"Every serious artist needs a proper relation to death and his soul!"
Michael Haas talked about his dramatic tightrope walk between death's conscious melancholy and an ironic sarcasm and stressed the main force of the 5th Angizia album "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel". This interview was conducted by the Greek music journalist Stefanos Zachariadis.
Greetings Michael, and congratulations on your incredible new release, "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel". Coming 4 years after "39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann", could you tell us how do you feel the album has moved ANGIZIA's music forward?
Greetings, Stefanos. To be honest: I don't think, that "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" is done for any artistic progress, musical forward or any kind of improvement. We also do not pursue a musical evolution to become more or less professional with the realisation of new projects. If we make music with and for Angizia and have the special aim to create avant-garde musical plays with serious stories it's for sure a new aim or a virtuoso challenge, but skilled musicians and a professional conception and direction every time lead to professional results, regardless whether a listener loves or dislikes it. Of course "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" possibly is the most perfected Angizia album ever and I think, if an Angizia listener is greedy for morbid ideas and crazy theatrical music and voices itself he will both love and devour "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel". But it's of course legitimate to appreciate more circus music, rock or metal elements which we partly or more involved in albums such as "39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann". "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" is a very intense album, full of surrealistic ideas, more theatre and a very bizarre sound approach. I always wish to have a very special sound for every Angizia work, because of the fact, that each project is a unique one.
So I have to stress, that "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" wasn't done to compare it with other Angizia works in "quality" or to locate a special "improvement" as we always work for the intention(s) of a play and the individual story itself. I hate the poor fact, that so many bands just release modifications of their last works (the same ideas, the same sound, the same lyrics...) to have a constant audience and a steady inquiry. That's really mind-bending, artistically uninteresting, regressive and dubious. Angizia has done an incredible 5th album - that's right - but it's for sure no album for everyone. We have shown, that our music has no borders and that we are in the position to make music, which is out from this planet.
What is the main theme behind the new album? What inspired you to write it?
The main theme behind "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" is the tightrope walk between death's conscious melancholy and it's ironic sarcasm. I wished to create a surrealistic story with bizarre figures and their lively characters in the scenery of Königsberg's cemetery after the 2nd world war. I believed in the force of a metaphysical world and a more satiricial access to "death" and its related themes. It's one author's most interesting "role", when he has the possibility to show one figure in two lives: Elias Hohlberg, organ-grinder and protagonist of "39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann" came to death within the story of our 4th album, but relives a really dreadful, but characteristic existence on devil's foggy and marshy cemetery within our 5th album "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel". I wrote his bony stature and corpse in a bizarre story round black puppets, childlike themes such as rocking horses, marionettes, children rhymes, but also wished to create a stage for the protagonist's nostalgic and sorry view on his earthly living and existence. Thus the drama of this story is a classical one, but associated with lots of shudder, evil, sarcasm, irony and morbidity. I think, the morbidity of "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" is the most characterising specification of this 5th Angizia album.
The main inspiration for "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" was the third
and surrealistic act of "39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann". I wished to
create a whole story round a dead and buried organ grinder, which shouldn't
be too severe or serious in the sense of "Dead is cruel and evil!" or "A
cemetery is always calm and certainly a place for eternal rest!" The story
is always written with a certain wink and I always had the intention to
hide many nostalgic and cunning elements behind the main story line, which
have to be discovered from the listener when devouring this 75 minutes.
Of course THE DEAD itself is a main and omnipresent figure, which has place
in each chapter of this play. But it's the same in love songs, or not? Here
"love" is the main parameter of the lyrical approach. So a listener shouldn't
knock against the partly doomed and sarcastic lyrics of "Ein Toter fährt
You also have to know: Every Angizia work had to do with dying, the death and its consequences. With the first albums we have shown a more limited and poetic access to the death of protagonists such as Konstanz Bürster ("Die Kemenaten scharlachroter Lichter"), Hanna Anikin's mother ("Das Tagebuch der Hanna Anikin") or Elias Hohlberg ("39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann") - and I have to repeat a statement of the Austrian actor and theatrical director Paulus Manker in this connection, who once meant: "Every serious artist needs a proper relation to death and his soul!"
