Interview with Stephan Groth [ Apoptygma Berzerk ], 12.02.2009 in Cologne, Live Music Hall [ face2face ]

In our last interview [ here ] with Stephan from Apoptygma Berzerk we talked about the first single taken from the new album „Rocket Science“ and about the video for „Apollo“. Now the new album is out in stores and the Norwegian band is been touring around in these days. On the 12th of February 2009 Apop also rocked once again in Cologne`s Live Music Hall. After the show we met singer Stephan for an interview.


Lea: Youre on tour with your new album “Rocket Science” and you just played here in Cologne`s Live Music Hall which was actually a special show as there`ve been a lot of cameras involved. What`s going on?
Stephan: We`re doing a DVD today and we started really early this morning. We had the whole light thing and video team coming in. So we started like 9 o`clock this morning and we had ended our last show yesterday, I mean, we got packed around 3 o`clock in the morning. We had not much sleep, put it that way. Today we played one show first, then we had a break and The Anix went on stage and did their show and then we did another concert. Its gonna end up as a DVD, a “Rocket Science Tour”-DVD, later on this year. It was really cool doing it here in Cologne. First of all we have a long history with Cologne as we played here so many times. And even here in this venue we probably played like four times or so and it`s always good being here. Cologne is a great city and the crowd is really cool. So the show was really fun for us and we had like a blast.


Lea: Is there already a release date for the DVD?
Stephan: No, we actually just started working on it a few days ago with booking everything. That`s why it`s been so stressful today. We`ve been doing like 10 shows on this tour and they actually all turned out being a little bit better than we thought they were going to be. Thats why we decided doing a DVD of it.


Lea: Are you satisfied with the feedback you got so far for the new album?
Stephan: It`s quite funny, because Im not saying that Im a prophet or anything, but I was predicting down to the little details how this would go. And when we put all the songs together, I was saying for the first time – because we`ve been putting out several albums over the years – for the first time this is gonna be…(suddenly Frederik/drums comes in and wants to bring Stephan a coke, although he already has one) Ahh, one more!
Frederik: You have one?


Stephan: Ja! (speaks a few words in Norwegian with Frederik, then he comes back to the interview) I was predicting down to the details that this is gonna be an album that either you love or totally gonna hate. And I was totally right. Well, I dont know how it is now, but I went on Amazon, cos you can put stars there. It was like half of them put in one star, the “Scheie”-star, you know (grins), and the other half was like five. There was no two, no three or four. Only five and only one. That was exactly what I told the record company that I just had the feeling that this would happen. In order to understand the album and love it, youll have to sit down and actually want to like it. (the tour manager comes in and gives Stephan some cigarettes) Ahh, danke! (lights a cigarette) So it`s not an easy album, put it that way. The content is very heavy and not very joyful, but by far its one of the most interesting albums. I`ve been collecting records since I was 15, so I have a lot of records. The new album is just so interesting, cos if you want to and have the time, you can sit down and study it for a year. That`s more than you can say about most of the stuff whats coming out today. The whole album tradition has been destroyed. There is no time to listen to albums anymore. There is no time to read books, there is no time to do anything accept for eating at Mc Donalds and watching Britney Spears on MTV and Jackass. That`s the only thing people have time for. Im trying to work against that and actually putting out an album that is pure quality to tell the world “We dont need all that Mc Donalds crap! We have totally great art!”. But the kids who are growing up now like my younger brothers, they dont even have albums. They have mp3s, you know! But back to your question, sorry: Im not surprised about the feedback at all. The way it has turned out is that Ive read nothing negative about the songs, not anything negative about the artwork, not anything negative about the lyrics, not anything negative about the melodies…


Lea: So actually you should be satisfied…
Stephan: No, because there has been a lot of negative stuff about the style and that is what people are concerned about. Is it enough metal or gothic or synthie pop or punk or electro or this much bullshit crap…that doesn`t matter! It doesnt fucking matter! This world is going down the drain, the whole economy is going down and we sit and waste our time on discussing if it`s enough electro or enough gothic. Well, people can do whatever they want, but I dont have the time for it. So it`s either you put something out that is value and good stuff or you dont. All that genre crap…forget it!


Lea: You put a lot of time into the album and it`s really detailed. For me it seems that you`re quite a perfectionist. Where do you see the advantages and disadvantages of being a perfectionist?
Stephan: The biggest disadvantage is that it doesn`t fit into the today`s world. Im spending a lot of time on creating a product that nobody has the time for to enjoy. Commercially its like a big disadvantage, you know, if you wanna sell a record and please people of today. Im sure, if wed make some kind of Jackass-soundtrack, we`ll become millionaires and hey ho, lets go, you know. But thats not what we want! We wanna bring a quality product out with some brains included, because we`re basically doing pop music. That`s what we`re always doing – very commercial pop music. But over the years pop music has been destroyed by all the crap thats out there. In the 80ies pop music was actually not too bad. You had The Cure and Depeche Mode being in the charts. Im not too crazy about the 70ies, but also in the 60ies you had so much quality stuff. Pop music wasn`t braindead. Today just turn on MTV! Oh dear, it`s like…I mean, come on! What`s going on? In the videos you only have naked women with big boobs in bathing suits dancing around the pool. Its crap, its only about sex. Hit me baby one more time! And then you have all the 10 to 12 years old girls dancing sexy in the living room. What the fuck is that about? Damn!


