Orkus, 06/1998

Kirlian Camera
On a Sunday in Parma

After a long drive on the dangerous highways of Italy, I finally arrive in Parma. After a few hours, the suicidal driving of the Italians has ceased to get to me, and I just merge into the right lane every time another car threatens to attack.
Now that I've arrived in Parma, I'm looking forward to some nourishment and a quiet seat in a street cafe. I meet Angelo Bergamini and Emilia Lo Jacono in central Parma. The two must have been reading my mind when they suggested we get a bite to eat. Angelo tells me about the lifespan of Kirlian Camera, which has been long and unfortunately characterized by constant setbacks. For example, there was the mid-80s contract with the major label Virgin, during which royalties weren't paid and the line-up changed more than once due to personal differences. Now, on a different note, Emilia tells me that she's almost done with medical school and soon plans to dedicate more time to their music. The band once again appeared with two more members during their latest public appearance - this almost seems to have become a concept in itself. With the release of the 'best of' album "The Ice Curtain", it's finally becoming clear that the band is backed by a long history. One CD of the two-CD set contains songs that are up to 15 years old, while the other CD features new versions of old works as well as brand new tracks. As we chatted about old times, I naturally had to ask the question of all questions: what's with "Pulstar-Hipnosis"? But even this question doesn't silence Angelo, and he answers it for possibly the 100,000th time. As he delves further into history and drops names such as Conny Plank, Trevor Horn, or John Fryer, I lean back in awe and listen to the frontman's remarks.

Orkus: Let's begin with a question about the brand new Maxi CD: it sounds cold, yet at the same time dramatic. I have to say, it's one of the darkest ones that you've ever written. Regardless, you use a modern electronic sound, even almost poppy, and your style diverges more and more from that of other bands. Was there a specific moment in which you decided to take up this style?
Kirlian Camera: Yes, and in this case we had to be extremely aware of the result, since we couldn't let ourselves get lost. I wanted to bring in as much as possible from my own life, and I was in the right mood to do so. I needed a real and honest outlet. The cold, electronic sound best mirrors the cloudy horizon that appeared to me as I first set out to shed some light on my feelings.

O: The lyrics on "Drifting" are more paranoid and harder than in the past. "After Winter" shows a real grotesque side, and then again a dramatic sense of humor. Do you see it this way too?
KC: I only tried to translate my feelings. The lyrics became simpler, and this time, maybe closer to what I really wanted to say. Some things don't require pompous words.

O: Barbara Boffelli's presence in the band has increased. Are you happy with this collaboration? She seems to have become a full-fledged member of Kirlian Camera.
KC: I have a great respect for her. She helps me with my work on Kirlian Camera. She's just right for our music and it's fun to work with her, because she's a person that causes neither stress nor anger, and she really belongs to the band.

O: It's rare to hear effects on Barbara and Emilia's voices. While other bands usually don't skimp on effects, you reduce the vocals to their substance.
KC: I wanted to create a sober atmosphere, because I believe that the vocals must be more direct and warmer than the music. But the end result actually became colder and more moving. There's something unknown and frightening about this release. We were surrounded by a strange atmosphere when we recorded the tracks, and it's precisely this atmosphere which I find so hard to forget. I personally felt that it was best to leave the vocals dry and untouched by effects, especially because the natural voices of both singers aren't cold.

O: "Drifting" is only one of the songs on the newly released double CD "The Ice Curtain". What was your reasoning in choosing these songs, and why did you wait so long to release a 'best of'?
KC: "The Ice Curtain" contains 18 years of our career, and it wasn't so easy to determine a fitting concept for the compilation. For the most part, we decided to use exclusive and non-instrumental material. The majority of the 80s material is present in its original version. Furthermore, we chose a few B-sides and previously unreleased songs. We remixed a few of the old songs, but the only completely new track is "Drifting". The span between songs, such as "Ocean" - which can be best categorized as pop - and our new songs, might shock people. But all of this belongs to the past of Kirlian Camera, which we don't want to deny.

O: You often appear in Germany. Do you believe that the German public is opener to alternative music?
KC: The German public is better than any other. They accept more. All in all there's a huge musical chaos here, because the music industry is inundated with too many unnecessary releases. This is dangerous, because it has the potential of ruining a scene.

O: You are sometimes viewed as a band that makes political and religious statements through lyrics. Why are the statements of Kirlian Camera so controversial?
KC: Some people only want to annoy me. I've never put a political or religious manifesto in my lyrics. It's not my fault that I'm alive - one would have to kill my parents before my birth.

O: You've had many experiences with different labels. Why don't you work with major labels anymore?
KC: They didn't pay any royalties, they were unable to manage an independent band, they constantly wanted to change my style and they weren't interested in our work. Then why? Why would they want to work with us if they didn't like us? Common but true experiences. We were contacted by two major labels in regards to releasing a 'best of'. I think that their methods of operating are laughable. An example: no one at Virgin wanted to put out "Eclipse" as a single, then when we were gone and released the "Eclipse" album and single, Virgin asked us why we didn't give them the chance to press it. The same happened with "Todesengel" and "Desert Inside".

O: I've heard a ton of stories about Kirlian Camera, Hipnosis, and other things. Is it true that the song "Pulstar" became a number one hit in several countries yet you never saw any money for it?
KC: Yes. We went platinum and gold with it, but each of us received only 160 DM. The problem wasn't ZYX records, but the Italian record producer.

O: Is it true that you've worked with Conny Plank and Human League? Tell us more about it.
KC: Not really. I met Conny Plank during the Eurythmics tour in Rome. Our drummer came into contact with Conny, so I got the chance to meet him there. I was pleasantly surprised - to me, Conny was the best producer in the world, and he was really impressed with our work. He knew about our problems with Virgin and offered to help with the production of our material. But then he got sick, and when we came to Koln, his condition worsened. A few weeks later, he died. Human League - yes. I met them in Italy. We spent a night in a restaurant and discussed some projects. The only result is a split single Kirlian Camera / Human League, which was only released as a promo.

O: And what will the future bring? I heard that Kirlian Camera will dissolve, and that you're supposedly starting another band?
KC: Okay. I think we have to clear up a few misunderstandings. It's possible that I'll freeze Kirlian Camera for a while, but I myself am not even sure about this. We're almost at the point of recording that often-announced orchestral album, then we'll stop our recording eventually and play a few concerts, because I really love to play live. After so many years, I wouldn't be opposed to giving the band a break. To allude to the new band... I'm going to form a new band with Barbara and another person. It'll presumably be called "January Zero" and its debut concert will be... in January.

  • Markus Schächter

  • English translation: Stephanie Obodda