Laibach (band)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Origin Slovenia
Genres Avant-Garde
Martial industrial
Years active 1980present
Labels Mute
Associated acts 300.000 V.K.

Laibach /'lba/ is a Slovenian avant-garde music group, strongly associated with industrial, martial, and neo-classical musical styles. Laibach formed June 1 1980 in Trbovlje, Slovenia (then Yugoslavian). Laibach represents the music wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective, of which it was a founding member in 1984. The name "Laibach" is the German name for Slovenia's capital city, Ljubljana.


Laibach has frequently been accused of both far left and far right political stances due to their use of uniforms and totalitarian-style aesthetics and also due to the Wagnerian influence found in some of their music, notably the thunder in "Sympathy for the Devil (Time for a Change)" and releases such as Macbeth. They were also accused of being members of the neo-nationalism movement, which reincarnates modern ideas of nationalism. When confronted with such accusations, Laibach are quoted as responding, "We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter" .[1]

The members of Laibach are notorious for rarely stepping out of character. Some releases feature artwork by the Communist and early Dada artist/satirist, John Heartfield. Laibach concerts have sometimes aesthetically appeared as political rallies. When interviewed, they answer in wry manifestos, showing a paradoxical lust and condemnation for authority.[1]

Richard Wolfson wrote of the group:

Laibach's method is extremely simple, effective and horribly open to misinterpretation. First of all, they absorb the mannerisms of the enemy, adopting all the seductive trappings and symbols of state power, and then they exaggerate everything to the edge of parody... Next they turn their focus to highly charged issues — the West's fear of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the power games of the EU, the analogies between Western democracy and totalitarianism.[2]

Cover songs

Laibach is also known for their cover versions, which are often used to subvert the original message or intention of the song — a notable example being their version of the song "Live is Life" by Opus, an Austrian arena rock band. In this example, Laibach recorded two new interpretations of the song, which they titled Leben Heißt Leben, and Opus Dei. The first of these two interpretations was the opening song on the Laibach album Opus Dei (1987), and was sung in German. The second version, Opus Dei, was promoted as a single, and its promotional video (which used the title "Life is Life") was played extensively on American cable channel MTV.[3] Opus Dei retained some of the original song's English lyrics, but was delivered in a musical style that left the meaning of the lyrics open to further interpretation. Whereas the original is a feel-good pop anthem, Laibach's subversive interpretation twists the melody into a sinister, rolling military march. With the exception of the promotional video, the refrain is at one instance translated into German, giving an example of the sensitivity of its lyrics to context.

Other notable covers include the entirety of the Beatles album Let It Be (1988) — with the exclusion of the title track — and their maxi-single Sympathy for the Devil (1988) which deconstructs the Rolling Stones song of the same name with seven different interpretations of the song. Opus Dei — itself entitled in apparent reference to their cover of Opus's reggae anthem "Live is Life", the P2 lodge, and the eponymous Catholic organization — features a cover of Queen's "One Vision" with lyrics translated into German under the title Geburt einer Nation, revealing the ambiguity of lines like "One race one hope/One real decision". In NATO (1994), Laibach also memorably re-work Europe's glam metal anthem "The Final Countdown" as a Wagnerian disco epic.

In 2004, Laibach re-mixed the song "Ohne Dich" by Rammstein in a significantly altered version. Unlike the solo male vocals in the Rammstein original, this re-mix features both male and female vocals (supplied by Laibach's Milan Fras and Mina piler from the band Melodrom), and the orchestral sound of the original has been supplemented — and in some sections even replaced — by a more electronic element. The lyrics of the song were also subtly altered, most noticeably in the chorus: the original version was "Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein" (roughly: "without you I cannot exist"), whereas Laibach's re-worked the chorus declares "Ohne mich kannst du nicht sein" (roughly: "Without me you cannot exist").

Laibach do not only reference modern musicians through reinterpretation, but also sample or reinvent older musical pieces. For example, their song "Anglia" is based on the national anthem of the United Kingdom, "God Save the Queen". This song, and other based on national anthems are released on "Volk" album, which is a collection of Laibachs versions of national anthems of such countries like United States or Russia. On this album they also made an anthem for their NSK State in Time, which is based on their song "The Great Seal" from "Opus Dei" album.[4]

They are also currently touring with an audio-visual performance centered on Johann Sebastian Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge. Since this work has no specifications of acquired instruments and is furthermore based on mathematical principles, Laibach has argued that the music can be seen as proto-techno. Therefore, the band found Die Kunst der Fuge to be ideal for an interpretation using computers and software.

