The Futuristic Dystopian Nightmare of '1984' Has Come True: A Conversation With Disappears

The future of Krautrock's lookin' plenty bleak.

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10 January 2015, 9:13am

Photo courtesy of Disappears

Chicago noiseniks Disappears work like they're collectively possessed by a whip-cracking demon. Since getting together in 2008, they’ve put out at least one album a year; on top of that, they go on tour and hold down normal jobs. Though often categorized as Krautrock, they don’t deliver easily-replicable pop junk. Each of their records is a rounded, individual work full of new spaces and new concepts that spark the imagination. They are driven, hovering between future optimism and panicked fear of a total techno-dystopia.

Their new album, which will be released by Kranky on January 19th, is called Irreal. We spoke to Disappears frontman Brian Case about life, death, and the future. Read the interview while jamming a new tune, "Another Thought," below.

Noisey: You work at an incredibly fast pace. How do you keep up such a brutal release schedule, and what drives you to do it?
Brian Case:
Playing music together is important to us, it's our art and expression so we work hard at it. We like to push ourselves musically, so we're always trying to get into new situations or concepts that can help us see things in different ways. Besides, releasing records at the rate we do means we're always able to travel and have a new document from a specific time in our lives. It's a cool way to mark how the years go by.

What's your origin story?
I think it's the same with a lot of bands—we were all friends who were between projects ,and we started playing together, it was really natural, and grew fairly quickly, which was nice; we got a lot of great opportunities early on from being a little different than what was going on around us at the time.

The title of your new record is Irreal. Why did you choose that word, and how does it correspond to the lyrics?
I read it in a book; I'd never seen or heard the word before, so I looked it up. I thought it was pretty funny, because it didn't look like a real word and its actual meaning was "not real," so I wrote it down. It seemed like a good way to approach a record—make it feel like a dream state, sort of hovering, looking down on the world. The lyrics are written from that perspective as well; they're about how you remember things, observing from a distance.

Modern dystopia seems to be a topic you're interested in. Why, do you think, is it that some fantasize about the technological future being paradise on earth, while others envision something a bit more hellish?
Everyone is so interested in trying to create these things that make life easier. but I think a lot of that technology is going to make it harder for people to function wit out it. There are dark elements with lot of new technology, like the ability to track people, to have access to all their information in the cloud, to know who they are talking to and about what—that's pretty classic 1984. right? I think a lot of it has to do with how new technology and science is used; some people are really optimistic about it, and I am too, I just feel like it's so easy to corrupt these things for profit.

What's your take on eternal life?
I believe in it. I think the future already exists and we're just catching up to it. I mean, I guess that means that your life is pre-determined and that your actions are already laid out....I'm not sure I believe that....it's a difficult concept, but I'm interested in it.

What do you think about roboethics?
Oh. I love it—what a modern issue, right? I think it's fascinating to create technology and have to think about the ethics of the people that will use it and how that will effect the product—or the world. Crazy artificial intelligence is here.

In February you'll be playing at Berghain in Berlin, which seems like a natural symbiosis. Have you played there before? If not, what have you heard about it? What do you think is fascinating about it?
I've never been to the Berghain but I've heard so much about it that I wonder if it will live up to the expectations set. All I really know is that it's open until like 7AM, and it's ground zero for techno, right? I'm excited to check it out based on the stories I've heard. I'm sure the guys in the band are going to have a blast, they like dancing with girls.

Your signed to Kranky, a label known for electronic and experimental releases. How did your collaboration start?
We were fans and friends of the label, so we sent them our first album more to see what they thought of it, we weren't really expecting them to want to release it. Naturally. we were excited to work with them; I really do think they're one of the best labels around, very realistic and considered. They have a real identity and ethic, I admire them very much and completely trust them.

How did you create your sound, and how do you identify yourself in music?
We're really informed by repetition and minimal structures, so I think that's why we get tagged as Krautrock a lot. We're also pushing against that traditional blues structure and tone, so that keeps us in that camp as well. We really like dub-style production and having negative space in the songs, so that opens things up a bit. I don't really know how we identify ourselves; we're just trying to make music that satisfies the four of us. We're definitely conscious of our influences, but I think we're trying to combine them in new ways. That's what we hope, anyway.

What do you think music is?
Music is how people explain things to themselves that they're unable to articulate in other ways. It's emotions, motivation, desire, drive. I really do believe that music can bring the entire world together...and that religion is going to destroy it.

This article originally appeared on our sister site Noisey Germany.