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Interview: Pink Turns Blue
Pink Turns Blue, Dark wave pioneers and writers of the hymn “Your Master Is Calling” have come back to bring some darkness into our lives. In the last years, they have released some interesting albums, among them, the last one, The Aerdt-Untold Stories in 2016. We talked with Mic Jogwer, singer and guitar player of the German band. They will be playing at W Festival, next year on Sunday, just after the concert of Red Zebra, band that we interviewed a few weeks ago. Blessed Darkness.
—The name of your band comes from a Hüsker Dü song, do you find any relation between the sound of Pink Turns Blue and the sound of the band of Bob Mould and Grant Hart? Why did you choose this song to name your band?
—Both founding members, Tom Elbern and I (Mic Jogwer) were fans of the band and especially of this song. So the story about a love that turned from something divine and special into a sad drug addiction story really got us. Musically, Pink Turns Blue always had a more atmospheric or dark side to it than Hüsker Dü which was mainly post punk or even grungy.
—Did you have any relation with the Neue Deutsche Welle movement?
—On the contrary. Neue Deutsche Welle was about humour – not taking things seriously att all. Pink Turns Blue always took things too seriously. That is why we became one of the “founders” of Dark wave. Not intentionally but in the end, we became part of a new Dark wave, which was just the contrary of the “funny” Neue Deutsche Welle.
—Did the political situation of Germany affected your music in any way?
—No, and never. For us politics is very close to mainstream and taking advantage of it. Hopefully, our music tries to inspire the human being and soul and a higher endeavour of the spirit.
—The cover of your first álbum, If Two Worlds Kiss (1987) is iconic and suits perfectly the mood of the record. It’s the face of your previous drummer, right? How was recording the album?
—The first album is a mix of several sessions. And it includes several changes as well. Some songs were recorded with Tom Elbern playing guitar. He left the band a year or two before the record got released (marked with +). Most of the songs were written and recorded as a three piece with me playing guitar and Ruebi playing bass instead of keyboards.
—Your second album Meta (1988) is considered one of the first Dark wave albums. How did you move in this direction?
—Meta was the first album where we had a record deal in place and were able to record just the music that we thought would be the right soundtrack for the times. We supported Laibach on several tours and we ended up using their recording studio in Ljubljana. Obviously, the combination of Laibach producer Janez Krizaj and our dark souls and spirits created this very dark record.
—Do you like other Dark wave artists?
—I am not sure whether we really had a chance to meet or know them at that time. In 1988, there wasn’t a real Dark wave scene yet. Later on, you could get magazines and CD samplers titled Dark wave and kind of draw a circle around the artists with a connection to this spirit and sound. Before that, you had post punk bands like The Sound, or batcave bands like Bauhaus but nobody called it Dark wave then.
—You said that Laibach was one of your favorite bands. What do you like in their music? How have they influenced your music?
—What we like about them was their courage to present just the sound they wanted to. Plus, their music was rather a movie soundtrack than a traditional rocksong. Many of our songs were rather soundscapes with lyrics and I guess that connected us somehow.
From 1990 to 1994 you released five albums, a bit overshadowed by the two previous ones. We would like to comment them:
—Eremite (1990) sounds a bit more electronic/industrial. How did you start using samplers and why? Were you interested in industrial music?
—For us, it was always important to discover new colors and not to repeat ourselves. In that way, we are rather “artists” than entertainers. So our main motif is to explore new ways of telling our stories – hopefully as beautifully and purely as possible. New devices and sounds help to find new colours and to offer new ways to reach your soul and your listener’s.
—Aerdt (1991) has fewer guitars and it’s more atmospheric. What kind of music were you listening at the time? It’s your last dark wave album, did you get tired of the genre?
—1991 was the birth of techno and hate for the traditional rock band. Also for us. So we tried to reach the summit of a voice telling very direct and pure stories coming right out from the heart without any rockband platitudes added. You know, many waveguitar riffs with delay and chorus just sound so much the same after a while. That much that they keep you from conveying any authentic stories at all. So we decided to be as radical as possible to give the vocals a chance to convey authentic emotions with as much intimacy and power as possible.
—You moved to Ljubljana during these years. Did you find a big difference between living in Cologne and the capital of Slovenia?
