Dancing with the devil
Das Ich's new album is creating a storm with its strong satanic imagery; Bruno Kramm explains why they deliberately aimed to provoke people.
Germans Bruno Kramm and Stefan Ackermann, collectively known as Das Ich, are a pair whose reputation precedes them. They're supposedly unapproachable, scary and, of course, they're not going to turn up! Of the Dark Jubilee line-up, Das Ich was the band nobody believed would play, to be proven very wrong by the full-on performance to which Bruno and Stefan treated the crowd on Monday.
As for being unapproachable and scary, people really need to learn how to separate the image from the reality. Onstage, Das Ich are intense, demonic creatures, spitting and snarling their way through the some of the darkest Germanic EBM around. Backstage, Bruno is cheerful, friendly and incredibly chatty, while Stefan's more reserved attitude seems to have more to do with the fact that his English isn't as good as his bandmate's than any lack of approachability.
Das Ich's new album isn't likely to change their reputation all that much, but releasing an album called "anti'christ" isn't what you do if you want people to see you as their kindly German uncles. For Bruno, it's like completing the circle, they are returning to their roots, finally creating the true follow-up to their debut album "Satanische Verse". As he points out, they've done quiet a lot of experimental work in recent years, the "Die Liebe" collaboration with metal band Atrocity, the "Morgue" album based around the poems of Gottfried Benn, which he describes as more of an Indian music project, and the "Das Inner Licht" soundtrack album, all of which took them away from the true Das Ich style.
"We thought, now, when we want to start again doing new Das Ich stuff, and I'm pretty sure that, in a few years, we'll have the next album, we thought we should first find the way back to the beginning of the circle of Das Ich. And 'cause of that, I think the songs of the new album are really in a way like the old Das Ich stuff, but with the sound of today."
He adds that "Propheten" was originally going to be called "anti'christ", but they were frightened of the reaction that name would provoke from Christian groups and the likes. However, since the attacks on the World Trade Centre, they feel that the time is right for such a strong statement.
"There is a really strange change in foreign politics, especially when you look how the strongest country in the world starts to talk in symbols which we thought had been buried a long time ago. These symbols of good and evil, this is something that really scares us, 'cause these symbols were used in times like a 100 years ago to aggravate people, to make them ready for war instead of having discussions and, let's say, intercultural exchange. And it's really frightening that today, in this modern global world, it starts again to work with these symbols."
Their aim with the album is to play with the symbols of good and evil, exposing the relativity involved in concepts that are dependent on your point of view. Bruno explains that, if you read their lyrics and understand them, there is a clear biblical concept to the words, but they also contain another, more personal meaning. He cites the track 'Vater', which is about God the father on one hand, but their own fathers on the other.
There is a third reason why they chose such an in your face title, which is to spark off a debate and counter the way the Gothic scene has recently been treated in Germany. The politicisation that followed the recent murder in Germany by a couple of "vampiric Goths" has led to the scene being regarded as evil and satanic. They hate the fact that a young Gothic boy or girl in a small town in Germany has to fight against these assumptions.
"We use this title also 'cause we know the mass media will definitely start to talk with us in public about this. The good thing for us is we have a stage to talk about this, to go further than just being on the surface. After all these many years, we have never been satanic people. So, after this long time, we just got bored with this stupidity, from media that you're always crucified as something satanic simply by the fact that you're wearing only black and that you're not into the mainstream."
He's not too keen on getting too close to the mainstream himself and isn't a fan of the way the futurepop scene is doing just that, drawing on the more accessible sounds of '80s EBM than the darker and more extreme '90s variety. He argues that a few bands making adjustments to their sound now, to give them a better chance in the mainstream, could lead to a different situation in four or five years. He sees a lot more bands be doing the same thing then and a scene be made up of people who are only interested in this mainstream sound. However, he recognises that the scene changes every four years or so, something he's seen happen quite a few times since he was 16 (he's 35 now).
"I'm not so scared about the possibility that the whole scene could change into something real mainstream like Britney Spears. I see that there's a big branch of the scene that's really influenced by the bands, which started in the '80s, but also in the bands which started in the '90s. So, I think what's the most interesting thing that the scene got, in the last years, more diverse and diverse and that's, I think, the best thing that can happen to this."
Das Ich flirted with elements of the new scene with their remix album, "Re_Laborat", but Bruno rejects any suggestion that the remixes influenced the sound of "anti'christ". He points out that, as he owns a big recording studio and records many bands, if he was influenced by all the music he encounters, Das Ich would end up being a jazz band.
"Concerning this remix album, it had just one interesting point for us, to see how bands that came after us got influenced by ourselves and then started to rework and recreate our material, that was the most interesting thing. But less in the sense of getting influence, more in a sense of seeing what this new kind of scene is now doing with our stuff."
He welcomes the variety of bands on the Dark Jubilee line-up because it shows young Goths that the whole scene is really diverse and that there are so many styles where from they can pick some interesting ideas.
"Ok, it's a small festival in comparison to festivals like Wave-Gotik-Treffen, but from the basic idea of having a really mixed show, all cultural branches of the scene, it's really fantastic. We really like to be part of this Dark Jubilee, not of the Queen's jubilee, but of Dark Jubilee."
by Girl the Bourgeois Individualist