Published on Thursday, 06 April 2017 17:26
Interview with: Stephan Groth
Conducted by: T.V.
Who doesn't know the name Apoptygma Berzerk? It's maybe one of the most important and influential electronic rock bands coming from Europe in the last 20 or more years. The band was formed by musical chameleon Stephan Groth in 1989, releasing the electropop/EBM oriented debut album, Soli Deo Gloria, in 1993, followed by darker 7 in 1996, then the groundbreaking experimental and lighter Welcome To Earth followed in 2000, Harmonizer in 2002 was leaning more towards softer synthpop style, and their 2005 album, You And Me Against The World, represented an almost complete change in style for the band. It featured a more mainstream, indie rock-oriented sound, and the complete departure from the band's traditional electric synthpop and EBM roots. With the release of Rocket Science in 2009 Apoptygma Berzerk is still going on the rock vibe while keeping close with synthpop sound like its predecessor. In October last year Stephan Groth made a very big surprise once again and almost shocked his fans with a new album, Exit Popularity Contest, with which he distils the essence of carefully selected pioneers of electronic sound to construct a classic yet refreshingly contemporary sound. Varied and vital, it brings instrumental music back into the spotlight, and after the wildly enthusiastic audience reaction it appears he has tapped into a rich seam of electronic pleasure for a new generation as well as older aficionados. Groth pays homage to his roots through emulating the analogue soundscapes of innovators like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Klaus Schulze, and the driving motorik krautrock rhythms of Neu!, Cluster and La Duesseldorf, all filtered through his own unique Scandinavian sensibility. In doing this he has created a vibrant, colourful 21st century palette on which to blend these classic influences from the Golden Age of electronic music. Exit Popularity Contest demonstrates an admirable musical purity and sincerity, channeling the best of the past to forge a path into the future. The album was also very well received by our readers as it placed on 8th position in our Terra Relicta Dark Music Awards 2016! But Exit Popularity Contest is not only that, it holds a very strong message, a very important one which should be heard by everybody. If you are interested in knowing more please read this very insightful and in-depth interview with Apoptygma Berzerk mastermind and founder Stephan Groth.
T.V.: Hi Stephan! Let's start with this. Recently you released the highly anticipated new album, Exit Popularity Contest, and to tell you the truth I was pretty surprised and shocked about the change of style if compared to your previous two albums. So, how do you feel about it, are you satisfied with how it turned out?
T.V.: Before you were signed mostly to big labels, like Columbia, etc, now I see written on the CD Hard Drive. What can you tell me about this label? I never heard of it before...Stephan
Stephan: I feel awesome and I think that I finally accomplished something important. Like you just said that you were shocked by the style change and unfortunately today to make people get attention you need to do really crazy stuff, because people are used to everything and most of them don't care about much. For me as an artist is my job to be in the frontline and make people to pay attention. So, when I put out a new album or a new song and people don't pay any attention then we have a huge problem here. People are getting less and less interested in art and people are less interested in using their brain and what they are interested about is what is a new trend on twitter. And of course this is not a very good direction.
T.V.: I completely understand what you want to say and can't agree more. Now, it's nothing new for Apoptygma Berzerk to drastically change the style, you did it also before. Those who follow have already been aware of this change, it was evident from the three EP's that you've released before the album and all of the songs from those EP's are featured on it. So, in a way it's not really a new stuff on this album?
Stephan: No, I did it gradually, on purpose. In the beginning it was not meant to be an album, it was just something that I wanted to do at the moment, because out of a sudden I started to listen to a lot of old European electronic music from the 70s and so on. Then I made the first EP more or less just for me and my friends, very limited vinyl release, hand numbered, like a present to my hardcore fan base, and I didn't expect that everybody will just love it. So not many people heard it. I thought it was cool in a way, but then again, when I got more and more messages from people asking me to release it also digitally, not only on physical format, and you know, as an artist you want your music to be heard by as many people as possible. So, at the end I found out that it's like a concept and it'll be the best to make some kind of a compilation album of this EP's as long as it was physical only. That's when all the fun started, because in the record industry today and in the world today it's like not doing anything and you did it all, it's not very smart and also financially it's very stupid.
