Kategorie: postmondän international issue

Poetry, The Beach Boys and the Arts – An Interview with Stephen Kalinich

Stephen Kalinich is a self-taught artist with a prolific career. He initially gained prominence in the 1960s writing song lyrics for The Beach Boys, and has since collaborated with Paul McCartney, P. F. Sloan, Brian May and many other famous composers and performers. Although often described as a “poet” whose works uphold 1960s hippie values, Kalinich has been active in many fields, performing his poetry, recording his own songs, acting in movies and now, in his late 70s, starting to paint. Here, he is interviewed by film director Alexander Tuschinski who has been a friend for several years now.

by Alexander Tuschinski

Stephen, when we last met in Los Angeles this February you gave me a wonderful tour of your apartment-turned-painting studio, and you were busy recording a spoken-word album.  How have you spent the time since?

I keep busy being creative, be it creating new paintings or songs. Besides that, I have done a few Zoom performances and I’m doing charity work for the homeless and people affected by the virus. I have a new album coming out called “The Essential Yo MaMa” with Jon Tiven and many talented collaborators; we just put the deal together. I feel it’s important to keep being creative no matter the circumstances. Right now, I probably enjoy performing poetry and painting plus improvisation the most. I am inspired many times daily.

With this interview, my goal is to not only learn about you and your career, but also to potentially inspire people from all walks of life to just start doing creative things for the love of it. That’s my goal with many of my documentary films, too. What do you think about that?

I’m always trying to inspire people to express themselves, so I agree with you completely. At the same time, I do not want to act as if I were superior to others. Something a lot of artist don’t have is humility. Without humility, you cannot be a great artist, a great poet, and this is something that many performers, directors, producers and so on lack. It’s important for me to have people know that.

What artists influenced you when you first became interested in writing? Did you initially think that writing, or particularly song writing, would ever become a career? Did you receive much support?

I do not have much of a faith in pinpointing “influences”. All of life is an influence for me, but I put it together in my own way. Eventually, you make it your own. Some artists influenced me, but so did life experience, travel, just living, creating and discovering my own voice. That being said, there were many artists whose works I enjoyed when growing up. Among them were Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, P.F. Sloan, The Beach Boys, the Beatles and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

My parents were divorced. My mom was supportive, while my dad was not involved much in my upbringing – he was a professional golfer, a head pro at many country clubs and remarried. My mom did not stop the flow, she let me do almost anything I wanted. She was a loving soul, very kind and sweet. Even though I was not very disciplined, she was seldom angry at me. I always loved to perform in front of audiences since my grandparents had me entertain their guests in their house. Outside of home, I did not receive much support with my creative works, especially with the poetry. Many people said it would never happen. So, I just wrote and performed, and never thought of a career.

Stephen Kalinich’s texts became famous in songs by The Beach Boys:

Source: YouTube

You were born and went to college at the East Coast, but then decided to go to Los Angeles in 1965. LA in the 1960s must have been a fascinating place as a young artist. What was it like when you arrived, did you already have contacts? What did you do when you arrived? How did your creative career start?

When I first came to LA in my early 20s, I actually wanted to go to med school here. I knew no one except for a few of my father’s friends. It was a fascinating place. I remember how exciting it was to me to see oranges growing on a tree, experiencing the great weather, seeing the celebrities… It was like living in a dream, but right next to the wealth was utter poverty. There were many homeless people on the streets, even back then.

Shortly after starting, I dropped out of college when I got a break with my artistic career. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a poet, a spoken-word performer and later a songwriter. But, mostly, I was interested in performing. Brian Wilson wanted me to do a rock record around that time but I never did, as I realized my “drive” was neither fame nor notoriety, but I did want to be known as a peace bringer. I just wanted my work to be used for world peace. Even when I went to Brian Wilson and started collaborating with The Beach Boys in 1968, I cared about the love and the peace and not so much about being a “star” or even a “rock star”. Of course, I am a human being like everyone else and I am not on “a higher planet” so to say. So, even though it was already my goal, I was not totally selfless, and as my career progressed, I did enjoy having a successful song. But over the course of my life I learned to always put my position of wanting to do good and creating a life that’s better for all beings first.


Your collaboration with The Beach Boys – in particular Dennis Wilson – on the album “Friends” in 1968 has been discussed many times. Your songs “Little Bird” and “Be Still” are beautiful and rightfully held in high regard. Your very poetic lyrics came at a time when The Beach Boys started considerably deviating from their original surf image. The Beach Boys, led at the time by the legendary Brian Wilson, were huge stars, and you were writing poetry as a hobby, having just started out in Los Angeles, how did this collaboration come about?

Dennis heard about me through his brother Brian. The entire story began with a lucky chance meeting: One day, at the Hollywood YMCA, I met Jim Critchfield who worked with the famous Jay Ward of Bullwinkle fame. Jay became a friend and huge fan of my poems after I performed in private in his auditorium. He was also a friend of Brian’s, and told me that Brian had just started a new record company and might be open to a poet songwriter. To make a long story short, they set up a meeting with Brian and within weeks I was signed on as a writer. It was exciting, I received a $500 advance which felt like a lot of money back then, when rent was $100 a month. That was the beginning. It was a lucky huge break for me, which led to many more contacts. Additionally, at the time when I wrote “Be Still” and “Little Bird”, I was in love, which might shine through in these lyrics.

You also collaborated with Dennis Wilson when he did a solo album in the 1970s. How did you get along?

Dennis and I became friends, deep friends. We did almost everything together. We first hung out a lot while working and it quickly became a friendship. When collaborating on a song, we would work a little, then go out to eat. We loved each other. He was very respectful of my poetry and said I can influence the world for good and so did Brian, who also became a good friend.

What was the process like when you collaborated with Brian and Dennis Wilson?

The collaboration with both of them was beautiful. Dennis spontaneously came up with melodies off the words with me. He had a rare gift: He could hear a poem and instantly set it to music in his head and sing it back. Very few people saw that side of him. With others, he would do the music first and then find words to it, but not with me. In all our songs I wrote the words first. It was a beautiful collaboration. With Brian I did it both ways. Usually words first, but for the song “A Friend Like You,“ which he performed with Paul McCartney, he gave me the melody first.

Beside Brian and Dennis Wilson, you collaborated with many composers on songs. Do you have a “usual” procedure when collaborating with a composer who sets your words to music? What are your experiences?

It depends. I usually write the words first, but I have done it both ways. I think, to be quite honest, I do not like collaborating on songs most of the time; it’s a struggle, but once in a while it works. It really depends on the collaborator. I am not of the school that the chef is responsible for all of the meal, it takes many players, be it with films, with cooking and so on, but poetry is more of a lonely journey. It requires a special view of living that is less tied to perfection than to joy. That being said, something I love is when musicians improvise to my poems and spoken words.

You never published a book of your poetry. Instead, starting with the LP “A World of Peace Must Come,” which you recorded with Brian Wilson in 1969, you released your poems as spoken-word performances. The performance of “Be Still” on that LP is, to me, one of your finest works. Only quite recently, you started to publish written poems on social media. Is the performance as important to you as the text itself?

Performance is important, but the poem itself must deliver. When I perform, I try to reach, touch, speak to each person in the audience. I try to include them and make it a communication for all of us, in the sense that I want to reach them but let them come to their own conclusions. When I was younger, I used to be an athlete, and I brought my energy from sports into performing. My performances were not subdued, but very energetic. Someone back then compared them to Mick Jagger. I generally prefer live recording – it’s more spontaneous, and even though there might be flaws and mistakes it has an urgent, real feel to it. Recordings in a studio are great but I prefer the straight inspiration of life. Although “Be Still” was not recorded in front of an audience, it was very much “in the moment” – I just recited the poem as Brian played the organ to it spontaneously in one take. All in all, I’d say it’s all important – the text, the performance, the staging. I love performing, I love writing, I love painting, it all belongs together.

„Be Still“, known as a song by The Beach Boys, expanded as a Spoken-Word-Performance:

Source: YouTube 

One evening when we walked in Los Angeles last year, you just started improvising a highly creative, profound and poetic text about our surroundings as we walked by. Do you generally create very intuitively and quickly, or do you sometimes labor over a work for a long time? What do you think of poetry slams?

When it comes to painting, I like to leave “mistakes” in them as part of the artwork, but with songs and poems, less so. I rewrite, polish, edit, cultivate my poems; I lay a garden and take out the “weeds” until it has grown to its full shape. It depends on the work, though, if I like its raw form I leave it alone. You have to look at each work individually to see what it requires. In my writing, I want to allow people room for discovery. I hope I do not demand, but I try to open up a dialogue and get my view of it across, too. I do enjoy some poetry slams, but it’s only one kind of poetry that’s often very “showy”. I prefer variety: Sometimes, I like a slowly recited poem that takes you to peace, or sometimes one that disturbs you. 

