When Alphaville first landed on the synthpop landscape in the 1980s with smashes such as “Big In Japan” and “Forever Young,” the German band quickly spread its wings internationally, including a significant splash in America. And while the Marian Gold-led group continued to evolve across several acclaimed albums well into the ‘90s and next century, the majority of its performances took place overseas.
In fact, up until the summer of 2017, the frequently covered and sampled act has never once performed in the Windy City, but that’s about to finally happen on Sunday, August 6 when Alphaville brings its “Strange Attractor” Tour to the Chicago Theatre with former Information Society singer Christopher Anton and The Joneses. In advance of the inaugural occasion, Chicago Concert Reviews connected with Gold in an email exchange to shed some light on coming to the States, what to expect from the show, opinions on electronic music, plus a light-hearted look at the leader attempting to review his own work.
What are you looking forward to most about coming to town and do you have any memories about Alphaville’s success in our city?
Marian Gold: We’re all totally delighted to return to the US after so many years. Our last concert took place in Salt Lake City in 2001- that’s quite a while ago- and it is definitely an exciting prospect to visit Chicago for the first time.
The group had its most prominent run in America in the ‘80s, but how would you describe what the reaction has been like to the group internationally ever since then?
Gold: We had a great start in the ‘80s and are enjoying a steady popularity since then, not least because we are constantly touring all over the globe since the mid-‘90s.
Can you give a glimpse of your new album, “Strange Attractor,” and how it fits into your catalogue thus far?
Gold: It’s quite difficult to describe one’s own music without praising it in most glowing terms. So all I can say is that it is the greatest pop album of all times. And by that, it fits perfectly to the rest of our repertoire.
With electronic music once again gaining major steam, to what extent do you feel like Alphaville helped lay the groundwork for what’s happening these days?
Gold: In my humble opinion, electronic music never really disappeared from the musical scene. It is a current that stays on since its creation in the ‘70s with bands like Kraftwerk, Neu! or Cluster and it is still developing and covers a huge musical spectrum, represented by diverse bands such as Empire Of The Sun, Wolfsheim, Atari Teenage Riot, Capital Cities, Ladytron, Icona Pop, Crystal Castles and so on. Alphaville in its embryonic state was part of that movement, but already with our first album, we created our own musical sphere. To evaluate to what extent we have influenced some of our colleagues, I gladly leave to others.
“Forever Young” has always been a major staple of your catalogue and was somewhat recently sampled by Jay-Z and also remade by Laura Branigan back in the day. What was your opinion of those versions?
Gold: We always feel flattered when other artists do cover versions of our songs. Nevertheless, from an artistic point of view to me, most of these versions are blank. But there are great exceptions, like the interpretation of “Big In Japan” by Norwegian singer Ane Brun or Beyoncé‘s wonderful performance of “Forever Young” during Jay-Z’s tour in 2012.
Why do you think that song has continued to resonate with so many generations at this point?
Gold: “Forever Young” is a real phenomenon in this respect. Maybe it delivers subliminal interdependencies with social, political or philosophical themes, not only now, but at any time since its release. I never expected it to have such an impact when we wrote it back in 1983. Apparently it was a glorious clash of inspiration, instinct and serendipity.
Can you give us the story behind your equally huge hit “Big In Japan”?
Gold: This is sort of autobiographical stuff from my early years in Berlin during the cold war when the iron curtain split up the city into East and West. And “Japan” is just a metaphor for a pipe dream.
At the Chicago Theatre, you will be joined by Christopher Anton and The Joneses, whose leader spent some time with Information Society. What are you hoping he will bring to the night?
Gold: I’m looking forward to meeting the guys and I’m sure they will rock the house.
How would you describe the atmosphere, production and overall tone of your set?
Gold: Imagine it as a space voyage through the Alphaville universe. We generally play music from most of our released material, but naturally, we’re focusing on our new album “Strange Attractor.”
What’s next for Alphaville?
Gold: We’re already working on the follow up to “Strange Attractor.” The working title is “Thunderbaby” as it looks like the journey will go towards a more ambient, big screen-orchestral vein.
Are you planning on making America a regular stop on your future tours or is this something fans in the States should make a top priority?
Gold: Whenever there’s a chance for us to cross the big pond, we will come over and play. It is always a great adventure to tour the US and meet our fans.