INTERVIEW with Marian Gold

    by Electroage, May 2000

    Anybody who was listening to the radio in the mid-80s can remember the huge hits of "Forever Young" and the excellent "Big In Japan". Now, after 5 years of silence since their third album "Prostitute"; the legendary synth-pop act Alphaville is delivering their most polish and finest piece of work to date. With "Salvation", the outfit is more than ready to re-enter the rising synth-pop movement. Electroage wanted to know more about them and it's with pleasure that we are presenting you this fine interview with the man behind Alphaville, Marian Gold.

    Interview by Final Man

    Welcome to Electroage. Can tell us more about your new album "Salvation"? How is the world wide receptivity?

    So far "Salvation" has been released only in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in Scandinavia. I remember a review that read that it would have taken us 16 years to write a follow-up to our first album. Although I hate to repeat myself artistically, I must admit that there is a stylistic similarity between "Forever Young" and "Salvation". Maybe that is because both albums were written in a very short period of time, there was no pre-produced material and all the three of us were involved in each possible aspect of the production simultaneously.

    Salvation sounds much more darker than your previous releases, why?

    ...If I look back at it, it just seemed to be another album-production. We decided to do it in France. We weren´t very well prepared, had no songs, no lyrics, no ideas about what we were going to do. Rick had bought a house nearby the place that we rented later on to install our studio there. To me, it was a good opportunity to escape the Berlin maelstrom for a while. Les Landes is probably not the most beautiful area in France, but its bareness, the Atlantic ocean, the storms and rains during autumn and spring, played an important inspirational role. Maybe all this and that certain kind of isolation that we had chosen by ourselves, gave the album a somehow darker edge.

    You had a big success in the mid-80's with your songs "Big In Japan" and "Forever Young"; today, how do you feel about it?

    A great start. And a great time since then.

    What is the process when composing a new AV song?

    The initial idea for a song can be anything. A bass line (summer in berlin), a personal statement (ivory tower), a poem (golden afternoon), the TV-news (some people), falling in love (...), splitting up (....), a dream (faith), a chord structure (inside out). Later, during the actual music-production, there comes the moment, when the song starts to "speak" on its own, telling you, what you have to do with it. When I start writing a song, I scarcely know, how it´s gonna be. There are many possibilities in parallel worlds (as "DreamScapes" shows very clearly). So I´m happy to understand, what the song has to "tell" me. And then I just follow it. Another important factor is the narrative of the songs. Some songs can be viewed in context to another. The link could be a theme, a character from another song, or a musical motif, even an identical lyric. Lyrics are very important to me. I can´t sing if I have nothing to say. No conviction, no vocals. I often work a very long time on lyrics. What´s important to me is that they are in themselves conclusive.. To others they may sometimes seem somewhat puzzling, but I think that they´re inspiring. Nonetheless, I can live with it if others aren´t interested in them, or if they interpret them differently than they were originally meant. Our lyrics are simply an extended offer. Those who so desire can work them out, those who don´t can leave it.

    How do you see the Synthpop scene today?

    It has changed a lot and in another way it hasn´t. When we started AV, there was something of a pioneer spirit in the music scene. The aftershocks of 1977. There were many independent music projects like the British Electric Foundation from Heaven 17. There was a tendency towards independence from the majors, initiative was in demand, and musicians mutated into independent businessmen. Back then that was new and exciting. The big breakthrough of MTV came at about the same time. One needed expensive videos in order to keep up in the market, productions became incredibly complex and the record industry with their financial resources were able in this way to keep control. Anarchy was dead. A shame. But now, since the internet has come to play an ever more important role, the music market has been shaken up again.. A whole lot of creative energy has been let loose and artists are once again able to be independent from the large companies. That created a lot of new, wonderful bands like Anything Box, Thou Shalt Not, Wolfsheim, De/vision, Beborn Beton, Agnes Poetry, Air , Camouflage etc.

    What are your influences? Did they change since the 80s? What music do you listen in your spare time?

    I listen to a lot of guitar-music (Bush, Oasis, Pulp, Travis, Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers), lately I played old soul-stuff on my CD-rack. I still enjoy the music from, say, people like Bowie and Scott Walker or bands like Pink Floyd and the Beatles (although I must confess that their influence is little on AV-music), but I do follow the contemporary Synthpop scene with great interest. My favorites (besides other more unknown heroes) are Anything Box, Thou Shalt Not, Agnes Poetry, Wolfsheim and Air.

    It seems that you give an importance to your album's artwork and you also have your personal artist; can you tell us more about it?

    Meanwhile we have our own artwork-department consisting out of Monika Timm (Computer-graphics), Tobias Prohl (Web-design) and myself. Cathrine McIntyre (, a scottish artist, contributes additional images from her fascinating, intriguing work, which can be also viewed on the AV Website. The artwork for "Dreamscapes" was the first result of that collaboration, followed by "Salvation" and "Prostitute" (both as american versions). Currently, we´re working on the artwork of our newest release to be, a live album titled "Stark Naked & Absolutely Live", which will be out at the end of May/beginning of June.

    Recently, you also have released a huge box set called "Dreamscapes"; can you tell us more about it?

    "Dreamscapes" is an 8-CD box set with about a 125 songs, all of them in so far unreleased shape, more then 50 of them totally unknown. "Dreamscapes" documents the musical development of the band since 1977. One ought to know: Alphaville is like an iceberg. 1/10 of it exists above the surface of the water. The rest used to be hidden to the eye/ear so far. It is this part that now has been risen by "Dreamscapes" and reveals itself above the waters.