In 2009 Laibach also reworked Richard Wagner's "Overture To The Tannhäuser And The Singers' Contest At The Wartburg", "Sigfried-Idyll" and "The Ride Of The Walkyries" in collaboration with Symphonic orchestra RTV Slovenia, composed and conducted by Izidor Leitinger. Laibach's version is titled "VolksWagner".[5]

In addition to cover songs, Laibach has remixed two songs of the Florida death metal band Morbid Angel. These songs appear on the Morbid Angel EP "Laibach Re-mixes".[6]

In 2009 Laibach made a new versions of their own songs from the early 1980s such as "Brat moj", "Boji" and "Smrt za smrt".[7]


Although primarily a musical group, Laibach has sometimes worked in other media. In their early years, especially before the founding of Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), Laibach produced several works of visual art. A notable example was MB 84 Memorandum (1984) an image of a black cross that served as a way to advertise Laibach's appearances during a period in the 1980s when the government of Yugoslavia banned the name "Laibach".[8] Cross imagery, and variations on the cross are apparent in many Laibach recordings and publications.

The visual imagery of Laibach's art (or 'Laibach Kunst', as it calls itself) has been described as 'radically ambiguous', [9] An early example of this ambiguity would be the woodcut entitled 'The Thrower,' also known as Metalec ("The Metal Worker"). This work features a monochrome silhouette of a figure with a clenched fist holding a hammer. The work could be seen by its original Slovene viewers as a poster promoting industrial protest, but the poster could have also been interpreted as a symbol of industrial pride. Another aspect of this woodcut is the large typefaced word 'LAIBACH', evoking memories of the Nazi occupation of Slovenia (when the capital city was briefly known as Laibach). This piece was featured prominently during a TV interview of Laibach in 1983, during which the interviewer Jure Pengov called Laibach "enemies of the people." [10]


Some early Laibach albums were pure industrial, with hard industrial percussions, heavy rhythms, and roaring vocals. Later in the mid-80s, the Laibach sound became more richly layered with samples from classical music including from Gustav Holsts The Planets. The band began their tradition of cover songs in 1987 with the album Opus Dei, where their sound was changed again.


Martial music

Main article: martial music

Some early material by Laibach and later neoclassical releases by the band — such as 1990's Macbeth release — were influential on certain artists within the martial music genre.


The popular German musical group Rammstein has acknowledged influence by both the aesthetic approach and material of Laibach. When members of Laibach were asked by an interviewer about Rammstein "stealing" from them, they responded that "Laibach does not believe in originality... Therefore, Rammstein could not 'steal' much from us. They simply let themselves get inspired by our work, which is absolutely a legitimate process. We are glad that they made it. In a way, they have proven once again that a good 'copy' can make more money on the market than the 'original.'"[11] Laibach would later provide a remix for the Rammstein single "Ohne Dich".


Out on July 9 2007 via Laibach's own label NSK are 4 releases by the Laibach side-projects 300.000 VK and Rotor. From the electronic project Rotor featuring Mina piler (Melodrom/Laibach) comes "Phonophobia" and "Rotorsphere" which both combine 'modern technology effects, live-experimentations, DJ-compatible rhythms and techno-industrial mayhem' as they call it. Next is 300.000 VK with two reissues, "Hard Drive : Bill Gates" and "Paracelsus", the first holding mostly hard and fast drum and bass techno. "Paracelsus" from its side has been out of print for several years since its original release on 31 October 1994.[12]


Laibach has been the subject of several documentaries:

  • 2005, Divided States of America: Laibach 2004 Tour [13] - Directed by Sao Podgorek
  • 1996, Predictions of Fire (Prerokbe Ognja) [14] - Directed by Michael Benson
  • 1993, Laibach: A Film From Slovenia [15] - Directed by Daniel Landin and Chris Bohn
  • 1988, Laibach: Victory Under the Sun (Slovenian title: Laibach: Zmaga pod soncem, serbo-croatian title Laibach: Pobeda pod suncem) [16] - Directed by Goran Gajic


