Following a captivating gig by (now full band) Sudden Infant a.k.a Joke, Christian and Alex kindly spent some time with Blauerosen to discuss the changes that Sudden Infant has gone through the past three years, their next album, their plans for the future, art, creativity, London and Berlin.

a-75331-1400673614-8383-jpegBlauerosen: The name of the band consists of two words that most people would be frightened to pronounce together because they bring to mind a disturbing situation (i.e. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Was this a way to filter your audience in the sense that, those people who wouldn’t freak out by the name would be the people who would be open to your work and the rest not?

Joke: Yes, you are referring to the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is actually where the name of the band comes from. I was playing in a hardcore punk band in the 80s and then I became a father, I was 24 years old it was the end of the 80s so I stopped with the hardcore bands and I wanted to spend more time with my family but I didn’t want to stop making music. I was really interested at the time in industrial and experimental music. I love Throbbing Gristle, Suicide etc so I started my own project when my son was born and I was looking for a name, of course, I was reading a lot at the time about sudden infant death syndrome but I thought that yes it is, a very hard name, it’s something shocking…I took just the first two words as I didn’t want to name my project Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and then I put them in a different context when I started  my solo work but also ‘sudden infant’ can mean something different, like an adult person that becomes an infant suddenly, doing stupid things or whatever and it is not only connected to this negative situation, it can have a lot of positive meanings as well…so the name has stayed all these years and the whole project changed into what you experienced tonight as a band for 3 years now with Christian and Alex…

Blauerosen: So how did you meet? Were you familiar with Joke’s work before?

Christian: No, I was not familiar with his work. We met around the year 2000 as we were both invited to a project in Germany with a famous player bass player, the late Peter Kowald. I am actually a double bass player too so the first time we met was at a train station in Zurich taking the train to Germany in order to participate in this project. I remember Joke later told me that he didn’t expect a double bass player, he was expecting a jazz guy.

Joke: I was waiting at the meeting point and I was looking for a boring jazz guy coming with a double bass and suddenly I saw Christian coming, wearing leather trousers and a metal tshirt and I thought “Wow, are you Christian the bass player?” and he said (imitating a deep bass voice) “Yes (and he looks down on me and says), yes that’s me” and we had a wonderful encounter sitting at the train, talking about things and it was immediately a nice friendship.

Christian: Joke introduced me actually to a lot of music I didn’t know by then so it was also a great experience for me, he was one of the first musicians who did not play traditional instruments, he uses turntables. Today we are still playing together as a duo and soon there will be vinyl record release. Joke invited me 8-10 years ago to participate in some Sudden Infant recordings and we have been in contact ever since.

Alex: I got cast (laughs)…no, I wasn’t cast. I live in Berlin so I met Joke there obviously but we were sharing the same bill at a very nice festival in Riga where I was playing solo and Joke was appearing as Sudden Infant.

Joke: Yes I saw him play solo and I was just blown away by his drumming and already I was thinking that I would like a drummer in my project and it could only be Alex. As Christian said before we had already worked together before on Sudden Infant records did a couple of shows together but then I was still doing solo performances.3 or 4 years ago I got a bit tired of solo performances and I thought that I would either stop the project or I am going to make it completely new so I asked the guys and they were completely into it so that’s the story.

Blauerosen: The last studio album of Sudden Infant, ‘Wölfli’s Nightmare’ takes its title from Adolf Wölfli, a controversial vr1282_largeSwiss artist. Could you tell us why you were interested in his ‘nightmare’?

Joke: well… Christian?
Christian: (…long silence)
Joke: I was always into his art when I discovered him in the late 1980s. I was fascinated by this guy who was born 150 years ago in a poor family in Switzerland, he got abused and then he abused girls himself so he was placed at a mental hospital for the rest of his life and there he created this amazing universe through his art. So for that LP we have one song entitled ‘Wölfli’s Nightmare’ because somehow all this came together.

Christian: This was actually the first song we wrote together, we just jammed around and tried different things and then Joke put together the different pieces of the puzzle, the music, the lyrics, and their theme was more dystopian and then suddenly he came up with this title and we all agreed to go with this. This was pretty much the way the whole album has been conceived. These guys (Alex and Joke) have been playing together already in Sudden Infant gigs as a duo so I had the feeling that I was the piece that was added to the puzzle. Joke would bring an idea or a text or a sample and we jammed around it and I think that we rehearsed for two days and then we went to the studio for three days and that was it and we created a whole album in quite a short time.

