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LAIBACH: The constant return of action and emotion in the name of the Idea and Mind

Laibach, the Slovenian band - most widely known for its provocative and experimental music since its formation in the 1980s, has become a constant source of controversy and established itself as one of the most significant bands in industrial music.

With their lyrics and variety of musical arrangements (from ambiental to country music), Laibach explores politically and culturally relevant topics, pushing boundaries and toying with stereotypes. Bearing all this in mind: it becomes clear that , it would be difficult to come up with questions, that aren’t played out before, repeatedly for a band that has been actively working for decades on a global front. But it soon becomes clear that the concern is completely unfounded for several reasons. One is: even after four decades of a world-famous career, Laibach seems to have to explain their positions again and again, especially the ones regarding the Nazi ideologies. The iconography that connects them to that ideology and its placement in a literalistic way, leaving it completely bare - at least that is the intention.

Where does the denial and lack of any will to see the logic behind the aesthetics used by Laibach come from - perhaps because those who listen to them connect on some level and fall in love with what they see and hear without leaving themselves room for rethinking. And precisely because after all this time, the answer to these questions can in no way be laid to rest and resolved, all questions to Laibach are "justified" if not for the new generations (that are so apt at surfing the Internet and extracting information, in ways that experienced archivists or librarians would get intimidated by), if not for their fans who were treated to three new releases just last year, then for everyone in between who might come across Laibach - be it on their apps, in the news, or in concert…

DIVA MISLA: I am writing these questions in anticipation of the Laibach concert in Skopje. Laibach published an EP/soundtrack last January (Love Is Still Alive) , and two albums in a span of 12 months ( Wir sind das Volk (2022)

Sketches of the Red Districts (2023).

Slovania is in flames, after being in decades long tension and caught in the middle of a complex global dynamic, we are coming out of a pandemic, the virus quietened and then shook the lonely Blue Planet (maybe she just had a breather and got to recuperate) and locally ( the Balkans) there is never a lack of news of “an always certain” oncoming doom.

Does Laibach feed off humanity in action with its tectonic movements, or is your artistic process completely far removed from the noise? Would we get this volume of musical production have we not had a couple of apocalyptic years like we did?

LAIBACH: There is never an end to the apocalypses and all sorts of various noise but the process of our work is in fact the same as it has always been and maybe the easiest way to answer this question is to go back to some of our original starting points that have been defined in our Manifesto (10 points of the Convenant) from 1982.

LAIBACH analyzes the relation between ideology and culture in a late phase, presented through art. Laibach sublimates the tension between them and the existing disharmonies (social unrest, individual frustrations, and ideological oppositions) and thus eliminates direct ideological and systemic discursiveness of all kinds. (...)

All art is subject to political manipulation (indirectly—consciousness; directly), except for that which speaks the language of this same manipulation. To speak in political terms means to reveal and acknowledge the omnipresence of politics. (...)

Ideology takes the place of authentic forms of social consciousness. The subject in modern society assumes the role of the politicized subject by acknowledging these facts. Laibach reveals and expresses the linkage of politics and ideology with industrial production and the unbridgeable gaps between this link and the spirit.(...)

LAIBACH adopts the organizational system of industrial production and the identification with ideology (... ) thereby expressing the relationship between the particular form of production system and ideology and the individual.(...)

LAIBACH practices provocation on the revolted state of the alienated consciousness (which must necessarily find itself an enemy) and unites warriors and opponents into an expression of a static totalitarian scream.

The Cinematheque of North Macedonia opens it’s July programme of Scandinavian movies with Liberation Day. In it, the remark that the next destination for Laibach is Tehran, it seemed as if it was said as a joke, but it looks like you will visit Iran after all. What do you get out of touring in some of the most notorious authoritarian political systems in the world (saying this with the utmost respect and awareness of the contexts of those cultures and the humanity of it’s people)?

- We get a refined reflexion of a totalitarism in a mirror, with no unnecessary bells and whistles with which the democratic-neoliberal paradigm of the Western, the “Free” world camouflages behind .

