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The MK ULTRA Interview: The Limitless Wonder of ‘Girls Under Glass’

Interview by John Wisniewski for MK ULTRA Magazine

Hamburg’s Girls Under Glass (GUG) has had a remarkable career, one that includes a series of excellent albums along with countless tours since they first formed in 1986. Known primarily as a darkwave band, GUG have touched on innumerable genres including industrial, techno, metal and even trip hop. GUG recently unleashed their new studio album on Dependent Records entitled “Backdraft,” a diverse mixture of catchy goth, electronic darkwave with a searing dash of melodic post-punk. Former vocalist Thomas “Tom” Lücke has not only joined the band again on stage (where he alternates with current singer Volker Zacharias) but Tom also recorded songs for the bonus EP that is included in the “Backdraft” CD set. With a fantastic critical reception to “Backdraft,” GUG appears set to take on the world. MK ULTRA sat down with Volker and bassist Axel Ermes to talk about the past and the present of GUG.

John Wisniewski: Volker, Girls under Glass is back with a new album “Backdraft”. What was the experience like recording the new album?

Volker: it was great to see how good the songs were we haven’t finished during the last years due to several other things and projects we are all involved in. Also like out of nowhere we had many great new ideas coming up so we were in a very good creative flow. That was a great and satisfying experience after such a long break.

JW: What has kept Girls Under Glass going for all of these years?

Volker: Actually GUG were not very active until 2016 when we celebrated our 30th anniversary with a very special show where we performed a set of songs from the 80s together with our original singer Tom. At that time he was invited as a guest. By now he is back in the band again. So we both share the mic and sing songs. Before that GUG haven’t been active for almost 10 years. But as we love doing music and we were all involved in several other musical projects it was just about to wait for the right time to re-start with GUG activities.

JW: Any favorite newer bands in Goth and Darkwave?

Volker: there are too many to list them up but in general I absolutely like many of the new “next generation post punk and cold wave acts“ such as Sisters Of.. ok, joke! Such as Kalte Nacht, Ritual Howls, Ploho, Years Of Denial, Traitrs as well as electro acts like Die Selektion, Kontravoid, Boy Harsher and so on. There is so much interesting going on in our scene and Iam glad as I had the impression for many years that our scene is almost dead. Obviously that’s not the case and I am more than happy about it.

JW: Why do you choose to incorporate so many different sounds into creating your music?

Axel: First of all we do not limit ourselves to a certain range of sounds. I am a fan of the ideas of John Cage who said “Music is everywhere – you just have to have the ears to hear it!“ So since meanwhile recording is very simple even with mobile phones I sample when and where I can and also try to implement this in the music we create. For me it would be boring to use only the presets of any synthesizers. Of course, this is okay in general but many bands sound pretty similar to each other because they are using the same sounds all the time. In many cases I can even tell if this is an “Access Virus“ or a “Korg Microkorg“. I always try to optimize the sounds to the needs of the music. And for us there are no boundaries. Sometimes we like guitars and bass guitars and live drumming, sometimes we prefer drum machines and sequencers. Sometimes we combine everything.

JW: Volker, please tell us the story of you joined Girls Under Glass?

Volker: In 1985 I was a huge fan of Calling Dead Red Roses and as a fan I was in contact with their main members Hauke, Tom and their singer Thorsten. When CDRR split up Hauke and Tom wanted to start a new band and they asked me to join them as a guitar player. So from day1 I was part of that band and we called them Girls Under Glass. When Tom left the band in 1990 Hauke, Axel (who joined 1989) and I decided to continue under the same name and from that time on I was singing. Our first record with this new line up was recorded and produced by Rodney Orpheus of The Cassandra Complex and was released in 1991. The same year Rodney asked me to join his band as a guitar player.

JW: Was there a concept or approach to recording “Backdraft”?

Axel: I think the concept was growing with the album during the recordings. Originally we didn’t have a certain plan to record a new album, we just wanted to put some songs together for a kind of “Werkschau“ of the last 35 years. Sitting together at least once a week and having some very good red wine we kind of started a new fire. Suddenly there came ideas over ideas and in the end everything fit together including the brilliant artwork of Greg Rolfes. So in the end it all looks like a big concept but that more or less emerged from the inner thoughts and feelings we had which were so strong and deep and also came over us simultaneously during the production. There must have been a higher force to watch over us.

JW: Are there any Girls Under Glass side projects and future plans that you could tell us about?

Axel: We always had and will always have some side projects. In the nineties there was Cancer Barrack and Trauma, later there was Seasurfer, Bhambhamhara and Love & Revenge. Volker and I still play in „The Cassandra Complex“ and have released a new album last year. At the moment I work together with Hauke Harms (who used to be a founding member of GUG)on some eyperimental stuff in the tradition of the “Berliner Schule“ or Krautrock what it was called (Klaus Schulze. Popol Vuh, e.g.) There are not many days when we do not record anything or think about music and different projects. But for next year (2024) we would like to concentrate on shows for Girls Under Glass. There are some parts of the world where we never played before and perhaps the time has come to travel a bit…