Sunday, October 14, 2007

An interview, Of Sorts, With Meret.


Meret may not be a household name here, but in Germany and wider Europe she is showbiz royalty. As she brings her latest collaborative act to Australia, LEE BEMROSE didn’t quite manage to catch up with her for Drum Media.

A few interesting facts about Meret Becker: She is a very successful singer and actress. The 39 year old’s acting career started with a feature film at the age of 17 and there’s been no turning back. She has a string of features under her belt including Spielberg’s 2005 release Munich. She’s worked with a wide variety of artists and directors including Wim Wenders, U2 and industrial noise makers Einsturzende Neubaten – this last showing that the German band generally known for sounding as musical as a box of hammers being slowly tipped onto a tin roof does have a sensitive side.

But what to expect of her latest collaboration with musical trio Ars Vitalis? The show is called Harmonie Desastres and features a trio of musicians who have been described as musical clowns. One is a drummer, another a guitarist and the third plays the clarinet. They play their own compositions, they play covers, they apparently play found objects if the opportunity arises. Chaotic and surreal are two adjectives you will almost certainly stumble upon in any write up of their performances.

So. Kooky cabaret from Berlin, a multi-talented uber-babe fronting a trio of absurdist musos... who wouldn’t want to know more? I phoned Meret’s Berlin number at the agreed time... and phoned and kept on phoning. An hour and a half later more calls were made involving publicists and agents and it transpired the international telephone network had not gone into meltdown as suspected, but Meret had simply switched off her phone because she needed to sleep in. As you do.

Still, who could bear a grudge? Perhaps that’s exactly the way all us mere mortals would act if we were so breath-takingly gorgeous and head-bendingly talented.

Plan B was launched, fingers were crossed that the artist could stay awake for long enough to answer some questions by email at her convenience (provided it was immediately because deadline was already fading deep into last week).

Answers finally arrived. Yes they are short. Yes they get to the point. Yes they carry a few factual misconceptions that are actually quite charming and possibly intentionally flaky. Certainly they are funny and do reveal a very Meret way of seeing the world. Much debate still rages about the existence or not of a German sense of humour. Read on and I think you will believe...

Have you been working this weekend or relaxing?
"Sleeping, all day, now I need to relax."

What do you do to relax when you are not working? What ís your favourite thing to do with your time?
"Sleeping, all day. Sleeping, all day."

I’m having to email these questions to you because it seems you switched your phone off to sleep in. Did you have a big one last night?
"Yes I had a big one. A big sleep. I like to sleep. All night, all day, sleeping sleeping."

You’ve had a successful career that combines several areas of creativity, especially singing and acting. Which of the two do you enjoy the most and why?
"I do not enjoy. It's hard work."

When did you start working with the trio Ars Vitalis and how did that collaboration come about?
"We started 15 years ago in a cabaret in Berlin. It was love at first sight."

Why do you like working with this particular group?
"They understand me and there’s not many of them."

Isn’t three a crowd?
"What? No. A crowd is a crowd. Three is a trio. You are a bit silly, but I like you."

Cabaret seems to be have been taking an increasing turn towards anarchy and humour in recent years. Does humour play a big part in Harmonie Desastres?
"Yes, but WE are playing the bigger part!"

What does the title mean?
"In French "harmonie des astres" means the sound of the atmosphere, the stars. If you take the sound of those words, it includes the words "harmony" and "disaster". We think it describes our sound very well."

Can you tell us a little about the show itself? The kinds of things to expect to see and hear? What styles of music will we hear?
"It's a violent mixture, without any concept, except that we and the audience should enjoy. We are doing cover versions and our own music, and we are coming from very different backgrounds, such as free jazz, cabaret, theatre, circus... whatsoever, and this you can hear through the music."

You’ve been touring the show for a year or so now, is that correct?
How much does it develop and change, if at all, with time?
"We toured it for one year. Now we are playing it in stages and developing it. Especially for the different countries."

Rightly or wrongly, Germans have a reputation for having a strange sense of humour. Some would say no sense of humour. What are your thoughts on this?
"It's dry, it swirls."

Do you know much about the Australian sense of humour?
"You eat crocodiles."

In which parts of the world have you been getting the best audience reactions?
"Tokyo, Paris, Barcelona, Kongsberg, Berlin, Budapest, Wädenswill... look out, it's a high competition!"

Is this your first visit to Australia? What are your expectations of the Australian people?
"Yes, first time. They are wearing hats and throwing didjeridoos, no?"

And what about the country itself? I read somewhere that you are pretty scared of all of our dangerous animals and insects. Is that still the case?
"Yes... huge rats hopping around..."

What would you say to Australian fans of cabaret to encourage them to come along to your Harmonie Desastres?
"What good is sitting alone in your room, come hear the music play, life is a cabaret..."

WHAT: Harmonie Desastres.
WHEN & WHERE: Sydney Opera House 11 & 12 October.


Kathryn said...

Isn’t three a crowd?
"What? No. A crowd is a crowd. Three is a trio. You are a bit silly, but I like you."

I love how you just dive right in there and take chances. Nice.

Geoffrey said...

If only every interview with a performer was this good. I hate it when they bang on about their craft and all that crap.

Her answer about not enjoying either because it is hard work was an absolute gem.

Nice work.

quick said...

I dunno, Kat, but there is a lot of bland stuff out there. My policy is get the info out but make 'em laugh too (where laughs are appropriate). Helps when you have flaky interviewees like this. When it goes wrong it often works out for the best.

Thanks Geoffrey. Yeah, I actually found the whole thing quite charming. I can't help reading her answers in a German accent.