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Happily stuck in the past: Stereo Total

INTERVIEW! Playing on Sep 12 at Festaal Kreuzberg as part of an upcoming tour for new album Ah! Quel Cinéma!, the timeless pop duo cranking out multilingual rock chansons since the 1990s explain their backwards approach.

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Photo by Paul Cabine. Stereo Total on why they’re happily stuck in the past, catch them at Festsaal Kreuzberg on Sep 12.

Although their Kreuzberg surroundings have shifted dramatically over the past quarter century, Stereo Total are happily stuck in the past. Power couple Brezel Göring and Françoise Cactus have been cranking out catchy, multilingual rock chansons since the mid 1990s, maintaining an international cult following along the way. With an upcoming tour following the new umpteenth Stereo Total album, Ah! Quel Cinéma!, the timeless pop duo talk their backwards approach, their next theatre piece and their local Kiez.  

What’s the story behind the Velvet Underground references in your new album?

FC: It’s about the way of life of these people surrounding Andy Warhol and the Factory: always drinking, always high, nine days a week. We take drugs sometimes, but we’re not those kind of people.

BG: One song is about how Lou Reed got electroshock therapy as a teenager because of his sexuality. The song will also be in the play we were commissioned to write, premiering next year in Frankfurt. We delayed that so that we could make the record first. It’s like an echo in the wrong direction. 

So you were hired to write these songs for a theatrical production, but you used them for your album first?

BG: That’s really rotten! (Laughs.)

FC: No, no, we always do that. For example, “Babystrich” from Do the Bambi was written for our play about Christiane F.

You’ve been Stereo Total for over 25 years now. Have you ever thought about being Mono Total, or Surround Sound Total?

FC: We’re already really backwards.

BG: It’s even worse than when we started. I was recently looking at all the instruments we use, and none of them were made in the time since we started. We use analog cassette to record, which I can use faster than computers, and the sound is very satisfying. You know, I saw some films that someone made in the 1940s. He made scratches on the audio strip of the film, and it sounds like techno music from today. The brain invents the methods to make the music, even if the technology isn’t there.  

Cactus, in the video for “Cinemascope”, you’re dreaming in bed. Your native language is French, but this particular song is in English. Which language do you usually dream in?

FC: Different languages, but mostly French. Sometimes German, rarely English. Only if some American guys show up and say something.

BG: I mostly dream in German. But it’s true, when we’re traveling and in another country, the language influences my dreams.

FC: He dreams in music. He often wakes up in the middle of the night and goes to the piano.

BG: It helps a lot. Whenever it happens, I think “Oh, that’s a hit!” When I listen to it later, sometimes it’s ridiculous. But sometimes I do come up with wonderful melodies.

You both came to Kreuzberg in the 1980s. A lot has changed. Since your last album, the neighborhood has gained a vegan fast-food joint and a coworking space sponsored by an insurance company. What is still missing?

FC: They should make Oranienstraße car-free.

BG: I liked the way it was so much, and now I see this big hotel at Oranienplatz that represents everything that’s wrong. That reminds me: I was in this little Turkish bar around the corner, and a young woman came up to me. She was from Denmark and asked if I could translate a message she got on Tinder. The guy was an asshole and wanted to meet her. I took over the conversation and told him to take a taxi to that hotel and find “me” at the bar.  

Sounds like his natural habitat. Now, in promoting your new album, you’re hosting interviews from your flat. Have all of the interviewers behaved themselves or did any of them like, start going through your refrigerator?

BG: Not yet. But you know, sometimes we’ve had people from television over. They were behaving like pigs.

FC: No television, unless it’s Arte or something. They’re like, “Hey, move the table over there! Put the lamp there!” They don’t even ask! They were stepping on my artwork with dirty shoes. Television people are the worst!

Stereo Total, Manuel Muerte, Namosh | Sep 12, 20:30, Festsaal Kreuzberg, Alt-Treptow