Anita!: “It was a negative spiral for years. Music was the only way out to leave my body and the pain.”
Anita, your album “Songs for the Lost”, released at the beginning of March, represents a surprising break with the last productions and performances I have heard and seen from you. Instead of dance music in multicolor suddenly vulnerable melancholy pop in the tradition of Mazzy Star. Now it’s not entirely surprising, since besides your dreamy voice on the Bandcamp site you also have the ambition to transcend genres. But I would still be interested to know how “Songs for the Lost” came about?
When I started singing again a few years ago, I produced a lot of music. Alone or in collaborations, in the most diverse genres. A lot of it I haven’t even released yet. At concerts, I actually tend to play my dance-oriented songs quite often, because I love to party with the audience or chat with the people in between the songs. This aspect of partying together is very important for my idea of pop as a cultural exchange. The importance of celebrating together and the loss of party culture is presently very painfully being made clear.
But I am not just a notorious disco party girl. The more contemplative, introverted side, which now comes out more strongly in “Songs for the Lost” with elements of dream pop, ethereal and folk, I haven’t been able to live it out so extensively on stage. To be honest, it also requires more courage, it creates a different closeness/distance space to and with the audience.
To unite both phenotypes – the introverted and the extroverted – I used the claim “dreamy voice transcending genres”. Both aspects are important to me in my songwriting work. Even though presenting a rather inconsistent compilation of areas of interest might aggravate building up a profile in search of one’s niche or a suitable label.
Songs for the Lost” was written entirely in 2019, a catastrophic year for me personally. I was physically and at some point mentally ill because I was so limited in my mobility by a chronic illness that my life energy suffered greatly. Due to this stress I also got along with other people noticeably worse. It was a negative spiral for years. Music was the only way out to leave my body and the pain. When I make music, I step into another dimension, I am detached, in a weightless bubble, as if I could breathe under water. It felt like saving my life. The tradition of choral music also stands for this transcending process of reaching another level of reality and thus the possibility of an outside perspective, which is why I chose “Call Me” as the album’s opener.
You long for calls on the album, sing about escapist longings and demons – now the album was of course created before Corona, how do you feel the heaviness that lies on it but even in these days? Has it become a different album for you?
I don’t think that it has become a different album for me. The treatment of such themes as melancholy, world-weariness, dystopia can have a cathartic effect. Sadness as a feeling is not beautiful at first, but I think it is an indispensable prerequisite for awakening a potential for change in a person, also to feel something like humility and to counteract the widespread hybris and fantasies of omnipotence. This catharsis is still the basis of my self-perception of “Songs for The Lost”.
But a bit of Cassandra complex was already in play: 2019 was already the beginning of a new era in my perception. It was the hottest and driest year worldwide, the trees in the forests had died or burned in forest fires, the first concrete consequences of the global warming caused by us humans. This worried me very much, and these dystopian visions are reflected in the songs.
The song “Close your Eyes” for example is about how we run like sleepwalkers into disaster. When it will be too late, when our “house” burns, we have no choice but to close our eyes helplessly in fear. But closing our eyes will no longer protect us from the flames. The song also refers to John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” a 17th-century epic poem about hubris and the fall of angels and humans. The opening scene of the crying Lucifer in the middle of a sea of flames moves me every time.
In the last months I was better healthwise due to a treatment, so I was honestly quite well during the quarantine period. I also enjoyed the silence and deceleration during the state of emergency. Maybe also because, in anticipation of the consequences of the corona pandemic, I consciously wanted to enjoy the calm before the storm, the emerging world economic crisis and the social turbulences that will accompany it.
Recently “Nothing to Touch” was released, a song and video of you, which serves as a link between your dance floor project and the current ANITA! album, on the one hand free, on the other hand anxious. The mystical-melancholic clip by Robert Vater emphasizes this even more. The music in this case was created together with Eckenkind. Do collaborations come easily to you? And do you get the impression that they let you arrive somewhere else than when you work on music alone?
I love to be inspired by others, to be in artistic exchange, and collaborative, constructive work is really one of my favorite pastimes. I have been working with Robert Vater for many years on music videos, my own videos, or for musicians such as Roger Eno, with experimental, poetic or pop character.
I met Eckenkind at a Hgich.T concert and was really surprised and enthusiastic when I heard his own musical productions, a wide range from JapanPhonk, Lofi, Pop to Trap. He has also created a producer group that is only networked through whatsapp and soundcloud. Occasionally great collaborations happen, sometimes with producers I don’t even know personally.
Many artists are certainly familiar with these states of agonizing hypersensitivity, which can feel like an inner prison. Working with others makes it easier and frees me immensely. If one is lucky, a harmonious artistic collaboration develops, which is very rare. Often feelings and states cannot be conveyed in direct exchange, immediately and instantaneously, but only on another level. Art is a telepathic tool that makes it possible to reflect the depth and complexity of reality, even the unspeakable and the almost unformulable.
