“The reason we don’t put out press pictures or show up in our videos is that we wanted to put the music and visuals front and center, instead of trying to build another rap personality hype around the MC and no good album was ever the product of one person”
In a world where it´s all about constantly showing yourself in the best way, it´s refreshing when there is sometimes a new attitude out there. Some time ago we noticed the hidden face trend in the DJ scene where some artists came up with a mask to hide their faces and no full face images can be found anywhere in the internet. That´s also somehow the philosophy of Berlin based artist group Image Ctrl who do not show their faces in any videos or images. Also they use different religious symbols in their visuals even if they describe themselves as non religious aswell as not specific anti-religious. Last year they released their debut LP “Better Living through Image Ctrl” which shows an incredible range of great beats, lyrics and melodies and is one of the best albums we have been listening to the last lately. Because it´s all about the music right?
Let´s start with your debut LP “Better Living through Image Ctrl”. What´s the story behind the title?
Disco (Ctrl): A lot of Image Ctrl’s visuals and communication with the outside world imitate the self-help guides that got big in the 1970’s and told people they could change their whole life by following a few simple steps. The name of our group references the constant measures we now all take to control our personal brands, through our actions, our clothes, or the way we present ourselves online. The name “Better Living through Image Ctrl” takes that a little further, and if you listen to the album you will hear the kind of simple instructions that you used to find on those tapes.
Which track is the most personal on the album? And why?
Disco (Ctrl): “Lost,” which our homie Shem in Poland just remixed for us, is probably the most personal song I wrote for this album, or really any release so far. I grew up in Austin, Tx, and came up in a really creative environment that turned dark over time. A lot of my friends from that time ended up with drug addictions or constant troubles with the police, people overdosed and took their own lives, and the song is a look back in time asking “WTF happened to us?” Even with the pressures that a super-capitalistic, cop-heavy environment like the South puts on any teenagers growing up there, I know we all took a part in our destruction, and I feel like “Lost” is about dealing with that reponsibility. The line “We let those kids slip past us/ when we were half unconscious”really sums that up for me.
I googled a lot but some things seems to be a real secret.;) So tell us a bit about you all and of your beginnings as Image Ctrl. Are you all friends?
Disco (Ctrl): I’m glad to hear that, because we’re really trying to seem mysterious! Image Ctrl is a group of six people that have been hanging around and doing music together for years, so making this album together was really continuation of something that was going on already. Boogie Dan and Forster are our Dj’s, MisterMo and Johannes Chrome produce, Cmav. 5yx is our master of visuals, and I do the vocals, although Forster and myself worked on the productions as well, so there’s no strict division of labor. The reason we don’t put out press pictures or show up in our videos is that we wanted to put the music and visuals front and center, instead of trying to build another rap personality hype around the MC. No good album was ever the product of one person, and Image Ctrl is most definitely the result of a lot of people’s hard work, not just our crew but people like LeijiOne who handles our recording, or Benzki, who shoots a lot of our videos.
The greatest inspirations for writing a new song are…
Disco (Ctrl): It really doesn’t take much. I really use any opportunity I find to ignore my responsibilities and work on tracks. I haven’t been leaving the house too much to be honest.
I know this is a big chapter, but what are your thoughts on all the “social media”. How much is it a gain to you as an artist but also as a person in everyday life?
Disco (Ctrl): It’s definitely broken down a lot of walls between artists and audiences and built these direct lines of communication we wouldn’t have had 10 years ago. The internet rules, no question about it. At the same time, we’re in a place where companies like Facebook and Google have taken a lot of control over which content reaches people. All of a sudden you’re being asked to pay to reach fans that already like your music, or can’t find your video on YouTube because you didn’t put money down to pop up as the first search result. I feel like the people are starting to work around that again, though, and social media has definitely put independent artists in a stronger position.
Last concert that you have been to yourself?
Disco (Ctrl): I saw a playback performance by a german soap opera star last Friday, that was really awful, please don’t ask why we were there. It all seemed really irrelevant, though, like less and less people even care about that kind of corporate pop. Aside from that I’ve been seeing a lot of Forster’s wavy dancehall sets in Berlin, the Daamn Son crew when they come down to visit from Hamburg, Pyro One, and some other Berlin underground stuff like Hazeem. I’m pretty easy to convince to go to something once you manage to get me out of the house.
The most important thing in life?
Disco (Ctrl): The people around you, no question about it. Your family and friends, or the friends that are your family.
Where can we meet you all on a Saturday night?
Disco (Ctrl): Probably not in the same place! Boogie Dan and Forster Dj parties all over the place, MisterMo might be touring with Kobito or working with Johannes Chrome and myself on new productions, and Cmav.5yx is probably in a deep trance in a forest somewhere, conceptualizing new projects. You will catch all of us at Image Ctrl performances, though. Boogie Dan and I will play in Berlin for Valentine’s day with DT64, San Gabriel and Charlee Brown, and we have more shows around Germany coming up in March.
The best life lesson so far?
Disco (Ctrl): I spend a lot of time re-learning the old ones, but “go hard or go home” are the words that do it for me.
Please tell us about your future plans. And what are you working on next?
Disco (Ctrl): We’re working on a new video with Benzki that will come out soon, and just finished some productions for the upcoming Kobito album. Nangdo and Dylan C are coming out with remixes that we’re really excited about, and we have a lot of things in the pipeline for other MC’s, as well as a ton of new Image Ctrl tracks that we’re being secretive about right now. Playing live is really where it’s at for us and we’re putting a lot of focus on that aspect, make sure to stay posted on our tour schedule because we really go all out on stage. We’re really happy about the love we’ve received since putting out the album with no label or distribution behind us, so this next year is just about building on that support and pushing things forward.