T.V.: Yeah, like you said before, you must make attention. Tell me, is Apoptygma Berzerk now a one-man band only with you as a sole member?
Stephan: Apoptygma Berzerk was always my band, like for example Nine Inch Nails was always Trent Reznor plus some friends who were in and out of the band. My brother, Jonas, who is still in the band was with me since the second album. In the years he was also on stage with me, before that he was only working in the studio. So, he was a studio musician for me for many many years and then in 2010 he joined us on stage as well. At this very moment we have also Ted Skogmann on drums, who actually was the first drummer in Apoptygma Berzerk, he was playing drums on Welcome To Earth and Harmonizer and so on, then he quit and played in some other bands and then he came back around six years ago. He is an old and a new member at the same time. There is also Angel (Audun Stengel), he's the second guitarist in Apop, who also quit in 2009 and is now also back. Apoptygma Berzerk was always like me and a lot of friends. Sometimes my friends are doing their own bands or other bands, or they stop touring or whatever but they are always my friends still. I mean, we are still in contact, we are still doing the same thing, we live pretty close in a small place here in Norway.
T.V.: But wasn't the new album made solely by you if I'm not mistaken?
Stephan: Yes and no. My brother was on board for a few tracks and also John Costelo from England was helping me out on one of the songs, then Emil Nikolaisen of Serena Maneesh played guitar on the last song on the album "Rhein Klang". So I had a few people who were on there. But our drummer Ted was not on the album, because there are no real drums on it, also Angel is not there because there are no guitars either, except for "Rhein Klang".
T.V.: Have you already played these new songs live? If you did it I wonder how was the response from the audience?
Stephan: We have played few of them in October 2015. The response was amazing. There was a Kraftwerk book been put out by a very famous Norwegian book writer and he was having kind of a promotion thing for it. He was giving like a two hour lecture about Kraftwerk and how electronic music started out in Germany. He was doing it in a house book center and they thought that they will need a bit more of action there because it was Saturday night, so they called me and asked if I wanted to come and play a few songs after his lecture. I was really interested into this because I never did something like that before, I never played at the art center before, and also I think that what I'm promoting right now, and for many years actually, is that I like if people use their brains. I like when people listen to music and learn something, that it basically stimulates them intelectually. Ok, I like some brain dead pop music as well, because when I go out and have some drinks I don't want to listen to intellectual music, I want to listen to whatever is groovy. But when I'm at home I want to listen to something inspiring, to something that is giving me a thought and makes me pay attention. So, for this Kraftwerk book thing I thought it was a perfect mix, you go out, you sit down and for two hours you have an intellectual Kraftwerk speech, and after that you have one hour of electronic music played in the style of Kraftwerk. I played Apop songs, but I remixed them so they sounded in a way like Kraftwerk. I also played a few cover versions of old Kraftwerk songs as well and people totally loved it. People absolutely were going crazy, it was so loud, they just loved it. That was one of the things to make me realize that maybe I should make the whole album of this kind of music, because it is true to my roots, that's from where I'm coming from musically and at the same is taking a big step away from what I was doing lately, but still being true to the roots at the same time. It worked! Of course you can't please everybody, there will always be people who will say that it's not electronic or rock enough, it's not enough bla bla bla, they don't like my hair colour and you know, always will be like that and that's ok. But, people who love music and love art are more positive towards Apop now than were for many many years. Those who only want dance or rock music are of course not so happy, but the ones who generally love electronic music, they are happy with it.
T.V.: But I believe that on bigger stages it'll be difficult to play songs from your last album, I believe that there people will hear also songs from your previous two album, Rocket Science and You And Me Against The World...
Stephan: Yeah, when we play big shows we are still doing it with same line-up like we've done it for many years now, with guitars, drums, and playing songs from all of the albums, but when we do small shows, special things, then we can play some of this electronic stuff. On the big stage we are still doing the traditional rock setlist, that has become our trademark and we have to do it.
