Nitzer Ebb in the beginning
Nitzer Ebb present
Nitzer Ebb is back
It’s almost scary that Bon Harris & Douglas McCarthy, these two gentlemen, in their late thirties, look as young and healthy; practically identical to how they looked like in their early twenties. It seems like time has been standing still in the Ebb-Universe.
“DAF was obviously a big inspiration. I remember the first time I heard ‘Der Mussolini’ and Neubauten, Malaria, Bauhaus, Young Gods, Killing Joke…”
Bon continues to tell us that Nitzer Ebb started out with the approach of an electronic punk band and that the fundaments of the band should be rhythms & base. “I’ve programmed hi-hats for hours and hours”, Bon admits to my question if they took special care of the distinguished figures in the rhythms of Nitzer Ebb. This is something I think has always put NE apart from every other so-called EBM band. NE has always had the funk in them and that has made them quite unique.
“It all started with ‘I feel loved’ by Donna Summer really”, Bon recalls when their first album from 1987 ‘That Total Age’ is mentioned. After the quick rise and fall of NE´s own label Power Of Voice Communication, the band chose to sign for Mute Records; “We really felt as we belonged at Mute, so when Daniel Miller signed us we were extremely happy.” Bon tells us he couldn’t sleep the days before the contract was finalized.
In the process of making ‘That Total Age’ the band studied compositions thoroughly and they came back from their studies with more guts and a lot more energy than before. “We considered ourselves to be a punk band.”
When NE, in 1988, started to record their second album ‘Belief’, they were full time working rock stars, they worked for the first time with producer Flood, they were the first band to record in Mute’s new studio: “We were very serious”, Bon tells us. “We worked really hard, day and night.” ‘Belief’ was meant to be minimal, funkier and a step from ‘That Total Age’, something NE succeeded with. ‘Belief’ is a record that stands out in the same way as Flood’s follow-up production, ‘Violator’ by Depeche Mode.
Success and Failure
1990 – ‘Showtime’, the hard third album: “If Nitzer Ebb is one song it would have to be ‘Getting closer’, right?” I ask Bon who smiles and can’t say much more than agree with me. However, ‘Showtime’ was as a whole a disappointment and Bon agrees that the experiments on the album sometimes worked out well and sometimes not. “It is a strange album when you look back at it”, he says.
Bon also agrees with me that Trent Reznor owe Nitzer Ebb a few lines of credit to say the least. I ask Bon if he sees any resemblance in NIN´s ‘The Downward Spiral’ and Nitzer Ebb. I can’t really write down the answer but I can tell you readers that Bon & Trent hardly are die-hard mates.
For ‘Ebbhead’ in 1991 NE worked with both Flood and Soundscape-genius Alan Wilder of Depeche Mode. “We’re quite the same, but I’m much more impulsive”, Bon says when asked about the resemblances of the two electro wizards. “Alan could sit a whole night working on a base drum”, something Bon would not be up to. By this time NE had been touring quite a lot for Depeche Mode and they really aimed for the stars. There is no secret that NE wanted to be as big as Depeche Mode, “We aimed for the top”.
But time would prove that NE stood with their feet on the edge of a steep. ‘Big Hit’ took years to record in various countries before its release in 1995. “Yeah, the title is ironic”, Bon laughs. “We knew it was over”. The recordings of the album proved that Doug and Bon had drifted apart from each other, both as friends and musically. “The sound had developed and the ambitions were high”, Bon explains. But the two members did not really work as a unit, more like competitors. Bon still reckons the album to be quite good though, and definitely a record that has inspired a lot of bands, including Radiohead, to challenge them selves in the studio.
In 1995, in New York, Nitzer Ebb performed what seemed to be their last gig ever. The two original members, the duo that is Nitzer Ebb, Douglas McCarthy and Bon Harris, would not speak to each other for ten years.
Maven, Fixmer/McCarthy, Recoil, Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan, Marilyn Manson, Film-making, more productions, Graphic designs… In the other ebb-less-universe the two men bound from Chelmsford, Essex has made their contribution to the world of art and music.
Ten years had passed when day Bon Harris opened an e-mail from Douglas McCarthy. It basically said “Mute Records is planning on releasing a best-of box and it seems that there are quite many countries in the world that wants to book us for a gig.” Douglas did not think that Bon would even consider doing anything with NE again but Bon had already thought about it and gave his thumbs up to a reunion.
‘Body of Work’ is now finally in the stores, despite a few delays because of problems with NE´s American label, Geffen. It proves once and for all that Nitzer Ebb has stood the test of time. The band is as vital as ever.
Once it was decided to go on tour the band needed a new drummer on stage. They found Kourtney Klein through friends of Bon who told him about her. And it feels right, Bon tells us, to take Nitzer Ebb into the 21st century with a woman in the band. It’s an inspiration for all girls to play the drums funkier and heavier than ever Duc Nahn or Julian Beeston.
After somewhat 50 minutes, instead of planned 20 minutes, we thank a very inspired and happy Bon for his time and meet up with Douglas in the lobby to show him a ‘Mina Vänner’ (‘My friends’) book from 1991.
Thankfully Doug agreed to answer the questions in this book back then and he agreed that some of the answers were still correct.
Favourite subject in school: “Locking the teacher in the rain”.
Animals I like: “Elephants”.
Favourite food: “Japanese”
I like the most: “Sex, drugs & Rock and Roll”
My highest wish: “Become an author”
Douglas is still planning his debut novel as far as we’re concerned. Doug didn’t agree at all that his favourite band from then still was Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
….and oh yeah, Nitzer Ebb also told us that this tour is NOT a one off, on the contrary, NE already talks about a new studio album next year…
Photos taken from the official Nitzer Ebb homepage www.nitzer-ebb.de