the Slovenian
glasilo magazine
radio glas
info centre
who we are

Interview with Donald Campbell
by Gordon Ferfolja

Donald 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 in Laibach?

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 their favourite.

gf: What is your general opinion of Alexei Monroe's thesis?

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 celebrations.

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.

gf: What is your perception of the general impression that people have of Slovenia?

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 about this.