INTERVIEW WITH ALBIN JULIUS (DER BLUTHARSCH)

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2010 issue.

 

Considering the fact that Der Blutharsch, in following the line of your former project The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud, releases all of its albums without song titles & known lyrics, do you perceive Der Blutharsch’s releases as Eco’s “opera aperta”, in which you, more or less, force the listener to find his own view & interpretation of your work? It is noteworthy that throughout Der Blutharsch’s discography, the aesthetics & visual elements have been omnipresent; has there ever been a core concept or central idea that Albin Julius wanted to put forth through his music & did it change with time or was it “art for art’s sake”?

Well, first I have to say that I wouldn’t consider my music art – I do not think music is “art” in its classical sense, at least not for me. It is more emotions and shouldn’t really been seen too serious as a discipline. As well, I do not see myself as an artist and I don’t take me and myself too serious. I just do music because I like to do music and have the passion and something which forces me to do it.
We never used song titles, that’s right; mostly because I see an album as a whole thing and not as a collection of single songs… but as well I do want people to get their own ideas and emotions about the music without any “pre–labeling” – if you understand what I am talking about…? A CD is one work for me. I take a very long time after mixing to choose the track order, to make it one piece with ups and downs.

Der Blutharsch’s visual element is filled with historical, cultural & artistic references, mainly in the album cover/artwork field, and with wonderful photos/packaging. From what I know in the late 1980s/early 1990s you studied art history. How do you recall those student years, life in Austria and what type of music was worth a listen for you in those times. I can imagine it was quite hard to get a hold of LPs or learn about gigs and bands in general.

Yes, I studied art history, politics and communication – student life was really groovy at that time. But I have to say, I grew up in western Austria (lake of Constance) and when I was young at that time there were so many concerts going on where I lived that I was able to see at least one cool band a week. Before I was 18 I had seen such bands as Motörhead, The Fall, Young Gods, Donovan, Fad Gadget, Miracle Workers, Legendary Pink Dots, Alien Sex Fiend – only to name a few – this was really a great time as it was wild and interesting. When I moved to Vienna at that time there was less going on than in the countryside, but suddenly it changed and since, for at least 20 years, Vienna is an extremely interesting place for music. I go in average to at least 30 to 40 concerts a year, if not more and then I already have to choose which ones I drop. I did see so many really good bands here. I did organize concerts for some years and did brings around 50 bands to Vienna as well… and we had really good record shops in Vienna – and still have… so, in 1990 you could get every record in Vienna you wanted… even second hand!

Back in the 1980s & early 1990s, underground/cult music scene did have a substantial originality regarding the sound, references, concepts & experimentation in general. Also the DIY attitude, word of mouth, cassette culture & cult labels. There was no internet back then. Do you think something has been lost since then? Considering the fact that you release music through your label HauRuck!, how do you perceive contemporary bands, music industry and how do you choose the bands for your label?

Yes… definitely something got lost through internet. When I was young I had to “chase” music, meaning I found out about a band via a friend who played a song to me and then I tried to get that record, which was not that always easy… I am talking about the times before living in Vienna, but even in Vienna I had to go to a record shop to ask for the music. We had a legendary shop called Why Not which was like a social meeting point. I went there 4 times a week, listening to music, talking to people – it was like a pub, you were spending the whole afternoon with the same interesting people, drinking beer, listening to music, discovering music… and then you maybe went home with a new record you found out about and the day was perfect. Now you can just find everything on the net, buy it online and 2 days later you have it in your postbox, which is not bad as well – but it was more exciting back then. Although I discovered in the past 2 years, after I lost interest in new music for a while, a lot of new bands and am again very excited to discover new music for myself.
But what really annoys me is the fact that many people download music… not only speaking as a label – but as well as a cultural thing. Music these days has become more and more a product. When I was young, it was a lifestyle, or even a religion sometimes… now it’s only bits and data on the computer. People listen only to one song and that’s it. I think bands like Pink Floyd who did really concept albums wouldn’t have any chance today! How I chose bands for HauRucK! – well – it’s quite easy… HauRuck! is “Music we like from people we love!” – and I am in the really privileged position to get to know interesting people and I sometimes get really good demos. As HR! for me is not a business to make money but a privilege to release the music I like and I don’t have to think about commercialism. I just release what I personally like, without any thoughts about sales etc. What I dislike – even knowing I could earn some good money with it – I simply don’t release.

Are you considering releasing a book with all of Der Blutharsch’s lyrics following Alzbeth’s example with the 2000 TMLHBAC book? At the present time or in the next years, how do you feel about a possible re–release of TMLHBAC’s entire catalogue?

