Lansing-Dreiden"Not everything has to be popular."
We got called pretentious a lot. I remember that word being thrown at us. Pretentious, pretentious, pretentious... But Magical realism, parallel universe—it's almost some sci-fi nerd shit. It’s like we had a sense of humor the whole time and no one really knew.
So the piece in Miami was meant to express that?
Yeah. And again everyone got mad. No one laughed. They tried to sabotage the performance.
So despite the appeal of the music you kept an equal balance with other practices.
It was really important that we kept the company interdisciplinary—kept all those little trees alive, all those little plants happy and not focus too much on one thing. Even though there was maybe a broader response and also more money being thrown at us for the musical endeavor it was always really important to us to make sure we had a new cycle of artwork and visuals equally.
Just to keep it interesting.
When you have so many different people you end up wanting to explore different genres.
Can we talk about your influences?
Can we talk about that? I don't think we can talk about that. We were supposed to meet ahead of time and make sure...
There is that group the KLF.
We didn't realize what they were about even when we were doing the Lansing-Dreiden stuff. We knew the music and that they were cool. Looking back there are definitely parallels between what we did and what they did.
They got like a million dollars at some point and burned it, right?
They had a manual for how to be successful: The first thing you have to do is fire your band and sell all your instruments because you're gonna need money to pay for a studio and hire an engineer to make your music for you. Then you have to go and get a book of records for hit songs and just lift an old one, change the lyrics a little bit, buy an accompaniment…
What about brand Identity? That seemed like an ongoing element to Lansing-Dreiden .
We were into taking things that shouldn't be branded and turning them into something commercial and trying to make them more commercial. I think it's a preoccupation that a lot of artists have had in the past.
And that a brand can have a creation myth.
The idea that a brand could tell a story is not new—look at a culture like ancient Egypt where the aesthetics, religion, belief system, government, and architecture all kind of said one thing. Now there are companies like Nike. They can make a commercial that's just fast cuts of athletes about to start running with the sound of an orchestra tuning and then you just throw a Nike logo on it and it's completely understandable.
The context of a brand changes everything.
Because we're trained to accept brand as something that can come at you from all these different directions—you identify all those things as the same thing. We found that idea really interesting. It's not so much that we were interested in creating a brand—it was more that that language of doing so was really interesting.
Was your website a part of that?
Today it's totally normal for an artist or a band to have a website, videos… a kind of unified aesthetic. We were operating at this moment where the internet was pretty new.
It felt like more of a statement back then. Nowadays forget about it.
How important was it for you guys to consider your audience?
We never understood who our fans were. To this day we don’t know what people think. You put out a song, you make a drawing, you make a video… Each person is gonna have their own relationship to it.
Anonymity plays into that too.
Because we were anonymous we didn't have that interaction. New York is a very social city and in order to do really well you have to be a social meme. That's one of the reasons why this project came to a slow halt. Our gallery ended, and we weren't out there talking to other galleries. We never had been.
Did you guys work on other stuff outside of Lansing-Dreiden?
Not really. We all had jobs but none of them were really satisfying our creative impulses.
Does Lansing-Dreiden still exist?
Totally. There is always the option for someone to lay a cool mil on us.
Were there any projects that you didn't get to do because of lack of financing?
Tons. There was a whole building we wanted to construct to build a performance stage and a viewing room, and a fucking gallery space. We only got around to like one half percent of the stuff we wanted to make. We wanted to make feature films, video games.
Did you turn down any opportunities in the past?
There were offers to unmask us or something in the past for prominent press, and we couldn't do it. We loosely got offered like licensing opportunities for our music on commercials or something that we also turned down. Looking back it still looks like the right thing to do.
Do you consider Lansing-Dreiden to be a success?
No real entity like us has succeeded because it's difficult to pull off. If things are going really well you're doing something wrong. You gotta question it.It was always just about making Lansing-Dreiden work. None of us had goals. It seemed unrealistic to have a smash hit, tour the world, be in the best museums.
You didn’t expect it to do that.
None of us wanted to be famous. We were turned off by that idea. The KLF talk about how the repercussions of having a number one hit in the UK could be life-changing in a super negative way. You can either run the route of like being this frozen version of yourself for the rest of your life in order to maintain the success that you had with that one hit, or you can do what a lot of people do which is try to prove to your audience that you can do all these different things. It just seems like a brutal disfigurement.
You don’t need that.
Some movies are gonna be seen by millions of people. Some movies are really small movies that have a limited audience that really appreciates it. Not everything has to be popular. There is a lot to be proud of in just those six years or whatever where it was actually working. There is plenty to explore if anybody gives a shit.