We were lucky enough to catch up with Sid and Eddy of German electroclash band Schwefelgelb at last weekend’s Dockville Festival. Here’s what they had to say for themselves.
How are you finding Dockville?
Eddy: We don’t know yet, we’ve just arrived.
Sid: We’ve never been here before, we’ve never played here before.
Oh you’ve just answered my next question too, you interview well!
So what bands will you be watching?
Sid: I think we’re going to watch Uffie first, we’re not big fans but for interest we’ve never seen her. We’ve followed a little bit of her development but I think, for example, the album she just released, it should have been released like two or three years ago. I don’t like it very much, I just want to check out her show. I would watch the Klaxons but…
Eddy: They are playing in parallel to us, that’s the bad thing.
Sid: I think besides that there’s nothing that we are interested in.
Eddy: It’s more indie than electro.
Sid: We’re not that much into indie, we prefer electronic sounds.
What bands are you into then?
Sid: Well that’s a hard question, there’s not much music we like, we like some of the old 80s stuff like new wave, minimal wave - Neue Deutsche Welle - but more single tracks from the Neue Deutsche Welle genre. There is of course the more commercial part of Neue Deutsche Welle, which is not that cool. Besides that, I’d say the electroclash sound of around 2000, we enjoy it and especially I’m in into let’s say avantgarde, electroacoustic music too. From the newer, popular stuff, I like some tunes of Boysnoize records. Eddy, tell them your last CD again?
Eddy: My last CD was Totems Flare by Clark from Warp Records.
Sid: We like that a lot.
Where are you from? Is there a decent scene around there?
Eddy: We grew up in a really small village in the west of Germany near to the border to Belgium, but now we don’t live there. Years ago I moved to Berlin later and Sid is living in Essen.
Sid: In Essen, there was a nice club called Hotel Shanghai, it still exists but I don’t like the programme there anymore, but there was a time let’s say four years ago when they had really interesting bands, lots of electroclash-trash stuff and they did it so the people didn’t have to pay too much and I really enjoyed it. Now, it’s over!
What are your plans now, your album has been out a while. Is there a new one coming out?
Eddy: We had a break for six months and now we’re promoting the next album. I think we are starting to do more gigs again.
Sid: The release date is October so we have to wait a little bit and let’s see what happens after that. I hope that we will cause more attention from other countries. I can imagine that.
Yes, you played in London quite recently didn’t you? At the Lexington?
Sid: Yes, at the Lexington. The soundsystem was absolutely amazing there and I really like the size.
Eddy: Not too big, not too small. It doesn’t seem not so well known either in London, which is nice. You get the real fans of the music.
Sid: Before we once played at the Hoxton Bar and Grill and that is a little bit different but the sound was great there too. Lexington was better though!
Why the name Schwefelgelb (meaning sulphur yellow in German)? Does it make you laugh when you hear foreigners like us pronouncing it badly?
Eddy: Your pronunciation was quite good!
Sid: We’re not sure if this was a good decision. Sometimes we think that if it is so hard to pronounce, the people remember it, but sometimes we think that people will never try to keep us in mind.
Like Einstürzende Neubauten?
Sid: Yeah, them. Maybe that’s even easier than ours. We have a S-C-H-W at the start and this is a combination and no-one knows how to say that!
Eddy: But years ago when we used that name, we didn’t think of international success.
So is that why you sing in German?
Sid: Err, yeah. Somehow it works together. It would be strange if we present ourselves singing in German and having an English band title.
What do you think of politically-charged German bands like Atari Teenage Riot?
Eddy: I think it is quite interesting, this left-wing hardcore scene.
Sid: They just released a new song [Activate], I like that one. Let’s see how the album is. I could imagine that I like it but I doubt I’ll be a huge fan of it.
Eddy: But just for the record, it is quite interesting in this mass of horrible indie stuff so it is noise, aggressive music.
For ignorant British music fans, what are your songs about? Most of us can’t understand your lyrics!
Sid: We can say it’s much more about asking questions and finding answers. That’s more important. One reason for not singing in English is that we don’t want to sing bullshit - I think if we wrote lyrics in English it could only be bullshit because we don’t know the language so well.
Eddy: Just it’s all about the music, not so much the lyrics. We can express ourselves much better in our own language.
Sid: We have some expectations to our lyrics, but we hate lyrics that are too concrete in what they are telling you. People are talking too much and there’s no space for imagination no more. So we prefer short lyrics with vaguer meanings. To inspire the listener.