Interview with Golden Apes by Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia )… Golden Apes… One of Germany’s darkest acts to emerge on the goth scene during the nineties…
… Singer and frontman Peer Lebrecht gives an insight on what these Berlin boys are all about… Golden Apes… Past, present and future… by Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia )
Tzina: Golden Apes are a band that date back to 1998 on the German dark/ alternative/ goth scene. How exactly did this act come to life and who are the current members?
Peer: It’s always a bit tricky to collect all the details along the way after such a long time, but looking back at 1998 I would say we met at the right time in the right place.
Three guys with the same musical socialization and passion for making music.
All of us had already some experiences in bands and projects before and somehow we needed some kind of reset, a playground, a return to zero where we were free from any pressure and guidelines. To be honest – in the beginning there was no plan, no route, no urge of artistic sophistication or thoughts about concerts or recording something – just a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a trashy drum machine and tons of songs we wrote in the first handful of months. And it was brilliant. And listening to ‘ Stigma 3:am ’, our debut, you will realize what I mean. I still like that album a lot, cause it ́s so charmingly naïve but so palpable hungry for directions. Twenty-one years later there are suddenly 10 more albums, a few brilliant shows at brilliant places, so many faces, so many ways, so many names and so many memories. Twenty -one years later we ́re about to close some circle I think. ‘ Kasbek ’ was a kind of a break, a restart of the counter. Getting rid of baggage, so to say. And I’m really excited now about the things to come…
Tzina: What is the story behind the name Golden Apes? What prompted you to baptise the band with this title? Does this name have some sort of symbolic meaning to you? Can you elaborate..
Peer: In the early days, when the band was still quite forming, and very nameless, I was something like a Nietzsche junkie. I snatched everything I could put my hand on and I binge-read page by page. His writings fascinated me enormously and left a lasting impression on my perceptions and my mindset. The approach of constant doubts and legitimate skepticism, the challenging of truths and tenets and the denying of ideals and values – all this kind of nihilism and disbelief fell to fertile ground in my head and resulted in some moral sentiments. And this influenced a lot of the lyrics I wrote at that time. One of the first lyrics the band musically adapted dealt with that ambivalent human self-reflection, thematized in “And thus spoke Zarathustra”, this gap in men’s self-awareness. On the one hand the glorification of the own state, the evolutional self-coronation, accompanied with egomania and complacency and on the other the denying and renunciation of the own urges and instincts, the spitting on the own roots hidden behind walls of ethics and morals. Or as Zarathustra points it out: ”Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes.” And so the Golden Ape was a perfect metaphor for this contradiction, the pride and the wretchedness. The Ape as a symbol for the origins and the gold for the crown we put on our heads. And somehow we liked that picture and the message and so we not only named a song after it but the whole project. Even when we didn’t want to get stuck to a topical concept, a lot of thoughts, conclusions and implications of Nietzsche’s work found its way in our music over the years.
Tzina: Your music is quintessentially dark and could be described as The ‘later’ Cure meets The Psychedelic Furs influenced, with a touch of The Sisters..Who is the main songwriter in the band? How is a Golden Apes song born and where do you derive your inspiration from to create these dark melodies? Apart from the obvious what other music influences do you have?
Peer: I confess – it ́s me (Peer) who ́s responsible for most of the tunes now. A process that changed unfortunately over the years, because actually I really like to develop ideas in a creative process with other people. I like the effect of feedback on an idea, the way it changes in a different head, the stimulant and influence. Combine, modify, permute… Having ideas is a process free from any influence I think, cause somehow they are everywhere, appear out of nowhere and disappear in the same direction. I even couldn ́t say what influences me the most. Things you see, things you hear, things you remember or things you forget – somewhere deep down it all becomes a big vessel of words, feeding night by night… When it comes to specific musical influences I have to admit that even here there are no precise templates. Of course there is music we grew up with, that shaped us and paved the way for sonic aesthetic: Bowie, The Furs, Joy Division, Cure, Type O, Cocteau Twins, Asylum Party… they are all ingredients, colours on the palette, part of my perception of harmonies and melodies. But strangely – when I ́m writing I almost hear no music at all and if so just instrumental music, ambients and atmospheres, like Moon Ate The Dark, Bvdub, Hammock etc…
Tzina: Golden Apes have an extensive back catalogue throughout their music journey with the tenth album ‘Kasbek’ being released in June 2019. How was this album received by your fans and music press around the world? Have you been working on any new material during these lockdown days? Are there any plans for an upcoming Golden Apes album in the near future?
Peer: When it comes to the stirring it caused and the feedback we got, ‘ Kasbek ’ is doubtlessly our most successful output so far, what makes me really glad and proud, cause it was and still is a very important piece of music for us. Additionally it gave us our first chart entry so far and earned us flattering lines from Canada to New Zealand. Even when its creation was a very intense time and, as the aftermath revealed, also a very far- reaching one, there are still a few pages left and yes, there are a lot of new ideas in the making and two handfuls of demos are already done so there will be another Golden Apes album. Promised.
Tzina: ‘Kasbek’ is a special album to the band as it commemorates the twenty years of the band’s existence in the music world. To help celebrate this release you had a memorable show at the 28th Wave Gotik Treffen Festival in Leipzig. What are your fondest memories from this particular show and festival?
Peer: Oh yes, it was really a very special event for us. Not only for the fact that none other than Steve Hewitt (Placebo/Love Amongst Ruin) joined us on the drums that night!