What do you consider your main musical (and non musical) influences to be?
Oh, that's a difficult question. I think I have to stress, that Angizia isn't influenced by certain bands or works. It's more likely a musical feeling which is close to morbid moods, dramatic films, crazy Klezmer or circus music, but of course the THEATRE (also the spoken one) itself is the main character and basis of Angizia's music. I also think, that tuba polkas, military marches, classical music, radio plays, circus songs or jewish influences get its special charm and thrill in Angizia because of the characteristic and maybe peculiar harmony with our theatrical sympathy and really lively, crazy and narrative voices. That's a musical synthesis, which is unique and not really possible to be imitated by other bands. It's our undisputed musical originality! So, Angizia's music is my "best of" musical and lyrical thoughts. In my ears and imagination music has to sound this way. Of course I don't listen to standardised folk songs to absorb polka rhythms, but I know that groovy polka or bass rhythms, eccentric and virtuoso instruments and a dissipated and impressive grand piano are main components of our musical works.
I think, Angizia albums are also unconsciously influenced by important films, books, thoughts and my own visions, which I need for being an artist. I like jewish music a lot and thus of course also soundtracks such as "Schindler's list", "The pianist", "Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain", "Oldboy", "Ring" or "Dancer in the dark". Hans Zimmer in "Ring 1 & 2" for example composed music, which is very close to my musical and cinematic thinking. Meanwhile I am possibly more a "cineast" than a musician. I really esteem the works of filmmakers such as Lars von Trier, Francois Ozon, Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Fernando Meirelles, Philip Kaufman and Michael Haneke. They all stand for a really visionary move of cinematic ideas. On the stages of the European theatre I admire(d) the directions of Nicolas Stemann, Christoph Schlingensief, Bert Brecht, Peter Zadek and Erwin Piscator. But I don't think, that these artists have influenced my conceptional thinking or primary and directly Angizia's music. Unconscious influences are very important, but Angizia never composes in a way to create music, which is similar to other bands or already existing works or projects. What would be the sense out of that? I hate plagiarism and always designated my main intention for making music or art "as intention to make original and unique music, which is chiefly incomparable", irrespective of the growing commercial thinking in this so called "underground".
Is there any particular ANGIZIA moment (a song, for example) that you are especially proud of?
I am proud of the whole work, although our music is often full of details and certain moments. I think, the radio play or spoken sequences of "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" are strong moments with a very intimate atmosphere, but they are done to be part of a whole conception and a complete and morbid story. I also can take the view, that every moment in my work has to be a particular one and if not, the respective scene would be not good enough to be component of the whole story. In theatrical plays or artistic films a single scene is as much important as the whole film, and so you have to interpret an Angizia album.
Have you ever considered touring? Are there any plans for that in the future?
No, sorry. There are no touring plans in future and this fact is well-founded with many arguments. One main reason why Angizia is not willed to give concerts at the moment, is, that our musicians are busy with so many different projects during a year, that it's nearly impossible to find common moments for regular Angizia rehearsals. Also the metal imagination of a "music festival" isn't our imagination of giving concerts. I can't believe, that Angizia is that suitable to play after Mayhem or Within Temptation. We are NO metal band and I don't know any Angizia musician who listens to metal.
