maandag 18 maart 2019

Jo Quail: I guess I’m a bit difficult to categorize!

We still remember the second edition of the Black Easter festival in 2016, due to Jo Quail's concert. With only her cello (and an ingenious loop system) she succeed to win quite a few new souls. Organizer Ward De Prins had a good relationship with this British artist, and did not mind traveling to see this fantastic performer play. Therefore, it's quite logical Jo will be back at Black Easter, in memory of Ward. A conversation about her music, but also about processing the passing of a mutual friend.

DE: When we heared there will be a new Black Easter Festival, in honour of Ward De Prins who passed away last year, it was just unthinkable you were not on the bill.
I know Ward was a huge fan of your music, and he travelled often to England to see you perform. He had a special bond with you, so how do you remember Ward?
JQ: Ward. I always think of his warm smile, his joy and passion for music that seemed to run through his veins, and this passion he shared with everyone, he was an inspiration to me. And I can immediately recall his giggling laugh! And his knack for turning up unexpectedly to some of my concerts, not just in England, and me telling him off for not letting me put him on the guest list!  That was Ward to me, a treasured friend, a loyal friend, a friend I miss very much, and a friend I celebrate on a daily basis.

DE: Ward’s death came totally unexpected. How did you hear the news, and what was your reaction?
JQ: I had a call from Eddy, our mutual friend, when I was in Glasgow on tour with Amenra. I remember hearing this heartbreaking news and looking at huge grey skies outside. I felt I couldn’t understand what was being told to me, it just didn’t make any sense. Strangely, it was only when I began to play that night that the overwhelming fact sank in, I think because I was playing music, and music was Ward’s passion, and that was the point at which we met. When I played that night, I played for Ward. 

DE: On this year’s Black Easter a lot of artists who played one of the two previous editions will perform again. Honestly I must say your show is the one I’ll look forward to the most. I still remember the show you gave in 2016, it was the first time I saw you live and I was really impressed. How did other people react to that show?
JQ: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the show. People seemed very enthused by the performance, and it was a privilege to play for you all. I performed ‘Five Incantations’ that night in its entirety as I’d just released the record, so it was an unusual concert for me. Normally I explain a little about the pieces before I play them but that one ran straight through from the first note of White Salt Stag to the last note of Gold. I’ll have a different set for you this time!

DE: Sieben will perform before you at Black Easter this year, you and Matt are both involved in Rasp, can you tell a little bit more about this? And is there a possibility there will be a collaboration on stage, as Matt does the whole looping thing also with his violin?
JQ: There’s always the possibility of a collaboration, though it might not be this night! We’ll see how it pans out. Matt and I very much enjoy working together but we both have very full schedules so opportunity does not often present itself. With Rasp, we wanted to make a record together, but had no time to write in a conventional way, so we decided to write and record a largely improvised album, in front of a live audience, and the result is this record! We are both huge fans of improvised music, and also collaborations so it was a real pleasure to make this record together. And a huge amount of fun too!

DE: What do you have in mind for your show at Black Easter this year?
JQ: I’ll be playing a brand new track for you, Reya, which is due for release in the summer, and at least one or two from Exsolve, my new record (thank you for your review!!). It depends on how the time goes but also tracks of course from Five Incantations and Caldera... we shall see. Whatever I do, I cannot wait to play for you!

DE: When people see you on stage, there’s just you and your cello. But with your unique looping technique you’re able to set up a very special and intense atmosphere on your own. Can you tell us a bit more about your way of composing and playing, and how did the idea came to mind to work with the loops?
JQ: I usually have a broad aspect that I’m exploring musically, whether it’s sculpture, art, poetry, sensation, experience, landscape, it all serves as a springboard from which to start. Practically speaking, my pieces are usually borne of a single theme which can be very small, three note motif, or a particular sound. Five Incantations, the entire album, is interlinked by one theme of three notes, the whole thing was built musically around this, whilst exploring the cardinal elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. In Exsolve I’m exploring both the more physical aspects of playing cello and creating, and the ‘known unknown’ processes involved in creating, as such it’s an dive in to the depths of where my particular creativity stems from, what runs within me. It’s also an aural representation of the turbulence that engulfs the writing process I’d say 80% of the time, and now and then the mists clear and you see the vast distances with clarity and certainty.  
I began looping when I began my career as a soloist, in 2010. I started with a single loop of 14 seconds in length... and even that was enough to let me hear the possibilities afforded by this technology. I now use the Boss RC300 triple loop station, and I spend a huge amount of time modelling my sounds and effects in order to get that breadth of sound you’re mentioning in your question. I usually begin my writing with a ‘clean’ sound, unless the piece has stemmed from a particular sound effect of course. Once it’s harmonically in place I’ll then start the fun process of ‘colouring in’ and seeing what form the piece morphs to as I begin to work with the effects chain too.

