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Interview: Kris Baha

by François Zappa

The track “Revolting” was one of the highlights of Australian musician Kris Baha’s gig at Specka a few years ago, one of those performances that sticks in your memory. It’s a perfect sample of the modern EBM we love so much, and it works perfectly both live and DJ’d. It appeared on In Your Arms, the fantastic EP the producer recorded for the highly recommended She Lost Kontrol label. Kris Baha, now based in Berlin, as well as on his own label, has also released on Pinkman, another of the leading labels in modern electronica that we should tell you more about. We are now anxiously awaiting his new adventure Ghosts In The Machine.

Cover photo: John Rohrer

Photo: John Rohrer

—Luckily for your fans, you did not obey your mother and became a doctor. Your mother was an actress and your father was a singer, right? Have they influenced, in any way, your music or your performances?

—You have done your homework. 😊 Yes, that’s right and they then joined forces after my dad realised that he could not keep touring when my brother and I were born. So, they started to produce stage shows together which, they still do to this day. It would be ridiculous for me to say they had no influence as I was already interested in magic when I was five.

—You were a big fan of Rammstein, and even started a cover band. What did impress you of their music? Are you still interested in their music? Don’t you prefer Laibach now?

—I was a fan when I was twelve. What hooked me was their stage show, how they managed to play live electronics as a band and how theatrical, dystopian and crazy the performances were. I first discovered their Live Aus Berlin dvd in 2001 so it makes sense as a 12-year-old to be blown away by it, I guess. I am not a fan anymore, nor interested in what they have been doing since then but they did open the door for Industrial metal for me back then. I’ll be honest: I never got into Laibach either, although I do appreciate them. 

—As you has just said, thanks to Rammstein you got into industrial music, a style that you could not fully grasp at the time as you were still quite young. When did you finally got into it? What are your favourite artists of the style?

—Well, I would say I was able to grasp Industrial metal when I was twelve, but it was Industrial music in general that I was not able to fully understand, although I was listening to Throbbing Gristle. But I was more interested in Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails and then the unfortunate wave of Nu Metal.🤪

—Was there any Australian EBM/industrial scene back at the time? Thinking about it I only remind Severed Heads and they are from the eighties.

—There was a big Minimal Wave/ Post Punk & New Wave scene here in Australia in the eighties. Also, SPK were Australian, an Industrial act that I love.

Back to Rammstein, their mix of metal and electronic got you the idea of juxtaposing styles to create new ones. Do you think that sometimes it just doesn’t work? I am thinking in things like industrial polka or similar. Did it happen to you something similar when trying to mix different things?

—Yes, exactly. I love taking something where it does not belong and clashing it against something else. This interests me, sometimes it does not work but when it does, you are witnessing a metaphor come to life.

—How were the days of running Survivor, your first club? What kind of music were your programming there? Then came Power Station, (the club, we have a question about the label at the end). There the music was more EBM/industrial, right? You said that the public in Australia is not into dark music because of the great weather.

—So, Survivor was the third party series I was co-running. I guess it was the most successful one that Dan (my brother) and I ran. Survivor was Meme culture v.1 and we had no clue at the time. All the flyers were done in the style of a Meme and the culture behind the weekly event was that of early 90’s rave culture / pre-internet that we know of today. Musically it ranged from Detroit/ Berghain Techno, Indie Nudance, Blog House, Disco edits, a 1 hour long opening set of only trance breakdowns (lol) and even Hip Hop, Vapor Wave and Trap. We had crazy stuff like DJs playing in the toilets, called Dunny Disco and a recovery that went until the next day with a Gay club on the top level which you could enter once you were in the building and vice versa for them. It was more of an innocent mega playground, three floors, for everybody. We had Djs like Gessafelstein, Carl Craig, Underground Resistence, Dj Hell, just to name a few – I think all of the above is why it was so successful.

For Melbourne to have a mega club where everybody was family, was a rare feat. The staff were friends with our team, with all of our crew, with the DJs… It was rave culture, it was innocent, but it was also an impressive weekly production/ party which added to a sensory overload experience that nobody else was offering in Australia at that time.

After 2 years we had to move, the venue owner became greedy, and we were tired of not being completely in control, so we downscaled to Power Station which ran for 3 years. It was a night for darker music. Industrial, EBM, Italo, Techno, House, Disco Punk. We ran that for 3 years but eventually just realised we had provided the city of Melbourne 8 years of weekly club nights. It was time to pass the baton, for me to actualise my dreams overseas and for Dan to do the same with his career.

