Hanzel und Gretyl

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Okay, let's get a few things straight. The members of Hanzel und Gretyl are not German. They do not speak (correct) German, and although their last record, Uber Alles, was banned in Germany, they are not Nazis. Got it? But enough about what they aren't. What the members of HuG are is the band currently opening Ministry's Evil Doer tour, impressing audiences and supporting their latest firepowered release, Scheissmessiah. Rock Star Journalism caught up with band founders Vas Kallas and Loopy, as well as drummer Jon Osterman and bassist Anna K, when the tour came through Baltimore, Maryland October 23.

Rock Star Journalism: How did you get hooked up with this tour? It seems like every industrial band we've interviewed wanted your slot.

Vas: I don't know. I think it's luck and destiny, to tell you the truth. It was right place, right time, knowing the right people, bumping into Al [Jourgensen] in very bizarre places and cosmically making this happen.

Loopy: We've been stalking Al Jourgensen for years.

Vas: We're very honored that all these bands wanted it, and they just wanted us.

Jon: That, and cleaning his car all the time.

Loopy: Doing his laundry, picking up his dry cleaning.

RSJ: You've toured with a lot of different types of acts, everything from Marilyn Manson to Rammstein to Rob Halford. Do you feel more at home with the industrial oriented tours or with the metal kids?

Vas and Loopy: Metal.

RSJ: Who would your ideal touring partner be?

Jon: Slayer.

Vas: Anything big.

Loopy: We've almost been out with all the bands we love -- Rammstein, now Ministry, Prong.

RSJ: Vas, you once mentioned wanting to have a bigger stage show, what would you have if you could?

Vas: Lights, smoke, lots of props.

Anna: We would have pyro! We need to bring the pyro back.

Vas: Lots of naked, dancing men.

Loopy: There will be no naked dancing men, just for the record -- alright, alright one naked dancing man.

RSJ: Anna and Jon, as members of the touring band, do you contribute ideas to the stage show?

Loopy: No! (laughs) Actually, so many it's mind numbing. She (gestures to Anna) contributes about ten ideas a minute.

Anna: Yeah, probably. I can probably be pretty annoying too, but I can't help it.

Loopy: It's a collective effort. We just sit around and argue all day.

Jon: Basically, [Vas and Loopy] fight. I just keep going we've gotta be heavier, we've gotta be fuckin metal, and Anna comes up with all the business stuff.

Anna: Yeah, the "business" part of the live show. That's all me.

RSJ: Tell us about the concept behind Scheissmessiah.

Loopy: It was gonna be an adaptation of Handel's Messiah -- from hell. And we just took it from there. It's our first religious record.

Vas: We just wanted to go to hell. Because everyone was like, "you're going to hell," and I said, well, let's just go there then.

Loopy: But in German.

Vas: So we created this fiery hell that we both fell into, and it's about all that.

RSJ: Did you have the idea for this concept before you began working on the album, or was it something that came together along the way?

Loopy: We had a basic concept, but it really did materialize as we were going along.

Vas: It changes. You start with one concept and then it goes into another one; it definitely changes with the creative process.

Loopy: We knew we wanted angels, we wanted fire, we wanted hellfire.

RSJ: Which is different from regular fire.

Loopy: Not just your everyday fire.

Anna: Disco fire!
RSJ: The artwork for the new album conveys the themes very well. How did you get involved with Valerie Hallier for the new album's artwork?

Vas: We've known her for over ten years and she works with our other graphic artist.

Loopy: She's an illustrator and we knew we wanted like a Renaissance painting gone awry for the album cover.

Vas: She also did the Transmissions from Uranus cover.

RSJ: Any plans to redesign the website to fit the new album?

Vas: Oh, geez. We have these website guys that I have to constantly yell at on a daily basis to do anything. They say they will, and they never do.

Loopy: I think they like being yelled at by her.

Vas: I've given up.

Loopy: They're into it, cause she just screams at them and they get their fix and then they do nothing.

Vas: Whatever. At least the new cd cover's on there.

RSJ: Musically, this album is harder than Uber Alles. Was that something you were purposely going for when you started?

Vas: Yes.

Loopy: [Jon and Anna] were introduced onto the playing of this record, and I think it contributed to the uber factor, the heavy factor.

Vas: We've always been into metal; we just couldn't quite transpose it into a record.

RSJ: Do you feel that has distanced you at all from the current industrial scene, which seems to be going towards more synthpop type stuff?

Jon: What the hell is with that?

Vas: I hate synthpop. Write that down. Vas Kallas hates fucking synthpop.

Loopy: I like old synthpop.

Jon: No you don't!

Loopy: I like it! I mean, not all of it. I like some of it, but I'm not crazy about it.

Anna: We want nothing to with synthpop.

Loopy: I do. (laughs)

Jon: And at that point, the guitarist was stabbed...
RSJ: Since you guys are more into metal, what do you think of the current resurgence of the metal/hardcore scene?

Vas: It's all good, but it's a sausage-fest.

Jon: Arch Enemy has a chick.

Vas: Well that's one, but she's very tomboy-ish.

RSJ: We were just discussing that yesterday, how you can be metal and still be a girl.

Vas: Let me tell you something. Do you know how many guys have come up to me on this fucking tour and asked, "are you a man?"

Loopy: And most of them are me and Jon.

Vas: Shut up. I'm like, look at me -- fuck you, I'm all woman. What, because I have a deeper voice? They thought that me and Anna were transvestites.

Anna: Yeah, cause girls can't rock, so if you see a girl that does, then there must be something else going on. It's like the first thought, not, oh that's cool.

