We at The Velvet Onion always try to give you exclusive information about everyone in the Booshniverse, and this time we have turned our attention towards the musical part of the Booshdom.
In October just as the Into Asylum Tour was coming up and the London show at Heaven was just around the corner, we managed to score an interview with IAMX.
Janine Gezang, IAMX’s keyboard and bass player, was kind enough to answer all our questions about her involvement in the band, her fellow band members, and what the future has in store for the band.
You can read the answers to that and much more below!
Hi Janine, welcome to The Velvet Onion!
For the readers who don’t know, how did you get involved in IAMX?
I was a lonely suicidal musician in Berlin with no perspective. I worked 12-hour-shifts in a betting office with neon light, no windows, full of smoke and greasy ugly men. One night I forced myself to go out and connect to people. Although I hated the idea of socialising, I had a feeling it would save me from going insane.
I met a group of people that knew Reza, the IAMX manager. Before I knew I sat in a gay bar with Reza and Chris, they gave me a keyboard and told me to learn some songs for next week’s rehearsal. I was a bass player and had never played in front of more than 30 people. My next concert was as a keyboard player one month later in front of 4000 crazy Belgians and ten huge TV cameras. I will tell you about this cathartic show in detail if you ask me next time.
IAMX has saved my life and I will never go back.
IAMX has had their fair share of members through-out the years but how did you find Alberto, MAX and Caroline?
I don’t get involved in choosing the live band members but we all get along very well. Alberto was a huge admirer of Sneaker Pimps music and said he always knew he would end up playing with Chris. I like having another girl with Caroline in the band. It is a male dominated business and the more women around, the better men behave. Although I must say that the men in the IAMX travelling party of nine people are real gentlemen. And it is me that repairs broken machines and Caroline that changes car tyres.
MAX is a drum machine that has been part of IAMX for years now. He used to be played by the live drummer but last summer after a few technically frustrating shows we felt we needed a big change. We changed from live drummer at that time and promoted MAX to not only be hit during the show, but become the fourth band member. Chris programmed him and fed him with IAMX drum sounds and for a few shows we felt much better. We are an electronic band and somehow we had to remind ourselves of that.
For the Into Asylum Tour, MAX becomes an instrument again and we have another wonderful live drummer Caroline. We actually use two MAXes, one for her and one for Chris to hit.
If you had to describe each of your fellow band members with three words, what would those be?
Chris : no bullshit, industrious-focussed, spontaneous-shy-smart
Alberto : Spanish-proud, German-doubt, music-life
Caroline : cars-dogs-beer, drum lover, fast-adapter
With four studio albums plus various EPs, remix- and live albums under your belt, what are you most proud of in the history of IAMX?
I am proud that we managed to survive in this mad business, owning all our records and organising, booking and promoting our own shows (with the help of good friends). It is a big headfuck most of the time because there is nobody that plans a tour and books hotels for us, nobody that takes care of bureaucracy, nobody that ‘does press’ (whatever those people do anyway).
Playing a show often is a relief for us because it gives us an excuse to forget about the merch that has to be ordered in time, the promoter we need to take to court because he never paid or the website pictures that have not been updated for weeks. And still we keep it running, being free to do whatever we want and to not give a shit about business people’s opinions unless they fit our mood of the day.
Our fans understand and support us, be it a commercial video or an acoustic hallway recording.
Are there any particular side-projects you are proud of that our readers might not be aware of?
If I am not on tour, I organise and supervise Boutique IAMX, single releases, our websites and our download shop. We have no label, so there is always some organisational thing to catch up with in between tours.
I am also the manager and caretaker of our headquarters we call TURMWERK. It is where Chris writes and records, where we shoot almost all our videos and live visuals, where we rehearse for IAMX shows and collaborate with other artists.
We are slowly converting a GDR factory building into a creative laboratory that we share with artist friends. Many things have yet to be improved, but we already have a decent sleeping/living area for many people and one black, one white and one green room for shooting. Our goal is to create a base for independent artists, a retreat where we can connect with and support each other. It is hard enough to survive the music business and easy to forget that there are others that share the same experience.