Blauerosen:Wölfli’s Nightmare’ was released through Voodoo Rhythm and I think that this is the first time that you have collaborated with this label that mostly releases rockabilly music. How did this collaboration go?

Joke: Well, myself and Beat-Man, the label’s owner, have known each other for a long time and when he saw me perform solo as Sudden Infant in the past, he was extremely enthusiastic and then said to me “Joke I want to release Sudden Infant on Voodoo Rhythm”. So I was surprised and I said “Are you sure?” and he said, “Yes, yes I’d really like that, that’s great”.
Christian: We thought it might be a good chance to present ourselves, to a different audience because if the album would have been released on a well-known noise label it would have been a bit off-centered too since it is an album that sits between different genres which is good for us.
Joke:Also we really love to surprise people who have no idea about this music or Sudden Infant but become fans and you can’t do that if you always stay at the same scene and always play in front of the same people so we really wanted to have a bit of wider audience so this label was good for us and Beat-Man is a great guy who did a lot for us. Probably the next album will be on another label.

Blauerosen: So, when is the next album coming out?

Joke: It should be out next year. We are going to record next February and if everything goes well, it should be out maybe in Fall next year, November maybe? And then we want to go on tour of course and hopefully come back to London.

Blauerosen: Speaking about tours Sudden Infant has played in Japan, the US, Israel, and Mexico. What can you share with us regarding audiences’ responses in these seemingly different cultures?

Joke: That was mostly when I was solo because I started in the late 1980s and I became kind of a popular name in the underground, industrial, noise scene so people invited me from all over the world and I really enjoyed that but I think now as a band we have the possibility as well to visit all these areas and play in proper venues and reach a wider audience.
Christian: It’s just a bit more difficult because we have to travel with all the instruments and it takes much more effort than someone traveling solo.

Joke: Yes it needs much more organisation and we need more finances, we need people who will take care of the booking and it’s a bit more complicated overall but it’s alright, we’re getting there.

Christian: It’s also rewarding because the quality of the music of Sudden Infant is so good that it would be great to be performed either in a huge venue of 3000 people or in your living room. Us being a trio now means that we can’t play in a living room anymore but we will be happy to play in a 3000 people venue so basically this is taking away some possibilities but also adds more possibilities and I think it’s good for the project itself but the main thing is the musical idea and how it develops.

Blauerosen: The song “Father” from this album that was also performed here tonight has stayed with me for many reasons. One of which is, of course, the fact that it is almost courageous to be so direct and raise the subject of broken or messed up families.

Joke: I always try to be direct, honest and authentic and I have feelings about what is happening in society so I try to describe these feelings and address them to people. I like to talk to my friends about private stuff as well. But of course, some people don’t want to talk about all this.

Blauerosen: You all live in Berlin and this seems like the right place to be because it was the motherland of industrial music and there is a big audience for noise/experimental music, but also the wrong place to be because it seems that there is so much music of the genre that is being produced there, that the scene might be considered somewhat saturated. What is your experience?

Joke: London is a great city but it’s tough to survive here as a musician as it is really expensive. I lived in Berlin at the end of the 90s and I went back to Zurich and then I came to London. At some point, I realized that I could not stay in London anymore as it was too difficult for me and my friends in Berlin welcomed me and encouraged me to go back to Berlin so that’s what I did and I am still happy in Berlin. Berlin is a good base and even though we perform there, we are mostly traveling to other places in the world because it is not expensive and you can meet a lot of people and exchange ideas and is more chilled than London. In London everyone is running behind the money so musicians and artists like Berlin because it is different in many aspects. It provides great conditions to work.

Blauerosen: Up until 2008 the subject of infants, visually as well as in the lyrics, seems to traverse all the albums of Sudden Infant as well as some of the performances. How did you decide to go with this subject? I also noticed that whenever there is a song-title, an image, a verse about children, this is charged by a macabre, grotesque, unexplained and hard-to-control violent element. What has sparked your interest in these areas? 

Joke: You know, all these things that you just mentioned, have always been part of my life and as I became a father very young I discovered r-1549660-1234694075-jpegthe childish world of destroying things, doing stupid things, I loved it and I never wanted to grow up and become a boring adult who works in an office so that was for me a revelation and so it found its way into my music. That’s why I have been using these elements about strange people, children, the energy of kids because adults are so serious all the time, they need to behave and I think you should keep your inner child.

