Girls Under Glass

by Tate Bengtson

For those that have not yet heard G.U.G., how would you describe your band's sound? What characteristics do you feel separates G.U.G. from others? In what ways do you feel that G.U.G. has defied the stereotypes associated with the genre?

We combine 80's wave music (inspired mostly by Gary Numan) with Gothic, Electronic Music plus guitars that are sometimes rocking, sometimes moshing, sometimes 80's inspired as well. Its very hard to give GUG a certain image or tell anybody what GUG sounds like. That means, its hard to compare GUG with any other bands. That was the case even when we started middle of the 80's, because there were hardly any German bands with that kind of sound at all. Because there were no other bands and we sounded very miserable journalists try to compare us with Sisters Of Mercy (the only band they knew). That was totally wrong of course. Would compare us with Sisters? It's a joke. It's miles away from the Sisters-sound. I think GUG gives new aspects into the whole wave and gothic-genre and opens frontiers between different scenes. We ourselves ar very open minded people and we don't want to put into a classical music-type-or-style-roster. And I think we do this with success because we are still very hard to compare with other bands.

How did you come up with the name, Girls Under Glass? What does the name mean in relation to the band? In many respects, it is an evocative, almost gothic name, that works very well alongside songs like "When I Think About You."

It doesn't mean anything. It's just a name, and I think it doesn't sound gothic at all. It was ment to sound very vague, open and un-clichee-name, so that you don't know what music is behind it. That was the only idea about calling ourselves GUG.

One thing that stands out for me throughout all of your music are the strong keyboard melodies - who comes up with these melodies? When writing songs, do you generally come up with the keyboard melody first, and then add in the vocals and rhythms?

Most of the melodies are from me. I am the singer, and I am the one who thinks in melodie-and structure-terms. Therefore I hardly have anything to do with the production or mixing. I try to transport feelings by melodies and lyrics. But you are right. The song comes first, means, I try to create atmosphere and melodies first and then I write the fitting lyrics to that.

Is "Nightmares" your first release to be available domestically in North America? If so, what are your hopes or expectations for the reaction that you would like to receive from North American fans?

Nuclear Blast released our last album "Firewalker" in the USA about 2 years ago, but failed, because they didn't do anything for it. No interviews at all !!! And: it's the most untypical and unlike GUG record ever, so the "Nightmares" record is much better to introduce us to the american scene. I would say: Just forget about "Firewalker". There are many albums such as "Christus", "Darius" or the brandnew "Equilibrium" that are much more worth to check out. Hopefully we will be able to release the elder stuff in the next years in the USA. In the moment we are concentrating on the "Nightmares",and thats a very good compilation.

"Nightmares" is an anthology of remixes, rarities, and unreleased tracks. I understand that Nightmares was compiled by Van Richter label manager Paul Abramson - how did you first come into contact with Paul? How did the idea of releasing an anthology first come about? Would you have compiled "Nightmares" in a different fashion?

We were in contact with Van Richter re. our project Trauma (same people as GUG). When we sent Paul GUG stuff just to inform him about what else we are doing, he showed interest in a collaboration.

Were any of the unreleased songs written specifically for "Nightmares"? Does the band have any more unreleased songs that did not appear on "Nightmares"?

Yes "Halloween", and no more unreleased material

Some of your songs were remixed by KMFDM and Die Krupps - how did you first come into contact with these bands? How does their remixed versions differ from the originals?

We know KMFDM from their time when they still were based in hamburg. So that was a very easy part of getting in contact with each other. Apart from that at that time GUG was a bit bigger in Germany than KMFDM was. We were big Krupps fans so we asked them to do a remix, they liked Die zeit and did it. Also very simple thing. You ask and you get a no or a yes. Nothing spectacular.

How does it feel to listen to remixes of songs that you initially wrote and recorded? Does it feel odd to listen to something that you created, that is then changed and remixed into something new? Does hearing the remixed versions give you ideas on possible directions to take your music in the future?

In the beginning it felt weird to listen to our own stuff. I was totally excited when I listened to GUG in the radio the first times. Nowadays I even don't watch TV anymore even if it shows an interview and some live tracks. It became a very natural thing through the years. Remixes don't have any impression or effect on our musical ideas. Remixes are name-dropping and collaborations to see what other people make out of your own music. It's just interesting, but doesn't effect me much.

One thing that "Nightmares" makes obvious is the evolution of G.U.G.'s sound over the last twelve years. How would you describe this evolution? Between which albums do you feel that G.U.G. made its greatest evolutionary leaps?

