Emotional Outbursts

by Siba Dolimont

Axel Hermes (programming and live guitar), Hauke Harms (programming, synths & production) and Volker "Zaphor" Zacharias (vocals & guitars) embody the basic line-up of GIRLS UNDER GLASS since 1990, while several guest musicians came and went release after release. This time, after the exploding and controversial "Firewalker" cd the German trio return with a much more paused and moody release haunted by that unique and specific Girls Under Glass atmosphere. Darker and and gloomy, the new album "Equilibrium" is probably their most mature and balanced release ever. We evoked some 12 years of career on the scene with the Girls...and also their best ever record "Nightmares" will be coming soon on Van Richter Records USA!

SL. Your new album is a rather unexpected evolution from the previous album "Firewalker" which featured a much more dynamic and electronic music approach?
A. I think our albums always were unexpected variations of previous works. This time we have been very much influenced by our own production of Trauma some months before. So "Equilibrium" might be a bit softer and containing more melodies than "Firewalker".
SL. I know Girls Under Glass have always been against stagnation, but "Equilibrium" can be seen as a sort of come back to the roots somehow?
A. Somehow, yes! From my point of view we have been very relaxed when recording the album. We have been sitting together, drinking some wine and talking a lot about our first gigs in 1986 and all the musicians and bands we played with in the last 13 years. We have been melting away in our memories and talking about all these cool bands in the 80ies like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Play Dead, Danse Society, Bauhaus, Twice A Man and many more. And I'm sure that some kind of melancholy and "good times" - feeling has been successfully transported into the new songs.
SL. Did you feel obliged to make some compromises to conquer back your old fans?
A. No, we didn't make any compromises. If we had made compromises we still were on Nuclear Blast. But BECAUSE we made what we wanted without watching out for a certain market the guys of Nuclear Blast said "No" to this record. Luckily Tilo of Hall Of Sermon heard the material and decided to sign us when we were looking for a new label for Europe.
SL. I know you have always fought against that "gothic" label everyone was putting on Girls Under Glass... Don't you fear that this new album being also released on a label like Hall Of Sermon will push you again in the "gothic" genre?
A. I'm sure we will be pushed into this direction. But as we have been telling to everybody for years: "Hey, we just make the music we want to do." Sometimes it is more electronic-wave, sometimes it is dark-industrial, and now it seems to be some kind of Gothic. So? We don't really care about all this genre-blahblah... We are Girls Under Glass. Take it or leave it. We love you! There is just one thing you can be sure: We will never ever make a reggae-album. I promise this.
SL. You have recorded this new album just after the 3rd Trauma album. And you agree that this had a consequence on your new GUG cd? I mean the fact that it is less electronic for example because you had just finished a completely electronic release?
A. In my opinion the Trauma production was indeed a big influence. But not in the way you mentioned. During the Trauma sessions we worked together with Lacasa Del Cid (AURORA SUTRA). He always put on some candle-lights and all these chinese or indian herbs and things when he recorded his instruments. The atmosphere was fantastic, as in an oriental foodstore at night. Everybody in the studio was totally relaxed and a bit stoned somehow. We also tried to create this atmosphere during the Girls Under Glass recordings and it also worked. I don't really know whether there are more electronic elements on Equilibrium or on Phase III... well, you might be right, probably on Phase III. But anyway, it's the atmosphere that was important for us.
SL. "Equilibrium" is featuring several songs we could call dark rock-pop titles? Do you agree with me?
A. em...eh....well! I don't know. Dark Rock-Pop? Dark? Yes! Rock-Pop??? mmmmh..?? Next question, please...
SL. This feel is also emphasised by the use of female backing vocals... Where did you find your female vocalists for this album?
A. JENNY KAHLER is the singer of OBSIDIAN, a Gothic band from Hamburg. They sent a demo-tape to us last year and when we started to record "Equilibrium" we remembered her voice as very pathetic and probably fitting to Volker's voice. So we called her and checked it out. We were absolutely enthusiastic about her voice. I hope she gets a deal for her band soon. The second female voice comes from SANDRA BAMMER, who is a singer and composer from Munich. Her own project is called SISTER.MY.SISTER and sounds a bit like a mixture of Anne Clark and early Depeche Mode. She also sent a demo to us and we really liked her stuff. So we invited Sandra to our studio and made some more demos with her.
SL. We again find guests on this new album, while the previous release was more a "GUG-only" effort? Were you not satisfied with "Firewalker"?