I did a book some years ago, and maybe I’ll do something again, but then not only with lyrics, but maybe with graphics, photos and music… we will see. There are some ideas, but at the moment I am really too busy with other things. About TMLHBAC – I have no feelings about it anymore. I didn’t listen to a song in over 12 years and it doesn’t mean anything to me now… so I do not want to deal with it anymore. It was a good and a bad time of my life, but it’s the past, and the past it shall remain!

Which are your favourite TMLHBAC / Der Blutharsch releases, both musically and regarding the process of creating them (writing, recording). Also, could you please name some artists/albums which influenced you in the 1990s and in more recent years.

My favourite album is always the current one… I spend so much time when doing it, recording it, mixing it etc., but as soon as it is released I never listen to it again – and then I am always falling in a hole – a deep hole, but I climb out very fast as I start doing music after it quite fast… if I have to name a favourite TMLHBAC album it’s A night in Fear because it’s the best and it’s the first time I worked with Lina Baby Doll… There are so many bands I listen to, I would have to mention at least some hundreds. My musical taste is very open and I listen to a lot of different music.

Der Blutharsch’s official site states that WKN38 will be your final release. It seems to be a live recording of a concert in Praha. Is it the one from Nova Alternativa festival in 2009? Speaking of Praha, what are your memories of the performance at the 1995 Alternativa festival released two years later on VHS as Sad Song Singers? I see that your discography page lists a possible WKN39, Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand 7″. Will this be your last recording as a band? Also the tour section mentions no concerts until 2012. Does this mean you will continue with your live performances and stop releasing new material? Do you plan on having musical collaborations or other projects after Der Blutharsch is over or just retire & enjoy life?

Yes, WKN38 will be the last release of Der Blutharsch, but we will continue as Der Blutharsch and the infinite church of the leading hand – which is a personal thing, but as well a little step to make a little break in between the oeuvre of DB… it has more some emotional reasons, it’s hard to explain; I feel the “old” Blutharsch is over, but as we continue doing music and we are still Blutharsch, it’s more of a little mental step for ourselves. The Sad Song Singers concert was really great and it’s a great memory… and will be added as a bonus to WKN38. I just watched it for the editing of the DVD and it was weird, as if this concert was only improvisation…
Right now we are working on a new album which will be released next year. The fact that we won’t do a tour earlier is that it’s not that easy for us, we have a lot of prework, fly in Bain from Sydney, Alessio from Sardinia, rehearse and then play some dates to cover the costs… and it takes a long time to organize all this. As well, we have some projects in preparation: first the new album which is already recorded but has to be mixed, then we do a collaboration with Aluk Todulo, a drone album with 7thatspells – I will play organ for their next album – I am recording a pop album with Geoffroy D (Dernière Volonté), doing a few remixes for other bands… so you see, enough work!

Are there any particular live shows from the 1990s that you feel close to? The official live recordings from the late 1990s, like Gold Gab Ich Für Eisen or The Long Way Home have a spectacular paroxysmal & bombastic feel. Also the VHS that accompanied Gold Gab Ich Für Eisen fully illustrates this. Der Blutharsch continued releasing live performances in the 2000s – Live at the Monastery and Live in Copenhagen and now a third release is on the way – Live in Leiden. How do you feel about this transition from martial industrial to a more groovy/psych/trippy sound incorporating harmonium & synth, from uniforms to mushrooms? Personally I praise experimentation, especially in the direction you are evolving. Are you trying to achieve that motorik sound or is it just me? Some songs on The Philosopher’s Stone reminded me of Stereolab.

Well. I like a lot the old shows… very special was of course the first ever in Zagreb, but then as well the one from The Long Way Home, as the location was very special. Very important was St. Petersburg, first time with Marthynna and Bain. I liked a lot the old “martial” shows, but, honestly, it was more or less Karaoke with drums and a lot of posing… fine for a while, but it gets boring the longer you do it. I always wanted to perform live – I mean, playing all instruments live without backings etc. It is much more interesting as every show is different and you are much more open and it’s more personal between us as individual musicians as you really have to interact. Well, being compared to Stereolab is not a bad thing if you ask me… =)

The same pattern of artistic vision & evolution can be traced regarding your splits. From the late 1990s splits with industrial/ritval ambient classics like Deutsch Nepal & Ain Soph to the most recent recent split featuring neo–psychedelia act White Hills. I knew them from a split with Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O.. I think an Acid Mothers Temple/Der Blutharsch split would be the ultimate thing. Is there also a split with Aluk Todolo coming up? I listened to their releases and they surely have an interesting sound, melting krautrock with ritval ambient. Now I would dare to extend this transitional pattern even further and say that, for me at least, the music on the first Der Blutharsch releases up until When All Else Fails can be associated with autumnal, wintry, rainy, windy, cold days. As a matter of fact I think When All Else Fails should be played only in autumn months to fully experience the music. Whereas recent albums, perhaps due to a certain shift in sound are more “lively” and for sunny times. I must say I enjoy both of them. So does a particular weather, season or part of the day inspire you in your writing/recording process?

