Deine Lakaien - "20 Years of Electronic Avantgarde"
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Being active for more than 20 years in the darkwave scene – not the ebm scene that is - , you really have to search well – and in vein - in order to find such band. In fact apart from Deine Lakaien there is no single successful band in the genre that actually made it that far. When the band started in 1985 with an advertisement in the classifieds of a magazine posted by Ernst Horn; nobody could have thought that this duo would grow out to be the scene's most successful and stable products. Out now is the mega Deine Lakaien packet "20 Years of Electronic Avantgarde" released as The 20 Years of Electronic Avantgarde will be out in various versions. There’s a double audio CD, a double DVD and a 2CD+2DVD with bonus DVD in a special collector’s box available. How else could this be celebrated, we asked it to gentle musical brain Ernst Horn with whom we have started a subscription as far as interviews is concerned... (By Bernard Van Isacker)
SL. "20 Years of Electronic Avantgarde", do you see yourself doing another 20 years?
E. Well, Bernard, we had to find a title you know (laughs)... but again twenty years in total darkness? No I don't think so! In all honesty, it was the promotion department that found that title and proposed it to us.
SL. Did you really consider yourself to be avant garde?
E. Well, yes, in the early days when I was working on electronic music, I was looking for sounds etc. and I really considered myself to be an avant garde musician. But then again, what is avant garde, it can mean so many things. I wasn't the poppy musician, that's for sure. Back in time I was heavily into the more Devo-like sound which was for sure very avant garde. It was all very electronic and conceptual and very avant garde to my taste yes. It is only with Alexander that things got a bit more gothic.
SL. What was the main idea behind this concert series?
E. Well, we have had this idea since quite some time you know... and since we were to celebrate our 20th anniversary we really wanted to something special. Let's say that we wanted to spend a bit more money than usual for this production, a bit like a store does when it celebrates something (laughs). We now had the chance to do something special and even could do a song completely with synthesizers, everything was possible really... And you have to know that at that moment we had no label, no manager, we had nothing and still we decided to go ahead.
SL. Any particular reason why you chose for the Neue Philarmonie Frankfurt?
E. Well, you know, every western composer that works with a classic orchestra usually ends up in Eastern Europe for the simple reason that orchestras there are a lot cheaper. I wanted to go for something where I had not to choose something just for the sake of money. It was our cellist who pointed out to us that this Frankfurt based orchestra would be a good choice, so I when I saw them live in Munich during a concert they did with Robin Gibb, yes that one from the Bee Gees (laughs), I knew that they would be an excellent choice. Add to this that they are not really a traditional orchestra. They are a group of freelance musicians who are not connected to a state or city institute like so many other are.
SL. I don't know if you know the Night Of The Proms series? But in those concerts I always have the sensation that the orchestra is not really familiar with the music they are to play... how did you try and prevent this alienation?
E. Well, unlike many pop singers who try to add classical orchestras just to blow up their sound, I wanted them to start from scratch. Of course they needed to get the material on forehand to work on, so what I did was writing the scores using a special computer program because handwriting scores is not exactly my best side (laughs).... Once I finished that part, which was the toughest one really, I sent them the scores and after 5 weeks of practising we could start the first rehearsals together with the orchestra. You know, during that time when I was rewriting the scores I noticed that I still had that feeling how to write music for violins, flutes or any other instrument. I felt what they needed to have in the scores in order to work. And all fell right in its place when we also found a manager whose wife took care of the booking. It completed the idea perfectly. I must say though that the writing process was a very good experience.
SL. Releasing the whole as a 2CD set plus 3DVD, is that a way to offer more but still at a reasonable price?
E. I guess so, but let's say that that was the idea of the label. They wanted to offer it as a whole packet but also separately, 2 CDs or just the live DVDs... because I can imagine that buying the whole set might be expensive. The again, I never understood why a label would want to release an album in a green cover, then another in another colour, with or without an extra track... the choices are endless but I fail to see the relevance of this.
SL. Perhaps because they are aiming towards the collectors?
E. Maybe yes, but still... You know, I think that people should start listening less to music. It makes no sense to listen to music on the train, on the subway, and so many other places. People should again enjoy putting a CD in a cd player and listening to the music at home or at a concert. But they should stop taking their iPod everywhere else. You know, if they ever release the DVD on iTunes you will have people watching this DVD on a 4" iPod screen, can you imagine this? It's just crazy. And nowadays due to the digital download rage, every song will need to be a single because people are buying less and less albums. There is no way that the songs on one album can have a connection with one another. Each song will have to be easy and more commercial in order to sell, there will be no place to experiment. (Laughs) Yes, I know, I'm part of a minority...
SL. Who did the mixing? A live recording is a bit less easy to complete I guess...
E. Exactly, it is far more complicated than a simple studio recording. The mix was not easy you know as we worked with a 48-track recorder which makes that you have so many layers to take care of. Especially with a classical orchestra this not easy. For instance the mic that was supposed to record the flute that was 25 centimeters away actually also recorded the trumpet, in a higher volume, which was 5 meters away. So you see, each mic did not only record the actual instrument it was supposed to record but also other instruments. There were all kind of problems I got confronted with, add to that that I am not a studio engineer... but I learned quite a lot.
SL. What kind of tracks came out the best for you personally?
E. I was particularly pleased with the tracks "Away", which got this strange combination of noise and the old German classical music approach in a very crude mix. Also "Reincarnation" was well done.
SL. How did you end up with Premium?
E. That was via our manager. The label is part of the distribution group Soulfood and I sense it is the personal passion of the label boss. We get along well you know.
SL. How easy was it to part ways with Carl Ehrling from Chrom Records?
E. Our best time was when we were signed to Chrom Records, we were like friends in there. We for example never received any money in advance, we just had a handshake contract deal, there was no written contract you know. So that already gives you an idea. Add to that that Carl is from Munich so we saw each other very often in a café or so to drink a cup of coffee. Call me old fashioned but I hate to communicate via e-mail, give me the face to face, that is so much better. Nowadays things are very different. I have heard from bands - which ended up being total flops - asking and getting huge amounts of advance money. I am glad we never got this as I would feel too much pressure. On the 1st of July Chrom Records stops definitely which means also Helium Vola will be without a record contract as Carl will focus his time on Officer, a software for music label accountancy.
To read the complete interview, be sure to buy Side-Line issue 59 !
Side-Line issue 59
Deine Lakaien CDs
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