Signal Path Podcast: Alexander Hacke
Hear the stories behind the music with the Signal Path podcast. Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.
Episode 49 – Alexander Hacke
For the latest episode of Signal Path, we spoke with Alexander Hacke from the seminal German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten. Besides his efforts alongside Blixa Bargeld, he also records regularly records with his wife, Danielle de Picciotto, and has contributed to countless other creative projects over the years. In the podcast, he talks about how he’s kept busy during the pandemic, how playing a coiled spring on the latest EN album gave him carpal tunnel and why somebody named DAVE keeps telling the band what to do. This episode was recorded with the SM7B vocal microphone.
Marc Young: Alex, thanks so much for speaking with me today.
Alexander Hacke: Well, thanks for having me.
I don't normally start interviews with jokes that I found on the internet, but I saw some guy in England make a joke on Twitter a few weeks ago and it went like this: He said, the three hardest things I've ever had to say to someone were, 1. “I was wrong,” 2. “I need help,” and 3. “Einstürzende Neubauten.” It's definitely a challenging band name for non-German speakers out there. But has it gotten easier for people over the years or have people just found new and creative ways to murder the pronunciation?
Well, to tell you the truth, when we talk about the band, we just say Neubauten. That's not that hard to do. It's the fact that everything is collapsing around us, that's a given, you know, so we don't need to mention that.
Einstürzende Neubauten was born in a very unique place and time as a band when West Berlin was a strange little island kind of cut off by the Cold War. And looking back, do you think that the band with its special industrial noise and experimentation, could that have formed anywhere else?
We used to say that it could have happened anywhere, but we came to realize, now after 40 years, it is quite clear that Einstürzende Neubauten could only have happened within the city of West Berlin and in that confined kind of atmosphere and that kind of, you know, decadent, elitist kind of society that we, that I, grew up in.
It's amazing to think that the band is going strong 40 years later. I believe my first introduction to the band was probably like many Americans of my age, and it was via the tattoo on Henry Rollins, back from his days in the hardcore band Black Flag. Has that ever been a discussion at all? Because I think for me it was kind of like, oh, there's Henry Rollins. He's got his shirt off again, and you start looking at all of his tattoos and then you see that very distinctive Neubauten Männlein. I guess we would call it the little man. Have you ever had a chance to talk to him about it? About the transatlantic marketing impact of that tattoo?
Oh, we've known Henry, I've known Henry for for a long time, even before he had that tattoo, I guess. And, you know, like in like in the early days when you would be touring the States, you know, it actually happened, I think, even twice that we were at some, you know, pit stop, some gas stations somewhere in the Midwest, and there would be a little white van that would just open up. And then these musicians came rolling out and that would be Black Flag on tour, because Black Flag was touring so hard in those early days, so it was actually quite likely that you would meet them somewhere on the road.
And Henry used to have the largest collection of Neubauten live bootlegs on the planet, even more than we ever managed to collect. You know, like he used to be really very dedicated, like obsessively collecting bootlegs, not only of ours, obviously, but yeah, he had it all.
He's like a band archivist. I didn't know that. You're at your studio in Berlin right now, yes? And I take it that's where you spent most of the past year?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, originally, you know, my wife and I, we used to rent this little entire building here in wedding in Berlin and we gave that up in 2010 in order to travel around for 18 months. That was the original plan to find a new place where there is a supportive community for independent artists such as ourselves, where the rents are affordable. And, you know, a place like that. That was ten years ago.
And then you came back or where did you look? Where did you go?
We always kept a tiny office, like an apartment of 12 square meters. You know, it's smaller than a cell for an inmate should be. And we kept that as our former office luckily. And in 2016, it was necessary for us to rent some workspace. So we rented the studio, a former fire department around the corner here.
And so since last year, we've been basically running around the block. You know, the apartment, the bed is on the other side of the block and then here. And I'm so I'm so happy. I'm so lucky that I have this place where I can actually work and do things and play the drums and stuff like that. It's very, very important to be able to do these things.
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