donderdag 26 mei 2016

Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2016, part I: If only it could always be winter and always night... (the music)

When I walk out of the station on Thursday afternoon, May 12, I bump into a traditional long line of extravagant goths who immediately want to receive their wristband for the 25th edition of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen. I have no patience for this and head for the hotel immediately. Along the way, I can still taste the atmosphere Leipzig enjoys throughout the year, when not trampled by black folks. Leipzigers are a colourful bunch. Literally: dyed hair and piercings are everywhere. You regularly see punks and emos. And goths of course, because even outside the WGT, Leipzig can rely on a very big dark scene.

Thursday, May 12

The big jubilee party was to be held on Thursday in a theme park, and again, we can witness an endless line of people waiting to get on the bus. I am not that enthusiastic, and I decide to take a look at the Gothic Pogo Festival, which is organized independently and simultaneously in Werk II. Gothic Pogo aims at batcavers and minimal wavers, and organizes parties all over Germany. The festival is at its 11th edition in Leipzig. At the entrance is a message that racists, sexists and homophobes are not welcome. I feel very welcome, though I found it bit less sympathetic when my friend and colleague Dimi was denied access two days later because of his Death In June t-shirt. On a positive note, there was a very beautiful exhibition by Incestum and Danjela Diamond at Werk II, which showed metal insects and other strange animals in an obscure cellar lighted with red light and candles.

There are no big names on the program, but perhaps it's an opportunity to discover promising new groups. Lizard Pool isn’t one of them, though. Their third-rate English indie rock is full of clichés and deserves to disappear quickly into the anus of music history. Dividing Lines by contrast plays decent batcave including mohawks, tribal drums and screaming guitars. That is what the public what the public here wants to hear, and I enjoy it too.

Friday May 13th

I visit the Agra-plain - the beating heart of the WGT - to pick up my wristband. This place holds the probably largest gothic market in the world, with clothing, footwear, jewellery, CDs, books and other accessories. Something tells me that you can spend quite a lot of money here in only a little time. Fortunately, I restraint and I just eat and drink something I hear the theme park yesterday was very nice, but there were tons of people and you had long queues everywhere.

A goth with hay fever, how is it possible... Oh, if only it could always be winter and always night, it would not happen to me. Fortunately, there is a pharmacy right across the Felsenkeller - one of the dozens of locations around the city for concerts - where I start my musical program with a portion of gothic rock. Golden Apes can be situated somewhere between gothic rock and post-punk. (Please don’t tell me that it's all one and the same, you infidel!) They apparently enjoy great success in Germany, and rightly so. The Angina Pectoris is a goth legend of the German 80s. They perform for the first time in 15 years, and you can clearly hear that. The musicians are not attuned to one another. The guitarists come from the metal scene and do not realize that they should let their guitars echo widely to make credible goth rock. The result is a kind of pitiful hug rock metal. I get out of here.

Before I go to the Shauspielhaus - the stage for connoisseurs in Leipzig - I can overhear a nice conversation at restaurant. Someone explains that it is ‘Wave-Gotik-Treffen’ in the city. ‘It’s a pity that there are not as many here now,’ someone else replies. Goths here have almost become an attraction for the average resident, and that’s fine with me.

In the Shauspielhaus, you will not hear any beats or heavy guitars, but mostly neoclassical music. We can perfectly illustrate this by Kirsten Morrison, a lady who also plays keys with Lene Lovich. She stands alone on stage, armed with a violin, a harpsichord and an impressive soprano voice. All the rest is pre-recorded. Her magical songs are based on poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Rumi, Shakespeare, Rimbaud and William Blake. Kari Rueslåtten is perhaps an odd choice for the WGT, but there is a large and devoted audience in the room to listen to her. This is certainly not intellectual music, but both the texts and the slow music are in line with the better melancholic pop.

The Deadfly Ensemble - the avant-garde folk group of Cinema Strange singer Lucas Lanthier - sound much more batcave live than on CD. It will be up to the guitars played by Steve James - also active in Christ vs. Warhol - and the impressive bass and drums. Only the cello of Marzia Rangel - also active in Christ vs. Warhol - and the folk guitar of Lanthier give the sond a folky touch. The dancing and singing style of Lanthier and especially the horde photographers photographing exhibit a group with a great sensibility for absurdity. Nice concert.

Saturday, May 14

Today, I have only one venue on the program: the Taubschenhall, whit a lot of good stuff for the real batcavers. With Christ vs. Warhol for example. Alas, I am not the only one who wants to attend the concert. On arrival, I am informed that the hall is packed and that I can’t enter. The smartass I am puts himself at an opening at the bar where he can see the guitarist and an occasional glimpse of the singer, and where he can enjoy this delicious set. This is batcave from the top shelf. Several new songs are played, and that’s good since their only album dates back to 2010 (we also found a promo CD from 2014 at the merch stand). I look forward to a new CD from this wonderful band.

