1991 – Enigma went to No.1 for one week on the UK singles chart with ‘Sadness Part One’.
As Enigma is primarily an electronic music production, I assume you had a long standing interest in this area, so what artists influenced you to explore this direction right from the start? Influences, I’d have to say that I’ve always loved synthesisers, these are my toys. I have always been interested in electronic music and I started with the Minimoog and the legendary ones through to the generations of electronic equipment.
Did any artist/s in particular inspire you to pick up those instruments? Not really because I studied concert piano, so I’m a keyboarder all of my life.
So where did the original concept for Enigma derive? It was very simple, because I wanted to listen to a kind of special instrumental music but I couldn’t buy it so I did it by myself.
And incorporating Gregorian chants and eastern instruments? Yeah, it was more a question of ideology because the first record was based on this conflict between sexuality and the church, so it was very simple to use this as a sound logo of the Catholic Church. But I tell you what, sound philosophy yes? The sound is combined with the ideology of the records, but it’s nothing fixed, it’s coming along during the work, becoming clearer and clearer how I can transport my sound vision.
It’s never been contrived? No, I’m doing it very instinctively. Ok, in the back of my mind I am thinking about many things and I have a certain target of where I want to go and where I want to arrive, but how it will be at the end? As I always say, all the roads are going to Rome, which way I choose at the end is a question that is decided during the journey.
Is it true to say that Enigma is a one-man band, and that you’re involved in every aspect of the creation and production yourself? Yeah, it was from the very first day a one-man band; there were only some guest musicians for vocals or for guitars. On the new record I didn’t have the impression that I need some other vocalists, so I sing by myself and there are artificial voices, synthetic voices.
And the artwork on the new album looks quite interesting. It’s beautiful; it’s beautiful.
Yes, this big machine covered in leaves entwining it. The machine is from the British Museum of Marine… or something like that, it’s an old measurement instrument used from the past centuries.
Did you have a hand in designing the artwork? No, no, no, I have an excellent art director, which I’m very happy with.
And regarding lyrical content, there seems to be a lot less than on previous albums? I don’t know – it came how it came, so there’s no concrete messages. I don’t know; it was how it was, but I didn’t have the need to speak more. There’s not too much message behind the lyrical content this time, it’s more like a modern alchemist dream, who is dreaming about other galaxies – between science fiction and a visionary attitude.
How would you say A Posteriori differs from other Enigma albums then? I think the Enigma feeling, the emotion, the bloodline is still here, but transported in a completely different way. The sound and the structure of the songs are different to the albums before and I try to reduce the sound, not to be so bombastic as before. I wanted to go back a little bit to the simplicity of Enigma one.
It sounds quite different to me, perhaps more like a film soundtrack? Yes, but I always said I am doing soundtracks without pictures, the pictures are coming into your mind.
Has it been a struggle breaking away from the loops and samples of the previous Enigma style? It depends on the record you see because I always wanted to have a kind of lead sound, in brackets, lead sound for each album. So for the first one it was Gregorian charts, the second one the ethnic chants, the third was a mixture between both of them. Four was the classic stuff – the Carmina Burana from Carl Orff, fifth had nothing special as a sound leader, but in the new one I think the complete sound is a unit you know? And I think it’s the most compact Enigma album concerning the sound.
So it’s just a natural progression. I have to, because if not I get bored and music is my passion and I do it with all my love and all my energy, and it’s boring to copy myself so I will never do it.
Living in Ibiza, has the club scene there ever had an impact on you? Not at all, since I moved here to Ibiza in 1989 I may have been in a club for 1 hour every 3 years or something.
When Enigma was first successful you were in your early thirties? Yes.
So is there a difference between writing an album before you’ve sold 30 million album and then after? No, not at all. Because I’m doing it like if it’s my first album ever, and also with the same energy and with the same enthusiasm. And I’m happy like a little kid if it sounds how I like it and how I wanted to have it.
And you feel no external pressure to move the project in a particular direction? No pressure at all. And this rhythm of say every two and a half to three years, the albums are reflecting what I want to do in a certain period of my life, but life is not changing so dramatically in one year so that I could have something new. It has to be first born the idea, the basic idea, and then I transform it into music.
When you make music do you ever get excited about fulfilling what you perceive to be the desires of the audience? No, I have no idea what are the desires of my audience. I want to have an influence over everything even the single choices. Even if people say I’m nuts, I don’t care a bit because success is on my side.