T.V.: I was also always quite fascinated by lyrics of yours, they are always very critical in a way and absolutely makes the one who read them to reflect about. I do miss the lyrics on the new album Exit Popularity Contest. On the other hand you say quite enough with the title of the album, song titles and of course with the artwork.
Stephan: Exactly! That is what I try to do with all the song titles and by everything that is written inside the CD cover. So, everything that is there is not by mistake, it's very calculated. Everything that is written is kind of lyrics, even though that there is no voice to sing them, but the lyrics are written there for the music. As well the pictures, everything is connected there and there's a huge story behind all this. You know the guy with a mask on the artwork? It's a self biography in a way, I'm not 100% but it's a story about me. It's a story about how I feel when I'm exiting the popularity contest. Now you must find out what the popularity contest is, because it can be many things. One of the things that it's is how this this world has become. This whole world with Facebook, I mean Facebook has some good things, but it has turned everything into popularity contest. The same is with all those reality shows on television, I don't know how it is where you live but here is crazy, is like everything is one big popularity contest. If you just see what we have gone through recently with Hillary, Trump, the elections in USA, is a madness, it's a big TV show, a reality TV show, and we are all living in a big reality TV show. So, this biography can be called exit reality show in a way. But when I say Exit Popularity Contest it's more, there's more behind it. There are all this things that I want to leave, I don't want to be a part of it anymore. It's the same in the record music industry, which I think has gone to shit. You must be old enough to remember how it was back in the days. You must remember how it was when an album like Violator of Depeche Mode came out, right? When was the last time that an album like that came out? It never happened anymore! When was the last time when we had an album like Sgt. Pepper of The Beatles or like Dark Side Of The Moon of Pink Floyd? It's not happening anymore for many many reasons of course, but one of the reasons is that the record industry has just become a joke and I'm also exiting that, I'm done with that, I have finished of being a part of this stupid industry who don't understand anything about art, where the only thing that is interesting is to rip off people to get their money and produce crap music that is ruining our kids intelectually. I can just say, "bye, bye, I'm out of here"! It's hard in a way, because it's a world that I've been living in for many years and is the world on which I depend on, this world is paying my rent, my food and for my living. As much as I hate this world I'm dependent on it, but I try to leave it as best as I can. One way would be to just sit down and complain all day, I'm not doing that, instead of this I'm putting out an album that is the opposite of what they want and that is my answer to this situation.
: Hard Drive is my own label. The first album that we put out was I think Welcome To Earth
, I can't remember now. We also released bands like Echo Image
, Computer Girl
and some other stuff in the 90s. Older records were always licensed by Hard Drive to Sony or Columbia.T.V.: Ok, I see. Now, let's return again to reality shows that we talked about before. What do you think is the main reason that those shows became so very popular? I think that everything started with Big Brother, Survivor and such stuff. Now we have a reality show almost out of everything... Do you think that people simply don't have their lives, don't think with their brains anymore? Stephan
: I think that there is already a hint in what you just said. The first show of those to become so very popular was Big Brother. Now, from where does the name and who is Big Brother? Is a fictional character and symbol in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It's a book about how the government takes the control over humans, how humans feel, think and they take over their emotions. So, Big Brother is this guy or the camera who's always watching you and I think this has been planned for the whole time to make people feel that they are always under observation, so that can control them. I think that idea is also to make people not to realize what is reality and what is on television. They are blurring the line between reality and fantasy, so that people don't understand what is what, to make this big blurr, to make people think that "online" is reality. If I have 5000 friends on Facebook, which is the limit, and I maybe know 1% of them, the rest are my "friends" so to say that I don't know, I never meet them properly, but we got used to say, "oh, I have so many friends,... bla, bla, bla,...". Because of how many
