Prior to Laibach's incarnation on terra australis, which saw them performing their idiosyncratic take on The Sound of Music, we had the chance to catch up with bandleader and main songwriter Ivan Novak…
Scene Point Blank: Is the ambiguity of Laibach’s oeuvre constructive in exposing the neurosis of our times, i.e. recipients’ inability to tolerate the complexity of when extremes clash?
Ivan Novak: We are not that ambiguous as people tend to believe. We clearly expressed many times that our heart is on the left, but we still need to be enough “complex” to be able to conflict and unite the opposites.
Scene Point Blank: What is perceived to be “original” is often undetected plagiarism and mere judicious imitation, which can be a form of flattery. However, it can also result in absurdity of conduct when the mere aim is to resemble one is not. Hissing the real thing and applauding a derivate is a common phenomenon in popular culture. What’s your take on recent Rammstein emissions, specifically “Deutschland”?
Ivan Novak: Well, Rammstein were always a bit behind Laibach -- we recorded our version of “Deutschland,” titled “Germania,” already in 2006 -- but they were commercially always more successful, which is also partly the result of the fact that they are Germans and we are simply more than that. Nevertheless they are very good in what they are doing and we would probably do the same if we’d be on their place. But luckily we are not.
Scene Point Blank: Divorced from the context and setting that the backdrop an authoritarian regime like North Korea provides, how did the performances of The Sound of Music differ in other countries? Was the original performance in DPRK vital to take it on the road in terms of being a reference point?
Ivan Novak: The performances of The Sound of Music in other countries of course differs from the show that we did in North Korea, but the very fact that we did it in North Korea (and that it can be quite as relevant elsewhere as well) was certainly an important reference point for this program.
Scene Point Blank: Laibach has reappropriated and covered a wide array of songs, oftentimes modifying lyrical content by subtle changes and thereby adding a whole new dimension to the original. What were some of the more interesting reactions from the original interprets?
Ivan Novak: We don’t necessarily get reactions from every original author or interpretation of the songs that we re-make, but those who did react were normally very kind. Austrian group Opus, whose song “Live is Life” -- we did in the ‘80s -- have become quite enthusiastic Laibach fans since then. Swedish group Europe (“The Final Countdown”) came to our show in Stockholm and we briefly meet back in ‘90s. Paul McCartney apparently played Laibach’s version of “Across the Universe” and the rest of Let it Be interpretations before some of his shows. And Mick Jagger nodded with a smile when he was asked about our (eight) versions of “Sympathy For The Devil”…
Scene Point Blank: What do you consider today’s most overrated virtue?
Ivan Novak: Sin.
Scene Point Blank: You are going to perform at the MONA FOMA festival in Tasmania later this month, which is curated by the fine people behind the ever eclectic and boundary pushing MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). Given that Laibach is a multi-disciplinary collective, are there any plans for performances, installations and exhibitions outside the confines of music?
Ivan Novak: Not really. They did not ask us anything like that. But we are going to perform also two concerts that will be a kind of reconstruction of the Laibach sound (and show) from the early ‘80s. Plus there will be a lecture on Laibach as well.
Scene Point Blank: How would you approach directing Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival if given the chance?
Ivan Novak: We did a project with Wagner already in 2009 -- we called it Volkswagner -- and it was based on the influence that Wagner had on jazz musicians like Stan Kenton and Miles Davis. We worked with Slovenian Symphonic Orchestra on this project and it turned quite experimental. Some recordings were made, but we never released and album out of it. If we’d ever be invited to a Bayreuth Festival to do Parsifal, we’d probably ask Beirut Symphonic Orchestra to help us, and it would also be great to get Israeli soloists involved.
Scene Point Blank: What does the future hold for Laibach?
Ivan Novak: A lot.
This month we are finally releasing a triple album project, called Laibach Revisited. We are already working on new material for the semi-theatrical production in Berlin’s HAU1 theatre, based on Heiner Mueller texts, called “Wir sind das Volk,” whose premiere will happen in the beginning of February. We are finishing the final touch to the album with a film score that we did for the sci-fi comedy film Iron Sky - The Coming Race. We are also soon releasing a bluray with documentary film on the first Laibach album, with lots of additional material. We also started to work on the score for another film, coming up later this year.
On top of it, we do have two more double albums with recordings of Laibach collaborations with symphonic and philharmonic orchestras that are more or less ready to be released later this year. We are as well starting to work also on the very new Laibach album that should be released early next year, and we are discussing possibilities to collaborate with Iranian composers and Tehran Symphonic Orchestra on a new symphonic piece, that should be originally performed in Tehran end of this or beginning of next year. Plus we have Laibach 40th Anniversary events (concerts and exhibitions…) in Ljubljana and in our home city of Trbovlje later this year.