Beyond The Pale No. 2 : May 1982

sonics for manics

On 24 April, the Australian collective SPK made another of its rare live performances -- this one in Los Angeles at Al's Bar. They had told me in San Francisco the week before that the L.A. show would be much harsher.... IT WAS. Yessir, certainly a night of uncompromising new music at its best. After the show, the following interview was conducted amidst a background of conversations, Neu, and Faust. A. Injeyan asked the questions, Grahame gave the answers....

BTP: You've done performances in San Francisco and Los Angeles; where else will SPK be playing in the U.S ?
SPK: Phoenix, Minnesota,Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York, Rhode Island.

BTP: Then you go to London ?
SPK: Yea.

BTP: Have you got gigs planned there too ?
SPK: Yea, we'll do a few gigs in London, then we hope to play in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium.

BTP: You've actually got quite an extensive tour lined up, huh ?
SPK: It'll keep us vaguely interested until the end of the year.

BTP: Then, at the end of the year, SPK will be quitting, right ? What's the reason for stopping at this point ?
SPK: What's happening is that when we started, we had decided on only putting out two albums -- the first one ideas and bad realisations; the 2nd one good realisations, to think of an achievement. After that I think we haven't got the money to do something really different from our 2nd album. Before we would come out of retirement, we would want a lot of money to realise certain ideas. We know what we want to do -- we just can't get the money. We're thinking of starting up another group, James and I. And if we get a company -- a major independent company -- backing us, then we'll be able to do it.

BTP: And what will your new project consist of ?
SPK: hmm... metal rhythms programmed into a rhythm machine and hopefully a CMI Fairlight -- a good synthesizer system. We're also going to get into video and soundtrack material.

BTP: And the soundtrack material will vary with each project ?
SPK: It'll vary with each; it"ll vary during the project as well.

BTP: Are you happy with the new equipment that's available nowadays ?
SPK: Well, we don't use much equipment, as you can see. As we're touring we don't use much electronic equipment. We use a lot of taped material, sheet metal, and things like that. We're now going into an electro-acoustic mode really.

BTP: Yea, it was really interesting; and a lot different than last year's gig.
SPK: A lot different. Last year was kind of getting on top of the electronics. Now we've thrown out the electronics and are concentrating on a tape-type approach.

BTP: I had read once that you're writing some sort of book.
SPK: Actually, I'm in the process of writing three.

BTP: What are they about ?
SPK: The first one is about the electrologist creating an inorganic subconscious as opposed to the organic subconscious... just trying to bring the unconscious up-to-date with modern imagery, modern symbolism and archetypes. The second one is the 'history of philosophy as the history of syphilis'. The other one is the position of viruses as an alien life force -- on that is superior to humanity; and which also fills in the gap between life and death. Sort of a piece of genetic information that has been found in our space ships, wandering around; and they don't actually need human hosts, but they have a great deal of fun when they find one !

BTP: How far along are you -- on the books ?
SPK: I got halfway through the one on the inorganic unconscious, but I have to start it again; and I've done some research on the other ones.

BTP: When you first started, you were named after that group of German mental patients Sozialistes Patienten Kollectiv. You once mentioned that the fact they had failed -- when they blew themselves up at the embassy in Hamburg -- that was very important to your work.
SPK: Yeah, it was important because they were in a no-win situation. That's what we're dealing with -- all these people who can't win. That's what I felt when I was a psychiatric nurse -- that you can try to help but inevitably you're always just a general warden. And if you try to do anything to help -- the only way you were allowed to help them was to bring them back to normality. And normality destroyed them; that's why they were in there in the first place -- because they couldn't measure up to the ridiculous standards of supposed normality.................

BTP: When you start the new project, where will it be based ?
SPK: Commuting between San Francisco and London. We wouldn't mind living in SF 'cause the gear is so cheap and we've got a lot of nice friends there. We'll just get married and live off the social welfare system. (laughs)

BTP: Your slide show was excellent -- really striking.
SPK: It's nice when it's big isn't it ?

BTP: Oh yeah, and where do you draw a lot of the content of your visual show from ?
SPK: Forensic books, medical books, stealing or breaking into medical schools, porno mags... things we didn't show which we also have on slides like nuclear engineering, oh God -- all sorts of things, specialized research, university libraries, breaking into dead body collections, museums -- things like thta.

BTP: Since nowadays, SPK is considered one of the earlier... what... 'industrial' groups, do you like any of the newer stuff you've heard ? Anybody you think is taking their music in an interesting direction ?
SPK: I like Esplendor Geometrico -- they're from Madrid. They're nice -- good rhythm treatments... and New Order, I like New Order, some of their stuff, but hate Joy Division. Funny, everybody likes it the other way around. New Order build on some kind of ambient experimental thing, whereas Joy Division was the most over-rated rock band.

BTP: Yea, I think New Order's good. It's funny though, most of their lyrics deal with... you know, you can link the lyrics to their feelings about Ian still....
SPK: Yea, they are sort of derivative in that sense, but I always thought that Ian Curtis was a bit of a wanker.

BTP: I've got negative feelings myself for people who turn to suicide as a solution to their problems.
SPK: A lot of people commit suicide.... that's the main thing. I'm more interested in all these people who commit suicide & nobody gives a shit about them.

Back to SPK = Interviews

Back to SPK Home