friends people have on Facebook, or how many likes they get, they feel popular, everything is measured by that. If do I have a good life depends on how many likes I have! This is terrible and it means that everybody else is in charge of you being successful or not. And if you read inside the CD cover of Apop new album you'll read this story about this character who has left. The whole music industry has been rigged, everything is already designed who's gonna be the big act, who's gonna be rich, and who's not going to be, who's gonna win, who'll be in the charge, who's gonna be in the big posters in the record stores, everything is designed and most of this designs come out from who has the most money. Then I found out that if I keep losing all this time, Apoptygma Berzerk
will always lose in the big picture because somebody else made the rules. So what I did is, and I thought, fuck off, what about if I quit playing by their rules and I make rules by myself. Then I'll always win, because I made the rules, and that's what I did. And now I'm a much happier person than I was ten years ago when I was still playing by those rules, when I let the whole system decide if I'm enough successful or nor, if I'm happy or not, like, "oh, did I get 55 likes or did I get 56 of the, ohhh...", I just stoped caring. Now I'm making my own rules, so one of the rules is for me to be successful, but what is success? Is it having a lot of money? Is it having a lot of girls? What I found out, because I was trying a lot of things through the years and I meet a lot of people who have a lot of money, but they are never more happy than I am. I found out that money is not the key to happiness. Success is what you define what is success for yourself and I found out that I want to be happy, I want to make art and I want to give something back to the world. I want to give more that I take, that's what makes me happy. And it changed my life, which is also another exit popularity contest. Instead of having people opinions and likes, I decided that if I do something that I'm happy with, if I can go to bed every night and think that I made a really cool piece of art in the studio, that's what I say it's success.T.V.: So we can say that Exit Popularity Contest is in a way also a self cleansing album?Stephan
: Yes, very much! I don't like to preach to other people, telling them what to do or how to run their life, they should figure it out by themselves. But, it's my duty to show the way. If something has worked for me than I think is my duty as an artist to let other people know, so maybe they can learn something.T.V.: Absolutely! Lets go back to the album. There's the remix of the old hit of yours, "Until The End Of The World", which original version was released in 2002 on Harmonizer album and I wonder why did you made a remake of this very song?Stephan
: This was because of the Kraftwerk
book thing that I told you about earlier. So, one of the songs that we played after that book speech was "Until The End Of The World", but made in a Kraftwerk
style, like mid 80s Kraftwerk
. I was thinking how would this song sound like if Kraftwerk
made it and I tried to make something that Kraftwerk
would have liked. People really liked it when we played it at that book thing. So, then we released it on the 12" vinyl named Xenogenesis
and we also made a flexi disc. I don't know for you, but I haven't seen a flexi disc for about 20 years and I thought that would be a cool thing to do. Then we thought that we should put the song also on the album and there it is like a bonus song. There's an instrumental version and extended version as a bonus track with vocals.T.V.: The music on Exit Popularity Contest, beside being vintage with all those retro electronic elements, it has as well plenty of modern elements. Now I wonder if this album means to you a travel into the past or it's more a showcase of future orientation for the band?Stephan
: It's both. It's going back to my roots and it's going into the future at the same time. I come from Kraftwerk
or Tangerine Dream
world...T.V.: I hear also some elements that can be compared with OMD...Stephan
: Oh, I love OMD
, they are one of the most important bands for me, but one of the things that is most important about OMD
is that they are very inspired by Kraftwerk
. I love OMD
and they are one of the bands that I collect records from. The more that I listen to Kraftwerk
the more I understand OMD
. So you are absolutely right about the OMD
influence in my music, but OMD
gets even better when you know Kraftwerk
, because then you can better understand what they are doing. I also grew up with music of Jean-Michel Jarre
for example and with music by John Carpenter
. It's important for me to make music that will spark an interest in the listener to checking out the things that I'm interested in. So, if I say in an interview that I'm inspired by Klaus Schulze
or Tangerine Dream
, then I hope that people will go to check their music out to find what this is about. And when they'll hear the old music of Tangerine Dream
or Jean-Michel Jarre
or whatever then I think they will understand Exit Popularity Contest
even more.T.V.: I know that, and in my youth, when musicians mentioned who are their influences or inspirations, I had to search for thoise bands and I discovered many bands that then became my favorite musical acts...Stephan
: Yeah, me too! And I think that this is very important!T.V.: Apoptygma Berzerk went through many stages, from EBM oriented music, to futurepop, synthpop, indie rock and yet more. How would you describe the style you are playing now?Stephan
