LJUBLJANA - 18th of December 1996
When did you start working in music?
I arrived to Ljubljana
University in the late seventies- I was previously living in the village
of Piran, on the coast of the Adriatic sea- and started working as sound
engineer in the Student Radio and, immediately after, in the Tivoli
Studio, that - along with Akademik Studio - was the leading place for
the biggest Yugoslavian musicians in Ljubljana and also for many artists
from abroad. As I had previously studied music - french horn and double
bass - it became natural after a while to contribute also on the
artistic, not just on the technical part of the musical projects, and so
I became a producer too. In nearly 20 years of work I have engineered
and produced over 200 records.
Which are the ones that you remember more fondly?
In the late seventies and
early eighties Yugoslavia had many interesting punk and new wave bands
and I was behind the mixing desk with practically everyone of these
groups. I think that bands from this period PANKRTI, PARAF
and especially ELEKTRICNI ORGAZAM made some interesting
records. In the eighties and nineties I have worked on many worthwhile
projects and among them LAIBACH and obviously DEVIL DOLL
have been the most challenging, even if I have been responsible to many
other albums I`m also quite proud of.
Among the artists you named DEVIL DOLL
and Laibach are the most celebrated abroad...
My works with DEVIL DOLL
and Laibach have been undoubtedly the most ambitious and demanding, on
every respect. Some people seems to appreciate both of them at the same
time even if nothing can be as different as a DEVIL DOLL
creation or a Laibach product!
Let's start chronologically: what about your meeting
We knew each other for some
time, but actually the first time I spoke with Dejan Knes (leader of
Laibach and founder of N.S.K.) it was in Belgrade where we were both
having military service. We had an interesting conversation and later we
decided to work together.
...in the studio...
Yes: they had a lot of
experimental and interesting ideas, but they did not know how to
transfer them in music as no one of Laibach has any musical training. So
it was very challenging and creative experience for me... I bad to give
musical life to these concepts (namely Dejan`s) through sampling,
looping, editing, changing pitches, adding voices and sounds and 50 on.
I think the result has been satisfying, in particular with NOVA
AKROPOLA that I still consider as their most artistically
important record, no doubt.
What about the live dates?
I was responsible of
Laibach`s sound also in the Yugoslavian concerts of those years: I sound
engineered their early BIG gigs in Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Belgrade
etc. 95% of the concert was pre-recorded: they were basically performing
in playback. Apart from Milan's voice that was always live: the drums
and percussions just double the pre- recorded track while bass and
guitar were playing one note here one there to contribute to the visual
>Did the fans know about it? And were audiences annoyed?
I think they knew about it:
and they never showed any negative reaction to the pre- recordings. I
remember in particular a great performance we did in Zagreb, it was
around Christmas 1985 or 1986 - can`t remember precisely- and the sound
- vocals/pre- recordings was really great. I taped the concert and
sometimes listened again to it with pleasure: really perfect. Don't know
where it is now...
Who was on- stage?
Three of them (Milan, Dejan
and Erwin) on vocals and "visual" percussions: the others were
just session- players. Same as now, by the way.
If I understand well Dejan was the mastermind behind
Yes and no. Dejan created
N.S.K. and Laibach along with Tomaz Hostnik, the first singer who
tragically died in 1982, so everything basically would not exist without
him. But for what I`m concerned I consider Milan by far the most
important member of the group: not only live (after all he is the only
one performing!), but also in the creation of the albums. Much more than
he is credited. I consider Milan a great vocalist and his style has been
copied by hundreds industrial/metal bands so far. In the beginning Dejan
was definitely very important with his suggestions and musical "sense":
he never studied music, but had some surprisingly good intuitions.
...And the other two members:
Erwin and Jani? Erwin has
just the physical impact needed for Laibach's visuals (he was always
successful as fashion model), but no musical importance. Jani was the
manager of the group: he was responsible for the interviews. ...I mean...
they NEVER gave a live interview with tape recorder as you are doing
right now... They were always asking for written questions and Jani was
responsible on writing back the answers... that were intentionally not
answering at all... in a sort of "official diplomatic language".
This is great part of the mystic that has made Laibach a cult band and
in this sense the importance of Jani has immeasurably increased.
Why did you stop working with Laibach?