We probably could have kept going with Power Station but unfortunately at that time you had to follow the trends that were already there /that were dictated by the gate keepers, If you don’t follow, you are uncool or left out. It is an unfortunate series of sure bets and not much risk taking which was sad because there are plenty talented musicians / artists out there which is probably why we all moved on eventually. We were really lucky with Survivor being as successful as it was because it was really different, but I remember it took us 6 months before it became popular. To answer the question about good weather, I do believe in general, the quality of life is pretty good for the most part in Australia so dark music just does not fit the climate/ lifestyle.

I know there are a lot of musicians there right now, that are also in the same musical sphere, that make amazing music, like Buzz Kull and HTRK but I bet I know how hard it is for them to only tour in Australia. Our population is not so big and nor is the scene, but it feels like the scene is growing now which is great. Events like Dark Mofo help for darker types of music as well as big bands coming through there like Boy Harsher, Drab Majesty, Molcha Domat, etc.

—You said that you spent a lot of years digging in 80s music looking for something that could blew your mind? Which artists or albums did it? O just what music has blown your mind?

—I tend to gravitate to the 80s and 90s but I think that is just romanticising nostalgia. I also think everybody goes through a romantic nostalgic period of an era they were not fully involved with. Kids now long for the 2000s when they were 5 or 6. For me, listening back to the stuff from the 80s just made me appreciate the first wave of this music. Severed Heads, SPK, Fad Gadget, Hard Corps, DAF – Anything from Dusseldorf actually, which I think was the real breeding ground of EBM that was based around the Ratinger Hof. 

—Your first songs and your first single were with Nick Murray. The music of the single was more disco/house. Was something that interested you at the time? I also read that you had a “trance” period, right?

—I was interested in more “proto” types of house music. Stuff that was a bit rougher. You find a lot of the cross over stuff with Wax Trax/ TRAX out of America which is what was interesting to me at that time. As for the Trance period, yes it was more trance/ gabba/ hardcore, but I was 14-16 years old listening to the stuff that all the kids are listening to again now. It’s kind of funny as it was not really cool back then but is the trendiest thing right now.

—Instead in “Mind your Head” I think you start finding your sound. Something surprising because it’s from the same year as the single we were talking about. Were you trying different styles with every EP?

—Yes I was, actually I think the track I made with Nick was written during the Survivor period and we were meant to release it on the Survivor label we wanted to start just before things started to go south with the club. We then had a break, started Power Station and immediately brought all the tracks over to that. I wrote the majority of Mind Your Head when I first came to Berlin in 2014!

Autora was your EP on CockTail d’Amore. Is your track “Start Over” an homage to Eleven Pond or did your record it without noticing the similarities?

Photo: John Rohrer

—”Start Over” did not start out as an homage to Eleven Pond, it was more of an homage to Hard Corps/ Severed Heads and then Nick told me it sounded like Eleven Pond. I then listened to the Eleven Pond song and realised it was more clearly an homage to that.

In Your Arms was a melancholy work about the death of a friend. Do you believe in the healing power of music? Did it work with you? 

—I do believe in the healing powers of Music. I need to create music pretty much daily to deal with my own anxieties and mental health issues. I feel the tight grips of all that darkness slowly wrapping itself around my neck if I fall out of my routine. It needs to heal me before it can heal others.

Palais, your first LP was quite varied. Did you think that the long format was better to express all your ideas/mix all your styles? Are you going to release a new one soon?

—Yeh and I really wanted a body of work to encompass my transition from Australia to Berlin. Closing the chapter on that life. I feel like that was the main goal with Palais. Even the title reflects leaving an antique theatre of memories. Yes, I will be, with Ghosts In The Machine 😉

The album speaks about alienation, melancholy, greediness, quite some topics for a dance record. Do you try to make people think when they are dancing?

—I generally want people to feel first and to think later if they want to go deeper.

—You have done a lot of remixes, for INHALT, Boy Harsher, Arabian Panther and Randolph and Mortimer, to name a few. What´s your approach to remixing?

