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World Music Features

Laibach
Published August 2, 2007

Laibach are an art project disguised as political satire disguised as a band. They started out in Yugoslavia, back when there still was a Yugoslavia, taking on their repressive leaders by pretending to be even more hardcore than the government.

Laibach are an art project disguised as political satire disguised as a band. They started out in Yugoslavia, back when there still was a Yugoslavia, taking on their repressive leaders by pretending to be even more hardcore than the government. Over the years, they’ve become more international in scope, exposing the fascist overtones of rock-star mythmaking and reminding people of the bloodthirstiness at the heart of religion.

Q&A WITH LAIBACH

Given immigration and the general flow of history, do anthems, most of which were composed centuries earlier, still say anything about the character of nations?
We presume they do; otherwise, we see no reason for people grabbing their hearts and standing still when hearing these songs.

What is the significance of the sheep on the cover, given your famous quote “Pop music is for sheep, and we are wolves disguised as shepherds”? Are people singing along to a national anthem more or less sheeplike than pop fans?
Aren’t the pop songs and anthems generally made for that reason? The songs on our album (with the exclusion of the NSK anthem) are based on national anthems. We consider anthems great pop songs and great pop songs are great anthems. By definition an anthem is a composition to an English text. The term has evolved to mean a song of joy and celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a certain group of people. A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that is evoking and eulogizing the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. These are all basic characteristics of a pop song as well, and this is what we do on Volk—showing analogy and dichotomy between the two. For us, the design of the album is equally important as the music itself. It illustrates the content, therefore it is a part of it, and only together they are telling the complete story. The word “Volk” in Slovenian and other Slavic languages, for instance, actually means “wolf,” and looking through wolves’ eyes people probably look like sheep...An old “folk” saying, on the other hand, says that “man is a wolf to another man,” which means that people can be equal to a pack of wolves. Watercolor images of wolves and sheep are partly frightening and partly bucolic, depending on the viewpoints. On a symbolic level, they evoke and illustrate the dual character of the national anthems, which are more or less all based on the ideology of “Blood and Soil” (“Blut und Boden” or, more popularly, “BLUBO”). This album is dealing also with the conception of “popular” culture or—in other words—“folk art,” therefore we use illustrations of bucolic “folk motifs.” The German word “Volk” (or English “Folk”) means “people,” exactly the same as the Latin word “populus.” In this light, “folk art” (Volkskunst) equals “pop art,” etc., etc.

Does the inclusion of an NSK anthem indicate that Laibach are confessing to their own kind of nationalism? Who is entitled to sing the NSK anthem?
NSK State is a state in Time, a State without territory. In its fundamental acts it denies the categories of fixed territory and the principle of national borders, and advocates the law of transnationality. Technically speaking, everybody who can identify with NSK State codex can become an NSK passport holder, acquire the status of an NSK citizen and sing the anthem—if he can. Besides the members of NSK groups, the right to citizenship is open to people of good will all over the world, people of different religions, races, nationalities, sexes and beliefs. Practically everybody can become a citizen of NSK, also those who cannot play or sing. These last ones are especially welcome.

Your choices are fairly Eurocentric, China and Japan aside. Do the anthems of non-Western nations not lend themselves as easily to Laibachian i