Article: Stop the Culturcide w/ interview with Henrik Björkk!

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Help stop this culturcide“, those are the lines that are the main lyrical feature in the latest Pouppée Fabrikk digital single “Bring Back The Ways Of Old“. This was their first release since 2001, after being on a longer hiatus, working on other projects. The explanation for this statement were the following, from their label Alfa-Matrix: “Bring Back The Ways Of Old” is more than a slogan shouted by Henrik Björkk on this new POUPPEE FABRIKK digital single, it’s a provocative statement pushing us back to the source, encouraging us looking back to the roots“. So, it seems like there’s a primal yell for a return to the ways of old, as Henrik Björkk puts it in his brutal vocal approach. It was on this occasion, that the single got remixed by various acts that they deemed suitable. Including the Swedish hardliners Spetsnaz, whom have been involved with different EBM-projects throughout the years. To the American sound and music designer Justin McGrath, who goes by the name of Polyfuse. Finally, stopping with a treatment from Autodafeh, another Swedish wonder that hold anhalt EBM close to their hearts.

What’s interesting to note, is that the word ‘EKM’ is used for the first time in years. The word hasn’t really been used more then to describe Pouppée Fabrikks music as a whole. What does the word ‘EKM’ mean? I’ll tell you what it means, It’s basically a Swedish equivalent for ‘Electronic Body Music’. Whereas the word ‘kropp’ means body. As I search for the word online, a blog-post made in 2008 is the earliest mention of that word ever. Ironically, posted on the Swedish lobbyist Adam Cwejmans blog. When I check the other sites that have the word included, it’s mostly a descriptive notion of the aforementioned group, or by people who hold the ‘bodü’ flag up high. Which in turn, is a word that really doesn’t need to have an explanation – as it is self-explanatory.

Let’s get back to the topic at hand. Obviously, according to Pouppée Fabrikk, there’s a crisis within the Electronic Body Music-realm. However, I’m not really sure in what way it’s meant? It becomes much more cryptic the more you delve into it by yourself. But there seems to have been a steady decline of the genre itself, at least if you see to how it is in Sweden. I don’t know about other countries, but it seems like the peak for Swedish acts were somewhere between 2007-2009. Some of them earlier than that, spanning in between 2005-2007. We had a group like Kommando XY, where the member Gustav Jansson, also is a part of Sturm Café together with Jonathan Lövstedt. But when it came to Kommando XY, the members Gustav Jansson and Jocke Mohlund, first self-released the limited ep “From Gävle With Love” in 2007.

It opened up a whole new world, at least for me, when it came to the ironic approach they had – to the whole genre itself. They blended local streotypes in and of Norrland, which is one of the three lands in Sweden – namely the northern part of Sweden. One year later, they managed to release “Welcome To Gestrikland“, on the German label Electric Tremor Dessau. After that, they disappeared. Or at least that particular constellation. That same year, a group named KROPP, which essentially means ‘body’ – released their first, and only, self-titled album. Something I would almost call ‘sensual’ EBM, as the tracks were heavy on the signature groaning. If we rewind the time a year back, another band was going to make their presence noteworthy.

In 2007, SPARK! released their first full-length album, which got the name “65 Ton Stål“. For you English speakers, the album’s name was “65 Tons of Steel“. It had some hard-hitting tracks, but were in the same vein like KROPP, but a little bit less sensual and more serious in their posture. Every release, except their more pop-oriented last-year release “Hela Din Värld“, which got picked up by Progress Productions, were self-released. They managed to put out a lot of great songs, but needless to say, their most noteworthy album of all was “Ett Lejon I Dig“. Especially because of the song “Glassbilen“. Which means ‘Ice-Cream Truck’, and had an ironic twist to the lyrics, which in turn were pretty ambitious at heart.

