Interview with The House of Usher
The German group The House of Usher will perform in Valencia, alongside with Scots from Deads Eyes Opened and Valencians from The Phantoms. Thanks to Future Sounds Management, we’ll have a unique chance to see 2 international groups from the Gothic scene together with a Garage/Punk local group.
The bet to this kind of concerts seems great to us, so we decided to interview Jörg Kleudgen (singer and group leader of The House of Usher) and Georg Berger (guitars) in order to learn a bit more about them. Besides, on this occasion, we are including questions sent by Dark Valencia’s readers through our participation form. ¡Thanks everyone for your questions!
It has been 25 years since Markus Pick and you established the band, and this year you are celebrating the anniversary with the motto “They were – They are – They will be”, a statement of your intentions with arthuric myths reminiscences. What has The House of Usher (THOU) brought to your lives during this time? Did you know from the beginning that it would be a vital, long-term project?
We were both 22 years old and there was one thing thank linked us to each other: we wanted to be a band. It was a dream only and no one of us had an idea how we could make it come true. Well, Markus had played guitar for many years but I had no skills … nothing! Markus came along with records of all these great bands like THE SISTERS, THE MISSION, WALL OF VOODOO and FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, while I was listening to U2 and SIMPLE MINDS. What he gave to me had such a cool sound and the images and people looked like I really felt inside. I felt like I had nothing to lose, no perspective, just the feeling that we were different from the rest. This is what we kept in our hearts over the years, and it is what makes us being part of the band all the time. You’re not in the band because you’re a musician but because you have a certain attitude. Expressing this attitude means making your own music, and it’s not important to be brilliant in any way. Just be true! This is what kept the band alive through all the years when people came and people went. You don’t have to do anything to be THE HOUSE OF USHER … you just have to be yourself.
Sylvia’s asking you: “As it is obvious that the name of the band comes from a book of Edgar Allan Poe. What was the reason of the choice of this book and not another one from the same author?”
Jöerg: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER does not just describe the descent of a house but also a family. Roderick and Madeline are the prototype of Goths. Don’t you think so? Currently I am writing a novel about a band called LIGEIA’S DEATH which I would also like as a band’s name. The problem is that you have to make a choice at a point you don’t really know how a band will develop. Today I would chose a shorter name obviously but it’s too late. On the other hand THE HOUSE OF USHER has always been kind of a manifesto for our work and it still fits perfectly.
Miryam has sent a similar question, and she’s adding: “Who have influenced your music?”
Georg: I can only speak for myself so in my case it was back in the early 80s when I was young and firstly came into contact with the Radio Show of John Peel. All the music that was played there showed me a completely new world of musical expression which was overwhelming. Groups from that time that have influenced me are The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Xmal Deutschland, Cabaret Voltaire, later on the Residents.
Jöerg: I was influenced a lot by bands, but also by books, films, art but most of all by every day’s life. Watching your environment carefully and with open eyes is the best source of inspiration to me. I’m going by train to work three hours every day and I’m making a lot of interesting observations. In fact I am writing 90% of my novels and lyrics in trains…
Continuing with your trajectory, Lord Howe’s asking you: “After 25 years of your musical career, what are your desires to fulfill?”
Jöerg: After all still and with every new idea we are trying to write a perfect song. As a musician you have to accept that there is a point where you have to let go a song. Every song is like a child and you have to love it this or that way.
Georg: To be still fresh and hungry in creating music. In addition to that, we also strive to always get into experiments in developing the band’s sound.
The booklets from your albums usually include German texts written by you, some of which appear to be short stories. You have also done albums with a defined topic, like the brilliant Radio Cornwall. It’s clear that the narrative component is important for you and THOU. Tell me, which are the subjects covered in those booklets and in the lyrics of your songs?
Jöerg: Well, I am a writer of Gothic Novels and to the album Cosmogenesis I have written a complete book which tells stories to every song. On the other hand I am trying to tell stories in my lyrics as well, transformed to another, an abstract level. Both of them – story and song – complete each other to a certain picture or film which is accompanied by the soundtrack of our music. Pandora’s Box was a collection of songs summarized by a background story about how I met an old magician and leader if the Illuminati by accident just while we were working on the album. This is a wonderful example that shows how fact and fiction flow into each other in our works.