You have experimented with many genres, like performing a rap in a music video in the 1980s. That rap performance, “Everybody’s Got a Car In LA,” subverts all expectations one might have of such a video in a good-natured, silly way, and you told me that you were “just having fun” doing it. It is quite a contrast to some of your “deeper” works. Tell us a bit about it.

We are all a combination of many feelings. I sometimes enjoy creating a deliberately silly song that makes you laugh, and I also like to create serious works that rivet you like the “Galactic Symphonies”. My credo is: Let’s create some peace with joy, but also with dead serious words when it is relevant.  The rap song you mentioned – I had the idea, wrote the lyrics quickly and Chris Pelcer put music to it. That’s just how it was born, spontaneously, without many rewrites, I loved the spontaneous flow. It was fun, as I created an alter ego for the music video: Stevie Nobody, whom I later developed more with Jon Tiven in “Yo MaMa”. Somewhere, I have a raw outline of a script for a movie about Stevie Nobody which I want to direct one day.

You have picked up painting only quite recently and are entirely self taught.  Your paintings show a very distinct style, and you often repurpose objects to use as a canvas; be they empty cereal boxes, pieces of cardboard and wood or any other material. What made you decide to start expressing your creativity this way, in your mid 70s? Do you have any painters whose works influence you?

I think many painters inspire me, but I am not sure whether I have been influenced or not by their art. I love Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse and Franz Kline. I was particularly touched by the works of Vicci Sperry, a dear friend who encouraged and supported me. Today, I am not as fond of landscapes as I used to be. Instead, I prefer little faces, and also abstract forms, shapes or color. I never know what I will paint one day to the next, it’s mostly a very intuitive process. I love to seek the unexpected while painting, I love the surprise, the spontaneous outbursts, the calming down, the rage, the calming, the chaos, and trying to shape it into a work that touches me and hopefully some others as well. Only on rare occasion, once in a while, will I set out with a plan for a painting.

You ended up collaborating with numerous artists, including quite a few musicians you listened to while growing up. Many of them have become friends. How do you feel about it?

Grateful. The way I feel today is that I am grateful for all of the people I met, for all the positive ones, and even for those I had negative experiences with, because I learned lessons from them. I love my friends, many have encouraged me, inspired me, but I went my own way.

You are now in your late 70s and highly productive. In a recent, autobiographic poem published on Facebook, you wrote that you have been painting daily for the past three or four years. Do you have a message for people who might want to try to express themselves creatively, but still hesitate?

Be open to this journey of life, be passionate. Make a film, paint, hike, whatever you want within reason – try it. Be kind to other beings, get you ego out of the way, embrace humanity. Just create. Do it, just try. Do not judge yourself, just keep at it. Do not hesitate, go for it whatever it is you do. In all aspects of life, keep joy and adventure alive. Gerda Herrmann, the self-taught „Songwriter of Botnang” whom you made a wonderful documentary film about, is a great example. She’s 89, wrote her first song at 53 and keeps spreading joy through her music. Last year, she set my poem “If I Can Be a Benefit” to music, which made me very happy. It’s never too late. Just create.

You can find Alexander Tuschinski’s interview with Gerda Herrmann (in German) here.


And for more information about director and filmmaker Alexander Tuschinski check out his interview by actor Thomas Goersch (in German as well).

Titelbild: © Alexander Tuschinski

A Fitting Celebration of Revolution – Tariq Ali’s “Dilemmas of Lenin”

Tariq Ali offers a nuanced centenial hommage to the first leader of the Soviet Union and the struggles of socialism in „Dilemmas of Lenin“.

by Nicholas Babakitis

Particularly in the English speaking, western world, impressions and opinions of Vladimir Lenin over the past century have typically fallen into two, very problematic camps: the rather uncritical Marxist love to near worship of him, or the Liberal, typically ahistorical and overly critical hatred of the first dictator of the USSR. Tariq Ali’s book, “The Dilemmas of Lenin,” takes this centurial anniversary of one of the 20th century’s most defining moments and contextualizes the events around 1917 while retaining Ali’s clear admiration for the monumental figure and accomplishments of Lenin throughout his lifetime.

In the rather typical Marxist lens of Historical Materialism (although never explicitly addressed), Tariq Ali builds a landscape for the figure of Lenin through the historical challenges and upheavals the man himself experienced as a product of Imperial Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This work is by no means strictly a biography of the man Vladimir Lenin, although he is clearly its central figure and his personal biography greatly shaped him into the great revolutionary of his time. Rather, “The Dilemmas of Lenin” brings together Russian history and attitudes of past and present, and offers a somewhat critical, yet unapologetically jubilant and Marxist outlook on the dilemmas faced by the first leader of the first socialist republic.

Anyone who has even begun to scratch the surface of Russian history knows that political struggle, revolution and radical displays of violence seem to be commonplace in the years leading up to the events of February and October 1917, and Ali’s story of Lenin begins in this chaotic Russian Empire of conflicting ideas of modernity seeped in barbaric old-world attitudes, rabid anti-Semitism and terroristic outbursts against a monarchy which tend get glossed over in Liberal accounts of pre-Soviet Russian history. In this quasi-post-feudal empire is where a young Vladimir Lenin begins to take shape politically and ideologically.

Tariq Ali quickly glosses over Lenin’s rather non-rebellious childhood in a conservative-liberal household, yet takes exceptional care of depicting young Lenin’s relationship to his older brother, Sasha, who’s execution after an assassination attempt of Tsar Alexander III in 1887 thwarted Lenin into revolutionary movements slowly transforming him into the leader he would later become. While Lenin never officially joined the anarchist group “People’s Will” (Narodnaya Volya) his brother Sasha had been member of, Lenin’s contact with terrorist tactics and their abysmal failures through the 19th century greatly shaped him in his early political radicalism. His journey, discovery and adaptation into Marxist thought could not have happened without these radical, albeit impractical roots.

From Lenin’s introduction into radical revolutionary thought to the events in 1917, Lenin finds himself amongst a myriad of socialist thought, debate and political action internationally. While Tariq Ali extensively touches on Lenin’s role in Marxist internationalism during his lifetime, the history of socialist thought birthed through revolutions in Europe predating Lenin offers the appropriate backdrop when Lenin and his chapter in Marxist and socialist ideas truly take shape. Ali throughout the book maintains the theme of building histories in which Lenin is a part of rather than simply building histories around Lenin. Lenin’s actions, ideas and relationships are historical in their construction and execution, not simply a whimsical product of another “great man” telling of history.

Lenin’s accomplishments and contributions are not simply looked upon in a vacuum of his greatness, rather are contextualized are placed alongside socialist contemporaries the likes of German communist Rosa Luxemburg, the first American socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and the various internationalist workers organizations around Europe and the United States during his lifetime. Tariq Ali’s Lenin is shown as a piece of this vast network in the “hobgoblin” (the original English translation of “specter” in the first line of the Communist Manifesto) stalking throughout Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries soon to create quite a ruckus in Europe’s poorest empire.

In the events of 1917, Ali, as well as plenty before him, paint Lenin as the master strategist of the mass organ of revolution organizing and fine-tuning the pro-soviet propaganda, being cast into exile, the infamous “sealed train” and his return to Russia eventually toppling the provisionary government in Petrograd October 25, 1917 (November 7 in the Gregorian calendar). What Tariq Ali nicely adds in a story about the man Lenin is introduce the reader, if unfamiliar, to the vast array of often unsung female* socialists of the Revolution. While Liberals typically downplay the role of the emancipation of women’s rights after the Russian Revolution in 1917, the expansion of rights to women and projects lead by women in attempting to lift women out of literal sexual slavery in some of Russia’s most patriarchal pockets of the former empire could not have been possible without the work of women from Europe and the local Muslim communities seeking their own emancipation through revolutionary actions.

With the newly formed Russian Soviet Republic (USSR in 1922) being attacked by the Entente and their backed “White” forces and Lenin’s health and the economic situation dwindling directly in the aftermath of the Russian Civil War, Ali’s depiction of the mobilization of War Communism and the aftermath are sobering and very well-aware of the situation which lay before. Power insulated centrally in a time of life or death for the new nation barely upon its own feet becomes the framework for Lenin’s infamous successor Joseph Stalin, a hero of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has seen a resurgence in popularity and admiration amongst Russians in recent years.

