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Fortyfication-Festival, Berlin, November 2018. The pioneers of German Dark Electro are entering the stage and, among other things, playing three brand-new songs. This is not a matter of fact, considering that the band had disbanded Placebo Effect in 1999 and henceforth reunited for some shows on a larger scale only sporadically. The unexpected death of their former musical fellow, Achim Windel, brought Christoph Kunze and frontman Axel Machens back together – humanely and musically. They begin starting again from the scratch. In 2019 there will be more concerts. And Shattered Souls, the first studio album in 25 years, will see the light of day.


How did the show go? Everything as planned?
Axel [laughs]: I cannot really say that. I go on stage with a roughly arranged concept. Much is improvised and emerging from moment. You can hardly plan a show because stage, light and circumstances are different every time. I felt very comfortable and it truly was an intense experience. Also the organizers and the audience were great! Thank you! What more do you want as an artist?

Do you feel comfortable when visiting Berlin?
A: I know Berlin quite well, I lived in Pankow for ten years. Now I live very close by, in Brandenburg. But, honestly, the city has become a bit too stressful for us.
Christoph: By now, we played five times in Berlin. Of course, we also get a glimpse of the city every time since we always played in different clubs. But generally, I do not like big cities, I prefer to live in the countryside. Therefore, I cannot say that I feel comfortable here.

How do you prepare for a concert?
A: I start with my preparations a few weeks prior to the gig. Strangely enough and to the chagrin of my wife, I am used to coming up with things that I want to do on stage one day before the gig. Then it often gets really stressful. In general, Christoph and I are incredibly excited, but also insecure and stage-shy nowadays. To perform in front of so many people is really challenging.

„With this album, we want to tie in where we stopped as Placebo Effect back then.“


Three new songs were integrated into the set. What’s the state of affairs with the new album?
A: The songs we played live will all be featured on the new album: Nothing To Cry, Slave – which is still a working title – and Christal White Snow. The raw versions of all new songs are ready and will be revised until we are satisfied with the result. Nowadays, different versions of each song are created, which can sometimes be up to ten, from which we later choose the final one. With this album, we want to tie in where we stopped as Placebo Effect back then and Shattered Souls has been floating around in our heads as a concept since the nineties.


What can you give away in regard to the stylistic orientation of the new material?
A: It will sound like a mixture of Galleries Of Pain and Slashed Open. I think it will be a very dark album. And it's going to be purely electronic. Promised! We picked the most typical tracks for Placebo Effect, which make us feel at home and create a good bridge from yesterday to present. If we continue after the new album, the songs will be more experimental.

What inspires you when writing and producing? What is different nowadays?
A: There is quite a lot that inspires us, as news and movies, for example. And, of course, we got older too. We gained experience; we now know what it feels like to lose beloved ones, to throw one or two lifelong dreams overboard and what it means to overcome life crises. These are quite different sources of inspiration than 30 years ago, with corresponding influence on the new album. A song will describe a change, a personal experience, after our Berlin’ Kiez had completely changed within five years and we suddenly felt as strangers in our own home.
C: The way of production has changed. Back then, we used to meet once a week in the rehearsal room, play each of our new ideas to each other and then decide together which ideas or even finished songs will be developed further. There were no cell phones or internet! Today we exchange sequences via internet and work together online. Because of the spatial separation of our homes this is the only option.

Are you interested in the current Dark Electro scene? What is striking, who is setting impulses and where is the evolution of this scene going?
A: That’s hard to answer because I consume music differently nowadays. I use every free minute to create electronic sounds and barely hear any other artists. I should definitely do that again more often. I no longer own CDs, but now and then I am going to a concert and listen to the bands live. This offers a completely different dynamic for me. Martin Sane from Fix8:Sed8 is a buddy who really supports us. I regard him as someone with a very, very great talent. We also maintain other good contacts, which I consider a very nice achievement compared to the days back then, when all artists eschewed each other. Amorphous, Full Contact69 and Jihad are also very convincing in our opinion. And Pyrroline is great! Development can only take place if we leave behind the models of the late eighties and early nineties. All of these bands just mentioned are having so much potential, thus the Dark Electro evolves automatically.