We started as a goth-electro band, became more poppy and even more electronic, then from the Darius on we became harder and more experimental, less dark, more aggressive. This ended up in the "Firewalker" album. The next step was the "Equilibrium" album, we went back to our roots with again. But we combine wave and gothic with some modern aspects and with typical melody-lines from the 80's, so in a way it's quite unique. On the other hand Paradise Lost and Tiamat nowadays are not too different from what we are doing I must admit.

Given G.U.G.'s willingness to change, how does your new album, "Equilibrium", sound? Is there anything on it that may surprise long time fans? What are some of your favorite songs from the new album, and why?

The whole album is great. We love it. It's so emotional and intensive. I am not able to pick out a certain song that is stronger than the other ones. My fave is "Is This The Place" because in this song we have the best working combination of above mentioned influences.

Will "Equilibrium" be released through Van Richter? If so, when?

I don't know, so I don't know when. It also depends on Van Richter. In the moment we plan to release a single first. "Equilibrium" won't come out before spring 2000. In the moment it looks likely that we go together with Van Richter. They do a great job on us and I don't see the sense of involving another company for "Equilibrium".

I understand that you released an album on Nuclear Blast that had more of a hard-edged Prodigy feel - why the decision to write an album in this style? Were you happy with it? What kind of response did it receive from G.U.G. fans?

We were very aggressive at that time and very close to split up. So this energy and aggression just felt very natural at that time. So "Firewalker" was a reflection of our mood at that point of time. The other thing was that I was very much influenced by Ministry, Manson, NIN and other stuff at that time and becaue I was so un-relaxed this kind of music was the only stuff that really felt right for my needs and music-input. I was able to listen to quiet and slow stuff at that time. We were not very happy with that album. It's very much designed and over-produced. You know, I like bands with lots of energy but I prefer the energy of bands like Swans, because the energy come out of the people/musicians and not out of the distorter/mixing desk or effect-machines. I'm much more glad that with "Equilibrium" we have an energetic but melancholic album that is just there instead of being designed. I hope you know what I mean.

Will you continue to incorporate that harder edge into your music, or was it a temporary experiment with a different sound? If so, what do you feel that you learned from that experiment?

We learned from the experiment that it is much more natural for us creating atmosphere and combine this with different styles of 80's music and a modern production that is not too obvious. "Equilibrium" is us as "Christus" and "Darius" were us. We learned that we just do our thing. I'm convinced that the next album will be even more acoustic, moody, sad but definietly energetic and powerful again. I'm pretty sure that we will top the result of "Equilibrium". We have the strong will to release the masterpiece!!

How would you describe G.U.G.'s songwriting process? Is it generally a collaborative effort, or is much of the work done separately? Does the creative process come easily to the band, or do you find that it is often something that you have to struggle with? Are there ever any instances where band members disagree with one another?

Again, every album has another story and of course in the last 13 years all members changed a lot, got much more experience with different things and influenced the albums in their certain way. Of course every album bases on a collaborational work.
Every member has his special strength. My big thing is writing melodies and arranging stuff. Hauke is very good in mixing the songs, whiel Axel is the main man for the production and for the sound-details in between the songs. Because of that seperation everybody had his free space to be very creative. Of course sometimes my first idea of a song is different from the result and far away what I wanted to express, but very often I'm positively astonished how much more potential came out after Hauke and Axel worked on the ideas. That works very well and I would say thats the secret why we still go on after 10 albums. We are not tired of doing music and creating things together. It's still a good feeling.

What lyrical topics does G.U.G. tackle? Do the lyrics reflect the ideas of a single member of the band, or are they written as a group?

No, I'm in charge of the lyrics. They are very personal things and reflect my personal ideas on every theme you can imagine. Death, love, intrigues, politics, pain, peace, sex, me , us , them....

Do all of the band members have different views on society, politics, religion, etc., or do you all come from a similar school of thought? How much of this perspective is incorporated into your music or your lyrics?

I think we are very much the same kind of people with a comparable history and education. All of us studied, we are all free thinkers and are not involved in any forms of religions. Everything in your life, your education, your experiences influence your way of thinking and the things you do. So of course it also influences your art.

Do you listen to your own CDs often? If so, what sort of response do you get from it, as one that directly participated in the making of the albums?

I never listen to my own stuff, apart from the time where I prepare myself for concerts and try different sets and song-lists to check which ones work best.

Are any of the band members involved in other side projects, production jobs, or remixing activities?

