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Ok, it’s out – we have a new concept. We always had a new concept… just remember Geri Reig, Sad Pop, New Embarrassment (Neue Peinlichkeit), Heavy Listening, Exotica… now it’s Final Listening. We are still trying to find out ourselves, what exactly it is, but we have definitely come to the point with this. It is a conclusion of millions of singular observations finally baking together into a term. All the music we had been listening to in our lives, all the music that has been existing for ages and is now rediscovered, remade, remodeled by young enthusiastic bands… all the attempts to get control over so many files, CDs, records, cassettes, the collecting, the accumulating, the buying, copying, stealing, the filing and storing… when all you gotta do is give yourself trustfully into the hands of an expert of your confidence, who simply streams exactly the music that you love and need into your home, your car, your ears, on a 24/7 basis forever and always… we decided to call this Final Listening, and it’s all we ever do now and we have to live with it, explain it to others, or rather never explain, never complain…
-blog posting on Der Plan’s myspace page
Founded by Moritz Reichelt (aka Moritz R®) in 1978, Der Plan took a cue from fellow provocateurs Kraftwerk and The Residents to produce an unholy melding of synth and subversity that has kept the band relevant for three decades. Der Plan self-produced their debut single (selling 1,500 units) and established their own label Warning Records (now known as Ata Tak). The most recent Der Plan album, Die Verschwörung (The Conspiracy) was released in 2004. Moritz R® took a break from his current role as a designer and programmer of Second Life (where he is designing the virtual platform of Universal Records) to provide more insight into the concept of Final Listening for IGT readers.
As a lead-in to the concept, tell me a bit about when and why Der Plan first formed: was it strictly about the music, did you see a need for a new sound in the industry?
MORITZ REICHELT: In 1978, Frank [Fenstermacher] and I were running an art gallery called “Art Attack” in Wuppertal, when we met Kurt [Dahlke] (later: Pyrolator), who had a Korg MS20 that we borrowed (and he was a musician, unlike the rest of us, which didn’t stop us from toying around with music: recording stuff we played on a Mickey Mouse organ and the likes, over-dubbing with quotes we ripped from the works of German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel — and even performing such live on stage). It was only after we had moved to Düsseldorf that we joined with Kurt, who played with DAF at the time, and built up our studio together. This is when we seriously started recording, resulting in our first single and album. Since we hated guitars and couldn’t play Rock ‘n Roll, we had to develop our own kind of music. That’s how it sounds when complete ignorants [sic] start recording before they even learn how to play music (which — on the other hand — made it sort of unique). So, we thought, this is OK. Why do something that dozens of others do already? The hobby really caught on after we had published our first 45 single; to our greatest surprise it sold all copies really quickly and without a record company. We didn’t even promote it. Apparently we had hit a nerve of the Zeitgeist of those days. So, we thought, continuing Der Plan could be fun.
Have you ever had issues with the media in response to your music and/or artwork?
MR®: Not to the degree that others had, thinking of Negativland et al. Our second single “Da vorne steht ne Ampel” was about suggesting pedestrians to cross the street at a red light or stop sign — sublime message to disobey. Some months later, the major of Düsseldorf started a poster campaign that would call people to NOT cross the street at a red light, titled “Düsseldorfer gehen nicht bei Rot!” That was ridiculous and kind of funny. Somehow I like to think it was really us who inspired him to that.
What’s the story behind the three towers cover art in Die Verschwörung?
MR®: At the time, Achim [Treu] and I were photoshopping all kinds of serious and unserious images of Der Plan. Often simply pictures with three things alike: like three dogs, three clowns, three sexy Japanese girls and so on; swapping them in chat. On the internet, hundreds of images varying the twin tower and 9-11 theme were circulating, so we were pretty much inspired by that. Why were we focusing on 9-11? Well, we were waiting for the day when this horrible terrorist-act-inside-job would be unmasked. But it didn’t happen. So one day Achim came up with this image, and I thought, wow, why not take this for the album cover. It was brilliant. I guess the best ideas often come when you don’t even think of publishing them.
Because this image appeared on the inside of the CD cover and since you could find all kinds of twin tower jokes in the internet anyway, we thought no one would really care much. But many people referred to it and mentioned it as hilarious. To this very day. Just recently we were asked by an art festival for next year, if they could use it and display it house-sized on the front of the museum right at the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin.
