Feline & Strange: Everyone has their story

In this truly extensive interview you can find out pretty much everything about Feline & Strange – have fun!

Hey Feline, I’m very happy we get to chat! For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself and your band. 🙂
We´re Feline & Strange and play Dark Cabaret. What´s that? A theatrical take on Post Punk and New Wave, combining punk attitude with baroque and classical music, a lot of meaning, and absolutely no sarcasm at all.

I know you for the sound, but also for the visuals and your performance. How do you come up with the concept and ideas?
In my head, usually everything forms at the same time, sometimes immediately, the sound, the text, the imagery, and I only have to fill in the blanks. I am a theatre person and never thought of music or words as something solitary, I always think in the lines of Gesamtkunstwerk, using every tool I have to make the thought come across bigger and better and more immersing.

What is your message? What do you hope the audience will take back with them after they’ve seen you perform live?
That there is no such thing as plain and simple. Neither in art, nor in life. Everything has many implications, connotations, ties to the (collective) unconscious. Everyone has their story. Every word is the door to a world of thoughts.

You’ve recently released a book. What is that book, when did you write it? What is it about? When/why did the idea come around? And where can we buy one?
It´s called Das Puppenhaus / The Doll´s House! It´s a novel, very psychological and gothy-horror, but also very philosophical. I started writing it (of course) in lockdown, inspired by an EP I worked out together with Mishkin Fitzgerald (birdeatsbaby, Veil) from the UK and Sit Kitty Sit from the US. Mishkin sent me a song idea and I almost immediately had a doll´s house in my mind with a dysfuntional family who could never leave this house. I just needed to figure out why. That took two years and 900 pages which are now separated into a trilogy, and I´m fucking proud of the multiple layered plot which weaves through many decades and realities.
According to that, I asked not one but six artists to work with me on illustrations and typograhic art. The result is truly stunning, if I say so myself.
The first volume has been published in German on November 3rd on Edition Outbird. The English translation is almost done and the English book will be published at some point in 2024 on Tenebrous Books.

Will there be a soundtrack to accompany the book?
Hell yes! The original EP, together with some exclusive songs and remixes of my own songs and others´ related to the book. On the album you´ll find works from feline&strange, birdeatsbaby, Sit Kitty Sit, Kurt “Pyrolator” Dahlke, Spinne am Abend and Christian von Aster.

If the book could be made into a movie, what would it be like?
I rather imagine it as a netflix series tbh! There are so many layers of reality, I imagine every episode in a different look, from a different perspective. Oh that would be PERFECT! (starts scribbling in a notebook)

Will you incorporate the book or some readings from it in your future performances?
I already do! The book started with music, so I perform some of that in most of my shows. Especially in acoustic shows I love to include a reading part. And I put several shows together with the help of other amazing artists that were like music theatre, parts of the book read in choirs, acted out, danced, interweaving with my music and that of others. I will very much do more of those in the future!

What are your other artistic ambitions?
I do a lot of artwork, in electronic and in paper form. I love to experiment with paper packaging of music and text, but I also try to get rid of plastic and pollutants, and still make stuff people like to touch and cherish. And of course there will always be theatre, and opera. I love working as a director, and I have many ideas in my head that will come to the stage at some point.

What’s currently happening with your music works?
I am working on a new album for end of 2024! Working title: CULT… Some of the songs have already been released as singles. It will be a concept album though. They are always concept albums! I love telling stories! This one will take up the thread started with TRIGGER WARNING (2020) and weaving even through “KUNST FORDERT OPFER” (2022), especially to its main part “REQUIEM”. I am creating a set of, let me call them idols. You can as well call them archetypes, or goddesses, whatever you wish. They incorporate modern and also immortal human values, needs, and issues, but they also replace some I consider dated. Or renew these images.

New videos planed or you’d like to make?
SPIDER QUEEN is next on the list, I will work with the amazing dancer already visible in the live video on youtube, Sherri Ceylan. And we will shoot on the empty attic you can see in the artwork for my book. Everything belongs together 🙂

If you had a chance to make a new video now and there were no limitations, what would it be?
I AM AN ICEBERG needs a video! I still consider this one of the best songs I ever wrote. I need this video to be absolutely mind-warping. Actually I have written a script and even collected some footage already, but several attempts to shoot the main part failed. I need to film a bit with me underwater which is harder to realise than I thought. Nobody wants to let me use their pool to film a drowning scene. I wonder why.

At the moment, how big of a part does the band play in your current day-to-day lives?
80% if you count the social media and paperwork, but that also incorporates the book which is not actually separable. The art itself, about 10% while I´m mostly promoting what is there already; I sincerely hope this will settle back to 50/50 advertising/managing and making art in a few months.