In 1978 Dejan Knez formed his very first band Salte Morale.[17] Basically, Salte Morale was the first incarnation of Laibach. During summer holidays 1980 after the suggestion of Knez father, famous Slovenian painter and artist Janez Knez, the band changed the name into Laibach. This incarnation included Dejan Knez, Sreko Bajda, Andrej Lupinc, Toma Hostnik and Bine Zerko. Soon after that, Knez's cousin Ivan (Jani) Novak and Milan Fras joined the band. In the first period Laibach were a quintet, but soon after that they declared that Laibach has only four members Vier Personen. Sometimes those four members of the band were signed with their pseudonyms: Dachauer, Keller, Saliger and Eber.[18]. From the mid 80s until mid 90s the four full time members were Dejan Knez, Milan Fras, Ervin Markoek and Ivan (Jani) Novak. From time to time, some other persons, such as Oto Rimele (from Lani Franc band), Nikola Sekulovi, famous bass player from the Demolition Group, and some other musicians (such as Matej Mrnik and Roman Deman) joined Laibach. Slovene singer and radio announcer Anja Rupel has also performed with the group.

Unfortunately, Ervin Markoek and Dejan Knez became serious drug addicts , and both left the band. Knez joined the group again during the WAT tour; and again on the promo concert of the Kunst der Fuge in Leipzig. In the meanwhile Knez was not in the band. Markoek again appears on the press photos for WAT. On the press photos for Volk album were Ivan Novak, Milan Fras, Boris Benko and Primo Hladnik. Benko and Hladnik are members of the group Silence, and collaborators on the Volk album.

Current (Volk lineup)

  • Milan Fras - vocals
  • Ivan Novak - lights and projection
  • Mina piler or Boris Benko or Jadranka Juras - vocals, synthesizer
  • Janez Gabri - drums
  • Luka Jamnik - synthesizer
  • Primo Hladnik - (member of Slovenian group Silence) synthesizer
  • Eva Breznikar - (member of Slovenian group Make Up 2) vocals, percussion
  • Nataa Regovec - (former member of Slovenian pop group Make Up 2) vocals, percussion
  • Damjan Bizilj - synthesizer

Current (KunstDerFuge Tour lineup)

  • Luka Jamnik - electronics
  • Iztok Turk - electronics
  • Janez Gabri - drums
  • Sao Vollmayer - electronics
  • Ivan Novak - electronics and voice


  • Toma Hostnik - singer (deceased)
  • Dejan Knez - (founder and forming member) keyboards, electronics, drums (left the band after album WAT)
  • Ervin Markoek - drums, keyboards, electronics (left the band in 1989, returned for the next album Kapital, appears on press photos until WAT)
  • Roman Deman - drums
  • Nikola Sekulovi - bass
  • Matej Mrnik - guitars
  • Dragoslav Draa Radojkovi - drums
  • Sreko Bajda (founder and forming member)
  • Dare Hocevar - bass
  • Borut Krinik - guitar
  • Oto Rimele - guitar
  • Andrej Lupinc (founder and forming member)
  • Mina piler - vocals
  • Anja Rupel - vocals
  • Bine Zerko (founder and forming member)
  • Joe Pegam

Appearances in popular culture

  • In 1994, a brief 10-second clip of "Decade Null" from Kapital was used in one of the movie trailers for Speed [19]
  • In 2002, Laibach Appears for the first time in popular media in the movie Spider-Man, with the song "Panorama". [20] This song was first released on their 1985 self-titled debut album.
  • Von Bach, a fictional superpowered character modeled after Milan Fras, appears in the DC comics graphic novel Kingdom Come, by Alex Ross and Mark Waid. In it, he appears dressed in Laibach-style uniform and displays the group's cross tattooed on his chest. He is described as follows: "German-speaking superhuman and would-be dictator is the example of the Hitleresque villain that had so much symbolic importance in the Golden Age of comic books. The blocky cross on his chest is evocative of the kind of bold symbols used by fascists. Von Bach has the words `liebe' (love) and `hass' (hate) tattooed on his arms and, in fact, his entire body has been covered with one large tattoo of that dark color that most tattoos become, with his natural flesh color only coming through in the designs on his body". On the NSK State website, the band states they have "been payed with uncommon honour" by this.[21]
  • In 1999, a tribute album to Laibach titled Schlecht und Ironisch - Laibach Tribut[22] was released.
  • Laibachs song "God is God" from album "Jesus Christ Superstars" appears on soundtrack for computer game "Command & Conquer - Alarmstufe Rot"[23] and on album "The Blair Witch Project: Josh's Blair Witch Mix"[24].