DE: All of your albums are self-released. Is this because you want to keep complete control, because I really can’t imagine there’s no label interested??
JQ: I’m very happy to self release, as you point out it gives me complete autonomy and I like to make my packaging as special as possible too, which might not be something a label would allow for budgeting reasons. I’m not adverse to working with a label but there honestly has not been any interest, I guess I’m a bit difficult to categorize so perhaps that puts them off! It doesn’t matter to me, I’ve managed thus far as a self released artist and I would recommend it. You do have to be very well organised though, and you do need some form of income as it’s not cheap, but on the other hand 100% of album sales come back to you, and in my case go in to the pot to make the next release. 

DE: Alongside music, you’re also inspired by visual arts as I read the biography on your website. Also an example of stunning visuals and one of the most beautiful band sites I’ve already seen!
You cite Barabra Hepworth and Georgia O’Keefe as key influences. Did you already linked songs to a specific piece of visual art?
JQ: Funnily enough ,the brand new one I’m going to play for you, Reya, is the fourth or extra track on the vinyl release of Exsolve which will be released in the summer. Reya is actually the closest I’ve got to ‘realising’ the concept if you like behind Exsolve, which was the work of Barbara Hepworth, and in particular ‘Single Form’ sculpture. The funny bit about this is that this concept and image was behind all the rest of the album tracks, yet I only feel now, on this ‘extra’ track that I’ve actually got close to the depth, the raw power of her work, coupled with the overarching majesty, the placement, the scene, everything combined. I can’t really describe it. I hope you’ll like it when I play it!  
Georgia O’Keefe’s great quote along the lines of ‘I went as far as I could in charcoal, then I added blue’ is a great reminder of what can be achieved with a comparatively simple set up, ie, don’t over complicate! In my case, don’t loop because you can, loop because you need to, add sonic colour because you need to underscore a musical point, and you cannot do this any other way, don’t do it because it’s ‘there’ and waiting to be used. 

DE: You also a much asked artist to collaborate with. I guess they’re all special, but which collaboration(s) will always very special to you?
JQ: I love all my collaborations! It was a joy to work with Eraldo Bernocchi and FM Einheit, that was a great experience and we made a fantastic record, Rosebud (Rarenoise). I’ve worked recently with Poppy Ackroyd on her latest release ‘Revolve’ (One Little Indian) and that was a huge amount of fun. Rié fu is an artist I recorded with and her album is being released today (15th March), which is stunning. Check out Mirror.
There are several ways I collaborate, I’ve got one on the go at the moment with a fantastic Canadia singer and we’ve literally started from scratch, sending each other tiny snapshots of sound that we will build in to a track over the next few months. At other times I’ve gone in to a situation where there is a skeleton, or even largely developed track (such as the one I did recently for Don Anderson Aggaloch) and I’m asked to ‘do my thing’ on it, and so I do! 

DE: One of your strengths is also that musical borders are crossed to create a complete new soundworld. This is (neo)classical music, but not as we know it. It has electronic elements, and even references to post rock, ritual and metal music. A purist nightmare! I hope those purists didn’t cross your way often, or did you already convinced some people to stop their narrowminded thinking?
JQ: I’ve never met any of these purists you speak of! Very glad about that. In my experience my audiences are very broad minded and whether I’m playing to a metal, prog, classical or contemporary crowd, with the same repertoire (just at varying volumes usually!) its met with enthusiasm and encouragement. I feel very very lucky indeed to meet such fascinating people from all tastes and backgrounds at concerts. 

DE: You’re also a parent, in a previous interview for Peek-A-Boo Ward asked you how to combine that with being on tour. I also have a 9 year old daughter who started drumming recently, so I was wondering if your daughter is also interested in making music?
JQ: Drumming, that’s awesome! Tell her to check out Niki Skistimas, (Krash Karma) , she is incredible. My daughter seems to really enjoy playing piano, and recorder too. When I am practicing and writing at home she will often pop in, put my headphones on and start and stop the loops, she knows her way round the RC300 now! The other day she said ‘Mummy, this piece needs more water’ and I knew exactly what she meant! I am blessed with this little one.  She also loves dancing and science and lego. And tree climbing! 

DE: A question I hear a lot is that people want to get into (neo)classical music but don’t know where to start. With your knowledge I think you’ll be able to point some “must-heards”...
JQ: I actually just stopped this interview to take a call from a friend of mine Damian Iorio who is a conductor, and we discussed your question! In its ‘classical’ interpretation we’re talking about a period of time beginning around 1920 ish. For Damian the piece that sums up the neoclassical movement is Stravinsky’s opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’.
I tend to direct people to the Rite of Spring (also Stravinsky) but this is a bit earlier than the neoclassical period, however it is a very important work for several reasons. On the other hand, the term can also be loosely applied to anything that is modern ie of today, but with ‘classical’ influence, so therefore sometimes what I do is termed neoclassical, though obviously it’s not part of the traditional meaning of the genre of neoclassical that was defined by a particular time line! I think neoclassicism as a subgenre if you like is pretty prevalent in all ‘main genres’ of music, and as such it could imply longform composing, aspects of serialism in music (looping being one example), bringing strings or ‘orchestral instruments’ in to the performance stage, and crossing perceived boundaries in terms of texture and timbre and style. 
These are not ‘neoclassical’ but they are pieces I enjoy from the repertoire that is not metal or rock etc, see what you think:
John Cage ‘In a Landscape’ for solo piano is beautiful, that’s from 1948 I think. This uses a very simple technique on the piano that comes to the fore right at the end of the piece, just allowing the harmonic overtones to reverberate out, no actual ‘front end note’ but you need to play or hear the whole piece in order to get this effect. It’s really cool. 
There’s a lot going on in the piano world at present. Have a listen to Joep Beving, beautiful playing and composing. 

