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Interview with Noblesse Oblige

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Lucy interview the German-French band Nobless Oblige about their re-released debut-album "Privilege Entails Responsibility" as well as about the recent Steppenwolf-award, that the band received in Moscow. Many interesting background facts about this unique alternative-pop duo now based in Berlin.

Hallo Valeria, hi Sebastian! Many thanks that you take a bit of time to satisfy our curiousity! At first, what is the reason to re-release your debut album "Privilege Entails Responsibility"?

Sebastian: The album was released in the UK only in 2006. In Europe and the rest of the world it was only available as an expensive import and was soon sold out. We now had the opportunity to re-release it while working on our third album, and are very happy it is out there again.

There is a lot of bonus material to be found on the CD. What can you tell us about it?

Sebastian: We decided to include most of the bonus material that we assembled over the past few years. There’s 2 cover versions we recorded for the Edwin Brienen movie L’amour toujours – which we also play parts in as actors - and 8 remixes of befriended bands and musicians.

In 2008 you have released a CD named "In Exile". What is the story about that?

Sebastian: In Exile was recorded straight after our move from London to Berlin. We did actually feel like Exiles in Germany for a while as it was such a change from London, hence the album title. We fled into the studio and recorded an album with a wild mix of styles, a journey of tributes to our diverse musical influences.

Can you name stilistic differences between the two records?

Sebastian: The albums were recorded under very different circumstances. P.E.R. was recorded straight after Valerie and I met, very quickly and without putting too much thinking into it. In Exile was recorded in a proper studio environment as we really wanted to spend more time on the songwriting and our production techniques. That’s why P.E.R. sounds perhaps a bit more rough, spontanious and angry, while In Exile is more of a grower, a very musical album with a more thought out production and sound. But I also see clearly the similarities between the albums. Both contain the same spirit at the end of the day, but we also find it important to progress with our sound on every album.

And how it you meet and decide to form a band?

Sebastian: We met at a masked ball in East London. I saw Val perform one of her pieces as Femme Façade and immediately knew I wanted to work with her. It turned out that we had a common love in music, films, cointreau and humour. Soon after meeting, we started making music together in my little bedroom flat.

On the new record there are 12 tracks which cover a wide range of genres in musical regards. Did you cover that variety intentionally or did this happen during the process of finding your own style.

Sebastian: We just don’t feel like recording the same song twice. We are into so many different styles of music and feel like working with all the elements that inspire us. We don’t think too much about how and what to record, we do it instinctively. Still we feel that our albums make sense as a journey, an organised stylistic chaos,

There is a lot of bonus material on the CD. How did it come that some many artists like En Esch, Mona Mur, Laurent Ho or even Mark Reeder do remixes for your songs?

Sebastian: Most of the remixers are good friends of ours, who offered us their services as remixers, which we gladly accepted! Others we had already done remix work for, such as Mona Mur and Musicargo, and with their remixes they returned the favour!

You have done your own version of the song "Tanz Mephisto!". Why did you choose that song?

Sebastian: Tanz Mephisto went through many transformations before making it onto In Exile the way it sounds now. In our remix we wanted to focus more on the electronic side of the song and its disco influences to have a version that works well in clubs, which is always a challenge for us. Regarding remixes I enjoy writing club music and succombing to its rules

You have been rewarded with the Russian Steppenwolf-Award recently. What can you tell us about it and why did you win it?

Sebastian: The Steppenwolf is a Russian music award initiated by the Russian writer and critic Artemyi Troitsky. He wrote to us saying that In Exile was his favourite album of 2008 and he invited us to receive the award in Moscow. Several weeks later we found ourselves there, in front of cameras and VIP celebrities, picking up the award and playing a concert at the museum of contemporary art!

How did you feel when you learned that you won against major acts like Guns’n’Roses or Pete Doherty?

Sebastian: I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good.

Did you celebrate this success?

Sebastian: I vaguely remember a long night through Moscow, travelling in a minibus loaded with friendly people and a load of warm, Russian champagne.

Do you think this award will have some positive impact on your future career?

Sebastian: I hope so – we’d love to return to Russia!

Do you have any other projects next to Noblesse Oblige or do you even dedicate some of your time to other arts?

Sebastian: I have another musical project with my friend Ralf Beck aka Unit 4 called Der Räuber und der Prinz. We will soon release our second twelve inch on the Düsseldorf label Amontillado Music. In our studio in Berlin I also regularly produce other bands, make remixes and write filmscores. We also DJ in local Berlin bars and clubs or in London’s Torture Garden and other UK and Paris clubs.
Val is a trained actress and she often performs shows with her alter ego Femme Façade in clubs and theatres such as the Berlin Sophiensaele.