7" Singles

  • Life Is Life/Germania (Mute Rec., 1987, London)
  • Sympathy For The Devil/Sympathy For The Devil (two different versions) (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Across The Universe/Maggie Mae (Mute Rec., 1988, London)

12" Singles

  • Boji/Sila/Brat Moj (L.A.Y.L.A.H. (in association with Les Disques Du Crepuscule), 1984, Bruxells)
  • Panorama/Decree (East-West Trading Comp. (Cherry Red), 1984, London)
  • Die Liebe/Groesste Kraft (Cherry Red, 1985)
  • Geburt Einer Nation/Leben Heisst Leben (ins.) (Mute Rec., 1987, London)
  • Life Is Life/Germania/Life (Mute Rec., 1987, London)
  • Sympathy For The Devil 1/Laibach, 300.000 V.K. (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Sympathy For The Devil 2/Germania, 300.000 V.K. (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Sympathy For The Devil/Sympathy For The Devil (picture disc with two versions) (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Across The Universe/Maggie Mae/Get Back (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • 3. Oktober/Geburt Einer Nation (live) ((German only 12" single)Mute Rec./Intercord Gmbh, 1990, London/Stuttgart)
  • Wirtschaft Ist Tot/Wirtschaft Ist Tot (Mute Rec., 1992, London)
  • Wirtschaft Ist Tot/Sympathy For The Devil ((remixes, for promotion only) Mute Rec., 1992, London)
  • Final Countdown/Final Countdown (Mute Rec., 1994, London)
  • In The Army Now/War (Mute Rec., 1995, London)
  • God Is God (Mute Rec, 1996, London)
  • Tanz Mit Laibach (Mute Rec., 2004, London)
  • Das Spiel Ist Aus (Mute Rec., 2004, London)
  • Anglia (album) (Mute Rec., 2006, London)

CD Singles

  • Sympathy For The Devil/Sympathy For The Devil/Sympathy For The Devil ((picture cd with three versions) Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Across The Universe/Maggie Mae/Get Back (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Panorama/Die Liebe/Decree/Groesste Kraft (Cherry Red, 1989, London)
  • 3. Oktober/Geburt Einer Nation (live) ((German only cd)Mute Rec./Intercord Gmbh, 1990, London/Stuttgart)
  • Wirtschaft Ist Tot/Wirtschaft Ist Tot (Mute Rec., 1992, London)
  • Final Countdown/Final Countdown (Mute Rec., 1994, London)
  • In The Army Now/War (Mute Rec., 1995, London)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar / God Is God (Mute Rec., 1996, London)
  • Tanz Mit Laibach (Mute Rec., 2004, London)
  • Das Spiel Ist Aus (Mute Rec., 2004, London)
  • Anglia (album) (Mute Rec., 2006, London)


Vinyl releases

  • Laibach (Ropot, 1985, Ljubljana)
  • Rekapitulacija 1980-1984 ((double LP box set with booklet and poster) Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, 1985, Hamburg)
  • Neu Konservatiw (live) (Semi Legal, 1985, Hamburg)
  • Nova Akropola (Cherry Red, 1985 (1987), London)
  • The Occupied Europe Tour 83-85 (live) (Side Effects Rec., 1986 (1990), London)
  • Opus Dei (Mute Rec., 1987, London)
  • Slovenska Akropola (Ropot, 1987, Ljubljana)
  • Krst Pod Triglavom - Baptism/Klangniederschrift Einer Taufe ((2x LP box)Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, 1987, Hamburg (Sub Rosa, 1988, Bruxells))
  • Let It Be (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Macbeth (Mute Rec., 1990, London)
  • Sympathy For The Devil (Mute Rec., 1990, London)
  • Kapital (Mute Rec., 1992, London)
  • NATO (Mute Lec., 1994, London)
  • Jesus Christ Superstars (Mute Rec., 1996, London)
  • WAT (Mute Rec., 2003, London)

