Interview 2006 Simon Granger

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Simon Granger is the man behind the Nitzer Ebb album graphics. This is his version of the Nitzer Ebb story, including how he found his own niche within the band. Granger also provides inside information on the creation of Nitzer Ebb's special brand of provocative art, propaganda, and colour schemes.
 

Zero Music Magazine
Box 2002
40311 Göteborg
Sweden
Phone: +4631-195 777 (Office) Cell: +46709-269 734


http://www.zeromagazine.nu


 
ZERO:
Tell the Ebb fans about yourself.
 
SIMON:
I am a graphic designer who lives in Chelmsford, Essex in the UK. I have designed a large number of products for Nitzer Ebb.
 
ZERO:
How did you get involved with the band?
 
SIMON:
Well, we all lived in Chelmsford, which is not a huge town, especially if you liked music that was underground or unconventional. They were younger than me (they were about 15) and I would often see them around town, drunk and shouting, giggling and falling over. We would see each other quite often in a record store there on a Saturday afternoon – we started off by shouting insults at each other, which went on for a while, and then we eventually got talking and became friends. We used to drink in the same pubs and would see each other a lot.

ZERO:
Can you tell us about the early years?
 
SIMON:
I had a WASP synthesiser, which I took round Bon’s house for him to mess around with. Around this time Bon, Doug and David got a Roland SH101, which was ideal, as it had a sequencer which meant DAF basically. We all liked DAF – everything about them, the way they looked and sounded, both on record and off. They used to practice in Bon’s house with the live drums and percussion in the front room. The SH101 could run on batteries and it usually did as the main voltage used to affect it sometimes – it used to get through them pretty quickly so there were always a huge number of dead batteries about. Practices also used to go on at a local school in the evenings. The first performance was actually in the local pub, which I missed but I saw their second one in a nearby club, which was utterly brilliant – people really didn’t like it much and couldn’t understand why they were so aggressive and loud and the music was this blend of distorted electronics with searing percussion with hugely passionate shouted vocals. It was perfect – I really wanted to be involved.
 
ZERO:
What was your role in the band?
 
SIMON:
I was there really to give everything: the same stark, oppressive look and feel as the music and attitude; it came really easily to me, as I didn’t have to really think about it too much as I knew exactly what they were about. The whole Dada art movement and the Russian Constructivist / Supremacist and Italian Futurist works were a huge influence and we used to sit and discuss ways of how we could upset sensitive liberal people the most. Niterebbprodukt encompassed everything visual - from small flyers to the NEP banners. Even though everything was really severe (grey, white, red and black) we were always having a laugh – there was a lot of humour hidden in there.

ZERO:
Were you involved in making music?
 
SIMON:
Not actively, no – I would comment on stuff at practices or in the studio but it was always their thing and I respected that the same way that we wouldn’t really have to discuss a design for a record sleeve - it just kind of worked.
 
ZERO:
What was the idea behind Nitzer Ebb in the beginning?
 
SIMON:
It was as much a reaction to everything around at the time - remember this was the early eighties – a truly awful time for music and attitude. As well as a reaction against the dreary British music scene (with a few exceptions) it was an also an acknowledgment to the burgeoning German scene who of course had DAF, Einstuerzende Neubauten, Die Krupps, Malaria etc. It took the punk ethos and made pumped up angry sexy proto techno house music with it. It was only really appreciated in the clubs at first.
 
ZERO:
How did the band get their start?
 
SIMON:
It was Bon and Doug and David right from early on - David actually had a pretty decent job so he sorted out the Roland synthesizer, I think, and it all started from there, really. No one came in from a different band or anything – it was always the three of them. Bon worked in a greengrocers and he made the name Nitzer Ebb up at work one day (It actually doesn’t mean anything it was purely for the way it sounded – a phonetic thing). Influenced by the German underground music scene and listening to John Peel, coupled with the self-sufficiency and righteous anger of punk, is what gave the band its impetus.
 
ZERO:
Did you go on tour with the band? If yes, tell us about it.
 
SIMON:
Not really – in the early days I went to Germany for a couple of weeks with them, which was really enjoyable, and went to Montreal in Canada for some club appearances, which I absolutely loved – really beautiful city.
 
ZERO:
Did you ever appear on stage? If yes, tell us about it.
 
SIMON:
No, I’ve never appeared on stage – not really me.
 
ZERO:
When did you leave the band, or did you ever really leave the band?
 
SIMON:
I never left the band, but I always had a full time job, which made designing for release schedules, etc., quite demanding. As I was working, it was difficult to go and join them in Spain or wherever. I still feel a part of it even though I haven’t had any input into any of the recent stuff - it’s mainly a timescale problem for me. I would love to work with them again.
 
ZERO:
What do you think of the band's more recent music?
 
SIMON:
As they became more musically proficient and started to diversify, as regards to influences, I think maybe some of the focus went. But having said that they couldn’t just keep doing the same thing. I was (still not) a fan of the rock influence.

ZERO:
You have designed lots of the Ebb covers. Can you tell us how they were made and the ideas behind them.
 
SIMON:
The ideas were mainly from the German, Italian and Russian art movements from around the 1930s mixed up with provocative slogans and images and simple plain colours with a lot of space.
 
ZERO:
Which cover are you most satisfied with and why?
 
SIMON:
I think the original vinyl version of Belief, which had spot varnish over the black square (making just the black reflective) and a detachable black and silver strip running around the cover. It seems to fit the music – sparse, black and white with flashes of silver.
The first few had the strip positioned over the bar code, which meant that it made it really difficult to scan. The cover used a picture of Max Ernst and someone once wrote in and asked if he was part of the band. The idea of the strip came from old jazz albums – you never really saw other releases with them much. That whole package just worked really well – Mute did a really good job on that even using a high quality board for the sleeve, which I asked for.
 
ZERO:
What is your relation to the band today?
 
SIMON:
Good as always – although I never get to see them nearly enough as I want to, I’m usually really busy and so are they. Those three helped (or hindered, I’m not sure) shape my life and I love them for it.
 
ZERO:
Which is your favourite Ebb song/album? And why?
 
SIMON:
Difficult question as there are quite a few – ‘Control’ I love, the mixes are really tight yet it’s such a loose funk track. ‘Join in the Chant’ is just such a classic – the first time I heard the bass line from Bon’s SH101 I just knew. The original 7” mix of ‘Backlash’ isn’t too grim either. ‘Smear Body’ when it used to be played live back in the day was quite an experience.
 
ZERO:
Have you been involved in other bands?
 
SIMON:
Not that much – I did the sleeve for Empirion’s Advanced Technology and some Empirion singles because Bob was such a good friend and because I wanted too. I did the cover for a Barry Adamson EP and for one of his singles too (the one from the Bailey’s advert).
 
ZERO:
What were your thoughts when you heard that Nitzer Ebb broke up back in '95?
 
SIMON:
It had to happen really as Bon and Doug had both been going separate ways in their heads for a while. Also they had the constant pressure and hassle from record labels to perform / deliver. They needed to be apart if they ever had a chance of being together again.
 
ZERO:
What were your thoughts when they decided to get together again?
 
SIMON:
I was pleased – mainly for the fact they were talking again and both seemed relaxed about everything that had gone on over the years. David (Gooday) never lost the faith and was convinced they would talk again. From a live / touring point of view I think it’s good that it’s happening again and from what I’ve read, it sounds like it’s lost none of it’s raw appeal. It doesn’t seem too much like a retro thing to me, as they’ve always been underground anyway.


End

 

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