Lea: Are you also a perfectionist in daily life like in doing the housework?
Stephan: Yes, (grins) when Im vacuuming it`s like Im getting on everybody`s nerves. In my living room you normally just need five minutes to do it, but I have to spend around 20 minutes to have it very, very clean. And when Im showering that also takes a long time.


Lea: Do you sing under the shower?
Stephan: I dont know. Maybe a little, oh, maybe not, because Im very concerned about washing me right and having the right soaps. But no, honestly it`s getting on people`s nerves, because it takes me forever to do stuff. I think, it`s also when Im making food. Of course I also like to go and buy a frozen pizza and put it in the microwave to have things done quickly. (laughs) Its not like a mental disease, I have. But especially with cooking food: See today, the food here at this venue is amazing! We`re always looking forward to go here, because this place is famous for its good food. All bands are like “Ah, tomorrow we finally get good food!”. The kitchen here is really good and has really good chefs. If you put your heart into making the food, it maybe takes more time, but you`re cooking with your heart to try to please the people that are coming there. They put love in it and that is so much more worthwhile. It is great and I like that. You can taste that in food if it`s been cooked right and done right and if they put love and effort into it.


Lea: But now back to the album: Not only Ida Helen Fjeld is singing backing vocals on it, but also Amanda Palmer this time in one song. How did this co-operation come about?
Stephan: Are you familiar with The Dresden Dolls? That is like one of my favourite bands. They are so amazing, so original, great musicians and songwriters. Im a huge Amanda Palmer-fan and also of her solo stuff that she`s putting out. It was actually my management who got the idea to have her on the album, because when the song “Black vs. White” was written and finished, I sent it to the record company and said that I wanted to have it as the last song on the album. They really liked it and after a few days Markus, my manager, called me back and said that we need to do something about it. He really wanted to have the song as a duet thing. Then he came up with this brilliant idea having Amanda Palmer on there, but I said “no” at first, because she`s a really huge hero for me, you know, and I was just thinking “If she says `no`, Im gonna die!”. So I said to my manager, you can`t do it. But he still did it.


Lea: Without you knowing it?
Stephan: Yeah, and I checked my mails in the morning the day after and I had a personal mail from Amanda Palmer saying “Oh Stephan, I love this song. I can`t get it out of my head. I would love to sing on it!” and I was so extremely happy. Its so amazing to have one of your heroes on there. So that`s how that worked out.


Lea: With which other Norwegian artist would you like to sing a duet some day?
Stephan: (thinks a bit longer) I`m not really crazy about Norwegian music. Of course we have some friendly bands there. I`ve always liked bands like Turbonegro. Ive never done anything with them and they are actually good friends of us. Then there is Darkthrone, a black-metal band from Norway that I really respect. But with whom would I like to do something? I don`t know. I never had this question before…


Lea: Checking out songs like “Green Queen” and “Pitch Black/Heat Death” I hope there`s not so much self biography in the lyrics as they don`t sound that positive?
Stephan: The thing is that the world as it is today is not very positive as Im singing in the song “Black vs. White” with Amanda Palmer that we all agree that the ship is going down. Its like Titanic. I would say that there`s not that much to be happy about in these days, to be honest, with everything that`s going on, especially with the economy all over the world, I guess, but at least in the western world. Wars are everywhere, you know. Its looking very bad, it`s looking worse than it ever did. So there`s not much to be happy about. Im a Christian myself and the most important thing is that theres a plan with all this and there`s a God whos taking care of all this. And that`s the hope and the light for me. If I was without that, I can`t even imagine what it would be like. I know that there`s a God who controls all this and whos taking care of us. And all what is going on now was written in the bible 3000 years ago. So Im not surprised how the world is today. Is it depressing and negative? Yes, it is. But I have hope and I know what this is about. I know that this is just a plan and there`s somebody in charge.


Lea: Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. Are you superstitious?
Stephan: Friday the 13th is actually based on many things, but the whole deal about Friday the 13th was when the knight templars got killed, because the knight templars were more or less financially taking over the world. And the Vatican, pope and all the kings at that time – I can`t remember which year it was – they decided to go out and kill all the knight templars and arrest them on Friday the 13th. And the number 13 is like the number of rebellion. Im definitely a rebel by myself, but Im rebelling about what the world has become. I know that in America in hotels they don`t have a 13th floor and stuff like that and in the airplanes and so on. Thats of course bullshit, but there`s definitely some very important things about the number 13 in numerology and stuff like that. So it`s about rebellion and also in the bible the first time that the number 13 is mentioned is about rebellion against God.


And then the time for the interview was already over, but nevertheless the band still took some photos with us, signed a couple of promo stuff for a competition on FH.Radio and had a lot of fun with us. Apoptygma Berzerk is one of the nicest bands we ever had the chance to meet backstage and thats why we`d like to thank the guys, their management, Scorpio, Radar and Gun Records.

Interview: Lea Sommerhuser .[ face2face ]
Bilder:.Sandro Griesbach