RSJ: Well, we've done interviews where people assumed that because we're girls, we must be groupies and not actual reporters.

Jon: You mean you girls aren't here just to perform crazy sexual acts? This interview is over!

Anna: I've had trouble getting let into the venue for soundcheck. I've been told by the security guy that I can't come in because "the band isn't here yet." I always have to fight that.

RSJ: We know you've had label problems in the past; are you happy right now with Metropolis, and is there any possibility of re-releasing your work prior to Uber Alles?

Vas: Next question. When it comes to business, I have nothing but bad things to say, question.

RSJ: Okay, Transmissions From Uranus featured a cd-rom component with the Alienator game. Ever plan to do more with multimedia?

Vas: I would love to if the opportunity came around and somebody offered to do it.

Loopy: Back then it was very cutting edge, and they wanted to do it. Now I think to even have it be worthwhile it would have to be so involved and high tech. I mean, in our video game you get to turn our cartoons into a bug and that's how you win.

Vas: And then what do you win?

Loopy: You get to see us as a bug. An intergalactic bug. I still haven't won.

RSJ: Are you planning on any videos for the new album?

Loopy: Yes, we've been approached by many a video guy who wants to do that. We just have to decide.

RSJ: A lot was made over the inability to sell Uber Alles in Germany. Did you even try to distribute this one there?

Loopy: Well, this one, I've already heard that we're gonna have problems with the distribution because of Uber Alles. I think that's gonna be a lingering problem for us in Deutschland. Are we upset about it? Yes. I don't think there's anything offensive on either record and we need somebody to take us to Germany to fix this problem.

RSJ: Vas, when did you live in Germany and for how long?

Loopy: 1938.

Vas: Yes, it was 1938. I remember it well. Actually, I was there when the wall was still up. I lived there for a year and then I came back to the States and I would go back every year for like five months. And then I stopped when I got involved in the music scene in New York, and I've been here ever since.

RSJ: What was music scene like in Germany?

Vas: When I was there it wasn't that great. It was just a bunch of punk bands playing squats in Berlin. It wasn't really a scene; it was more that sort of thing.

RSJ: You incorporate several different styles into your work; are there any genres you would like to work with that you haven't yet?

Vas: We've done metal, disco, techno, drum-n-bass. Good question. We haven't done reggae.

Loopy: An entirely industrial German reggae record? That would be interesting.

Jon: Especially with no band members.

Loopy: Yeah, especially with me gone.

Vas: I think we've covered everything. We haven't done jazz or country.

Loopy: I think we've inadvertently done jazz, actually.

Jon: Well, that's when you make a mistake; you just do it again and it's jazz.

Vas: We've done Greek music, we've done Russian -- we've done it all. I think we're done. (laughs)

RSJ: Loopy, on both Uber Alles and Scheissmessiah you have lead vocals on two songs. Would you ever be interested in singing more?

Loopy: Yeah, I am, but they won't let me. No, I would say I'm interested in singing more, but I already have laryngitis from doing one song on the tour, so I don't how many songs I could do live.

Vas: He's not like me. I'm bionic.

RSJ: Are either of you interested in pursuing solo projects?

Vas: No, I don't like to be alone making music. It's not fun.

Loopy: I have no immediate plans for doing a solo project.

RSJ: In the off time from Hanzel und Gretyl, do you do any work for any other artists?

Vas and Loopy: No.

Loopy: All of our energy goes into this.

Vas: I've done remixes; I did a remix for En Esch's Slick Idiot.

RSJ: Ever think about a Hanzel und Gretyl remix album?

Vas: I would love for cool people to take some of our songs and rework them. That would be very interesting; I would love that. But...

Loopy: I would not.

Vas: Loopy is against remixes.

Loopy: I don't want anybody to touch our stuff. There's too much incestuous stuff going on in the industrial scene with everybody remixing everybody's stuff. I don't like it and I don't want to be a part of it. Even though they're all swell, as people, I don't want anybody to touch our music. But I'm sure they will eventually.

RSJ: But you won't like it.

Loopy: Yeah, I won't like it.

Vas: I'll like it. I'm intrigued by it and look forward to listening to what another person would interpret our music as.

RSJ: Loopy, having read that, despite what is apparently popular belief, you are not a computer geek and didn't own a computer until recording, did you teach yourself to do the programming on the computer?

Loopy: Yeah, pretty much. The only use I have for a computer is making music and checking e-mail. Maybe a couple video games. Beyond that, is there anything else you're supposed to do with a computer?

Jon: Paperweight.

Loopy: I'm not too computer savvy actually, except the three programs I use.

RSJ: Not having that background, was it difficult to learn programming?

Loopy: Well, I'd been doing it for a while with electronic devices and then with the computer it all made sense. There was a learning curve, but you just need to learn the five things you want to do and that's it.

Vas: I think we all taught ourselves. I taught myself Q-BASE. You just get it, sit there with a manual, and then five months later you go, oh, okay!

Loopy: But I don't know how to use Norton Utilities or fix my computer when something goes wrong.

RSJ: But it is popular belief that you're the computer guy.

Loopy: I know. You know, let's keep that myth going.

Vas: I don't know about a computer geek, but yes, he is a geek.

Loopy: Strike everything I just said. I'm a total computer geek.

RSJ: What do you think made this band work as opposed to the previous bands you were in that fell apart?

Loopy: Is this band working?

Vas: I guess it's the chemistry; it's the magic.

Loopy: It's working because it's the sum of its parts. This incarnation of this band is very cool. We had some problems in the past, and now we're coming into our own. And other clichés.