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Dagmar Krause Interview on "Record Collectors' Magazine, Jan/1999" (Translated from Japanese to English)
- Is this your first visit to Japan?
Dagmar Krause (DK):Yes.
- Would you tell me a little bit about the old story? You grew up in Hamburg, Germany. What was your musical environment in your childhood? Have you got a formal education of music?
DK: No. But music was always played in the house. There were family members who played piano and violin. I used to hear Bach and Mozart. It was the influence of my father.
- When you were a teen-age girl, pops and rock were very hot. Did you hear them?
DK: I was hearing the late 60's music. I was interested in Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. But I usually went to the classical music concerts.
-Your first musical career was City Preachers, wasn't it? How did you join the band?
DK: You know very well. Ha-ha. I don't talk about it anymore... I loved to sing since I was a little kid. When I was 5 years old, I was singing with classical music records. I was having a special feeling in singing. So, when I was 14 years old, I was singing in the club, sometimes singing blues with guitarists, at the club around the harbour in Hamburg. A member of City Preachers came to see me, and I was invited to the group. I was 17 years old or so. I really wanted to be a singer, so I said, "Yes".
- However, you were not satisfied with the group very much?
DK: Music of City Preachers was basically the copy of American music. I was not comfortable with it. But I was so young that I really didn't know what was good or bad. I had to move to the next step. When I was 19 or so, I met film makers. I was asked to sing in the music of an experimental film. The person who composed the music was Anthony.
- What was your first impression?
DK : Ha-ha. He looked dirty, wearing ragged sweater and big trousers. But he was very enthusiastic when he talked about music. That was a very good impression. And I fell in love.
- How did you meet Peter Blegvad?
DK : I was living with Anthony one year after I met him. He got the contract with Polydor for 3 albums. Since his music was very modern, the producer, Uwe Nettelbeck, advised him to make more understandable music. So, he invited Peter. I met him, then.
- When Peter and Anthony were singing in the studio, it sounded awful. So, you said, "sing like this", and started to sing. Thus, you came to sing in the group. Peter said so when he came to Japan.
DK : Ha-ha. He is always telling such things. But don't believe him. At that time, I didn't want to sing, and didn't want to have relations with music. Anthony was making a lot of avant-garde musics. They were not the music to sing with. So, Peter and Anthony were to sing in the group, but it didn't work well. Uwe asked me to sing, and I tried. It happened to fit well. Uwe strongly insisted, "You must." So, I started to sing again.
- It was the birth of Slapp Happy. I'd like to ask you something trivial. Some say that the single "Just A Conversation" was released before the album. Was it true? I've never seen it.
DK: Yes, it's true. It was released from Polydor. I still have it. It may be the last one still existing. Some said so.
- It's surprising! So, the second album, which was released as "Acnalbasac Noom" later, was refused to be released by Polydor.
DK: Yes. But we thought that the process of making the album was important. We enjoyed it. It was not the big problem that it was not released. We didn't think it was a very good situation that we were always regarded as a couple of Faust. Uwe also lost his place in Polydor. So, naturally, we began to look for another company.
- Then, you re-recorded the materials to make "Casablanca Moon". The musicians changed from Faust to British musicians. How did you try to change your way of singing?
DK: When re-hearing the record now, I can analyze this and that. But, when I was singing, I didn't think how to sing. I didn't have a concept. I was doing it unconsciously. As I hear it again, the singing is much softer. It naturally went that way.
- Then, Slapp Happy merged with Henry Cow, and Slapp Happy ended as a band. What did you think about it at that time?
DK: We made another album "Desperate Straight" with Henry Cow. We often had meetings with them because they also belonged to the same company, Virgin Records. I loved that their "wild rock'n roll", so they called their music, was not rock'n roll at all. The individual relationships in Slapp Happy began to be difficult. It was the time for each one to make own adventure and journey. I felt activity as Slapp Happy was difficult when we recorded "Desperate Straight".
- Henry Cow was providing ideological messages at that time. Did you have sympathy to their thought when you worked with them?
