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NNHMN interview: “This is the chaos of me”

We talk to Berlin’s darkwave duo ahead of their Liverpool debut Liverpool show.

Berlin-based NNHMN make zonal music.

What is that, exactly? Well, the duo, Lee and Michal Laudarg inhabit a dark, bespoke vortex, hell-bent on keeping their listeners immersed in this space.

Essentially, NNHMN are world builders and it’s one the listener needs to be fully locked in to. With Michal’s withering, atmospheric night-scapes that hit like a sledge hammer, and Lee’s haunting vocals that seemingly emerge from a bed of nails, NNHMN merge the purist fragments of industrial, electronica, and darkwave.

With a frighteningly consist output, which started in March 2019 with debut EP, Second Castle, their debut album, Church of No Religion, followed six months later.

A collective that will never rest on their laurels, last year saw NNHMN release Shadow in the Dark followed by two other EPs; Deception Island parts one and two.

Then there’s Tomorrow’s Heroine. Released earlier this year, the band’s latest extended play continues their majestic glide through the underbellies of darkwave, post-punk, industrial, and metal. With Lee’s vocals, NNHMN find pockets of beauty that many others have either not found or chosen to neglect. The results are glorious, with Tomorrow’s Heroine being the finest release from the band so far.

However, we are expecting more in the future from NNHMN; a collective that demands and thrives on such pressure and the overall tension of creating new music. Their delivery, assured, edgy, dead-eyed, bursting with soul.

NNHMN are set for their Liverpool debut this Saturday night at the Kazimier Stockroom, headlining a bill which also includes local favourites, LONESAW.

In the lead-up to their U.K. tour, earlier this week we spoke to Lee and Michal.

David Colohan interview: “some landscapes suggest their own sound”

Sun 13: You’ve just been on holiday in Greece. It must have been great to get away from the everyday routine, particularly after lockdown?

Michal Laudarg: “Well, Athens is a fantastic city. It was very great to see all the dystopia, industrial places, to meet new friends who provided us with great care, and gave us a temporary home, guide us around, and the food , such a marvel!”

Lee Laudarg: “We went to the fantastic island of Hydra where there are no cars at all and you travel on a horse back (which we didn’t do). It’s a very beautiful place. It was also the time when the temperature hit 46 degrees, the time of wildfires – so it was also kind of dangerous; we felt very bad about our friends, that they might be trapped in Athens, it was scary really.”

S13: NNHMN have released a steady wave of new music during lockdown. How have you found working on music during the pandemic?

ML: “Music is the only thing that we do, so it was simply natural; it gives us life, the process itself. In fact, now it’s somehow strange because we can’t produce, write, and arrange while playing gigs again, which is cool, of course, but also frustrating, not being able to work on new music.”

S13: Your music lends itself to darkwave, but it feels like there are a lot of other influences brought into your overall atmosphere. Who would you consider your influences?

ML: “Wild people from punk bands, metal bands, I am enchanted by many projects and producers from alternative scenes. Such a lot of great music is coming out. Lastly I liked the French artist, KAA:ST and their audiovisual endeavour. Not obsessively maybe, but still – impressive moments of well-done production mixed with pure ecstasy. I listen to other music then ours very incidentally, to be honest, just because I am overworked over the last several months. Years, even.

“And I’m still very impressed by Siekiera’s Nowa Aleksandria. This album sounds perfect.

As a DJ, I played a lot of it, like Listen To The Hiss, DJ HELL feat Alan Vega (this one I love especially), Vitalic, Umek and all that stuff. Musically,  our souls are a bit different, but we meet each other in emotional space.”

LL: “I really like edgy underground projects, and am not interested in mainstream. It nauseates me, there are some playlists I did on Spotify, you should listen to them yourself.

“I like minimal synth, like Veronica Vasicka selection, black metal, divas like Chelsea Wolfe or Nico. I like gabber techno, it all depends on the moment, of course. Dark ambient, I love silence at most. I can’t help it, I like the great songs of the ’60s/’70s.”

