The Screen Behind the Mirror Syndicated Interview
Virgin Germany December 1999
Below is a transcript from an interview CD. It contains 31 tracks of answers (the questions are on paper), 3 IDs where Michael introduces a single (for use by radio stations), and 2 mini-interviews with an American narrator. This article is the transcript of the first 31 tracks and the larger mini-interview. All tracks were done by O-Ton-Cut.
Right now I am slowly updating this document with the transcription. Cretu's English is not fantastic and he speaks really fast! I hope to fully transcribe it as soon as possible.
The new album The Screen Behind the Mirror sounds similar to the first Enigma-album MCMXC a.D. because it uses the same elements at certain points. Did you plan to connect the two albums before you recorded the new one?
No basically each time before I start a record - if it's an Enigma record or maybe something else, but especially Enigma - I have a certain target which is... in this target are my feelings, my ideas of what I want to do. But all I will say is that there are a number of ways to Rome. I don't know if I will take road number 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. So the way I reach my target... this becomes clearer and clearer during the work. But I have some certain things, some basic ideas, and I'm following this trace. So for this record, for example, I wanted to put a special element... I wanted to get the rights for Carmina Burana from Carl Off, and I got them. It was a very important thing because they said "Forget it because they never gave the to anybody! If it was used it was used illegally." And it was also we had the problem because they shot music for ?? the publisher and they told us it's a band in America called Nas. They asked us for permission. We rejected it because you had the rights and they did it. So but they had to take it off of the market. So when you hear Carmina Burana somewhere it is used illegally. It's the first time in the history of short music for ?? that they gave it correctly to a pop musician.
Do you feel honored to be allowed to work on Carl Orff's Carmina Burana?
No, no, it's not an honour because they wouldn't give it to me if they wouldn't feel safe... that the music is safe in my hands. Because they know that I've studied classic when I was 18 because short music, music for like short publishing, is say the Rolls Royce for every classical composer if they offer you a contract or whatever...so you say I made it yeah? But I refused it at 18 because I knew that I won't work in classic music even if I've studied and I've finished my studies. And I wanted to make pop music. But they knew me, they knew my history, they knew my notes and everything, and they knew it was in good hands. So they gave me all... this I I didn't expect that they gave me all the liberty... OK you get the rights now, do what you want with the material. Nobody will want to hear it or test it or give his opinion before the record is finished. You have the rights, do what you want. We feel safe and we know we are in good hands. And I'm sure now that when they listen to the result, that from their point of view, that I treated this material with a lot of respect. And where I put it in in the music it's really don't feel that it's something from another classical work which was included in the pop music so you think it was written for this songs. And with this I think I did my job pretty well, for them.
Does Carl Orff's work have a special significance for you as a musician?
No from my musical background not specially, but Carmina Burana, or especially this section - the beginning and the end because it's the same part of O Fortuna - I loved it since I was a kid. Because I studied classical music. It was of my favourites. And it seems that in the back of my mind I always dreamed of using this material . And of course Enigma - it's a mixture of all kinds of music. Also classical elements to pop and rock and so on and so on. And I wanted to have this as one of the main themes in the album to have these parts from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.
Certain parts of the album sound very dark, almost threatening. Would you agree?
No I mean if you listen to these choirs... because they have something where you are... you get scared. Now it's kind of a fear of the, dunno, universal justice or whatever. Something you have to face, something which is very strong. This feeling gives you the music. And it's maybe the thrill what I like. But basically according to this album, I think of the four Enigma albums, this one has the most of the variety in feelings. So you really have it from very peaceful and very calm to a little bit of warning tones and a little bit of aggressive. Because it belongs to life. So I try to put inside all the feelings and how I see life and how I feel at the moment. Because it's always the thing, Probably this record... I couldn't do it in this way say in 3 years, or 3 years ago, it would be a different record. So all the records what I do they reflect, more or less, also how I feel and how I am in this period of my life.
You were educated in classical music, but switched to Pop afterwards. Is your classical background helpful? Does it get in your way sometimes?