It seems that in the Gothic scene there’s a certain sense of escapism, a disconnection from reality in social, political or enviromental terms. Nevertheless, some of us believe that behind the gloomy and morbid appearance underlies a questioning and discontent attitude. Do you agree? Is there any of these attitude in THOU?
Georg: Yes, that’s true. Every time when we come into contact with people from the gothic scene, we’re not only discussing music, fashion and things like that. Those people nowadays are integrated in normal life. They do have normal day jobs, they do interest themselves in football, in politics and a whole bunch of other things, just as we do. The only difference is, that they sometimes do have a certain view on all of those topics, which sounds sometimes resignated. But this doesn’t mean, that they don’t participate in what’s going on in the world. Another difference ist, that Gothics are wearing other clothes, they are interested in a special form of music. It’s a form of demonstration, that they are different from others, but more in way that they want to underline their individuality, rather than establishing some kind of elite club (besides of some few morons who want to compensate their own psychological problems with the instrument of being a gothic). In consequence: In dressing themselves in a, well, sort of spooky manner, clichés are coming up that are derived from being other than the normal average society. And those normal people are feared by these looks and very quickly there will be opinions, that Gothics are all the time depressed, they’re visiting cemeteries, doing exhumations, killing black cats etc. That’s absolutely bullshit.
You have made many collaborations with other artists (Ikon, The Escape, Violet, Burning Gates, etc.). What have they provided to you as a group? Which one has been the more influential to you?
Georg: It’s always like when you’re in conversation with other people. Different opinions are coming up, the pros and cons of these opinions are discussed, sometimes someone is giving information about things that we still haven’t known up to that point and sometimes our heads are turned into a perspective that we never have had before and which is in the end very interesting. It’s like when former members are replaced. The new member will always enrich the band with an individual way of playing an instrument, in establishing a sound, etc. And so it is, when working with other bands. In my point of view, the most influential impact in our music do have Violet and Lars from Sweet Ermengarde. Both are like the moon, which is turning round the earth. They are always in our minds and when we think, we do need support, we can be sure that those people/bands will come to stay on our side.
Do you know Dead Eyes Opened? Have you played with them before?
Georg: Yes and no. In 2013 we played in Reading and that was the first time, when I saw them, but not for a long time. Then back in April this year we played together in Witten (Germany) and there I had the opportunity to talk to them in more intense way and getting more in contact with their music. They are really cool people, very grounded, very kind.
How strong is the Dark scene in Germany? You have Gothic Rock bands as THOU, Reptyle, Sweet Ermengarde, Merciful Nuns, Still Patient?, etc. What level of popularity does the style has in the German scene, along with others as Deathrock and Post Punk?
Georg: That’s a difficult question. In my point of view, the scene is divided into two parts. There are bands, that are very famous and they always appear on every important festival and they get all the attention by the media. OK, this has to do with a lot of (financial) support by the record labels, who are trying to push “their” products more into the front. Then there is still the underground scene, apart from having big budgets, which will always be very vivid. But the fact is, that because they are in the underground, getting more attraction by more people, even in the time of internet, facebook and Co. is really a difficulty. Another important aspect is, that nowadays, where the possibility in making and producing music is getting cheaper, we are overflown with legions of bands, trying to get the same attraction as the well known bands. But in the end the consumer is overburdened with a vast offer of music. I think every musical genre hast to deal with this problem, be it Heavy Metal, Dancefloor, etc.
Unpocodeinfo (greetings to Tomahawk and his music/art/culture blog) has done a similar question, adding this: “Which are the groups that have surprised you last years?”. Likewise, TB’s question is: “Which are your 80’s and current favorite bands, both in electronic and guitar music?”
Georg: Last year there was only one band, that has flashed me: She past away from Turkey. This good old 80s Sound with the electronic drumming, the flanger-bass and the clean Cure-guitars were just overwhelming. Their music is a remarkable mixture of electronic, combined with ingredients of The Cure and Joy Division. Superb! My favorite 80s bands: The Cure, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, Cabaret Voltaire, The Residents, Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy, Killing Joke, The Passage, Einstürzende Neubauten, Xmal Deutschland, Der Plan, and lot more.
Jöerg: Well, all of us have a rather similar musical taste. A band that surprised me in last years was ADORATION, but when I heard of them they’d already split up. In fact I like DEAD EYES OPENED very much! They have a great somehow old fashioned sound and great melodies!
