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26/10/2023 : PLACEBO EFFECT - What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically” 26/10/2023 : PLACEBO EFFECT - What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically” 26/10/2023 : PLACEBO EFFECT - What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically” 26/10/2023 : PLACEBO EFFECT - What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically” 26/10/2023 : PLACEBO EFFECT - What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically”

PLACEBO EFFECT

What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically”

26/10/2023, Karolina KRATOCHWIL
photos: © Petr Vones


Placebo Effect are a German Dark Electro trio originally formed in March 1989. After disbanding in April 1999 they made a brief comeback in 2014 and subsequently reformed once more in 2018, albeit without Achim Windel, who sadly passed away in 2016. With exceptional albums on their account such as “Shattered Souls” or “Galleries of Pain” they are one of the most recognized bands within the genre.

The project is set to perform at the 2023 edition of BIM Fest, marking their first appearance at the event. Having this I mind I decided to ask them a few questions and so we delve into the origins of their sound, cooperation with Dirk Ivens, the death of a band member, and successful WGT concerts as pivotal moments in their artistic journey. About Art, which, for them, is a language that transcends boundaries, brings people together, and allows for individual interpretation, but also future plans and more with Placebo Effect.

Hello Guys, first and foremost, I'd like to express my gratitude for taking the time to participate in this interview. Your willingness to engage in this discussion is greatly appreciated. This interview is being conducted in light of your upcoming performance at BIM Fest, which is the focal point of our conversation. As this interview is intended for the Belgian magazine Peek-A-Boo, their interest lies in covering the bands featured at the event. Since this marks my first interview with all of you, I hope you don't mind if I delve into some broader inquiries regarding your artistic journey. So let’s dive into it 😊

You're set to take the stage at the 2023 edition of BIM Fest. Is this your first performance at this event?

Yes, that's right after over 28 years we're playing with you again and for the first time at BIM Fest. Thanks Bodybeats. They were very patient and persistent with us. Whenever we talked about playing at BIM, something came up. But now it worked and we are really happy. The festival has become a well-known institution for years and being able to be a part of that is wonderful. And we feel a great respect to play in Belgium. All of our musical roots come from Belgian artists. We're a bit excited, I have to say!

Your band has been actively creating music since 1980, a journey that surpasses the duration of my own existence. I realize there were some hiatus points until 2014 to finally return in 2018. What sustains your passion for music over such an extended period, and how do you continue to find inspiration for creation and performance?

It doesn't feel like that long to us. There is always something new to discover. New sounds, new tracks, new bands, new technology. Or simple: A day of life. It's been over 30 years but the feeling of having Placebo Effect for very long has never occurred.

If you were to identify a pivotal moment or turning point in your artistic trajectory, what would that be?

At the beginning of our career, Dirk Ivens (Dive, The Klinik) called Achim to ask whether we would like to release a track on one of his first vinyl compilations. This was the first step to something more serious. Dirk Ivens.. oh god...the one from The Klink... has become aware of us. Wow! Personally, I see the two WGT concerts in 2004 and 2014 as a turning point. After the concerts we received incredible attention and so much positive feedback. Even German television took notice of us.

And unfortunately the death of Achim drove us, Christoph and me, to make the album Shattered Souls.

"Galleries of Pain," released in 1992, is now regarded as a classic in its own right. In hindsight, reflecting on your discography, do you ever experience the desire to revisit certain creative choices? How does it feel to be recognized as a "classic" within your genre?

As a musician and especially in the electronic music we are in, which certainly always has a certain technical perspective on something, I wouldn't want to change anything. Our music has become what it is. It's a nice feeling to be able to look at something finished. We're also not fans of remixes of our songs. And so they are, somehow Polaroids, snapshots of a time in our lives. It would be terrible if albums like Galleries or Slashed were to be changed again and again.

A "classic" within our genre? Always an outside perspective, just like we look at other people's work. We ourselves have no connection whatsoever to the words cult or classic. We just see ourselves as normal musicians who played these albums. But we are happy when these words are spoken. A feeling of the cult band? I think..we are certainly not that in terms of personality.


Building upon the previous question, if you were to pinpoint the most personal or significant album or song within your catalogue, which one would that be?

It's hard to say, something different attaches to each track. Poison Tree for the Galleries of pain e.g. where a track was missing and Christoph and I made the track in Bruno Kramm's kitchen with a synthesizer on our knees. When we mixed the Slashed Open in a small basement studio in Göttingen. There are so many things that cannot be listed. Often these are things that are nostalgic from the past. In a few years we might be talking about Shattered Souls where all the data was suddenly deleted and we were desperately looking for a backup. Thank God all the bands we were friends with told us "that's happened to us too" :-)

Upon releasing "Shattered Souls," your first studio album in 26 years, what emotions were stirred? Does creating music bear any resemblance to riding a bicycle, in that you never truly forget once you've learned?