George Crumb’s ‘Black Angels’ is a pretty pivotal piece too, using strings and extended technique with amplification. It’s also structurally quite involved too, multi layered really and I find this very inspirational. 
Gregory Rose’s Danse Macabre, premiered in Tallinn in 2011 is an incredible piece of music, please listen to this if you can!

The beautiful thing about music today is the ‘permission’ to be artistically free in expression, and the natural coalescence of previously distinct styles or genres. These new, bright colours and sound themselves inspire creativity, and it’s a constantly turning wheel. I love it. 
DE: And we love Jo Quail! See you at Black Easter!
Photo credits: Simon Kallas

vrijdag 1 maart 2019

Laibach: In reality, nobody really wants to solve a Korean problem.

The big summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un ended on a sizzler. We are not surprised at all, because a few days ago Laibach chief ideologist Ivan Novak told us that nobody really wanted to come to an agreement about North Korea. He knows, because in 2015 Laibach could perform with in the most isolated country in the world, a big stunt for the band that has devoted themselves for almost 40 years to the study of totalitarianism. In North Korea, Laibach played songs from 'The Sound Of Music', which they now release as a new CD.

‘The Sound Of Music’ is perhaps the most kitschy work you have ever done, with children choirs and sentimental keyboards, and of course the songs from a commercial musical from the sixties. Aren’t you afraid to lose the traditional industrial fans of Laibach?

No, not as long as they are true fans. True fans do not question, they follow. And regarding the industrial aspect - this album was created more ‘industrially’ than any other album that we did before. Total industrial process, pure industry! Anyhow - we don’t need anyone whom we cannot keep.

‘The Sound Of Music’ goes back to your concerts in North Korea, where you played in 2015. In ‘Liberation Day’ – the documentary about your trip to North Korea – I was surprised to hear you say that you wondered if we should take the dictatorship out of it’s isolation, since people appeared to be happy, compared to the rest of the world. Since when is Laibach concerned with the happiness of people?

Of course we are concerned about happiness; it is one of the most totalitarian concepts of the perfect, liberated world - on both sides of the hemisphere.  

The CD version of ‘The Sound Of Music’ also includes ‘Arirang’, a traditional Korean song that you performed in Pyongyang. There is no mention of the other two Korean songs that you adapted to Laibach ‘new originals’ and which you could not perform due to censorship: ‘Honorable Live And Death’ en ‘We'll Go To Mt. Paektu’. Why were they not included on the CD?

We couldn’t put everything on the album and didn’t find it necessary to include these two songs, as  ‘We'll Go To Mt. Paektu’ was already released digitally, and ‘Honourable Live And Death’ will be released separately in the near future, for another special occasion, related to our visit of North Korea.  

You dedicate ‘The Sound Of Music’ to the people of North Korea and Austria. The illustrations in the CD booklet indeed show mountains and landscapes that could belong in both countries. Are there more comparisons between both countries?

Yes, there are plenty of comparisons between both countries and The Sound of Music tells it all. 

Laibach is legendary for the role you played in ex-Yugoslavia, which was also a communist dictatorship. Of course a band like Laibach would not be possible in North Korea. What would you conclude when you compare communism in North Korea and communism in Yugoslavia?

Well, after all Laibach WAS possible in North Korea, otherwise we’d never performed there. But communism in Yugoslavia was quite different from the North Korean one, although Tito and Kim Ill Sung were good friends and visited each other in the sixties. Communism in Yugoslavia was destroyed because there was too much freedom around, with an overdose of black humour that finally killed it, as it was practiced and understood too literary.

Let’s go back to your former release: ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’. Laibach is a band that has based its work on the research of the link between ideology and art. I was surprised that you did not exploit the goldmine of controversial statements that this magnum opus by the German philosopher Nietzsche represents to a greater extend. Why was that?

But, we did it, and not only with ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’. You can find Nietzsche all over our work, although we are in principle not Nietzscheans, we consider ourselves Duchampians.

Let’s go even further back in time. Laibach has a tradition in apocalyptic predictions. On the fantastic ‘Spectre’ from 2014, we can hear: ‘Europe is falling apart!’ This innuendo very much seems to become reality. The United Kingdom is leaving the EU, while nationalist movements are on the rise in almost every other country. What do you think about these developments?

It looks like we will have to stop predicting things, because our predictions turn into reality very fast. Europe is in fact constantly falling apart but it seems that falling apart is Europe’s specific way of constituting itself. Every time it tries to re-establish itself, it fails better. But there probably is no other alternative for European countries anyway than a strong European Union.

