Gig preview: Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld at Recon Festival, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Blixa Bargeld und Teho Teardo. Picture: Thomas Rabsch
Blixa Bargeld und Teho Teardo. Picture: Thomas Rabsch
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Now in its second year, Recon is a festival that turns its focus away from the mainstream towards experimental and innovative music, film and art.

Staged at various venues across Leeds and Bradford from tonight until September 29, it features, among others, Stephen O’Malley of the avant-garde rock group Sunn O))), Scottish folk artist James Yorkston and a collection of films by Kenneth Anger, Pipilotti Rist and Derek Jarman that treat pop music as found material.

One of the most eye-catching concerts is a collaboration between Italian composer Teho Teardo and German singer, writer, composer and director Blixa Bargeld.

A founding member of the rock band Meathead – that also featured Lydia Lunch – Teardo, who turns 48 tomorrow, has recorded a number of albums over the past 25 years. For his soundtrack to the film Denti, by Gabriele Salvatores, he won the Quality prize from the Italian Minister of Culture. His soundtrack for another Salvatores movie, Il Divo, won the David di Donatello Award in 2009.

Born in West Berlin in 1959, Bargeld founded the industrial rock band Einsturzende Neubaten – or, in English, Collapsing New Buildings – in 1980. Between 1983 and 2003 he also played guitar with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Currently residing in San Francisco, Berlin and Beijing, he has written music for theatre and film soundtracks, and released spoken word recordings.

Ahead of their concert in Leeds, Teho Teardo spoke to the YEP.

When and how did you first meet and how soon afterwards did you discuss the idea of collaborating on an album?

We met working on Ingiuria, a theatre pièce we did with Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio a few years back.

Then we worked on a song for a soundtrack I did, the song was A Quiet Life, then the idea to write an entire album of songs came naturally.

You recorded Still Smiling in Berlin and Rome, over a period of two years; did you start out with a plan or did the 12 songs come together organically?

We’ve been always working together developing the ideas I recorded in my studio in Rome.

The feel of this record is very intimate; was Blixa aiming to reveal a side of himself that perhaps we haven’t heard before?

It is very intimate, I’d say chamber music, we’ve worked a lot with a string quartet.

In the song Mi Scusi, Blixa apologises for his poor Italian; were you called upon as a language coach for this song?

If you apologise at the very beginning, then you’re somehow allowed to do whatever you want.

Sure I helped him for the pronunciation, but Blixa knows Italian enough to sing in my own language.

There are also no drumbeats on this album; Did you feel they might distract from the mood of the songs?

Oh yes, you’re right, there are no beats, there was a moment in which I thought I have forgot to use beats on the album. Nevermind, it works fine anyway.

The only song that has a drum beat is Come Up And See Me.

How did you choose your other collaborators – who include the Balanescu Quartet and cellist Martina Bertoni – on Still Smiling?

I choose my collaborators according to the sound I have in mind, I am totally happy with the results we achived on this record.

Amongst the original songs, you also recorded a cover version of Alone With The Moon by the British group The Tiger Lillies: are you both admirers of their work?

That was Blixa’s idea, I didn’t know that song, but it’s been such a pleasure to reinvent it, writing a string arrangement that brought it within our own world but still respectful of what the song was.

I’ve heard that Tiger Lillies liked it.

You will be playing a rare concert together in Leeds later this month; what captured your interest in the Recon Festival?

We’ve been playing a lot of shows, really a good amount all over Europe, the reactions have been always very positive. Bringing this material on stage is such a pleasure for us. When I play live I have the feeling I am dancing through the whole show.

Very excited also to visit Leeds, it’ll be my first time there. I’m also honoured that we’ve been invited to play at the Recon Festival.

Teho Teardo and Blixa Bargeld play at the Recon Festival at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, on Friday, September 26, 7.45pm, £17.50. 0844 848 2700.

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