See my classic studies, at the beginning after I left the university and, or conservatory sorry in English... And when I started with pop music it was really a disadvantage concerning writing songs, yeah? Because you work all your life with a very complicated kind of writing music. So you don't use it to write Ob Li Di, Ob Li Da for example. And you think "what the hell is this? I can't do it." And it took me long time, I think 7 years or something, to really made brainwash myself to forget this doctrine, you know, of the classical studies. But this problem is solved since many many years because also the results of the records what I did, not Enigma but the other one, it shows you that I am able to make commercial music. And this, without this brainwash, wouldn't be possible. But in the mean time it's a big advantage because, for example, especially for this kind of music, with Enigma, where you have to treat with classic music and so on and so on.... And what very good thing is that you learn to hear music without hearing it. That means you hear it only in your mind. Because there's no classical composer, or whoever, heard his symphony, or whatever, before it was not performed.. So for this kind of work it's a big advantage, the classical studies, or that I know exactly how to orchestrate and I know what's a ?? and what to make with a horn or I don't know what.
You have in-depth knowledge of both classical and Pop-music. Which of the two is more important, or is it simply impossible to compare the two?
No no without any doubt, pop music. See I mean if you take the music which is done today, I don't want to compare the fifth of Beethoven say with, I don't know, Yesterday from the Beatles. But I mean music should always reflect with a kind of reflection of our society. You have also in cinema, in painting, or in sculpture or whatever, in all the other arts. It should represent how we feel, how we are today. But if you see this classical music without states of vengeance of very rich widows, it wouldn't exist anymore. Because they still play something which is, I don't know how many hundred years old. And then even the instruments what I use, it has nothing to do with the development of building instruments. They have no electronic, no nothing inside it, something completely weird. And they think they are somebody and they are absolutely nothing. That's my opinion even studying classic. 'Cos imagine, say for example, ?? ?? (classical composer) not so long time ago, Richard Strauss, they talked to people who are building instruments. They need something special because they have a certain sound in their mind. But the range of instruments is not big enough so that they can put it in sound, you know, what they had in their mind. But who the hell today from all this classical specialist is talking to anybody? Nothing. They play on their violin or they have their drums. They have the same instruments what Ludwig Beethoven had and I can't take them serious.
You sound like you don't want to be associated with that type of music?
Logically it has nothing to do with what's happening around. They live in their world somewhere and one says to the other "You're the biggest, you're the biggest" but it's like incest. And that's why I am not part of it.
Enigma, as a project, seemed to have come to a conclusion with the release of the third album Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi in 1996. The new one is the fourth Enigma-Album. Do you have plans for even more albums in the future?
No I am looking into the future but it's very hard to give an answer because people ask me each time since Enigma 1, or after 2 after 3, "Is it the last Enigma? Will there be another Enigma?". And I have to give, and it's the only honest answer I can give, is if I have the feeling that I can still work on this high level which I establish for myself, then yes. But I won't exploit the name only to sell a few records and make something which is a disaster now because I would kill my favourite baby. So I will never do this.
I am surprised about how fresh and, say in a positive way, how naive this new record came out after so many years when I'm working. OK it's very personal stuff because nobody knows how I work and how long time it takes and so on and so on. But I'm very surprised about the result and I'm very happy because it's one of the best records I ever did. It has nothing to do with how many records will be sold in the future, no. But for what I wanted, what was the target, any my possibilities and so on and so on, it's one of the best records I ever did. So from this point of view I would say it will be an Enigma 5 but do I know if in 2 or 3 years I'm able to do it, maybe I'm getting completely dumped in the next 2 or 3 years and *laughs* the, you know, n it becomes a best of and that's it baby, yeah? That's the only honest answer I can give you.
The new album sounds more commercial than the last one. Would you agree?
Try to make it chronologically. Enigma 1 (MCMXC a.D.) was something which was a mixture of dreams in that I had from my childhood to the day when I did it. But it was something which had with problems of us, as human beings to do. Number 2 (The Cross of Changes) I wanted to do and it was more metaphysic stuff and then were more, it was based on numerology and perhaps psychological stuff. Number 3 (Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!) should be a mixture of the first both. But it was also very complicated period in my life because it was something what I never had before. Exactly when I started to work I became pappa. So with two little kids. Tried to be also a good husband, a good pappa, and at the same time to be the ? who lives somewhere on the hill. You know the fool on the hill who waits, who gets the crazy ideas. And it was extremely hard for me. And it was a situation what I did new in my life. And I wanted that everything goes well, that the kids are healthy, and so on and so on. Because they were so little and I had a very good friend where his kids died with 1 year. We were having dinner here and in the kid room and he died, you know? I don't know how you say kid's death, I don't know the term in English exactly. So I was very scared that everything goes well. And through this I wanted only that everything is nice and we love each other and da da da and so on and so on. And through this I think it's too round, too soft the third record. 'cos now when I hear it, even for my taste, it's a very good record but it's not reflecting myself. So, in this because I am somebody who is very energetic person and this one it has much more energy and really it goes great. And again I speak our language of human beings and not something crazy stuff which is in the back of my mind. So maybe that's why you have the opinion that it's more accessible, the record, than number 3 or maybe also the number 2.
