Thursday 16 August 2018

An Interview with Wave Gotik Treffen

Cornelius Bach I first met back in 2012, at my first Wave-Gotik-Treffen. I was picking up my press pass from him on a Friday afternoon. The spokesperson of WGT, we had short encounters and mutual greetings at the performances over the years. 

We all have our experiences of this spectacular event, and I have interviewed many artists, hearing their thoughts. However I have never asked the management questions . 

Hidden behind the mysterious realms of the AGRA, in a lightly spiced up baby bat café, Cornelius and I sat down to discuss the concept, history and perspectives of this special place.

Intravenous Magazine: How did you become part of WGT?

Cornelius Bach: I have been living in Leipzig for 20 years. I began as only a patron, but then I got to know one of the bosses for WGT in my private circle. I started helping with picking up program books from the printing house for example, it then happened that the former spokesman Peter Maska couldn't do the position anymore due to other work commitments. So, I was approached as I had studied journalism, also being fit with communication I was very happy to take the role. I have been the spokesperson now for 13 years.

IVM: When WGT began, as an operation, what was it like compared to now?

CB: The difference is not so big from today, the concept hasn't changed at all. The first years of course, it started out much smaller with one venue at the beginning, with a few hundred attendees. However, it grew fast in the first years which was an unattended result. The founders had not planned to make such a big event which it became; they only wanted to create something different from a normal festival; more of a gathering, hence the name Treffen. a gathering of like-minded people from different parts of Germany and maybe from neighbouring countries. Though it turned out to be a good concept. The stress not on the bands, but also on the communication between like-minded people who enjoyed the gothic theme.

When I attended my first WGT in 1998 it had almost the same size as now, and it really didn't change so much in atmosphere, though we have some more venues all over Leipzig. In addition, the cultural program which developed further. WGT got more accepted as a vehicle of enrichment for the culture of Leipzig. Obviously in the first years there were a lot of prejudices from the inhabitants, the city government didn't really know what to think of these strange people visiting. After a few years they realised we're all friendly & kind, and this is something special that no other city in the world has on such a scale, which they are now proud to have. Therefore over the years we had the ability to have new locations, such as churches, and start big collaborations with museums and the opera house of Leipzig.

The basic concept of WGT and how it is run has never changed. It seems around 20,000 people is the core of international gothic scene which attends, and for us is a comfortable number. As organisers, we are not always wanting to create something new and looking to make it larger. We want to preserve this special atmosphere, which so far it seems we have succeeded in doing.

IVM: How does The City of Leipzig help WGT? You already mentioned they contribute venues, though are there other benefits to allow WGT to operate?

CB: Indirectly they help us, as you mentioned with the venues, additionally with the transportation for example. However, we don't receive any direct support, in the context of finance. This is funded all by us, they give us the permits to support the venues and cooperation with the opera for example and other institutions in the city. It's a good cooperation so far; however financially we are independent and are happy to stay that way.

IVM: Not to dive into the finance, though is WGT self-sustaining? Back in 2000, there was obviously difficulty, with the collapse of the millennium festival. From where it was then to now, is it eliminated from these problems?

CB: The reason why there were problems back in 2000, was that the people who started WGT, they were just two young guys in their 20s, that had no experience at all in handling big events. It was never their plan to create such a big festival which it turned into. Up to a certain size they were able to keep it under control. Finally, they just couldn't handle running it in such an unprofessional way and size, it was impossible to handle this without the expertise. The costs rocketed and not enough communication in organizing created the recipe.

When it started again in the following year, the main segment of the organizing staff changed and then we had no future problems, as a team was formed which had the skills required. Since then, there has been no problems.

IVM: When I began coming to WGT, you could see that particular genres were picked for each year. For example, 2018 sees Wave making a come back. 

Is it a situation that management considers what’s going on in the scene, and book the artists, or are the requests filtered through?

CB: It’s a combination of both. We get hundreds of requests each year for bands which want to play. The booking staff listen really to each request and they decide if it fits from the style. As you can see we give a lot of chances to unknown bands as this was always part of the concept, as well as booking the big bands which you see on every Festival. 

On the other side, there is also research done by our booking staff on certain genres which would be interesting. So then we try to invite them. We always try to achieve a good mixture up to the edges such as Neofolk, which you hardly find on other festivals, if at all. Sometimes there is a post-punk and wave revival. We obviously take this into the consideration, as there are currently a lot of great new bands in these genres. We always try to have a good mixture.

IVM: What does WGT management think of Gothic Pogo, did they think of it as a breakaway from WGT due to dissatisfaction? Or do they see it as a complimentary event?

CB: The latter is more the case; it's seen as a complimentary event. It's a small festival with a limited number of bands, and a more limited range of styles. We see no danger that people are not going to WGT, instead to Gothic Pogo. It is more the situation, they are either going to both, or some prefer this one style and wouldn't be in Leipzig anyway for WGT.

IVM: What are your favourite aspects of WGT?

CB: My favourite aspect for every year, is that you meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world. For example we are sitting here, it is very nice to meet people from the UK, Japan to Mexico City! A lot of the time you can only meet these people again next year. The world is coming to Leipzig and this is something special for me.

The second would be the wide variety of events. Which other festival do we know of can offer such a range? Where you can attend a classical concert, opera, theatre; to then a music stage or a night club. This combination of bringing people who may only know about the music, the ability to go on a guided museum tour that walks through gothic culture is an amazing offering. So, it is much more than music. 

Thirdly discovering new bands. I must admit I don't know every band which is booked by my colleagues. There are always new names for me. Thus it is enjoyable to sit down before the festival; listen to some amazing tracks, and then have the ability to see them live. It's obviously great to see your hero bands maybe for the umpteenth time; however for me, it is great to have such an opportunity to be exposed to new discoveries every year.

IVM: Is there anything this year you are very interested to see?

CB: Yes! Wardruna, which is a Norwegian band many people have told me about. I've never seen them so far, though they have a very impressive live show. RosaCrux, a French artist which are performing in the Schauspielhaus. Again, they are known for having an impressive show, with a big drum works and self-made construction for a large bell. It's also a rare opportunity to see them, as they do not perform often. 

Finally Blixa, from Einstürzende Neubauten. Before, for some reason it never worked to have him perform, so it will be a great first appearance and Monday finale this year in the beautiful Volkspalast

IVM: Would you like to say anything or do you have any questions?

CB: I want to point out, it is really a pleasure for me as a spokesman in this function for so many years that they're people like you still coming, still euphoric. You sometimes see people lose this after the second attendance, and by the fourth do not come anymore. I am very happy to see that there are people coming from all over the world every year that are so happy to be here again. it also confirms that we at WGT are still creating something special. 

It's obviously a pleasure to see Intravenous Magazine reach out, and see the press take interest in us, as well as the artists performing here.

IVM: Thank you & finally, is there any venue you hold close to your heart?

CB: It's definitely Volkspalast. I like this venue, as it is so different to other venues we have at WGT. Because it is quite big and is built after the pantheon, with the stone columns and I was very impressed when we made our first concerts here.

One memory from the early years when we had booked the venue, was from the Monday. After we had all finished our work, I saw Lady Genesis P-Orridge playing Psychic TV. It was something new and special to me. It was a very crazy show, with a very attentive crowd. I will never forget this special atmosphere.

Interviewed by: Dominic Lynch aka DJ LX-E

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