An interview by John
Elias, a founding member of German electronic rock
group Atari Teenage Riot, as well as the founder of
her own, Berlin-based record label Fatal Recordings,
has just released No Games No Fun, the follow-up
to her first Fatal full-length In Flames. No Games
No Fun was composed by and co-produced with a bevy
of internationally known artists such as Alexander
Hacke, Khan, Merzbow, J. Mascis, and ATR band mate
No Games No Fun has a nice raw sound that
complements Elias' very direct and sensual style.
The first track, "Catpeople" is simply guitar
and vocals, and most of the other tracks contain minimal
production and few, gimmicky digital effects. The
restrained production allows her vocals and ideas
to come the forefront of each track.
FREEwilliamsburg - Listening
to your new recording, it sounds as if your songs
were crafted with a lot of personal input. How much
control did you give to each producer/co-writer, and
how did you approach the collaborations initially?
Did they exceed your expectations?
Hanin - I only
worked with people that I musically identify with.
I typically chose songs they played for me, but in
some instances I told some of the producers how a
certain song should sound. Some songs were co-written
by applying lyrics I had prepared over top of one
of their old instrumentals or simply through improvisation.
I wrote all the lyrics and was there during every
production process, checking out every sound. However,
most of the music was composed by the artists themselves.
Most were usually very surprised at how their songs
sounded with vocals! C.H.I.F.F.R.E. did the main production
very well and we both wanted to try and achieve a
roots-y electronic music sound, a little raw and noisy,
but not too digital. I wanted a warm sound that left
space for intimacy.
FREEwilliamsburg - Could you
tell us something about C.H.I.F.F.R.E. and Mario Mentrup?
Hanin - Mario
Mentrup is a very special friend of mine. He was in
a band called Knochengirl. He's also a fantastic actor
-- kind of like Tim Roth, I would say -- and currently
performs in theater productions. He's also an author
and has his own book publishing firm in Berlin called
Maas Media Verlag. He's also a singer, a DJ, and much
more. As for C.H.I.F.F.R.E., I met him two years ago
in a cinema where he worked and we had the idea to
do a Fatal Filmfest. We co-produced a very special
film festival about fatal women in film. You can check
it at our archive on the Fatal website. It was a great
After that, because we were friends and because I
like his taste in music, I asked him if he would be
interested in making music with me, just for fun.
He agreed, and we worked on a song together, which
was the first track he ever did in his life. That
track, "Wanting a Machine," is on the album
and it totally impressed me. I love that song! He
also worked with me on "Drop Out," One of
Us," and "Falling". He will put out
his own EP later this year on Fatal-Recordings and
will go on tour with me this year as well.
FREEwilliamsburg - How come
you didn't work with other female artists on this
project? Does "Spirits in the Sky" have
something to say about the destructiveness of male
Hanin - I originally
had the stupid idea of doing a record with only male
artists that I wanted to call Playing With Balls.
Then I had so many songs, not all of which sounded
like big, balls-y songs so I changed my concept a
little bit. However, I still want to do that album,
but only with industrial, rock, and macho guys. I'll
sing over all of it if they're not too scared to let
me do that...grrrr.
Hopefully this won't be my last collaboration record.
Of course "Spirits in the Sky" is a sad
song about the sad reality that men kill, and the
destructive sexual aspect tied to it. Normally I don't
like to explain lyrics because people have their own
interpretation, but your interpretation of "Spirits"
is pretty much on point.
FREEwilliamsburg - "One
of Us" seems to have a larger message than many
of the other more personal songs on your new release.
Is it a message for culture whores that fail to look
beyond the external aspects of cultural movements,
or a message about survival in general?
Hanin - I love
your interpretations! It's about the social structures
we live in that force us to follow certain ways. It's
hard or impossible to leave those ways behind and
try and live differently. Everything is planned. We
have to work and earn money, go shopping, be better
and more beautiful than others, ...etc. It's a sarcastic
song on Social Darwinism, globalization, and consuming.
