Die Warzau Gets Back On The Horse
By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 7, 2005 4:28PM
Chicagoist really tries to stay on top of what’s happening in the city. Sure we’re a little behind the curve sometimes but mostly we try to keep our finger on the pulse, you know? So please forgive us for not writing about this sooner: tonight at the Metro, Die Warzau is playing their first proper live show in almost a decade.
For those that are steeped in Chicago’s industrial scene, this is a revelation and a minor miracle. Formed in 1988 by Jim Marcus and Van Christie as a performance art group, the band released their first EP (Land of the Free) that same year. Over the next ten years, the band released three albums along with a handful of EPs and remixes. Their hard-driving rhythms, techno samples, and buzzing guitars went happily hand-in-hand with political lyrics not often found on the dance floor. Die Warzau's 1995 Wax Trax album Engine found them at the top of their game with tracks like “All Good Girls”, “Grounded”, and “Belly.”
If this were a Behind The Music episode, this would be the point where The Fall would occur. One member would get all hooked up on the sauce while the other would spend too much time noodling around in the studio with his sitar-playing harpie girlfriend. Instead, the group decided they’d had enough of working within a music industry they’d come to despise and disbanded. In the interim, the duo worked on solo projects and filled up their dance card with production work for artists like KMFDM and Bjork.
The band itself returned late last year with Convenience. Songs like “Radiation Babies”, “Glare”, and “Permission” (online here and at their official site) take a turn towards ambient and show off the album’s excellent production without losing the edge of their beats or content of their lyrics. With record labels ever more worried about the bottom line, can Die Warzau find a place in the industry again? Chicagoist had a chance to sit down with Jim Marcus this afternoon and he was kind enough to answer this question and a few others. Full interview after the jump.
Chicagoist: You guys have certainly been busy since you disbanded. Why did Die Warzau decide to reform now?
Jim Marcus: We had broken up due to a lack of control over what we wanted to say because of label interference. The world is a little different right now. Artist ownership of the medium and the machinery of their message is more possible than ever. I feel like we can say what we need to without fear of being contradicted or invalidated by the efforts of a record label that doesn't necessarily have the same respect for our audience that we do. On top of this, music is a lot of fun. It's a lot safer than base jumping, too.
We had gotten back together specifically to record vocals on an Eco-Hed song for Van's side project. Once we got back in the studio, however, we remembered how easy it was to work together and that we really liked each other, it was just the cartoon that we didn't like. The hope is that we can do this and avoid that cartoon. That we can just be who we are. I bet a lot of other artists feel the same way. They want to find a way to do what they love and are passionate about and not have people in suits assume their audience is composed of idiots and alter it.
Chicagoist: You’ve expressed in other interviews that the band broke up because it didn’t want to be a part of a music industry that treated its artists and audience poorly. Do you think that’s changed at all?
JM: I think the industry is worse than ever. They are systematically suing their audience, countering their artists and using new technology solely as a means to screw people as opposed to providing services to them. Wilco recently said that the internet was their radio. I believe the same thing. This argument was had when the radio was new, on the advent of home recordable tape and now it has reached a level of absurdity that has actually managed to alienate music lovers.
The labels do not want to give up the authority to determine for audiences what they listen to. They don't want to let the audience lead. I'm sorry, but that's what's about to happen. I urge people who have been harassed by the RIAA to stand their ground and document any constitutional violations that agency may have committed in its pursuit. This is an important period in history for art and for the people who would sabotage it to make money. Unfortunately, a lot of toddlers, grandmothers and possibly toasters will be sued before this ends.
Chicagoist: On each album, Die Warzau always seemed to make an effort to challenge its audience’s expectations about industrial or dance music. Did you have a particular sound you were trying to achieve when you and Van started work on this album?
JM: I think this album came out very close to how we had imagined it would. We've had this really lucky relationship with our audience where they have let us get away with doing albums that spanned a number of genres and styles, thematically strung together. Engine, our last album, was like this, and I think we wanted to widen the net with Convenience, and create something even less easy to tie down. It was important to us that every song be something we really believed in and something that made its own space. Obviously, it's up to the listener if that succeeded or not.
The songs we have recorded already for the next album are taking us in a different direction, as well. It's the songs that are in charge, realistically, and how they want to be rendered. I know that sounds like a silly conceit, but it's actually how we feel. If this record is not something that people enjoy, however, it's entirely our fault. No one made us do anything or change anything, pushed us or forced us in any way. From the art, the lyrics, the music and the entire clothing optional, pudding covered recording process, This was entirely what we wanted to do.
Chicagoist: You recently posted a track online (“Insect”) in response to the Bush administration’s “torture” memo. You called it “knowledge-ware” that was free to anyone so long as they learned something in the process. What local, global, or national issue are you most concerned with this year?
JM: That's a tough question. We did Insect to respond to the failure of our country to consider the humanity of its own combatants on both sides in this ongoing part of the permanent American war. There are a lot of challenges right now that tempt us farther from the ideals and wisdom that this country was founded on. I feel like we have to remain vigilant entirely.
We find ourselves discussing the civil rights of homosexuals in this country quite a lot lately, however, since this is such a simple and historically obvious call to arms. Separate is not equal and it never has been. My goal is that historians in the future don't have reason think that we, as a country, were not just misguided but actually physically blind and stupid. Paying close attention to our civil liberties and the footprint we leave on this planet will help toward that goal. I think leaving a few bucks in the history books as bribes won't hurt either.
Chicagoist: What can people expect from tonight’s show?
JM: We will have a lot of fun. I hope that a good part of the audience is multi-orgasmic. It's sad when people finish first and then fall asleep.
Tickets for tonight’s 9 PM show are $11 with DJ Acucrack, PTI, and DJ Tracid opening.