You don’t have a full tour planned, when can we look forward to more shows and where?
We are a small outfit and thus often booked short notice. We have a new booking agency and hope this will work out in the direction of more long-term planning. But honestly, while we are hopping from one apocalypse to the next, who would want to plan long term? All our shows are always on our homepage, and I strongly recommend subscribing to our monthly newsletter because social media are a bitch in terms of timing. We don´t have limitations as where to play; we played in many European countries, the UK, the US, and were planning a Japan tour before the pandemic which will hopefully happen at some point.

In general, what kind of concerts you prefer to play and why? Smaller clubs, open airs or what?
I prefer people to be able to listen to me and to see what I´m doing. I´m an opera singer by training, thus my ideal stage is a proper theatre with 500-2000 seats and well lit stage. But I also LOVE when people dance to what I´m doing, so I´m having a lot of fun in punk clubs. What I detest is smoke. And what I don´t like is playing in daylight because I´m a creature of the night, and also, theatre needs light and you can only have light in the darkness. But honestly, I just love performing. Put me somewhere and pass me a mike and I´ll be happy.

What were the last concerts you attended in the audience and what were your impressions?
I played at Occulture Conference this weekend, presenting my new solo show CULT. It was extraordinary, not just because I did a great job 🙂 but because the audience in the context of occultism and spirituality took my performance damn serious, just as I do, and was delighted to see there are ever so many layers of meaning and connotation, just as in a ritual or an occult text. I watched as many of the other shows as I could, and enjoyed most the ones that were, like mine, trying out new things to a very open minded audience, some acts not even having a name yet. I saw artists working together for the first time, raw and edgy but full of enterprise spirit. And I enjoyed that there was, a rarity since the pandemic, a super professional, dedicated, and helpful tech team, making the sound perfect and immersive. People tend to accept bad sound which is a shame as our technology is nowadays better and more affordable than ever.

In the music industry today, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I already worked and work with some of my heroes… Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls), of course, who drummed for us on 4 records. Kurt “Pyrolator” Dahlke (Fehlfarben, Der Plan), who remixed my songs, Stimmgewalt Choir (Dark A capella) who sung on Requiem and of course my friend Mishkin Fitzgerald (birdeatsbaby, Veil) with whom I made countless collabs, starting with “Cassandra´s Twin”. I am starting a collab with Jochen Arbeit (Einstürzende Neubauten) right now. I would love to work more with electronic producers, for remixes, but also for entirely new collab projects. It´s a bit funny that some techno and even hip hop producers have remixed my songs but no EBM producer yet, I would love that. Not having certain names in mind, I am open to any kind of music and style, and very curious!

You’re based in Berlin, and judging by your Instagram, your shows really stand out. How do you evaluate the alternative scene in Berlin and where you stand, what is the audience like and do you feel like you’re being seen and heard?
Berlin still has the advantage of being cheaper than other German cities, and even if the legend has run dry and housing is difficult, people still come to Berlin from all over the world which I love! I worked together and shared stages with people from I think 20 countries alone in Berlin. Same goes for the audience. I love, too, that in Berlin the local language is optional, making it easy for people to settle in. The downside of being cheap and overrun by artists, though, is that there is no money paid, almost never. People moan when having to pay for a ticket, and they don´t come if it´s more than 10 Euro even when 3 bands are playing. That, in turn, makes us devaluate our work ourselves. Travel made me realize this, and also, now performing as a writer, too. As a Berlin musician, you have to fight a constant battle to keep your self esteem, more than in any other place or profession I´ve tried.

How do you evaluate the alternative scene today in general? What do you think it needs more (or less) of?
More venues which are properly run and funded by municipal money. More acceptance by the local communities. More appreciation by the audience, both of venues and artists – damaging venues makes them lose money they could give to artists, for examples. More respect for the extraordinarily hard work both artists and venues have to do – we ourselves keep forgetting all the shit we have to go through on a daily basis, taking it for normal, just like you forget birth pain, or we would just stop doing all this shit at some point. More respect from venues towards artists, too – not in general, but sometimes you get the feeling venues see you as a nuisance, not as the one thing that makes people visit their place and bring their money. More people who are willing to experience new things, instead of insisting on everything sounding and looking alike.

Artistically speaking, what do you dream of ultimately accomplishing in your career? So when you’re 100 years old and you look back and you’d be able to say “Damn, I had a funky great life!” 🙂
I already can say that, and that´s the best goal one can have. My dream is getting rid of existential fear to be able to enjoy the amazing things I am able to do and experience while they actually happen. Working on it. ADHS medication helps a great deal.