Meantime, another group released an album in 2008, which was also a part of the whole ‘wave’ of anhalt EBM groups. It was Turnbull A.C.’s and their first and only full-length album “Let’s Get Pissed!“, which was picked up by the German electronic label Out Of Line. They were one of the groups that rode the wave of unfathomable power, which essentially began with every groups participation within the same genre. Willingly, or unwillingly, it can be considered the first wave of Swedish Anhalt EBM. Pontus Stålberg from the duo, is also one of the key figures in Spetsnaz.

When it comes to Sturm Café, their activity peaked between 2008-2010. Including releases like “Tot EP“, “Scheissnormal” and “Der Löwe“. None of the latter two were released on any label, they were self-released progeny. But their story starts way back, when they recorded their one and only full-length “So Seelisch, So Schön!“, which was released on Progress Productions in 2005. Their latest release was a compilation of rare tracks, put out in 2011 on the label SCR. Not much have happened since, but hopefully they will return in their full glory.

A year from 2005, the progenitors of the more ironic posture within the genre, would release their first self-released CD-r single. Sweden had waited, at last a project was born. The result of drunkenness, evenings of fun and no rules – spawned EkoBrottsMyndigheten. Which in turn, resulted in their first release in 2006, which was titled “På Spaning Med…“. In turn, they worked on coming tracks, whereas one of the releases titled “Payback Time“, got picked up in 2007 by Electric Tremor Dessau and Zero01one. Continually, they managed to pump out new tracks, or at least almost on a yearly basis. In 2010, they self-released a full-length album by the name of “Alla Tiders Bodykalas“. Since then, they’ve been quite inactive, but they have released a few songs in 2012.

One of the more prolific bands, at least when it comes to content, have been Container 90. They’ve been quite active between the years of 2006 to 2008. As they’ve released two full-lengths in that time-span. The latest album being “World ChampionShit“, released in 2008 on Out Of Line. As they haven’t released anything for a long time, there were good news from the prominent blog Eine Tasse Jäger. Apparently, they will be releasing a new album, very soon: “Container 90 have announced their newest full-length album which will be called “Working Class League”. It’s out on 24th of April this year, naturally. But wait, there is more! It can be purchased in limited Partykit edition“. So all hope is not lost yet, we’ve got one contender that will slow down the culturcide. It might also help Pouppée Fabrikk in avoiding a total dismantling of a once proud genre.

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Therefore, I had to ask Pouppée Fabrikk about what they meant with the word ‘culturecide’, their new digital single and much more. Simply because it’s an interesting complement to an already written article, that might not be 100% correct in every kind of way. So, Henrik Björkk, the frontman of Pouppée Fabrikkhad some questions sent to him which he responded to. You can read it in full, down below.

As Pouppée Fabrikk returns, once again, with a new digital single – it’s been twelve years since your last release. Why did you decide to return right now, twelve years later?

– It’s been in the works a long time. PF more or less took a time-out during the whole 00´s. We all were getting families, careers – the usual things that happens as you grow up. Then we all got together at a friends marriage (I think it was in 08?) and sat down with a few drinks and concluded that maybe it was time again to get back together and do something.

You returned with your digtal single “Bring Back The Ways Of Old”, prompting us to “stop the culturcide”. When it comes to Sweden, there’s been a minor decline the latest years when it comes to ‘EKM’. What can be done to stop this ‘culturecide’ and what do you mean with that particular term?

– In short we are amazed by what today can be called EBM. Everything sounds so formulaic – hell, even classic techno has more variation than the “modern EBM”. The recipe is more or less a dancebeat, a boring bassline, then add a few supersaws, add a guy who sounds like he is ready to take a dump with lots of FX and voila, “EBM”. Seriously, what the fuck!?!? Have you all lost your balls? Where is the essence of the scene, what made the music something special? There are of course a few bands that still do something good, and also does it in their own way to keep the scene from stagnating, but there are few of them. So we declare EBM dead. Long live EKM. Bring back the ways of old.