The 1930s in the Soviet Union will see brutal repressions of basic rights, mass starvations, deportations and industrialization at all costs. As China Mieville beautifully asks in the epilogue to his book “October,” “Is the Gulag the telos of 1917?” This question has plagued history, Marxism and the attitudes towards socialism in the Western world since and does not seem to be answered anytime soon. However, Tariq Ali gives the reader a nuanced depiction of history, socialism and revolution which will certainly not disappoint those looking for a great read during this centennial anniversary and surely give the reader a sense of positive vicarious leftist nostalgia.


Nick Babakitis

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Nicholas Babakitis currently lives in Berlin and attends the John F. Kennedy Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin. He has his BA in History and Political Science from Arizona State University. He is a fan of science fiction, cats, pizza and enjoys impersonating Slavoj Zizek… poorly.

 

 

cover photo: © Wikimedia Commons

„IT“ is not the movie „IT“ could have been

Not scary, ‘IT’ is messed up on many levels.


The original ‘Evil Dead’ and ‘Blair Witch Project’ gave me sleepless nights. ‘Drag me to Hell’ was entertaining. ‘REC’ was terrifying. Horror, works on a personal level. Each of us have our own fears and might not share the same.

I do not place much faith in horror movies these days. Even the intelligent ones sometimes resort to using clichéd jerks and sound effects to justify their categorisation as a horror movie. For me, ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ offered a deeper sense of horror than the ‘Insidious’ and ‘Annabelle’ film series.

I have not read Stephen King’s ‘IT’. I expected ‘IT’ to be a psychological horror story. The trailers for the 2017 film adaptation of ‘IT’ aroused my curiosity. The shiny reviews on Rotten Tomatoes made me go watch the film.

I sat, in the dark, waiting to see a brilliant horror movie. I felt betrayed by the PR machine that convinced me that ‘IT’ (2017) was a classic. As I left the cinema hall, I overheard two comments:

„I was waiting to be spooked. It was not scary at all.“

„What did we just watch? It was a joke!“

I was confused, too! Was I watching the same movie that was praised by critics?

I reached home. I was angry. I read a few negative reviews and the comments under them offered some insight. Most people who posted hate comments to the negative reviews had read the book. They were defending ‘IT’, the book and the story. Did the filmmakers manage to convince viewers that this movie version was the closest a reader could get to experience the fears created by the book?

The positives

  • The child actors did an exemplary job
  • The movie was technically well made
  • The ‘coming-of-age’ story was beautifully told
  • The opening act, ‘Georgie’s death’, was moderately terrifying

The criticism

  • The screenplay was incoherent and choppy, with a few sound and light jerks thrown in for fans of modern popular horror
  • The movie was trying to be a great ‘coming-of-age’ and ‘horror’ story at the same time — which didn’t work for me
  • A little backstory might have helped. Did the book offer one?
  • The last 30 mins was meaningless garbage (excessive use of CGI, needless violence, kids floating in the air for no obvious reason and the list goes on)

A serious concern

This is connected to ‘IT’ and other movies such as ‘Kick Ass’. I find it acceptable that writers have some deep psychological fantasies that they pen down. However, I have a problem accepting film and TV producers who bring those fantasies to screen by using children and underage teens.

In ‘IT’, Sophia Lillis (15 yo) has been sexualised and the boys (most of them 14 yo) are involved in scenes of sexual awakening and bloody violence. Also, most of them have dialogues containing strong language. The last time I checked, ‘IT’ is rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language.

The kids and their parents are probably okay with performing for adults for the celebrity status they’ll receive and money they’ll make. Maybe filmmakers use creative production and post-production techniques to ensure that these teenagers are not fully involved in the final product. Still, there is something seriously upsetting about using kids to playout adult fantasies in a R rated movie. Or, is it just me putting too much thought into it?
About being coherent

Yes, this review goes a bit all over the place. I thought I’d pull off something as brilliant as ‘IT’ (winks).

‘IT’ will be a box office success and continue to garner great reviews, no doubt. Well, I am not impressed by this pretentious movie.

source: YouTube

Kathir Sid Vel spent his first three years in the jungles of South India. From there, he moved to a small town where, even today, people ask each other questions instead of asking Google! His childhood dreams came true when he stepped into the advertising business, working behind the scenes, with many of the top names in Bollywood. Breaking away from the busy lifestyle, Sid moved to bonnie Scotland, where he now helps businesses embrace digital technologies. He passionately discusses film, technology and modern life.

cover photo: © Warner Bros. Pictures

„The fear of losing control“ – Interview with Patrick Ness

Sieben Minuten nach Mitternacht

In the fantasy drama film „A Monster calls“ a young boy named Connor is frequently visited by a monster that tells him stories connected to his difficult situation in reality: His mother is slowly dying of cancer. The cinematic release is based on the novel with the same name. We had the chance to talk to the author and screenwriter Patrick Ness about his ideas of good storytelling, what the monster is all about and the transition from book to film.

An Interview by Martin Kulik


Patrick, the idea for the story of „A Monster Calls“ was originally developed by Siobhan Dowd, who passed away in 2007 after a long fight with cancer. How did you get in contact and why did you decide to take on the task of bringing her vision to reality?

Siobhan Dowd and I shared an editor. „A monster calls“ was supposed to be her fifth book. She fully expected she would be able to write it, even though she knew her cancer was terminal. But she caught an infection and was dying way faster than she thought, so our editor at the time came to me and said: „I don’t want this idea to disappear. Would you consider turning it into a book?“ And my first response was: Probably not. Because I worry that anyone trying to do that, would write a memorial instead of a story. And nobody wants to read a memorial – even for good reasons. And that’s not what she would have written either, cause she is such a smart writer. So I was gonna decline.

But then I started looking at the material and started getting ideas. And that’s really the gold in a story. The first idea I got, was the scene where he comes out of the second dream and is destroying the living room. And I thought: „That’s it. That’s the anger. That’s the taboo of the book. That’s the story.“

The book that finally emerged from this idea was wildly sucessful and really popular by children as well as adults. Especially the monster seems to be recepted very well – why do you think that is?

Well I think it goes back to why we tell stories. My theory has always been, that life is inexplicable and impossible to understand. How we explain things like love? How do we explain things like time? How do we explain things like death? Monsters serve a huge function in that. They certainly are a way to explain fear and to explain the unknown. We are the only animals that know that we don’t know things. And that’s an interesting philosophical question – how do you deal with that? I’d say creating a monster is one way to do it. In a way creating a monster is making us feel safer in the world, cause it is a way to personify this fear. And then we can control it, we can step away from it.

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The monster and Connor

But the monster is not only serving as a personification of fear, right? It also seems to be kindhearted.

Well I was hoping that people who read the book or watch the film start to question, if he really is a monster. Because he seems really monstrous at first, but then ultimately a kindness comes from him. I wanted him to be different things: I wanted him to be a monster. I also wanted him to be similar to an ancient pre-roman myth called the green man, which has been in english history for thousands of years. The green man is the landscape personified, a powerful analogy on nature. But I also wanted to leave open if the boy calls on a father figure.

I wanted that question to slide and slide in your heads. So that it’s never quite ultimately defined. Which is what a good story does – at least I think so. So hopefully if a kid – or anyone really – watches it and says „Oh, now I know who or what the monster is“, they slowly begin to question this definition and come to different conclusions. And that is what I want: to slowly make you unsure.

You have stated before, that we have all ages present at all times in our lifes, and that being 8, being 16 being 29 and so on stays with our personalities at all times. Is that why you tell stories for children as well as adults?

Maybe! There is lots to debate about what the difference between books for kids and books for adults is. And one of the things that people talk about, and that I sort of agree with, is how you experience it. For example: How do experience a book, where the lead character is a child? Do you experience it looking back or do you experience it as the child?

So when I write books for children I partly do it, because when I was a kid, I didn’t get to read the books I wanted to read. There were no books that took me seriously, that really dealt with the things I was feeling. Instead I got a lot of books telling me lessons about how my life should be and how I would grow out of it, because I was „just a teenager“. So when I’m writing books for children or teenagers now, I’m really writing them for teenage-me. And that’s my approach. Rather than trying to universalize a feeling, I try and make it true specifically for the main character of the book. And hopefully the readers see the truth in that. Hopefully they recognize, that what is true for him is also true for them.

Is the „fear of the unknown“ or the „loss of control“ something that we can relate to on all ages levels?