When you’re creating a track, what’s the starting point? It’s each time different, one song can be testing a new keyboard; I like a sound and I start to play around and then woof, suddenly I have the base for a song. Other times I have a melody in my mind, other times I have maybe some lyrics, so it’s completely different, there’s no basic formula. There are songs maybe where the drum loop is important for me, and other ones where the drum loop is only like a rhythm machine and nothing important.
“I think the Enigma feeling, the emotion, the bloodline is still here, but transported in a completely different way.”
What are using the studio – are you working increasingly with computer software? Yes, because I reduced completely my huge studio and now I don’t have (laughs), so I made a little transportable studio with a monitoring system with everything included. So it’s reduced basically on the level of a quad processor with all the plug-ins that you have inside and that’s maybe 90% of the record. For the rest, I probably have only two auxiliary synthesisers, the Korg Oasis and the Roland V-Synth XT, but they were used only a little bit. But there are no effect machines or nothing; everything is plug-ins.
Has it been a challenge to switch over, having previously been reliant on hardware? No, basically the decision was very easy for me because I realised I’m using less and less everyday the huge equipment that I had. So I said why the hell have 55 kilometres of cables and they always have a bug somewhere? And it’s reduced now so I can do everything including mastering with my transportable machine. But I tell you, the amount of failures and bugs was reduced by 90%, so I could really make music and not moan with the software (laughs).
So you find that the technology is enhancing the whole experience and allowing your creativity to come to the fore? Exactly, exactly, exactly, so I didn’t have to squeeze my mind in such little ways about technical problems this time – so the decision to reduce the equipment was absolutely correct. But I’m missing nothing, so it’s not that I castrated myself, not at all.
You can tell by listening to A Posteriori that you’re not led by the technology. Without this technology I wouldn’t be able to have this equipment that I always dreamed of having, but I’m not a slave to the technology. The machines have to do what I want!
Unfortunately, with a lot of electronic music nowadays the reverse is often true. Absolutely, that’s the reason why I wanted to make a pure synthesiser album but in a way that does not sound at all like synthesiser music that was done in the past or present. And I think it’s correct to pretend that it sounds different, it’s not sounding so synthetic and so cold, like maybe people are used to if they hear the term electronic music – so the clichι goes completely the other way.
Is there still considerable motivation there for you to continue making many more Enigma albums? I always said, if I have an idea and I have the feeling that I can fulfil my targets – and I can keep the quality level high and have the feeling I’m still good enough for my own baby, then I will do some other records. But I never know. It’s always from one record to the other because I have first of all to be happy with myself and if I can’t do it so there will be no Enigma albums anymore, but I think that number seven will be for sure.
Do you feel the massive success of Enigma has made it difficult to match people’s expectations? No, not at all because it was extremely risky from the very first moment. It was never fulfilling the needs of the market and of the marketing machinery, so it was against a lot from the very first moment. I know, because I’m realist enough to know that the goal is at a very high level to fulfil each time, first of all for myself. It’s difficult to find a new way, not to have the impression that the project is standing still, that something is moving – there has to be an evolution in the project. But now if I hear all the six albums in a row, I must say that the way is fine because each one has its own identity without losing… say, the basic spirit.
Have you ever written an Enigma album that you weren’t entirely happy with, in retrospect? No, all of them are exactly… I couldn’t put them better. And that’s very important for me because then I can’t argue with myself, y’know “oh I miss this or miss that”. For my taste and for what I wanted to reach it was excellent for the period of time when I did it.
And of course many artists have attempted to imitate the Enigma sound? Yes.
I’m sure you’re aware of artists such as Enya and Deep Forest maybe. Do you think they achieved their goals? Phew (laughs). I don’t know if they achieved their goals or not.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Delerium? No.
Never? Never. I listen to music but I tell you, I’m also fixed on what I what I can get on my satellite dish if it’s on MTV or, I don’t know what music radio programmes, and so on. I don’t have the chance to listen to a lot of other music.
You’re so busy writing and recording that you don’t have the patience to listen to anything else? Oh, I have the patience but when I go into the final phase of record production I avoid listening to other things because I don’t want to be inspired – inspired subconsciously that is. I have to do exactly the opposite of what other people are doing. I have to go my own way, at least concerning Enigma.
“I’m not a slave to the technology. The machines have to do what I want!”