February 27th 2006, outskirts of Toulouse
interview with Marc Calmbach by SEB WOOd
SWd: Hi, can you introduce yourself ??
Marc: Salut, je suis Marc, le chanteur de Monochrome.
SWd : So where have you been since the last time we saw each other in 2003 ??
Marc: Actually, we’ve been searching for a singer, searching for a way to deal with the distance because some of us are living in Stuttgart, others are living Switzerland, in Berlin… but we just recorded the new record in the meantime with three singers and we have another new singer who did not sing on the record but she is now a permanent member of Monochrome. She’s called Katrin and she lives in Stuttgart. It makes things really easy for the future. We are really positive. So now we have two people in Basel and the rest in Stuttgart. That’s the best structure we’ve had in the past five years.
SWd: So, now on vocals it’s you and two girls, right ??
Marc: No, one girl live but on the record we had two singers but they don’t play live with us. They played some concerts but it was difficult because one of them is an actress and she’s always acting and the other one lives in Berlin and we didn’t really want someone from Berlin driving 600 kms to practice or for a show. Coincidentally, I was drunk at a party and asked a guy ‘Do you know a female singer ?’ and he said ‘my friend Katrin can sing’. So we invited her to a practice and now she’s a permanent member of the band.
SWd: You did not release the new album on Trans Solar. Is Trans Solar still alive ??
SWd: Are you ok ?? Is this question bothering you ??
Marc: No, no I’m just couching (laughs). I’m still alive. And Trans Solar is still alive too. We started the label with a guy who now runs it on his own. Everybody was really surprised that we did not release the album on Trans Solar because relations were really tight between Trans Solar and Monochrome. We got an offer from Stickman records which is a really well-know, established indie label that puts out bands we like a lot like The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Motorpsycho. It’s not that we were unhappy with Trans Solar. We just thought that it might be time for a change, to work with someone else.
SWd: I haven’t had the chance to listen to your new album yet. I’ve heard that Eclat is more subdued, quiet than the previous records. How does it sound like ??
Marc: I don’t think it’s quiet at all. We spent more time focusing on the vocals this time. So people say ‘it’s more pop now’. I wouldn’t say it’s more pop. The vocals we did in the past were systematic (guy on the verse, girl on the chorus for example). We used to repeat ourselves in the structures. We tried to focus more on the vocals as well this time, that’s why it gives it a poppier-edge but I wouldn’t say it’s a pop or quiet record at all.
SWd: What was recording it like ??
Marc: Recording-wise, we’ve always recorded with Bernard Hahn. He used to play drums with us for a couple of years as well. At the beginning it was Bernard recording and us on the other hand playing but now he’s much more involved in the songwriting and we are producing ourselves a lot more because sometimes he leaves the studio and we stay until four in the morning for example. We sometimes do it in our own. We had a lot of time in the studio for the recording this time.
SWd: Why have you named it Eclat ??
Marc: Of course you know what ‘éclat’ means in French (Note: in French it means splinter or brilliance or splendour). And it German it also has the meaning of a protest, ein éclat can be a protest, a negative incident. We just like the combination of these meanings.
SWd: I’ve just seen on the tracklist that there is a song called ‘Les murs ont la parole’. Is it about the 68th events ??
Marc: Yeah, that’s where I got it from, the 68th events in Nanterre. I’m a scientist. I deal with cultural studies. I read a lot of things about that. I’ve always liked situationism, I’ve always been impressed by this movement. I thought it was interesting from the political background point of view and from a poetical point of view.
SWd: Does it deal with the 68th events ??
Marc: No not at all, It’s just a reference that stands for itself, for what happened at that time. But I also like it because of its lyrical aspect.
SWd: Do you still have connections with other situationist groups, like The International Noise Conspiracy ??
Marc: In my opinion The International Noise Conspiracy is not a very political band because as Walter Benjamin or Bertold Brecht said, it’s not about singing political issues or political art, about expressing a political ‘sujet’. It’s about reflecting the structures you are involved in as an artist. Obviously, The International Noise Conspiracy are on a major label. You can sing about political issues but as long as you don’t reflect the structures of the music industry, of the political structure and see yourself with an indie structure... Because I think art in general is not politically effective because of its ‘sujet’. If I make a photograph of poor people in the suburbs, I don’t consider it as a political piece of art as long as the artist is not involved, as long as the artist knows that he moves within sub-structures that aren’t commercial. I don’t think The International Noise Conspiracy are a very political band. I think they aestheticize political issues. But I like them. We’ve released something by them and there is a difference between what they first wanted to do and the way they behave after signing to a major label, but I wish them the best anyway.
SWd: Do you have something else to say ??
Marc: I’m really happy that Paranoid releases the record in France. The guy asked us if we planned on recording a new album. We had just recorded this one so we sent him a copy, then he made a deal with Stickman for the license. It was really spontaneous. That’s great because with Amanda Woodward, he knows about this kind of structures and he plays in the same venues. So it’s cool to have someone in France taking care of Monochrome.
SWd: It’s also great because a lot of people were waiting for a new Monochrome album.
Marc: A lot of bigger magazines show now interest in Monochrome. They are saying things like ‘we always knew that this band was gonna be big, bla, bla bla…’ I don’t quite get it why they don’t support bands that just put out 7’ or 12’ but just long-play cds. And we’ve never happened in bigger magazines before because we’ve kinda just put out other formats (that are also artistically worth) than long-play cds. It’s not true that we were passive, we just did smaller records.
Marc: Thank you./march 2006/