The DJ and writer on their cabaret-inspired act – hear Godmother perform their debut album for the first time on the one-off talk show “The Late Joey Hansom” with Olympia Bukkakis on Sep 20 at Roter Salon.
When you think back, what place were you in – physically, mentally – when you said to yourself, I need to start my own music project.
Hard to say. Maybe when I first saw Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads as a teenager, which was probably in some friend’s parents’ basement, but I didn’t follow through till what, a decade later? I guess I finally started after I decided I would never biologically procreate. I think having a baby is one of the worst sins, even worse than murder. Don’t get me wrong, killing’s bad too. Anyway, I wanted to have some other entity that I could nurture, and watch it develop over the years, but without the evils of reproduction.
There are cabaret influences in Godmother. Did Berlin’s cabaret culture have an influence? Did you dig into the city’s cabaret history?
I can’t remember much from the Golden Twenties – I took a lot of drugs back then – but I can say that it was unforgettable! Cabaret obviously had an influence on me, consciously or not. I guess with the way it combines politics with humour. I’m not talking about the musical, though. It was okay, but there were too many songs. By the way, have you ever read the Berlin Stories it was based on? They’re so boring. Isherwood was a typical hipster: “Oh, I’m automatically interesting because I moved to Berlin.” Just no. I’m not saying we should burn books, of course, but maybe we could sequester all copies to the Museum of Who Cares. Anyway, I’m into cabaret mostly because I hate anything new and contemporary, which just fuels capitalist consumerism. I especially loathe contemporary art. I mean, if you’re going to launder money, at least be creative.
What are the biggest struggles you’ve faced creatively or concerning the “business” side of things?
Creatively, the hardest part is just convincing myself to sit down for 20 minutes and work on a song. But if I can trick myself into starting, I usually just keep going. One time I was working and I suddenly got super hungry. When I got up for a snack, I glanced at the clock, and over two hours had passed! And I’m a chronic snacker. As for the business side of things, I’ve basically given up on worrying about that. If Godmother’s my baby, well, I’m probably going to have to make some financial sacrifices if I want to let her flourish. The packaging for “Blue Monday” was so elaborate and expensive it lost 5 cents per copy sold. And it sold 700,000 copies! That’s my business model. Just like most breeders don’t expect to turn a profit on their offspring. Although I guess a lotta them do, huh. Beyonce’s dad – I mean, they should’ve been called Destiny’s Child Labor! Maybe I do need to be a bit more disciplinarian. I’d be a sensual domme, though, not like the Jackson Five’s dad – supposedly he’d beat them with a belt if they’d hit a wrong note!
You’ve tried a bunch of release strategies (if you can call it that): on tape, download, vinyl… now an album. In times of Spotify playlists etc., have you figured out what the best format is for a 21st century release?
As soon as I figure it out, it will probably be the 22nd century. Maybe SD cards? That’s what Terre Thaemlitz does. Aside from the high-quality audio files, there are PDF files with discursive essays, and then videos combining the two, music and text. Check Deproduction – she and I have very similar anti-natalist views. Spotify stinks – they pay half a peanut per million streams, and they use data on play counts for monetizing and marketizing and all that. Why do you want a corporation to know how many times you’ve listened to “MMMBop”? Vinyl doesn’t snitch! If I think of the most 21st-century format, it’s probably a four-LP holographic box set limited to a hundred copies, and they cost a thousand bucks each, but if you download some energy drink’s app, you can stream it for “free”, that is, for the price of your personal data. As I mentioned, I’m not terribly concerned with being up-to-date. Once I finish all nine videos for the songs on the album, I’m planning to press a LaserDisc. Not a good format for movies, because you have to flip it over after 60 minutes, but for a collection of music videos, it’s totally fine.
How has Godmother changed over the years when you look back?
I suppose the thing that sticks out to me is how the lineup has changed. It started out as a solo project, and it’s fluctuated anywhere from two to four members. At the release concert, there will be up to five onstage at a time: T-Word on sax and vocals, Jörg Hochapfel on keys – he comes more from a jazz background – and Stellan Veloce on cello – they’re from the experimental new music scene, and so playing pop tunes is basically torture – and then Kaia Bremnes, who has her own project called Jackie Charles – very fuzzy, as in distortion, but also her songs make you feel warm and fuzzy. Not like Godmother. My songs are more about death – but of course, laughing in the face of it.
And where would you like it to see it in the future?
I’d like to see the circle of collaborators continue to get wider. In the sense that I still write all the music and lyrics, it’s still a solo project. I’d like more external input, though, and to do more outsourcing. I’d also like to work on other projects and eventually step away from Godmother and watch it go on without me. Send my baby to college.
facetime with Godmother & Olympia Bukkakis, Sep 20, 21:00 | Roter Salon, Mitte