On that note, do you think there’s one meaning to life? What is it according to you?
Some wiser people than me have given that before. I try to live according to Kant´s categoric imperative: With everything you do, ask yourself: does it do good for all mankind? And I like to add, as my personal imperative with absolutely no exception, the Hippocratian one: Do no harm. Other than that, life´s short, have as much fun and love as you can.

On your social media you state that art cannot not be political. What do you mean and what do you think art should say?
I am actually stating that art can not NOT be political. #HowCanArtNotBePolitical? By the simple act of putting myself, a middle aged woman with neurodivergencies, on a stage, and raising my voice, and sometimes undressing, I am political, as long as there are places in the world – many! – where this action is punishable by prison or even death. By the simple act of doing what I want and not keeping this a private secret, I am political. Art means putting your mind out there. So how can it not be political? If I paint a flower, it is a political act, because I might be saying I love flowers and people who damage them are bad. (Not to even mention more layers of meaning like Georgia McKeefe´s flowers.) If I read a poem aloud that is 1000 years old, it is a political act, because I might be saying that words are strong and live longer than regimes. If I stand on a stage and do nothing, it is a political act, because I might be saying that I am afraid of doing something else out of fear to be punished. I might be, because art does not convey a simple plain meaning, but it makes you find your own one. And that alone, making you think, is a political act. Even entertainment is, because it might be saying: do not think about anything, whether you like that or not.

What would you say to those arguing that art (music?) should be free of politics?
That there is no way to make art, abstract as it may be, that is not political. It is not possible to communicate at all without political implications. And as for motivation – we see on a daily basis the impact of biases warped by political or religious agendas (which, if you ask me, is one and the same as religion with an agenda IS politics). Such a bias is created in an emotional way and can not, scientifically proven, be changed by facts. In short, science can only reach people on an emotional level if they already expect what science tells them, thus creating hope, or fear. To drag humankind kicking and screaming into the next stage of development beyond what looks like worldwide puberty (being obsessed with self analysis, taking senseless risks, competing whatever they do, never believing what authorities tell them, and being scared of tits), we need to convey the dangers to our kind that go way beyond such agendas on an emotional level. Only art can do that. And it does, in entertainment. But art can do so much more. Even abstract art. Especially abstract art. It can teach people to think about what they perceive. To perceive actively. To look under the surface. To see the artist behind the art, the speaker behind the speech, to realize they have a personality and an agenda, to only then be able to decide whether they like this agenda or not. And that is exactly what humankind needs, in my humble opinion.

What is inspiration to you, where do your ideas fly from?
Everywhere! I have no certain process to get ideas. I just start working on them as soon as they appear. I never had a writer´s block or a fear of the blank page. Probably because I learned early on that you have to produce a LOT of crap before you make the real thing. This is also a common myth about art. It does not come from nowhere. It comes from years of hard work. Even for prodigies. So when I want to create something and don´t know what I want to say, I just start. By drawing a line or writing a sentence that can describe what I see on the desk in front of me, or even “I don´t know what to write today.” And then I proceed from there. I doodle, until I see the picture I want to draw. The latter sentence is actually in my book, which has 900 pages now.

What is the creative process to you? How do you write, etc?
There are no rules either. My easiest flow though is in the company of strangers. At the laptop in a café between the daily bustle, or in the train. Especially in the train, because I have a certain amount of time to fill and nothing else to concentrate on. But I wrote my novel mostly in the pandemic, so sitting down an “I am going to write now” also works. NaNoWriMo works great for me, for example. Especially if I do not know what to write yet. Same with music; if I don´t know where to start I just start creating sounds, and beats, and throw them together, or I practise on the piano until a sequence stands out.

Who and what are your artistic influences at the moment?
Everything. I try to constantly listen, and watch, and analyse whatever comes my way. In this case, my ADHD helps a lot! I react to the political situation, of course, like everyone in their own way. I write about my inner turmoil and fright, and about what I see and hear. I try to guess how someone created a certain sound and try to recreate something similar and go from there. I hear someone hum an opera aria in the street. I see autumn leaves falling. Everything can become a song, or a poem.

What kind of music background do you actually come from?
My parents are classical musicians. My dad is a piano nerd, he even taught at colleges about historical key instruments and wrote a book about them. My mum plays the harp (the big one with strings attached, not the tiny tin one). Both are avid teachers and compose and arrange, as well. My mum also writes and illustrates books now and plays comedy. Just like me, she never stops! This gave me the huge advantage not only being supported in whatever I wanted to try in my life without any prejudice or holdback, but also learning what being a musician means from my earliest age, and also, being a freelancer. It was always natural to me that we work on the weekends, on vacation, and after dark; that a freelance income is never steady and you have to have another source of money, like a day job or a rent, for things you need to expend steadily; that filing your tax is a real achievement; that fame does not come out of nowhere; and that art demands work of you before it gives back satisfaction.
And they taught me, that all this is possible, and that it is absolutely worth it.
They are super proud of me, and that is the best thing a parent can give their offspring.