What Europe needs most of all is a real revolution. The true utopia is that goals of social justice, financial stability and environmental sustainability can be achieved within the parameters of the global capitalist system. The real causes of the people’s misery, after all, are not caused by the corruption of a few hundred politicians or the greed of a few thousand bankers, but in the structural dynamics that enable and reward such behavior in the first place.

Today’s crisis cannot be solved by regulation — or ‘cosmetic surgery’ of any kind. It can only be solved by transformation into a different system altogether. A United Europe can be saved, not as the cold Europe of the Brussels political technocracy and banking sectors, operating according to the dictates of neoliberal dogma, but as a re-politicized Europe, founded on a shared emancipatory project.

The European Union must find the right balance between debate and consensus on an overall vision. That vision must permeate into all aspects of society. Without this vision Europe cannot progress. Diverse nationalist movements and the right wing expansion in the EU are on the rise exactly because of the lack of common social and political vision and because the prevalent political model in Europe is basically neoliberalism with a right wing management.

The majority of the nationalist politicians, who were elected in the EU parliament, are actually afraid to lose their well-paid jobs and positions, so their anti-European stances are most of the time merely a strategic pose for their frustrated national voters. Brexit is the extreme paradox of this situation. Of course Europe without Britain is not what it should and could be, but in a way Great Britain never really wanted to be a part of EU. Britain wanted Europe to be part of Great Britain, except on safe distance, as a tourist destination and a healthy market for British economical and cultural expansion.  

The international situation involving North Korea has changed very much since your shows there in 2015. It was then an international pariah due to tests with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, but has now entered peace-talks with South Korea and the United States. This détente is fragile, of course, as love declaration still can change to brutal statements and warnings. What do you think? How do you solve a problem like Korea?

You don’t solve it, especially not with Trump. In reality, nobody really wants to solve a Korean problem. The current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South Korean president Moon Jae-in are actually developing a very healthy process that is opening possibilities for reunification of both Koreas into one country. The basic problem is that Americans do not want to close their military bases in South Korea and this will be the biggest obstacle for the reunification.

Americans are not interested in North Korea. They are interested in China and they want to keep an eye over the East China Sea. They are surrounding China with something like 40 military bases and their base in South Korea is among the most important ones. The troublemaking North Korean regime is just a perfect excuse in the whole equation, but not the real target.

On the other hand China will not allow the reunification of Koreas for as long as US troupes will stay in South Korea. That is why North Korea as a country and its people are basically just a collateral damage of this power game between China and United States, and that is why White House does not want to sign a final peace treaty with North Korea already since 1953.  On top of that Japan is not very happy with the idea of united and economically strong Korea.

China is not very enthusiastic about it either, and the majority of South Korean politicians are opposing the re-unification because of the high costs that South Korea would have to pay into this project and on the other hand the military and political elite of North Korea also do not want to lose their privileged positions and even less their heads if such unification would really happen.  Therefore all the talks that are going on between North Koreans and Americans are merely just a spectacle, showing Trump’s good will and his ‘presidential wisdom’.  Unless Kim Jong-un and his sister are hiding another strong joker in their pockets, there is not much hope that something will really change for the North Korean people.  

zondag 24 februari 2019

Trouwfest #3: RIOTMILOO: We love you Europe!

The free annual Belgian festival Trouwfest offers at least one artist that will perform for the first time ever in Belgium in every edition. This year, this is the case (among others) for the French/Brittish act Riotmiloo, who released the great album La Pierre Soudée on Ant-Zen a few years ago.

It's a very strong album, not only musically, but also conceptually. Emilie is a lady who has a lot to say, something this interview also taught us!

DE: You released your album on Ant-Zen. Recently, Ant-Zen decided to stop releasing physical albums and to concentrate on the digital market. A sign of the times? As a music lover, for me it’s quite hard to pay for a digital album, because just like books, I like to have a copy in my hands. What’s your opinion on this, as a musician?

Emilie (E): When I found out, it really came as a blow. Music is extremely important to me. I listen to music on different formats (including digital) but I buy my most cherished music on physical releases. Ant-Zen fought long and hard. It brought quality in terms of musical choices and strong identity with Stefan Alt’s amazing designs. It went beyond music and design; it was pure Art. But times change and if cds don’t sell anymore, maybe it’s time to try something else? One may argue that vinyls and tapes seem to be trendy again. But how long will it last? I wish Ant-Zen the best for the future. I am forever grateful for everything they did for me.

I guess artists may have to diversify what they have on offer in the future. I started selling t-shirts last year (design by Stefan). People seemed interested by that new addition to the merch. However, I still don’t know how I would feel not to have physical objects to sell at gigs. I guess it is part of all the questions I have to reflect on when my next album is ready…

DE: You started your musical career in the riot grrrl’s punk scene. Can you tell us a bit more about that (which band, period, etc...)