What is the first album you bought that you remember made a large impact on you as an artist?
‘David Byrne’ by David Byrne. It was the first album that made me realise how much I love songs with beautiful melodies and inspiring lyrics, performed by someone who cannot be anyone but himself. I listened to this album and to ‘Magic&Loss’ by Lou Reed a lot during the time I decided to learn the bass. I am impressed by any artist that keeps being honest and productive, especially the ones that have been doing it for years and managed not to die of drugs or vanish after scandals.
Are there any hidden talents of yours that people don’t know about?
I can ride the monocycle and juggle at the same time. I grew up with many siblings and we lived on the dole. To get by, our parents formed a family street circus. We were hired for summer events or winter weddings and came with two to four people, depending on the cash. I was my step-dad’s assistant, he was sometimes a clown, sometimes a magician and I had to get into a box and be stabbed by swords, or sit on his shoulder and juggle while he was balancing on a board that was on top of a big plastic pipe. Sometimes he hypnotised me and then let me float in the air.
Some readers have been lucky enough to see you perform live but how would you describe your live performances to the readers who haven’t witnessed IAMX live?
I have never experienced an IAMX show from the audience and it is frustrating that I almost certainly never will. For me personally our shows are a rather strange experience. Once I enter the stage, nothing can stop me, I stop thinking, time goes by very fast, I lose myself in sounds and beats, sweat and excitement. After the show I often feel empty and grumpy. But the feeling of having connected to so many people in the room, seeing their excited faces, hearing their screams is without a price.
I don’t know how long I could last without playing an IAMX show. Fortunately the gaps have never been long. It is definitely a welcome addiction for me.
How do you want your perfect audience to be during your live shows?
I want them to be whoever they feel they are that night. I love to see people going insane in the front row and I love seeing people further back that move a little less but absorb every move we make. I want them to forget the etiquette and be the animals we all are.
I think it is great when they dress up and paint their faces. I don’t know how this came about, but it happens wherever we go, be it Turkey or Texas. Sometimes I see normal looking guys with blue jeans and t-shirt and then I discover one tiny sequin on their cheek. A little glimpse of the disease called IAMX madness. But it is mainly the feeling they give. The hunger and the support. They never disappoint me.
And on the topic of live shows, is there any particular moment from the last tour that you remember especially?
At the last festival show we did, a possessed girl jumped over the barrier, ran at me and threw her tits at me. Unfortunately I was screaming into the microphone and couldn’t ask for her number before she was dragged away by security.
What is your favourite song to perform live, and what is your favourite recorded IAMX track?
Fire And Whispers is a pleasure to perform live. It is warm, it needs a lot of concentration, it is fragile and some nights it works better than others. We have to work for it but when we get it right, it is very powerful and I love those moments.
My favourite recorded IAMX song of the day is Volatile Times, the UNFALL Rework version by Chris. We shot the Volatile Times video to this version. I like how Chris reinvents his own songs under the name of UNFALL. I like the half beat and the little new sounds that were added.
Can you give us any clues as to what we can expect from IAMX in the near future?
We will relocate to LA over winter. Instead of hiding in dark Berlin and fighting unnecessary winter demons, we will try to convince some adventurous US Americans to support IAMX and help us extend the Kingdom.
We will also go through countless hard drives with unheard and unseen material that has been locked away for many years. We are not sure yet what exactly we will do with it, but would like to make interesting packages available for download on our website, in the special content area. Or, who knows, maybe we will find the time to edit a live DVD. In any case – it’s time to share.
Lastly, a classic The Velvet Onion question: If you were a pub, what would you be called?
Before we moved with all our equipment to the IAMX headquarters outside Berlin, we had a humid and mouldy rehearsal room in some basement in the city. On my way there I always passed by a pub named after its owner, Molly Luft. Molly had pictures of herself in the windows but most impressive was a huge painting next to the entrance door, showing her, a big fat old woman with huge tits and bright blond long hair. I’d like to be that pub, I never dared to go inside although I was very curious to see her behind the bar.
Thank you so much for your time, Janine!
We would like to extend our thanks to Reza Davoudi and Janine Gezang for the interview.