—So much so. You know, every city has its cultural high time. In Cologne it was in the early eighties with its intellectual and artistic experimentalism. In Lubljana, it was shorty before and after the fall of the Iron curtain. There were so many young artists with so many feelings about the world and what to do with that thing called life.
—For Sonic Dust (1992), the guitars are back although the influence of the dance music of the time is evident: can we blame your friend Moby for this?
—We moved to London to open up a new chapter. Starting with a blank page. Because – for us – if you try to repeat you former successes you both diminish the credibility of your past and kind of mock it. So we spent our time in London clubs and the new alternative underground spirit of the time was dance grooves combined with your style and sound. Moby was going even further. He stopped his punk-band experience completely and becane a DJ or producer in sampling and combining “quotes”, existing music and add some keyboard pads and grooves. So he was radical in stopping creating or attributing anything to himself. For us, it was back to becoming a real band, drums, bass and so on. Maybe because we really felt that our Eremite and Aerdt phase with all the machines was exhausted by then.
—You published two albums in 1994, one of them, Perfect Sex with the producer of Sisters of Mercy. Did you like the Sisters? How did he influenced the making of the album?
—Well he didn’t. Dave Allen just loved our music and he asked whether he could produce it. At that time, the Sisters of Mercy were really uncool and out. Our music was much more straight punk rock and not dark at all. I liked the Sisters in the early days with the vinyl EPs and I like their first album with Wayne Hussey as songwriter and on the guitars. Later on, the sound got closer to heavy metal and I could’nt relate to that.
—The Muzak album seems the be opposite of the first one, from the calmed face to the name of the album. Why did you release an acoustic album? Was it a way of ending a period?
—Again it was an endeavour to try out something new. Plus, shortly after we really felt burned out and stopped making music completely.
—What did you do during the period you did not play in Pink Turns Blue?
—Well, in the early 90s Multimedia and the Internet happened. So I really got deeply involved in many multimedia and Internet art projects. For me, music just became too unidimensional and repetitive. It was time to explore something fresh and exciting again.
—Phoenix (2005), your reunion album, was back to the first sound, classic post-punk. How came the idea of a reunion?
—In the beginning, there was a reunion show at the Wave Gotik Treffen in 2003 with Tom playing guitar and Brigid playing keyboards and doing vocals. The show motivated us in doing something together again. But very soon, Tom left the project to rather doing his own thing and Marcus, the original drummer – now a full time visual artist – joined us with sounds, samples and visual concepts. I would say that Marcus had the strongest influence on the sound – combined with Janez who did the mixing.
—You said that Storm (2010) was the end of a creative community. What is difficult to “start” again?
—Well, unfortuanely, right after the Ghost Tour, our drumer Louis Pavlou left the band. He was an important and characteristic member of the band. When he left, the whole project felt deserted. There are many musicians around – but not many that have a musicality that gets a recording or performance to another, special level. So with the replacements, it became hard work to get an album together. The fun went with the team on eyelevel. And that is not good at all.
—The Aerdt – Untold Stories (2016) is your last album, what’s the relation with your album from 1991 with the same name?
—The Aerdt was a very personal album – kind of a solo album. The same accounts for the Aerdt – Untold Stories. So inside it has a lot of parallels. The difference being the arrangement. The Aerdt – Untold Stories is all hand-made real musicians playing live and the Aerdt was mainly computers, my vocals and a few guitars added. In the end, recorded music compared to computer music seems to offer more emotional dimensions to the listener. The communication of human beings performing a song.
—Pink Turns Blue played in Valencia this year, your music was quite popular back in the eighties in this part of Spain. Did you play before there?
—No we didn’t. I always liked Valencia a lot privately. I am a fan of Calatrava and the spirit of the city. The club we played looked much more eighties than Valencia though.
—As Thomas Elbern will be at the W Festival, will it be possible to see you together again? What can we expect of your concert there?
—Well, I didn’t know actually. To be honest, Tom doesn’t like the connection at all. Better don’t ask him about Pink Turns Blue or you’ll get a creepy comment at the minimum. What you can expect: a three piece with a strong connection to the strengths of the band with all the hits. We know the songs people like hearing from us and we love to present them as special as possible. Just to create and share a great evening – connecting souls.
—Can you tell us something of your plans for the future?
—Currently we do quite some live shows to explore the essence of our music. At the same time, we are working on new songs to get an idea how another album – a collection of new songs / soul searching stories could present themselves as a new chapter…