You’ve declared in your website that your new album Inauguration has relaxed songs, in contrast to the inner conflicts of the band. What could you tell me about the band’s current state? Are you all fine? Are the conflicts part of the natural process in a band’s lifespan?
Georg: Yes, now we are all fine and we’re looking very optimistic right into the future. I don’t want to go now into detail concerning the conflicts and problems during the production of Inauguration, they were very special and at some point there were a lot of frustrations so that the existence of the band was in danger. Apart from that, conflicts will always occur, be it on a personal level or when producing a piece of music. We always try to solve these conflicts in a respectful manner, which most of the time has worked very well.
Jöerg: In fact this album led us straight to our borders due to various problems but it also showed us how precious it is to be part of THE HOUSE OF USHER. Markus who started the band together with me in 1990 returned which is a great gift to me. He helped me with our 25 years biography that we published in December 2014 for which we wrote a song together with Georg. It is called Those Were The Days and you’ll find it in the www easily.
And regarding your new album, why have you chosen Inauguration as its title? A mate recently mentioned me that your former album Pandora’s Box supposed a qualitative leap forward in terms of production. Does Inauguration represents a new stage in the group’s evolution?
Georg: No, not really. Inauguration will have the same production quality than Pandora’s Box. So, in consequence there’s no evolution or development.
Jöerg: Well, Inauguration sounds different by the songwriting not so much by the production. There are more intimate and calm songs on it … a lot of atmospheric material. I don’t remember if I’ve chosen the title after I had seen Kenneth Anger’s film Inauguration of the pleasure dome or if I saw the film afterwards. Like Pandora’s Box it was in my mind one day. I wanted a word that was short and remarkable. It expresses the result of a procedure and looking backwards it fits perfectly to the album.
If I’m not wrong, this is the first time you perform in Spain, and specifically in Valencia. How is a THOU concert? What will the audience find in your next gig in Valencia?
Georg: You will see four old farts standing on the stage, banging on their instruments, drinking a lot of beer and trying not to play the wrong notes. OK, I’m kidding.
Jöerg: You never know what expects you, since we don’t know it either. It is an expression of what we feel and it can be this way or that even if the music is the same. I’m looking forward to it very excited and I’m sure it will be one of our best shows ever!
Georg: Well, it depends on how enthusiastic the audience will be. It’s like football, where the twelfth member of the team is the audience. Every time, when we are coming on stage, we are living our music and I think, the audience is recognizing this. Sometimes this will be a very intense performance, where we get so deep in playing our instruments, in diving into the songs, that we’re acting like marionettes. We’re getting into a flow, some kind of trance where we are opening our inner feelings, while playing the songs. When this is happening, it always will be a very memorable performance not only for us, also for the audience.
Nacho Artax is asking you: “What did you know about Valencia before you received the offer to perform here?”
Georg: OK, I have to admit, that I never have heard anything from Valencia before. But after reading an article about Valencia on wikipedia, I’m now very excited to get there. It seems to be a very vivid city, with a very vivid alternative music scene and a lot of cultural ambitions. I’m interesting myself a lot in architecture and seeing all those modern buildings and museums will be great for me.
Jöerg: It’s not just Valencia but Spain in general which interest me a lot. We never had a chance to play there but I always dreamt of it. After Germany and Italy Spain was always the country we have sold the most of our CDs. I often asked myself: if there are so many people who listen to our music, why don’t we go there to play? In fact it was difficult because we had no agency and the distance is so far that it hardly makes sense to go there by car. Spain has an amazing history, and I know so much about it on one side and so little on the other. I am really curious to see all this with own eyes!
Will you bring merchandising at the gig? (CDs, vinyl records, T-shirts, etc.).
Jöerg: Due to the fact that we are coming by plane I fear that we will be limited a little bit, but I’m looking for a solution. Maybe I’m going to send a large parcel by post to the organizer of the concert. We will have T-shirts for sure, nearly all our vinyl-singles and all albums which are not sold out … a history of 25 years means a lot of releases and I see that it’s hard to find out which one is interesting you. We will make really reasonable prices!
Would you like to add anything else? It has been a real pleasure to interview one of the reference bands in Gothic Rock. I’m really looking forward to seeing your performance with Dead Eyes Opened and The Phantoms… we’ll be in the front row!
Georg: We are very excited to play our first gig in Spain, to get in touch with the Spanish gothic scene … Jöerg: … and to feel the spirit!