You seem to be a positive, open-minded type of person. Yet your music sounds very dark and gloomy at times. Is there a difference between Michael Cretu, the musician, and Michael Cretu, the human being?
I am always the same but, say that's theoretically, but in daily life it's different. 'cos look, for example, now I am much more patient. If somebody tells me I don't know if the kids are coming someone says "Pappa let's see go and see Tarzan or whatever, the movies". A few months ago I said "I'm sorry I can't" yeah? And I have to, I have to go my way. So things are changing in daily life but me as a person I'm not changing. I'm the same one when I'm working or not. OK then maybe someone tells to me "hello" and I am somewhere and thinking about something that I can't hear him, you know? But that's maybe the biggest difference between private person and say the musician. But basically I'm the same. I have the same weight, the same skin, the same blood, so nothing changes and the ideas in my head.... or even now if I have some time and I think about things but I tell you after such a hard brain work of 2 years for sure I am now relaxed and I think about things but without any target, or apparently without any target. 'cos see my subconscience it's going .. the spider in the back of my mind start to spin the web, yeah? It's starting already, but I don't know exactly where it will go and what I'm thinking exactly about. But it always was the same after every record so nothing has changed. The principles are the same.
You mentioned the birth of your sons 4 years ago. What do you think, are you a better father or a better musician?
I would say I'm doing professionally music since say nearly 25 years and my kids are only four and a half. So maybe in twenty years you can ask them and they can give you an answer, or you can ask me and I can try to analyse this because then at least we have the same period of time what we're talking about. Now it's a complete unfair competition yeah? Because I can't pretend to be as good a father as I am as a musician because I don't have the history for it, and I don't have the proofs. But I think how people tell me, and if I see my kids OK most of the work Sandra is doing, my wife. But I think I'm a good father because they pretty nice well educated good boys.
In the beginning how did you reconcile the two major parts of your life, music and your children? Are the kids hard to handle sometimes?
They are crazy like all kids yeah? And 2 boys because they are twins. And with four and half years, I mean they are mad yeah? But it's absolute normal madness and not something special. No but for example, because I always work through the night now 'cos there no phone call and no-one disturbing me. But I always had breakfast with my kids before I went to bed. So I tried to, before they went to the kindergarten or whatever, so I tried to have contact with them. It's not that I say "OK pappa is on the road" 'cos I have the studio at home so they see me daily. But they can see me whenever they like.
Your wife Sandra also works in the music business as a singer. Would you like your children to follow in your footsteps and become musicians too?
From my point of view, and not only from my point of view also from my wife, 'cos we said we will try to educate them and try to explain them what are the values of life. And they will choose some day what they want to do. What's important is that they're happy. I am not the one who thinks it's like a dynasty and now some of them should go into my steps, or whatever, and follow the way. It's absolutely open. If they would like to make music I will try to support them and give them all the help, or maybe they are not talented enough so that I realise that "ah that's the wrong way" only to be like pappa. You don't have the quality. Maybe you become a brilliant lawyer but not a brilliant musician. But it's much too soon to say this. At least I will try to show them the way or the ways which are possible, and which one they will choose is their absolute, their choice. And the only thing which is important is that they are, that they will be lucky and happy, and that they are not annoying, or unnerving the people around them.
For Enigma you use new singers on a regular basis. Obviously a lot of singer would like to work with you. How do you pick the ones you actually use on your albums?
This I don't know, if there are a lot of people who want to work with me. But concerning these vocalists I always listen to music if it's in TV or radio or whatever and I mark some songs or make notice and I say "I like the voice form the song ta ta ta" even if I don't know the name exactly then I call my manager and he tries to find out. In the case of Ruth Ann from Olive it was because I love this song I'm Not Alone and I felt that this voice could fit the kind of music I'm doing for Enigma. And then I asked if they are interested. They said yes. Then they came to Ibiza, also was the same for Andru, and they were testing something. But I said you're coming here. And even if the test for them, also because they have to know which whom they are working and it could be that they say "No. We don't like the guy and we don't want to work with him". But also for me. But it has nothing to say because I tested 3 or 4 and I took only 2 at the end. But it has nothing to do with the quality of the other singers, but the music when it became clearer the way I am going. The other 2 didn't fit to my intentions, so I took only these 2 and I am very happy with how they sang. They sang brilliantly. Especially Ruth Ann how she sings Gravity of Love because it is extremely extremely difficult to sing this song. And she managed it perfectly even if she said to me she never sang something like this in her life before - not the range, not the kind of song, no nothing. And she did it brilliantly. So big compliment. And there are people who are basically unknown but they have the potential to become world stars. But from the potential to the world star is a long long and hard away. So I wish them all the best, yeah? But we'll see in the next years if they made it or not.
