What happened when you got spooky
Shaking the consciousness facade - Interview with JA, PANIK (Part 1)
About worlds of possibility and the intangible, little story in inescapable systems, thoughts and magic:
Claudia Helmert (CH): Nice that you found time for the interview.
With a classic start from technical difficulties, we threw ourselves into the video conference with Andreas Spechtl, lyrics and musician of the Austrian group Ja, Panik, who recently enchanted with the release of their record Die Gruppe. With the introduction round, the premise is clear: Together with Patrick from laut.de, who already supported the development of the review, we explained our different perspectives from cultural studies as well as sociology and psychology and noticed in the same breath that that academic classification for the Group appeared appropriate. Then we started the canon of questions on content, music and language:
CH: The ghostly appears again and again on the new record, in music and text. But let's start with the content: What is your definition of the ghostly? Why? And what do you find fascinating about it?
Andreas Spechtl (AS): I think what fascinates me a lot about it is that it is something that was once there, has never been redeemed, but is still floating around and has some kind of influence on the present. Because it has not been redeemed, it also has something very free, which I find very interesting, as something very fruitful to think about, to write about. I see it almost like a tool that you can put on certain things. Of course, that comes from Mark Fisher's hauntology.
Patrick Binder (PB): That would have been my question as to whether you are consciously referring to Derrida and Mark Fisher. The concept seems to be very appealing to you, you had with your solo project (back then) Sleep, a song called Hauntology.
AS: Yes, well, I find it a valuable way of thinking about culture, about history, about the past. About the things that didn't happen. Everything that has not happened is in the world: every idea that has not been implemented, that never made it into solid form, that has always remained a ghost, also has an impact on the world. It's very interesting.
PB: At On livestream it's about virtuality. Is the virtual also eerie for you, in the sense of simulacra, because everything takes place in virtual space, especially in pandemic times. Can “the ghost” also function as a metaphor for “the virtual”?
AS: Yes. In the history of technology, this distinction suddenly disappears. Or there are moments when the person suddenly gets something really spooky. That's what the piece is about On livestreamhow closeness and distance suddenly no longer make any sense. As we are doing now, you can build a closeness. At the same time, however, you can't be further in communication because - I've only found out now - because I conduct all interviews via zoom or you met many friends in this way at the beginning of the pandemic, but somehow with me has stopped - you can talk to each other, but technically it is not possible to look each other in the eye. You can either look into the camera or look in the eyes on the screen, but it is not possible for two people to actually look at each other. I thought that was a very nice metaphor for the phenomenon and that's what it's all about On livestream.
PB: You have probably read Baudrillard too, if you are familiar with the subject, everything is viewed critically. Do you see it similarly?
AS: It is problematic when one taps or scans individual phenomena to find out what the bad is that one can put in a corner to criticize. There are few phenomena that are as ambivalent as the digital. At On livestream the attitude of the person singing is very ambiguous. There is a simultaneity in bringing people together and alienating them. Too much of the social development of recent years would not have come about through digital, networking and social media. Dealing with the pandemic would have been completely different, the world would not have been able to run without this exchange, for better or for worse. I try to deal with it in a relatively differentiated way. There are dangers, but also emancipatory moments that - and that is what is interesting - are at least inherent in them. What you have to critically question is not the technology or the digital itself, but what you do with it, where you use it, where it comes from and for which groups it may be deliberately kept lower than it could be. One could also think about it: whether one would not already have completely different technology available in a differently structured society, whether one would not fall short of the possibilities one could have.
With a cigarette in one hand and spring in the other
PB: You have just mentioned groups and society. The group You use the album title and song - that seems to be a relevant topic. How would you define “the group”, “the community” and what role does that have for you? Is that related to the band? Is it about a broader idea of community or society?