Yeah! I think that is one of the key things about writing for young people or teenagers. There is this terrible sense of injustice, for one thing. Because you have so many of the responsibilites of an adult, but almost none of the privileges and certainly none of the credit. So there is a constant feeling of: „I am not being treated fairly“. And you live in a world that acts on you. You are not allowed to be the agent of your own life much at the time. That’s tremendously frustrating.

And that’s absolutely a translateable feeling, because if I think about the government of the United Kingdom at the moment – it’s a disaster. We are having a complety useless election that will ruin the country for the next five years and an opposition that is utterly useless. And it’s like I have no control over this. I vote – sure, but I have no control about this terrible situation. So yes, absolutely, this feeling of being acted upon instead of acting for yourself is something everyone can relate to.

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Sketch of the monster

In „A Monster Calls“ there are stories inside the story. Is it important for the main character, that he can deal with his feelings on that narrational metalevel?

Those stories are important, but only to a point. Because the analogy only goes up to a lesson and then the monster is taking it apart. And that, I think, is the overarching lesson. That there is more than one way to look at a story.

And that’s what we are trying to get Connor, the main character, to as well. He has those terrible feelings of guilt about his dying mother. That he want’s it to finish – which is a really normal and genuine human reaction. But there is this dilemma: He desperately does not want her to die, but he also want’s her to die. How in the world do you reconcile that? I think reconciling that, is what makes us adults. And the stories inside the story are only leading him to that conclusion for himself. They get him to understand: A story is a useful thing, but it has limits and it changes depending on who is telling it. So maybe if you can tell yourself a different story. Maybe if you change your perspective, you can live with that kind of situation, rather than letting it harm you. It’s a little shitft, but those little shifts are what is really empowering us to live. So I’m not trying to teach a lesson – you can get all kinds of contradictory lessons, depending on how you look at it. But if we change our own perception a little bit, maybe we can live with the contradiction of life.

You’re not only the author of the book, but also the screenwriter for the upcoming movie. What challenges did you face in transitioning the story?

I had to make some changes in the storytelling. Because a book you can put down. You can decide to stop at any time and at the end of the book you can close it and you can take as much time as you need and want. In a film you can’t do that. It’s a single experience – and that was the most challenging thing about it: Managing the audiences experience. Cause if you come on too heavy an audience resists – I would resist and say: „Come on… Too much.“ So I had to really really think about how to manage that. As a result we made changes to the end for example. The movie needed to end in a different way. It needed to end in quiet, so the audience could take a breath and reflect. There is a lot of darkness and a lot of light in that film. Making little adjustments to the story was necessary to convey that and that little bit of magic. The ending of the film as it is right now would not have been the right ending for the book, but it is the right ending for the film.

Thank you so much for the interview, Patrick.

My pleasure!

Patrick Ness and Martin Kulik

Patrick Ness and Martin Kulik

 


 

Pictures of the film and posters © Studiocanal

A_Monster_Calls_poster

 

„A Monster Calls“

Directed by J. A. Bayona

Screenplay by: Patrick Ness

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebell, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson

 

 

Sleepless in Reykjavík – An interview with Sóley

Sóley’s third album “Endless Summer” raises questions. After her dreamy debut “We Sink” and the almost depressive “Ask the Deep” we began thinking she can’t surprise us anymore – but then she suddenly does the unthinkable: creating cheerful music. At least that’s what she claims. Scenic lyrics are still combined with the piano and a remarkable voice. Apart from that she did not only paint her studio in new colours but also definitely stopped killing clowns. Nevertheless she accidentally ended up in an Icelandic thriller. Weird stuff. We have questions. So many questions.

An interview by Moritz Bouws and Gregor van Dülmen


Congratulations for your new album which is called “Endless Summer”. Is that a desire you have during these long Icelandic winters – to have an endless summer?

Yeah, in a way. Because I started writing it in January and it can be quite dark in Iceland then. So there is always this time when you’re craving for summer. Actually the title came up before I started writing the album. Consequently, I decided to make an album that is going to be called “Endless Summer” although I didn’t know how it would sound.

It’s also linked to the Icelandic summer because the sun never goes down, so it feels kind of endless. You just wake up, there’s a new day and you never go to sleep – there’s so much energy. It’s kind of a mixture of both craving for summer and the endless character of the Icelandic summer. Everything fades into each other, like day and night.

In comparison to your previous record “Ask the deep”, which was released in 2015, “Endless Summer” apparently has a far more optimistic approach. You dedicated the opening song (Úa) to your two year old daughter. Would you say that this optimism is due to the impact your daughter has on your work recently?

Probably in a way, yes. It’s funny how children change your life. I don’t know if you have got children, but life will never be the same. First, I’m more tired and I’d never been that tired in my life before. But when you see a child born, there’s just a weird thing going on. Life is just amazing. Having a child is amazing. I never wanted to write ‚mommy songs‘ or something like that. But it definitely has an effect on how I want to be. Obviously I want to be a good role model for her. I don’t want to be in this depressing shit all my life. I guess this is my attempt to get out, like crawling back seeing the lights of the happy end of the tunnel thinking, “I wanted to go there. This is where I want to be.” Maybe she inspired me in a good way. Well, I’m pretty sure she does.

Recording impressions:

source: Twitter

And apart from your daughter: what influences you when you make music? For instance, you painted the walls of your studio purple and yellow. Does it matter which colours are surrounding you?

I think so. I think it’s the mood I’m in, the emotional state I’m in when I make albums. I had a plan for this album: I wanted to write a song in a major key. That was one of my goals, because I never had written songs in a major key. So now I achieved that. Besides I wanted to make more music just with piano and voice, going back to my roots. I love sitting by the piano playing a theme. Apart from that I wanted to challenge myself a bit. Regarding the compositions I tried to make it more complex. I just wanted to sit by the piano and make a new album. So I sat down and those songs just came out. That’s what I did.

Which colours are you going to choose for your next album?

Well, that’s a good question. Which are the remaining options? My daughter’s favourite colour is pink. First I replied, “Don’t you like black?”, but she said, “No, I like pink and purple and glitter and gold.” However, I think about a lot of colours when I’m writing albums. For this one I preferred brighter colours. With regard to that my friend Inga (Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir), who does the artwork, and me have a close collaboration. I told her about the colours I was thinking about and she made it kind of bluish. There’s also a little bit of pink in there. But in the end she decides. I have these ideas of colours, but it’s her work to make it visually look like how it sounds. To answer you question, obviously pink will be the colour for the next album.

Album cover by Birgisdóttir Ingibjörg

Last year you played a small tour in order to try if people like your new songs and the new major key sound. Did you really fear losing the interest of your audience while working on your new album?

Hmmm, good question! I don’t know. It was like this: I showed the album to people saying, „Guys, I made a happy album.“ And everyone who listened to it replied, „It’s not really happy.“ I assume I have a lower standard of happiness than other people. I couldn’t really act like “la la la la”, so we are meeting in the middle. I think it’s not a happy album. It’s more an album where you crave for what you love. Would I love an endless summer? I don’t think so. But I like craving for it. I kind of like it, when you have this desire for summer.

On this tour you also introduced your new live band, including a small orchestra and a second vocalist. What are the main differences playing with such a huge ensemble in comparison to the minimalistic sets you used to play before?

It’s much more fun. I won’t say anything against my friends who were working in my band, they’re unquestionably great. But what I love about it is that I actually could play these songs acoustically without any amplification. I don’t like my voice quietly. Composing and arranging a band is what I always want to do. I definitely would like to make an album with a symphonic orchestra. Maybe the next one, we’ll see. At the moment we’re rehearsing for the upcoming tour but having a big band on tour is quite expensive. In fact there’s a willingness on both sides, but financially we have to wait what happens. It definitely will be a bigger band.

Sóleys aktuelle Single “Grow”:

Quelle: YouTube

Your Berlin concert on that tour was at a church (Passionskirche Kreuzberg). This year in May you come back to Berlin and play a show at a church again (Apostel-Paulus-Kirche in Schöneberg). In Cologne you play at „Kulturkirche“, which also was a church once. Why do you choose churches? Is it just the sound?

Yes, on the one hand it’s the acoustics. Even though it sometimes can evoke a crazy reverb. But that’s the problem of my sound technician. On the other hand I also think when you enter a church the vibe is totally different to when you go to a club. I’m not a big fan of me playing in a club because I don’t think it fits me or my project. So I’m always trying to be at sitting shows where people are not really drunk but listen for an hour and then go for a drink. Because I love just sitting down and listening, enjoying.

And your show in Leipzig is at Felsenkeller which is quite a special venue, too. As you possibly know all these cities are well-known for having many music clubs. Is this characteristic important to you when you are on tour?

