Among things that haven't happened for last 8 years is colonization of Mars where everything is built of Eastern German asphalt and anhalt EBM concert stages on every corner of a new booming Martian metropolis. Another thing that hasn't happened is news or word from Sturm Café. So it is something special when Gustav from the band gives a long talk on the Swedish blog Invisible Guy/Repartiseraren. Gustav talks about Sturm Café and his side projects Kommando XY and Working Puppets, about his musical journey, the past and the future.
The interview is available on soundcloud, in Swedish. Here in this post you can read a shorter approximate English translation. The interview also includes a ton of great music: an exclusive remix of Sturm Café's Koka Kola Freihet and some other unreleased material. You can also hear lots of great music from Jäger 90, DAF, Kommando XY, Working Puppets, and an old unreleased track by our all favorite KROPP!, and others. See the track list here, as well as a blog post about the interview (in Swedish).
What are you guys up to at the moment? You haven't been very active lately?
-Well, we have been active in that sense that we have been playing some live concerts, and we released a compilation album last autumn. But it is true, we haven't released a new album for, what is it? Almost ten years now? The last album came in 2005. We have made some tracks, but there has always been something to slow down the process.. a hard disk with new material that got corrupted. We also have difficulties finding time to work on new music. We live in different towns with some travelling distance, me and Jonathan. We are also using analogue instruments, so we can't do what many other bands do, like sending data files to eachother. So we must find time to meet. Jonathan works in public transport, trains, and is often busy there on weekends. I too work in public transport and unfortunately it feels like work eats up most of our time.
But still we try to find time to make new stuff sometimes. We have to release something good. People often say that the 2nd album is the most difficult one to make..and it has been ten years, so obviously it is true.
But how do you play live now? You have lots of old tracks. Are they still popular?
-Absolutely! And we have released some tracks on various compilations and online after our debut album which have become big hits. So when we play live we play a mix of old tracks and newer ones. We are pretty satisfied when playing live. I think we have a good set-list, and people like it.
You mentioned a compilation album earlier?
-Yes, it's the one called "Rarities". I uploaded this album on Spotify and Itunes already in 2011. Lots of tracks on this album that have been released on other compilations, our own demos (like tape recordings from 2001). "Rarities" has been avaible online for some time, but our German fans prefer something more specific when it comes to music releases, like CD or LP. We met a guy in Germany, Frank, who wanted to release a double CD of "Rarities", including some bonus material, which was an older live recording. So this CD was released in September 2013 when we played live in Kassel in Germany. The release was of course limited to 242 units.
Which is related to Front 242..
-Well it is a good number in a way... But of course, the number is a tribute to Front 242.
How come you are so popular in Germany?
-It has to with EBM as a genre I think. I think Swedish bands perform EBM in a generally different way than Germans. We often play at the festival Familientreffen on the Eastern Germany countryside, and usually one third of the bands performing there are Swedish.
How are other Swedish bands doing there?
-We have Spetsnaz, who sing in English, and who probably are the biggest Swedish EBM band in general. Then we have Pouppée Fabrikk who have been away for a long time, but are back now. Pouppée Fabrikk are especially popular in Eastern Germany, it's as if they have some roots there.
Sturm Café has been active for a really long time, when do you think anhalt ebm, as it is called now, became popular in Sweden?
-I think it always has in a way been popular, as there always has been some form for tribute to 80's electro, which anhalt EBM (or old school EBM, or whatever you want to call it) is. When we started there was also another band called Dupont who had released some material. In Sweden we use the name "synth" to define various electronic genres, which also includes EBM. We have always liked a mix of different genres. In Germany, I think, it is more divided where except Depeche Mode, which everybody likes, people tend to differ more. They either like synthpop or aggrotech or industrial or EBM. They divide it more, while in Sweden we tend to listen to several genres. But anyway, EBM in Sweden has become more and more popular. We have gotten more new bands, and there have been more music events, for example in Stockhom, like Bodytåget and Bodyfest. The EBM scene is alive there and feels pretty stable.
What do you think about bands like EkoBrottsMyndigheten, SPARK! - as it can appear that EBM took a different turn with them?
-I think they are great bands, good friends of mine. I also want to mention a band called KROPP. They visited me recently, we drank some beers and they bought some of my synths. I think KROPP is particularly good, great production. It's great when bands sing in Swedish, there have been many others who do this.
Through all these years, what you learned from Sturm Café?
-Great question. Generally it has tought me music production, work with synths, but also marketing and management. Jonathan has always been the one more responsible for the show, while I have been responsible for organising the traveling, contact with record labels. So I have leared a lot about management, which also is a great experience to have in daily work life. We also have experienced and visited many places in Europe, from Trondheim in Norway (the most Northern part) to Napoli in Italy (the most Southern).
What are your best and worst concert memories?
-The best one is definetly when we for the first time went to play in Dessau in Germany. This was in 2004, the first time we travelled alone to another country. We just had finished school. We were one of the first Swedish bands to play there, I think Spetsnaz and Dupont did it before us in that club. All the Germans there were big bad ass EBM guys who looked like commando solders, while we were two small youngsters. We have played there four or five times after that.
The worst experience was when we played in Poland at Collapsed City Festival, because we lost all the money we had invested to traveling there. We were promised we would get it back. They also had Spetsnaz and Jäger 90 as part of a line-up. It seemed sort of risky, and it wasn't like we wanted to earn any money on the performance, but at least get back what we paid for for plain tickets and gas. I think the same thing happened with many other bands who played that night. The concert performance wasn't bad itself, but loosing so much money makes a bad memory.