You have played an impressive amount of about 300 concerts during the past years. Where have you all been?

Sebastian: So far we’ve played in UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Romania, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, and Brasil.

And you did you manage to get all those gigs?

Sebastian: Playing Live was always very important to us and we’ve put a lot of energy into finding gigs in the beginning of our carreer. We played many support slots for bands like Dresden Dolls, Vive La Fete and IAMX. With the first releases and success came many gig offers from all over Europe. Since 2008 we work together with the concert agency A.S.S. concerts from Hamburg.

And how do you feel on tour? Do you need to concentrate on the next gig after finishing the first, or do you prefer to celebrate and party a lot?

Sebastian: We both find it hard to say No!

Do you feel homesick from time to time on tour?

Sebastian: No. Being homesick isn’t very rock n roll.

Do you see each other in private life as well or is it a pure business relationship?

Sebastian: We’re very close friends, which is important as it’s just the two of us in the band and we put a lot of time and energy into our work. We get on very well most of the time!

And do you plan to play live for the re-release as well? Any confirmed dates yet to reveal here?

Sebastian: We have already confirmed several concerts in Germany, UK and Eastern Europe as well as a festival appearance in Brasil! As always we will try to play as often as possible!

And what can you tell us about your live-performances? What do you think is unique for your

Sebastian: Everybody should find out for themselves. We put a lot of love, energy and passion into our live performances, and I think people see that.
We always try to bring the mood and energy of our recorded songs into the Live versions. We always try to perform as Live as possible which is hard as none of our songs can be played by 4 hands only, so we have an AKAI Sampler to help us out a bit. We also re-write the songs for Live performances so they fit into the the style of our current sound – that way we never get bored of our own music.

Do you invite guest musicians to be on stage with you?

Sebastian: Never did and never will. 2 people can make enough noise.

A third longplayer is planned for begin of 2010. What we can expect?

Sebastian: We’ve written many songs already and will start recording them soon. We’ve done a lot of research on mysticism and occultism, the lyrical work of Aleister Crowley, and anthropological studies on spiritualism in the different cultures in our world. These themes will set the mood for the music and lyrics of our third album.

Let’s talk about the current release. You have been signed by RepoRecords. What advantage do you feel you have by being signed to a label?

Sebastian: Working with a label makes it possible for us to mainly concentrate on making music. Of course we put a lot of time into other things such as planning our tours with our booker and looking after our online presence and all kinds of creative matters, but the label is in charge of releases, promotion and distribution of our music. We are lucky to have them as a team behind us and happy about our collaboration.

The artwork is very impressive and artistically sophisticated. How has been responsible for it?

Sebastian: We design the artwork and photography ourselves. We are a band with an overall concept not only in our music but also our artwork, photography etc. which only we ourselves can design.

Let us talk about some of the songs in detail. What can you tell us about the track "Bitch"?

Sebastian: Bitch was the first song which Valerie played to me on her little keyboard just after we met. It then became the first song we worked on together, and was released as our first single in 2005. Even though we have evolved since musically, the song is to me still an un-compromising, hard-boiled party song which managed to make it into most of the London underground clubs at the time.

And what is the track "Offensive Nonsense" all about?

Sebastian: A newspaper in London published a reader’s letter in which someone complained about one of our performances in London, calling it "offensive nonsense". We found that expression so funny, that we decided to name one of our songs after it.

"Was keine Zeit zerstöret" is a very genious but at the same time sick song. The sticks out from the rest of the album. How did this piece come into life?

Sebastian: It’s a poem by the famous Hoffmann von Fallerseleben who also wrote the words of the german national anthem. The poem is about crazy love, which is a central theme in our work. After I had read the poem, I really wanted to record a version of it.

"Quel Genre De Garcon" is half German, half French. How did you get the idea to do a bilingual song?

Sebastian: We both speak several languages, so singing in more than one comes quite naturally to us. It just happened to fit that way and became a little tribute to 60’s french pop music which we’re both very inspired by.

And what can you disclose about "Nighttrain To Krakow"? Have you personally travelled with it?

Sebastian: Val told me about a very romantic journey she experienced in a night train from Budapest to Krakow. That was the idea for the song which is, once again, about impossible love.

Many thanks for your answers and your time. Maybe you have a final message you want to tell to the people out there?

Sebastian: That privilege still entails responsibility!
Translator: Schizev
Add date: 2010-08-30 / Interviews

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