E: I discovered riot grrrl’s music in the middle of the 90’s. Instantly, I identified strongly with that movement: the anger, the messages, the possibility of having little experience but still having a space for creativity and of course the DIY attitude. Kill Rock Stars was a fantastic label. My old time favourites are still Bikini Kill, the Japanese Emily’s Sassy Lime and their album “Desperate, scared but Social.” I still have a lot of affection for Babes in Toyland, Seven Year Bitch and of course L7. I saw Babes in Toyland when they reformed, singing all their songs from the top of my lungs (because I have all of their discography).

When I was still living in France, in the late 90’s, I was invited to perform as a guest vocalist for a friend’s band. It was meant to be a one off. But when I set my foot on the stage, I transformed into Riotmiloo for the first time. I started shyly with my hands in my pockets and ended up confronting the crowd and rolling on the floor. Many people in the audience saw something in me that they liked and encouraged me to carry on.

In 2003, my friend Slideling and I decided to create a female garage punk band in the spirit of Red Aunts and early Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We enrolled the best drummer in town and Venom Seeds was born. Originally, we wanted a female drummer but when Sam auditioned, he blew us away. We got signed and released a beautiful and limited edition 7” in black, red and white on a grunge label in Seattle. Even before, when we self released our DIY interactive demo with wicked stencil artwork, it was well received in England and abroad. This project went far beyond what I was expecting. Sadly the band split up in 2008. If you want to dig more into that bit of my past, here is where to find the info:

DE: What did you decide to change from guitars to electronic music?

E: My love for music is vast. Besides Riot Grrrls, I also like punk hardcore especially bands like Minor Threat and pioneers like Blag Flag and Bad Brains. Simultaneously, I happen to also like trip hop and electronic music. In the early 2000’s, I discovered Atari Teenage Riot and D-Trash records. There was Nic Endo’s sonic assault and Hanin Elias’ amazing live performances. Once again I identified to that sort of music. I thought to myself: should I experiment with this? It was pushing the violence and anger a little bit further.

Shortly after moving to London in 2002, prior to Venom Seeds, I was part of a DIY electronic project called “3 Ant Riot.” We had a tweaked bass, samples, drums and me on vocals. This project enabled me to experiment more vocally with electronic music. In the end, things didn’t work out because some band members wanted more melodies and I wanted more mayhem. ;)

I started getting deeper into electronics when working with the artist and producer Eva|3. At the beginning, we were meant to collaborate only for one track. Then we performed together for a one off gig at Slimelight in 2005 in London to support Pneumatic Detach.

It went so well that he asked me to join him for more gigs and two years we unexpectedly landed at the legendary Maschinenfest to promote Eva|3’s album on Fich-art! (Asche’s label)

DE: You can hear the influence of your riot grrrl period in your current music. Speaking of electronic music: what are the musical influences on Riotmiloo?

E: If we talk solely about electronic music, I am influenced by Haus Arafna and their side project November Növelet. I do like the integration of both harshness and melody. I love Deutsch Nepal too. He excels at converting emotions into music. Test Department, Coil and Throbbing Gristle inspire me a lot too. I am a huge fan of Beta Evers whose cold vocals and music give me goose bumps.

At the minute, I am really into Michael Idehall, Hide and Gazelle Twin. And I have a recently discovered soft spot for Lingua Ignota. I am going to share a stage with her on the 9th of April in London. I can’t wait!

DE: Your gig at Trouwfest will be the first one in Belgium. La Pierre Soudée showed us Dirk Ivens is one your friends, are there any other Belgian musicians/bands you really like?

E: Yes, it will be my first time ever in Belgium. Thanks a lot for the invite. I am really looking forward to it. Belgium is lucky to have so many great electronic artists. Dirk Ivens is definitely a legend and a very kind person. He is very funny too. The other names that spring to my mind straight away are Imminent, Ah Cama-Sotz, Monolith and Solar Skeletons. There is also Empusae. His album, “Lueur”, really spoke to me to the point where it gave me goose bumps. I highly recommend it. Nicolas has a gentle soul and is a talented musician. I also admire C-drík’s musical knowledge and efforts to promote electronic music from all around the world. He is a good laugh too.

DE: La Pierre Soudée sounds very intense, I can imagine live it even goes deeper. How would you describe a Riotmiloo concert, what can we expect at Trouwfest?

E: It took us six years to make “La Pierre Soudée”. Each track is inspired by a real life story, documenting women’s suffering in the world. Each song was composed with a different artist. You can enjoy listening to the songs or if you choose to dig a little bit deeper, get to know each story, find out about the horrors inflicted by wars, by lack of compassion, by political and social harsh contexts. And then you can decide for yourself. Beyond music and words, where do you stand in our society?

My performances have often been described as intense, powerful, energetic and moving. The music creates an emotional journey ranging from dark ambient soundscapes to powerful rhythm and noise, supporting my vocal delivery that is in turn melancholic or intense. Visuals add another layer to reinforce my message courtesy of the brilliant haunting double exposure photographic work of Jessica Hosman. Expect a cathartic and hypnotic experience!


DE: Power electronics and noise in general are mostly a male-dominated genre. But nowadays there’s a fresh feminine air with acts like you, but also Pharmakon, Puce Mary, Sewer Goddess, She Spreads Sorrow... As a woman, do you think the audience/press treats you different and in which way?