Besides working out, training, working in factories, there is also a very big focus on Jäger in EBM. Why?
- I am not sure, I think this goes beyond my time. When I went to synth clubs, all the older guys would drink Jägermeister. It is not a very manly drink, it's a sweet liquor kind of drink, so it is strange, hahaha. They also drink it in Germany, and even a sweeter kind of drink called Pfeiffi. They always sell it during EBM events in Germany and everyones drinks it and are happy. It's fun! But I don't have any better explanation for why it has become so popular.
It seems there is some irony in EBM?
-Absolutely. Even though some of the first bands were more serious, we have been more light in our approach. And you have EkoBrottsMyndigheten who don't take themselves very seriously. So irony is definetly a part of it, and you can also hear it in old DAF songs, stuff like sweaty leather. Later came Nitzer Ebb with various symbols. There are of course some who don't get the irony and those who make too much of the irony, but generally it has always been a part of it.
What was it that lead you to EBM in the beginning?
-I think it was when were around 14-15, when we started listening to this kind of music. My father had some recordings by Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb as well as Cabaret Voltaire. When you are that old and become a fan of a certain style, it can seriously stick to you. We did some music then, inspired by these bands, and sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't. In the end, I don't think we are making the most original music in the world, but at least we have found our own sound within the genre.
How would you describe an "own sound"?
-Minimalistic, yet epic in a way, and catchy. We don't limit ourselves. We use lots of melodies. I think we differ to some degree because we use old analogue synths, and create music with an old black and white atari.
But you haven't made any new music recently?
-Actually no..But I have made some enhancements to the studio with new equipment (a replica of an old KORG synth) and I think things will become a little bit more productive from now on.
You worked with Progress Productions on some of your releases. How was it?
-It was good! We released our first album there, plus some compilations and an EP called "Tot" through them. We parted ways in 2009, we got tired from the music for some time and took a break from the band. We got back together some time later, and that was when we made "Koka Kola Freiheit". We then realised we want to have a different sound, a little bit more poppy, yet minimalistic. We then also thought it was more fitting to release our music ourselves. We released Koka Kola Freiheit single on LP, limited to 400 copies, and it felt good! We felt we could do whatever we wanted, even though it is great to have economic support from a label when you are releasing stuff. We later have had help from Frank, as I mentioned earlier, who has an organization called Frankhadafi Records, who released "Rarities" CD last year. But I don't know what will happen for our next release yet, not sure if it will be a single, EP, or a full album. We will see. I think it is great to keep all the doors open and see where it leads us.
You have several unreleased tracks?
-Well, we actually have an album ready, which we have been working on for several years, which we call "Europa", and we have 10-12 tracks ready. But we feel we want to be 100% satisfied with it. We also want to release an LP, but it is expensive. And it also costs more to ship LP's to people once they buy it. It is cheaper with a CD. I love vinyl myself, but I know that for example many German fans prefer CD's. So the question is whether we release both LP and CD, or just one of the formats? But generally we feel we are 90% satisfied with the material we have so far, and we want to reach 100.
What is the message or lyrical content of your tracks?
-Some of our older tracks are about going to the gym and stuff like that. It is Jonathan who writes the lyrics, and we work together around the concepts. We also love reading books and enjoy history a lot, so some of our recent tracks represent that, like Der Löwe Ist Zurück, and 1632.
You released a whole bunch of tracks on various compilations. How did that happen?
-Well, it differs. Often you get an e-mail from someone somewhere, who wants to release a compilation. Some of those are double CD's with around 40 tracks, which is more typical in Germany. We also released a track through Ronny, from Container 90, a release called "3D pop" on vinyl, with four tracks from four different bands. The cover of the release was in 3D which you could only see with 3D glasses. We also did a track called "Schweiss Bier und Stahl" on a compilation called Hymns of Steel, which was a tribute to steel, where all the tracks on it were supposed to be about steel. We have taken part on many compilations, and we sometimes decline such invitations if the compilations don't appear very interesting.
You worked with Electric Tremor Dessau when releasing Kommando XY?
-They are the same people who arranged events on the previously mentioned club in Dessau (Beatclub), and they after some time wanted to release music. They asked us if we wanted to release Kommando XY through them as a label. We released first en EP called "From Gävle With Love" and the debut album some time after that. It's organised by a guy called Goldi who also is behind the Familientreffen festival in Eastern Germany, which I by the way recommend a lot. It is not very big, there is only room for 1000 people there, but it is very nice and fun, with people from all over the world, like Russia, France, even USA. I think it is funny that our band that sings in Swedish is on a German label, and our band that sings in German was released by a Swedish label.
What do you have in your Sturm studio?
-Lots of equipment, ATARI, microphones, synths. I think it is great to have it all at home. Lots of bands in other genres often have to use a "real" studio, which can be expensive. Actually we have recorded some tracks in a professional studio before. But we have invested in better equipment gradually, and it is great to be able to do quality recordings at home.
Do you have any stories to share from your experiences with Kommando XY, Sturm Café, and Working Puppets?
-One funny story is from when we played at Familientreffen in 2009, which was supposed to be our last concert. We hired a mini buss to travel there (Eastern Germany), and we had KROPP, Mathias from Spark!, and Ronny Larson from Container 90 with us. We drank a ton of beer in that bus, and in the end we drove to a place not far from the festival locale where we were supposed to stay. We opened the bus door and all these empty beer cans rolled out, and Goldi, the festival arranger who was there said "Oh, this must be a Swedish bus!".