—The result keeps changing I guess. Now I only want to make club-ready remixes whereas in the past I was open to making anything as long as it was the direct opposite of what the original was. So, if something was fast and dancey, I would make it slow and less dancey, etc. Even though my result has changed, I still always keep a main element of the song, usually the vocals.

—You done remixes for three Spanish labels lately. First Soil, last year Aspecto Humano and lately MUSA. Are you following the Spanish scene? How do you see it from Berlin?

—I have been lucky to participate in a lot of excellent Spanish events between Madrid/ Barcelona. Big shout out to All Waves & Ombra for bringing out such amazing acts.

You collaborated in Blind Delon’s Discipline? How was it. Do you have any other projects with them?

—It was a long time ago, but I remember recording the vocals in my old studio and I remember the melody pretty much coming right away.

—Some of those remixes I was talking before have been done together with Jensen Interceptor. He is or was your flatmate, right? How is living with another fellow musician? better than living with the lunatic one who inspired “Can’t keep the Fact”?

—Yes, he is my flat mate and long-time pal from Australia. We have known each other for 12 or so years and I feel lucky to be living with friends who don’t drive each other mental, also great to bounce ideas off one another. Yes, it’s kind of triggering to even think about that period of my life living with that psycho. It was also a reflection of the Donald Trump era and the rise of Alt right movements who lie about absolutely everything.

—What happened with your label Power Station? In the last two years you have only released one track. What happened with the Das ding EP you were going to release?

—I think that over the pandemic I realised that I wanted to focus on my own music. There are already a lot of amazing labels that are consistent, I wasn’t, and it was always meant to be a label that just put out music from friends which felt right at the time. We were not functioning like a real label. Also loosing access to pressing plants over covid did not help as we were focused on vinyl as well as digital which was extremely deflating. So, it made sense to pull it back.

—In one of your compilations your collaborated with Autumns. We are currently listening to his music a lot. How was born this collaboration?

—It started by him sending me a bunch of music and there being this sketch of Say When, I fell in love with it and we both spiralled into a shoegaze vortex, talking about how much we love the genre, our favourite bands and then it leading to us collaborating on that idea. I really wanted to work on it, so I produced it, added some extra parts and sung on it. We want to eventually do more like this.

-In the bandcamp information of your last single, Into The Dark, you wrote “reflective of Kris’s current musical direction as he presents himself in a different shade of dark”? According to you, what direction is taking your music?

—The direction I meant was that I would be releasing and touring live more.

—We were really blown away with one of your concerts in Madrid. Sadly, I could not attend the last one with Patriarchy. What’s the secret, according to you, for a good show?

—The secret for me personally is to have a private room where I can warm up properly before playing haha….so I can give my best performance.  

—A few questions about your side-projects. What can you please tell us about Die Orangen? The now trio has released two albums of “Krautback”. How would you define this “style”?

—The style started as a clash of Krautrock in the Australian Outback, thus Krautback! We are moving in a 90’s electronic brit shoegaze direction. We should have some new music out soon 😊

And the new project is called Ghosts In The Machine, right? Can you please tell us more about the concept of this new adventure?

—I was waiting for this question, GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE is a future cyber wave sci-fi concept that is set in two timelines. The future looking back to the now and how we could have corrected our society before the AI take over and strip away our souls, becoming Ghosts In The Machine. GHOSTS IN THE MACHIИE is a direct response to the current AI revolution we are experiencing right now. I have also been getting into a little bit of basic coding and was told by a friend that when anomalies happen in code, it’s referred to as Ghosts In The Machine.

Also, the collaboration with myself is from the POV of a future self, trying to warn me off what I am becoming.

—Having different projects, do you use different gear for them?

—Exactly, I try to limit myself with what I use for each project, so it does not get overwhelming.

—And with AngsLust you have released only an EP. Are we going to see more things of this project?

—Maybe! It’s hard to keep a hold of so many projects.

—How did you live these two last years? You have been more focussed on lives, haven’t you?

—Yeah exactly, although now with the Ghosts project the aim is to keep Dejaying mainly under Kris Baha and Ghosts In The Machine to be live next year on.

—And to end the interview, what are your plans for the future?

In the very near future, I go on a month-long Asia tour which I am extremely excited about! That starts in July. Then I have the Ghosts album which is ready for mixdown right now and a couple of club EP’s. I am very excited about everybody hearing the Ghosts album though. Next year will be a lot of touring from the album.

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