After you released the single, you’ve also hinted that this will not be the only thing coming from the Pouppée Fabrikk machinery. Another hint is the work-in-progress artwork that was put up on Facebook recently. When will there come anything new from the assembly line and can there be any expectations as of yet?

– The digital EP is just a teaser, and there might be even another one before we drop “the real bombs”. In May our first full-length album in this century arrives – “The Dirt”.

As you’ve chosen a four-tracked EP as a format, with remixes of the track you’ve released – is this format something you will be going with for the forthcoming release(s), that seem to be planned?

– It is a good and quick way to get out with the word that we are back. Being old-school we would have preferred vinyl EP´s first, but since we really wanted the album out before the summer there was no time for that. Maybe later this year though.

There seems to be a lot more focus than usual on you, Henrik Björkk. Since you’re basically the frontman and that comes with it, there seems to have been an upswing in that department where a lot of things simply revolve around you. Not in the way that it’s centered around you, but it feels like you’re the messenger now – more than ever. Did it come naturally with time, or is it simply a good way of portraying the message that is conveyed with your latest single?

– I have always been the one that was in the front since I am singing, but PF is in no way my gig – we are a band, and we work as one, even though it has been rough the last years getting our shit together. I take the responsibility of being the messenger, but I speak for the band, not only myself.

On the artwork of the latest single, there’s a line of text below the “P”-logo which says: “Äkta svensk EKM sedan 1987”. Which basically means; “Real swedish EBM since 1987”. It seems like you’ve always stayed true to what the original message of EBM came with. No matter what, for 26 years up until now, in 2013. What does the term “äkta” (real) mean to you in contrast to how the scene have changed since then – up until now?

– I think I answered most of that question earlier. To us the “real” thing is all about balls. To do music with attitude and guts that just don’t just go on unnoticed. I am not the person to tell you how to sound – as an artist you need to find your own way of expression – but please, do something that is worthwhile and that has a value, not just a copy. Grow some balls!

Also, the selection of artists that are featured on the release, that remixed your single-track “Bring Back The Ways Of Old” are Spetsnaz, Autodafeh and Polyfuse. Every group except Polyfuse are Swedes. How did you go by with cherrypicking the selection for this particular release, as there are a lot of different EBM-groups out there?

– Well, in our eyes there aren’t that many EBM groups out there. The ones we asked are the ones we thought could do something interesting with our materials.

Can one expect Pouppée Fabrikk to grace the world, or Sweden for that matter, with their presence – in a live setting?

– Absolutely! We have not played live since X-mas due to the intense studio work of late… but we hope to get back on stage later this year!

This interview will be included in the article that I have written about ‘culturecide’, included with my own speculations. As a complement, it will probably do more justice than my own words. But what are your own wishes for change – when it comes to your music and the ‘scene’ in general?

– As I said before – the scene needs more people who do something of their own and with some real balls. When we grew up – the eighties/nineties – the bands that released music back then really did something new and worthwhile. Today every idiot with a computer needs to start a band and needs to release their music.

I might have missed some groups or side-projects, but that’s not the point. There might be some factual errors, I might’ve missed something here and there. But I think it’s important to look back upon a genre that have had its moments of great releases. They came in droves, after one was gone – another one filled in. I might be totally wrong, there might not have been a first wave of Anhalt and Old-School EBM at all. There might’ve been a first wave somewhere before the 2000’s. Hopefully, I’m right when it comes to the revival of old-school as Anhalt. For what I have said, time and time again, is just a scratch on the surface. Though I don’t fully agree with “Bring Back The Times Of Old“, there might be a point attached to it. There were a time when Swedish EBM was at the top, it is gone now and nothing can be done about it. I hope, deep down in my heart, that Pouppée Fabrikk will be the catalyst that gets the whole show on the road once again. It might not spark an entire wave, but it might at least help to assemble the waves.

Whether it’s called ‘EKM’, ‘bodü’, ‘kropp’, ‘body’ or ‘EBM’ – it will all, hopefully, rise once again.

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