2020 has been the year of the real come-back of PLACEBO EFFECT. This German trio driven by Axel Machens, Christoph Kunze and Achim Windel was active between 1989 and 1999. They gained instant recognition with the cult-album “Galleries Of Pain” released in 1992 on Danse Macabre. The songs were dark, tormented and aggressive. “Manipulated Mind Control” released two years later on Ausfahrt was less aggressive, but confirmed the status of the band. In between both albums they also released the EP “Slashed Open”. After a long hiatus the band reformed in 2014, but two years later Achim Windel passed away. But Axel Machens and Christoph Kunze went on and this year self-released the new full length “Shattered Souls”. The work sounds as a true offspring between the rage of “Galleries Of Pain” and the atmospheric content of “Manipulated Mind Control”. This new work brought me to get in touch with front man Axel Machens.
(This interview has been possible thanks to Anju Asariel –who also did the artwork for “Shattered Souls” / Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: More than twenty years after your last album, PLACEBO EFFECT is back! I can imagine a lot of things must have happened including the loss of Achim Windel. How do you look back on the past years and what incited you to work on new music again?
Axel: Yes, a lot has happened in the meantime. 20 years is that long. A moment full of joy, experiences and unfortunately also losses. A life experience that you don’t see at the horizon as a youngster. I have been working or making music for a long time, almost every day. In other words, it didn’t become so important for me to publish something anymore, but just to make music for me, which is actually enough for me personally. Some of the tracks from “Shattered Souls” were created and ‘listened to for the long haul’ years ago to appear on the album. Others were created at short notice. It was only thanks to our loyal fans with their tireless desires for love that “Shattered Souls” ended in an album 🙂
Q: A lot of things have changed since the 90s, but I especially think about technology, equipment, social media, streaming platforms etc. How do you look at all these changes and evolutions and how would you compare composing music in the 90s and today?
Axel: I think it’s a great time. It has never been so easy to draw the attention of people around the world to your artistic work. The only thing that has changed is the simplified access and centralization of the data. A few years ago we went to a record store to buy the music, but nowadays you almost always buy everything online. Content and medium are the same. There has always been a lot of music and musicians. As far as making music is concerned, the step from the 70s to the 80s was bigger; from analog to digital. The emerging workstation concept, according to which multiple instruments could now be played on one device, recording
and being able to edit (all of our early albums were created this way) is truly groundbreaking. If you compare it to today, not much has changed. Of course there are software instruments that would be difficult or very expensive to build as hardware, but the way in which they are made has remained the same. Today 8 tape tracks were recorded on infinite digital tracks. Basically, not much has changed. Features have been added. And the displays are bigger
now 🙂 And of course ‘making electronic music’ is accessible to everyone, including on the mobile phone.
With today’s DAW, you can link instruments to effects, layer them, and do other wild things. But is it still musically expressive in the end?
Q: It took you several years to achieve the new album “Shattered Souls”, but what kind of work did you finally wanted to accomplish and how did it all happened without Achim?
Axel: A dark atmosphere is the key word for “Shatterd Souls”. And that’s the headline that was on the album from the start.
Placebo Effect was never a ‘band’ that met to make music together. This only happened a few times in the initial stages.
Tracks were always written alone and they came together on one album.
Q: “Shattered Souls” is a dark title for a dark album, which is mainly dominated by obscure atmospheres. The album is also released in very dark times… but what is the album all about and what does it reflect about reality?
Axel: The album is not a ‘Covid-19’-album. Except that we can’t present it live at the moment, not much has changed for me personally; wearing a mask and keeping distance in everyday life nothing else. Textually, Placebo Effect was never really ‘tangible’ for us, it doesn’t pursue a concept like ‘I write a text sit down at the piano and develop a song’ or ‘we have the very important message here’… It only follows an intuition when playing. Words come quite automatically that was always so.
Q: I noticed the artwork of the album (at least the front cover) is clearly reminding your previous albums. What is it all about and what did you try to express by the artwork of “Shattered Souls”?
Axel: The atmosphere is above beats per minute.
Anju: When it came to the artwork I created for PLACEBO EFFECT, I was inspired by the music alone and it was very important to me to reflect the dark atmosphere that touched me. The listener should not only be touched by the music, but also by the visual impression, like in a book or in a film, the visual impressions are very important and also decisive whether you can let yourself fall into the music or the text. Both simply belong together.
Q: How much of the young artists you were in the 90s do you still recognize today and in “Shattered Souls”?
Axel: The curiosity about how electronic sounds are produced is still there and when I feel a shiver while listening to music, which I like.
Q: Are there things you would have done a different way and what brings the future for PLACEBO EFFECT?
Axel: Today I would rather have invested money in piano lessons and composition lessons than in one or the other synthesizer.
As soon as it is possible we want to present the album at a few selected festivals. I’d rather not promise another album,
our fans are very accurate, the never forget us and can be very persistent …:-)