LONESAW interview: “we just make the art we make”

S13: Tell us about the writing process behind your new EP, Tomorrow’s Heroine?

ML: “Just moments of inspiration counts, when it comes I don’t think and just do it. It’s a fire getting down on me.”

LL: “It’s like, I am mega chaotic, I do process a lot of things at once. I write down words and phrases everywhere, a lot of notebooks everywhere with quotes I am thinking about… they are coming from everywhere. As apropos music, we wanted to give it a punch, and were just talking about playing a lot of live gigs soon, and it would be good to give it to the people who will be hungry, to put a lot of electricity into this music; an amount that would hold the tension. I guess it’s more or less a success on that matter, this mixture of dark electronic and EBM.”

NNHMN – Tomorrow’s Heroine

S13: Magic Man sounds like an anthem in waiting! Can you tell us how this song came about?

LL: “As I said above, this is the chaos of me, the thoughts I am having at night, when I can’t get any sleep. It’s beatnik poetry, I guess, as my friend Caroline Bonarde has said – a beatnik electro. It is an anthem, yes. I can’t stand the reality we live in anymore, unfairness of the social classes, international business tycoons without human identity, we all need a political and at most a digital revolution, as nothing is working properly any more. Access is blocked, permission, subscription, connection. It’s all just overwhelming and kills dreams.

“Song wise, Michal created a simple section on synth, and I improvised the text once; I just sang it, he recorded it all and that’s it. Afterwards we listened to it several times and were never bored. We added a few elements, and it is basically one take, written from some notes on a mobile in five minutes.”

NNHMN (photo credit: Marcus Rietzsch http://t-arts.com/)

S13: Then there are songs like the title track, Perigee Syzygy and Masseratti. It feels like you have a loose grip on the aesthetics of Church of no Religion with an idea of adding more of an anthemtic sound with these new songs. What would you say to that?

LL:“Yeah, it’s an evolution, Church is very very specific, I wanted very much to salute to the old 4AD, which I loved in the past. I sang in a glossolalia manner there as iconic 4AD vocalists did. We created a very compact world, we wanted magic, ecstasy of mysticism, now we want hard candy poetry and energy.”

S13You’ve released a lot in the last three years, an album and three EPs. In terms of songwriting, are you always looking towards your next release, or is it a case of focusing solely on what you’re working on at the time before moving onto new material?

LL: “That’s a difficult question to answer unambiguously. In Church of No Religion, I was totally drawn to its syncretic idea, I was diving deep in this world, and I read a lot of stories and terminology of Old Testament and things like that.

“Now I am barely able to listen to the previous releases because of the greedy need of creating something new, better, more exciting. The great yearning is up there.”

Sun 13’s Albums Quarterly #3

S13: How much does Berlin influence the music that NNHMN produces?

ML: “I guess we became very precise about the scene we want to be part of.”

S13: Can you tell us about the darkwave scene in Berlin?

LL: “I don’t know  much. I work a lot, so I’m not in the city very often, but we visit Urban Spree club, for instance, on Sundays [that] Aufnahme + wiedergabe organises. There’s always something, inviting interesting people from DJs to dark music oriented families who are dropping by. It’s nice really, you know, families with even very small children or dogs, and tasty pizza is being served. Nice time… What do you say after this strange pandemic time about any scene?”

Sun 13: True. So you’re playing Liverpool this week. It must be quite a relief to actually tour abroad again?

LL: “Playing live is being with people. For me, what matters is the reception of the audience, to read when there is a shared madness, and I am just going out of myself. Of course, big metropolises are very energetic, because people know and wait for you. But it is also a great joy playing for the audience that has no idea about you, being kind shocked seeing and feeling you. It’s a great joy really. To bring a coven to the people who didn’t even know that they needed it.”

Tomorrow’s Heroine is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.

NNHMN play Liverpool’s Kazimier Stockroom on Saturday, October 9, presented by Moonfrog. Purchase tickets here.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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