CD releases

  • Laibach (Ropot, 1985, Ljubljana)
  • Opus Dei (Mute Rec., 1987, London)
  • Rekapitulacija 1980-1984 ((double CD box set with booklet and poster)Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, 1987, Hamburg)
  • Let It Be (Mute Rec., 1988, London)
  • Nova Akropola (Cherry Red, 1988, London)
  • Macbeth (Mute Rec., 1990, London)
  • Sympathy for the Devil (EP) (Mute Rec., 1990, London)
  • Kapital (Mute Rec., 1992, London)
  • Ljubljana - Zagreb - Beograd (The Grey Area/Mute Rec., 1993, London)
  • NATO (Mute Rec., 1994, London)
  • Slovenska Akropola (Ropot, 1995, Ljubljana)
  • Occupied Europe Nato Tour 1994-95 (The Grey Area/Mute Rec., 1996, London)
  • Jesus Christ Superstars (Mute Rec., 1996, London)
  • M.B. December 21, 1984 (The Grey Area/Mute Rec., 1997, London)
  • Rekapitulacija 1980-1984 ((redesigned and remastered)NSK Recordings, 2002, Ljubljana)
  • Neu Konservatiw (live) ((digitally remastered CD release with booklet)Cold Spring, 2003, Northants)
  • Laibach (NSK Recordings, 1999, Ljubljana)
  • The John Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit, 2002, London)
  • WAT (Mute Rec., 2003, London)
  • Anthems ((double CD release with booklet) Mute Rec., 2004, London)
  • Volk (Mute Rec., 2006, London)
  • Volk Tour London CC Club (Live Here Now, 2007).
  • Laibachkunstderfuge (MP3 - Mute Rec., 5. 5. 2008, London/CD - Dallas Rec., 2008, Ljubljana - CD-version only available in Slovenia and Croatia)

Cassette only releases

  • Laibach/Last Few Days (Skuc, 1983, Ljubljana)
  • Documents Of Opression ((live from N.L. Centrum, Amsterdam) Staal Tape, 1984, Amsterdam)
  • Vstajenje v Berlinu ((live in Berlin 1984) Skuc, 1984, Ljubljana)
  • Life In Hell ((live from Hell, Hertogenbosch, 1985) V2, 1985, Hertogenbosch)
  • Ein Schauspieler ((live from the N.L. Centrum Amsterdam Church, 1985) Staal Tape, 1985, Amsterdam)
  • Divergences/Divisions ((live in Bordeaux, 1986) Le Reseau, 1986, Bordeaux/Toulouse)

Video releases

VHS releases

  • Pobjeda Pod Suncem (1988)
  • Bravo (1993)
  • A Film From Slovenia (1993)
  • Occupied Europe Nato Tour 199495 (1996)

DVD releases

  • Laibach: Videos / A film about WAT (2004)
  • Laibach 2: A Film from Slovenia / Occupied Europe Nato Tour 199495 (2004)
  • Laibach 3: Divided States of America / Laibach Live (2006)
  • Laibach 6: Volk Dead in Drpovlje · videos · screens (2008)

Side projects

  • 300.000 V.K., Dejan Knez avant-garde electronic music side project
  • Germania, side project, Laibach, Iztok Turk and Anja Rupel
  • Kraftbach
  • 600.000 V.K., responsible for the music for the Noordung theatre productions
  • Sturm und Klang
  • Baron Carl Von Reichenbach, Dejan Knez avant-garde electronic music side project
  • Neue Slowenische Kunst - Slovenian arts collective


  • Richard Wolfson, "Warriors of weirdness", The Daily Telegraph, 4 September 2003.
  • Arns, Inke (2002). Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) - eine Analyse ihrer kuenstlerischen Strategien im Kontext der 1980er Jahre in Jugoslawien, Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg.
  • Arns (ed.), Inke (2003). Irwin: Retroprincip 1983-2003, Frankfurt/Main: Revolver - Archiv fuer aktuelle Kunst.
  • Alexei Monroe, "Interrogation Machine - Laibach and NSK", MIT Press, Sep 2005. Foreword by Slavoj iek.

External links

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This page was last modified 02.11.2009 10:07:44

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