One of the great things about Chris & Cosey is that the project was partly artistic and partly romantic. The love affair between the two musicians is what took them out of Throbbing Gristle and into each other’s arms.
The same combination of oscillators and hormones is evident in the work of Facket Strejkar. The combination of Cynthia Stern and Karin Bolin Derne is an unending affaire de coeur on record and in real life. It is great to see and to hear.
Stern will be known to some as one half of the fabled Stockholm group, Colouroid, and its home label, Flexiwave. The project relocated to Berlin, but it only lasted as long as the relationship between Stern and his graphic artist partner. When that ended, Stern’s focus changed to the club night and label, Varvet, which has now released a single from his project with Bolin Derne, Facket Strejkar.
“Liebemelodie” is song about the feelings between the two musicians. Bolin Derne’s voice is crucial to the sound and the story, and fans of her work with Alison and as a solo artist will recognise the emotional rawness in this recording.
While cueing “Liebemelodie” on the turntable, we asked the young lovers of Facket Strejkar to fill us in on some of their activities.
How did two Swedes end up in Berlin, patrolling the night and making heavy duty beats?
STERN: Well, I moved here through my old job with my ex-wife, with whom I also had the label, FlexiWave, and the band, Colouroid. Then, on my mega-super birthday rave, when i turned 38, this magnificent lady showed up and we became best friends instantly. Quite some time after that, romance and the music came along. It is, however, weird that we both grew up not far from each other but we had never met until that night. We blame Hannes and Luke Eargoggle for all of this.
BOLIN DERNE: We were obviously not supposed to meet before we did, because we went to the same venues and festivals for decades without even knowing each other, which is a mystery in itself. I started to go to Berlin regularly in 2012, because I wanted to be able to be more into the electronic music scene, see more concerts and feel the vibe of new and old electronic and industrial music.
In Gothenburg, which is a mecca for the electro scene, I met people mentioning Cynthia’s name; and also people from Börft in Karlskrona and from Stockholm never shut up about this guypunkgirl/villain called Cynthia Stern. Then I went on holiday, the 2nd of July, 2016, and my friend told me he just got booked for this amazing birthday bash party in Berlin and put me on the guest list (he forgot). I met this shy, busy guy inside who told me I said, “Happy Birthday,” one or two times too many. The rest is history. He is the love of my life, my muse and my best friend.
You have both been in bands that could be called poptronica: Colouroid and Alison, to name two. How did you settle on techno as your medium?
STERN: I come from a techno background, and, together with Leaf, was one of the first Jungle DJs in Gothenburg. Then I met my acid and techno mentor, MomentH. I released my first record in ’97, together with J.Antoni, under the name, Urban Electro Squad. I started the label, input – output, in ’99, and then it just went on from that. I have met so many great artists and friends during the years, touring. However, I got sick of not be able to know if I could pay my rent living in Stockholm. I decided to give music a break and met Ella [Moe], with whom I founded the band and label.
Moving to Berlin was the best thing: playing techno again; and, at the same time, doing the FlexiWave nights together with Aufnahme + Wiedergabe. It all boosted me again and got me to start the label and club, Varvet. However, I would not say that Facket Strejkar is techno. It’s something else that comes from both our backgrounds in a magical mix.
BOLIN DERNE: Ha – interesting question! I used to piss on techno – literally, piss on techno – from my first rave in 1992 until a moment in a stair case in Berlin, my first visit there, in the Golden Gate club (heh – yes!) in 2012, when I suddenly stopped in a middle of a step and asked my friend, “What the hell is this?” He said, “Karin, this is dark, new techno,” and I decided to come out of my piss bubble and start to listen. I had never used a sequencer in my life before I came into the studio (which I am now a official partner of) in Berlin because I am an old drummer (since 10 years of age). I used to hate them, but then I started to see all beloved machines in a new light. Call it inspiration or serendipity, but I was like a kid in a candy shop, starting to see all equipment in a new way; and then we just started to work in a totally different manner than I was use to, but it was still the same. It might sound weird, but I didn’t change anything about my work style, but I changed everything. I introduced Triols to Cynthia and could pay tribute so much to this very knowledgeable man of techno, and we both felt, “Wow, we have serious fun, and – god damn! – this funk works.”
What kind of machinery are you using (elegant or otherwise)?
STERN: Well, how much time do you have? We share a studio in Berlin with Headless Horseman, Frank (TCMF) and Steffen, the latter both engineers at Native Instruments. The place is packed with gear. But, for me, the first go-to is one of the SH-101s and the 808.
BOLIN DERNE: I love to talk about machines – I never stop! I bought the Moog Grandmother last year, and she is a beast! I want to be buried with her! The 808 is a key member of our crew, along with the 101, the Prophet 6, Juno 2, DX 11, the Sem, the Eventide pedals and, of course, Cynthia’s Moog Voyager. If I can just add a Kawai R100 drum machine, I will feel complete.
What are your plans for Facket Strejkar?
STERN: We have our synthpop 7” called “Liebemeloide” on the Varvet label. After that, we have got our Ebm-ish/techno-ish 12” called “LS” as a tribute to the IFK Gothenburg supporters with remixes from The Horrorist, Bizz O.D. and Blush Response. Also, we are working on a remix for the brilliant UK bleeps and bass producer, Lukes Anger, aka Duke Slammer of Bonus Round and Don’t fame.
BOLIN DERNE: I think we are ten years ahead of our time. We have this strange and wonderfully weird sound of the past and the undiscovered future that people will be able to fully understand a good number of years ahead. Its a blessing and a curse at the same time. But, since Cynthia is a star, and I am the eternal dark horse, speaking of celebrity (because I hate to be a frekking star or famous and I still love when people recognise my work and who I am as a person) we will do rocket style and take off sooner than soon. But in our own style.
Do you intend to do work in other styles? Would that still be Facket Strejkar material?
STERN: We don’t have any style – we are Facket Strejkar. Not even our friends can pinpoint what we do.
BOLIN BERNE: We mix Aphex Twin with Fad Gadget and Prince with Alison Moyet and Autechre with Erasure and DAF with Neil Landstrumm. Taking the electronic music bit by bit together, scene by scene, sound by sound – just add water and stir.
Do you have any plans to work together with other artists?
STERN: Yes, we have so many studio jams and sessions with different people such as Khan, The Horrorist, Second Storey, Benjamin from Tok Tok, and random friends. Also, I’m hoping to get Tarrida and Subhead over soon to do an Xtras004 12”.
BOLIN DERNE: Oh yes, we both love it and we intend to this more and more. We both are working with other artists on our own, and we intend to collaborate both as solo artists and as Facket Strejkar. We have a banger coming up, including amazing artists from Philadelphia, Washington and Berlin.
Bonus question, for 10 points: Where did it all go wrong for Depeche Mode?
STERN: Depeche for me looks like a mountain: like this /\ with violator on top…
BOLIN DERNE: It started with an ad in Melody Maker. It ended with a speedball and the loss of the greatest synthesiser wizard – a sad farewell – and not necessarily in that order. I think Christoffer Berg from my hometown, Gothenburg, did the best work on Delta Machine, a favourite album since Alan Wilder;s work on Violator. But it took off with Alan and it ended the same way. I love them so much, and I always will. I actually see myself as an Alan Wilder in Facket Strejkar; the way I believe he thought of sound settings for different parts of a track. He is a great inspiration and so are the rest of the boys. Yes, immer, boys.