Never ones to conform to any particular style or image, Apoptygma Berzerk’s Stephan Groth makes an impassioned call to his audience to do the same and to Stop Feeding the Beast!
An InterView with Stephan Groth of Apoptygma Berzerk
By Margie Patton (MPatton)
Apoptygma Berzerk’s Stephan Groth has always been full of surprises. Making sure every APOP release is something fresh and different may very well be a key reason why Groth has been able to keep the band alive and successful after 25 years. Groth’s latest effort is a vinyl only limited edition experimental instrumental EP entitled Stop Feeding the Beast. Special guest correspondent Margie Patton recently chatted with the electronic pioneer to find out the motivations behind this new sonic adventure.
Stop Feeding the Beast – just the title alone is quite the shocker! It’s weird, freaky, trippy, and brilliant, and it’s totally going to blow people’s minds! So what is this release all about? Why this and why now?
Groth: Basically, the last year I’ve been listening to instrumental music a lot. A while back, I got really tired with the way that I was consuming music. I think the way everyone is consuming music at the moment – with their MP3 players and their iPhones or Spotify… I’m not too crazy about it to be honest. It’s taking away some of the art. It’s kind of like a McDonald’s way to consume music. So I was getting tired with the whole thing. I easily get bored with things, and I got bored with music, which is not a good thing since I’m a musician! So I tried to get back to understanding what I really love about music and why I got into music in the first place.
I got my old record collection out and started listening to the records that I used to love and the music that inspired me to start making music myself. I was listening to ’80s stuff, a lot of Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Jean Michel Jarre, a lot of instrumental music; that actually got me back to why I fell in love with music in the first place. It’s about having a piece of art in your hands and spending time and energy and really enjoying a piece of art and not just skipping though some songs on your iPhone. So I started to make some instrumental music myself and it was really, really fun!
I ended up calling my friend Halvor Bodin, who in my opinion is absolutely one of Norway’s best designers. He is the guy who did a lot of APOP artwork back in the day. He did all the first APOP covers, almost from the very start, and the last one he did was Harmonizer. I called him and I played him the songs and I asked him if he wanted to be a part of this project and I told him that I wanted this to be retro and ’80s. I wanted to make a 12-inch that was a piece of art. I wanted the cover to be like an art print, a piece of art that you could hang on your wall. He told me he loved the idea and we started to work on this project and now it’s done and I’m extremely happy with it! I think it’s really, really cool. I hope that when people hear this they will feel what I feel when I listen to a Kraftwerk album, for example.
Groth: The whole concept of the record is that I wanted it to be ’80s horror movie VHS kind of looking. The photo on the cover is actually a photo taken through a microscope and then all the effects and all the fonts and everything you see on the cover have been run through a VHS machine. So it’s retro and modern at the same time.
So what the microscope is focusing on? Is that maybe DNA from one of your victims?
Groth: (Laughs) Yeah. Actually I’m not sure what the microscope is picking up. It looks like it’s a piece of burnt film or something.
In keeping with that horror vibe, you had intentions to do something different and positive with the goal of the project, but the music itself is incredibly sinister! The title of the EP, Stop Feeding the Beast, and the titles of the songs – ‘In a World of Locked Rooms’ and ‘The Devil Pays in Counterfeit Money’ – are very disturbing and evocative. Are these titles just to invoke imagery and emotions or is there actually a message that you’re trying to send?
Well, it certainly effectively scared me!
Groth: (Laughs) OK, that’s good!
And of course, ‘the beast’ can have a lot of connotations, especially connecting back with references that you’ve made in the past. There can be corporate beasts, government beasts, religious beasts…
Groth: Whatever system that’s trying to control you or take advantage of you, stop feeding it. If you don’t play along with rules, then you have a chance. If you see where popular music is going these days, it’s totally heading in the wrong direction. It’s terrible. I’ve always loved pop music, but today, it’s really, really bad. So by putting out a release like this, I’m doing the exact opposite of following that system.
One of the best ways to make a revolution is through art, and you’re not only doing that with the type of music you’re making, but also the way you’re making it, and the way you’re releasing it.
Groth: On this release, I just wanted to do everything backwards. I just wanted to do the exact opposite of everything that is normal to do at the moment.
Have you been working on these tracks for a long time, sort of here and there while you were doing other things, or was this something where you decided, ‘I have this idea and I have to do it now?’
You’ve spoken before about your love of vintage and analog synths. Was having those around an inspiration?
Groth: All the instruments I’ve used on this release are all old drum machines and old keyboards so you can tell that the songs sound vintage in a way. It wouldn’t be right if I only used brand new instruments. I don’t think I could have created this feel and this energy if I had done everything with a computer. It’s all a part of making it authentic and real.
This release is all new material, but it is completely separate from the new album to come. So is that part of the reason why you made it limited edition and only vinyl, sort of just for the diehard fans?
Groth: Yes, this is meant to be a collector’s item. This is not a new single or a new album. It’s an EP that has nothing to do with the upcoming album. We’re only putting out 500 copies, so I think it’s going to be a good investment! We have 200 copies in white vinyl that will only be available on our tour dates this Spring and 300 copies in black vinyl (that are available through the Emmo.biz website).
Since I can’t let you go without a weird question – one of the songs on the EP is called ‘In a World of Locked Rooms.’ If you were actually in a world of locked rooms, what would you do? Would you use the limited energy that you had to try to break down one door, or would you keep trying more doors hoping to find an unlocked one?
Groth: I would be looking for the guy who had the key.
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