Do you have any theatrical background?
Hell yeah! When I decided with 14 that I would not become a violinist – I still play and will do so on stage next season, but I didn´t want to spend my life as a music school teacher – I went into theatre just as intense as into music before. I took classes, played, founded several troupes in school, then went to college to study theatre sciences and then to the Leipzig theatre, working myself through all departments from tech to stage, before I took up acting training in Berlin. I put 19 full shows, speech and opera, on stage with several troupes; my opera troupe canteatro alone did 7 operas from Carmen to Cenerentola in chamber/rock arrangements and my own text version, and 2 shows I wrote myself. I still play occasionally, the highlight in the last years was working at Berlin´s Schaubühne which I consider one of the best theatres worldwide. That one became political too; we played in Paris two weeks after the attacks, literally the first show to reopen. Everone in Theatre de la Ville cried that night.

Any song(s) that are more special and personal to you? If so, please explain…
The one I mentioned, I AM AN ICEBERG. It fell into my head, I do not know how and why. It is the closest I ever got to explain how my brain looks like from the inside in my darkest hours. REQUIEM, which I consider, poem, song, and video, my greatest and deepest and most accomplished work so far. FINALLY, which was the first song I wrote this way, falling into my head as a complete work, and I still think it is describing the pains of ending a relationship even in the most adult and consentual way perfectly.

What do your band members like to do outside of the band that contributes to your musicality/artistically?
We run a music production house together. While creating and building up this project took a lot of time and energy from the art work, it also gives back a lot: we have our perfect working space, where we make the rules :-), and of course, by now, it pays the rent. Also, Christoph has constructed a solar plant and more to make this space emission free, and is still working on more energy projects, even inventing new ones. While I have no clue what he´s actually doing, he says our music gives him the energy to pull all this through, and that is maybe my little contribution to save the world.

What are your thoughts on the internet’s role in the music industry today?
It´s great. Everyone can release stuff, and find out how to make it in the first place. We can work together with musician from all over the world without needing to travel. Even with musicians who are not permitted to perform in their home pplace. We can communicate almost real-time, even produce together. We can stream to people who can´t or can´t afford travel. And we can advertise our stuff, of course, for next to no financial investion to begin with (as opposed to send demo records!).
That´s not saying that the option for everyone to make what we do makes what we do any easier 🙂 the pool is more and more crowded, and there´s a lot of sharks.
To have infinite options to market your stuff means also that you HAVE to use at least a crushing amount of these means to be visible.
It is exhausting, and wonderful.

You’re very active on social media. What are your opinions about the role of the internet and social media in our lives today?
Oh thank you… Social Media always gives me the feeling of not having done enough, even with a reel that gains 1 million views. It is the most capitalist growth thing one can think of – I put in almost all the money I earn, and all the time I can spend, even cutting it from my artistic work, and it still yells for more. I hate being pressed to feed this machine, this rotten system, but I have no idea to avoid it. What I do love is that it makes starting to be an artist free of charges and open to everyone; only a few years back you had to buy equipment, you had to make demo tapes and write physical letters. Those days are gone for good, and that´s great. The algorithms though are programmed to make all art look alike and to go with the flow if you want to be seen. To yell the loudest and the most plain, to provoke but not thought but trigger hate, and that is what I consider extremely dangerous for society in general.

As your fans and followers, what can we do to support you?
You mean apart from buying and streaming my things? Help me on social media! Send me all the videos you make during shows (and make some, please!). Share my works, even older ones. Put my works on your playlists. Give your friends my stuff for birthdays.

If you want the real thing though, I have a patreon account. This is not only a platform to share everything I make and the whole process, song from the very first drafts on, novel ideas, and backstage things, but also a safe communication space for all your worries, inspirations, and sharing your own art. It wouldn´t be the first time I write a song about your fears discussed in the patreon chat, or making art together.

What else would you like to share with us? 🙂
Have no fear. Fear is the great destroyer. Embrace the new, and the unknown. It will be fun.

Feline & Strange online:

Interview: Marina Minkler, Fotos: Merlin J Noack, Feline Lang

GastmitarbeiterInnen / guest contributions

Regular guest contributors e.g. Melanie Kircher, Tatjana Tattis Murschel, Grit Kabiersch, Marina Minkler, Jasmine Frey, Maria Levin, Elvira Visser, Nina Ratavaara, John Wisniewski