Shattered Souls left behind everything that had prevented us from continuing with Manipulated Mind Control or Past and Present. We always found each other as friends and we were able to find great people like Arnte from PYROLINE as producers. In retrospect, Shattered Souls reminds us of our first album. The tracks were able to be created over the years without any pressure or deadline and since we weren't signed to any label, we enjoy the freedom we have.

Surely it's something a little bit like riding a bike, only somehow more adventurous. Placebo Effect allows us a large sound space that we can re-enter again and again. When the number 26 years appears, we realize how long a “break” can be. Placebo Effect feels completely normal. A piece of us. As if someone pressed "start" and it just started again. I think we carry this within us, I don't mean just ourselves but in the scene in which we grew up. We don't lose the identification with the thing, no matter how much time has passed or how "old" we are now.

"Slashed Open" stands out to me as a particular favourite. What served as the inspiration behind this composition? What typically ignites your creative process, prompting you to sit down and craft music and lyrics, as well as conceptualize your stage presence?

I'm very happy that you like it. Thank you! I would now like to write that the Slashed Open is a particularly consistent concept but that would mean that something comes from the head. We were and never have been. Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to build our strength in music even more? Maybe also a technical aspect, we had started to use a lot more sampling from horror films. I think with these “snippets of sound” and our penchant for dense, atmospheric, cinematic moments. This is how our material came about.

Lyrics, music and performance all these things do not follow a script. It can be an interesting passage in a book, a picture or a symbol, a scene in a movie or a noise. All of these have an influence but everything happens unconsciously. It just happens.

It's undeniable that your live shows possess a captivating and symbolic quality. They are marked by theatricality, emotional depth, aggression and intense audience interactions. How do you personally perceive your live performances? Do they hold a cathartic element for you?

I often think in hindsight that it wasn't me who was standing there. Someone else. I can't tell you exactly, then it would be conscious of what it never was. I was certainly influenced by the old black and white scary films that fascinated me as a child. These had a certain theatricality to them - the monster was somehow never really evil. More..theatrical creatures.

Today there are many real things that move us, money, power, faith, weapons, that could be the headlines for a show.

Your music encompasses a wide spectrum, ranging from harsh and aggressive to hypnotic and ethereal. Is this complexity of tones and emotions an inherent part of your artistic fabric?

We are very influenced by film music. My first albums, for example, for which I gigged in a record store when I was 14/15, were soundtracks like Escape from New York, Bladerunner or Apocalypse now. These spherical, strange sound sculptures have fascinated us from the start. And at some point, after New Wave, you discover bands like The Neon Judgment, Front 242 and all those who are practically the blueprint for the style of music we make now. Danceable but atmospheric.

I can't help but sense that the visual and dramatic aspects play a significant role in your artistry. How do various forms of art intersect in your creative process and what impact do you hope to achieve through both your music and your stage performances?

Maybe it's a kind of musical influence combined with a passion for visuals? As an influence on our style of music and its history? When we started to notice music and its artists, e.g. Fad Gadget, they had a huge influence on us. Musically and visually. Til today.

Personally, I find contrasts exciting and like in films and in art in general, when something is only hinted at and I am given enough freedom of interpretation as an observer without already assuming the result. The show emerges “suddenly” from the moment. There are central elements that have developed into the tracks as an overall picture, such as the mannequin. They are in fact the key image to the piece of music. They wouldn't be replaceable at the moment either. Music, light, performance and stage design... all of that is the placebo effect. An “imaginary active ingredient”

In a broader sense, what do you believe is the overarching purpose of art? And personally, what does art mean to each of you?

An exciting question! What does art mean? Something that we humans carry within us. An unexplored spot that may never be properly clarified “scientifically”. A need to express our personality? Whether you are a participant or a creator of art? An individual language regardless of origin and nationality?

For us it is important that art should not be subject to any dictates. It's wonderful to have an argument with friends after a concert, film or visit to a gallery when opinions differ. In our eyes art also brings people together.

A language that I can interpret and understand individually for myself. A picture, words, music doesn't matter. The artists can have a completely different idea of ​​their work but we still have the possibility that it speaks to us how we feel. Fascinating and beautiful.

Aside from your appearance at BIM Fest in December, what can we anticipate from you in the upcoming months?

We don't have any specific goals yet. A performance in May 2024 in Oberhausen (DE) is certain but after that we'll see.

Last question – tell me about the x-ray experience in Madrid? 😊

Madrid was a great experience. Blanca, who organized it, is a wonderful person and so is everyone there. The scene there is much smaller than here in Germany but the atmosphere at the concert was great.

The departure was quite exciting because we were suddenly surrounded by federal police with machine guns with the show equipment but that was quickly cleared up and the officers were even nice and informed their colleagues in Spain that we were a band and not a group of terrorists.

We really hope that we can play again in Spain.

Thank you for your time!

Gladly :-)

PLACEBO EFFECT will perform at BIMfest at the Casino in Sint-Niklaas on Friday 1st of December 2023

Karolina KRATOCHWIL
26/10/2023


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