: There's a big difference on this album with almost everything that I ever made before. On my other albums except for the very first one, I always tried to make or invent something new, while on this new album I didn't try to do that. I actually tried to be very true to something old.T.V.: Yes, but still in a way it's something new...Stephan
: Exactly! And that's the funny part, because in trying to not be new, I ended to be true to something that is not normal to be at the moment. So it ended up to be a new thing. You have those inspiration sources which became a new thing. But you know, I tried as much as I could to make things sound like Kraftwerk
, Jean-Michel Jarre
or whatever. I did not try to invent a new style here at all. It was not a purpose of this album. And also when I started Apoptygma Berzerk
I was not interested to make something new, I wanted to sound like Nitzer Ebb
, Front 242
or The Cassandra Complex
, something like that. I did not want to sound like me, I wanted to sound like them. When I became a bit more mature, from the 7
album on, I started to find my own sound. With this album, Exit Popularity Contest
, I think I have gone a full circle, like a time travel thing, where I want to sound like my heroes again. And that's the beauty of art, because even though that I tried to sound like Kraftwerk
, a part of me was still shining through. The part of me that I put in there, if you know Apop very good, my kind of melodies and my kind of sound, you'll still hear it in there and that's so beautiful, because I put a little piece of myself in every song that I make.
T.V.: The songs on new album are also much longer that we were used of Apop from before, some of them almost epic.Stephan
: It's because when you don't have any vocals it takes a longer time to tell a story. When you have vocals and you have words, then it's very easy to tell the story. So if you don't have lyrics therefore you must play on the emotional thing, it's very difficult. This is the first instrumental album that I ever did and it's very difficult for me to talk without actually saying anything.T.V.: I understand what you mean and in a way it is also a bit avantgardish if we can say so. In my opinion you were walking a very thin line between risking to become too monotone or very extravagant. You avoid the monotomy by composing the songs with varied elements, several mood changes...Stephan
: Yes, absolutely it's also avantgarde. For the next part of your question I must say that everything is about arranging and constructing, it's something that I love to do. It takes a lot of time. I used to listen to a lot of techno music and I still do sometimes, and one of the things in this music is that it sounds very monotone, like if it's the same all the time but in general it's not. You have little changes all the time so it'll appeal to your brain, that's interesting. I'm having in my music this kind of little changes all the time, but you cannot detect them right away, but your brain will like it. It's strange.T.V.: It's strange, I had very mixed feelings during the entire album, but I think that this is the point of it. On the other side I'm a huge fan of your albums Rocket Science and You And Me Against The World. You always released some nice interesting yet captivating video clips to support the songs and albums, now I wonder if you plan to release any videos for new songs?Stephan
: We made some little teasers that are available on YouTube, just little art pieces. Something was shoot in Dusseldorf (Germany), something in Los Angeles (USA), just little pieces of random weird stuff. The thing is that I don't think that this kind of a concept is going to be a moving picture thing, I think it's better to be a still photo thing. At this very moment I'm working with several different photographers who are making some very exciting things, I don't want to say much about it, but there will be some very nice photos coming out, probably in a book form, I don't know yet, but we are working on something together that will be very cool and tied to this record.T.V.: You always worked with many different musicians and artists, and as I'm also a black metal fan I found out that you even worked with bands like Satyricon or Mayhem for example...Stephan
: You know, Norway is a very small country where everybody knows each other, more or less, at least if you're a musician. You are just one phone call away from all the musicians in the whole country. When I grew up I was so lucky, in the 80s and in the 90s, here the scene was very small, also the black metal thing was so small back then, it couldn't really exist on its own, it did in a way, but you had also other metal genres in there. Yet everything was coexsisting with the punk rock scene and also with electronic scene. So, a lot of people who brought this black metal scene up are also into electronic music as well. For example, Mortiis