I love Germany. I’d like to live in Germany. I like both playing in bigger cities and small towns in Germany, Italy, and so on. It’s also nice to visit towns you’ve never heard about before and to see so many people showing up. It’s a nice mixture of both. It’s also hard when you play only big cities. It’s a longer drive. But it makes sense to do it in a way. I like both. And I love Leipzig.

What’s really interesting for us is the close collaboration that within the Icelandic artistic scene you’re a part of. You support each other on records, go on tour together, and apart from that established artists don’t forget to promote young talents. Do networks like Icelandic Music Export Office play a role for these collaborations or are all of you just friends who support each other in creating their own music?

I think both. Export Office has a really important part in the Icelandic scene. They have contacts and they are willing to help artists – like even me when I’m lost in the music industry. We have a coffee and we talk about it. And it’s important for new bands, too. I’m thirty, I don’t know people who are twenty and starting making music now. So I’m just growing up with my generation of the music scene. I think these networks are really important to get to know each other. There are just tons of bands and musicians, and there a young kids who do cool stuff. So people just talk about new stuff and then go taking it out.

But can you still say that generally you all know each other?

Yes. If we don’t know each other we know the same friends. It’s really small. So it’s really hard not to know each other. The music scene is really close, we’re all buddies. And it’s fun.

The Icelandic music export obviously works very well. Your last album “Ask the Deep” even was used for a German TV crime television series. Do you know about this?

Ehm, what is it called?

“Der Island-Krimi”. Like “The Icelandic Crime Show”.

Really? I don’t know everything that happens with my music. But I might have gotten an email about that. Okay, that’s funny.

It was a big production, starring Franka Potente. So everybody knows you now in Germany.
Is it a crime show about Iceland?

The other kind of music video:

Yes, it’s set in Iceland and has German actors who pretend to be Icelandic.

Oh my god, I have to see it. I’d like to see German people acting like Icelanders.

Since the sound of the record was dark and heavy it actually fit very well with the mood of the series. What kind of TV series do you think would be a good fit for your new album?

I love this one song, the last song “Endless Summer”. I thought it might fit to a teenage movie or maybe to “Skam”. It’s a series from Norway and it’s about kids in college. I watched all episodes. I’m going to talk to my manager to put the song in this season, it’s really popular. There’s a lot of cool music in it. They even have a Spotify playlist featuring many popular songs from Scandinavia.

You used to tell this poetic horror fairytales on your earlier albums. And still your lyrics are very scenic and theatrical. Did you ever think about publishing a book with the stories you make up? Or will music always be more important to you?

No, I thought about it. Actually I started writing a book two times. I’m always to busy and I don’t have time for it.

Maybe when you’re old?

Yeah, maybe when I’m old and have a whisky voice and don’t like to sing anymore. Well, I’m thinking about writing Icelandic poems. I’m going to release a poem book one day, either in Icelandic or English. I mean, Icelandic is my mother tongue, so for me it’s easier to express myself. Let’s see.

Talking to you or watching you playing a show it seems that humour plays a big role in your life. But your songs, especially the older ones, on the other hand have titles like “I’ll drown”, “Smashed Birds”, “Follow me down” or “Kill the clown”. Is that something you do when you write music: Kill the clown inside of you to make some serious art?

(laughter) I don’t know who I am when I write this stuff. I hope this child will make me a better person. I’m afraid of myself sometimes. Why would someone write this down and even release it? I mean, I can’t watch horror movies because I’m so afraid, I can’t go to the bathroom for months after I watch “The Shining” or something comparable. So this is my approach: to write a horror song, and just imagining it – and I know I wrote it so it’s not real. This is my thing to satisfy the horror desire. Because you need something scary in your life, it keeps your heartbeat going.

Sóley – Kill the Clown (live):

Quelle: YouTube

So you write horror stories because you can control them?

Exactly. That’s a good thing. Because I can choose the end. Or can I? I don’t know. I like it, but on my new album I was writing less about horror stuff, I guess. I was just trying something else. And I think it’s always good to not to get stuck anywhere and challenge yourself, do something. Because usually I would say that I would never write a song about my daughter or I’d never write songs in a major key, because it’s not me.

But then I question that and ask myself: Why don’t I do that? Why would I put myself in a box? Why don’t I try out something else and see what happens ? And that was just what I was trying to do on my new album. I just tried out a lot of stuff I thought I wasn’t supposed to do because I had put myself in some sort of box.

And we think it really worked out.

I’m really happy with the album. I did it in a year, I just shut down and all these songs came out and I was pushing songs out and I didn’t force anything. So all these songs just came within four months and then I just finished them. Why should I spend more time with it? So I’ll just release it and start to do something else. I don’t know about working on an album for ten years and I think life is too short to do it. You just start doing something new. I enjoyed the process of making the album, it’s all really natural. I’m really happy.

So best wishes for the release and thank you for the interview.

Danke. See you around.


Sóleys third album “Endless Summer” will be released on may the 5th at Morr Music. Afterwards she’ll play a tour with a small or big band in small and big towns:

May 10 Kulturkirche Cologne, Germany
May 11 Felsenkeller Leipzig, Germany
May 12 Apostel-Paulus-Kirche Berlin, Germany,
May 14 Mousonturm Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
May 16 Hybernia Theater Prague, Czech Republic
May 18 Aula Artis Poznan, Poland
May 19 NIEBO Warszawa, Poland
May 20 Kino-Teatr RIALTO Katowice, Poland
May 21 Brno, Czech Republic
May 23 A38 Budapest, Hungary
May 24 Culture Factory Zagreb, Croatia
May 25 Kino Šiška Ljubljana, Slovenia
May 27 Posthof Linz, Austria
May 28 A4 Bratislava, Slovakia
May 29 WUK Vienna, Austria
Jul 04 Covo Summer Bologna, Italy
Jul 05 Circolo Magnolia Segrate Milano, Italy

Cover picture: © Birgisdóttir Ingibjörg

Angry White Men – Donald Trump’s Silent Majority

kimmel-angry-white-men

Donald Trump’s elevation to the highest office in the United States came to most in the United States and abroad as a shock to the current political establishment.  A view into, as sociologist Michael Kimmel has named them, America’s ‚Angry White Men‘ shows that this decade long strain of frustration brewing among America’s self-endowed heirs to the American Dream laid fertile ground for the rise of a Trump-like authortarian character in American politics.  Feeling abandoned by Washington elites, progressives who seem to dismiss their legitimate hardships, and the media, these men turned to the darkest corners of political philosophy for the answers seeking to ‚Make America Great Again‘.

by Nicholas Babakitis


 

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

17 months ago, this ridiculous, now infamous statement was uttered by the, now, President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Whipping up his abysmal cocktail of hyper-masculinity, rampant sexism, racism, homophobia, and pretty much anything else generations of men and women in the United States have been fighting against, yet somehow in this slew of word vomit, Mr. Trump secured his place in being the next Commander in Chief. These sentiments, obviously, must have resonated with some Americans (over 58 million at the time of writing this piece), but how did these vile, archaic ideas take center-stage in American politics and mobilize massive groups of people to support him? Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men and sociologist at the Stony Brook University in New York, offers an insight into these groups of disenfranchised men, clinging on to their ‚values‘ and imaginary utopia of a time when men were men, that many Americans have long overlooked as being simply an unwillingness to adapt to the times.

Kimmel scores the nation searching for groups most men (and women) would not only disregard, but some whom many would wish to avoid at all costs: neo-Nazis, men’s rights activists, school shooters, and others compelled to rebel against a system they find to be oppressing them. The 1960s, while giving minorities and women more rights and opportunities in the American way of life, had immediate backlash from conservative communities prompting the promotion of ‚Law and Order‘ values from notable politicians the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and now Donald Trump in the decades following. This opposition, which still carries over into modern politics, is felt by many of these men and in their eyes isn’t seen as being racially driven, rather that these groups (women and minorities) were ‚taking their jobs‘ and threatening their way of life.

“Make America Great Again”

American jobs belong to Americans, right? This sense of entitlement, as Kimmel notes, is a tenant of the American way these men felt was guaranteed to them as being hard working Americans, depicting themselves akin to the modern-day frontiersmen. Hard work equated to having a stable job, being able to feed their families, in most cases owning a house and a car, many staples of American life which, post-2008, have been more and more difficult for hard-working Americans to access, in turn leaving many angry, wishing to position their rage at anything which seems somewhat feasible to them and developing a nostalgia for a time that never really existed.