Blauerosen: In 2012 there was a mini-festival that was organized in Bristol as a restrospective and celebration of Shimpfluch, a Swiss art collective founded by Rudolf Eb.Er. During this festival, entitled ‘Extreme Rituals’, you presented a performance together with Ute Waldhausen. Having seen extracts from this performance, it seemed to me more like a response to the sound texture and energy than anything else, something like a choreography yet it had clear references to violent relationships as there was some hitting involved in the performance. It also kind of brought to mind scenes from Bergman’s movie ‘Scenes from a Marriage’. How do you decide about the style and the aesthetic of each such performance?

r-2895432-1326712791-jpegJoke: Violence is part of everyone’s life and we experience violent moments on the street daily, within families even architecture can be violent or advertisement. The choreography in this performance, yes, you said it nicely, it wasn’t really a choreography as it was not rehearsed, it was improvised. I work with what I prepare, mostly texts and sounds and then everything else comes naturally as I connect with my physical body which can act as an extension of the texts and sounds or vice versa.

Blauerosen: Are any of your songs about a real story?

Joke: Yes, the one called “Girl” for instance it’s a true story about a girl I met a long time ago when I was working in a refugee camp and she was working there too and she was a lovely person, taking care of the refugees and then one morning I went to the office and my boss was there staring at me and then he said ‘Do you know what happened?’ and I said ‘No’. So then he said to me ‘This girl? Well, she killed herself last night’ and as this shocked me I just wrote these lyrics that remind me of her. I don’t know why she did that but I know that it is not easy to work with refugees and that probably this had to do with something in her private life.

Blauerosen: What are your musical influences? Joke you have said that you have been fascinated by English Punk music and we can also pick up influences from industrial and deathrock music in your releases. Today during the show we also noticed that the jazz element was also highlighted. What is the song or record that you are not getting tired of listening to? Was there a specific artist that changed your way of thinking about music in such a way that you decided to channel this through Sudden Infant?

Christian: I didn’t hear anything (laughing). I don’t know anything about it. Lots of stuff have influenced me from Stravinsky to Maplethorp but genres were never interesting to me I was more interested in what can you do, what can you play? Can you make it fun? Can you make it work? But then that’s maybe a bass player’s way of thinking. I don’t want the band to sound like this or that it’s about a bunch of people coming together and trying to create something and that’s what counts and I hope to be able to contribute something to the music, to make it work not something with a specific ‘flavour’.

Blauerosen: The bass is usually a difficult instrument to be highlighted on stage but tonight the sound was really clear.

Christian: Yes for me it’s also a question of orchestration and there was also not guitar ‘pollution’ here and the way Alex is playing the drums is really orchestrated so we are trying to interweave our sounds. Alex is not always covering the low frequencies neither am I so when I am playing high he is playing lower frequencies and vice versa. Also, Joke’s role is quite different so there are various possibilities and we always try to play around but when everyone has his own place then everything should be audible.

Blauerosen: In your earlier releases there have always been strong statements within the booklets, texts that had the impact of a manifesto. In the booklet of ‘Sidewalk Social Scientist’ we read: “We will defend the creative act even if we have to reach for an ax or a flame thrower, nothing embarrasses us more than stagnation, what we want is fire and passion….in ingratitude towards tradition lies our beauty, in the demoniac our sensibility, in anger our kindness…driven in the edge of despair we attempt the extraordinary…“. Did you ever have to defend your creative acts?

Joke: You constantly have to defend your creative act. Look at what is happening in the world of entertainment. The stuff you hear on the radio, all the commercial/mainstream shit is brainwash music, so yes we have to defend our creative act each time we go on stage and each time we make music.
Christian: I agree with that but I would take it a bit further. You have to defend this in life, every day. It’s not only about the music, everybody can be creative, but creativity is also a way of being, it’s an attitude you have towards things so you can share it with everyone. It’s not like ‘we are the artists and the others are the consumers’ we would like to share our music with people and we would like to have an audience that participates so creativity is really an interaction no matter how it is expressed. And of course we have to work on that ourselves and we have to kick our own asses every once in a while to remind us to not get lazy and stay in the game.

Blauerosen: Thank you very much guys and we look forward to seeing you again in London and listening to the next album!

Christian, Joke: Thank you it was our pleasure meeting and talking with you.

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