Interview with Donald Campbell
by Gordon Ferfolja
Campbell is the creator and maintainer of The
Unofficial Laibach Site and could be considered,
along with fellow Scot, Alexei Monroe, as one of the foremost
experts on Laibach based outside of Slovenia. Donald answered
these questions via email in early February of 2005.
gf: What is the history of your interest
dc: My interest in Laibach started back
in the summer 1988. Laibach appeared on a programme called 'Rough
Guide to Ljubljana'. They made an instant impact with clips
of 'Life is Life' and 'Geburt Einer Nation', the programme also
made use of other Laibach tracks such as 'FIAT' and 'The Great
Seal' as background music throughout the show. Also featured
in the programme were the NSK, in particular the Irwin group,
interviewing Miran Mohar. By the end I wanted to know more about
this interesting and very different band, and of course not
least find their records. Surprisingly at the time it was not
too difficult in finding their records. The idea of getting
the records of a Yugoslavian band in shops didn’t initially
sound too promising, as you don’t readily find much French or
Italian music in the UK. Also checked through the old music
press material I had back then and discovered that their coverage
was quite good. The ironic point here is that the press had
often inspired me to check out a variety of bands but it didn’t
with Laibach not until I had actually heard their music, however
now that I had heard them these articles furthered my interest.
Before long I came across people eager to spread word about
Laibach and soon became one of them. Within the next couple
of years I wrote two Laibach fanzines and an article for the
UK magazine 'Spiral Scratch'. However for the next few years
I was not too involved with anything Laibach related until I
was asked at work to get involved with their web sites and they
gave me space for my own sites. So I decided to do The
Unofficial Laibach Site, which was launched in July 1999.
gf: What is your opinion of what attracts
people who have a vague interest in Laibach?
dc: There are many with a vague or casual
interest in Laibach; the most obvious example at the moment
is the Rammstein fans where Laibach is an extension of their
main interest. Laibach has a strong image and a very distinctive
sound so they have always attracted a lot of curiosity and there
are those who simply love the bombastic loudest of Laibach’s
music. Music is primary an entertainment business and for a
lot of people they just want to enjoy the music and that’s as
far it goes. At least if any of them ever decide to take their
interest a bit further the web site will make it a little easier.
gf: What is your general opinion of the
'super-fans' of Laibach? Are there any unifying characteristics?
dc: I have certainly come across a few
who would fit the term, they would be the ones who pour over
Laibach’s work in great depth, actively seek out all Laibach’s
releases and anything else related. They are fascinated with
their work sometimes even in awe of it. The one unifying characteristics
amongst them is their belief in Laibach as best band, not simply
gf: What is your general opinion of Alexei
dc: I really enjoyed reading the thesis.
It was first and foremost a submission for a PhD therefore was
quite academic in its terminology sometimes requiring re-reading
of certain parts to stay on thread however it was an excellent
study into the working of such an important and influential
art group. Alexei was quite clearly privy to the inner circle
of the NSK and would possibly have the best idea outside the
actual art group itself on how they functioned. It was also
a good close-up examination of the various techniques and wide
variety resources that were used, many of which originated outside
Slovenia. The best part for me is that it captured much of background
and wider environment that shaped Laibach’s work, woven together
with a lot cultural and political theory while at the same time
relating the effects of their work. It has been a useful help
with the web site, at the moment I have it in electronic format
and it will be more practical when the English version of the
book derived from the thesis is released. One of the biggest
problems for Laibach is that many of their audience are not
entirely sure what is Laibach’s agenda since independence, it
had seemed clear before even if they didn’t fully understand
the heavy ambiguity. Musically there are now a lot of expectations,
we will all have our own personal ideas how they should have
done certain things. The best way for them is to continue with
their own instincts and concentrate on what they know best.
A long-term fan from Croatia recently remarked that he felt
Laibach had recently been returning to their best and I think
that has been the general feeling amongst many long-term fans.
There is also the trendy argument for some bands to pack it
up and move aside for the new generation however more often
than not we are just left with a void and at the end of the
day who can replace Laibach.
gf: What is your opinion of Laibach's
place in cultural history?
dc: Laibach have assured their place
in Slovenia’s cultural history quite apart from their phenomenal
success it also took place in an era that will be indelibly
marked down in history. They’ve had some influence in the formation
Slovenia and the cessation of Yugoslavia. It’s for the academics
to debate the mechanics and level of this aspect. For the rest
of us it cements the importance of Laibach’s work.
gf: What is your opinion on Laibach's
influence on people's perception of Slovenia and Slovenian culture?
dc: Laibach has been a great promoter
of the idea that Slovenia is a dynamic and vibrant place of
culture, punching way above its weight. A lot of the stuff from
Laibach was lost on those outside Yugoslavia, though these features
gave Laibach’s work a certain energy and character that was
enjoyed by the outsiders. Occasionally it would inspire a few
to look into what shaped Laibach’s work. However they’ve certainly
put Slovenia on the map, so it was no surprise that the NSK
were chosen to represent Slovenia in Dublin during the EU enlargement
gf: Aside from Laibach and the NSK, are
you aware of any other culture from Slovenia?
dc: Though I would not pretend to know
particularly much about Slovene culture, it is a lot more than
I would have done without Laibach. Through my interest I am
also aware of Jože Plecnik, Herman Noordung and musically the
likes of Pankrti and Umek. In the late 80’s Borghesia was almost
attracting the same level of interest as Laibach but to a large
extent it was due to the interest in Laibach. Having said that,
Slovenia is getting a good bit of attention lately, possibly
due joining the EU though it could be that I’m a little more
receptive when it comes to Slovenia. I have to admit at this
stage so far I’ve yet to visit Slovenia but it is something
I hope to do soon.
is your perception of the general impression that people have
dc: Here in Scotland we see a lot of
similarity between to two countries such as the mountains, natural
beauty, even comparison with France Prešeren and Robert Burns.
One of the NSK’s strongest symbols originated from a painting
by Sir Edwin Landseer of a Scottish deer in the Highlands. In
general Slovenia at the moment is seen as an area of great potential
and untapped resources, money is already flowing in and businesses
are being bought up; I guess the Slovenes will be in two minds