E: I think Arts and Music in general are male-dominated (and not just in the making of it). Statistically, the audience is more male than female too. Is it because of bad experiences for women at gigs? Is it because the music is too harsh? On the other hand, many people, from promoters to the audience, seem to be open to something else. I have always been lucky in the sense that what I want to express and say resonates with others. Am I just lucky? Maybe, maybe not, who knows? I have the strong belief that there is space for women in the Arts. I welcome female and trans artists. In my humble opinion, diversity is somehow more interesting.

To be honest, I don’t feel the press has treated me any differently. Photographers are respectful too. People are in general very supportive. The worst that happened to me was being touched inappropriately during a performance in Paris and I lashed out at who I thought was the culprit. It turned out it was a gay friend of mine who confessed many years later. But I have female friends who have completely different experiences…

DE: La Pierre Soudée refers to Masculine Domination by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. In this work he describes how language symbolically defines and perpetuate violence against women. In lots of countries, women are still oppressed by men, often by giving it a religious twist. It’s quite a challenge to stop this madness. Do you think this will ever change?

E: First of all, I’d like to widen the debate. Violence happens everywhere. I wouldn’t want to confine it to far away countries. You have open direct violence, which is spoken about a lot in the media, and you have slow, pernicious and hidden day to day violence. Female Genital Mutilation happens in Europe, in the UK, it is not just confined to Africa. I read yesterday about breast ironing supposedly in place to help prevent sexual harassment and rape. What kind of shit is that? The best prevention is to teach about consent!

What pisses me off is that governments, people in charge of writing laws, are mostly white wealthy men who will decide women’s’ rights. Let’s take for instance the topic of abortion. It is still illegal in Northern Ireland. And people in power like Trump make me feel like we are going backwards to darker times when people accept the very idea that it can be ok to “grab them by the pussy…”

And then there is hidden day-to-day violence like when a woman is shut down, interrupted more than men or even totally ignored. And have you heard about “the mental load”? To summarize, it is when one expects their partner to ask for help to do things, viewing this person as the manager of their household chores. Here is an interesting article if you want to find out more about “the mental load”:

I believe change is possible but we have to implement it ourselves at our own level. And I am grateful that many people agree with me.

DE: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you describe yourself as a feminist, and what does this term mean to you, because for some people it has a negative undertone?

E: My definition of feminism is equality and same treatment for everyone. Who can be against that? Following this definition, everyone can be a feminist. It isn’t hard. I would give myself 10/10 of course. And if you take into account non-binary people, this means that they should also be treated with respect. The TERF movement (Trans Exclusionary Rad Feminism) is against that very idea and deserves not to be associated with what I call feminism. Their message is full of hate and discrimination. Mine isn’t.

DE: As I told you before, your work reminds me of the great Meira Asher. Have you already contacted her?

E: Meira Asher is very talented indeed. I know about her work but do not know her personally. I love it when music and song writing incorporate poetry as well as a message. When words and music complement each other to highlight social and political topics, then it takes Art to another level…

DE: Alongside your musical performance, both electronics as vocals, another eye catcher are your quite controversial lyrics. Another thing you have in common with Meira Asher, with subjects such as child marriages, war, landmines, AIDS,... Do you already have stories in mind to tell on a future album, and are you working on it?

E: I spend a lot of time reading articles and taking notes. The theme of “La Pierre Soudée” was abuse of women through story telling. I am currently working on another album. “Blackout” is more a study on mental illness and how it translates into feelings. I want to strip it out of all romanticism and explore a raw territory. Once again, I had to collate information from real life stories, watch documentaries, absorb various experiences and states of mind to be able to translate it into words and music. This time, it is just Eva|3 and me (and synths and patches.) I have recently uploaded a new track called “Folie à deux” which illustrates a story of shared madness where a couple tortured and murdered their nanny. She was "starved, tortured and broken until she could no longer fight. They took away her dignity and finally her life." May her gentle soul rest in peace. Here is the link if you want to listen to it:

DE: As a French woman living in England, how do you feel about Brexit?

E: Well, I am a product of Europe. I was born in France and I decided to live in London. And I play gigs all over Europe. Until now, it was easy and convenient.

Most people in London are against Brexit. I love London because it has a great mix of different people and we all learn from each other. Even our mayor Sadiq Khan trolled Brexit with an ode to Europe using fireworks display for New Year’s eve. That was so brilliant!

More personally, I feel Brexit is a con; it is a broken plaster failing to contain the pus in England. Who in their right mind would think it is a good idea to go solo in the big wide world?

I blame politicians for this mess. They haven’t lifted people out of poverty. They actually created more of it. Our previous prime minister, David Cameron, used the referendum for his own political gain. Then he lost and resigned, passing on the hot potato to somebody else.

Our current prime minister is doing the same. Theresa May is using Brexit to sell her anti immigration and rotten ideas. She is anti immigration and anti poor.

I think many people were tricked into voting for it. But Brexit is not going to benefit them. In my opinion, there will be more and more suffering and more stories like in the movie “We are all Daniel Blake” by Ken Loach after Brexit.

