MELODY MAKER March 7, 1987
Out of the shade, drowning in light, X-Mal Deutschland have entranced Chris Roberts with their third LP Viva. Pic : PPH
You like that don't you ? she said, challenging him.
What ? The sexual content ?
No, the duality in the picture. Seeing something that others might overlook.
(Walter Abish "How German Is It".)
Now X-MaI Deutschland are spinning crepuscular heads and muscular torsos again and again, within and without. Funny? Sad? The way many of those who Iauded '82's "Fetisch" and '84's "Tocsin" felI by the wayside, losing their faith somewhere between then and now. Important years, more growing up years, years in which the one essential thing to not lose was faith in the grace af mystery.
Now X-Mal Deutschland, as 1987 looms like luxury no less, hold forth an elegantly epic third album and have the nerve and ternerity to name it "Viva", afrer one of my cats, after a Spanish exultation, after a Warhol superstar who didn't die, atter something which rhymes with "diva" and "believer". The closing track is "Dogma 1". Read it backwards and never weep again.
Now X-Mal Deutschland, five coming from Hamburg, three females and two males, are going to go whatever distance is their divine right and left.
Do you ever despair, Anja?
What is . . . despair ?
Veizweifeln ? prompts Wolfgang.
Oh ..... . definitely, I do sornetimes. I do a lot of things sometimes, you know ? There are so many things I feel like or whatever...
It's aIl very vague, clearly.
Just Anja (voice, words, beacon) and Wolfgang (bass, pillar) do the Interviews now. Manuela (guitar), Fiona (keyboards), ard Peter (drums) do other things, I expect. This is pretty sensible. Phonogram, or somebody have realised the potential of portraying Anja as "The Star" (a mere two and half a years afrer I did). This is perfectly acceptable when you take into consideration that she shamelessly displays the good gall to use an Emily Dickinson poem as a song lyric, paints with a scattered vision, and is the thinking person's rnost beoutiful woman in pop. It could he chilling, orchestrated correctly.
I love the water. It's a main thing for me... if I could live in the ocean, I would. It's so strange to me... if I'm near the sea and it's really wild it's something like... you know these Iittle animals -Iemmings- ja ? Who walk in the water and kilI themselves ? It's like, for me, I could go straight in there. Sornething is just like magic to me. I could go there and i would rnaybe die, you know ? But I would have to go. I'm fascinated.
Constantly. And committed. In a long spell after Ieaving 4AD, X-MaI only released one EP, through Red Rhino Europe, which was "Sequenz". (One of its tracks, the searing "Polarlicht", appears in galvanised form on "Viva", the content of which range like throbbing mountains). Throughout the materially inactive period the group didn't waver, held ouf for the record company relationship they wanted, while touring worldwide (including Japan). There are always arguments among the five individuals. Thre is a striving for perfecfion.
What's always been a proleern for us in the past is we are very introvert, begins Wolfgang.
People always think we're cool or arrogant. I think we're just strong, hard and direct, not stubborn or difficult. It's mainly to find out how strong other people hold their own ideas. And, on stage I don't feel like 'a star' but I do want a reaction. Some sort of mood or atmosphere. Otherwise we are faiIing.
AIso I thirik we are not into this rock star business anyway very much, comments Anja, who used to model and hated it, in inimitable of inirnitable tones of inimitable English. We never had idols or heroes. Ideals, maybe or people we Iiked or respected for what they were doing. People make you stars but you don't have to force it. But you have been reticent to the point of mystique, say, in interviews. Even with littIe oId me.
They ask you the normal things, and that's basically it. And if people don't ask me the questions, I won't maybe talk about aIl the answers. Why should I ?
Something about Anja Huwe's logic is fine. I'm not going to talk to someone and telI him everything about me if he doesn't ask. Some people do that ! Just talk !
One of the most elevated pop moments of 1986 (you missed it ?) occurred at Wembley Arena in November when Anja snarled at a lot throng of yobbish slobbering Stranglers fans: "A bit more respect !!" Except it was pronounced "resschpekkt" with poison daggers as exclamation marks.
Being on this big stage while people are coming in and sitting down, smoking, drinking - I hated that. I wanted people to listen to us ! It makes me really angry. As a support band, you can't expect people leaping up and down, that's for sure, but at last we don't want this barrier, like a piece of glass between them and you.
Anja bangs her knee with a clenched fist, to illustrate the point. Consider it illustrated.
The diarnond-cut "Viva" reveals a more optimistic X-Mal Deutschland than ever before. (Blimey, what a selI-out ! I really can't handle it ! -And so on, okay ?) "Year after year after year" has given way to "Viva viva - ein neues jahr !"
Wolfgang : lt's positive, strong, evocative. Maybe we're dug it out a bit more. We're changed as well, you know ? Grown older and stronger.
Anja : Before, it was like exorcism. A lot af people didn't understand it, thought it was negative, aggressive and wild. Of course it was ! But there are so many sides...
Did you write "Feuerwerk" on New Year's Eve ?
In Spain ?
No ! I was sitting at home... at the port in Hamburg. On New Year's Eve aIl these sirens of the ships are being there really loud, all fireworks and light and sound and aIl that. I heard it when I was really... I didn't feel very well, you know ? I must say. I was totally alone and it was snowing and everybody was out having parties. I just wrofe these words. I was depressed but when it came out... I'd finished something. Now it was there. I could go to bed. Sometimes I scream and I can't sleep and l realIy r'y to find exactly the right words...
It's the attitude, contributes WoIfgang. I've never read anything interesting or strong written by a person who was absolutely content. In a way I think this feeling of being happy makes you a bit superficial. Because everything is enough. But if you're melancholoy you're driven to write things. Anja's voice anyway transforms the words. Into anather medium.
Not a happy one.
How can you say a mirror lies, Anja ?
WeII . . . the mirror lies to you.
The mirror never lies !
The mirror does lie.
Yes. For example, if you Iook into the mirror and you can smile but inside you don't smile - i mean - it's something very personal. I can't show the mirror one face but maybe inside I'm complefely different. It does betray as well... because you can do everything to this bloody mirror but it doesn't mean anyfhing in a way, it's just your -whatever- body, you know ?
lt's funny -in Germany people do ask me about the words but in England never, so i never talked about it .
TaIk about matadors.
I find the whole thing very excitirig; the bullfight. It means so much to these people, the strange masquerades and legends. The history behind it. Also -the matador, how he is dressed. He is a total man, you know ? He is the focus in this arena. How he behaves. I mean it's not it's definitely not this kind of man that I like, but I find it theatrical in a way. Different to our culture.
It's like a drama that wilI play again and again, says Wolfgang.
All about death and life, says Anja, in that order... saving the best till last.
And "Viva" ?
Viva is just a word everybody in the whole world wiII understand.
Now X-Mal Deutschland, phenomenal and compulsive live, can surge with an Esperanto dazzle, a blade in the meniscus of vague, a catherine wheel devouring the fog. it's so strange being not really a German band and not really an English band. Being maybe the ocean between or whatever, you know ? Something like that...
The wounds were Iicked long ago, like peppermint ice cream. Extra strong Viva the new flesh.