Looking back it was an almost perfect show when it comes to our perspective. The people on stage were a band the way I would define it. Friends, comrades, companions…being in that band in that particular moment was a really deep feeling. There was this relaxed atmosphere up there, this mixture of happiness and pride, of gratefulness and yes, even a bit of pathos. But hey… And of course we were blessed with that stunning audience, which filled not only venues but also heads and hearts. A highlight of the last two decades and definitely more than just a memory…
Tzina: Golden Apes have always been an active live band throughout their career with numerous shows and participations at festivals around the world alongside many acts from the dark/ goth /alternative scene.. From oldschool Secret Discovery to the newer She Past Away..What do you miss most about performing live? Are there any plans for upcoming shows when the world finally re-opens?
Peer: What do I miss most? I miss the last few moments before you enter the stage. That little nervousness when the countdown starts…cleaning the space between the temples…
And I like the moments after, when your head is still dizzingly buzzing and your perception is still clocked with cadence and tempo. Exhilarinebriation… And the time between? Microcosm or macro-eden. Out of body experience or the deepest dungeon in your head…depends… And so you see – yes, there are definitely plans to crawl upon a stage when times are right again.
Tzina: As l understand you have also participated in some streams during lockdowns last year such as Gothicat Festival. What are your views on these streams and how does it feel to be a part of the new virtual world? Do you think these streams will become the new ‘normal’ as the pandemic lingers on around the globe?
Peer: Honestly? I don’t think that these virtual events can ever replace a live show. And I don’t think that anyone ever felt even the need to try to do so. Don’t get me wrong – it ́s really the best possible compromise and I know that it is appreciated by so many people…on both sides of the stage. And yes, we participated in some of these brilliantly and flawlessly organized events but I don’t think – and more important: don’t hope! – that this will become the new normal. Staged methadone to fight the cold turkey…but yes, in those times you have to sigh: at least!
Tzina: Golden Apes have made quite a number of videos for their songs throughout their music career. Some of the latest being ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Sleep’ from ‘Kasbek’. How important are videos and the visual aspect to you as a band? Are there any more videos in the pipeline?
Peer: Speaking as a graphic designer I only can say that the visual aspect is more than crucial to me. All the words and all the sound are pictures for me in the end. Shapes and colours, silhouettes and landscapes. And visuals are like skin for the music to me. Breathing maps with scars and furrows, marks and sensitive spots…shelter and guidelines, castle walls and Trojan horses. Oh yes, right now we’re working on a video for a new song, which will be visible sometime during May I hope. The storyboard is almost done – can ́t wait for the shooting….
Tzina: As l understand another project is on the horizon at the moment with Peer’s first solo attempt with his Voyna side act /project..His debut album ‘The Cinvat Bridge’ was released on March 15th by Icy Cold Records. How did this arise for Peer? Has it always been an ambition? Can you elaborate..
Peer: Oh, there were a lot of things and circumstances that lead to the separated work and to the album in the end, but the one I would call the most triggering one was indeed the weird situation the outside world became confronted with in early 2020. We had some personal changes at the end of 2019 and with the dawn of the pandemic age and the cancelled shows and activities we took a little time off, structuring, sorting out a few things. But, that didn’t mean that I stopped writing new stuff and by spring 2020 I had about 14-15 songs ready and for the fact that this was 100% my stuff and the band was in some kind of hibernation I thought to myself “Why not a new chapter?”. I really liked the songs and I confess it felt a bit exciting too to start something new. So I even made a strict separation between Voyna and Golden Apes when it came to the people involved. With Denis Ivanov from the Russian band Brandenburg and Tommy Hein as companions, it really became something fresh and new for me and I enjoyed working with these two guys so much.
Tzina: Can fans of Golden Apes expect to hear more solo work from Peer in the future?
That ́s the question I really can ́t answer right now. Sorry. ‘ The Cinvat Bridge ‘ has been out for 6 weeks now and there are no thoughts yet about the things to come. I’m quite sure that there’s something on the horizon but it has no outline yet, nor a concrete timing. Now I ́m focused on the new Golden Apes songs and everything related to that and there’s also another project around the corner I can’t wait to happen for quite some time already… details to follow.
Tzina: The year 2020 was a very difficult one for all humanity , particularly musicians and artists. How much do you think these lockdowns and restrictions will have an affect on the music/art industry when the world finally gets back to some sort of normality?
Peer: When it comes to the personal effect, I just can say that this global halt was a perfect reset for things in my head and a quite effective trigger of creativity. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t wanna insult anyone who faced tragedy, pain and sorrow by this catastrophe – but while the outside world turned into a pillar of salt you found the time to focus inwards, some kind of mental inventory. And it was good to sort out a few things. Of course, I ́m a lucky guy, who doesn’t have to earn money with my music and I really empathize with all artists who face serious existential problems by all this mess. I just experienced some creative shift in certain stiff structures and processes during this time. Take all these online festivals for example. Or any other streaming events. There a new ways of distribution suddenly, straight ones, connected with a wider scale of independence which is great for younger bands and artists without an organized support unit in the back for instance. I mean these ways have always been there but the audience has gotten more sensitive. I think there’s bigger respect and appreciation now for the work and efforts of musicians and artists in general. And that ́s a really good thing.
Tzina: Anything else you would like to share with your fans? What can they expect from Golden Apes in the near future?
Peer: As I mentioned above, we ́re currently working on new material. There ́s a handful of demo songs already done and I really hope we can start to record this summer/autumn. 2022 will have something new. I ́m sure….
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