We only know Lene Lovitch from the song ‘Lucky Number’, but she appears to have other lucky numbers. She brings a very successful show with wacky new wave. We sometimes found Tragic Black too screamy to be called death rock, but any doubts are professionally cleared by a grand performance by the extravagant trio. The newer work goes back to the classic death rock sound. Guitarist Stich can also excel with a song from his former group All Gone Dead. Tragic Black closes with two songs by Christian Death (‘Death Wish’ and ‘Skeleton kiss’).

With ‘The Grey Eyes of Evening’ and ‘Quatorze exemples autheniques du Triomphe de la musique décorative’, Cinema Strange delivered two classics in the batcave revival of the new century. Then, for some stupid reason, they quit. That’s very sad, but we are so happy to see them perform exclusively here again. Because Cinema Strange was so exceptionally original in almost everything they did: their appearance, the vocals, the melodic bass and guitar lines, the constant rhythm changes, the imaginative lyrics ... They gave a great performance, but without any prospect for new work.

Sunday, May 15

The festival hosts more than 243 performances at 75 venues (I also include all museums, exhibitions and sites where lectures or special events occur). However, you can grab only four or five performances a day. The program is designed so that each venue has a coherent range of bands that are stylistically closely related. Moreover, groups can play here longer than at other festivals, so we can enjoy the concerts even more.

Aargh, a flat tire - I happen to do all my trips by bike - I cannot get in the Volkspalast in time for performances of Winter Severity Index and other beautiful things. Once the defect is resolved, I'm headed straight to Agra. This time, I feel no constraints to spend a lot at the gothic market. But that's not the reason I'm here. Although I believe that Leipzig is an opportunity to discover or see exclusive smaller groups that never come to Belgium, I make an exception tonight and I'm going to watch a few classics in the Agra-Halle. There is some criticism of this hangar which is converted to a concert venue, but it's the only room that can receive 5,000 persons. Thus, the biggest and most popular groups play here. Lacrimosa is one of them, and I never miss a chance to see them live.

Diary of Dreams is playing here too, as on just about every dark festival. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen them live. I have often said that their CDs are interchangeable, but always of high quality, and that goes for their performances too. It is noteworthy that Adrian Hates is very proud of what the group has produced in the current line-up, for there is much from the last CDs in the setlist. These songs, however, are nicely interspersed with older classics as ‘MenschFeind’, ‘Giftraum’, ‘Kingdrom’ and ‘Butterfly:Dance’. Remarkably, nothing is played from the success album 'Freak Perfume'.

Lacrimosa is playing for the seventh time at WGT, which makes them the band that has performed the most at the WGT. It was WGT organizer Michael Brunner who persuaded Tilo Wolff to perform live with a first show at WGT in 1993. Who knows, if not for him, Lacrimosa could have remains a studio project. That would have been a pity, because they are phenomenal live. Their set includes a lot of songs from the last album ‘Hoffnung’. A very dark album, and one that has really touched the fans, as I can measure from the reactions in the audience. But of course, songs are played from all periods. Both Tilo Wolff (in the masterpiece ‘Stolzes Herz’ and the old gem ‘Crucifixio’) and Anne Nurmi (with beautiful ‘Apart’) are in an excellent condition.

I thought I would go to sleep after Lacrimosa. The WGT indeed starting to look like a war of attrition. But there still appears to be a band on the programme. Grandpa Punk John Lydon will occur with his band Public Image Limited. Since I have seen an episode of Reynebeau & Rotten, I have serious doubts about this lad. But I also read that the reunion tour of PiL received much praise. And after this performance, I need to add my name to the praisers. The old sacks play really well and manage to create the right atmosphere. Much to my astonishment, I must add.

Monday, May 16

I’m disturbed. Christine Plays Viola was programmed but neither Christine nor her viola can be seen. Instead, there are five furry guys on stage who play (nice) gothic rock. I want to hear violin and hurry to the Shauspielhaus where Saeldes Sanc will be playing. We first heard from this project of Hannah Wagner by their coopertion with Schwarzblut, and we could not suspect that the project would be so popular. Or could it be due to Ernst Horn, the man behind Deine Lakaien and Helium Vola, who plays with Saeldes Sanc? Hannah Wagner certainly looks disarmingly girlish and authentic with her stunning red gown, her pregnant belly and her bare feet. But she can provoke laughter and astonishment, and above all, she sings like a nightingale. When after a wonderful show, Wagner and Horn intone ‘Withering Heigts’, we feel lifted to withering heights and we realize that we have discovered something really extraordinary here.