The self-made man, who left the city generations ago to set out west and make a new life for himself, honing his skills for survival while embarking on grand adventures. This self-made man was America and the beginning of the truest expression of freedom and the American dream to these men, something far in the past due to progressive reforms of the last century. Kimmel, however, pulls off the rose-colored glasses, which many Americans, not just these angry white men, have on, shedding some light on the situation of these idolized frontiersmen and their reasons for abandoning their lives in the North; namely an inability for these men to become successful in their towns and cities where they were from attempting to sacrifice all they had to be successful, simply because they had the open wilderness at their disposal.

Free-market capitalism, the epicenter of all of America’s growth, wealth, and industrial power, remained in the eyes of not only Angry White Men, but most Americans, as a piece of the American dream they could take part in, express their freedoms the true American way, and become successful. Once again, this staple promise of the American Dream was never really fulfilled for these men. Oblivious to the basics of labor exploitation, the mobility of labor, and the now new competition for positions in the labor market due to the influx of minorities and women introduced in the work force over the next few decades, promises of a life destined through their position as white American men, dwindled for many in front of their eyes.

“Grab ‘em by the pussy”     

Feminism, rather Women’s Liberation as a whole, has found many men in a similar state of panic with many of whom are in a defensive struggle to ‚get their balls back‘. Consistent complaints of ‚men unable to be men‘ resonate throughout Kimmel’s chapter focusing on such Men’s Rights groups, rather childishly due to women having more, although not equal, opportunities in the workforce. What Trump dismissed a few weeks prior to his election as simply ‚locker-room talk‘ is a private-sphere in which these men feel they can no longer express and represent themselves in traditionally male-dominated fields (the overall workspace). These men yearn for the good ol‘ days, when women held jobs in ‚women specific‘ fields and a nostalgia reminiscent of Mad Men tickles their fantasies of how great it must have been to be a man in the era of Fordism.

Antifeminists in the 1950s and 60s viewed feminism as a means of turning women into consumerist gold-diggers, ruing the docile nature of the pre-feminist woman. While America sees itself founded on consumerism, anti-feminists have continuously held the belief that this culture and behavior is inclined more to the male gender and the preservation of the patriarchy. Men Right’s Activists of today see these continuous pushes from women wishing to make themselves an equal part of a society notorious for denying them the right to be seen as equals as the federal government taking a political agenda that is a feminist ploy to rig the system against men and tilt it into the favor of women.

“I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Blacks”

Race in the eyes of many of these Angry White Men is something Kimmel describes as a ‘Goldilocks’ affect: too hot, too cold, or just right. Western outlooks on race and the attributes men (and women) have displayed supposedly due to their race is a long, upsetting history which is unfortunately far from being a thing of the past. White Men have seen other races as either being far too hypo-masculine, Latinos or Asians, or hyper-masculine, particularly Black men, and are not fit for the world the white man resides in. While Kimmel does not address this issue the way famous sociologies like Frantz Fanon have marvelously done in the past, he uses these stereotypes as the mechanism which men have historically used to promote white-American values and have seemed to slip into an unconscious realm of thought potentially unknowingly racist in many cases.

Similarly to how MRA’s (Men’s Rights Activists) feel their right to the patriarchy is being threatened by a relatively recent addition into the traditionally white, male dominated workforce seeking equality, many working class white males, and those who give an outlet to this rage and in many cases paired with scientifically inaccurate ideas of race, feel they’re being forced out of the places predetermined to them by their status and skin color. Kimmel points continuously to recent American pop culture as a visualization of this attitude many white working class men, most recently, and possibly most accurately depicted in the Clint Eastwood film Grand Tornio.

“If you’re a conservative Republican, you’ve got to fight for your life. It’s really an amazing thing.

Obviously, as history has shown, this rage doesn’t remain bottled up and has developed itself into a massive, politically active network ready to mobilize and take their country back which they feel they have been robbed of. Conservatives cry of the unfair tilt ‘liberal media’ has in the United States (Lügenpresse!11!1!), yet tuning into talk radio will show a rather drastic bias towards far-right wing political leanings, oddly symbolic of a somewhat outdated means of broadcasting being used to broadcast and expand outdated ideas and sentiments. Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and many many more, create a seemingly never ending list of far-right pundits who broadcast coast to coast from morning into the wee hours of the night producing delusions of grandeur for these men to tap into and, in many cases, mobilize into a strong political community. Promoting seemingly obvious white nationalist sympathies, Kimmel notes how these mouthpieces for the Angry White Men provide many with the outlet they seek, with likeminded people, in order to fight whichever liberal agenda is attempting to emasculate them.

Overall, this inability, or rather unwillingness for these Angry White Men to see the roots of their, in many ways, legitimate qualms with a society they feel ignored in, is a product of neo-liberalism. Kimmel suggests throughout the book that these men are trying and wanting to be heard, and in a society where they feel attacked for being white, something previously unheard of to these men in the United States, they find themselves in a regression of thought with millions of others who share their resentment.   Simply put, white, working class men, are legitimately hurting, rather than teaming up with other exploited and truly oppressed peoples in this modern world, they’re turning inwards, becoming angry and, unfortunately, getting their way as of Wednesday morning’s election results. These Angry White Men, as the struggling backbone of an American society existing only in the theater of the mind, helped propel Donald J. Trump to the highest office in the United States of America.


Nick BabakitisNicholas Babakitis is currently studying North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin with a special focus in Politics and Economics. He is originally from Phoenix, Arizona and has his BA in History and Political Science from Arizona State University. When he isn’t preoccupied with his studies, he enjoys playing guitar, eating pizza, and secretly playing with Legos when no one is looking.

A life dedicated to music. An interview with Notwist singer Markus “Rayon” Acher

This week Markus Acher released his new solo album “A Beat of Silence” on Morr Music, it’s his second full length album under the synonym “Rayon”. He is known best for his various other projects which deserve articles of their own – however, there is one thing they all have in common: musical sensitiveness, diversity and devotion. In this interview he talks about his motivation and what is yet to come in his musical life.

An interview by Moritz Bouws and Gregor van Dülmen, translated into English by Martin Kulik and Moritz Bouws


Let’s get this straight: „Notwist“ or „The Notwist“? Does it matter?

It really doesn’t – we’re not overly uptight about that. We called us “The Notwist” back when we thought: This sounds like “underground”.

Just for keeping track – could you please list all names of the bands and synonyms under which you performed or released records with?

Certainly. Here it goes: Notwist, Lali Puna, Rayon, Tied + Tickled Trio, You + Your D. Metal Friend, 13&God, Village of Savoonga, Hochzeitskapelle, 3 Shades.

That’s quite a few. How much time do you spend in studios and rehearsal rooms?

Oh, a lot actually. However, much of the stuff we did in the studio can also be worked from our computers at home now. But of course it’s always invaluable to record together.

What’s the process creating a (The) Notwist album like?

Primarily: really slow. Apart from that, there are different ways in which we make an album. Everyone composes by themselves, then we share ideas, go to the studio together and record, edit the different parts etc. But that’s really an individual process that is very specific to particular songs. Somewhere along this line an idea for the whole record is born that unites all the different parts. That’s really important because otherwise you have nothing to aim for.

“With the labels, concerts, records and fanzines we created an alternative for ourselves – against our reactionary, conservative and catholic surroundings.”

Now that you released “Superheroes, Ghostvillains + Stuff” you are on tour with Notwist again. Your last live album was released 20 years ago, why did you decide to produce a new one now?

The songs for a new published record are really fresh by the time they are released and have not been played live yet most of the time. They are snapshots and evolve with time. We wanted to document these changes in this record. I think some of the songs found their true form only after a long period of time.

Source: Bandcamp

What made you choose UT Connewitz in Leipzig as the location for the album? Do you have a special connection to this place?

The audiences in Leipzig and Berlin are always really enthusiastic – we get a kick from that. UT Connewitz is a beautiful location with great organizing staff.

But in the end it was a practical thing as well: We had three days in a row in Leipzig to get everything right. The second day was the best one and that’s the material that you can hear on the record now.

Another really exciting project of yours is 13&God where Notwist collaborates with Themselves, a hip hop combo from Oakland. How did you get together with them?

I was a big Anticon fan. And when Themselves played in Munich we met and discovered our mutual appreciation. We immediately planned a tour together and recorded an album shortly after that.

We hope to come together again this year and do another record. We have become good friends.

Source: YouTube

Alongside the international tours with Notwist all of the bandmembers are involved in the regional music scene of Bavaria. Is there a big difference for you personally when you play a show in Landsberg or in cities like Seattle or Mexico City?

Of course there is a difference because the audience reacts differently. We want to play internationally and travel the world with our music. But at the same time we appreciate the shows in our hometowns.