By contrast, wealthy people will be fine. They have connections and ways to buy passports. Some of the richest businessmen are already leaving England and relocating somewhere where there is less tax, often in Europe.

I feel artists will suffer too. Who will want to come to the UK if they don’t feel welcome? I won’t blame it if people stick their fingers at England. I kind of sadly expect it. It will become harder for British artists who are already struggling to cover expenses to play abroad.

But rightly so, a good friend of mine told me that politicians never really help artists anyways. So I guess it will be up to us to unite and find ways to make it work. We love you Europe! ;)

DE: Last but not least, this burning question: why do you want a fly as a pet?

E: I found those words grabbing. So when they popped into my head, I decided to make something with them. The life story behind the song "A Fly as a Pet" actually comes from a book called “The good women of China.” It talks about a girl being abused and breaking her own bones to end up in a hospital and escape her life as well as her oppressor. There, she experiences the soft feeling of the wings of a fly on her skin for the first time. She decides to adopt it as her pet. In the end, she becomes really ill, crushes the fly by accident and mad with herself, spreads the dead fly on her wound and dies from sepsis. It is a tragic story really… 

foto's 1 & 3: Sev Denis, foto's 2, 4 & 5: Stefan Alt


La Pierre Soudée op Bandcamp

Trouwfest #3

dinsdag 12 februari 2019

Hackedepicciotto: Anything that sounds unusual attracts me immediately

When the first names for the Black Easter festival were announced, we couldn't resist a jump for joy. We tipped Hackedepicciotto because, in our humble opinion, it was the right act for this festival. Luckily BodyBeats shared this opinion. Not only did the couple Alexander Hacke and Danielle De Picciotto released the very strong album Menetekel, both of them gathered a lot of musical experience through the years and thus were the ideal candidates for an interview.

DE: When our readers see the name of Alexander Hacke, most of them will automatically link it to Einstürzende Neubauten. Danielle, you’re know as one of the founders of the legendary Love Parade and was involved with Gudrun Guts Ocean Club, Space Cowboys, Die Haut and many other projects. Hackedepicciotto is a recent project, although you already made music together before. Is Hackedepicciotto a new start of something?

Danielle: hackedepicciotto is part of an ongoing work process Alexander and I have been immersed in since 2001.We have done very many different collaborations together over the years: interdisciplinary projects, theater plays, film music etc.. hackedepicciotto became our band name when we felt we had found the sound that fitted perfectly to both of our characters.

 Alexander: Hackedepicciotto is the accumulation of our combined efforts in equal parts. Like the name suggest it is more of an symbiosis than a collective. We’re not a band with replaceable members, we’re one entity.

DE: You’re married in 2006, and the cliché wants us to keep work and private life apart. How do you manage as a couple to work together, does it bring some extra tensions, or is it just easier to work with someone that’s so close?

Danielle: We are working together not because we are a couple but because we complement each other perfectly in our tastes and talents. The fact that we are a couple is beautiful but even if we were not a couple I would love working with Alexander because he always comes up with something I would not and vice versa.

Alexander: We know and trust each other more and better than anybody else. At the same time we are very different from each other and may approach issues from opposite angles. That can cause friction, but in the end we are always better off that way and see it as an advantage to have a variety of ideas to draw from.

DE: Since 2010 you live as nomads all across the world, constantly touring. A very intense lifestyle which made you both decide to stop smoking, drinking, becoming vegan and start with meditation and yoga. Has this current lifestyle made you more conscious of life than before?

Alexander: Of course! And I don’t think that we would be able to survive tis kind of life any other way. It is also quite rewarding to escape that cycle of punishment and reward, of work - excess - hangover - work and so on, which particularly many artists are prone to

Danielle: This experiment changed my life completely. It has changed my perspective on art, health, spirituality and society. It feels as if I have been put into a fast forward motion of personal development in which I am learning things at double speed which I would have otherwise spent my whole life discovering.  The first and very important aspect was getting rid of everything superfluous in my life. That in itself was a life changing catharsis. 

DE: Which brings us to ‘Nosce Te Ipsum’: did you met yourself on your trips?

Danielle: Most spiritual leaders or philosophers say that understanding yourself is the first step towards enlightment. It is also the most difficult. I would say I am starting to understand myself a little better but still have a long way to go.

Alexander: “Know Thyself” is the essential hermetic motto and a valid goal to aim for. “Be Thyself” and “Love Thyself” are the next steps. Necessarily in this order, because you can not be or love anyone you do not know.

DE: The first Love Parade was in 1989, initialy to celebrate the birthday of DJ Motte. Danielle, you were one of the co-founders of this event that became the biggest dance event of the world. How long did you do this, and how do you remember these days?

