Germans are generally a little melancholic, I am not sure why, but maybe one reason is the weather. The second reason of course, is that a lot of Germans are ashamed of themselves for historical reasons. Of course everybody in todays generation knows that they are friendly and peace loving, but there is still a kind of shame that some of the generations who lived before us took part in a catastrophe like the Second World War.
Sven Zalac from German electro-pop duo Codec & Flexor is the first to admit he agrees with a recent poll showing that his fellow countrymen are most pessimistic people in Europe, though chatting to Skrufff this week, is equally keen to highlight every clouds innate silver lining.
Sometimes I can nbe feeling absolutely depressed from one second to the next and of course, when I I think about why, there is always some particular reason, but usually these reasons are so unimportant and trivial that Im sure theyre simply triggers for these periods of melancholy, he muses.
Sometimes they are gone within a couple of minutes, sometimes they last for weeks, during which I am just doing things to survive, but I am not really able the feel happy at all. I am just feeling empty. I know (bandmate) Matthias often feels the same.
But to be honest we are also celebrating these moods and I wouldnt really call them depression; its just that the peaks of our moods are very extreme. You can see that phenomenon very clearly in our music. There are tracks which are threatening to drown in melancholy and others which are just positive and about to explode from energy.
The tracks hes referring to appear on Codec & Flexors new (and second) album Killermachine, a collection of accessible electro style songs thats just come out on ubercool Berlin label Kitty Yo. The album follows up their debut Tubed from 2002 and sits comfortably in the space between dance floor and home listening, thats probably best described as pop.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Why have you called your album Killermachine?
Flexor: We thought a long time about the title and had several ideas but when it came to choosing one we couldnt agree, initially between Sven and I then later on with the label. They didnt like our first choice and we could have had some problems with it so we had to come up with a new one in two days. So we were chatting to Desi and Marco of Kitty Yo about how hard it was, telling them we werent very amused about the fact that they didnt like our first title when one of them suddenly said why dont you call it Killermachine? We where completely shocked. They were trying to give us advice in an entirely creative process. They were trying to give a name to our baby. Unbelievable! Initially we loved the title but we hated them for the fact that it wasnt our idea so we tried to invent an incredibly, completely new name for the album. But after two days we had to realise that there was no better name for this LP than Killermachine. So we called Kitty Yo and told them about our album title. They loved it.
Skrufff. On your new press pictures you¹re both dressed as office workers; why?
Codec: Before we started the new LP we thought about how to visualize our musical evolution, which entailed us being more song-orientated. We felt that Tubed was too track-orientated and we wanted the new LP to be more listenable on CD, with still a lot of club-music on it, but also enjoyable at home. When we all sat down together, Matthias, our artwork-homies and me, we tried to figure out how to visualize that change, and we decided it should be less aggressive in that rock & roll way, a little more settled and serious, but still energetic and powerful. So we decided to dress a little more elegantly, but to still really look as if we were just absolutely rocking and over and out.
Skrufff: How important is image?
Flexor: I think it is very important for every musician to create an image because that is how people identify with you when youre in public. But more important than image is personality. You cant create an image of yourself that has nothing to do with you as a person. And if you try, people will notice that very quickly. From my point of view, every artist has to find his or her role, for example on stage, or if you are doing a photo-shoot, or an interview. During this process you create an image of yourself, one that is authentic. Music touches through emotion and I think the audience realises if your music is true or fake. I would not say that were fashion victims, but that doesnt mean that we dont care about fashion at all.
Of course I like nice clothes and often I design some extras myself. Furthermore we get some clothes from an Argentinean fashion label from time to time. And they really make nice things. But in the end music is not fashion. For me being authentic as an individual person or artist doesnt include making my live a hippy dippy Barbie and Ken show every day. And style is not always a question of fashion; real beauty comes from within, doesnt it?
Skrufff: your biog name checks Human League, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode; what qualities do these performers have that interest you?
Codec: To be honest I didnt know of Gary Numan before the release of our LP. And Human League I can hardly remember and I never saw them live. But I think we can imagine why so many people are seeing parallels between us. I think that what we have in common with these musicians is that we are trying to make soulful electronic-music.A lot of dance- and electronic pop music tries just to sound good and to create a feeling through the music itself. For us, music was always also a way to express ourselves. But I think music is also a way to discover your innermost self, to come closer to the person you really are. Every kind of art is the result of the mood of a moment. Of course it takes a lot of time to finish it and to make it sound or look like you had it in mind. But the impulse is always pure and without any filter. So its possible that you create something that is really scaring you or something you dont even want to accept as your own product just because you let yourself go and let it happen.
