Ernst Horn
»Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 2’91«
Zillo Music Magazine Feature

Caricature of a sniper


Often enough art is caught up with reality. And sometimes this happens faster than you want. While Ernst Horn talks on the phone about his latest reinterpretation of the “Baghdad” topic, US troops are advancing into the demilitarized zone on the Tigris. The Munich native, who is usually so cheerfully tuned, sounds correspondingly angry.

“They’re really marching into a country that’s already on the ground. All this disarmament was probably also aimed at making it as easy as possible for the Americans. They are trying to justify a great injustice. But with complex-laden George Bush Jr., I’m not surprised anymore. He’s even more primitive than his dad. You could almost think he was his caricature.” Cynical words, considering that Ernst Horn has already dealt with the Gulf crisis on his 1991 album “The Skies Over Baghdad”. “That’s right. But the situation was a little different. The annexation of Kuwait really frightened me back then, because nobody knew what the Hussein was planning next. “Today, the media are much more veiled so that no one realizes that George W. only wants to eliminate his father’s trauma.”

But although the CD “Lili Marleen, Baghdad, 02’91” gets frighteningly current features, it is the result of a performance at last year’s Munich Digital Analog Festival. “This was a gathering of the electronics and techno scene. An ideal setting for experimenting. By chance, the golf theme was already topical last autumn. I also wanted to link this topic to the Crusades with Qntal.” This explains the use of old Portuguese songs, which the helium-Vola voice Sabine Lutzenberger complements the half-hourly sound work. “When the victims of war are lamented, civilians, women and children are always mentioned first. The fact that a soldier is also a person who usually does not even act on his own initiative is often forgotten. But this soldier may have a girlfriend who sits at home and waits. And the Portuguese lyrics are about a woman who looks out to sea and longs for her lover.”

The title “Lili Marleen” seems to support this interpretation, although in World War II the hit was also a symbol for the cross-frontier power of music. “That’s not what this is about. It’s actually the picture of the waiting soldier’s bride. It was simply important to me to emphasize an individual fate. My personal opinion on this war was originally not supposed to play any role and it didn’t when I recorded it in 1991. Right now I would rather do a real hate thing… with a pig’s grunt or something.” Instead, the old presidential samples are supplemented by contributions by George jr. “You can tell how the tone has changed. The US is now much more selfish about its power. “Since they struck Afghanistan, they’ve become kind of cocky.” The voice samples are supplemented by excerpts from the old Hildebrandslied. “This is an addition to the content. The song describes the conflict between father and son. I just took out the lines where they’re both getting ready for the fight. “Besides, the archaic sound of Old High German fits in very well.”

As always, this is a demanding approach, but it also overloads the whole thing. “Yes,” Ernst reluctantly replies, “surely this is something very special, perhaps has more of a radio play character. But what the hell, my solo stuff isn’t for the masses. I guess you understand the emotional demand. And that’s good enough for me.” Truly humble words of the musician, who already made a statement on violence with “Hands White” on Deine Lakaien’s last album. “I am impressed by non-violence in demonstrations. I have participated in numerous demos myself, and I have often noticed a very primitive willingness to use violence. I believe in the power of non-violent protest.”

Elmar Klemm - ZILLO 5/2003