AS: The group term, as it is negotiated by me textually, is a basic motif: how to use Yes, panic dealing with such a topic that you deal with the immediate, with yourself, with the person who somehow writes something very personal to tell, something that is built very close to you. But I am always tempted to integrate it into something larger, whole. So, to say, I can talk about myself now, but in that moment, I don't care anymore inside. At the same time, by observing myself, I can learn something about the world. Thoughts about "the group" are played out and the group Yes, panic serves as an example. It's less about the group Yes, panic ourselves, but it just so happens that we exist in the group for our entire adult life, so to speak. Over time it gets a different weight because it runs through it and is a way for us to get through this life. It is an eternal struggle, an eternal balance, how one connects private and work, that's what I call it now, and confronts the exploitative, foreign-determined, what neoliberalism tries to impose - that's clear anyway. The last year has again shown how much comes into the private sphere from outside. These are things that you work on, it's just a reality of life that you find yourself in. There “the group” is very different from the band: The band is more of the music-making part.
PB: This is a bit off-topic, but you separate your private self from the person who sings in the songs? You shouldn't take the lyrics so autobiographically, should you?
AS: No, no. Sometimes that happens naturally. I would rather see it as a starting point, a possibility where it will be exciting for me to let different I's flow into it that take place in my immediate environment. It is more of a container that is largely fed by my stories and my experiences, but in which the I can also act from “the group” of the people who surround me. Even if I say “I” a lot on the record, there are also a lot of people there. I don't mean, “I am many”, but rather it is about many thoughts that are brought together. I separate it in that I only use the autobiography as a starting point.
PB: By the song The Cure there is the line of text: “The only cure for capitalism is more capitalism”. I assume it is meant ironically and ask: Is capitalism the symptom or the disease we suffer from? Both? After all, we all go along with it, whether we have to or want to.
AS: I've always seen it that way for myself, or tried to describe it. That's also an old thought that existed on our penultimate record: That you have this system that is destructive, that is responsible for certain ailments - if you are in the song The Cure want to stay. But at the same time it is the only way to find healing and to reintegrate yourself. That's what's interesting about it: He doesn't want to ruin you, he just wants to make you weaker. Before you break, he prefers to heal you and reintegrate you. The eternal wheel in which you are, that's what this sentence is about.
PB: So do you also see advantages in the neoliberal capitalist system or do you have a sensible alternative?
AS: Well, yes, I can of course imagine how one can lead an emancipatory life. It's just a question of where to start or how close you get to this last point, where you say: Yes, for me there is actually no alternative within the system. At the same time, however, it is also incredibly dangerous to think about it, because you are immediately caught up in this main and secondary contradiction. I also think that a lot has happened in recent years: There are a lot of contradictions next to each other and despite all of this, it is also dangerous to think that you can - Foucault called this heterotopia - create such small, emancipated places. I don't think so. Nevertheless, everyone has the right to lead a beautiful life in the here and now. It must also be realized that in a lifespan like ours, this system is unlikely to fall. Then we'll be back to the fact that it's worth fighting for the small improvements. But I believe with the background and the knowledge that the last form of emancipation, as I can imagine, has to happen beyond the system - that's what this sentence says - that's real capitalism: that it does not provide an outside, that It is so difficult to talk about this "outside" because you don't have the pictures. That is what makes it so difficult to come up with an answer, that is the deadly power he has. Everything is provided, every form of criticism, every picture, every sentence you open, that's the ultimate evil in the fact that every breath fuels the system. It is difficult to think from the outside, for me, for everyone - and to act outside! Everything stays in this cycle. In the end, that will be the interesting question: when someone finds a society that waits behind a possible rift in the world. That's what the record is about again and again: The search for this crack and not to say that this is the crack, I have it. I don't have it, but I can say: I'm worried about it. That one is aware of the helplessness, maybe that can be a first step.
PB: Yes, it goes in the direction that one can imagine the end of the world better than the end of capitalism.
Part 2 will follow tomorrow: Then there will be more pop-cultural input, more references and names, we're talking about the internet of the ghostly, the interweaving of words and music.
Web links YES, PANIC
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