Girls Under Glass

Interview with Volker Zacharias by Steven Cannon

If you were able to release Trauma projects under Machinery/Dynamica record label, why wasn't Girls Under Glass picked up and released by them? (I actually have BOTH Trauma releases and enjoyed them very much!)

It's a very simple reason. First of all we were in the middle of a contract with our label Strange Ways plus Machinery is a electro-orientated label. Girls Under Glass would not have fit into the Machinery roster. If I would have the solution I always would go for two different labels to be more independent from any idiots at that certain company we have to deal with. Also cover artwork and band photography is drastically different from the GUG-ones, because we want to have both bands as much seperated as possible. Both bands transport very different feelings and images. It wouldn't make sense telling everbody "Hello, we are from GUG, Trauma, Cassandra Complex, Traum B, Neustart and all the other projects." If we concentrate on a band and a release we want to have it seperated from the other stuff we do.

This release on Van Richter is probably American audiences' first introduction to your group. Why did you elect to do a compilation album instead of a new full length? Also, I know Nuclear Blast released an album of yours but there wasn't much publicity done up on it, if you care to explain what was the deal with Nuclear Blast and what happened to make you not be on that label anymore?

I think I have to start with the NB story first. After being on an indie label for ages we wanted to be on a international working label. NB was interested and they had an international net of label partners & distributors. Unfortunately the US department was our biggest hope because we see a good chance for us for this market. NB-USA unfortunately wasn't very active in promoting and marketing this record "Firewalker", so obviously we didn't have the chance to being built up with this record. The change to another label was because of NB's decisison of concentrating in metal-acts only. So we didn't fit into their roster anymore. By that time we were already in contact with Van Richter records because VR was very impressed by our project Trauma. So I send them also stuff from GUG and after a while we decided to work together and give it a try with a sort of best of to introduce GUG to you american dudes. Because at that time we didn't have plans for doing a new record that was the most sensible thing to do. One GUG record only wouldn't give you the right impression because most of our records are very different from each other. So after all I think that "Nightmares" is perfect to give you an idea about what GUG is all about and what happened in the last 13 years. In between this time we made a new record that will hopefully come out next year in USA on Van Richter

You have done quite a number of covers, from Gary Numan to the Halloween movie theme song. What sort of covers are you usually most interested in doing, and what are some of your influences and favorite artists?

Gary Numan is definitely on of the most influencing artists. We see ourselves as children of the 80's. That was the most impressive time for new bands and sounds. Of course we don't only want to transport this sound into the nineties, we only try to make our roots obvious, but combine this with modern sounds and modern production. There are not many bands that really influenced us. These days Iam still in very melancholic and dark stuff such as Type O Negative, Tiamat, Massive Attack, Depeche Mode and still good old Gary Numan.
We cover bands to show what influenced us in the 80's and give a certain GUG-appeal to that songs. The result is always very different from the originals. We don't try to copy those bands. We want to show our resepect but give all versions a strong GUG-appeal. We think, it works.

Your range of work is quite vast and varied, apparently you released albums as far back as 1988. In your opinion, what are some of your favorite albums? I tend to think the songs from "Christus" are the best. Also, tunes like 'Shadows Of Fear' are quite heavy and intense, while others like 'Reach For The Stars' are quite mellow and sort of synth pop style. What styles do you prefer to do most, and are your albums typically varied in style and sound or do most have a specific sound and style from album to album?

You are right. We try to vary our styles and musical tunes with every album. We don't like to repeat ourselves year after year. That's a bit boring. You are also right in saying that "Christus" is one of the strongest records, such as "Darius" is. Darius was one year before "Christus" and much more poppy. Before "Christus" we found the band Trauma and decided to concentrate on the more moody, mellow and dark-electro side with this new project. For GUG this meant that we can concentrate on the more harder side of our musical influence. We just split our musical ideas into two projects.

It seems like the worst track on here was the 'Ten Million Dollars' song unfortunately, which seems to be the only song featuring a different vocalist.I s the "Flowers" CD one of the least favorites and what is the deal with L|cke? Who was he and what sort of influence did he have on the band, also I guess I need to ask what the reason for his departure was?

You are right again. I don't like "Ten Million Dollars" either. It's crap! Tom was GUG founder and his way of singing was obviously a bit more exaggerated than my way of singing. After two albums he just decided to stop doing music. He was bored and wanted to concentrate on other things. He even left Germany for a year and traveled the world. So we had to decide at that point if we just give up GUG or if we give it a second try with myself as a singer (in the early GUG-years I was playing guitar). Luckily we were going on and became much more succesful with the new line up. "Flowers" is a very intensive record. I like it as well. My least favorite records are "Humus" and "Firewalker".

Apparently you have been in the industrial scene a long time, to be able to boast of releases as far back as 1988 and also having remixes done by Die Krupps and KMFDM. WHat sort of press have you gotten the world over and where are most of your best fans located? Also, how did the remixes by Die Krupps and KMFDM come about?