    Are you planning a tour for the US?

    Our manager is working on it. The only yet confirmed date is Salt Lake City on the 19th of July, where we perform with a couple of American synth pop bands (Anything Box!!!!!!).

    What are AV doing now? What can we expect for the year? A new album?

    Maybe two. A live-album is, as I said, set to release at May/June, the next studio production starts around the same time and will hopefully be finished October or so. From May to the 6th of August, we´ll be touring (with interruptions due to studio activities) different countries all over the world (22nd of July in Toronto).

    Thanks a lot for you time, a little word you would like to tell for the readers and fans?

    ...Spend your life to get rid of a few bad habits and enjoy the rest of it.

    Bless you!

    Marian Gold


    what you always wanted to know but never dared to ask

    fans interview Marian Gold - from alphaville official homepage

    April 2000

    I really love your music and respect you guys very much. I was just wondering are you guys Christian or something because many of yoursong titles seem religious?

    (Lee Panayong ,17, Germany)

    Marian: I'm very interested in religious matters, without being an active Christian.

    I'm an archaeologist (or spaceman?), I'm digging in long lost temples of mankind trying to understand the meaning. prejudice doesn't support that quest at all.

    all kind of religions have their opinion on issues like 'salvation'; 'faith', 'love', 'hope', 'life' and 'death', and their very own meaning of truth and misapprehension behind it. I've read the bible several times and that's the reason why many alphaville songs have been influenced by religious fragments.


    somewhere I read that you were interested in situation in my country, Czech Republic, what happened here in 1968 with the Russians and the communism, and that there is one song dedicated to this {hope I am not wrong, I don't want to look dumb :--}} can you tell me more?

    (Moonia, 24, Praha, Czech Republic)

    Marian: possibly you are talking of 'mysteries of love' (breathtaking blue, 1989). this song deals with the breakdown of the iron curtain and the separation of west and east Europe then.


    who is J.F.Nelson ?

    (Michael Schafer, Germany)

    Marian: some say, his full name is Jonathan Fredrik Nelson, others insist on Jordan Franklin Nelson and others call him Jeffery Ferdinand Nixon. reportedly he established the so called 'neslon project' at the end of the seventies that later became alphaville. his identity is a mystery. and it will continue to be.

    on 'afternoons in utopia' they described his function as 'spiritual light(n)ing', later on he appeared as an 'illuminator'. in the lyrics of 'lies' (forever young) and 'lassie come home' (afternoons in utopia) he was some kind of visitor, and maybe in some other songs as well. the album of Serge Gainsbourg called 'Histoire de Melody Nelson' (Philips 1971 # 6325071; sold out) seems to deal with his person. around 1984 he disappeared. on 'dreamscapes' he was mentioned being a traveler, but his current residence seems to be out of this world ...


    my question to you is, what did/do you do after a gig? do you go party somewhere, or do you go straight to bed?

    (Soeren Jorgensen, 30 years, Denmark)

    Marian: I usually meet fans after a gig.


    an artist is an artist no matter how successful he or she gets. however, if alphaville had never happened, what sort of career do you envision you might have had?

    (Dawn Reddout, 30, USA)

    Marian: probably some kind of traveler.


    when do you write? at night, at day? do you sit down and spend a certain amount of time each day writing?

    (Paul Moreira-Pocinho, Toronto, Canada)

    Marian: usually at night and in the evening. sometimes I dream of a song and awake in time to write it down, with a little more luck I reach the piano and if I'm very fortunate I can remember the melody the morning after.


    two things for me are together and forever: the white Peugeot 605 and the alphaville. which company's car Marian drives? thank an advance.

    (Anna, 22, Lithuania, Klaipeda City)

    Marian: I've got a green LandRover Defender 110, solely that car seems to be the only bunch of scrap worth to buy it new.


    Marian, what were your most influential musical bands when you started you career and what are the most influential ones today ?

    (Dominic Chaumont, 25, Canada)

    Marian: in the past: Bowie, Kraftwerk, Rupert Hine, Scott Walker, Steve Harley (cockney rebel), Roxy music, David Sylvian, Human League, Punishment of Luxury, Eyeless in Gaza, Associates, Tim Curry, Brian Protheroe, Seventh my brain as a receiver.


    what do you think about song big in japan from guano apes?

    (Adam from Kosice, Slovakia)

    Marian: I like the guano apes and their interpretation of 'big in japan' is phantastic.

    I also feel melancholy and some kind of nostalgia because it reminds me very much of the very first original version of this song we performed on stage till the beginning of the eighties.


    what is the song that you feel most connected to? the one that really describes your personal feelings and/or thoughts.

    (Adi Blankleder, 17, Israel)

    Marian:12 years and sweet needles of success


    just want to know if you have ever attended singing-lessons? do you feel it's harder to hit the high notes nowadays then what it was 15 years ago? do you 'look after' your voice properly?

    (Stefan Zell, Sweden)

    Marian: when I was 11 I was attending a church choir. the high notes have gradually turned into a problem, especially when we're performing older songs live on stage. but - you can't do anything against it ... you don't want to cut off your balls. I've decided to have a few singing lessons from time to time. but - I should do that more often !