I initially had my doubts about The Visit. Only cello and vocals? Is that enough to impress? After a performance by Saeldes Sanc? It is though, as appears after a few songs. Voice and cello complement each other perfectly and can be used in a varied way. The duo from Canada succeeds, to their merit, and they reap the appropriate praise.

When you listen to the music of the Sangre Muerdago, you would not think that they come from the Galician punk and metal scene. It all sounds so soft and harmonious... But it involves some sort of criticism against a capitalism system that reduces people into mindless consumption and production products. Songs from their latest brilliant ‘O Camiño Das Mans Valeiras’-CD - ‘the way of the empty hand’, an allusion to how material wealth should not be equated with spiritual wealth - alternate with older and new works, with also a lot of instrumental pieces. Beautiful.
The fight against sleep has increased in intensity, and to avoid falling asleep in the soft seats of the Schauspielhaus - it almost happened during Sangre de Muerdago - I'm going to take a chance to get in at the concert of Pink Turns Blue. Unfortunately, the queue before the venue approximately
corresponds to the capacity of the room. Returning to the Schauspielhaus is not an option, because people are lining up there to see the heavenly Irfan. What's left? The Felsenkeller? Well, it’s on the way to my hotel.

Korpiklaani, a Finnish group of forest workers who understand the art to look like a bunch of freaks, are already playing excellent folk metal with violin and accordion. I will not fall asleep here, that’s for sure. Though the inevitable last notes resonate here also. On the way to the hotel, I wonder whether I should be sad or glad it is over. It was wonderful, but it would have been impossible to keep up at this pace much longer. Sleep well Leipzig. Make beautiful dreams. We’ll see each other again next year.

Xavier Kruth

Pictures by Xavier Marquis: Cinema Strange, Tragic Black, Christ vs. Warhol, Public Image Limited, Lacrimosa (in Roeselare)

Read part II: There once was… (the history)

woensdag 25 mei 2016

Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2016: Part II: There once was… (the history)

25 years WGT. That's quite a while, and I hope this will continue for many more years. It is also a time when we can look back. For this jubilee, there are various exhibitions that focus on the history of the festival and the Gruft scene in East Germany. The main exhibition is undoubtedly the ‘Leipzig in Schwarz’ historical review in the Stadtgeschichtliger Museum.

The WGT arose in 1992, or more precisely even in 1993 when the original ‘Moonchild Festival’ was renamed the ‘Wave Gothic Treffen’. But there was a whole history even before these dates. In the second half of the 80s, the ‘Gruftis’ - the German word for tomb people - also surfaced in the communist GDR. The Gruftis were often viewed negatively, and the Stasi - the East German secret service - kept a sharp eye on them.

More or less legal events were organized everywhere. CDs and cassettes were smuggled out of Hungary or from the West and then copied endlessly. There also was an underground circuit in which local music circulated on cassettes.

Michael Brunner played a central role in the Leipzig scene. This mystique young man went to take a course in Potsdam, where he also met kindred souls. He took the initiative to celebrate Walpurgis Night at the ruins of the castle Belvedere in Potsdam, and invited his friends from Leipzig to come over. The turnout was unexpectedly high: 150 participants from all over the GDR, with even some West Berliners among them. Most of them were arrested by the police, unfortunately, but for a minority, the party on the Pfingstberg got along.

It was not only police and state who were hostile. Skinheads often attacked the passive Gruftis too. In August 1990 - the wall had fallen by then - there was mass violence against Cure fans who wanted to see their idols at work in Leipzig. Extreme right-wing groups were scattered among the road from the Leipzig station to the arena where the concert took place, and attacked the concertgoers.

However, it was not all hostility. At that time there were many links between Grufties and punks. Punks often got along well with metalheads, but the latter often looked down on the soft Gruftis. All have had a common enemy, though: the Stino or Stinknormaler (stinking normal people). These bonds between subcultures, however, would disappear along with the GDR.

Michael Brunner was also the man who, in 1991 - the GDR was now absorbed by the Bundesrepublik - founded the organization ‘Moonchild’ along with his friend Sandro Standhaft, and began to give parties at the Villa. The Villa was of course too small for the larger plan of the two men: organizing a Moonchild festival. They had to move to the Eiskeller at Connewitz Kreuz for that end. That soon proved too small too, because the capacity of 800 men was nothing compared to 2000 people who came to attend (mainly through word-of-mouth). For those who could not enter, there was also a street party outside with bonfires and drinks. 

That may have been the impetus for the second edition - in 1993 - to be renamed a Treffen (a meeting in German). The nostalgia for GDR times - when togetherness was more important than the commercial aspect or the program - plays a part in this. The location moved a few hundred meters to Werk II and even more goths attended. And so the anticipated criticism resounded that there was indeed more programme and commerce, and less contact between the participants.