The press was always friendly. We are a very highly respected band, maybe because we never had this big success such as Project Pitchfork, Deine Lakaien or Wolfsheim have in Germany. For our fans and for the media it was always very obvious that musical integrity was more important to us than sales. Even when we had a good sales-succes with a ceratin record (for example "Darius") the follow up was totally different. So we were never that type of band that sells out by copying a certain succesful style. We just do what we want to do. And this is not very often in the musis business. On the other hand there were always journalists still comparing a new record with the first one "Humus" and saying that we were the best in the beginning. That's a very typical reaction and I can understand this. I only part this opinion. "Humus" is shit and we became better with nearly every record. Thats my opinion. And my opinion counts. KMFDM were friends of us in the late 80's before they left Germany and moved to the USA. Die Krupps we got to know a couple of years later, because Hauke (our keyboardplayer) is diplom-electro-technician and invented a new instrument (data-to-midi-converter) that was announced as the best quality kind of thing available in Germany at that time. So lots of musicians asked Hauke to built one of his converters. Thats how he met Chris Lietz from Die Krupps for the first time. We asked him and Juergen to do a mix for us. So they did. Very simple thing.

What sort of deal have you inked with Van Richter, and do you have any tour plans or future albums to be released in the U.S. or overseas? Tell us also about past tours you have done and places where you have had good responses.

We are not very big friends of big tours. It's not that I don't like playing live at all, but we are very keen in optimal sound and lights and effects so for the last three tours in between five years we always lost money. Because of that we haven't earned any money for ages now and that's getting a bit depressing after a while. I doubt that we will tour in the USA unless any of our GUG records become a bit successful there. At least we have to be able to cover all costs and believe me: Turing in USA is mega-expensive, especially for a German band. The other thing is, that we don't like to be treated like assholes and that's what usually happens in the US. For most local promoters, musicians are just a bunch of stinky, drug-taking assholes. I don't like that attitude. Everywhere else in the world it's very different. We played in France & Spain, and there everybody takes care about you and is very helpful and friendly. The deal with Van Richter is a bit open. This "Nightmares" record is to give both of us the opportunity to see if we go together for a long-term collaboration. So far I must say that we are very satisfied.

I have heard use of female vocals on a few tracks, but no credits were mentioned for her in the liner notes, can you elaborate on this please?

oops... did we forget the chicks??? I am ashamed. Damn.... let me think. On "Positive" and "Darius" tracks we had Conny Millison singing. A good friend of the band. On "Christus" it was Yvonne Ritz-Andersen, who is a well known singer-songwriter lady from Denmark, based in Hamburg. This was a studio-job for her. Very quick and professional. On "Crystals & Stones" we had a female ex-collegue of mine, Sanne Sprenger. Quite interesting voice. Generally we like to work with different guest musicians and singers on our records. As I mentioned before: Music is communication, every record is a new adventure, so we like to work with new and different people to see how new collaborations work and what effect this has on our musical result.

At times the vocalist sounds surprisingly similar to Jean Luc Demeyer of Front 242. Have you been told this often or is it just me? :>

Jean-Luc??? You are joking. You are really the first one who compares me with Jean Luc. But maybe you are right. We both just can't sing.

How can U.S. fans get ahold of any of your other CD releases, are they readily available? I am curious to hear some of the other full length albums that quite a few tracks come from.

I have no idea. In the moment the rights for our older records still belong to our old label that is just not able to set anything up in countries apart from Germany. It's a shame. As soon we get the rights back I have to deal about the rights for the US. First of all we want to release our last record "Equilibrium" in the states. That album is announced to be our best one in nearly all German papers. It's a masterpeace. It has to come out in US!!!

Have any of your songs received intense club play? I have debuted some songs to a few local clubs in the Savannah, Georgia area and think that the track 'Never Go' would make a great club hit. Do you ever feel the need to write one or two songs on any particular album to be tailor made for dance floors or is it just a part of the writing process that is unintentional? I know some industrial groups, when they make an album, try to make at least one or two songs specifically for the clubs to play to dancing audiences.

No, we never think in terms of doing music or songs with a special intention. We do music. And when the record is ready we are lucky or at least the record company is lucky when there is a song that might get club-or radio-play. We personally don't care, honestly!!! I think the "Firewalker" is full of club-tracks. But so what??? It's still a record that we don't like anymore because it doesn't sound like GUG at all but like just another copy of american industrial influenced bands as KMFDM, Krupps, Manson etc. It's not unique at all.

Finally, use this space to mention anything I might have missed, thanks for your time, and hope to see you on tour here in the States sometime soon! Are you also fans of any other types or styles of music? I noticed you use a lot of guitars on some songs, and some tracks not as much, though some industrial "purists" think guitars have no place in industrial. Lemme know your thoughts on this, as the magazine also covers metal, punk, hardcore,techno, psychedelic/progressive/space rock and other genres.

We are very open minded for any kind of music as long it is intensive and is catching our soul. It can be pop, it can be even country. I don't care about labels or names, Iam just interested in exiting musical experience. I personally prefer very moody, dark music. The bands I mentioned earlier are a small part of what I am listening to.
I also very much like quiet music as Dead Can Dance, Enya, Julee Cruise, Craig Armstrong, Tindersticks but also Tea Party (one of my absolute faves!!!), Filter, NIN As I said. Music must be intensive and therefore I don't care if a song has a guitar or not. I like heavy stuff as well and have all records from Dark Angel, Death, Strapping Young Lad and that kind of stuff. You see: I am really open minded to nearly anything. I don't want to represent a certain scene, Iam just very curious about new acts and other music. GUG is just one little part in that great music-cosmos.