I would very much like to do more real life or live projects with others. Real time concerts with live instruments like in a classic band formation.
Actually, your song “Made of Stars” should have premiered at an ESC2020 streaming gala in Düsseldorf. But unfortunately, because of Corona, this did not work out. Nevertheless, I would be interested to know what fascinates you so much about the European Song Contest? The song has a French atmosphere, at least for me? Do you know what I mean? What can you say about the clip? Who made it, where did you shoot, and what inspired you to make the clip?
The first inspiration for the “Made of Stars” video came when I found this YouTube channel with my video producer Robert Vater and we spent nights watching combine harvesters cutting tulips in Holland. Then we absolutely wanted to film there. The song “Made of Stars” is on the one hand about the seemingly insoluble contradictions in man’s relationship to his home planet. The ever-increasing contradiction between nature and human culture and technology. On the other hand, it is about the paradox of human existence: that although we are “made of stars” – the atoms in our bodies are ultimately ancient, cosmic dust – we cannot live on any other planet than our home planet Earth for the time being. There is no life on Mars!!
In the music video, an astronaut who is stranded on a distant planet staggers through an inhospitable, hostile landscape. She wanders along a storm-whipped coast, alternating with endless, monotonous fields of flowers. Trip or dream, mixed with memories of an earth in the future that may well have long since passed.
Several aspects came together to develop the idea of an alternative ESC gala. First of all, for the first time in many years I zapped into the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv rather by chance and was, surprisingly for myself, totally excited about the show. Madonna also performed and sang “Like a prayer” without playback and ‘safety net’ a bit off-key, which I found totally cool. It’s really hard to sing live and at the same time perform a complex dance choreography, in this case a song that is over 20 years old. That was honest and real and I really liked it. And, of course, Madonna’s highly criticized performance was still miles better than anything else that could be heard.
The little daughter of a friend of mine told me that I absolutely had to apply for the ESC2020. I actually did that with “Made of Stars”. Unfortunately without success. The composition and the universally contemporary statement of “Made of Stars” certainly had ESC potential and of course I would have liked the message of the song to have a wide reach.
I had made friends with a super cool drag queen group at one of my gigs in Düsseldorf. A joint streaming gala in the spirit of the ESC with them, during which the music video for “Made of Stars” was to premiere, would have been a nice alternative. Unfortunately this small gala fell through because of the Corona imponderables. But I really hope that there will be another opportunity for a video premiere with a live show somewhere.
So my interest in the ESC had become somewhat focused last year. But all in all I would not necessarily describe myself as an ESC fan. Even though this competition has of course produced some wonderful performances over the decades. For example, one of my favorite singers: Francoise Hardy, to answer your question about the French atmosphere of the song “Made of Stars”. Also, until 2001, the competition was called Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson.
Of course, besides Francoise Hardy, I have a number of French (and also from other countries) role models in music and visual arts, for example the illustrator and visionary Moebius. Since I also paint and illustrate myself, the Moebius look has perhaps subconsciously been incorporated into the video “Made of Stars”. However, it basically causes some uneasiness to compare oneself with one’s role models.
I would also describe it more as transnational futurism that influences my work. With Scorn & Devotion, the music producer of the song “Made of Stars”, who also runs the DIY synthesizer project KrautKontrol and builds small synthesizers ‘to go’ (e.g. from butter dishes for the schoolyard) I had many conversations about our musical role models and sources of inspiration. We noticed that in the 80s, i.e. in our childhood, there was still such a positive vision of progress and future. And this optimism was certainly also carried by the syntheziser sound of the era. I grew up with all these wonderful children’s films and series. Many were Japanese and French anime and had that special charm. Like for example “Le Maitres du Temps”, “Once upon a time – Man” or “Captain Future” – futuristic and warm hearted – which, unlike today, didn’t seem to be a contradiction.
What is your current favorite song from others? Why? And please include a link to song or video.
My current favorite song is “Der einsamste Mann in der Stadt („The loneliest man in town”) a discreet minimalistic synth NDW 7″ B-side, which turned into an underground anthem in the early days of the corona era. Inspired by this and yet aesthetically docking back to my “Songs for the Lost” EP, I am currently composing a counterpart with English lyrics to this song.
And once in own thing asked: What is your favorite feature on Kaput?
What I particularly like about Kaput is the scope it offers to look behind the façades of the publicly received, but not so popularly accessible aspects of pop culture. I was especially interested in the interview with Arya Zappa about her latest album “Dark Windows”. For me one of the most beautiful albums in recent times. I have been listening to the song “Falling” up and down for months. Arya Zappa is one of many alter egos of producer, label boss and mastermind Maral Salmassi, who also produced remixes for my next (video) single “BMW”. Again in a completely different genre, which I would like to transcend before it soon disappears completely from the scene: German Trap /Cloud Rap.