Goths like to complain, which is known, but despite all the criticism, the festival grew year after year. For the third festival, a new organization was formed: Sol et Luna, led by Brunner. Standhaft was removed and for many years pulled out of the city as the festival took place. The name of the festival was changed to ‘Wave-Gotik-Treffen’ as a counterweight to the ubiquity of English in the scene. It was also the first time that there were multiple venues.

In 1998, the number of visitors totalled 12,000 ghosts, and in 1999 20,000. The festival was bursting at the seams. The organizers aimed too high in 2000. They invited no less than 349 groups, where there were only 112 the year before. As a result, the festival could not pay the fees of the groups. The organizers didn’t get along and the coordination was flawed. A lot of gigs had to be cancelled. On Sunday, the security personnel stopped working and suppliers started breaking down the stages.

A number of people took the initiative to save what could be saved. Bands played for free and offered their material. There was even a gothic security service. The police also helped, if only to avoid greater chaos. However, that did not appear to be necessary as the public remained unbelievably calm. This can only happen at gothic festivals. (Is there anyone who has not made the comparison with the Belgian Eurorock festival last year?)

There’s more that puts this ‘Chaos-WGT’ in a bad light. Since a few years, there are complaints that the festival gives space to right-wing extremist ideas and bands. For example, the right-wing magazine Sigill gets a yearly stand at the gothic market. In 2000, Von Thronstahl is invited to play. Singer Josef Klumb - whose ringt-wing publisher Verlag + Agentur Werner Symanek also receives an annual stand on the market - is known as a supporter of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and gets a prohibition to perform by the city council. The group then performs without singer, but with masked men waving flags. On the flags: an image of the black sun, an occult symbol that was part of the SS castle in Wewelsburg. (WGT got criticism again in 2009, when an image of the black sun was printed on the camping tickets of the festival.)

Anyway, the festival is bankrupt in 2000. The organization is taken over by Move GmbH in 2001. They restore financial order, although this inevitably involves criticism that it has become too commercial and that the festival lost its alternative spirit. The program is even more diverse and now includes events at the opera and exhibitions in museums. With sales of 3 to 4 million annually, the importance for the municipality cannot be underestimated. It is no surpise, then, that the festival got awarded with the Leipzig Tourism Prize in 2014.

The jubilee edition of the WGT also offers some smaller exhibitions. In the station of Leipzig - the biggest in Europe - an exhibition gives some basic information about 25 years of WGT, but especially displays beautiful photographs by different photographers. One of them is Gerd Lehmann, the man who released the ‘Gestus-Moon Calendar’ between 2007 to 1997. He is entitled to a separate exhibition at Haus Leipzig.

Lehmann was a famous fashion photographer in the GDR, but stopped in 2007, after a career of more than 40 years. Not only because he had a beautiful and long career. He was also reluctant to adapt to the requirements of digital photography. However, he still likes to exhibit his work in a scene where he has always felt at home. The Grassi Museum - finally -  offers an exhibition titled ‘Faces of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen’ with pictures of Marcus Rietzsch, a man who makes beautifully staged photographs of festival goers and issues them since 10 years in the yearly book Pfingstgeflüster.

There is a second important historical exhibition, this time about the time before the WGT. It is no coincidence that after the ‘Wende’ - the fall of the Wall and the reunification of Germany - a big festival was founded in Leipzig. After all, a great Grufti-scene appeared in the GDR in the second half of the 80s.

There is an exhibition at the Runde Ecke, the former headquarters of the Stasi in Leipzig, with the focus on how the Stasi monitored alternative youngsters. The exhibition has changed considerably since I visited it for the first time in 2012. Where the earlier focus has been on the Gruftis, there is now more attention for other types of ‘negative-decadent’ groups: Tramper (hippies), Punks, Skinheads, Heavy's, New Romantics and Popper.

The Stasi - the espionage service in the GDR - could count on a broad network of ‘Informelle Mitarbeiter’, people who reported regularly about suspicious events and friends. In the goth scene, the number of spies was even larger than in the total population, as we learn from a lecture by John H. Nicholls, a man who writes a PhD on the whole issue. Where in the population an average 1 in 50 cooperated with the Stasi, it amounted to 1 in 6 in the scene.

There are several factors why the Stasi could count on so many people. On the one hand, they could get access to Western goods and alcohol, on the other hand there were also people who participated by conviction, because they believed they could help building a socialist state in this way. This could lead to the contradictory situation where people who were very important and dedicated in the scene also went to report to the Stasi. On the other hand, cooperation with the Stasi could always be rejected without serious consequences for the person concerned.

The exhibition shows numerous reports of interrogations of Gruftis. It is striking that these usually give a very honest story. There are reports of night trips to cemeteries. This usually happened after a night out. There’s even a picture of a grave that has been desecrated with a graffiti of ‘Boy George’.