Another parallel between us and those bands, I guess, is a certain sense of melancholy, underlying a lot of our songs. In our case, I am not sure where this phenomenon comes from, I am sure most people who know us, wouldnt describe us as very melancholic or depressed in fact Id imagine they see us as the complete opposite; laughing and having fun all day. But Matthias and I share one quality: We are always very, very extreme in our emotions.
Skrufff: A recent survey in Bild newspaper said Germans are the most pessimistic nation in Europe, why could this be?
Codec: Firstly, because Germans are generally a little melancholic, I am not sure why, but maybe one reason is the weather. In Germany we have very extreme seasons, with very hot summers, awful rainy autumns and very cold and snowy winters, so every year you have this sensation of sadness that whatever season you like best, whether its winter or summer will be gone in a short period of time. So you will have to wave it goodbye once a year. For me the most beautiful season of the year is spring. It is nearly unbelievable, when you survived the winter when everything was covered with snow and you nearly forgot that sunlight exists, then suddenly everything starts to get green, days are getting long and longer and people are blooming just like flowers.
The second reason of course is that a lot of Germans are ashamed of themselves for historical reasons. Of course everybody in todays generation knows that they are friendly and peace loving, but there is still a kind of shame that some of the generations who lived before us in this beautiful country took part on a catastrophe like the Second World War.
Then theres also the fact that the media is continually showing us this shiny happy world of people smiling all day, which people compare themselves to so feel always sad and depressed. They ask themselves: Hey, what is wrong with me? Everybody else seems to be so happy.
But there are also very, very good things about sense of being pessimistic Germans. A lot of wonderful music and literature, Goethe, Schiller, Wagner. resulted from this German melancholy. And I am sure that this is also the reason why techno in Germany is so big. It is a result of the wish to break out of these moods. As always, there are advantages and disadvantages.
Skrufff: Could there be any connection between this melancholy and the rise of minimal, ie could people appreciate minimal more because they¹re depressed or could listening to minimal make them depressed?
Flexor: I dont really see this connection at all. When Ive visited minimal parties and Ive been to lots people didnt seem very depressed to me there at alll. I like minimal music a lot. The only thing that depresses me about electronic minimal music is the fact that a lot of people might think minimal music just means less tones and sounds. For me it is the essence, a reduction of the focus of the music. But maybe it is depressing for people to expect great minimal records and what they get is mostly boring, boring. Hype always destroys a lot in the world of music.
Skrufff: Do you ever get depressed?
Codec: Sure. About what? I think it is the nature of depression that there is no real reason for it. For example when I listen to a piece of music Ive done on the day I created it I might love it and feel like Im the king of music and listen to it over and over again. Mostly I even dance in the studio. Then sometimes Ill play it the next day and decide its the biggest crap on earth. A couple of days later it is possible that I enjoy it again, as if it is the best thing I ever did. There is no reason or logic for that.
Sometimes I am just feeling absolutely depressed from one second to the next. Of course I think about why and there is always a kind of reason, but these reasons are commonly so unimportant and small that Im sure they are only initials for these periods of melancholy. Sometimes they are gone within a couple of minutes, sometimes they last for weeks, during which I am just doing things to survive, but I am not really able the feel happy at all. I am just feeling empty. I know Matthias often feels the same. But to be honest we are also kind of celebrating these moods.
But I would not call them depression; its just that the peaks of our moods are very extreme. You can see that phenomenon very clearly in our music. There are a lot of tracks which are threatening to drown in melancholy and others which are just positive and about to explode from energy.
Skrufff: On a happier note the survey also said Germans have the most energetic sex lives in Europe¹: is Berlin/ Germany generally a sexier place than elsewhere?
Flexor: Im not surprised about the fact that Germans have the most energetic sex in Europe. Not surprised at all! But its not because Germans are extremely good looking, they are tall grown, and they just enjoy themselves. No, I guess the answer as to why the Germans have this extraordinary energetic sex live is to find in a sad circumstance. Which is not funny at all? Right after Chernobyl the German government covered up a nuclear hazard that happened in the middle of Germany and blamed the contamination of our country on the Russians. Nobody really realized what was happening to the people from this point on. There were no reports in the media, neither in the newspapers nor on TV. The government kept it a secret until 2005, because they were afraid of mass panic and of an early end of Germanys nuclear politics. But every man and every woman knew that there was something changing with the people in our country. I am sure that this happening has had a great impact on our genetic sexual urge. My other theory is about UFOs. Or, they try to get rid of their minimal music depression by having energetic sex. Yes, I guess this is the real reason. And yes, I believe Germany is sexier than anywhere else.
KillerMachine is out now on Kitty Yo Records.
Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com)