After they signed with Mute
Records the mixing of the albums have been under direct control of the
record company 50 they had to work out of Slovenia. And I must say that
after I made BAPTISM I lost somewhere interest in the whole
project: the creative impetus of the early years was lowering and they
were trying to be commercial to get a wider acceptance.
What do you think about Laibach's albums after your
OPUS DEI is technically well recorded - a lot of energy, above all. But when you
listen to it a couple of times you realise it is just a synthetic kind
of energy hiding some very poor artistic ideas. The entrance of Slavko
Avsenik - a pop composer/arranger that Laibach employed from OPUS DEI :
he is responsible for most of the music and all the arrangements,
orchestrations, playing on the records, choruses etc- is often too
musica1. The geniality lying in the chaos of the old recordings is gone
completely. The brutality and primitive charm of the early chaotic years
is missing Laibach themselves, die in this moment. OPUS DEI,
after all, does not hurt, at all. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
and LET IT BE ride the same horse: and the results are
worse. The single ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is the biggest
attempt to gain international success: after OPUS DEI
beside Slavko Avsenik Laibach employed the very talented Iztok Turk,
composer/producer and leader of a pop band called Videosex. The use of
Anja Rupel, a well know Slovenian pop singer, instead of Milan is the
final prove of complete sell out. These albums are a complete artistic
MACBETH! and KAPITAL, in
comparison, are very different ventures!
MACBETH: it is not a proper Laibach album. They had some tapes
with samples and sketches used for some theatre and art performances of
other N.S.K. people. It was a very cheap venture to collect them in a
new album to cash in on the previous albums commercial success. KAPITAL
took much more time, was much more ambitious and much more expensive...
but in one word, it was just... SHIT. They really wanted to be
commercially successful leading the new 'techno' trend. It was really a
challenge and they worked with all themselves to that album. They wanted
to prove themselves as "composers" without all the
arrangements and compositions of Slavko Ausenik. Unfortunately they
really managed to prove what they are capable of Let's honestly say
it:... nearly nothing.
So this explains the return to the Ausenik choruses
and orchestrations, to the OPUS DEI cliché
should have been their commercial breakthrough and had been totally
unsuccessful, so NATO and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
went back to the formula of OPUS DEI with one difference:
they are trying more openly to enter the lucrative market of 'dance
music', using Iztok Turk's disco rhythms.
What would Jurij Toni suggest at this point to Laibach?
Now they should produce a
devastating dark rock/metal album giving the chance to Milan to express
himself as that great ROCK singer I think be can be. The pathetic
attempt to have big success has spoiled the whole project for much too
long and it is really time for a change. This should have been the logic,
the honest progression of NOVA AKROPOLA, over a decade ago.
After your decision to leave Laibach...
I continued to work with a
lot of bands... and in 1987 I had the chance to meet Mr. Doctor. I had
been fascinated by the words of an advert He placed: "A MAN IS THE
LESS LIKELY TO BECOME GREAT THE MORE HE IS DOMINATED BY REASON: FEW CAN
ACHIEVE GREATNESS, AND NONE IN ART, IF THEY ARE NOT DOMINATED BY
ILLUSION". He visited the Tivoli Studios and I offered my
Were Devil Doll originally a Yugoslavian or an Italian
group? Can you remember the very beginning of it all?
Of course. I can really say
that they were 100% coming from Mr. Doctor's planet. And the two groups
that followed, one in each country, were assembled also with my help: I
introduced Sasha Olenjuk, Bor Zuljan, Davor Klaric, Jani Hace and two of the three drummers. All truly extraordinary musicians.
And... what about THE MAN, Mr. Doctor?
I found Him totally
immersed in a world of His own, out of time and space I would say. I
could not understand at first what was really in His mind and possibly I
rated Him a bit of a madman with an overwhelming knowledge in Art.
Reality goes however often far beyond imagination: when we recorded THE
MARK OF THE BEAST, practically live in a few hours of studio time, I
was so surprised... Mr. Doctor was like in a state of trance performing
THAT unique "sprechgesang" in total darkness, and I was behind
the mixing desk hearing His voices for the first time. Changing mood,
colour, timbre, but retaining always the 'pure purity of absolute
insanity' and transforming instantly in an angel, an old man, an unholy
spirit or a child all trapped in the same body. And when it was finished,
first take, no overdubs, no studio tricks, just this Presence torturing
His strings, I was knocked out.
MARK OF THE BEAST was never properly
released, was it?