DK: Whatever the message was, it was important to sing on the stage. I wanted to do the live performance, but Slapp Happy was not the band to play live. I was frustrated with it. As for message, it was a time when the leftist thought was influential among the young intellectual people. I was also influenced by it. I was thinking idealistically that music can contribute to promote the idea that everyone is equal beyond the class discrimination. I also felt that I could grow up as a musician. I'd been in Henry Cow for 1 year, but reality was very different. We fell in a very dogmatic situation. I began to feel no sympathy to their messages. It was far from humanity.
- So, as a developed form, with Fred Frith and Chris Cutler, Art Bears was born.
DK: Yes. After leaving Henry Cow, I was feeling that I liked to sing songs. I was invited by Chris Cutler, and I joined the group. The experience during Henry Cow worked successful here.
- You began to sing Brecht songs at that time. Later, you made "Supply and Demand" and "Tank Battle" as solo albums. Were you influenced by the works of Brecht from the early period?
DK: Yes. Of course, I was reading Brecht books when I was in Germany. I bought a lot of Brecht related records in the 70's. I read his books and I thought he was very important person in German culture. I felt I came back to the roots when I picked up his songs. Of course, I was born after the war, but my parents had hard times during the war. My grandfather participated in WW1. So, there was social consciousness in my family. I studied how terrible things were done during Nazis period. Many families did not teach about it, and thought they'd better forget it as soon as possible. We were not like that. We should not forget it. We thought we should keep remembering. And I think so now. 6 millions of people died. We should not forget it, and pay our respects to them.
- I agree with you. By the way, how did you feel when you heard the idea of recording "Ca Va" as Slapp Happy?
DK: I was very glad. We'd been keeping in touch. We made an opera "Camera" on the TV 7 years ago. We'd been thinking about it since then. Because Jeff Travis of Rough Trade made the budget to make a record, we started to work together. Everyone came with songs, and we heard them together, and chose favorite songs. It was very smooth.
- So, you enjoyed the recording process.
DK: Yes, I really enjoyed it. The producer knew what kinds of songs or sounds Slapp Happy needed. It worked perfectly.
- We were able to have your concert in Japan, and Peter's concert, too. Is it possible to have concerts as Slapp Happy in Japan?
DK: We are talking about the live performance now. It is not only playing songs, but we want to introduce visual things. We'd like to use some video arts. We will do it next year if we can.
- Please, have concerts in Japan, too!
Slapp Happy Interview on "Studio Voice, Aug/2000" (Translated from Japanese to English)
Is It You?
"Everything has returned to where it started."
- Did you have any idea about what kind of stage you'd like to make when you got the offer from Japan?
Anthony Moore (AM): As a visual concept, we decided to use two screens to show the film. It is a film made by the English director, David Larcher, in 1969. It symbolizes the image of the birth of Slapp Happy; it represents how the band was formed. We used it as an image, and we used it as a lighting to us. First of all, we thought of this visual concept. As for the musical concept, after having discussed, we decided to do it by ourselves in a simple format. Even thought we also considered about playing with other musicians, or using sampling and computers, we decided to do this way because we thought we could show the real Slapp Happy. "Birth" and "Naked" are the themes of the stage. The themes, "Birth" and "Naked", symbolize Slapp Happy very well. It fits to who we are today very well, "Birth" in a visual concept and "Naked" in a simple musical style.
- What do you think about the live proposal from Japan?
Peter Blegvad (PB): We composed "Heading for Kyoto" 30 years ago. We wanted to go to Japan since then. We are very happy to come to Japan in this way.
AM: We also composed "Haiku" in 1970 or 1971. This is like Basho Matsuo; we finally come here through a long travel.
PB: In the beginning of the band, there was a spiritual world that influenced us more than music. We were much impressed by the Japanese culture, which expresses things in a compact way. Bonsai and Tea Ceremony. And "Kawaii" which means the culture toward smallness. In this meaning, Slapp Happy was very Japanese band. It's a "bonsai band".