FREEwilliamsburg - "Rockets
Against Stones" is very timely with its message
opposing megalomaniac power out for revenge. I assume
many of your German contemporaries in the music world
are also experiencing a sense of frustration with
the current political situation(s)?
Hanin - I wrote
that song after September 11th and the war on Afghanistan.
I just couldn't believe that it would make sense to
bomb this poor country with all the hungry people
to find a terrorist group and Osama Bin Laden. It
made me so angry and the song is still very timely
and that makes me even more sad.
FREEwilliamsburg - Most German
electronic music seems hedonistic and vapid. Is mixing
politics with art considered taboo among your contemporaries?
Do you think electronic music has become irrelevant
in light of the increase in violence and inequities
around the globe?
Hanin - I hear
a lot of electronic music that sounds really perfect
and digital and has really nothing to say at all,
and it's always about things that happen in the everyday
lives of boring, superficial party people who don't
want to mix music with politics. Songs about loving
someone, seeing someone sexy, or repeating stupid
words over and over again is typical entertainment
for the fun society. It does seem to be taboo to mix
music with politics or extreme feelings. For me music
is a way to talk with people about politics and about
what takes place on this sick planet. I like to think
others might feel the same as I do in the hope we
can stick together and help each other to take charge
and change things.
FREEwilliamsburg - "Drop
Out" is a tribute to Ian Curtis. His music made
him famous, but his death made him legendary. Your
lyrics seem to convey that you live in a sort of dreamlike
state of suspension, not really alive or dead, but
struggling to feel 'trust' and 'love' -- qualities
that (perhaps) make life live-able. Do you think mutual
trust is difficult to achieve? Is love important to
Hanin - Trust
is something very difficult. It's something you either
learn or never learn. If you have never felt trust
you can try and trust someone or yourself, but then
lead the person or yourself to the point of destruction.
Trust means being responsible and is either learned
at a very young age or is never learned at all. If
you grew up with the ability to trust everyone in
your family, you will always have trust and people
will trust you, but imagine how many children grow
up in bad situations with no one to trust -- what
can a war do to peoples trust? If you trust someone
you are with, that is good. Do politicians teach us
how to trust each other?
Love is overused commercially, to promote products.
People want to buy love in every chocolate bar. Love
is something impossible to live for in our world,
we always yearn for love but there's always something
that we can't reach. We feel incomplete. That's how
capitalism works. Some people fly to India to find
real love there -- to wait for hours to be hugged
by some guru -- because they can't imagine hugging
and loving their own neighbors or friends. Love is
a dream. Love keeps us alive, keeps us going. Loving
people is the key to a big change.
FREEwilliamsburg - Tracks like
"Drop Out" and "Falling Deep"
sound like good, old-fashioned rock and roll. Aside
from the fact that guitar-god J. Mascis appears on
your new release, how influential to you is American
rock and pop music? What artists do you listen to
Hanin - I'm influenced
by music from all over the world, but rock and roll
definitely comes from the United States, and I've
always loved The Stooges. Ron Ashton said he would
be interested in doing a track with me and I can't
wait! I also did a track with Thurston Moore from
Sonic Youth, but it didn't finish in time for the
new CD. I like electronic No Wave and New Wave stuff
from the end of the 70s' to the mid 80s', dark stuff,
and psychedelic music from the end of the 60s' to
the 70s'. I'm also listening to the Rolling Stones
at the moment as well as the Young Gods from Geneva
-- I'll be doing a track with them soon as well! I
love ecstatic music that gets extreme in the end.
That is real rock and roll for me -- music that gets
off at the end. But I also like Brazilian and Arabian
music, especially the singer Fairuz.
FREEwilliamsburg - What's next
for Hanin Elias?
Hanin - Touring
the globe and meeting lot's of journalists. Doing
more collaborations while I'm on tour, and working
for the label. Looking for new bands to sign and so
FREEwilliamsburg - Is there
an American tour in the works to support "No
Games No Fun"?
Hanin - We will
have a record release party in New York on the 18th
of march at Piano's. Check it out!