ALPHAVILLE

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Introduction

“We must have played for more than twenty years – we must have thought that we’re immortal.” Alphaville are looking back to the future. “Carry Your Flag” is the name of the key song in which the Berlin band reflects on its own history, its relationship with its fans and growing old on the international music stage. “It seems to me that we are changing, there ain’t no limit to imagination”. A valiant feat of endurance for the sound pioneers of electronic pop after 26 years as a band. Alphaville return to the limelight with their eighth regular studio album, “Catching Rays on Giant”. The flag will continue to fly.

“It’s a new start, in terms of the production set-up”, says singer and songwriter Marian Gold. “We were able to fall back on a wide range of material. The perfect conditions, the kind a band usually only experiences once: before the first album. In that respect, Catching Rays on Giant is the musical culmination of the past six years.” A comeback; although Alphaville have continued to forge ahead since their last studio album, “Salvation”. With celebrated tours from Salt Lake City to Singapore, from Russia to South Africa, with the opulent collector’s edition “Dreamscapes” (1999) and “Crazyshow” (2003), a live album and other releases on their own internet label. Not forgetting international festivals and, last but not least, a phenomenal gig for the band’s 25th anniversary in the Czech capital Prague in winter 2009. “Particularly abroad, we don’t have to struggle with the ghosts of the past. Our music is more important there, not some long-forgotten image from the eighties,” is how Marian Gold describes Alphaville’s status on the international pop map.

 

On “Catching Rays on Giant”, Alphaville have condensed their complex voyages of discovery through analogue and digital soundscapes into 14 songs. The insistent, emotional single release “I Die For You Today” represents this new energy. “We got rid of all our baggage and just worked intuitively”, says Marian Gold. “Snap decisions had to be made. No lengthy experimentation. The pressure to work to strict production deadlines again was good for us.” It all begins with fragments of Gold’s biography. It is his stories, his stylings and reflections that have always characterised Alphaville’s material. “Miracle Healing” sketches an autobiographical scene after a concert in the Caribbean capital Port of Spain. “Eternally Yours” grapples with the subject of the famous sonnets of William Shakespeare and plays on their sexual ambivalence. And in the anthemic “Call Me”, Gold deals with the sometimes thorny relationship between pop star and fan. “This frequently manic interplay between the truth and lies, brute feeling and hopeless illusions is absolutely fascinating. For better or worse.” In addition to the musical creations that Gold composed with keyboardist Martin Lister, a new framework was also created: one in which deep pieces like the monumental “A Handful Of Darkness” give way to storming tracks such as “Song For No One (But Myself)”. The up-tempo “Gravitation Breakdown” hints at the intro to the legendary Cure song “Into The Trees”. “Heaven On Earth” tantalisingly blanks out reality, while murder mystery “The Things I Didn’t Do” recalls the exuberant atmosphere of the Scissors Sisters. These dynamic emotions characterise Alphaville’s current mood.

 

The nucleus of Alphaville had already been formed by the end of the seventies, at the Berlin University of the Arts, where the original line-up of Marian Gold, Bernhard Lloyd and Frank Mertens suddenly decided they would rather produce music than paintings or sculptures: “We were absolute beginners with no experience whatsoever. In line with the do-it-yourself spirit of punk, we looped drum sequences  taken from our records on a two-track machine.  We had to resort to that early form of sampling, before the term “sampling” even existed,” recalls Marian Gold. They turned out to be resourceful dilettantes, releasing 3 international hits straight out of the blocks with “Big in Japan”, “Sounds Like A Melody” and “Forever Young” which brought them all the status of a studio band with the greatest possible artistic freedom. “We enjoyed our time in the ivory tower, we gave everything a try and relied on constant musical change.”

 

Original Berlin electronic maestro Klaus Schulze produced their third album “The Breathtaking Blue” in 1989 and since then has remained a close artistic companion of Marian Gold. Under the title “Songlines”, the band relied on a cinematic reading of their songs, surrendering the ten album tracks to notable directors who provided their own free interpretation. Among these were luminaries such as Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi), Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot) and the Lauenstein brothers, whose contribution for Alphaville won an acadamy award for best short film in Hollywood that same year. While the early synthpop ideas were being transformed into hard techno grooves in Berlin’s techno clubs, Alphaville crafted their own concepts. “I followed the development of techno with great curiosity”, says Marian Gold. “It was exciting at the beginning, a sort of reinvention of rock’n’roll. But as a band we kept our distance. We were more interested in the screens in the cinemas and in our heads than the dancefloors in the discos.”

 

Since the mid-nineties, Alphaville have been touring all across the world, while 1996 saw the departure of the last members of the earlier line-up, Ricky Echolette and Bernhard Lloyd. Their positions have since been filled by Britons Martin Lister (keyboards) and David Goodes (guitar) and with the German Jakob Kiersch on drums. The 1997 album “Salvation” witnessed a return to classic Alphaville songs. That was followed in 2000 by live album “Stark Naked” and finally in 2003 by the extravagant web production, “Crazyshow”, the latter giving their worldwide fan community the opportunity to follow the creation of a new album live on the internet, from its initial embryonic beginnings right up to final completion. “We’ve moved on with our sounds since then, written a load of new pieces and have jetted around the globe at least 20 times”, is how Marian Gold sums it up. A new chapter of the Alphaville story is about to start.

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