Monday 7 January 2013

Interview: Laibach

Interview: Laibach - 2012 Revisited

2012 had been a very busy year for Laibach and spanned not only touring and recording but also writing a soundtrack, exhibiting and speaking in public. In between they responded to a series of questions to help further cloud the intentions behind the band's ever-elusive modus operandi and spread more panic and confusion...

Intravenous Magazine: The association of self-stylised Nazi sci-fi B-movie Iron Sky with Laibach seems likely and natural. Yet, did the context of a film soundtrack allow you a freedom to step a bit out of character, play with musical styles new to the band?

Laibach: Actually no, we found ourselves quite limited working on this soundtrack. Originally we wanted to be experimental and playful with music and styles, but it didn’t really fit. There are Wagnerian and Nazi signifiers all over the film, dominated by the American, Hollywood-esque narration, which dictated a very specific language and approach we simply had to follow. Not much freedom there. Quite rightfully so - after all, this film is discussing the Impossibility of Freedom in the modern age.

IVM: The soundtrack is practically littered with 'Sieg Heil' and 'Mein Fuhrer' samples lifted off the film and integrated into the music. The 'Nazi Kunst' in Laibach's legacy is taken to an outmost camp extreme.  Did you revel on the opportunity to almost parody some common perceptions of the band?

L: On the contrary, the logic of the soundtrack album demanded that we edit the score but we still had to follow the narrative of the film and introduce separate scenes with the recognisable film dialogues. Since most of the scenes in this film start and end with ‘Sieg’ and ‘Heil’, or even with ‘Sieg Heil!’ we simply could not avoid using these greetings occasionally, to create the dramatic suspense. We surely did not do it for our own fun.

IVM: How did the collaboration with Tate Modern come about?

L: We were invited to do the show by the Tate curators Catherine Wood and Kathy Noble after they had attended our LaibachKunstderFuge show in Bush Hall, London, and the Laibach Revisited shows in Roundhouse and Trbovlje, as well as our exhibitions in Maribor and Trbovlje, including the Laibach Symposium events in Trbovlje and Kum in 2010.

IVM: How was the concert experience there for you and the rest of the group?

L: It was a bit unusual for Laibach, we all felt very modern.

IVM: How did you select the songs you played on that concert, and on 'Revisited'? Do you build some narrative or simply choose songs you haven't played in a long time and feel a desire to play again?

L: Firstly, we were asked by Tate to present something special so we decided to partly reconstruct the Music Biennial Zagreb/Occupied Europe Tour show from 1983 and open the Tate concert with that. Secondly, the Tate people really wanted us to do a kind of historical overview of the essence of Laibach’s music and since we are releasing several records discussing Laibach’s past work, we created the program you could hear in Turbine Hall. Of course, there were also a few songs off Iron Sky and some that do not belong anywhere in particular.

IVM: How did you 'recruit' the past members of Laibach like Srečko Bajda who played in the first part of the concert?

L: It was a pleasure to work with Srečko in Tate again - he was the first lead singer of the group and he was the front person at the aforementioned Zagreb Music Biennale show in ‘83. Although Srečko left Laibach in ‘83, we occasionally worked together on diverse projects, like for instance Baptism. He also did the original Laibach mix of B-Machina and you can find his touch in many other songs Laibach did.

We were also very pleased that Dan Landin/Stan Bingo, from Last Few Days, was able to join us on clarinet for the Tate Modern performance. Dan Landin is very much co-responsible for the ‘83 Laibach/LFD Occupied Europe Tour and he has occasionally performed with Laibach on stage, on that tour as well as at the Biennial concert in Zagreb.

IVM: The choice to have Mina sing 'Across The Universe' seems irresistible...but for example how did you decide on the one song from Kapital? The text? The music?

L: It was about time to play a song from Kapital - we hadn’t for a long time, and it is such an interesting album. Quite a few songs from Kapital are very difficult to present live, but we decided to do at least one for a start. It is now exactly 20 years since the Kapital album was released.  

IVM: With the 'Laibach Revisited' tour and now the current one you have reworked many songs from your early repertoire. How did you work on the reworking? What part of it is experimentation in the studio or rehearsal space and what part is an outcome of discussion?

L: Obviously there was some basic discussion going on but eventually someone had to do the work in the studio as well. In principle the whole process was a collective work, but we gave more space in these reinterpretations to the young guns in Laibach, so they could get acquainted with the historic material.

IVM: Since Mina Spiler joined there is much more female singing in Laibach, including in the new versions of old songs. Did you consciously decide to change this balance of Laibach's masculine music and aesthetics, or was it a natural outcome of Mina's contribution?

L: Laibach always had a strong feminine side, which is maybe yet to be unveiled. But although we collaborated with many women through our entire career (with some on stage and many more off stage) we never used them to camouflage or balance our masculinity with their femininity. On the contrary - most of Laibachian female side was strictly produced by our collective testosterone, and even femme fatale ladies like Mina were only able to work with Laibach because they corresponded with it in a manly manner and not like a woman.

IVM: The cover versions compilation - I always felt that the reason your cover versions are so effective is not just the change of context of a song and of course the bombastic compositions but also because I think you love those songs and have respect for pop and rock. Do you agree?

L: If we’d agree on this we’d have to agree on many other things we don’t want to. This would be the end of Laibach, who can only exist through disagreement. Do you agree?

IVM: Alexei Monroe often claims that the cover versions led English critics and listeners, perhaps because of the English tradition of absurd humour, to consider Laibach a novelty/parody act.  Now, with the recent explosion of Laibach and IRWIN activity in London it looks like Laibach and NSK are taken much more seriously - do you think it is because it took time to fully understand Laibach Kunst, or maybe because the economical instability of the west makes Laibach's ideas more popular? Do you think Laibach is a band that thrives in times of crisis?

L: One of the reasons why British Empire was so expansive and lasted for so long is because they didn’t take any other nation seriously, anyone who did not speak native English. When the Empire finally shrank, the British only survived because they wouldn’t take the shrinking situation seriously. Even more - they wouldn’t take themselves seriously. So how could we expect they would suddenly take Laibach seriously? Just because we are telling them the truth?

IVM: When will Wolkswagner be released and are any DVD releases of the tours since Volk planned?

L: Unfortunately Volkswagner will not be released, due to high recording expenses, and we also did not have in mind any DVD releases of the tours at this point. Everything is on YouTube already anyway, so why bother?

IVM: What direction would you like to see the activity of post-congress NSK citizens take?

L: If the citizens of NSK want to have a good State, they should organize themselves and make it functional. We did our part of work regarding the creation of the State and we don’t want to interfere in its substance more than necessary.

IVM: Do you accept this democratisation of NSK?

L: As long as it is utopian - yes.

IVM: What is your favourite-ever Laibach song, or at least your favourite at this moment?

L: Unfortunately we cannot reply you on this question because the word ‘favourite’ does not exist in Laibachian vocabulary.

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