Interview: Imperial Black Unit [aufnahme + wiedergabe]
Photo: Iulia Magheru
Imperial Black Unit is an EBM/ Industrial technoïd duo formed by Lapse of Reason and Templer in 2017. Their sound is characterized by a blend of early EBM/ Industrial vibes with today's sensibilities.
By using an anti-establishment attitude and militaristic esthetic on top of hard rhythms, screams and sharp synths, they create an intense fusion of the past and the present.
TF: First of all, can you introduce yourself a bit ? What speech is behind the name? How did you end up making electronic music ?
Templer: We are Thomas & Pablo, both from Toulouse South of France but we actually live in Berlin. We have both a single project (Templer & Lapse of Reason) and decided to build a band one year ago. I started with music 9 years ago and with producing 5 years ago. I learned everything by myself and I didn’t have no knowledge at all in music theory or producing. I started producing with Ableton then I quickly start to interest into hardware tools. I feel more creative and the workflow is more intuitive with real instruments in my opinion.
Lapse of Reason: I started to make music when I was quite young, in the Conservatory of Toulouse but after growing up I was bored by the classical and closed way of learning in the Conservatory, so I quit and I ended up in Electronic music where I found many more opportunities to express myself. Regarding the name, we were in a Bar searching for a name for our band and we saw a beer called « Imperial Black Stout » , and we were like hmmm sound sick and then after a little modification its ended up with Imperial Black Unit.
'Templer: Yeah exactly, the thing is that we wanted a name that is a minimum engaged in a way and when we saw the world ‘Imperial’. It definitely makes us think about Imperialism, which is a political doctrine that we hate and want to denounce. I find ‘fun’ to use this word while standing against it. It can be a little bit controversial in a way which is something that I like. Regarding the world ‘unit’ it directly makes a link to the militaristic esthetic that we give to the project."
TF: Why do you think artist migrate to Berlin? What is happening now in the city?
IBU: Berlin is definitely a multicultural and artistic city, the whole environment of the city makes us really feel into our artistic projects, meeting different artists from different landscapes and form of art is something really important to us. Thanks to the very active artistic scene it is also really easier to have opportunities and work with other people that has the same vision. Moreover, Berlin is definitely cheaper than life in France and it makes it really easier for artists to live with their art.
TF: Your EP in aufnahme + wiedergabe was one of our favourites in 2018. Tell us about the sound and the process of this EP.
Lapse of Reason: First thank you very much ! This first EP came really naturally to us, I was not yet living in Berlin when we did it, so I was still in France and at one point I felt that it was the time to something, so I wrote to Thomas and I told him « Dude, we need to do some tracks right now « and then few days later I came to Berlin with some synths for one week -.
Templer: After 4 tracks and a few glasses of whiskey we decided to send the EP to aufnahme + wiedergabe. Without any real hope. It was too impossible to release on our favorite label for us. Without whiskey we would probably never have never send this EP to the label. But one day, we had the positive answer from Philipp. With this EP we wanted to point out the political situation in France and many other countries, it has been produce last year during the french election and the rise of the right wing political movements in many countries. And of course, we stand against this. That is why we called the EP ‘State of Pressure’. It is a relation between what happened in the past and what could sadly happen again in the future with the raise of this kind of ideas.
TF: Talking about aufnahme + wiedergabe, what makes it different from the others?
IBU: A+W for us has been and is still nowadays one of the most inspiring label in the scene. Since its creation we are following each release and each time is a good surprise. What we like is the crossover the label makes between different genres and we cannot say how much we discovered thanks to aufnahme. Clearly, we would have never go into EBM music without aufnahme + wiedergabe. We are both coming from the techno scene, this label clearly made us discover everything we listen nowadays. And this is super important for us I think.
TF: What is your studio practice like? Can you describe the process of making your work?
Templer: Our studio practice is a bit different now compared to how it was for the first EP. For the first EP we just recorded some jam sessions directly from the master of the mixer. Without post-production work. But now we meet at Pablo’s place and we jam, that’s it. When we feel that the jam has a good vibe we record it and arrange some elements. Pablo manages the post-production part as he studied sound engineering in France.
Lapse of Reason: Now that I live in Berlin I have a bigger mixer that allow us to record all our machines separately, so we kept the same way of producing through jam sessions because we really found that it’s the way with came the most naturally for us but then. Now after that the jam sessions are recorded separately, I’m taking care of the post production works with include mix-downs, eq, stereo placement etc.
TF: Which aspects of sound have you been examining recently? Is the impression that your music produces on the audience important for you?
Templer: In our sound we really work on making a fusion between the sound of the past and the sound of nowadays. We are both born after the big real Industrial and EBM era as we are born in 1994 and 1995. Of course the impression that our music makes to the audience is important for us but personally I think that at first we want to do something that we love and represent our vision of music. We want to show the music that we like not to adapt the sound for the audience.
Lapse of Reason: I think when we produce music we don’t care about the audience or something like that. We just do what we love to do and that’s it. Then when we play live of course that it’s grateful to see that when the audience is enjoying it but I don’t think that it’s our first preoccupation.
TF: Our typical question ... any book or movie that you would like to recommend to the public to feed your creative side?
Templer: I really like Independent cinema but also Russian and/or soviet movies. I am a big fan of all Andreï Tarkovski work. But a movie that I really like is Philosophy of a Knife by the Russian Independent movie director Andreï Iskanov. It is a crazy movie/ documentary showing horrible scenes of human experiments that happened in Unit 731 in Japan during WWII. But I love the way that it clearly shows a reality and point out the worst side of the history. It’s all about the shock strategy. But I don't think that I would recommend this movie to everybody. You really need to be ready to watch it and we aware of the disgusting scene you are going to watch. Regarding books what I read the most is clearly sociology and political books, I am really interested in what happened in the past and what is happening nowadays. I mostly read anarchist or leftist literature (Paul Valéry, Albert Camus, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Léon Tolstoï, Karl Marx, Voline, Engels or Orwell).
Lapse of Reason: for movies I would say that for me all the John Carpenter’s movies where a big source of inspiration so of course I recommend them, but I’m also a big fan of realisator like Jim Jarmusch or even Quentin Tarantino, all their movies where also a big source of inspiration since a long time. As to books I found a lot of inspiration with writers like Elmore Leonard, Dennis Lehane, Fredric Brown and George Orwell .
TF: What are you working on now? What ideas or plans do you have for your future work?
IBU: We finished a second EP called ‘Murder under Establishment’ that we be released on aufnahme + wiedergabe in the following months. This one is less dance floor oriented tracks but more screams and EBM vibes. We also have some remixes of The Soft Moon, Harsh Mentor, Fatal Morgana and Blind Delon and they all should be out this year. Our plan for the future is to organise our first European Tour and playing outside Europe if we have the opportunity. We love travelling and playing in new countries is always something special for us.
TF: Can you tell us about the mix made for The Forgotten?
IBU: For this first podcast we decided to play like how we play in club, so we mostly chose Techno-EBM bangers, dance floor oriented tracks. Mostly recent ones with some old school EBM and unreleased stuff that should be out on Area Z soon ...