However, the information from the Stasi was not always correct. Thus, in a report, Gruftis were seen as listeners of psychedelic music (which then is defined as ‘dark, depressive music’). Even funnier is the remark that ‘Codix’ - yes, that’s how it’s written in the text - are an extreme form of Gruftis who are coming from the metal scene and like vampires and The Cure. You can recognise the ‘Satansgruftis’ by their red belt and shoelaces. They sleep in tombstones and destroy cemeteries. If you see a Grufti with his legs crossed, then you can bet he’s a supporter of Lucifer, because only they exhibit this kind of behaviour.

The Stasi also mentions more positive things, but even they are not always correct: Gruftis believe in an afterlife, feel connected to the church but are hostile towards the leadership of the churches, they want to help people in need and are characterized by a passive attitude. Because of this passive attitude, they are a favourite target for the much more violent skinheads.

We still don’t know when the Gruftis exactly appeared in the GDR. A document speaks of 1987. Another document states that The Cure got a lot of attention in the West German media in 1985 and '86, which certainly had an impact on the youth in the GDR. The already mentioned John Nicholls told us that the funding for the surveillance of ‘negative decadent youths’ diminished after the ‘Punk-Problem’ was declared to be solved by the Stasi in 1983, but that the budget was increased again in the years 1985 to 1987. Someone asks whether the first Gruftis might have arrived in the vacuum that the repression against punks in 1983 had left, or only at the rise of the second wave punk from 1985. If someone has an answer, please let us know.

The exhibitions offered a lot of information for those who want to study the history of the WGT and the Grufti-scene. The scene his far from dead, as the annual turnout at the festival shows. It has since stabilized around 20,000 to 25,000 participants every year. I hope this will last many more years, because knowing the history is one thing, but writing history is even more fun.

Xavier Kruth

Credits pictures:  poster for the exhibition '25 Jahre schwarz' / cartoon Uwe Roesch / Jennifer Hoffert-Karas / Runde Ecke / unknown photographer

Read Part I:  If only it could always be winter and always night...

woensdag 18 mei 2016

Frozen Nation: We are afraid to have mistakenly made a hazardous crossover between darkwave, goth, EDM and disco music…

The next Dark Entries Night is coming. On Friday, May 20, we propose two novice Belgian groups that we think you should know. One is Frozen Nation, a band from Brussels that plays 'Dark Belgian Disco'. You'll find out what that means in the interview below.
Hi there. You will be playing at the Dark Entries night on May 20th. As not that many people know you already, it is perhaps wise to just present yourself…

Hello Xavier, hello Dark Entries readers! We are Frozen Nation, a Belgian band, we are afraid to have mistakenly made a hazardous crossover between darkwave, goth, EDM and disco music…

If I’m not mistaken, you started out as a trio from Moss, D and D. How did you meet and how did you decide to make music together?

We’re in fact a four-piece band with Moss, D & D and Elvis the old unique modular synthesizer built by an unknown genius engineer during the 70s. We all met at Spector Studio in Brussels, where D&D work as music producers, and started to jam around Elvis, that’s how we made the basic structure for our 1st song “I Failed For You”.

Indeed, we first heard about Frozen Nation trough the single ‘I Failed For You’. It seems to have been recorded very professionally, and you also did a nice video clip for it too. You put the stakes high with this song, didn’t you?

It has been mixed and produced by D&D, we wanted to reach something enjoyable with a dancing beat, catchy choruses and a cold & 80s imprint at the same time, the same for the video!

“I Failed For You” is quite characteristic of the style we wanted to reach : a strong contrast between Dark and Light !  It has been released on our label Sub-Continental and is available for download and streaming.

You call your music Dark Belgian Disco - which is also a track of yours. You refer to the new beat and EBM, both highlights in Belgian music history. Do you think there is a special Belgian feeling for this kind of electronic music?

Exactly, Belgium was the country with the most important number of disc shops /inhabitant in the world during the 60s and the 70s, it has always been a country of connoisseurs across all social classes, always among the firsts to be interested in any new kind of music. This historical background explains why the Belgian electronic music scene has always been very innovative.

We call our music Dark Belgian Disco because it is composed of dark lyrics sung with a dark voice over a driving beat with catchy melodies. Moss is more into dark music, D&D are not ashamed to claim their love of disco, EDM and pop-songs with simple melodies. That’s also why EBM purists will notice we’re not exactly an EBM band, although we love Front 242 which is certainly a national pride here in Belgium. (should we say that Moss is Bruxelian, that D&D are French and that Elvis is British?)

We indeed made a song called “Dark Belgian Disco”, the instrumental part is a tribute to the new beat where modular synthesizers were intensively used, we added a disco bass and we explain our vision of funky dark Belgium.

