Hanzel Und Gretyl
Transmissions from Uranus (Energy)
An interview with Vas Kallas and Kaizer Von Loopy
by Lex Marburger
On their debut album Ausgeflippt, they sang in multiple languages about chrome headgear, demented suns, space. They extensively sampled HAL from 2001. Like replicants flying under the banner “Machines Good, People Bad,” Hanzel Und Gretyl created a blend of edgy guitars and digital noises that seemed to have visited us from the future. Now with their second album (and accompanying CD-ROM) Transmissions From Uranus, HUG has taken a much more aggressive route, the guitars mixed higher and the beats played harder. I talked to the space age duo, and found them to be surprisingly human.
Please elaborate on “Machines Good, People Bad.”
Vas: When we first started this project, Lupie and I were disgusted with people, because we were in bands prior and everyone was falling by the wayside, not giving a shit, so we were like, “fuck it, let’s just get a drum machine and a sampler and do it ourselves.” Machines were good, and people were bad. You can’t depend on anyone but yourself and a machine. Machines don’t talk back to you, they’re on time, they don’t have drug problems…
But there are four actual humans in the band.
Vas: It’s always been a four piece. Lupie and I actually write all the music together, and it’s our concept, but we have a bassist (Gingerbread) and a drummer (Seven) for our live shows.
Why did you shy away from your multi-linguistic abilities on the new album?
Vas: There are a couple near the end, but I was a little bit bored with the German and the Greek at that point, and it was just English that came out of me. I don’t plan on writing in a particular language, it just happens. Last time I had a lot of things to say in German, and this time around I wanted to say it in English (and a little Greek). But we continue to explore in new languages. We have an EP coming out that has a song in ancient Sumerian…
Where did you learn all these languages?
Vas: We just read books, and use the words in there. Link them together and you’ve made something.
Considering how many machines are used, is it easy to re-create your songs live?
Vas: Oh, yeah! Our live show is way more guitar heavy, because Lupie and I play guitar live, we have Seven playing live drums, and all the sounds are mixed onto DAT, which is played simultaneously. It’s full force, and not as ambient as our records are. Transmissions… is a little more aggressive, because after we did Ausgeflippt, we got signed, then we got the band together, and then we went on tour, so now that we had the band, it naturally got louder.
Please explain the “Hallo Berlin” track.
Vas: “Hallo Berlin?” I think Lupie can explain that better.
Loopy: That song is a friend of mine calling my phone machine while extremely drunk out of his mind. He happened to be standing near a sign for a restaurant called Hallo Berlin, where they have these weekly parties, so as drunk as he was, he just sang what he was reading. Then we put in some samples from German beer hall music, chopped it up, and compressed it to make it in key with his singing. He was actually in a key when he sang it. I guess alcohol helps, at least in his case.
What about “Hyper Erotic Joy Helmet?”
Loopy: I knew I wanted to write a song called that, but we couldn’t come up with a song to go with the title. So we just made it a mock futuristic commercial about a product that doesn’t exist, that we would like to exist, and I think most people would like to exist. We thought about putting one together and selling it at shows, but the rest of them didn’t seem too into it.
Well, if it actually worked, I’d be interested…
Loopy: There you go, one sale already.
You seem obsessed with futurism –
Loopy: I don’t know why that is, really. We seem to be controlled by something. We’re an alien experiment.
Have you woken up with strange marks on your body?
Loopy: Strange marks, yes. But Vas is the mystic in the band, let her clue you in on this.
Vas: I have to say that I have never been abducted by an alien. I don’t think anyone around me has. I met a girl who said that all throughout her life her father was regularly abducted. She was really honest about it, and I thought to myself, `damn!’
Do you want to be abducted?
Vas: I’d like to have the experience, but I think I’d be fucking so shit scared… I’ve been reading Communion, and it’s scaring the shit out of me. But those are the gray aliens, descended from Martians, and they’re not around as much as they used to be. I get a lot of my inspiration from these kind of books. I read one called The Pleadian Agenda, and we wrote a song about it. There’s these aliens from the Pleadies, who are extremely artistic and kind, and there’re coming here to save the planet, and ourselves. Then there’s the bad aliens, who created us way back when.
We’re an alien experiment?
Vas: Yes. Well, this is stuff I read, like Genesis Revisited, which talks about how ancient Sumerian writing proves that aliens created mankind. You can believe it if you want to, it makes for a good story, and a good song.
The CD-Rom keeps crashing my computer.
Vas: You have to have a really good computer. Our artists came up with the idea, ’cause they never did one before. They basically took our photos and they morphed us into good aliens and bad aliens, and you play a little game, pushing buttons to change us into one or the other.
Other than the obvious lousy joke, the title of the new album…
Vas: It’s not a joke! Uranus, in Greek, means “sky,” and it’s also the planet of destiny, and the future, and of sudden change-(Lupie mumbles something in the background, Vas gives an exasperated sigh.) That’s the dichotomy between me and Lupie. He’s the jokester, I’m the spiritual hippie chick, and we fight all the time, ’cause I get really serious about this stuff, and he just makes jokes about it. When we were recording, we fought constantly. I’m the hard-working anal bitch, and Lupie’s the air-headed absent-minded genius who flip-flops and likes to take a lot of breaks. But it’s healthy for the music. Sometimes it gets to be too much (actually, it happens every day) and I have to just go out and away. Until we do something great, and then we jump around the room, high-fiving each other. That’s how we are. We’re very playful about stuff, but serious at the same time. I’m into the astrology stuff.
So, the interviewer asked huskily, what’s your sign?
Vas: I’m a Cancer. Lupie’s a Gemini.
Ahh. I’m a Scorpio.
Vas: Ahh! A water sign, and the Death sign…