has firedancers, five women who were dancing and blowing fire. It all kind of throws a cog in the wheel, thatís very interesting. I would like to do that sort of thing the whole time, but I don't think that would be a good idea for a whole tour.
So do you prefer to perform live over being in the studio?
Yes, I think I doÖthere are so many unknown variables live, and I believe that relationships are defined on the stage. Personalities donít really come into it, but you can immediately feel close to somebody by making music, and thatís how Iíve interacted with people. When I think about the best relationships Iíve ever had with people, in the music business, itís always been through that sort of process. Like with cEvin from Skinny Puppy Ė we probably donít have that much in common, well, we do, but when we started making music together there was no question about the fact that we didnít like each other. The bond was immediate. It was like that with Dwayne from Skinny Puppy as well. As soon as you start to make music with someone like that, and you get to this state of transcendence. Live is an important vehicle, really. But then, until recently, almost everything I did was live.
Itís quite interesting, people donít quite know what to do at our shows. They donít come to get stoned, they donít come to go into some sort of trance. I thinkÖtheyíre actually just coming to watch us play music. We donít have any sort of visual props, we donít show movies or anything, we have three guys on stage making live much. The nature of the music makes people very attentive. Just three guys on stage making music. I think that really sort of opens up the senses for people. They have to really work to understand whatís going on. They feel as if theyíre actually part of whatís going on.
So do you have any upcoming releases planned?
Yes, actually Iím releasing something on a Belgium label at the beginning of the year with the guy from Imminent Starvation. Itís some really good, dark, electronic, ambient sort of stuff.
Iíll also be starting on a new Dead Voices on Air LP, plus Iíve got some
other stuff out there waiting to be released. So actually Iíll probably
release quite a lot in 2000.
Visit their site at http://dvoa.com
with In Strict Confidence
Still tired from the show the night before, the members of Das Ich and In Strict Confidence were gracious enough to meet me at what seemed like early in the morning at Café Cybre for interviews. Bruno from Das Ich sat off to the side on the phone finishing up details on upcoming shows. Stefan, the singer of Das Ich, and Edgar from Melotron (who was touring with In Strict Confidence as a keyboardist) sat towards the front of the café for a good game of chess. Beyond Hope was busy setting up their equipment for a quick bit of recording. Meanwhile, Dennis Ostermann, singer of In Strict Confidence, sat down with me, Shock coffee in hand, to talk.
CF: You have some sort of involvement in a new label from what I hear. Is this true, and can you tell me anything about it?
DO: Yes! Iíve been working with some other people for about 3 years, and there was another label, and were some problems with the other label and money, so there was a chance to start a new label. We start in December of this year, and the first releases will be In Strict Confidence and Melotron.
CF: Youíve done quite a bit of work remixing. What do you enjoy most about rearranging other artists work?
DO: What I enjoy most?
DO: Well which remix?
CF: Any remix, just what do you enjoy about doing it?
DO: Its interesting to me to see how other bands work. And sometimes its very surprising to see. But its just for fun. Thereís no particular meaning in that or anything. I think Iíve been taking a little bit of a break at the moment because there are just too many remixes. So weíre reducing, or trying to reduce the number of remixes we do.
CF: Of all the remixes that youíve done, which would you say is your favorite?
DO: Which we have done?
DO: For Das Ich. The Das Ich remixes.
CF: Cool. Míkay. Everyone has a dirty little secret. Tell us one of yours.
DO: <laughs> No!
DO: If I told you, its not a secret anymore.
CF: Youíve got a point there. Then pick any of your songs, and tell me what you where thinking when you wrote it.
DO: I donít think when I write songs?
CF: You donít? Well what inspires you?
DO: Uhh.. I just start writing a song, and put all my attention into it. When its done, its done.
CF: Okay. Whatís one artist that has influenced your work that nobody would have expected to have influenced you?
