Art is fanaticism that demands diplomacy – NSK
Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin, May 5th 2004
Only God can subdue Laibach. People and things never can. – Laibach and NSK
Strauss’s Blue Danube is playing over the PA. The stage is empty… Where the hell is LAIBACH ?
The crowd is getting more dense, it’s nearly impossible to move. I am in exactly the wrong place, and nearly dislocate my shoulder while toying with camera lenses.
A man strolls onto the stage. A roadie, I think, he’s too casual to be in LAIBACH. He drops down behind the drum kit, and starts laying onto the pigskins… they’re here.
The rest of the band file onto the stage, to a heavy techno drum beat. Searchlight beams light up the auditorium, and cut-up film sequences start playing on the backdrop…
The first song, I seem to recall, is, B:Machina. The lead singer, Milan, dressed in a leather butcher’s apron, a sort of flak jacket, and a hat that looks like a beret with wings, starts growling into the microphone. Amidst a torrent of drumbeats and noise, his voice makes the bass guitar sound lightweight. And he looks like Vigo Mortensen’s weird cousin, cloned with Atilla the hun. He growls into the mike…’Machines we are sending to the skies…’. I’m trying to take photographs, but the strobes are making it nearly impossible.
It’s hard to describe how LAIBACH sound – on the NKS State website, someone compares them to a kind of visigoth Earth Wind and Fire. Imagine a disco in hell, if you will.
LAIBACH refuse to speak as anything other than LAIBACH – and only then through a spokesperson. As part of the NSK collective, they exude a sense of humour that’s so dry, it’s arid. Their high-concept satire, however, is lost on many people, including some of the fans. There’s a fine line between satire and camp.
Example? Their second song is a grinding ode to war… Status Quo’s In The Army Now, followed by Pink Floyd’s The Dogs of War, both from LAIBACH’S NATO album. This appropriation of cover versions is a staple weapon in the LAIBACH holster – they’ve even subverted a whole album of Beatles covers (Get Back).
A few songs of crunching and growling later, ‘the lead singer’ vanishes off stage, leaving the band playing an instrumental. When he reappears, barechested, he’s joined by two rather toned and impassive ladies. One blond, one brunette, both have their hair in pigtails, and they take their places by drums and mikes, each side of the stage centre. They’re wearing fezzes, face mikes, and belted costumes. The band starts into God is God while the ice maidens – ‘Helga’ and ‘Heidi’ lash into the two drums, showing off gym-oriented cum drummer-boy dance routines, all the while providing ethereal operatic backing vocals.
Triva: Apparently, One ‘Rhinemaiden’ backing singer is the Slovenian national swimming champion, while the other sings in an all-girl pop group and studies English at post-graduate level. ‘”We would never reveal that we are just normal people who are doing all this stuff. It’s a project!” says their spokesman.'(Source »)
What the hell is going on here? It’s all a bit Nazi, isn’t it? While it’s the intial impression, LAIBACH are too clever, too articulate, and far too arty to be mere neo-facists or socialist hanger-ons.
In a Daily Telegraph article, a ‘spokesperson’ said: ‘LAIBACH is the German name for Ljubljana, used by the Nazis when they occupied Slovenia. After the Second World War, the name Laibach was semi-officially forbidden. So it had a strong emotional kind of meaning. We thought, “If it’s that strong, it must be worth using it!”‘
The group were established in 1980 in Trbovlje, an industrial-coal mining town in the centre of Slovenia. The communist authorities promptly banned LAIBACH’s public performances before they had a chance to even stage them!
So what are LAIBACH on about? Quite simply, LAIBACH have artistically employed guerilla techniques to mimic all they they stand against – nationalism, facism, war, industry, bureaucracy. That done, they accelerate their imitations to the Nth degree, driving far beyond mere parody. By using questionable asthetics and a plethora of symbolism, they challenge the very meaning of habits, culture, signs, styles and motifs. LAIBACH hold up a weird, warped mirror to the world.
That said, LAIBACH may not be to everyone’s taste. Their vocals of doom, industrial Europop and Nazi chic is a turnoff to many. It doesn’t matter how clever it is if the audience finds it unlistenable…
But back to the gig, and the band are launching into the disco insanity of Tanz mit LAIBACH. ‘Ein, zwei, drei, vier!”, the backdrop shows army boots marching, and skeletons marching in unison. It’s a stomping tune laden with references to the ‘German-American’ friendship this is ‘Dancing to Baghdad’ dotted with references to ‘Ado Hinkel’ and ‘Benito Napoloni’. [Check out Joel Veitch’s Rathergood video]
As we recover from that one, LAIBACH are trawling through Now You Will Pay… No prizes are guessing what this song is about from the lyrics: ‘Barbarians are coming, crawling from the east’. Once the fantastic chorus kicks in, with the two valkyries start shrieking.
Barbarians are coming, heading your way.
the evil is rising, kneel down and pray.
The song goes on:
They’ll come out of nowhere,
They’ll enter your state,
The nation of losers,
The tribe full of hate.
With knives in their pockets
And bombs in their hands,
They’ll burn down your cities
And your disneylands.
I have a sort of amused respect for Hell: Symmetry. The lyrics are threatening, the delivery slow:
I will take your thoughts
and I’ll make them mine
I will speak your language
and I’ll make it mine
The chorus should be a rather tender ‘Love me… Love Me not’. Instead, I end feeling worried what might happen if I don’t love LAIBACH.
WAT, the title track of LAIBACH’s most recent album, spells out a sort of anti-manifesto:
We are no ordinary type of group
We are no humble pop musicians
We don’t seduce with melodies
And we’re not here to please you
We have no answers to your questions
Yet we can question your demands
We don’t intend to save your souls
Suspense is our device
We are time
We are time
We are time
We are time
WAT states, in no uncertain terms that LAIBACH care not for the critical interpretation by the mainstream. They do what they do, and well, fuck you if you don’t get the joke.
You will be left here all alone
With a static scream locked on your face
Eventually, amidst the strobes and fragmentrary projections, the band stride off stage in through a wall of noise, only reappear to play the orchestral cut-up of Anti-semitism, and a peculiar version of the Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil. This time, Helga and Heidi have their hair down, and seem less intimidating. They’re beating the hell out of those drums though…
And then they’re gone…. leaving us with a dance remix of ‘Tanz Mit LAIBACH’, followed by seems to have been an American WWI propaganda song about stringing up the Kaiser from a Linden Tree. Lovely.
Rare CD for sale! Laibach + Rekapitulacija 1980-1984 »
WAT on Amazon.co.uk »
WAT on Amazon.com »