„I always bring a small stone or some earth from concerts and put this on Achim’s grave.“


Two years ago, you had to accept the loss of your bandmate. What has changed since Achim’s death? Where and when do you miss him most?
C: As strange as it may sound, the death of Achim has led to the resurrection of Placebo Effect. Last time we had contact with each other was in 2014, when we were playing at the WGT. At that time, I only had Axel’s e-mail address and I did not know if it was still up-to-date, and I occasionally met Achim in the city because he lived only one kilometer away from me. But we hardly said more than a hello. Sometimes a quick little talk, but that’s about it. Basically, we all just somehow waited for a request from the WGT in about ten years time, so that we, as old men, could take the stage once again. Everyone lived their lives, which was completely ok. Then I received the news of Achim’s death, which shocked me deeply. He was the oldest in the band, but by far the sportiest and probably the one who lived the healthiest. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly. I had the task to bring the message to Axel and the crew members; since then we have been in contact again. We had the idea to acknowledge Achim’s work as part of a small private concert with friends and selected fans. From this idea, the resumption and continuation of Shatter developed. Achim had a lot of experience in song structure and song architecture, what we are missing now. Technically, he can be replaced as live member, but he is missing as a human, of course. He is always with us, in our thoughts and in our hearts, and when looking closely, you will discover him on stage as well. What I still do now is that I bring a small stone or some earth from a concert and put it on Achim’s grave.

When thinking back to your beginnings: What do you remember most?
C: The first recordings for Danse Macabre and the legendary concert at the Knaack-Klub in 1994, when Rammstein was our support act!
A: Yes, working with Bruno Kramm! What an incredible musical talent! Brilliant! But also how Christoph and I met and our very first meeting. We still have the tape with the very first recordings!

„All the labels peered hard at the dancefloors, there was no room for a band with atmospheric sounds.“


Since 1994's Manipulated Mind Control, no new studio album by Placebo Effect was released. It was heard here and there that a new one was almost finished, but then discarded again. What exactly was going on before the resolution?
A: The production of Manipulated was a disaster. I still regard this time as the big time of selling out bands. Nothing was invested in a good production. The sound we envisioned was not remotely achieved. Later it was so bad that we did not speak a single word with each other. Somehow, Christoph and I finished the album. There was also an incredible pressure. All the labels peered hard at the dancefloors, there was no room for a band with atmospheric sounds. I am so glad that Christoph then wrote “Last Walk”. In this track, everything worked! And when the vocals were finally mixed, we had goose bumps. If there’s a song about which I can say that the album should have sounded like, then it’s this one. Then came the time after the release ... We only were discharged from the record deal [i.e. Ausfahrt Records – ed. note] with legal support. But we still had to deliver the compilation Past – Present at the label. All the trouble and the feeling of not getting any further split us as a band. When we played our last gig in the mid-nineties, it felt like strangers were meeting each other. From then on, everyone went his own way until WGT 2004.
C: Alien and Chlorid from the Past – Present compilation were two new songs intended for a completely new album. But that did not come about for the contractual reasons.


And what happened later? For example after the WGT gig: how concrete were the plans for a new release under the old name?
A: At WGT 2004, our relationship was still tensed. But the door of rapprochement was open again. We also laughed a lot and after the gig we realized that the biggest differences had been overcome. It also briefly sprouted the idea of an album, but ebbed away again. Before the WGT gig 2014, we had agreed to rehearse for a weekend. We were invited to Achim and he had set up a small rehearsal room. When we met almost every weekend in 1989, it always took place at the home of Achim’s parents. They had a converted hayloft where we connected our synths and drum machines and just played on it. That’s exactly how it was on this unforgettable weekend. When the first sounds cracked out of the speakers, all the tensions were gone. Incredible. Then it was clear that Placebo Effect would be back and producing Shattered Souls.

What will come next? And what should 2019 ideally be like for Placebo Effect?
A: We want to finish the album. Moreover, we are going to play at Nocturnal Culture Night and looking forward to it very much! A great festival with a very nice familial atmosphere! And video is an interesting medium. We have discovered new ways to translate our visual ideas of our music into pictures. And, of course, to keep discovering new sounds. You can go to a store today and buy analogue synths for an affordable amount of money, such as a Moog or the Korg MS20 ... what an ingenious time! Who would have thought this 20 years ago?


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