Another influence is the new wave of The Cure, Siouxsie, Bauhaus and many others. How do you see this mix of electronic music and new wave?

Punk movements in NYC, then in the UK, Joy Division, on the other side the innovations brought by the German electronic music pioneers, Detroit techno, it all went very fast to lead to New Order releasing Blue Monday which Quincy Jones qualified as the best “white” dance music track ever, it’s still nowadays the most impressive track of this kind!
Post-punk movements, thanks to the Pistols, understood that they could move mountains with their strong personality and aesthetic style, that’s what we love in the music from The Cure, The Banshees or The Psychedelic Furs… The Cures’ “Three Imaginary Boys” is a masterpiece of minimalism, definitely one of the best albums ever.

I don’t see a direct influence from Jethro Tull, but there seems to be a link trough your drum machine called Elvis. Can you tell us more?

Elvis, the unique modular synthesizer is part of the band, he can be heard on every Frozen Nation’s track, his father is an unknown genius engineer who built it during the 70s for the British progressive band Jethro Tull. Although we respect Ian Anderson as a showman, there isn’t any influence from Jethro Tull’s music on Frozen Nation, we have nothing to do with beard hippies playing flute!

You are currently working on an EP. What can we expect from it, and when can we expect it?

We first thought of making an EP but we changed our mind and decided to go straight for a full album. We almost recorded it all, then we’ll have to mix it and get it mastered, plus the usual pre-release promo phase, you’ll have to be a bit patient but it’s on its way!

And what about the live shows? What can we expect? 
We’ll have some occasional venues and festivals in Belgium during May and June, you can check them on our facebook page, but we’re not really on tour for now. We’re also working on setting up some video projections during the shows with the filmmakers’ collective Ciclope.
Actually the best thing right now is to come watching us live at the Dark Entries Night XIV on Friday, May 20th in Ghent, be there!

Live shows:
Frozen Nation: website / facebook

Interview: Xavier Kruth

dinsdag 10 mei 2016

Exponentia: I want my voice and the related effects to simulate an unreal creature.

Exponentia is a bit of a separate act. It is a neoclassical project of just one man: Ludovic Dhenry. He just released ‘Abend’, his fourth album, but also has released excellent CDs under the names Zauber and Résonance Magnétique. Wondering what drives this man? We did too.

Hi Ludovic. You just released ‘Abend’, the fourth CD of Exponentia. I suspect there is a concept behind the disc. If so, can you explain us the concept?

I worked differently for this record. It was not like ‘Sadness’, for which I wrote songs that had to expres a feeling of sadness, or 'Ghost', where entities were the subject of the record. On ‘Abend’, I wanted to integrate a new instrument for Exponentia - the electric guitar - and work on more conventional song structures.

Indeed, there’s a clear emphasis on the guitars, an element that did not appear on previous records. Is that the influence of Lacrimosa? We know you're a big fan.
Before I started composing, I started the creative process with listening to all my previous records. I then thought about the musical colour of the future disc. From that moment on, I imagined a number mentally, as an indication for the direction the disc would take. The addition of electric guitars has been forced into my mind. I made a first test in the studio in that regard. That resulted in the song ‘Abend’, which is also the title of the album.

There are a lot of groups in rock, metal, electro, industrial... However, there are only a few in the style of Lacrimosa, Das Ich, Goethes Erben, Sopor Aeternus and others. When I founded Exponentia, I wanted to enrol myself in this style, simply because it's the music I like to listen to and write. I have this music inside of me. I listen to it often, as well as to baroque and classical. That influences my work. I often listen to Lacrimosa. This influence has played a major role in my choice to add guitars.

As always, the compositions contain very detailed arrangements with many instruments. Did you follow special harmony classes to work like this?

I've been to a professional music school every day for a year. It is an intense, complex and engaging training. I have studied music theory and harmony, as well as lessons of sound technique for mixing and mastering in the studio. I never followed harmony lesson for writing symphonic orchestrations. After I graduated, I learned a lot additionally as an autodidact. To write the arrangements about which you talk, you need a thorough knowledge of music theory, as well as many hours of personal work. If you write a symphonic song, you need to have clear ideas, to know what you are doing and why you do it. If I write a melody for violins for example, and decide that the chords will be played by the second violins, violas, cellos and double basses, I must also decide which instrument will play the third, the fifth and the root tone, so I do not lose myself in the chord progression, especially not if the scale changes, when I borrow notes from related scale or when random scale changes occur, in which a mi mole is changed for only a few mesures. In the same way, I define what the brass and woodwinds will play. Music is my life, I spent a lot of time on it.

All instruments are actually played by synths and keys. Have you ever tried to surround yourself with real musicians?

By working with keys, the project gets a more synthetic, electronic sound, which I love. It would be a great pleasure to have my songs played by a symphony orchestra, but the budget to record with such orchestra in the studio is too big for Exponentia. However, it is conceivable that I would work with real musicians in the future, for example guitarists.