You often get categorized as part of the “New Weird Bavaria” movement because of your involvement in the regional music scene. Do you agree with this classification or is it just a label that doesn’t have any significance for your art?

Actually it doesn’t have any significance.

The term also has a political dimension: There is a connotation that the scene tries to show a more diverse picture of Bavaria through forms of art, which isn’t distorted by the populism of conservative politicians like Horst Seehofer. Would agree with that? Does this dimension have any influence on your art?

We always tried to direct our endeavours to the edges of society and we are mostly interested what is considered weird or strange. Our music embodies this view and shows a world that we wished to live in. With the labels, concerts, records and fanzines we created an alternative for ourselves – against our reactionary, conservative and catholic surroundings.

But we didn’t really think about the image of Bavaria. We never saw our roots in that particular place. Our musical role models were other bands in Germany like Mouse on Mars or Can as well as other scenes like those in New Zealand or Glasgow.

„What Notwist is going to be – we don’t really know yet.“

What made you start your solo project Rayon?

Rayon exists since I released a double 7” on Kollaps under that name. I always rekindle the name when I record something by myself.

The new album was produced after Daniel and Karin from the experimental festival Frameless in Munich asked me to record something new. With their programme in mind I composed some songs and finally got around recording it.

The style of “A Beat of Silence” is really spheric but also minimalistic. We are curious in which places the ideas and concepts for the album developed and how this is reflected in the record. Could you give any insight to that?

The actual composing was done at home in front of the computer. But before that I spent a lot of time contemplating on the different ideas. Each song has an abstract idea – rhythm, patterns, overlapping structures – that I expressed in music afterwards. I hoped to achieve an unique structure for each song that differs from the usual musical pattern.

I got a lot of inspiration from visual artists. Agnes Martin, japanese photographers, or the great canadian Michael Dumontier who also made the cover for the album which made me really happy.

An essential part of “A Beat of Silence” consists in the use of indonesian Gamelan Ensembles. Where did you get in contact with those instruments and why were they fitting for this album?

We didn’t use real Gamelan instruments. But the sound and the characteristics of this unique music was a reference point throughout the whole record. You can’t really reproduce those sounds, it’s far too complex.We rather tried to find a certain type of shimmering and hypnotic atmosphere that we really liked about the Gamelan sounds.

When recording as Rayon Markus Acher is not alone: Rayon Band © Johannes Haslinger

When recording as Rayon Markus Acher is not alone: Rayon Band © Johannes Haslinger

When do you decide if a song should be part of a Notwist or a Rayon album?

Most of the time I compose for a specific record or band project. It happens very rarely (like on “Messier Objects”) that two recordings or settings mix up.

On “A Beat of Silence” there is a song that already was released in a different version on the soundtrack album “Messier Objects”. It was titled “Object 16” back then, now “On the Quiet”. Will there be additional versions of this particular song?

I composed this song for the first Rayon concert on the Frameless Festival. That was with a different band cast. After that we created the music to Jette Steckels’ stage play “Das Spiel ist aus” and the song was a good fit there as well. I wanted to record the song again in its raw acoustic form. That’s why it made it to the new album again. I don’t think we will ever record that one again :).

Source: Bandcamp

“A Beat of Silence” seems to trace the use of digital music via analogous means. Would you consider this a tendency that is also apparent in Notwist after Martin Gretschmann left the band?

On the Rayon record I only wanted electronic sounds that were generated from acoustic sounds – that was the idea. Distorted and blurred. Take details and magnify them. Like the piles of sand on the cover photo by Michael Dumontier which lose their form and become indistinct. In the end I wanted an unified sound. What Notwist is going to be – we don’t know yet.

“A Beat of Silence” - Cover by Michael Dumontier

“A Beat of Silence” – Cover by Michael Dumontier

So now you will go on tour. But what will be your next project in the studio? Will there be a new studio album after your live album with Notwist? Or will you prioritize other projects?

We definitely plan to make a new Notwist record next. In the very near future there will be the Alien Disko Festival, which we can realize here in Munich at the Kammerspiele on December 2nd and 3rd. We invited some of our favourite ands that burst through genre boundaries.

We can’t wait! We are extremely excited to be joined by: Sun Ra Arkestra, Dawn of Midi, Ras G + Afrikan Space Program, Carla dal Forno, Sacred Paws, Melt Banana, tenniscoats, Jam Money, Mark Ernestus Ndagga Rhythm Force, the comet is coming, mimiCof and others.

Of course The Notwist will also be playing.


If you wanna see Markus Acher live before the Alien Disko Festival and somewhere that’s not Munich you can check him out at November 20th at the Berlin Radialsystem V where he plays a release show for “A Beat of Silence”. Just saying.

cover photo: © Johannes Haslinger

Music, Iceland, poetry, and sisterly love. An interview with Jófríður Ákadóttir

Together with her sister she forms the band Pascal Pinon. Furthermore she is part of the musical project Samaris and performs solo as JFDR as well. Because of the upcoming Pascal Pinon album “Sundur”, we seized the opportunity of having a chat with her during Jófríður’s Berlin stay. In Morr Music’s kitchen she explained both her new work and the world.

an interview by Gregor van Dülmen and Moritz Bouws

and postmondän’s first blog post in English (feels like the beginning of something)


Pascal Pinon consists of you and your twin sister Ásthildur. Have you been making music all your life together or was there a certain point in your musical life where you said, “Let’s start a band!”?

Yes, there was a certain point when we were eleven years old. Our mom or our dad lent us their laptop and introduced us into the music software GarageBand. We found it amazing and just started recording even though we had no idea how to do that. We didn’t even have headphones, but we recorded anyway and produced two albums under the name “Við og Tölvan”, which means “We and the computer”. At that time we said, “We’re gonna start a band now.” Then we got a sound card, a microphone, and a midi keyboard for a christmas present. We still have this midi keyboard. No, sorry, my sister left it in Amsterdam where she lived to study. When she moved away from Amsterdam she left all of her things. She still hasn’t come back to pick them up. That’s already two or three years ago.

Where does she live now?

In Reykjavík. She only left Reykjavík twice since that time. One time was to go to London to visit me and to go to Berlin once for a couple of meetings.

You are following a nomadic kind of lifestyle at the moment, don’t you?

Yeah, I can’t sit still, I can’t stay anywhere. Also I’m really thrifty, I don’t want to spend much on rent when I’m not there most of the time anyway. I think you just really have to go hardcore doing one thing like travelling all the time or settling down – or live somewhere cheap. I don’t know, I’m working on this.

We would like to talk to you about your upcoming album “Sundur”. Your father helped producing your new album. Did he play an important role in the whole process?

Yes, he helped us. I would say my sister actually is the producer, because she is the one who had the most issues with everything. She was the one who actually kept everything super real, super raw, and she decided how we roll this album. I even would have put reverb on the mastering, like it’s my vibe that everything is in reverb. So for me it was really hard to say, “Okay, we’re just gonna do this.” And my dad was the one who said, “Just relax, I’ll come with you, I’ll help you out, I’ll set the microphones for you and I’ll be there and push the buttons.”

And he helped you to not get into a fight with one another?

Exactly, that’s the thing. Because the issue is I wouldn’t have minded if somebody else had done that for us. I wanted to pay a person to do that for us, just because I didn’t want to do that. But she said, “No way. We’re not going to hire anybody. It’s just a waste of money and we can do everything ourselves.” And I replied, “No, because you don’t know how to do that and then I’m going to be the one and I don’t want to.” That argument was for months. So our father was the one who said, “You go ahead and book a studio. I’ll be the one to engineer.” So both of us kind of got what we wanted. She didn’t even want to book a studio, but I told her, “There are people who want to hear this album and there’s a certain kind of pressure on this. They don’t want to listen to your bedroom recordings.” But at the same time I felt like, “Maybe they do, I don’t know.” So we met somewhere in between.

Das neue Album der Schwestern "Sundur" erscheint am 19. August.

The sister’s new album „Sundur“ will be released on 19th august

So it was just the three of you in the studio?

Yes.

Were you and your sister also the only ones playing music on your last album?

We got a guitar player for a couple of tracks, so we met and improvised a few different songs. But yes, generally it was pretty much the two of us. And a producer in addition.

But you started your bands with four members. What happened to the other two?

We were so young and actually kind of doing a lot: We released the first album ourselves before it got re-released by Morr Music. But up onto that point we were doing everything ourselves. We ordered CDs in a manufactory and we walked to the shops when we were fifteen and asked, “We have ten CDs. Do you want to sell them?” – and they all consented. But it was a lot of pressure, because somebody had to take care of the accounting and somebody had to take care of actually going to the shops to see whether it’s sold out or not.