, with who I worked recently. I did a remix of his song and you know that he was in black metal bands, then he started to do his own weird industrial thing, but he's a huge electronic fan. He showed me so much music, he has been very important for me. He showed me a lot of early electronic music from Germany for example, really a lot of stuff. In a word he's a very close friend of mine. But also Øystein Aarseth, known in the metal scene as Euronymous, the former singer lately guitarist of Mayhem
who got killed, was also a close friend of mine. Actually in 1991 I went with him to see Kraftwerk
in Oslo. He was also very much into Tangerine Dream
, Klaus Schulze
, into all that German electronic stuff, he liked that very much. He had one foot in the black metal scene and another in the synth/electronic scene. A lot of people don't know this, but it's the truth. In the early days when I started to make records everybody in the Norway hated it, except for the metal crowd, so the only places where I could sell Apoptygma Berzerk
stuff was in the metal record stores, like in the very famous Helvete store in Oslo. That's why there's a connection with me and Darkthrone
, Dimmu Borgir
,... Our former keyboard player Geir Bratland is playing with Dimmu Borgir
for the last 10 years. Not many people are living here but it's a lot of musicians here. Metal is a very big thing, electronic music is not so big, but it's still quite a good scene in Norway. We all know each other, we've all been to the same parties.T.V.: You know that when I was a teenager I've run a fanzine and I had interviews with both, Euronymous and Burzum, just before that shit happened...Stephan
: Oh really, very interesting. Do you know the Slayer magazine? One of the most important magazines back then and the man who runs it is a very close friend of mine. There's a lot of history in such magazines and fanzines. Ok, Burzum
is one of the guys I never meet, ok, maybe I meet him but I never talked to him. Euronymous was killed on my birthday. I was at the party, very drunk and I was walking home in the very late night hours and when I walked past the gas station they brought the morning papers, they put them in the stand outside and on the front page it was written that he has been killed. I was shocked, that's not so good memory.T.V.: As we are already in those years, I must ask you how do you feel like a musician a difference between late 80s, early 90s and now?Stephan
: Ok, you and I are almost the same age, so we come from the same background, we are from the album generation. When I was 15 I was delivering newspapers, that's how I made my money, it was not a lot, but I could afford one record in a month. I went to the record store and there were probably ten records that I wanted, but I could only afford one. So, what happened is that I invested everything that I earned into one album, so the real judgement had to be made in the record store. Then I went home and I was listening to this album all day and all night, I read every single letter in the booklet, backwards and forwards, I checked out everything it was said in there. Then I talked with my friends about it, things like who's the producer, what's the name of a guest musician there, whatever,... We
were so very interested, because everything was so exciting and we loved that one album we got every month, we paid so much attention to it. This is the culture in which we grew up with. Then, looking at today, when nobody gives a shit about an album anymore, it has to be free of course. Today good art is expected to be for free, but the thing is that it's not. Nothing of quality is ever free. It's an error and this actually means that everything that is for free is shit. In my way of thinking anything that is for free is worth nothing. I have a younger brother, he's 15 years younger than me, he likes a lot of the same music as I do and I remember talking with him around 10 years ago about it and he showed to me some songs that I should listen to and since I liked some of the songs I asked him about the names. He said some strange names and I figured it out those were the names of people who compiled that compilation, so he did not even understand that it was a mix CD for some DJ, he did not understand that songs are not made by this very DJ. I was like shocked! He did not understand anything and that was an eye opener for me because it made me realize that many people have more songs on their hard drive than I have in my record collection. But they don't love them, it's just entertainment. It's just back to reality movie thing, quick fix, just like eating at Mc Donalds. There's no love, they don't love this music. The only way that you can love an album is if you have worked for it, if you have paid all of your newspaper delivery money to buy something and you really invest time into an album and start to learn to know it. It's the same when you go out and if you meet a girl, the only way to have a good relationship with another person is if you invest time, you do stuff together and you hang out, eat together, go on a walk together, do all this things together. Only then you'll start to understand this other person, that's how you can get something of value. If you just listen to 100 mp3's while you are on Facebook chating with your friends you are not investing any time into it, you are not giving it any attention, it doesn't have any worth. That was a long answer to your question, but today the value of art and the value of the album as an art form is about to be lost.T.V.: I absolutely agree with you! I can almost recognize myself in your words. All that charm of discovering music has gone somewhere into the ashes. There's so much music released these days, as a music journalist and a reviewer I get at least ten different promo albums, simply too much for listening to all of them. The thing is that everybody can do an album just with his computer...Stephan