Correct. He released just
one copy and I really could not understand the sense of it all and I was
really furious to what seemed to me a masochistic commercial suicide. He
answered with a certain surprise: 'This is a painting, not a graphic
work'.". And this was all.
Was any part of MARK OF THE BEAST ever
re- used on other albums?
This is a good question.
You know: in every album there is at least a little quotation from
another.... a little bit like the cameo appearances of Hitchcock in his
movies, I suppose.... For example the finale of the track MR. DOCTOR
with the accordion reappears in the middle of the 'Nightmare' BELIEVE!
in the album SACRILEGIUM, or the same notes of the bolero that
closes THE GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH appears in completely
different tempo played by violin solo in the middle of SACRILEGIUM....
Well: do you remember that section of THE GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH
that starts with an electric guitar arpeggio and leads to the singing
part "A light? A star".... That instrumental "intro"
is a quotation - without vocals- from a part of MARK OF THE BEAST!
Back to the one and only copy of THE MARK OF THE
How the situation changed with the following albums?
A few weeks later Mr.
Doctor came already with a second project that would have become THE
GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH. The inspiration was Patrick McGoohan, one of
the artists Mr. Doctor respected the most; I did not know anything about
the Prisoner at the period, so I started to look at the first episode.
Fact is that for the following 12 hours I continued to watch the whole
17 episodes and I was immediately stunned by the fact that McGoohan and
Mr. Doctor behave in a very similar way (they share especially a very
sharp humour). I accepted to dive myself into this second project, but
on one condition: that be could have done "a painting for Himself
and some graphic works for us", if you can follow what I mean....
GIRL was recorded practically all live and mixed very quickly in
November 1988 with minimum budget as Mr. Doctor wanted to be ready for a
live performance just before the end of the year. Of this and of all the
following albums ten copies with completely different handmade artworks
have been made on Mr. Doctor's request (they are boxed sets in wood and
velvet weighting something like 5 kilos, with absolutely wonderful
inserts: they have to be seen to be believed). Regarding GIRL... some
pre- release tapes and 500 standard copies were also pressed, all of
them with a different insert, some of them written in blood by Him. The
members of the band got their copy and the record was given to the 70/80
people of the audience at a concert in Ljubljana's Kud France Preseren
theatre in march '88. Mr. Doctor took the other copies and burnt them
"because everybody interested got already his copy".
THE GIRL WHO WAS... DEATH is on Hurdy
Gurdy Records: when Devil Doll did sign for that company?
First of all also THE
MARK OF THE BEAST was on Hurdy Gurdy Records with Catalogue
Number HG- 0 and always with the beautiful logo of the clown with the
accordion. If you make any pressing you must have a company because of
author's rights rules, so Mr. Doctor came up with this name, but there
was really no record company at all in the beginning. In fact I was the
only person who witnessed the transfer of BEAST and GIRL, both
Yugoslavian only pressings. In 1989 some members of the Italian section
of the sect created the DEVIL DOLL Fan CIub and some others
- with permission of Mr. Doctor, but no contract has been ever signed-
started Hurdy Gurdy Records, and this was just before the beginning of
the recordings of ELIOGABALUS.
ELIOGABALUS is the only album with two
different long tracks instead of just one, and the first to have a wider
It is not really correct. A
few weeks after the release of GIRL, Mr. Doctor came to me with a new
composition called THE BLACK HOLES OF THE MIND (later re-
titled MR. DOCTOR) that He was rehearsing with the Italian section for
some time (the Slovenian section had been primarily responsible for GIRL).
A few days before the beginning of the recordings Mr. Doctor came up
with another album worth of material tentatively called ELIOGABALUS.
The budget supplied by Hurdy Gurdy was unfortunately very limited, so
halfway through the work it was really impossible to complete both
albums. First of all only the Italian musicians were used (apart from
Bor Zuljan on the first of the two albums) to save time and lower costs:
secondly I had to cut the two albums to fill each one just on one side
of a SINGLE album, so about 45 minutes have been criminally cut during
the mixing and editing stage. A lot of problems haunted those recordings:
Mr. Doctor practically lost faith with many of the companions and
isolated Himself completely. I thought it was really the end of it
all... on the contrary it was just the birth of DEVIL DOLL
as one and only group, located in Ljubljana.
