Laibach, the German name for the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, became one of the most well-known industrial outfits in the '80s. The mysterious ensemble distinguished themselves from the nihilistic, growling pack with clever send-ups of totalitarian imagery, costumes (they often performed in jackboots while painted gold), Milan Fras' stentorian vocal delivery, and rigidly stomping tanz musik. Ludicrously Wagnerian covers of Western rock staples like Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," the Beatles' "Let It Be," and Europe's "Final Countdown" further marked Laibach as master parodists.
Novack, Laibach's film projectionist/light designer, says they redo these songs in order to subvert their original meanings, adding, "We are interested in their hidden messages, in finding new life in them."
In 1984, Laibach cofounded Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), a utopian, art-centric "state in time," complete with passports and an embassy. Despite the overtly political nature of such a move, Novack states, "As a group, we don't comment on political situations. For Laibach, every form of government is equally deplorable, whoever is in power. NSK is an open university, an open stage. It works like a virus. It's something we don't really control. In times of pragmatic globalization, states like NSK can make a big difference."
Besides participating in Northwest Film Forum's State of the Art: The New Slovene Avant Garde program, Laibach are visiting the States now, Novack says, to "comfort the defeated part of the American nation and to unite the divided sides into an expression of a static totalitarian cry." Plus, he quips, "We like to keep in touch with the Third World."
"We present ourselves as a social structure," Novack says. "We are practicing the same logic all the time. And within that logic, we somehow change." Also changing is Laibach's music. Their latest studio album, 2003's WAT, squeezes the band's orchestral bombast into deep, minimal techno templates thanks to help from top Slovenian producers like Umek and I. Turk. (Novack also runs the rising Tehnika electronic label.) The new approach works surprisingly well and will likely translate nicely to the live setting, where Laibach excel.
"For many people, we are very difficult," Novack admits. "[But] people can be entertained by our show. They can take it as pure entertainment. We are not only into provocation. If [our performance] only provokes pleasure, it is no good, just as all pain is no good." DAVE SEGAL
Laibach play Sat Nov 20 with Bonfire Madigan at Neumo's. 7 pm-10:30 pm, 21+, $15 adv. See www.nwfilmforum.org/slovenia for more info.