Interview Yogi Lang (RPWL)

"Religion is one of the most dangerous aspects in our social development"

(April 2014 text by Martien Koolen, pictures by Arthur Haggenburg, edited by Peter Willemsen)

WANTED (see review) is the new album by the German prog rockers of RPWL and again it's a beauty! They seem to grow with every new album. Wanted even charted the German Top 100 Albums and the first video of the single Swords And Guns will be presented. RPWL are on a roll and they even become popular in their own country. Background Magazine thought this to be a good opportunity to talk with singer and keyboardist Yogi Lang about WANTED and other interesting things concerning RPWL.

Yogi Lang
Your previous album Beyond Man And Time got great reviews. Did that lead to more pressure within the band to record an even better album?
Yogi Lang: “No, not at all! It was right after the tour that we thought about bringing the main idea of Beyond Man And Time to the here and now. Of course we had the intention to make a somehow different album. However, it was quite clear that the world 'beyond man and time' couldn't sound like the cruel world outside.”

Do you think you succeeded in making Wanted even better than Beyond Man And Time?
“I think 'better' is a wrong word here. We tried to make it sound differently regarding the story of the album.”

Beyond Man And Time was a rather ambitious album, but the new one even more. Do you agree or is ambitious a 'dirty' word for you?
“We always try to bring music and words together as close as possible. The interesting thing for us is to create a new language that goes beyond the sum of both. We won't leave the studio until we have the feeling that we've reached this goal. If you call that ambitious, then we are.”

Wanted is again a concept album; what is the album about and who came up with the idea?
In Wanted we try to realize the basic thesis of Beyond Man And Time that we call the 'freedom of the spirit': what if the allegory of Plato's cave wasn't only a parable but a description of some kind of a “ substance, an information leaflet for a medicine, that they found at the time in ancient Greece! For those who forgot about it: in Plato's cave a number of prisoners are sitting in a cave chained in one direction. Behind them there's a fire, but they never see the origin of the fire, the reality, but only the shadows on the wall. We have to unchain our mind, turn around and step out of the cave into the light of truth and reality. You may guess what these shadows could be, but true knowledge lies outside the cave. A great picture with many aspects based on this act of liberation.

“But let's return to the story that starts with this fascinating thought: the ultimate liberation from all delusions, all beliefs, all ghosts of our thoughts and the result will be pure and true. The wise men of ancient Greece of course were aware of the fact that people aren't prepared to lose their illusions and invisible helps. All the mythological and religious beliefs were needed, not only to keep people under control, but also to keep up
Kalle Wallner
a social structure that makes social living possible. So the origin of these thoughts, the medicine, was buried in oblivion. It wasn't until the 19th century that Guiseppe Garibaldi was interested in ancient Greece and found parts of writings that lead him exactly to this lost thought: was Plato's cave a description or a prescription of a medicine? And yes, he found a link to Hippocrates, a great Greek scientist! Being aware of what he held in hand, he went to the freemasons to ask for help. Again, it was decided that people aren't ready for this ultimate liberation, and so again the secret was kept for hundreds of years. Until now! Explorers found the diary of Garibaldi with the secret formula! It was a friend of us who decrypted this unbelievable part. In long discussions we decided that now is the time. We not only think that people are ready, but they are in need of new thoughts, a new age of spiritual liberation. We created a simple pill and this is where the album starts. This pill of course is not in the interests of the ruling elite. They don't want a new age of enlightenment, neither in the secular world, nor in the industry of religions. Let me give a simple example: people vote but without knowing the content of party programs. I mean, they could read it, but who cares when the pictures are nice and the promises sweet? In that context manipulation is easy, isn't it? I think most of these behaviour patterns are still from former times when kings ruled the nations and they only expected you to do what you were told to do. Of course hand in hand with the other side! Another example: how many people would describe themselves as being Catholics without knowing who wrote the Bible and how the writers manipulated the content through the years. Again, they could have the knowledge if they'd only wanted to, but who cares when your source of knowledge is belief. I know, belief is very consoling and comfortable, but is it also the right instrument to overcome today's problems in a globalized world? Our ability to learn is the main evolutionary revolution of mankind.”