: But that is a good thing, also a bad thing, because if everybody can do it than we have a problem, who's to decide if it's shit or if it is good.T.V.: You are right, but we have to go through so much music to find out good stuff. There's so much soulless music, it's time consuming. Everybody just wants to make music, or something what is popular in the very moment, no matter what, like for example now here in Slovenia is a big trend to be a cook, there are so many reality shows on TV with this thematics.Stephan
: It's a part of the reality world. If you look on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or anything, you'll find out that now everybody is a superstar. Everybody is a musician, everybody is a model, everybody is a photographer, a video maker, a guitarist, a cook, everybody is blablabla. And for all those people who don't want to sit down and learn how to play a guitar, we give them a X-box or playstation, and they play in a rock band, learning in a bad way, all this is bullshit. People have to wake up and I think that you as a music journalist have a huge responsibility, just like me as an artist, to tell the younger generations what is good and what is shit. It's very important because if we don't do it nobody's going to do it and they will never understand what good music is, it will never be exposed to them. They will never have an experience of coming home with a new album, sit down and just listen to it for the whole day and night, going crazy about the lyrics, sing along, this amazing magic that happens when you find your favorite album. They will never get it because they are too busy playing World of Warcraft or they are too busy having fake friends on Facebook. That's a huge problem.
T.V.: I know, but there's a problem, because when you try to explain for example how you enjoyed in albums back then, most of them just say that you are a crazy old guy and that you don't know a shit about modern stuff. Stephan
: That's why you can't just beat them in the head and tell them what is right and what is wrong, you can't do it like that, you have to show them what is a real deal and is your choice if you'll play World of Warcraft or listen to this album, do what you like but this is gonna give you something of value down the road, you can't force them into anything. It's like if you have children, you can't force them to it broccoli or tomatoes, I mean, you have to make them understand that if they'll eat this is what their body needs and it's gonna be good for a long run. If you just ban your children to eat chocolate then they will eat it all the time when they leave home, because you must let them choose. I'm making an alternative here, yes, I think that the situation like it's now is shit, but here's something of value, feel free to enjoy it, it's gonna cost you 20€ unfortunately and yet you'll have to sit down and invest time in this, and at the end of the journey you'll gonna wake up as a smarter and richer person. Not more rich in money, but more rich in experience and in value. I think it's very important to understand, what is also said inside the booklet of new CD, "if you can't hold it you don't own it", and mp3 if you understand this is not worth anything. Holding a piece of art in your hands is worth something, a piece of shit is not worth anything, so you must be careful what you buy.T.V.: Now, if we put aside the new album of yours, tell me which of the previous albums is your favorite and why?Stephan
: I think that Rocket Science
is probably my favorite record of all the records that I made, including the new one, I think it's the best album I have ever made. On the other hand I think that Welcome To Earth
is probably the most important album I ever put out, because so much happened because of that album. Anyway, if I'm looking back I can say that Rocket Science
is the most complete album, an album where I really found my own sound, I mean, with that album I think that I invented the sound that is totally me and now I know my sound. So, now on the new album I was more than anything experimenting with other stuff, but I
can tell you that the next album will be like a mixture of both, Rocket Science
and Welcome To Earth
. It's a big process for me now, to sit down and think over what I'm going to do next. Writting a song is one thing, if you want to perform it as a black metal band, if you want to sing it with acoustic guitar or make a synthpop song, it doesn't matter, a song is a song, the thing is how you'll going to lift the song up, and that's the decision that I have to make now on this new album and I think I'll land somewhere between Rocket Science
and Welcome To Earth