We can hear on your album that you attach great importance to the voice and the articulation. Your voice on ‘Abend’ reminds me of Sopor Aeternus, another project that has certainly influenced you. What did you strive for with your voice on ‘Abend’?

I want my voice and the related effects to simulate an unreal creature. That's very important in my artistic project. A strange voice, inhumane ... I had set a target for this record to improve my voice and the effects in that respect, to rise a step higher in comparison with the predecessors. And effectively, Sopor Aeternus has influenced me in that respect.

As on the debut of Exponentia - ‘Allein’ - you use the German language on ‘Abend’. Why?

The language is very important. It creates an atmosphere, it changes the character and individuality of a number. A similar number in English, Spanish or German is completely different, the song takes on a different shape. In this sense, the German language best matches my expectations, and I love that language the most musically.

Since our last interview, you have released several excellent records. There was ‘Engel’ by Zauber, a project that mixes the symphonic aspect of Exponentia with more electronic darkwave sounds. Then you have made an instrumental industrial CD with Résonance Magnétique. Whence the need to have multiple projects simultaneously?
I wanted to express myself in different musical styles, and realize musical ideas which have been living in my head
for a long time. The name ‘Résonance Magnétique’ exists in my mind for as long as I compose. I wanted to create something tormented, danceable and sometimes dark and ambient, with sound manipulations, such as on the songs ‘Illusion’ or ‘Arcane’.

It’s the same for ‘Engel’ by Zauber. I was very pleased with the results when I finished the recordings, especially with the track ‘Ewigkeit’. I just wanted to make an album like that. I was internally driven in order to make these discs, this music. These musical projects have similar points. They are part of my work. Now, I have decided to focus solely on Exponentia.

Will we be able to see live once more, or are live appearances now a part of the past?

No concerts are planned at this moment, but everything remains possible.

And now? What are your plans for the future?

After I had finished Abend, I made a remix for the new EP by Sara Noxx and Marck Benecke. And I have now started writing my next album.

We wish you good luck.

Exponentia: Je tiens absolument à évoquer dans ma voix et les effets du multiprocesseur, une créature fantasmagorique.

Exponentia est un projet musical particulier. C’est une formation néoclassique de juste une personne : Ludovic Dhenry. Il vient de sortir ‘Abend’, son quatrième album, mais il a aussi sorti d’excellents disques sous les noms Zauber et Résonance Magnétique. Vous vous demandez ce qui le motive ? Nous aussi, et nous lui avons demandé.

Bonjour Ludovic. Tu viens de sortir ‘Abend’, le quatrième CD d’Exponentia. Je suppose qu’il y a de nouveau un concept derrière l’album. Si c’est le cas, tu peux nous expliquer un peu le concept?

Pour cet album, j'ai travaillé différemment. Contrairement à « Sadness » par exemple, sur lequel j'ai composé les morceaux en évoquant émotionnellement la tristesse, ou sur « Ghost » dans lequel les entités étaient le thème de l’album.  Sur « Abend », j'ai voulu intégrer dans Exponentia un nouvel instrument, la guitare électrique, et travailler sur des structures de chanson plus conventionnelles.

En effet, tu as mis l’accent sur les guitares, un élément qui n’existait pas sur les disques précédents. Est-ce l’influence de Lacrimosa, dont nous savons que tu es grand fan?

Avant de commencer la composition, j'ai débuté le processus de création en écoutant mes précédents albums. Dans un second temps j'ai réfléchis à la couleur musicale du futur album. A partir de ce moment là, j'ai imaginé mentalement une chanson, comme une piste témoin sur laquelle baser le disque. L'ajout de guitares électriques s'est imposé dans mon esprit. Au studio j'ai donc enregistré une première maquette dans cette optique. Le titre en question, et dont tout l'album résulte, est « Abend », qui est également le nom du disque.

Il existe une multitude de groupes de musique de style rock, métal, électro indus etc... Par contre très peu de groupes gothique de style Lacrimosa, Das Ich, Goethes Erben, Sopor Aeternus et autres. Quand j'ai créé Exponentia, j'ai voulu m'inscrire dans ce style de musique, tout simplement parce que c'est cela que j'aime écouter et composer. J'ai  cette musique en moi. J'écoute souvent ce style de musique ainsi que de la musique baroque et classique. Cela influence mon travail. J'écoute souvent les albums de Lacrimosa. Cette influence a jouée un rôle important dans mon choix de l'ajout de guitares.

Comme toujours, les compositions contiennent des arrangements fort compliqués avec beaucoup d’instruments. As-tu suivi des cours spéciaux en harmonie pour travailler comme ça?

