Hailing form Berlin, Golden Apes are a considerable band for the post-punk/goth scene keeping the flame lit for about two decades now. Having recently released their excellent ‘M Ʌ L V S’ and with songs like ‘Ignorance’ (personal favorite!) and their soon to happen live appearance at Dark Spring Festival 2017 we were lucky enough to catch up with the band and have this excellent talk…Go see for yourself!
Golden Apes is a very interesting name indeed! Travelling back in time then. Why did you initially choose this name? What happened since then?
In the early days, when the band was still quite form- 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 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: ‘‘You 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. And 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. That´s the story. What happened since then? Hm…a few albums, a few concerts hither and yon and the insight that I still adore Nietzsche!
Last November you released the excellent dark-wave/post-punk ‘M Ʌ L V S’! How has the reception been so far?
Oh, to be honest – we haven´t expected anything like what we were faced with after the album hit the ground. I mean it´s one thing to be proud, happy and satisfied with result of a work that took us about two years but it is another matter when you´re confronted with that kind of feedback and response then! Up to now, we are still overwhelmed from the reviews, the people’s response and the acclaim we got so far, so it seems we did a few things the right way.
Cannot resist in asking about my personal favorite song of your latest album ‘Ignorance’. A tune that has haunted me for the past few months. What is the concept behind this one, and what has influenced you for this?
At first thanks for the kind words. ‘Ignorance’, as far as I can remember, was one the first tunes we wrote after we had closed the ‘Langsyne Litanies’ chapter and finished the acoustic shows, that accompanied it. I guess we were at a point of revaluation, a kind of re-orientation that we had intentionally forced by doing the ‘Langsyne Litanies’ thing. There were a lot of personal changes during that time (two guys left the band, we faced the heaven-sent serendipity of finding a new companion and brilliant guitar-player in the person of Aris Zarakas) and somehow it seemed the right moment of facing some basic questions: Where are we now? Where we wanna go? And how the soundtrack for that trip shall sound like? And I think ‘Ignorance’ echoes the excitement and curiosity a blank page can offer. We had absolutely no idea or plan of the things ahead and I guess at that point we even didn’t want to have one. It was about shifting shapes and lifting veils and seeing what happens. And as it turned out ‘Ignorance’ became not only a great song (if I´m allowed saying that) but somehow catalyst for the things to come, the first breath of ‘M Ʌ L V S’.
On March 25th you will be appearing in Dark Spring Festival 2017, along with the legendary And Also The Trees, and some striking genre names like Ascetic:, Horror Vacui & Alliteration Kit. Are you looking forward to this one? What are you going to present on this night?
Oh, believe me – we´re really excited about this and looking forwards to that night. This festival became so special for us over the years, from that moment on when we launched the first edition back in 2011. What started as a one-time, offhanded idea, popping up by chance, became a passion and a matter of the heart and we´re proud of the concept and the good name we could establish within the years. Because from the beginning we decided to resist the commercial temptations by inviting only bands and artists we like, whose music and creativity we adore. No matter if it´s big names or promising new talents and looking back we´re filled with pride about the names that accepted our invitation so far. The above-mentioned And Also The Trees, Merciful Nuns, The Beauty Of Gemina, NFD, Two Witches, She Past Away, Vendemmian, Frank The Baptist. The Last Cry, Principe Valiente, Red Sun Revival…and so many other brilliant artists. And with finding a home in the BiNuu Club, formerly one of Berlin´s most famous underground clubs, we managed to find the proper setting for it, the right place for evoking a very special and comfortable atmosphere. It is quite familiar and relaxed and although the people come from all over Europe meanwhile there´s this one unifying welkin above all – the music. And I think his is what the people realize and treasure. As for the Golden Apes I can say that we´re going to play a lot of the new stuff from ‘M Ʌ L V S’. The songs are still so untamed and it is so exciting to play them….
Do you believe that this “dark” tension in music the past few years has to do with the economic crisis? Especially, Italy, Greece & Spain give birth to a lot of genre-related acts.. Please discuss…
That´s an interesting theory. And it´s partly supported by history. Take a look at the origins of many of those bands we call “godfathers” of Goth, Wave & Post Punk today – Joy Division´s Manchester, The Cure´s Bromley, The Sisters Of Mercy-era Leeds – then all places scarred by an industrial decline and a high unemployment rate, lack of prospects and discontent especially among the youth. Sounds very familiar to the nowadays things you can notice particularly in the south of Europe. And frustration, injustice and rebellion have always found relief in creative expressions, in rehearsal rooms and on stages. And so it seems quite plausible for me that the current economic condition and the resulting quality of life is triggering this doubting, searching and musing kind of music. We have a very special connection to Greece because of it´s being our guitar player’s homeland and so we know that a lot of shitty mess happened and happens down there since 2008.