“Anyway, the ruling elite starts to act as they always do when there's something that doesn't fit their system: they try to criminalize us in order to get rid of us. So we take our last option: becoming illegal and going underground! Now your duty to act in your ethical understanding in combination with running out of legal options lies on the table! It's the decision between leaving the path of being human or leaving the path of our social concept of power relations. In our story we are convinced of the need to overcome restorations of old concepts, repainted versions of old failed models in order to get closer to a new idea of what a human being could be in the future. Is that already terror? Or is it just against the interests of the ruling elite trying to control the people? You see, there are many interesting questions in the story.”
Markus Jehle

Well, that all sounds quite interesting, I have to admit. Would you say that RPWL is commercially successful now, or are you still an underground band?
“Well, that depends on your understanding of the word 'commercial'. It's good to see how it all has developed through the years. It's not only RPWL, but it's also our label with a lot of good artists, the studio, the solo works. So, whatever is commercial, the wheels keep turning! But the fuel for our engine will never be led by commercial goals like earning a lot of money or reaching as many people as possible by making three-minute entertainment trash.”

Does the German music press finally recognize and appreciate the music of RPWL, or do they still consider the band as a rather odd rip off of Pink Floyd?
“We never had the response of being a rip off, but that becomes quite clear, if you see our history. We just started to have fun on stage in the late nineties. We were just jamming over old Floyd themes, playing the music as we felt it. I'm not quite sure if people really knew the songs we played then. When we performed our first concerts, I remember a couple of people in the audience coming after the show to ask about the final song we played. They told us they nearly had every Floyd album, but didn't know this one. That song was Hole In The Sky which we recorded later on for our first album God Has Failed (2000). Well, to be honest: I don't like cover bands that much. Covering a song without having certain aspects to bring in seems to me rather senseless. Still, the music we're making belongs to a small category, but that's okay by me. If you're recognized by too many people, there's something wrong with your music.”

Some bands play at huge festivals to get recognition and to be commercially successful. Isn't that something for you or is RPWL not a festival band?
Marc Turiaux
“No, I don't think that there's anything good in any mass movement, whatsoever. Well, maybe in a new age of enlightenment...”

The final song on Wanted is called A New Dawn which is about religion. Are you religious yourself and is religion a good or a bad thing?
“Religion is one of the most dangerous aspects in our social development. I think it may be a good thing to believe in whatever you want. However, the institutional religions are at least a bad thing for our development. The two worlds of religious truth and historic truth are like a bipolar reality. I don't want to be misunderstood: you can believe in anything, but it has nothing to do with enlightenment! This is something that has to come out of us as the individuals we are and we always have been. Religion may have been useful as a kind of social guidance in the past. However, from the beginning our worldly religions have been misused to control people and to gain power over them. Our future lies in the individuality, in the difference of every single person and not in an equality of thinking or believing.”

Swords And Guns really has a catchy chorus. Could that song be used as a single or is it not radio-friendly enough?
No, I think the religious content isn't what people like to hear. But if you don't ask things in a provoking way, none is listening! I know some media say that the content is too anti-religious to be played. I think we started to reach the listeners, but in fact it will be our first single and video.”

The cover of the album is great. You all look very shabby and wanted indeed. Whose idea was it?
“That is the simple reality if you are wanted. Isn't it fascinating how authorities manipulate people with those mug shots? Or have you ever seen a friendly picture of someone that fell from grace with the ruling elite?”

The enclosed biography has been subtitled The Band That Knew Too Much. What exactly do you mean by that?
“The substance to cure the whole world in just a couple of minutes is in our hands. This knowledge makes us to the most wanted people all over the world.”

I know it's kind of a stupid question, but what's your favourite track on Wanted?
“I got no favourite track, but Swords And Guns was a kind of key moment. You exactly need these moments to get a vision of the whole world for an album! I went to the studio and told our guitar player Kalle Wallner that I had an idea. I wanted to write about the crusades that took place in the Middle Ages as a symbol for the horrible consequences of religious fanaticism in general. While
Werner Taus
I was talking myself into rage, as I always do, Kalle was playing a demo he recorded the day before. We both stood there and saw the crusaders passing by, straight on their way to one of those dark and bloody pages in the book of history.”

What are your future plans?
“The live show is the next big thing on schedule. Again we're bringing the whole story on stage; it will be a real challenge! I think after the production of the album, the rehearsing, and a month of touring everyone needs time to recreate. This could be a good time for recording solo albums in the second half of 2014.”

Thanks for your time and your interesting answers.
“You're always welcome.”

More info about RPWL on the Internet:
       RPWL Website
       review album 'Wanted'
       review album 'Gentle Art Of Music'
       review album 'Beyond Man And Time'
       review DVD 'The RPWL Live Experience'
       review DVD 'A Show Beyond Man And Time'
       review concert 10-Apr-2009 in Zoetermeer (NL)
       review concert 12-Sep-2010 in Den Bosch (NL)
       review concert 14-Apr-2012 in Zoetermeer (NL)
       review concert 22-Apr-2012 in Uden (NL)
       review concert 2-Nov-2012 in Helmond (NL)

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