J'ai intégré, tous les jours durant un an, une école de musique professionnelle. Une formation intense, complexe, et passionnante. J'y ai étudié l'harmonie et la théorie musicale, ainsi que les techniques d'ingénieur du son en studio pour le mixage et le mastering. Par contre, je n'ai suivi aucun cours d'orchestrations symphoniques.  Après avoir obtenue le diplôme, en complément de ma formation, j'apprend également beaucoup seul en autodidacte. La réalisation des arrangements dont tu parles demandent une connaissance approfondie de la théorie musicale, ainsi que des heures de travail personnelles. Quand tu composes pour un orchestre symphonique, il faut avoir les idées claires, savoir exactement ce que tu fais, et pourquoi tu le fais. Par exemple, selon la tonalité du morceau, si j'écris une mélodie pour les premiers violons,  que je décide que les accords seront interprétés par les seconds violons, les altos, les violoncelles et les contrebasses, il est indispensable de déterminer qui jouera la quinte, la tierce et la fondamentale afin de ne pas se perdre pendant l'écriture de la progression d'accords, et ce surtout lors d'un changement de tonalité ou de l'empreint de notes à une tonalité voisine, les altérations accidentelles, où le mi bémol devient bécarre juste pour quelques mesures. De même, que de définir dans ce même passage ce que joueront les cuivres et les bois. La musique est toute ma vie, je lui consacre beaucoup de temps. 

Tous les instruments sont en fait joués par des programmes de synthé et des claviers. Tu n’as jamais cherché à t’entourer de vrais musiciens?

Le fait d'utiliser les claviers donne au disque un son plus synthétique, électronique que j'affectionne. Ce serait une grande satisfaction de faire jouer mes compositions par un orchestre symphonique, mais le budget pour enregistrer en studio avec un tel orchestre est bien trop conséquent pour Exponentia.  Par contre, il est envisageable qu'à l'avenir j'enregistre un disque avec des musiciens, pour la guitare par exemple.

On entend bien sur tes disques que tu portes beaucoup d’attention à la voix et à l’articulation. Ta voix sur ‘Abend’ me fait penser à Sopor Aeternus, un autre groupe qui t’a fort influencé. Quel était le but de ton style vocal sur ‘Abend’?

Je tiens absolument à évoquer dans ma voix et les effets du multiprocesseur, une créature fantasmagorique. C'est une chose très importante artistiquement dans mon projet. Une voix étrange, inhumaine. Mon but sur cet album était d'améliorer mon chant et les réglages d'effets dans cette optique, de franchir un cap par rapport aux précédents.  Effectivement, Sopor Aeternus m'a influencé en ce sens.

Comme pour le début d’Exponentia ‘Allein’, tu utilises la langue de Goethe sur ‘Abend’. Pourquoi?

Le choix du langage est très important. Il  crée une ambiance, il change le caractère et la nature même d'une chanson. Le même titre interprété en anglais, en espagnol ou en allemand ne rend pas du tout pareil, le titre est comme  totalement transfiguré. En ce sens, l'allemand  est la langue qui correspond le mieux à mes attentes, et que je préfère musicalement.

Depuis notre dernière interview, tu as sorti plusieurs disques excellents. Il y a eu ‘Engel’ de Zauber, un projet que tu a ressuscité et qui fait un beau mélange de l’aspect symphonique de Exponentia et de sons électroniques darkwave. Et puis tu as fais un cd instrumental et industriel avec Résonance Magnétique. D’où vient la nécessité d’avoir plusieurs projets en même temps?

J'ai voulu m'exprimer dans des styles musicaux différents, et concrétiser les idées musicales que j'avais depuis longtemps en tête. Le nom de Résonance Magnétique existe dans mon esprit depuis que je compose.  Avec des sonorités saturées, dansantes, ou parfois sombres et ambiantes, avec des manipulations sonores, comme sur les titres « Illusion » ou « Arcane ». 

De même que pour Zauber « Engel », j'étais satisfait du résultat quand j'ai terminé les enregistrements, en particulier le titre « Ewigkeit », je tenais à composer un disque comme cela. Intérieurement, j'étais poussé à enregistrer ces albums, cette musique. Ces projets musicaux ont des points communs, ils forment comme une unité de mon œuvre.  A présent, j'ai décidé de  me consacrer exclusivement à Exponentia.

Pourrons-nous encore une fois te voir live, ou est-ce que les concerts font partie du passé pour toi?

A ce jour, aucun concert n'est prévu. Mais tout reste possible.

Et maintenant? Quels sont tes projets pour l’avenir?

Après avoir composé « Abend », j'ai réalisé une version remix pour le nouveau CD EP de  Sara Noxx et Marck Benecke. Actuellement, j'ai débuté l'écriture de mon prochain album.

On te souhaite bonne chance !