DO: That nobody expected? Well um, we grew up with music like Skinny Puppy or Frontline Assembly for the past 10 years. Its much different to other music thatís available. We do listen to industrial music, but there is other music that gets played in Europe. For me particularly it got to be too much. It will have nothing to do with the music we will do in the future. Of course we will stay with Industrial music. But we canít listen to it all the time. We are listening to trip hop, Prodigy, Massive Attack, EBM. For us the rebellion draws us.
CF: Cool. Youíre touring with Das Ich. How did that union come about?
DO: Bruno asked me 2 months ago if we were interested to come with them. So I replied ďOf course.Ē <laughing> ďOf Course!Ē There were no doubts.
CF: This is your first US tour. What parts about American culture have surprised you?
DO: Well we have just started the tour. Weíve only been here a week. But everything in America is different. Everything is just much bigger and larger. Its overkill.
CF: If you could turn back time, and start In Strict Confidence all over again, what would you do differently?
DO: Iíd never sign a contract with Zoth Ommog again. They owe us 30,000 DM. We had to do some mistakes to learn, but the mistakes were well spent.
CF: Yeah, well sometimes you learn best from extremes. When the band first formed, you were called Seal of Secrecy.
DO: <surprised look> Yes! You are informed well!
CF: <blush> Why did you change your name?
DO: Seal of Secrecy was four people. We split, so we had to change the name because it wasnít the same as before.
CF: Last question! Whatís one question youíve never been asked in an interview before, and what would be your answer?
DO: Oh! <chuckling> Ummm.. Never been asked in an interview before. <sigh> Iíve done so many interviews to even know everything. Except <laughing> maybe one or two secrets. <grin>
DO: But no, I canít think of anything.
CF: Okay. Thank you very much!
P.O. Box 1246
P.O. Box 54307
Philadelphia PA 19105
P.O. BOX 147
343 22 Almhult
Fax: 0046 (0)476-100 25
c/o Jan Winterfeld
Phone: 0049 (0)40 450378-68
Fax: 0049 (0)40 450378-69
Legendary Pink Dot's Edward Ka-Spel
Introduction Courtesy of Edward Ka-Spel
Interview by Matt Heilman
If myths have substance then it would be possible to believe that LPDs change their line-up every week. Not true at all..The line-up changed once in the last 9 years.Right now it looks like this
MOORE /drums, bass
EDWIN VON TRIPPENHOF/guitars
NIELS VAN HOORNBLOWER/horns,flute
FRANK VERSCHUUREN/Sound wizardry
It wasnít always so stable.In the early 80s people came and went so fast that for about a month or so there were actually 2 versions of the Legendary Pink Dots with the same lead vocalist. A troubled merger occurred in 1981 and the peculiarly unified results can be heard on LPDs first official album "Brighter Now" released at the end of '82. LPDs first appeared live in October 1980 at a local folk club in East London.
Unfortunately half of the audience retreated to the back wall, interpreting the bandís nervous state as a bad attitude. This attitude problem seemed attractive to the rest of the 100 strong crowd, but alas the band was never invited back.The Dots were paid 5 English pounds for this spectacle.
For some years during the 80s The Dots enjoyed a strong 6 person line-up (all English) and recorded albums such as "Island of Jewels", "Any Day Now", and "The Golden Age". They also toured Europe seriously and signed with the then small independent label, Play it Again Sam Records.
Perhaps a little prematurely 4 people left the band in 1988, and Niels Van hoornblower stepped in as horn player while Bob Pistoor took over the guitaristís role.
With this line-up "The Crushed Velvet Apocalypse" and "The Maria Dimension" were recorded, and the success of these albums led to Warner Bros. USA approaching the band with a view to making a deal. A little naively, the Dots never followed up this approach and remained under the wing of PIAS.
Tragedy struck in 1992 when Bob Pistoor died from cancer. Martyn de Kleer took over on guitar while Ryan Moore stepped into the band on bass after meeting them in his native Vancouver during LPDs second USA tour.