Our musicians are also used to get a special fee for their intensive artistic work, but that's not possible in a genre or scene, where bands just play for free or a box of bear. Some Angizia musicians are employees of well known theatres in Austria, and they won't play music some 1000 kilometers away, if they won't get a justified fee for their performance. Of course, they won't - and I can't blame them for their attitude. You also have to understand, that offering a play such as "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" on stage would demand some months or almost a year to guarantee the whole play in all its details (stage, different figures, theatrical components, visual media...). Also the fact, that our collective contains 12 or 13 musicians isn't that optimal for making the most perfect sound out of it on the stage of bands, where a music sound is just done for 4 or 5 instruments. Angizia concerts are surely always connected with money and the financing of large-scale performances - although we got some inquiries for concerts all over the world so far, the financing of these events every time was unclear and uncertain.
I think Angizia concerts are just conceivable beyond the scope of a theatre, with a seating audience and without sharing a sound with three or four (metal) bands. That's it. It's also worth mentioning, that the preparations for some Angizia concerts would be that extensive and expensive, that we could possibly realise a double CD with 100 minutes instead.
Austria, and Vienna in particular, has an interesting music scene with some very eclectic bands, like KOROVA, SUMMONING, etc. Are you in touch with the music scene there? How does the music public receive ANGIZIA there?
Well, maybe you think of times in 1996 or 1997, when ABIGOR, SUMMONING, KOROVA and ANGIZIA all have been part of the Austrian label NAPALM/RECORDS, but I never felt to be part of a kind of scene or "Napalm community". Angizia was always busy to force own ideas and unconventional musical projects, which really differed from other Austrian and European bands. Today, 2005, I think Angizia is the only active project of the bands you have mentioned. There had been great personalities (Christof Niederwieser, Thomas Tannenberger…) of indeed original bands, but no idealistic agreement or harmony between these projects, not even in times, where all these bands had been signed to Napalm/Records. Of course I still have contact with Christof Niederwieser (the ex-mastermind of Korova), as he always was very close to my own thoughts about this "so called underground" and moreover was an important member of Angizia's collective in the years of 1997 and 1998. After the split of Korova and the stop of Korovakill Christof moved to Berlin (Germany) and now doesn't have any further intention to make music again. But we are still in contact - he was one of the most important personalities in the Austrian metal scene - indeed!
Let me put something down: The Austrian underground "lived on" important personalities and many interesting and very different projects (you forgot DORNENREICH). Each of these projects has given this underground an individual note - and it's sad enough, that bands such as Korova or even Abigor are not existing anymore. Angizia and Korova especially often had main problems to convince thousands of Austrians with their really eccentric music, as both collectives still had been busy to pull their original ideas through a "nonoriginal" music scene.
To be honest: Angizia has much more fans in Mexico, Russia or Canada than in Austria itself, although many Austrian musical enthusiasts bought "39 Jahre für den Leierkastenmann" and "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" CDs. Angizia's music is very provocative, sulky, obstinate and thoughtless original - and more than that our music demands serious musical empathy and precise listeners. That are all in all reasons enough for many conventional listeners to buy more shallow music instead. Angizia is strenuous, but qualitative and most professional.
And I wish to tell you: I don't mind, if 100, 1000 or 10 000 people listen to my plays. Angizia albums wouldn't be less good or professional if it would be just 10 listeners world wide. CD sales have nothing to do with musical quality.
Any interesting new albums that you heard and would recommend?
As I mentioned a bit earlier in this interview: I don't listen to metal. My own recommendations are of course close to my personal imagination of perfect and exceptionally performed music. Perhaps you have will and interest to listen to works from DEVIL DOLL, MERET BECKER, LESLIE FEIST, YANN TIERSEN, CIRCUS CONTRAPTION, FATIMA SPAR, the TIGER LILLIES, DAMIEN RICE, DORNENREICH, DOBREK BISTRO, KLAUS KINSKI, GOLDFRAPP or GIORA FEIDMAN.
We usually reserve the end of the interview for our guests. Any final words?
Stefanos, thanks for your interesting interview. I have to tell you, that "Ein Toter fährt gern Ringelspiel" will be the last Angizia album for long time. There are only few CDs left, as we don't produce albums for a commercial benefit. Angizia merchandise can be ordered directly at www.angizia.com.