The thing is, it’s just too much to be friends – and we were really good friends to begin with – and to run a business at the same time when you are fifteen. It didn’t really go hand in hand very well and it became this kind of division between the two other girls on the one hand and Ásthildur and me on the other hand. There accidentally was a tension between those two groups. I was sad about it and it really wasn’t pleasant. So together we decided that they would leave the group and we would continue. We rather wanted to stay friends than letting this completely seperate us. That was the reason. And then a couple of month later we got the record deal, which was great. It was easier for us to continue with this. But then the guitar player went on tour with us a few times. She was in the tour band for three years. So that issue didn’t actually make a big difference.

Pascal Pinon as a quartet:

source: youtube

Regarding your name: We think it’s really interesting, because Pasqual Piñón is a historic person – a Mexican guy who worked on a circus. What’s the connection, why did you choose his name for your band?

The four of us sat in a café together and we just opened this book and there was a picture of him and we were like, “The name is Pasqual Piñón, let’s go for that, that sounds weird!” We just liked the name.

And he neither seemed to be a bad guy, did he?

No, he seems to have been misunderstood, the poor thing.

Pasqual Pinon - The Two-Headed Mexican

Pasqual Pinon – „The Two-Headed Mexican“ (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

He was in kind of a freak-show in the beginning of the twentieth century.

Yeah, I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his position of being laughed and stared at. It must be hard if the whole purpose of your existence is to creep people out. But there’s something beautiful about it, embracing being a little bit different and to make that your something. So the name is for everyone who is different.

And concerning your home, Iceland: We got the impression that there’s always the question of an affiliation due to the isolation. On the one hand you feel connected to Europe, on the other hand to the U.S.A., right? If you agree with that impression, could you describe these influences?

It’s right. And I think Iceland is ridiculous in so many ways. One of the things is exactly what you’re talking about. We’re influenced both by America and Europe. And we are a part of Europe and we’re also kind of a part of America. We had the U.S. Army base for many years and that was right at the time when we gained our independence and caught up with the rest of the world. Before that we were such a poor country and that was the time when there was actually a lot of prosperity and really good changes in the economy. So that was thanks to the U.S. Army. And the crazy thing is that this happened during World War II. Everywhere else in the world things were just blown up and destroyed, but in Iceland things went as well as never before. There was a celebration. That’s why people in Iceland are not sensitive about anything that has got to do with the war and the terrible things that happened there, because they’re used to think of the time period as such a positive thing. And this just doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world. It was a world war and almost everywhere there was chaos and in Iceland there was growth. That’s kind of the American influence.

And then we are in Europe but we keep fighting it, thinking we are independent. There are so many ads and anti-EU campaigns. And there are people who generally just feel like we’re losing our independence. They think because we’re an island we can be totally sufficient for ourselves. But the world doesn’t work like that. Such a stated idea. We are a small community and the different parts of the earth should work together more closely. People don’t see that. And Iceland is a joke compared to that. We are about 300.000 people. And if we weren’t in the EEA I wouldn’t be able to be here. It wouldn’t be that easy for me to travel. But enough about politics, let’s go back to music!

Okay, but let’s do this switch with one more Iceland question: Like many Icelandic artists you’re signed at Morr Music. Would you say the Berlin-based label or, let’s say, labels like Morr Music in general play a significant role for Iceland’s indie scene to become recognized internationally? Because from a German point of view it seems that there has been a particular development during the last years.

Definitely. The people see that they can travel more, that they can go abroad and that there is interest. But this is happening everywhere in the music industry anyway. Everywhere there’s a lot of music being made and there’s a lot of interesting things happening. Something is always getting through and something’s always staying under the radar. Same for Iceland. But now we have this Music Export Office that was founded only a couple of years ago. They’re doing great things, give out grants and care about new artists. It’s definitely becoming more common that bands go abroad and that they are signed at an earlier stage in their careers. For instance, have a look at the work of Seabear for so many years.

So is it a motivation for young musicians to be able to go abroad with their own music?

Absolutely. That’s what they try to do. But it takes time. And you don’t really go abroad unless you have a label that is putting money into your marketing. I remember that with Pascal Pinon we wouldn’t go abroad until we started working with Morr Music. Before that we went to Sweden once which was a joke although it was great nevertheless. But otherwise we didn’t go abroad the first two years and now we play more shows in other countries than we do in Iceland. I actually think it plays such a big role in the whole thing.

With respect to the language in which you are singing: Do you prefer Icelandic or English? As you know worldwide there are millions of people, listening to Icelandic music even though they don’t understand the lyrics.

It’s really hard to say. Because first of all, I make music for myself. I have something in my head, like, “I need to make this one and it needs to be in Icelandic.” Just because the word and the poetry make sense that way to me. I could translate it, but it wouldn’t be the same. I think some people do it for the market or for the people they’re communicating with. And I understand and respect that. It’s really cool, too, when people understand you, when you have something to say. Then you give it another layer of depth, like the feeling and the emotion of the music. But for us, I mean, there are two songs on Sundur that don’t even have any words. They’re just instrumental. So we just don’t give a fuck. We just do whatever we want. I like to sing in English as well.

Your new album’s title is “Sundur” which is the Icelandic word for “apart”, right? Is that the main theme of your album, standing apart from each other?

It’s definitely the main theme in the whole process of making this album. When we started doing it Ásthildur had already left to Holland and before that we used to have such an easy access to each other. We were sharing a bedroom most of the time growing up. We are twins and we always had a super tight relationship, whether we wanted to have or not. Making music was such an easy thing to do because we always were around each other. But then she was away and things went up in the air. We realised it’s even a struggle merely to see each other.

And did songs come up in that process? Did you send demos to each other?

The first song of the album we wrote together. And it’s kind of an introduction to that situation. But I wrote all songs apart from the first one on my own. It was more like bringing a song to her and seeing if she likes it and if she wants to collaborate and just do something with it.

Your last album was called “Twosomeness”. Do both tell a story together?

They do. It’s a contrast. It’s like this vs. this. But it’s a natural kind of next chapter. The first album, “Pascal Pinon”, was just composed of home recordings. For the second album we worked with a producer for the first time. We were just messing around and exploring different things we can do in the studio, things that we had never done before. This album is kind of a going back to the beginning, this tight unit of going separate ways. And this is the result. In my mind it was such a chaotic piece of music, because the sound is just all over the place. I thought people might find it scattered and crazy. I’m so surprised that people seem to be so open-minded about it. That shows me that you just have to stay true to yourself and then people will respond. If you’re real, they will recognise it. And that’s great thing to be reminded of.

impressions of Twosomeness:

source: youtube

For the people who don’t know your new album yet: How would you describe its sound compared to the sound of the one before?

I would say that this is a ridiculous album. But listen to it if you want to! I’m so sorry to the label, I hope they didn’t hear this. (She’s laughing)

Because listening to it for the first time it sounded more melancholic than the last one. It sounds more raw and diverse. It’s not like a concept, but it sounds very real and natural.

Yeah, that’s actually kind of the best way to describe it. Saying it’s ridiculous is such a cheap way of describing. I’m so sorry, I’ll try a little bit harder. It’s just I had something in my head that I wanted to create. We started that journey and the result is not what we wanted to make at the beginning. But it’s obvious that you can’t ever think you have something in your mind and go out doing exactly that. It doesn’t work that way. Things change and that’s great. It’s worth celebrating. So this album is probably kind of fucked up as much as it possibly can be. But within that space it’s folk-cute music, it’s not fucked up music. If we were a little bit angrier as people we’d probably be making punk music and the concept would still be the same.

So if this is going to become the most popular of your albums so far. What will you do in the future?

I don’t know at all. Things are going to happen and I’m just learning.

So one last question: Will there be a tour after the release? Will you come back to Germany?

Yes. We have a tour coming in November. It’s from 10th to 20th November. Berlin, Münster, Tecklenburg and Cologne. Some shows are with Peter Broderick. The dates will be announced, but the Berlin show is on 11th November.

O cool, so we’ll meet again there. Thank you very much for the interview!

Thank you, guys!

 

One show missing in the list is the one at Alínæ Lumr Festival on 26th August in the internationally well-known metropolis of Storkow. Fair enough, since we only asked her for tour dates. But after the interview we feel prepared for a „Sundur“ review which will follow in a few days. But then we’ll switch back to German again. Sorry for that, such a cheap way of writing a review.

cover photo: © Magnus Andersen