Most people you ask to work for you agree without hesitation. If it ever happens do you feel bad when somebody actually turns you down?
No I am not sad at all because I have to accept. I have to accept because it's like if you ask me if I like this music or that music, it has nothing to do with if it's good or bad. I like it or I don't like it. If you're asking about other artists then there were some who said no they don't understand the music. They even don't know why they should participate, yeah? So I have to accept this. But I'm not angry at all. I mean there are 6 billion people on this earth so I will always find some.... which fit to say the theme on which I'm working. So that's not a point, no.
Enigma is known for a very special sound, a mixture of many different styles of music. Still, there seems to be types of music you do not like to involve yourself with, for example Hip Hop. What is it that you dislike about Hip Hop, if you do?
No I don't hate it but you see Enigma is a project which basically should be exactly the opposite side of what should be successful and what's happening in music business, or at least what we hear from the music business. So I think with hip hop and, I can't hear anymore this term, 'R&B' in America because it's disastrous. It has has nothing to do with rhythm and blues, and so on and so on. These are clich?s and I try to work anti-clich?. I want to establish an anti-clich?. So I won't use the elements that you are surrounded about then, yeah? People are fed up with all this hip hop and rapping and so on and so on. So why should I do it? There are so many things what I can do without copying the rest. And that's maybe one of the reasons. And secondly maybe it's not really my world or something, you know? So that's the only reason. But I tell you I am very open-minded in how you said it, and good is good and bad is bad. It can be I don't know Chinese folk music or it can be hip hop or whatever. It is brilliant stuff, but it didn't fit into the way I went this time.
You have worked for many different artists in the past. Could you imagine working for an Hip Hop-artist in the future?
First of all so many popular musicians I didn't produce the last years 'cos I need very long time to do a record. And 'cos I'm not the kind of producer who delivers only a tape and bye bye, that's it. So these are my babies and I take care that my baby has good clothes, good shoes, that it's not getting a cold in winter, so on and so on. So I take care about the videos, about the sleeves, and so on and so on. Even the marketing I try to give them advice, it's also for their future, apply for ?? and so on and so on. So that means it's a very all round job what I'm doing. Much more than just only a musical producer. So it takes a lot of time, and that was the reason why I didn't produce so many.
But I could do it but I tell you this work of Enigma is such a beautiful kind of working, especially from my background from my Classic. I say it still today, I am like an alchemist in music. 'cos you have bits and pieces, you have no idea where which way they will go, you follow your target. Maybe you have maybe to change your target in the middle of the work because you see it is an illusion. You won't get there what you had in your mind maybe 1 year before. So it's such a thrill and secondly and minutely it changes. So that I think a regular pop production would be completely boring and annoying. I did it so many times. I did it very good. I delivered, we sold with this artist millions and millions of records. So it was a phase of my musical life and I think it's over. So even the biggest artist in the world they can't give you not 1% of the fun, of the joy, and of the thrill what gives me this kind of collage music. That is probably the reason why I would reject it.
But from the ability I never had the chance or whatever, but I am sure I can produce Aerosmith better than they are produced these days. And it's not derogancy (derogatory??) it is something which can be proved because there are so many elements where they say "what the hell, from where, and this rock, and who with this or that". OK I never had the chance and I never had the group to produce and I have always as a producer to go the way... say to prepare the material that I have, and the material is the group or the singer or whatever. So it has nothing to do with the ability of doing it or not doing it. For sure it would be a disaster just producer because I hate jazz (??). So it depends but for sure this is so funny and such a thrill that everything compared to it would be absolutely boring.
Usually you don't like to talk about the meaning of individual songs, because you want the listeners to make up their own minds about it. In spite of that, what are you trying to say with the title of the album The Screen Behind the Mirror?