Are you ever surprised when certain news bursts onto Your screens?

We must not forget that the history of the world is actually history of wars and cataclysms, with occasional periods of peace. Hence, war and peace. The same is true today, except that, due to the global, interconnected world consciousness, both are happening at the same time, on a micro and macro level. War is peace and peace is war. Therefore, there really shouldn't be any significant surprises with the screens, which feed on spectacles. We can only be surprised by a surprise if it happens to us.

“Without Yugoslavia - Laibach is an orphan.” (This is a quote from Liberation Day) - Even though nostalgia is a double-edged sword, it simultaneously provokes feelings of comfort and yearning for the past, but these feelings don’t blur the complexity of the historical realities. How does Laibach move along the line of this tension, and what is it’s perspective of yugonostalgia?

- Laibach is an orphan on it’s own accord, so we don't foster any nostalgia for Yugoslavia, we are only nostalgic for that nostalgia itself. Yugoslavia was otherwise an eloquent creation that, in many ways, anticipated what is happening in Europe today. In addition, the state and ideology were a relatively safe refuge for the fraternal but eternally feuding Balkan tribes. Today, the newly established states on the territory of the former "Bratstvo - jedinstvo”(Brotherhood and Unity) are primarily cheap trinkets of international political interests and exploitative hunting grounds of local mafia godfathers. We may be openly sentimental towards this former shared space, so we wish them much happiness and success in their coexistence. However, we are not too optimistic that this will actually happen.

Over the years, Laibach has covered various well-known songs, adding his own unique touch to them. What is the creative process behind selecting and reinterpreting these songs?

The selection criteria differ from song to song and from project to project, and the process is always triggered by different elements and contexts. We believe that certain songs by some artists are potentially relevant historical material that should be reinterpreted. In principle, we choose those songs that help us tell a specific story. The context of the interpretation is therefore very important and today there is often more originality within the context than in the content. But sometimes the story of the chosen song is also an important factor and the new interpretation makes sense only in that relation to the historical context of the existing song; we are most interested in songs that have (and hide) a certain schizophrenic character, something in the manner of dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and can reveal the hidden content, the so-called. hidden reverse. To be fair, we're not even looking for many songs; the real ones simply find us on their own.

„When I look at a work of Art I ask myself: does it inspire me, does it touch and move me, do I learn something from it, does it startle or amaze me - do I get excited, upset? That is the test any artwork has to pass: can it create an emotional impact on a human being even when he has no education or any information about art? I’ve always had a problem with art that you can only understand if you have a degree in art history, and I have a problem with theories. Most of them are bullshit anyway. Most critics and theorists have little respect for artists, and I think the importance of theory in art is totally overrated. Real art is self-evident. “

This is a quote by Gottfried Helnwein the artist whose work is on the cover and the sleeve of the album Wir sind das Volk. Have you ever hoped to encourage or provoke aforementioned feelings, especially having in mind that Laibach is the most theoreticized about band, which is of no surprise with the band being immersed in history, the commenting of the totalitarianism, ideology, state… Or there is no element in premeditation when you do your work in art?

Helnwein’s school of thought is very conservative and traditionalist, but there is nothing wrong with that; he is a conservative artist who exclusively relies on the criteria of his own taste and evaluates the work through his perception. As such, he is a typical representative and advocate of the so-called retinal arts, ie perception. Retinal art refers to art that is exclusively made for the eye (and soul) and not for the mind, while conceptual art is that which primarily corresponds with the mind. Laibach combines both concepts. In this sense, Laibach is an acknowledgment of the universality of contradiction. It is the discovery of the absence of balance between sex and love, between commitment and activity. We use the memory of history to mark this imbalance. That love is boundless; God has one face, the devil has an infinite number of them. Laibach is the return of action in the name of the Idea, the return of emotion in the name of the Mind.

The latest album Sketches of the Red Districts (2023) - and all of Laibach discography - can be found on most music platforms. More art and information can be found on the Laibach website

Ana Chushkova spoke to Laibach;

Illustrations and photo-manipulations: Milk of dreams;


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