This was happening in 1990, when the troops of
Belgrade were invading Slovenia, war started and finally you got
In a way all these things
helped DEVIL DOLL. SACRILEGIUM came out of this
atmosphere of destruction, of "no way out". After over ten
years of sound engineering and record production I smelled dearly at
last the flavour of an artistic MASTERPIECE. It was a wonderfully
claustrophobic explosion of brilliant ideas: a truly dramatic experience
for me and everybody involved, totally uncommercial and very demanding
for any audience. A real punch in the stomach. I remember the absolute
shock at the performing of the Believe- Obey- Fight section:
UNFORGETTABLE. The band was musically superb, totally devoted to Mr.
Doctor`s visions, often at the edge of nervous breakdown.
Mr. Doctor started then a cinematic
interest... Leading to THE SACRILEGE OF FATAL ARMS movie
and soundtrack, followed recently by the majestic THE DAY OF WRATH.
Obviously the approach between a DEVIL DOLL record and a
Mr. Doctor's soundtrack is completely different. The record is
completely free and so it is more poetic, base on "inductive"
logic, while the film music is created FOR something else (the images)
and so is definitely more "architectural". But I must admit
that MYSELF, as an architect of sound, I love THE SACRILEGE OF FATAL
ARMS and THE DAY OF WRATH soundtracks even more!
The interest of Mr. Doctor in the expressive possibilities offered by
cinema kept Him very busy in the last four years: He has kept for two
years a course organized through the National Cinematheque (it was
called Retrovizor) and wrote a few stunning articles in magazines. I
know He has just been published here also a book on the music of Bernard
Herrmann financed also by the National Cinematheque.
Is it easy to work with Mr. Doctor or there have been
problems in all these years of collaboration?
The word "easy"
is really the last you should use in a DEVIL DOLL project.
There is immense tension throughout any of the records with Him. Mr.
Doctor is the most demanding person I know, requiring absolute
dedication from everybody: we must always succeed in going beyond the
limit of the limit of our limits. It is a thrilling experience, but it
drives me to a complete psychic exhaustion as never happens with any
other musical production.
The latest album DIES IRAE is regarded as
the absolute masterpiece of Mr. Doctor, DEVIL DOLL and...
Jurij Toni: an album that
brought you literally in Death's arms... I guess you are talking about
the Tivoli studio fire.... That happened on the second day of mixing
with just Mr. Doctor and me in the studio. We literally jumped out of
Hell, but DIES IRAE was completely destroyed: I had in my
pocket only a DAT cassette with some instrumental parts. Mr. Doctor
later wanted to have ten copies of THE LOST TAPES released
(it was an official Hurdy Gurdy release with Catalogue Number HG- 9!) in
a luxury package with a big book and a great mask, as He thought DIES
IRAE was not going to be re- recorded. It would have been a
criminal loss for all of us and for Art altogether: we did our best to
convince Him to start it over again. I think we would have never
succeeded without the help of hundreds, who wrote to Hurdy Gurdy begging
for a re- recording.
By the way I noticed He refused Tivoli Studios as I
noticed most of DIES IRAE has been recorded in Ljubljana's
This has really nothing to
do with the fire. The only reason is that the reconstructed Tivoli
studio had lost the "magic" of the old one, despite its
"Solid State" desk and excellent acoustics. There are a lot of
studios with extremely good equipment, professional technicians etc.,
but missing those "vibrations" that are an essential help in
creating a "work of Art", instead of "simply a good
What is your opinion on DIES IRAE?And start to make Art:
From a sound engineer
viewpoint DIES IRAE is undoubtedly my proudest achievement
ever. As a producer my opinion is that it is a sublime work of pure
poetry and timeless musical genius played by truly fantastic musicians
with a unique, outstanding vocalist (not just singer, as Mr. Doctor uses
the Voice as the most expressive of the instruments). DIES IRAE
has so many brilliant ideas that anybody else would have diluted using
them to make three or four albums! I honestly think that the greatness
of what DEVIL DOLL have done in music will be fully
recognized only in ten, maybe twenty years. And I am honoured to have
been chosen as sound engineer and co- producer by one of the very few
outstanding personalities in the world of Art. If I am allowed to give a
last little advice to anybody approaching the universe of DEVIL DOLL:
let it to be the soundtrack to the free floating of your thoughts. Let
it be the contagious catalyst of your creativeness. Close your eyes,
reverse them to the inside and fly into your own imagination.