MONOCHROME (Marc Calmbach, Ahlie Schaubel & Helm Pfohl)
mar 11th 2002, at the INSA bar, Toulouse (France).
Interview by SEB WOOd and his Unhurt Pal, HL.

This interview will soon be online in french at www.unhurt.fr.fm / Cette interview sera prochainement en ligne en français sur www.unhurt.fr.fm

SWd & HL: Can you introduce yourself please ??

Mark: I’m Mark, ‘le chanteur de Monochrome’.

HL : You come from a hardcore band, Dawnbreed, you come from the hardcore scene and you still play in hardcore festivals but I guess you play in different contexts. What are the advantages and the drawbacks of this situation ??

Mark: Even though we might not sound too hardcore anymore like we used to ten years ago, we can still move in the punk and hardcore context because it’s still the same places we used to play ten years ago plus there are some places that are not hardcore anymore and that are maybe more indie-based but as long as hardcore people still appreciate what we do I don’t see the use not to play at those venues anymore. Even though it might sound more pop now, as long as you have the attitude to move within the hardcore scene, I think you should do so. In addition, we never did any compromises even though we sound more pop now and we still handle the band the same way we did ten years ago, no major label and stuff like that.

SWd: We haven’t got the chance to listen to Ferro yet (at the time of the interview, now you can read our review !!). Can you describe it ??

Mark: It’s a 7 song cd with one song called ‘Angelfire’ from our American release on Dim Mak Rec. that was kind of hard to get in Europe so we decided to put it on the record. And we have 2 instrumental songs and 4 new songs.

HL: I bought the 7’ last year. It’s more poppy, less emo and complex than what you did before. Is Ferro the same or more like Laser ??

Mark: I’d say the step we make nowadays is as big as the steps we used to 10 years ago, we had the first single, then the album was completely different and the second as well. We concentrate on one sound when we find a unique sound. It perfectly fits in the road of Radio & Laser. It’s not a step forward, it’s not a step back, it’s a step in a different direction.

SWd: Is it a real different direction ?

Mark: No, you can always hear that it’s Monochrome. Even though it’s a mini-cd I consider it as pretty dynamic because you have slower songs, you have faster songs, you have the rock’n’roll sound in the beginning.

SWd: Is there a full-length album scheduled soon ?

Mark: the thing is we’ve been wanting and trying to do a full-length for the last 3 years but due to the drummer problems we had, we weren’t able to practice new songs. Every time we had a new drummer, we had to practice to play live and then we had to find another one because he’d leave the band. The last tours in France we played with our producer but he’s not a practice guy so we couldn’t write any new songs. Now we found a new drummer from Switzerland. We did a couple of songs but somehow it didn’t feel like a complete record so we said let’s do a complete record because we did one song with one drummer, the other with the other one. We want the album to be really tight.

SWd: Have you been waiting for the right guy ?

Mark: We actually found the right guy, the perfect guy. He’s from Switzerland and the funny thing is that he was a fan. During the last tour, he was there and he was actually playing in a band we played with and he said ‘I’d love to be in your band because I’m a big fan’. He’s a great drummer. We gave him a chance and that’s it.

 (At this point Ahlie & Helm come in)

SWd: We thought you focused on side-projects and tours… We saw Elektrolochmann once and Monochrome came in here once a year…we weren’t aware of that…

Mark: No…. But concerning Elektrolochmann, it is not a side-project. I wouldn’t consider it as such. You have to pay respect to them.

HL: I think Monochrome guitarist lives in Switzerland too… so is it why you chose someone from there too ?

Mark: It’s only part of the reason. Well, it’s a reason amongst other reasons. We study, one has exams. Ahlie & I just finished university. It is really difficult to find the right practice schedule for 6 people but we never felt more a band than now with our new drummer. It’s a really positive vibe on tour.

SWd: I heard that you did a cinema school…is that right ?

Mark: I didn’t. Ahlie did. She’s a writer.

SWd: Is Ferro a reference to Marc Ferro, the French analyst who wrote a lot about cinema ??

Ahlie (laughing): No, no… it’s just because of Laser

SWd (bewildered): I don’t understand, where does it come from ??

Mark: We had the idea to put out a tape. In the first place, we didn’t want to do a record or a cd but a tape. And tapes are on ‘fe’ which is ferro. It is an element. So we decided to call it Ferro because we wanted an original perspective or something…

HL: It’s also chocolate !

Mark: Yeah, sweet… (laughs)

HL: You shot a video clip for a song from Laser. Have you planned other projects like this ?

Mark: Basically the shooting was done in 2 days. A guy told us ‘you can have a 60mm camera from the school’. It didn’t cost us anything. We had 2 days to do it and we did it in 2 days. I think the result is pretty good for the circumstances. We are thinking about doing another video but we don’t see music videos as marketing tools but as another aspect of our artistic output or whatever…

HL: Is there still this channel in Germany airing videos by bands like Standstill & Monochrome ?

Mark: There used to be a TV Channel called Viva 2. I worked for them for a couple of month. They played our video a couple of times but since the album was not new at that time, they didn’t put it on rotation. They showed it because they liked it and they liked the idea behind it but it was not really a big deal. We did it for ourselves and not for the TV and I think you can see that it was not made for TV.

Ahlie: We sell it at shows. The audience seems to like it. I sell all my films too…

SWd: Since you did cinema school, I wonder what you think about cinematic samples in indie music ??

*** Mark explains the question to Ahlie… we don’t understand German… ***

Ahlie: If they like it, why not… I would never do this. I think it’s too much a reference. It’s like ‘Yeah, look, look look, it’s beautiful beautiful, beautiful…’

SWd: The last time you came here, you were selling cartoons at the end of the gig. Who made them ??

Ahlie: It was our former drummer. Elektrolochmann’s drummer.

SWd: If you want to introduce your label – Trans Solar – to people who don’t know it…

Mark: Yes. The idea behind Trans Solar is to give any music that is good the chance to be released no matter the musical style or the category. We didn’t put out many records the last couple of years because we had so many other things to do. We could have put out bands but we couldn’t have done justice to support it the way it should be supported. Besides, if we had released a couple of other records, we couldn’t have supported along with the Monochrome record and Monochrome has always been the band that sold most on the label. And Trans Solar is run by two of us plus one guy from Berlin…

HL: The first time I heard Monochrome was 2 weeks after I first listened to Laser and I thought the show would be very dark and intimate and it was not like this at all. And the question was: do you take drugs ?? But it’s not really a question…

SWd & HL: If you can make a question out of it… (laughs)

Mark: Well it’s not a stupid question. The funny thing is we often wonder if a song sounds like a ‘heroin song’ although none of us has ever been into taking drugs seriously. There’s definitely something, you can see our music in the context of drawing the line, of taking drugs…

Ahlie: Yes…

Mark: The music is a drug itself….

SWd: That’s a great sentence to end the interview… Thank you.

HL: Thank you.

Ahlie, Mark & Helm: Thank you. Merci beaucoup…