A protracted battle with Play it Again Sam dominated the next years, and the band quit the label in 1994, deciding to take over their own affairs.
A fruitful partnership began with USA label ,Soleilmoon in 1995 and the bands popularity steadily began to grow again on the other side of the Atlantic.
The year ended in spectacular fashion when the Dots played to the biggest ever audience in Mexico city (around 2,500 people). It meant that The Dotís focus switched from Europe to America and the band returned there for a 30 show tour in 1997, and followed up with 36 dates one year later.
Sing While you May. The band's catchword since the start...it is an OPTIMISTIC statement in these disturbing times.
Starvox: There is such a long history to absorb in regards to your work and the Legendary Pink Dots. And I have to be honest, I am a relatively new fan, and I am not too familiar with the extensive history of the band and many of the releases. What I have heard, I absolutely LOVE and ADORE. So if you can, please discuss how/when/where the band formed, and what were the initial goals and intents of the project?
Ka-Spel: LPDs were formed in 1980 (August) by myself, The Silverman and April Iliffe (the only one of us who could actually play an instrument).It was a time when bands were popping up out of the woodwork all over Britain. They´d make a cassette, duplicate a few, give them a cover and and their work off to NME where it was miraculously often reviewed. I used to buy some of these cassettes, and regrettably normally had to find ear protection fast.Even so, the climate was healthy,and we bought a synth (Korg MS10), a drum machine and an amplifier...all on credit because we were broke. Songwriting began almost straight away and we cobbled our first cassette release together in around 3 months (OnlyDreaming). I think 10 were made,each with hand-made cover (a pop-up messiah figure).
Bored with duplicating, we simply moved on to the next release, and the next until DDAA (a great little band in France) offered to release something properly ("Atomic Roses"). Again a cassette, but so beautifully made.The first record came out at the end of '82 (Brighter Now) in an edition of 1990. Our initial goal? As obscure as it is now...we do it because we HAVE to...
Starvox: I know that most artists despise labels. I know myself that sometimes a particular tag seems to limit things and spark an unjust comparison. But inevitably, people seem to feel the need to label things. Do you prefer any labels to your art? Are you comfortable with the Gothic tag or do you prefer perhaps ďexperimentalĒ or ďpsychedelic?Ē ďGeniusĒ perhaps?
Ka-Spel: Just Legendary Pink Dots. Like others, I hate categories... but I´ve nothing against those who label themselves gothic, experimental or psychedelic.
Starvox: I have found it increasingly difficult to find many LPD releases, unless of course I go through mail order and I always feel like I am getting majorly ripped off with the shipping and prices. Nonetheless, it seems that when a bandís discography is hard to find it adds a deeper mystery to them. Do you enjoy this cult-like status of your music? And also, are there many plans to make some of the older releases more readily available?
Ka-spel: Older releases will become much easier to find in 2000 when Soleilmoon assumes responsibility for the back catalogue. LPDs is unashamedly a cult band...it always will be.
Starvox: The quote ďSing While You MayĒ is a said to be personal philosophy of the band. Obviously, I can gather that it has an optimistic ďcarpe diemĒ vibe to it, but is there a deeper scheme of thought behind it? What exactly does this quote mean to you on a personal level and what are you trying to express to your fans?
Ka-Spel: More my personal philosophy... we can argue about this within the group. It´s meant to be positive at a strange time when (in my view) events are accelerating towards saturation point and systems we rely upon are likely to collapse. Not the end of the world, but a dramatic transformation when excess will no longer be possible. Enjoy this exciting time. Be glad you live now. Sing while you may.
Starvox: It was actually the Tear Garden that sparked my interest in the LPDís. I was thoroughly enthralled with the first record and I quickly got a copy of ď....Crippled Soul Divide,Ē and it is by far one of my favourite records. Can you tell us a little bit about how the Tear Garden project came into being and your relationship with cEvin Key?