I'm involed in Cassandra Complex. I play guitar for that band. Axel is involved in Traum B, Nefkom, Neustart, Wolfsheim, he is technical supervisor for Project Pitchfork when they are on tour, Hauke , Axel and I together are Trauma, and Hauke is also the main man for the sideproject Traum-B. They are doing Goa and Psychedelic Trance stuff.

What has been the most exciting event in G.U.G.'s existence, to date?

The morning when had breakfast with Gary Numan, he asked me how my concert was and how the name of my band is, I told him it's Girls Under Glass and he said "great, I know you for years. You did the cover version of "Down In The Park" six years ago. I have two tapes full of music of your stuff. It's brilliant"!!! I know, it sounds like a dream, but it was the truth! I was doing promotion and marketing for the "Exile" album at that time. I didn't tell him that I was a big fan at the beginning unless he outed me as the singer of GUG. Luckily it didn't impress him too much.

Is there a lot of difference between G.U.G. on stage and G.U.G. in the studio? As the band makes use of a live drummer and an extra guitarist when playing live, how does that change the dynamic of the band's sound?

OHHHH YEAHH!!! There is a big difference. Nowadays we play with seven people live on stage. Sometimes three people play guitar at the same time, plus bass-player, plus drummer plus backround-singer plus Keyboarder. Live GUG transport a wall of sound. We are more energetic than on the records. I think, we are a good live band.

When you set foot on stage, do you have a specific goal in mind? Do you go through any preparation rituals as a band before playing live? How do you feel after the show?

We don't have rituals and the feeling before we go on stage really depend on the vibes in the audience and in the backstage aerea. The feeling during and after the show depend on how good the show was.

What could a fan expect to experience at a G.U.G. show? Do you use any special effects, pyrotechnics, etc. What is a typical set list for a G.U.G. show?

We don't have a typical setlist and the more money we get the bigger amount of money we can spend for special effects. Let's put it this way: We won't top Rammstein!!

What is the weirdest show that you have played, or the strangest touring experience that you have had?

My gig with Cassandra Complex in Spain was the weirdest one. After twenty minutes all instruments and channels were crashed and we started a bullfight on stage, were jumping in the audience dancing to our backing tapes, kissing girls, getting wild. The crowd was totally into that. That was super-sexy and wild. Around six chicks were grabbing Robert Wilcocks (the other guitarplayer) trying to rape him (I'm NOT kidding here). The local promoter had to stop the whole thing, because the whole situation was close to be turn into a big group-sex-swinger-party. We were thrown out. This is a true story!!!

What is your worst nightmare?

The death of somebody I love.

How do you feel about categories and labels (such as industrial, electronica, techno, aggro, etc.)? Do you feel that they force music to be perceived in a certain way and unnecessarily group both the bands and the fans, or do you feel that they are necessary a necessary evil?

Categories and labels are not necessary. We don't care about any kind of terms. If other people use them it's okay. Everybody has to decide about this on his/her own, because somebody feel that labels or categories help them to get a better idea of what a band or their music is about. Although Gothic Rock as a term never tells you if it is shit or brilliant.

How close are the individual band members outside of the musical environment? Do you spend much time together when not writing/recording/ rehearsing/playing live? How do you usually spend that time?

We don't spend anytime at all with each other out of the studio. I see every member about once the year for private reasons. Apart from that we only meet each other when we do music. That's a really weird realtionship, I know. But maybe this is the reason why we can still respect each other and work together after 13 years.

What bands or types of music do you regularly listen to? Are there any young up 'n coming bands that have knocked off your socks recently?

Oh yesssss. There are a couple of bands I'm totally fanatic about. The Tea Party is absolutely brilliant. So is Type O Negative, Pet Shop Boys, Madonna, Filter and Placebo. But, you asked about upcoming bands? No there is no really new band that impresses me too much.

After twelve years in existence, what are your observations on the electro/industrial genre? How has it changed, in your opinion? Do you feel that it is stronger now, or weaker? Why?

The whole electro genre became more and more boring, because there are hardly any new bands that add something to the music scene that wasn't there before. Bands like Front 242 who tried to combine their style with Techno-Elements also didn't convince me too much. It's just to attract a techno-listening audience. That's commercial bullshit. I like a couple of bands who created a certain style like Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, Pitchfork, Deustch Amerikanische Freundschaft, Kraftwerk etc. I like originals, no copies or imitations. Nowadays we hardly have any original new bands left. They all try to obvious to sound like somebody else they like. That's very boring and this not my claim either for doing music nor for listening to music.
That's my opinion. Of course I forgot NIN to mention as a very original, unique act. Although I know Trent is god for many many people, I must admit it's not my kind of thing.