Girls Under Glass - Children of the 80s
Volker Zacharias, also known as Zaphor, looks ahead to a new start for Girls Under Glass.
After years of domestic renown in contrast to international obscurity, Germany's Girls Under Glass look set to break through. With not one, but two simultaneous new releases, "Nightmares" and "Equilibrium", new US distribution and quite a lot of press attention, GUG may be able to put their frustration behind them to face a brighter future. This upturn in their fortune comes courtesy of two new deals focussing on different parts of the globe. After years of searching for a label willing to give them a push Stateside, they came into contact with Van Richter, who released their career-spanning anthology, "Nightmares", exclusively in the US.
"We talked to our previous label for years and years, but they didn't have any contacts in the US, so we never had the chance to be released in the States. When the contract was finished, we watched out for a label with an international department. We signed to Nuclear Blast and they released our last record, 'Firewalker', in the States about 2 years ago. I wondered a bit why there were no interview requests at all and the sales were very annoying. We had to wait for this chance for ages."
They deny that the decision to release "Nightmares" was influenced by the success of other German acts like Rammstein or KMFDM, pointing out that they had signed away the international rights before, only to be disappointed. After years of trying, this was their first chance to have a proper go at the lucrative US market.
In parallel with the release of "Nightmares", they have also released an album of all new material, "Equilibrim", in the rest of the world. They have very specific reasons for doing things differently in different parts of the world.
"Hall of Sermon is our main label in Europe and the rest of the world, except USA, so we are in the very lucky situation to have two labels now. Of course, Hall of Sermon does not promote the 'Equilibrium' record in the States, because they don't have the rights. They do a brilliant job in Europe and we are very satisfied with the constellation of having Van Richter plus Hall of Sermon. In Europe, 'Equilibrium' is promoted well, but we don't want to put out the record in the States in parallel with 'Nightmares'. 'Nightmares is the optimal introduction to GUG, while releasing 'Equilibrium' in the States should be the next step. But, this won't happen before next year."
These plans are not, however, set in stone and everything depends on how well the current releases sell.
"If 'Nightmares' works well, it's likely that we'll release other old stuff in the US as well, maybe 'Nightmares Part 2'. Apart from that, we are, of course, working on new stuff."
A quick listen to their back-catalogue, or simply to the highlights on 'Nightmares', shows that GUG do not like to be tied down to one style and are constantly changing and evolving their sound. As a result, Volker has no idea what shape the next record will take.
"I have a couple of song ideas, but, first of all, we don't know when we start a new record. Second, nobody ever knows anything about our development before we started to do the record and know with which guests we collaborate. We have neither a way, nor a target. We will see..."
In the immediate future, they are to release a single in the US, featuring a cover of Madonna's 'Frozen' and remixed material from "Equilibrium". The band's refusal to settle down into a particular style makes life difficult for journalists who find themselves unable to accurately classify the band. The rock hack's plight is not of much concern to Volker.
"We don't think and don't live in terms of certain names or categories, we just do what we want to do. We are open-minded for anything that interests us. We are children of the 80s and very much influenced by 80s New Wave. We come from the electronic side and always defined GUG as an electronic band with wave guitars. Because we don't want to repeat ourselves with every record, we combine our typical GUG-style with some modern and new aspects. The results of our creative output are too different to give them a name, we mostly ignore terms such as EBM, industrial and darkwave."
In fact, in Germany, where hacks have struggle with the band for more than a decade to define them, they've given up!
"Nobody ever compares us with other bands, they only compare our records with our older stuff or with other bands we are actively involved in, such as Trauma and Cassandra Complex."
GUG do dip into two of the biggest scenes in Germany, techno and the older EBM, for ideas. In fact, "Nightmares" features a cover of 'New Gold Dream' that owes more to Utah Saints than the Simple Minds original, alongside a cover of EBM band, DAF's 'Der Mussolini'. More and more, though, they can see the two scenes crossing over.
"Both scenes seem to influence each other. Many techno acts said that they were influenced by DAF, Kraftwerk or Front 242, while nowadays all three are very much influenced by techno music. So, in a way, techno is the modern version of Electronic Body Music. I also know many EBM-heads who are interested in techno music. So, there is definitely still a big intersection."
Volker is no convinced by the argument that, to succeed in the US, the band has to move there. Despite the seeming evidence of KMFDM's success compared to bands like Die Krupps and Young Gods, who stayed in Europe and never really followed up on their initial inroads into the worldwide scene, he does not plan to move. At least, not on account of the music.
"Michael Jackson is super-big in Germany and he doesn't even live on this planet. So, I don't see a problem for us staying in Germany and succeeding in the US. But, I love San Francisco and would love to live there for a while, but not for music reasons."
Travel in general is not high on the band's list of priorities at the moment. They haven't done a lot of touring recently, citing tiredness as the reason why.
"We only played a couple of festivals this year. We used to play live a lot in the early years. Now we prefer the studio work, because we have more fun creating something new. But, fan correspondence and meeting people and feeling the energy of a live concert is also important. It's just, at the moment, we are a bit tired of it; that might change next year."
Anthologies like "Nightmares" generally symbolise the end of one phase of a band's career, clearing the decks in preparation for a new start. In Girls Under Glass' case, all the elements are in place for rebirth to a whole new audience. Only time will tell if everything comes together for them.
by Girl the Goth