Ka-Spel: cEvin first wrote me in 1982...he collected our early cassettes and we stayed in touch by mail. In '86 I was invited to play some solo shows in Vancouver and he asked to engineer. Before I came he sent a cassette of Center Bullet and asked if I could sing with it. I wrote the lyrics on the plane...and TG was born.
Starvox: I have heard that there is a new Tear Garden CD soon to be released. Can you tell us a bit about that? Any particular concept behind the album or any new musical direction? How does it compare to the other material?
Ka-Spel: New TG (Crystal Mass) bears closest relationship with the first TG (Tired Eyes) in that it is more electronic than its predecessors. A deliberate move, as we felt LPD and TG were becoming a little too similar.
Starvox: You seem to be quite a busy man. Is there any particular reason why you surround yourself in so much music, and any reason for the many side projects? How do you think they all differ? Do they represent a certain personality of yours or specific mindset/idea?
Ka-Spel: I enjoy new approaches, different inputs from people...so collaborations are exciting if I have time.But there´s also a side of me which wants to have complete control..so that´s why there are solo CDs (a new one is due soon- "Red Letters")
Starvox: To me, the music of LPD seems to be so eclectic and open, that basically any style of music could be performed on a LPD record and it would sound right, it would have the signature LPD sound. From what I have heard, the music of Tear Garden and LPD seem almost interchangeable and compliment each other.
Ka-Spel: Its a particularly feeling about a piece that sees it end up on an LPD album...an intuitive thing.
Starvox: I had the pleasure of seeing you guys live a couple of years ago in Pittsburgh. I went to the show because I try to attend all dark music shows in the area and I had never even heard you guys before. I just heard, ďThey are really cool and very trippy!Ē LOL! So I went and I was absolutely spellbound. I love the effects that were used on the brass instruments and just the stage performance itself was hypnotic. So do you plan to return to the US any time soon? How have the responses to your shows been overall in the US? What do you think of the US and the music scene over here?
Ka-Spel: That Pittsburgh show was actually one of our lesser ones, honestly.Normally USA is much better for us to play than almost anywhere in western Europe. Bigger and more open crowds (especially on the west coast)...the whole continent just seems to care more about music.The plan is to return in June.
Starvox: I know this is sort of a worn out question, but every time it is posed unto a different artist, a unique response is given, so I will ask you.Where do you draw your inspiration for your art?
Ka-Spel: Radio Zophquiscuo, a pirate sender emanating from the Planet Erg, operated by a race of utterly oppressed , but supremely gifted stick insects who sing about their tragic history in high pitched Finnish (backwards). I record it , slow it down and translate it into English. I ensure that they get part of the royalties.
Starvox: If you donít mind me asking, what are some of your personal hobbies besides music? What other musicians, writers, artists, or filmmakers do you admire or enjoy? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Ka-Spel: Harlan Ellison,Robert Sheckley are great writers...mostly I read when I have the chance.
Starvox: What is your fondest memory as a musician? Any particular tour or time spent in the studio for a particular album?
Ka-Spel: Recording of Maria Dimension.A glorious summer..lots of inspiration, playing Mexico City for the first time. That solo tour of USA with Skinny Puppy.
Starvox: Since I am not all that familiar with a lot of your material, in closing I would like to ask on behalf of people who may never have heard ANY of your material: what releases would you most recommend as introductions to LPD, Tear Garden, or any of your other projects? What were your favourite recordings and why?
Ka-Spel: Maybe "Maria Dimension", "9 Lives to Wonder", "The Last Man to Fly" or..for the complete depressive...."The Golden Age".
Starvox: I appreciate you taking the time out to participate in this interview. I hope to see you on tour soon!!! On behalf of Starvox Music Zine, we thank you for your time.
All the best
On the Web: http://www.brainwashed.com/lpd