Although German, you have chosen English language. Artistic expression or applying to a wider audience?
To be honest – I chose that language from the very first word I wrote for this band, a moment when no one even dared to think about any kind of audience, least of all a wider one! I think the main reason is that I adore the English language very much for it´s a very poetic language in my mind. Its sound, its written form, its taste on the tongue. I even use to write the lyrics straightaway in English because it evokes an amazing sonic pictoriality, a linguistic landscape I feel so familiar and inspired within. “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” You just can´t do this in German! Besides, I was mainly socialized by English music and started to deal with its lyrics from an early age on. Bowie, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Modern English (!)… I guess I shouldn’t withhold this kind of tangible influence.
Why did you choose ‘Verity’ as the lead single of ‘M Ʌ L V S’?
I think the answer is quite less exciting that it should be! Sometime around last year´s summer, an Italian magazine asked for an exclusive song for a compilation while we were quite busy with shaping ‘M Ʌ L V S’. And ‘Verity’ happened to be the first track that was completely done. So we recorded it (in slightly different form than the later album version) and handed it over. The feedback we got was amazing and when the release date of the album crept closer later the year, we decided to choose ‘Verity’ “officially” as forerunner of the things to come. Apart from this I think it a lovely tune, carrying a lot of the albums essence within.
Apart from Golden Apes, are you involved with any other music projects, or in general any other forms of art?
There were a few musical projects some of us were or are involved with over the years (our keyboarder for instance is running his own project Tunes Of Dawn quite successfully for a plenty of time), but to be honest – the band got quite greedy, consuming a lot of time, attention and creativity. As for myself, I just can say there´s really no reason to get involved in any other musical experiences because we´re lucky enough to have that specific creative playground, this common entity that provides such a creative license for all of us. For the fact that we never were stuck to a certain kind of genre, there´s a fertile soil for any kind of idea and this is really artistic luxury. But apart from other bands all of us deal with creative expressions in some way or other. Aris has his hands in composing scores for theatre plays, Christian our bass player is an ardent painter, creating some lovely surreal things in oil on canvas and I am a professional (and passionate) graphic artist, doing a lot of designs and artwork (the bands visual concept and albums for instance).
Would you like to tell us which are the key elements for creating solid dark-wave music?
Oh, who am I to define that? But I can try to tell about the ingredients of a Golden Apes song. And maybe there are some overlaps. I think the most important fact is to push anything far away what could suppress the song´s final shape. Any kind of template, of blueprint, of mental censoring – the only acceptable guideline should be intuition. Even if it sounds quite foggy, but it is important to create a proper setting for a feeling, for a surface-scratching emotion. No matter if it´s a simple chord, a three-note-melody or a complex arrangement; it’s about empirism, neurological comfort, a chemical bursting of a dam. While working on ‘M Ʌ L V S’ I remember moments when we were playing structures for eons without saying a single word, with eyes closed and minds open. Things, which come alive in that kind of state are special and in no way predictable. ‘Missing’ was one of those moments and still it feels like a rapture playing it live. But I have to confess now that I`ll fail somehow in giving a detailed instruction how to make a certain kind of song. Maybe there is no formula, no table of contents. Maybe it´s just a certain sensitivity or the fortune to catch oscillating air in the right moment. To be honest – seems I don´t know.
Last September charismatic In Letter Form’s Eric Miranda passed away on the other side of the globe. A certain shock for you I guess, right?
Oh, I can tell you – 2016 was a dark, gloomy and sad year for me. Bottomless and gaping like a chasm. I mean what chance a year is expecting that has Bowie dying?
And also Mr. Miranda´s passing blackened the welkin. I really adore the music of In Letter Form and maybe I can answer the question above now – listen to their songs! ‘Fracture. Repair. Repeat’ is a stunning piece of work and, as sad as it is, a breathtaking legacy of a brilliant mind.
What’s next for you?
Always take care of avoiding suffocating temporal corsets for its offending the muses! There are a few shows confirmed up to now, scattered to the four seasons (in Germany, Czech, Belgium, Denmark e.g.), but I think the main focus will rest on the couple of new songs we have done since we have finished the work in the studio. Somehow we had a creative flow, doing the new stuff simultaneously while recording the album. No idea where this will lead to, but the things on the table are quite exciting so far and I´m keen on going on with it.
Anything else you’d like to add? A message probably to the emerging, genre-releated bands?
Just three little things – Stay true to yourself. Avoid the traps of stylistic safety. And most important – never ever lose the sight of the passion in doing music. Muses can smell this….
Photo credits: Aleksandra Volf