, but still with a little twist.T.V.: So you are already working on new songs and the new album, good to know that!Stephan
: Yes, I'm working on it for more than three years actually. I started to work on it just after the Rocket Science
tour, but then I had some issues in my private life, I went through divorce, then my father died and I had to take care of my mother, yeah, a lot of shit happened. I was not emotionally ready to work on new music. There are more important things in life than music and I discovered something that made me realize the whole popularity contest thing. Because, when my father died, he was also a musician, we were always very good friends, he respected me a lot, but we always disagreed on everything, but we loved each other, he always told me that I was an idiot but he did it in a lovely way. He tought me a lot about music, a lot about religion, philosophy, history, about important things in life, about love and how to be a good father. So, when he died, he was only 68, he died of cancer, the last year when he was alive it was terrible, he was almost not even a human anymore. So, what I realized in this process, if we are talking about art, value and so on, the real value, money is bullshit, there are real values like gold, silver, stocks, buildings,... there's a lot of stuff that has real value, art is one of them, it has a value. What I discovered after going through this with my father is that even if you own all the money in the world, you can't buy more time. Time is the most scarry thing in your life, even if you're a billionaire you can't buy another hour, you'll die when you'll gonna die and that can be pretty early if you die of cancer like my father did. So I got a new perspective on this out of time Exit Popularity Contest
, because when I stopped thinking and focusing on money and rather focusing on how do I spend my time. Do I spend my time with people I love, do I spend it in the studio producing good songs, good art, or am I wasting my time on Facebook? I realized that I wasted half of my life while doing bullshit, and I was thinking how can I buy just 10 minutes and talk with my dad for the last time, having a coffee or a dinner with him. I would pay a lot of money for that but it's not possible. So than I realized that what I was doing all this time is bullshit, instead of having dinner with my father. How many times he called me and invited me over and I was like, oh I can't do it tonight because I'm busy, I'm gonna get drunk at some bullshit party. It gave me a new perspective on time and I realized that time is currency, is all you have, and Facebook is eating up your time. You think that Facebook is for free? No way! It's stealing your life and that's what I want that people will understand, and I hope that people will not to have through what I went through to understand this. It's much easier that I just tell them that this is how it is.T.V.: Regarding to that, some weeks ago I went out for a coffee and behind the table close to mine there was a family, mother, father and two children. The only one who wasn't looking at the smart phone or a tablet, checking Facebook, Twitter or playing games on it was the mother, and when she tried to talk with children or her husband they simply ignored her, even gave her bad looks. I was just looking at them and said to myself, what the fuck happened to this world, there are no more any normal relations...Stephan
: It's insane, the world has gone totally insane. You have a choice if you want to be a part of it or you gonna exit.T.V.: I think that you explained pretty much everything behind the meaning Exit Popularity Contest. Tell me now, are you planning a tour or something in the near future?Stephan
: We are working on some touring, mostly in the US, there will be some festivals in Europe coming up, but there will be no real tour in Europe before the next album is released.T.V.: And when can we expect the new album to be released?Stephan
: Very soon, like I said before I was working on it for a long time, the songs are written, I need some lyrics that are not finished yet and I need to dress it up, find the proper sound for it. I don't know at this point how quick it'll be, but I'm very far in the process and I think it's gonna be a great album.T.V.: I'm really looking forward to hear it! Now let us finnish slowly. Thank you for your time, for all these very insightful and in-depth answers that you gave. I feel very honoured! I hope that people who'll read this words will learn something out of this. The last words are all yours. Stephan
: Of course I would like to advise people, not only to those who love Apoptygma Berzerk
, but all the music lovers, lovers of electronic music, to check out the new Apop album, Exit Popularity Contest
, and see if they can experience and get a little glimpse of what it used to be back in the days when everything was cool and everything was good. The whole point of this album is to let people experience what it used to be like and hopefully have the younger generation to experience how it was back then when you and I were spending the newspaper's money to buy albums. And it was very nice talking with you Tomaz, thanks to you as well.
Apoptygma Berzerk links: Official website, Facebook, YouTube