Not really… although I mostly record in autumn/winter, but sometimes as well in spring. I never did see our music as seasonal music, so it’s an interesting point from your side. I like to collaborate with different bands from other musical scenes as it is much more exciting. I liked White Hills a lot and we got in touch and got friends so a collaboration just happened, it had to be and Dave is doing a guitar track on our new album. Niko from 7thatspells – which is as well connected with Acid Mothers Temple – is doing a lot of guitar work on the new album – Jörg is a huge fan of Acid Mothers Temple, so maybe we should do something with them one day? Could be interesting… and it would be interesting which season you would like to listen to it then.

Your gallery section features pictures with the band from all around the world, from tours, with friends. Besides Austria, which European country would you choose to live in? How is a usual & unusual weekend in Austria?

I don’t think I would like to live in another country. I am quite happy living in Austria. Maybe a southern country would be nice – near the sea, but then Austria is really well organized and easy – so I feel very comfortable here, especially as I moved out of the city and I am living in the countryside now (still only 15 minutes by car to Vienna). There is no usual and unusual weekend, it can be weird or it can be sleazy… but at the moment it’s more sleazy… maybe I am getting old…? :=)

Who was responsible for your 2 videos – In the Hands of the Master & So Bring Your Iron Rain Down Upon Me and for the lovely album cover of Flying High?

In the Hands of the Master was shot and directed by myself (with the help of many friends) – Iron Rain was done by an Italian film artist… All covers of all records – including Flying high! were done by myself…

I don’t know how many fans know about La Maison Moderne, a side–project of yours. Personally, I got a kick out of it, enjoyable EP. Was it born on the spur of the moment?

At least 1000 people must know it, as that many copies were sold. It was born in a very drunk moment when I just played around with some synths I bought and tried out things… it was a really spontaneous and gpt recorded in a weekend… I liked it somehow to do something totally different at that moment!

How are the other members of Der Blutharsch – Bain, Jörg – and your wife, Marthynna? How do they feel about Der Blutharsch’s evolution & things to come? How are things with your label?

I hope they are fine. Marthynna is sleeping at the moment as it’s quite early in the morning, Jörg is probably partying, Bain is traveling through Asia and probably stuck in drug temple…
I feel very comfortable with DB evolving… there can be nothing more frustrating for a musician to stagnate. It is my view on doing music to experiment, trying out new things and evolve… if you won’t evolve I think you are dying as a musician. At least that’s what I think and there is nothing more boring than a band that always does more or less the same… I do not expect from a band to always reinvent themselves anew, but there is, in my opinion, nothing more exciting that a band who always knows how to surprise you! Things with HauRucK! are really good as well. I have 5 really good projects in the pipe… an album by 7thatspells, an album by Ô Paradis with Val Denham, a new album by Terroritmo and one by a new German band… and a UK band which is really, really great!

Although you are busy with your music, the label and other matters, I’m sure you find time to listen to other bands or read some books. What have you been into recently?

A lot, especially music and movies… as we are renovating our house and my studio this summer I didn’t find that much time to read books, but to watch some good movies – I am a so called cineast – and of course music. I am looking forwards to the next weeks as some of my favourite bands at the moment are releasing new albums, such bands like Clinic, White Hills, Black Angels, Black Mountains, Kings of the Frog Island, Grinderman – it is a very good autumn!

2011 will mark 15 years of Der Blutharsch and as your official site states you won’t be able to celebrate with a concert. Countryside, family, friends, wine, high as a kite instead?

Is it really 2011… hmm… maybe we should then do one concert. Let’s see… maybe something intimate or special in another way, or maybe I’ll wait till the 20th anniversary. Time is really thy enemy! – I always knew… it doesn’t feel like 15 years, but that’s good in a way… and “high as a kite” sounds always like a good option…

Last but not least, a more or less humorous moment: how do you feel about Viennese Actionism, 1900s Vienna, Rapid Vienna, Ultravox’s song Vienna and Vienna Schnitzel?

Who…
Viennese Actionism: funny at that time, but totally overrated!
1900s Vienna: 2010’s Vienna is better for sure!
Rapid Vienna: I always see their stadium when on Jörg’s toilet – at least the only Austrian club which has been German Champion.
Wiener Schnitzel: Lecker! But better with pork than the traditional veal version if you ask me… very good cold the next day to fight a huge hangover!

Photo: Der Blutharsch. 2009. Praha

questions by Adrien Seelebruder.

answers by Albin Julius.

Full article here.