- quality over quantity

By: Karin Martinsson
Published: October 4, 2005

Deine Lakaien have spellbound the German audience for almost 20 years and are as popular as ever. Despite being something of a sub-culture darkwave band, their last two albums have entered the German top-10 charts. They are now trying to reach out to new territories. The first time the duo played in Scandinavia in July, they were met by a fascinated audience that wouldn't let them leave the stage.

If music was candy, I guess Deine Lakaien would taste sweet, sour, salt and chocolate all at the same time. The music is a blend of classic, folk, techno, rock, industrial, goth, wave and ambient, all nicely wrapped up with Alexander Veljanov's seducing voice and Ernst Horn's fabulous musical skills.

Dark stars
Deine Lakaien’s latest album is "April Skies", released in March 2005 and graded a nine in Release. Their first album appeared in 1986, but their breakthrough came with their classic, second album “Dark Star” five years later in 1991. Since then, they have continued to be one of the most popular bands on the German alternative stage.

The duo found each other through an ad entered by Ernst in the classifieds of a city magazine in Munich: “Wanted: vocalist who enjoys experimenting”. Alexander, who back then was attending a film and theatre class in Munich, answered the ad, and the rest is history.

What could have happened if I hadn’t answered? Today, I live a life as a professional musician, and I am very satisfied with my life.

Professional. I could not have described Alexander Veljanov better myself. A star, but still very humble and he is careful to point out that Deine Lakaien is not a rockstar band. They are here to serve their fans and audience, hence the name. A name which, by the way, is taken from an Einstürzende Neubauten verse.

I have always told people not to come too close. I make a difference between when I’m on stage and when I’m a private person. Most people understand this. For me, rockstar life comes second, Alexander thinks.

He says he would never drink to feel better on stage. If he was full of fear and nervous to go on stage, he would never use drugs to overcome it.

People always try to find their borders. To go on stage is more a psychological border. It's wonderful on stage, but also difficult to handle. You can’t get the same adrenaline rush each time; it is impossible to fill your whole life with it. We have never behaved like popstars. We are Deine Lakaien – your servants. We do not want to be popstars either.

"Too many amateurs get successful"
We meet in a temporate dressing room at the M’era Luna festival 2005, and outside the rain is pouring down. Now and then Ernst Horn pops by, busy preparing tonight’s gig. But Alexander’s characteristic hair-do is already in place so for once there’s no hurry for him.

You have been on stage for almost 20 years now and are as popular as ever. What is the secret behind your success?

I think it is a mix of many different things, Alexander starts. The major reason is luck. Then we have managed to make good choices. No offence to other musicians, but in any profession it is important to have solid ground to stand on. If you play piano, you have to learn it. Too many amateurs get successful, and after some years they do not have a base to stand on. They end up producing copies after copies. Personally, I do not understand this. We wanted to sound original and create a unique sound. Deine Lakaien is Deine Lakaien and do not sound like other bands. Besides luck, I think that this is a very important thing.

He also points out that Deine Lakaien have released few records:

Ernst and I always take our time and have breaks from each other to focus on other projects in between. We are no sportsmen that see a benefit in releasing record after record. It is more important to be satisfied with the result. Too many artists release everything they create. It was better before the CD format came, when you only had 45 minutes of vinyl to fill. Then you had to make a selection and fill with quality. But we are still trying to get better. I think that’s the main aspect: To focus and do a good job.

As Alexander indicates, they both have different projects outside Deine Lakaien. Alexander is currently working on a new solo album, but he does not feel any pressure and will release it when he feels that he’s got the right material.

Ernst is active in Helium Vola and was also one of the founders of Qntal, which he left a couple of years ago.

Alternative but in the top-10
Your last two albums both entered the official top-10 charts in Germany. How does that go along with being a band performing on the alternative stage?

Some simply succeed, like Nick Cave… A lot more people are interested in alternative music today. During the early 90:s we only had goths and black-dressed people in the audience. Four, five years later, we could also see “normal” people in between, he tells me and continues after a short break:

We reached the broader audiences with acoustic concerts that were performed in operas, cinemas and theatres. We were then played in “serious” cultural channels on the radio, thus reaching a totally different audience.

Then Alexander goes on to tell me something quite funny.

Sometimes, we reach parents through their children – and the other way around, he says and smiles. We are not focused on a specific age group – our fans are between 14 and 60+. And that is something special.

Veljanov live 2005.
Photo by: Richter

Anniversary tour with symphonic orchestra?
Deine Lakaien’s first performance in Scandinavia was at the Arvika Festival in July, 2005. They choose to do an acoustic concert, something that is rather unusual for them nowadays. At home in Germany they never perform acoustic.

How did you come up with the idea to play acoustic?

We were performing at a charity festival but could not afford to bring two extra musicians, so we made the concert “acoustic” – and it became a success. Then we went on this acoustic tour together with an instrumental band. After that, the acoustic performances have been a rare exception. We always compose music on piano; our music is not built on sounds, those are added later on.

As always after an album release, a hectic time with touring stands next. Deine Lakaien's schedule is filled with gigs, also on new arenas.

Nowadays, Germany is very much routine for us and I’m not that nervous to play here. Lately, I have really enjoyed our gigs in Holland, Portugal, Greece and America. Now we will play in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Latvia and Russia.

There is so much difference between audiences - different mentalities. In Sweden for example, we only sell over import – we have never released a record there. So I was very surprised to see that so many knew our songs when we played in Arvika. I love to know that this job is still interesting. What will happen in Russia and Latvia?

How come you haven’t performed in Scandinavia before?

I don’t know really. But one thing I know for sure and that is that we’ll be back.

So, what’s up next from Deine Lakaien?

I guess the next album will take the usual three years to produce, including breaks and touring. For now, besides continuing touring, we want to set up a big party for our 20th anniversary next year, including a symphonic orchestra, perform in some major German cities.


Read more:

M'era Luna 2005 report
Release Deine Lakaien reviews