I believe the way the triple tower image works is by irritating people, yet, after the initial shock, being quite harmless. So you can laugh, although the first thing you have been trained to think is that you must not make fun of this horrible tragedy! Which is completely true on one hand and I full-heartedly agree. But the best way to serve and honor the victims and their families and friends would be to bring those responsible for this crime to justice. The same people who use these images of the burning twin towers to keep us in a state of fear to cover up their own crime. The truth is out there for everybody to see, and millions already see it, but it is not getting official. There is still this other official truth, which isn’t the truth. So what our picture of the triple towers really shows is a truth that is not true. And that’s the message.
What is Final Listening all about? Where did it begin and where will it go? What does it mean for the business of music (and, for that matter, what does the business of music mean to you)?
MR®: I hope I will not be too disappointing pointing out that we don’t mean it as serious as your question may suggest. We have always put some strange and funny labels on our music, often in a humoresque and provocative manner, to show that we want to go into new directions instead of fitting into existing categories (and give people something to think and muse about). We’ve been calling our music Synthi Pop, New Embarrassment or Sad Pop; later it was Heavy Listening, or “Easy Listening for the hard of hearing” and other such labels. As far as I remember we even used the term “techno music” before it actually became a public category, only that we didn’t mean to describe a particular music style, but how music was beginning to be made at the time: entirely with machines. We are so used to the concept of music executed by computers today that many forget how it was thirty years ago, when instruments like the Korg MS20 or the Emulator were just entering the market, let alone programmable midi-equipment, that would change the path music history would go. Our first album was called “Geri Reig” which was supposed to be yet another term for a new type of music, derived from the American word “to jerry-rig” and referring to our use of toy instruments and self-made equipment from kitchen tools and objets trouvées from the street and junkyards. It perfectly blended into the hip Zeitgeist movement to the “Ingenious Dilettantes” that was inevitably imposed on Der Plan as well.
Now with “Final Listening” it’s a bit different. We look back not only on a recent history of music styles or ways to produce music, but also on new ways to acquire and consume music: internet, downloading, access to files and radio stations from all over the world. These things not only challenge the production side of music with its open questions of “illegal” distribution and copyright issues, but also change and incredibly increase the degree of information today’s music listener can enjoy. We are literally talking about the access of everything by everyone, which also means everything ever recorded in music competes with everything else, no matter what place and time of origin. The total cross-over, what will it lead to? Will there be a new style, a final merge out of everything we know so far? You may call this possible future style Final Listening. Final because from then on no new-found sources from “outside” will influence music history anymore…unless extraterrestrial aliens approach the scene that is.
But there is yet another aspect of it; the new possibilities to get access to music have led to numerous ways to possess it, distribute it, store it and make it available for listening. As being people who have enthusiastically gone through the various developments of the internet ourselves over the years, we have built up several collections of recorded music media in addition to what once was a pure vinyl record collection. There are still magnetic reel-tapes, later replaced by compact cassettes. Next came recordable CD, then DVDs, distributed via snail mail, later file-sharing. Today hard discs and memory sticks are the choices of the time. And they will most likely not be the end of the progression. We can now easily own more music than we could possibly listen to till the end of our lives.
I just bought an old car still equipped with a cassette player, and resisted to replace it with something newer. Instead I decided to rediscover my cassette collection, which I had not been listening to for ten years or so. It was amazing. At this point I became aware of a certain madness that I had unconsciously been falling victim to: insane accumulating (not to be mixed up with collecting). A desire to avoid all this copying, downloading, stealing, recording, accumulating, filing and compiling of music took hold of me. I found out that I could be completely happy only with listening to the internet radio of my choice, which happened to be an obscure station from Oakley, California, called “Shirley & Spinoza”. Yep! That’s it: my personal final listening (at least for the moment, ). 24/7, just exactly my kind of music, compiled by people who are better in compiling than I am myself. Professionals who please my music-demands. I feel very relaxed now, like finally entering the port. It couldn’t be better.
As for the future of music business/music industry: whatever your point of view about it is, we must not forget that the initial vital reason for mankind making music was not to sell it. When the first human beings started banging with sticks on wood they did it to please, join, dance and spend a special, ecstatic time together. No one was excluded, no one paid, and no one was paid for. And there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that.