Beborn Beton offers a hopeful light to guide listeners through the darkness as Stefan Netschio speaks with ReGen about the band’s latest album.
An InterView with Stefan Netschio of Beborn Beton
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Synthpop as a genre is not as commonly associated with firebrand sociopolitical commentary as metal or industrial; but then again, Beborn Beton is not the common synthpop act. Of course, Stefan Netschio, Michael B. Wagner, and Stefan “Till” Tillmann have operated within the parameters of synthpop, complete with forward thinking electronic arrangements, strong production values, melodic songwriting, and thought-provoking lyrics, all of which has made the German group a favorite in the scene. Following 2000’s Rückkehr zum Eisplaneten, the band went into a decade-and-a-half of hibernation, returning in 2015 with the highly acclaimed A Worthy Compensation. The album was almost prophetically titled as the maturity and growth of Beborn Beton’s sound and technique more than made up for the extended hiatus.
Now, Beborn Beton has come back with Darkness Falls Again, once again upping the ante from previous efforts, while also presenting the group’s most aggressive material yet. ReGen Magazine was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Stefan Netschio about the album’s background, touching on how the events and circumstances of the past eight years motivated Beborn Beton to speak up about the maelstrom of social, political, cultural, and ecological issues that continually threaten the world.
It’s been eight years since A Worthy Compensation. How has the band evolved since then, and what things do you think have changed in that time that have influenced this album? Have there been any particular challenges in your musical or personal lives that have contributed to Darkness Falls Again or changed its direction?
Netschio: When we released A Worthy Compensation in 2015, it was our first album in 15 years. We had no idea what would happen and what our standing was in the electronic music scene. At that time, we were quite positive that we had produced the best album we will ever make, so what could go wrong? The album was received really well by fans and critics alike, and commercially it became our most successful album so far. So, this was a huge confidence boost, returning after such a long time, regaining our status as one of Germany’s best synthpop bands. But we kept asking ourselves, will we ever be able to write another album as good as that? On that album, we had written songs about what had happened in our lives for about a decade. Happiness, tragedy, you name it.
We feared that we had nothing more to tell our audience for at least a couple of years. I felt empty, with no drive or energy to write meaningful songs. And to make matters worse, our personal lives were fixed, we were happy. Bummer! I was still fascinated with gear, and I still loved producing, mixing, and remixing music. But I didn’t have the urge to write lyrics.
In the meantime, we witnessed the campaign of the most ridiculous candidate for the next presidency of the United States of America… or so it seemed. We had not anticipated that this charade would turn into a reality and affect not only the American people but world population as a whole. For some time, it was all fun and games and not an eye to lose in sight. But the plot thickened and suddenly there was a new president that stirred the pot and seemingly engaged in every imaginable impudence and intended to get away with it. Lies, fraud, humiliation of women, deceit, sedition… suddenly we were on fire. Floods, thunderstorms, and other climatic catastrophes caused human tragedies and young climatic activists entered the scene, and suddenly it became a math equation of how long we have to reach the point of no return. What measures would be needed to avoid heating up Earth to an extent that life as we know it could be lived on for generations to come. Women abused by men spoke up and were heard. Human beings voiced their feelings about how they felt in their bodies and how they defined themselves sexually and how they would therefore like to be addressed. A gender revolution finally taking form. Did I mention the pandemic? No? Well, apart from having disastrous medical effects on the population, it drew out the worst in people – conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccination populists, and right-wing extremists.
And to make matters worse, the leader of the ‘other superpower’ thought it would be a great idea to start a war in Europe and destabilize the world economy. Talk about ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.
The album has been described as having a darker tone than A Worthy Compensation. How did you approach the sonic palette for this release?
How does your writing process look now? Has the pandemic reshaped your way of working with each other and how different is it from when you first started three decades ago? How do you continue to utilize evolving technology and instrumentation in a way that keeps you inspired?
Netschio: First of all, I think the anger that came with the topics shaped the tone of the album. Actually, we wanted to write more dynamic vocal melodies than those we had on A Worthy Compensation and more intense songs, and being inflamed by all the world’s idiocracy and infamy made that job so much easier. There was a period when not being able to meet because of the pandemic was an obstacle, but the songs were mostly done, so we took some time off and gave it a rest. And when the lockdown was over, we could listen to the songs again with fresh ears and finish the production. Other than that, our writing process hasn’t changed much over the years. We regularly meet in person, talk a lot, we come up with stories, write songs, and create vocal lines just like we always did. Except this time, we tried to up the vocal game a notch or two; to be less predictable and more interesting. I think the songs ‘My Monstrosity,’ ‘I Hope You’re Not Easily Scared,’ ‘Electricity,’ and ‘Religion’ are good examples of how my style of singing has evolved. And there are also tracks that turned out a bit different from the rest. So, we put them on hold for later. But that’s another chapter for us to open in the not-so-distant future. Keeping ourselves inspired is not that much of a problem. Apart from films and literature, there are always tons of new instruments and gadgets lurking just around the corner. Lots of them are actually lurking in my studio right now, waiting to be explored. Plus, we are living in the most fast paced times, and we are still at the brink of an ecological disaster.