A. Firewalker was recorded when we were in a very aggressive mood. We weren't happy about several business-things at that time and have been seriously thinking about a real long break for Girls Under Glass. But after a festival in East-Germany which was enormous fun for us, we spontaneously decided to record a new album. Unluckily all the musicians we asked to participate on that album have been busy or on vacation or whatever. But we didn't want to wait too long. So we recorded everything without guests. I personally like the album very much, but some influences of our friends are still missing. So, if we had to record Firewalker again, this time we would definitely wait for our guest-musicians.
SL. As I said, you moved to Hall Of Sermon, what was the problem with Nuclear Blast? And don't you fear staying in the shadow of Lacrimosa there?
A. There was no problem with Nuclear Blast. They just didn't like our new album. We have been very satisfied with their work for us. Our label manager Yorck (Love Like Blood) did a good job and is still a friend of us. But Nuclear Blast are much more metal-oriented and GIRLS UNDER GLASS didn't fit into their concept any longer. Not with the "Equilibrium"-stuff. We are not afraid of Lacrimosa's shadow. Why? We trust Hall Of Sermon that they try to do the best for us.
SL. How should we understand the cover artwork of your new album actually?
A. How DID you understand it? That's what is more interesting for us. We never tell people how to understand our music, lyrics or artwork. Everybody should make his own interpretation of what he/she can see. Obviously there is a lot of symbolism in the cover but we don't expect everybody to understand this in a certain way. There is a snake, and Adam & Eve, there is an apple, there is a falcon, yin & yang, and if you look highly concentrated you can see God and Satan, but we tried to hide both behind a curtain of paradisiacal atmosphere. Think about it and enjoy it.
SL. Do GUG make love songs now?
A. We always made love-songs ("When I Think About You", "Never Go", "Reach For The Stars", "Du Tier" and many more.) I would like to say: All our songs have something to do with love or hate, with emotions and very personal aspects of life. Remastered versions on the upcoming Van Richter release.
SL. I suppose you'll be on tour again for this cd?
A. No, we will not go on tour this time. We might do a tour in winter or early 2000. This year we will only play some festivals in Europe and that's it. We also have been offered a big festival in San Francisco. But I don't think that we will play there. It's not worth to fly to the States for only 1 gig and then fly back again without even getting paid enough to cover the flightcosts for 7 people, which is our actual live line-up. We have gone through this too many times.
SL. Which are your further plan with your other various projects being Trauma, Traum-b, Neustart, Cassandra Complex, etc.?
A. I'm not involved too much in THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX but as far as I know Volker and Rodney are working on a new album for some years now. It should be finished in this century, otherwise they will probably be mentioned in the Guiness Book Of Records...for the longest time of recording an album ever. TRAUMA will also take their time again. I hope we can start next year with some new ideas for TRAUMA but there are no concrete plans or ideas yet. NEUSTART has to be restarted again, some material is finished but we had to make a break of some months because Markus was very busy with his other band WOLFSHEIM. TRAUM-B is working on new material but doesn't even have a record deal. It is more a "just-for-fun-project". I personally am working a lot for my own publishing-company "B.E.A.C.H.-Musikverlag" and for the dutch label ARAGON RECORDS where my first signing, the dutch electro-pop band ANGELS & AGONY just released their debut-Single. Their song "One" is played by several DJs and they recently played in Germany on the Wave & Gotik Treffen in Leipzig, where they have some fans. I want to make sure that they get a good deal here in Germany.
SL. After more than 12 years on the music scene, how do you look back to your career?
A. I always try to look into the future... hmmm...., but sometimes, mostly after some red wine, I look back and ask myself: Why the hell did I choose this fucking music business. Why didn't I get a real job somewhere? Why do I always have to argue with stupid record companies or booking agencies? Why do I have to sit in dirty backstage rooms waiting and waiting for something to happen? Why am I doing all this ? But one day after some more red wine 3 Aliens came to visit me. They came from Nectaur, a small planet 34 Million lightyears away. Together we discussed actual politics and the problems of warpspeed. We talked about soccer world cups and why the Germans always win, except under Berti Vogts. And after talking to my little friends from outer space for a really long time, suddenly I realized that they never would have visited me, if I was working in a bank or for an insurance company. And then I knew: It was all worth it.