I would say that the title and the lyrics and the bits and pieces inside - they including a lot of hidden messages. Hidden sounds so mystical what it is. So I wanted the listener ?? a little his brain - and tries to to develop the instincts what are in all of us but we are not taking too much care about it - to reactive the ability of reading between the lines. Because humanity's talking and talking and talking and talking and they really don't have too much to say. That's also how I came to the title Silence Must be Heard. And even Enigma 1, I don't know, it was in America somebody asked me and wanted to know every detail and everything. I said "look baby, what's the name of the project? It's called enigma ?? instruction manual." And from this point on it was clear. So The Screen Behind the Mirror should symbolise - it's one of the senses because you have double and triple meanings in all the lyrics. It depends on your mood and what you want to see. But one of the things it's also this kind of how we see ourselves, how we want to see ourselves, and how you feel you have a document about yourself. You know because there are two pairs of shoes. That's one of the meanings. But the rest I would suggest listen to it. If you like it, and if you like the music for sure you'll find a way. It's not difficult to find all the stuff which is written with invisible ink. *laughs*
The first single off the album is called Gravity of Love. What is the message behind that title?
I told you the project is not called 'instruction manual' so I won't tell you everything what's behind. No but maybe why I choose this title is because it has something - we are in a period now where a lot of astronomical changes, or scientific changes, are coming with all this millennium step and so on and so on. And the word 'love' is one of the basic words of humanity. But the word 'love' could fit to Enigma only in a very strange combination. And that's why I took this stuff because gravity/gravitation. Yeah I mean it's a paradox, it's a paradox. But I think it fits very good to the whole situation in which we are at the moment. More informations you can't get out of me. *laughs*
Of all the various projects you work on Enigma is your favourite. Did you ever think about a live-performance with Enigma?
No basically, 'cos a lot of people think this is incredibly complicated to be performed. No. 'Cos the sound and the informations are very complex but the kind of producing - it is pretty simple. If you could see say The Screen Behind the Mirror, if you could look behind the curtain you would be astonished how simple it is structured. But each bit is AAA quality, so this makes it very difficult 'til you get all the bits in AAA, AAA quality. But say I think if I have a live performance, only one concert and this maybe will be at the end of Enigma's career. But I don't know. I am not the one who really likes to perform live or whatever, and it will take about 2 years to prepare it in the way I have it in the back of my mind. Not in the back I mean the front of my mind because I am very clear as to what I do. Sorry. And I think in these 2 years maybe with the same energy and much more fun than preparing one concert is to make a new record. And I think the people who are interested in music it's much better for them also to listen to a new album instead of watching once on TV or maybe live appear for 2 hours and that was it. So I think we are in about 10-15% reality that I will do a live performance, but never say no. Never say never.
For years you have been the most successful German musician outside of the country. Do you feel any amount of pressure as a result?
First of all if I'm the most successful or not, or if I'm fives times more successful than all the other ones, that's really not important at all for me. Very sincere answer. But all the targets, and all what I wanted to reach as a musician in my life, yeah, I reach it already. It was everything done even before starting with Enigma 3. Everything what I dreamed of, I reached it. So I don't have to show to anybody, even not to myself anymore, and I am the meanest judge to myself - I don't have to show to anybody what I can, what I don't can, and so on and so on. So I can be very free, and it's a lot of liberty. And I would say it's not a burden, it's the opposite - it's liberty. 'Cos I go really without any stress, without anything. I don't have to take care about the career, or if I don't know whom and this and that. I do what I like, what I feel, what I'm in the mood to do at this period of my life. And I do it. So the stuff with the success was like taking a big stone from my shoulders or from my heart but not a big burden.
Answer coming soon!
Quite often Enigma is compared to Pink Floyd. Do you feel flattered?
Answer coming soon!
Many critics will claim that you connected the new album with the first one solely because of the latter's success. What is your answer to such criticism?
Answer coming soon!
Suppose the new album won't be a success. Would it bother you?
Answer coming soon!
You left Germany years ago and have been living on Ibiza ever since. Did Germany and what it stands for play a part in your decision to leave?
Answer coming soon!
Mike Oldfield lived on Ibiza too but left the island because of his problems with the drug scene. Especially with your kids in mind do you think Ibiza is a good place to live?
Answer coming soon!
You are most successful outside of Germany. Does it bother you to be overlooked at home while being so successful in countries like the USA?
Answer coming soon!
Earlier you mentioned the Internet which, according to a lot of artists and records companies, could be hazardous to the whole music-industry. Do you see the Internet as a danger too?
Answer coming soon!
Enigma has been active for 10 years now. Looking back do you prefer to think about the positive or negative sides of the past decade?
Answer coming soon!
After two years of hard work the album is finally finished, your part of the job is done. After a project like this are you taking some time off or are you working on a new album already?
Answer coming soon!
Transcription reproduced from Virgin Germany for private and research purposes only.