- How many live performances did Slapp Happy make?
PB: 9 times in Japan and once in 20 years ago. 10 times as a total. There was only one performance at ICU in London. That's all.
- Didn't you make it in Germany, either?
Dagmar Krause (DK) : No, not at all
- Did you have a plan of live performance when you recorded and released "Ca Va"?
AM: No. We basically don't make plans.
PB: We are sleepwalkers. We don't analyze what we do for what purpose. It is not a good thing to wake up sleepwalkers.
- You played old songs and songs in "Ca Va" in the same style. There was a complete continuity between them. Did you have any thought about it?
AM: That is what it is. It is like the title of Samuel Beckett, "How It Is". It's like that. It is not what we purposed, it comes naturally from what we are.
PB: Though we have improved, there is a thing that has not changed at all. Maybe, we haven't changed because we did not work a lot between now and then, .
AM: We have treasured the questions without answers. It has not changed until now since 30 years ago. We can't explain ourselves about our music or our attitude toward music. We are searching for it for ourselves. The questions without answers sound contradictory, but it is the simplest reality.
- Dagmar, you came to Japan with Marie Goyette 2 years ago. We also hear about your live performances abroad. What are you usually working on?
DK: Before I came to Japan, I did the concert with Balanescu Quartet. Alex Balanescu made musical arrangements of Brecht/Eisler songs in "Tank Battle" (1988). Since then, I frequently work with him. We have a new plan to make a work based on Romanian ethnic music. We have been touring Europe and America for 12 years.
- When did you encounter Brecht songs for the first time?
DK: When I was singing in Hamburg, one producer said to me, "Your way of singing is like Brecht". I was 14 years old, and I didn't know who he was. I went to the record shop, and I listened to "The Three Penny Opera". It was an old recording, I think maybe Lotte Lenya was singing in the record. It was the first time that I heard Brecht songs. There were some opportunities to hear Brecht songs since then. When Anthony went to New York, he bought a lot of books about Hans Eisler's music. He recommended me, "You'd better do this kind of music." So, Art Bears picked up "On Suicide". There is one more important factor that I came to work on Brecht songs. When I left Henry Cow in 1978, I had an opportunity to sing a role of Jenny in the English stage of "The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny" At that time, I met the producer, Jason Osborne. He had a relative who used to know Lotte Lenya. He used to work in music during Nazis period, and he had such relationships. He moved to London afterward. Thus, I began to work on Brecht songs.
- Anthony, what are you lately working on?
AM: I am teaching at Academy of Media Arts in Koln. It is more about the sound than music. I teach, speak, and do experiment about the sound. I don't write songs except I do it for Slapp Happy. Slapp Happy is my only musical activity. What I am doing in Koln is different from the concept of music. It is about the sound and space. How the sound reflects in the architecture and so on. Of course, I love to write 3 minute songs for Slapp Happy. I am very happy to make record and do concert.
- How about you, Peter?
PB: I've been working on cartoons of a baby with no face called "Leviathan" for 7 years. It is on Sunday Independent. The book will be published soon. The publisher's name is "Sort Of". It comes from our first album.
- Was it by chance?
PB: It was really accidental. The people of the publishing company are big fans of us, but they didn't know I am the member of Slapp Happy. When I met them, I told them so. They said, "What a surprise! Let's publish the book." If you want my book with my autograph, I will sell it to you at an appropriate price.
- Lastly, anything you'd like to say?
AM: We feel as if we came back to home. It is like a reincarnation. I went to Ohgaki in Gifu when there was no stage. That is where Basho Matsuo arrived after the long journey of "The Narrow Road to the Deep North". When I saw the stone monument of Basho, I was very impressed. There was a circle. We made "Heading for Kyoto" 30 years ago, we traveled around, and now we are here. In Japan, a circle means zero, nothing. These things are connected with notion of circle. Everything has returned to where it started. Everything is connected. I feel lonesome to go back.
Slapp Happy: Discography
Slapp Happy: Review
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