Danielle: Motte and I initiated the Love Parade because we felt that music can cross all borders and wanted to make a statement of peace and joy. The fact that it became so big was a confirmation that many people all over the world feel the same way. Another wonderful fact about this collaboration was that we made it happen with very little money. We had a lot of enthusiasm and the Parade became a symbol of the fact that everything is possible and miracles can happen. I was part of the Love Parade until we had 1.5 million participants. After that I decided that I am an artist and not an event manager and went back to doing music and art. The times in the late eighties and early nineties were magical because it was the beginning of a new era. Everything was new and exciting, the world seemed to opening up to something positive and Berlin was a playground of creativity. I am very happy to have been able to experience these years in Berlin because it gave me an incredible foundation of fun and know-how.

DE: I remember in the 90’s, it was absolutely not done when you were listening to what they called “alternative music” to listen to dance. Nowadays (fortunately) the musical landscape changed completely. It’s easier to get access to music, and back in the days everything was more divided into different parts. Berlin was always a very important city for music, was there a comparable reaction?

Danielle: Crossover has always been really important to me. My first band “Space Cowboys” was a cross-over hip hop/rock band and I was their singer whilst working in techno clubs such as the Tresor, so I never felt imprisoned in a specific genre. Berlin has always been a city that has broken down barriers. Being a interdisciplinary artist and working in different medias was already popular there in the eighties. That is why I moved to Berlin from NYC. I do not think there was a city comparable back then.

DE: Alexander, we can hear you throat-singing. My wife is a huge fan of Mongolian and Tuvan acts like Huun Huur Tu, Yat-Kha and AltaiKai. Where did your fascination come from, and was it hard to learn it?

Alexander: My musical tastes have always been very eclectic, so I am certainly aware of Tuvan throat singing. I started practicing it as a kid though, totally unrelated to music, by trying to talk like a robot to amuse my mates in elementary school. Much later I got introduced to recordings of Inuit people from Northern Canada and I realized that they apply the same technique and I started to explore how far I could take it myself, without a teacher or direct musical reference. I am still working on the overtones...

DE: Talking about the throat-singing technique: have you ever heard of the Russian monks of Phurpa? They practice upside-down and drink black tea with chili peppers and cream for their vocal chords. Do you have a special method to train your voice?

Alexander: No, I don’t know them, but will investigate. I also like some “pain" with my food though, which allegedly helps and to be a non-smoker can’t be bad either.

DE: You both also use a lot of less common instruments like the hurdy gurdy, autoharp and the Turkish kemençhe. Is this also due to your travels that those instruments had their influence on you?

Danielle: I have always loved odd sounds. In a way my music can be considered sound art more than anything else because I am always looking for a specific tonality. That is also how I chose my instruments. Anything that sounds unusual attracts me immediately and that is how I discovered my instruments.

DE: The result we hear on Menetekel is a very rich sound. Also quite unique, the only reference I could make in my review was Swans, with Jarboe. What’s the most original comparison you’ve already heard when people want to describe your music?

Danielle: I am not interested in comparisons.

Alexander: The most original, I suppose, was to be compared to “The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus”, an obscure English neo-folk band.

DE: Alexander, I always was (and still am) a big fan of the Crossing The Bridge documentary you made with Fatih Akin, that deals with the vivid music scene in Istanbul. I was in Istanbul twice, and you succeeded in bringing the feeling I experienced when you dwell through this wonderful city. In the documentary you also played together with Turkish musicians. Do you still have contact with some of these artists?

Alexander: I’m still in touch with Murat Ertel of Baba Zula, in him I have found a kindred soul concerning our musical tastes and sense of humor.

DE: The artwork of Menetekel is based on the iconic painting of American Gothic. Was there a particular reason you’ve chosen that work?

Danielle: I was not thinking of that painting when I was doing the lithography. Originally I did not plan for it to be the record cover, I was just experimenting on this technique and as our nomadic journey is my main artistic theme momentarily I tried to convey what we feel like at the moment. When Alexander saw the first result he said: That is our record cover!

DE: Menetekel refers to the writings on the wall in the Bible, just like Jericho. Alexander sang in the past with Einstürzende Neubauten of ‘Der Schacht von Babel’. Why this fascination with the Old Testament? Is it just because of the beautiful stories, or does it have a deeper meaning?

Alexander: We study a variety of sacred texts. I consider music, all arts actually, but mostly music, to be a direct means to get in touch with the Devine and cherish and respect the craft for that quality. Creating vibrations like that is a matter of cause and effect, which should not be taken lightly. Music is spiritual by default and as a spiritual person I am interested in spiritual allegories.

Danielle: Interestingly our journey feels biblical in many ways, like a pilgrimage towards some kind of truth. This kind of search touches many basic human and social themes, which often are mentioned in spiritual books, one of them being the bible, so becoming immersed in these subjects has become part of our work. This obviously influences our music.

DE: Globetrotters as you are, you must get in touch with all kinds of habits and religions. Do you adopt things of those impressions in your daily life?

Alexander: Yes, we research, discuss, meditate and try to adapt what we learn in our work.
Danielle: Yes we have learned a lot from the different cultures and countries we have experienced on this journey and they influence our thoughts and development.

DE: We’re very delighted you are going to play the Black Easter Festival, what can we expect from your show?

Danielle & Alexander: We will be performing our current album Menetekel, songs from our last album Perseverantia and new songs that will  be released on our next album.


Black Easter