This is now your second album produced and mixed by Olaf Wollschläger. How did he get involved initially and how has working with him influenced the sound of Darkness Falls Again? In what ways did your collaboration with him evolve between your last album and your current one? Were there any adjustments in either his or the band’s techniques or methods?
Netschio: When we had written the bigger part of the songs for A Worthy Compensation, we were looking for a producer who understood our vision of music, who came from a similar background as we did. Working with José Alvarez-Brill for two albums was a quantum leap for us back then, but when that did not happen for a third time, we made some questionable choices regarding producers. We took advice and trusted people that did not really see us for what we are, and that almost ended in a disaster. So, we certainly did not want to make that mistake again. We took our time and asked around, and when Olaf’s name came up, we took three of our songs to his studio and started working on them. I remember, ‘She Cried’ being one of them. Well, the four of us instantly clicked and the rest is history.
On the new album, we explored new software and hardware, and the production standard was way higher than on the album before, in terms of recording resolution, mixing and mastering plugins, and techniques. This resulted in a better overall sound quality and more depth and punch in the mixes. The new album is definitely the best sounding album we ever made.
There also seem to be a lot of nods on this album to some timely issues, particularly on tracks like ‘Burning Gasoline.’ Were there any recent events in particular that got your fire burning, so to speak, or perhaps changed your perspectives?
Netschio: Like I mentioned before, the album is fueled by topics that humankind hasn’t properly addressed yet and problems that still need solving. The issue of unreasonable exploitation of the planet’s resources and its fossil energy sources, the disastrous results of climate change, the rise and fall of President Trump was definitely a fire accelerant. The abuse of women and actresses in Hollywood in particular, free love and the discrimination of sexual orientation and gender issues, police violence against black people… the Black Lives Matter movement is not new, but it seemed that under the Trump administration, the fire was fueled even more by right-wing extremist populists. That may be a distorted view of the matter, but that’s how it looked from our point of view. And given the bullshit that he repeatedly uttered, we gladly believed what was regularly declared as fake news.
While it’s an album that seems slightly more aggressive in places, hints of steady optimism are scattered throughout. What do you hope that listeners take from it?
Netschio: Foremost, we would like our listeners to be aware and acknowledge what is happening in the world, that there are problems that have to be dealt with. That we need to position ourselves and take a stand against radical and extremist tendencies and acts of violence. To be aware that we need to change our way of living, our way of thinking, or our children will have to pay the price. That there is no way of denying that we are living on the brink of the abyss. But we would also like to encourage people to not give up hope and draw strength from meaningful relationships and the will to preserve our planet for generations to come.
In terms of how the electronic scene has evolved, where do you see it going? Other artists have recently made some bold predictions about live shows being a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future – what do you think about this and how it might play out?
Netschio: The pandemic set the wheels in motion. People could not gather and attend shows in larger numbers. The music business in general is fucked for a varied number of reasons; especially the promoters and all those in the entertainment sector that make concerts happen still do suffer from this. And who knows whether or not this will get back to the way it was before. The big acts and their production companies can hold up, but the smaller bands that try to make a living off their music are having trouble getting a tour on the road, for sure. People were getting accustomed to the comfort of their living room sofas, and it might need some incentive to get people back into the venues. As I see it, festivals are flourishing again. But promoters cannot hand out big bucks because they still need to compensate for their losses. Let’s give it some time. It’s a paradox – I, the musician, prefer to play festivals for the reach and to gain enough money to cover the costs. Then again, I, the consumer, prefer the small club shows for their intimacy, because I don’t like big crowds.
Who won the bowling match in the ‘Dancer in the Dark’ video?
Netschio: Well, the bowling part was just for show to get some fun scenes. We did not really compete since we are all very lousy bowlers, or so I thought. Whereas Till and I did not do so well, Michael landed one strike after another. So, he would definitely have been the match winner.
What’s up next? Any gig plans or collaboration ideas?
Netschio: We just released the album, but we still have a couple of aces up our sleeves. This is not yet the end of the Darkness… cycle. Of course, we will play a couple of shows despite the miserable gig situation. Collaborations? A couple. But the day has only 24 hours, so we do not take any more applications. And finally, I have been doing remixes for other artists for the bigger part of my spare time and that is definitely going to end.
ReGen is a 100% volunteer run publication. However, there are costs involved in running a website - we need your help! Please donate so that we may continue to provide the best possible content to ReGenerate Your Mind!