Bonaparte – Interview: “Mr. Bonaparte’s Own Personal Madness”
BONAPARTE and his cohorts are riding through europe and take every city by storm! The emperors new clothes on the album “Sorry, we’re open” are worn off punkrock military jackets, electro animal masks and Rock’n'Roll burlesque dresses, all full of gold glitter, real sweat and fake blood. Mr. BONAPARTE himself Tobias Jundt was so kind to answer our questions!
On stage, BONAPARTE is a wild collective of musicians and dancers mixing circus, freak show and burlesque. How important are the stage show and the costumes for BONAPARTE?
I like to believe that the core of everything is music, the songs, the lyrics, the rhythm, the messages. But it is obvious that I share a love for costumes and characters and role bending and stage dynamics with everyone performing with me. I love shows that are just about music and nothing else, three people rocking out with a punk energy and no shirt on, but I also like to put on a show and create parallel worlds that trigger as many senses as possible. Sometimes people say that what we do is an over exhaustion of the senses – but that is part of what we do – trying to push the envelope.
You told me you are more or less BONAPARTE on your own – writing, producing and performing most of the songs, hiring the musicians, managing the band… you also did a lot of touring as a solo laptop artist. How do you bring together these two sides of BONAPARTE – the creative collective on stage and the lone emperor? Do you really “boycott everything that’s not made by (your) hands” like in your song “Boycott Everything”?
Yes, I live in a wooden shack on a mountain top and play on my selfmade shoebox-guitar, haha. The claim of that chorus is of course quite extreme. What it really means is: it is important to do your own thing and things, to build a community that can produce a lot of the things you need, to not be afraid and do lots of the things yourself or within the family. So many times I thought I had to engage someone external to get a job done and in the end it was very clear that the only ones who really understand the project would be ourselfs. That’s why the process of writing, recording, mixing, graphic design, photography, costumes design, etc. is all done on our own farm. On one hand I know that I have to listen to my own mad ideas and absorb the ones that are currently doable and the ones the time is not ready for yet. And then hoping to meet the right people who would follow through and share a passion for these ideas. I figured that if you let yourself fall into something, you will eventually stumble upon some wonderful creatures.
To answer your first question, I think I tried to bring the two worlds a bit closer together on the third album, which was an important experience, but by now I believe that the two worlds don’t need to be brought together. The process of creating and presenting and consuming art has many different phases and they don’t have to include the same people. Writing songs and recording them is one thing, creating a live show and performing with other musicians, dancers or lighting designers is another.
When we used to joke that Bonaparte is a “democratic collective lead by an emperor” or “a solo-project appearing in form of a big-band”, the duality and contradiction of these descriptions actually create a lot of the beautiful energy in this band.
What kind of emperor are you? The band dictator, fining his bandmates like James Brown if he’s not happy with the performance? The good natured king? A self crowned emperor – and of which state?
I’m quite a perfectionist, which might seems odd considering the amount of chaos that is part of the music and stage-show. But chaos happens whithin a frame. There can be too much control or routine – which make me feels pretty uncomfortable very fast – or there can be too much freedom and you end up with a freeform stoner jam-session. It’s a thin line.
How to direct a big group of people is one of the fundamental questions of mankind. Is a leader supposed to be a tough authority or is he supposed to be everyone’s friend? I think it needs both: you need to feel a genuine empathy and understanding of every person and their work yet you have to see the overall picture and know what you are doing and base your decision on that. You have to accept that not everyone might understand your decisions, but you are the emperor because you carry that responsibility and because you are ready to go down in flames with your art.
Your last albums were mainly solo efforts with a little help of your friends. Did you produce your new album the same way?
As mentioned above, i tried to create a “community album”. I tried to build a space together with the dancers and musicians, where we can play and record music and where i can meet with other producing friends of the Berlin scene. the message of the album is a bit less obvious. The words are a bit more obscure then on the last two albums and a lot of the message is the actual process of the recording, the fact that it incorporates more people and describes the journey that we are on as humans and artists. So you have to sort of incorporate your life and stories into the album and then the songs will be like a soundtrack for your own life.
Looking back at the three albums I think that they actually belong together and close of a “Berlin trilogy”. They were all recorded in Berlin in three different places but always in home studios. For the next one I hope to go back to where I started off and tell stories from within Mr. Bonaparte’s own personal madness delivered with raw energy. We’ll see.
Your new video “Quarantine” reminds me of Kinski in the movie “Aguirre” – a conquistador rafting down a jungle river in search of the City of Gold, El Dorado. But in your video, when the expedition crew reaches Berlin it gets burned down at the end – are you trying to break out of the “City of Gold” Berlin here, that has been understood as a kind of promised land El Dorado for so many young artist?
Actually, I didn’t want any flames in there, but the record label wanted the whole city to burn, after three weeks of fighting they eventually left some smoke in there. I think it is not really important. Everything that happens before is more important. We had a great day out on that raft drifting around Berlin and funny enough everyone on that raft is pretty much just playing themselves. Once we started realizing that, it was even more fun to do our own take on “Aguirre”, because the characters really were just extensions of who we are within the band.
The search of El Dorado is somewhere within all of us, consciously or unconsciously pushing forward and after a long ride of handcrafted passion we are either transported into unheard of heights and new territories or we fail miserably and get killed by bunch of wild monkeys. The monkeys might represent real live things like cultural acceptance, financial situations, running out of time or changes in our personal lives. The Eldorado represents all the dreams we have of how our lifes and the world could be like, if we had the power to model it.
What are your musical influences – are you “born through your own” or do you feel being a “clone of a clone of a clone” (like you sing on “L’Etat, C’est Moi”)? How hard is it being original and adding something new to 6000 years of popular music?
Again, I like extremes. I am very blunt when it comes to incorporating quotes or musical motives and work them into something that is as original as original can get.
It’s the old art of weaving a carpet with leftover fabric. The basis of everything I do is a very genuine idea, something that is a result of my own experience and my own musical or linguistic expression. But when writing for Bonaparte I tend to create pop-cultural puzzles, I try to weave together many little snippets into one simple bigger idea, one simple moment of anger or passion.
Do you feel being part of a specific dancepunk/electropunk or whatever other scene?
For most part of my life I wished to be part of a movement, so much. I would dream of some sort of a gang or scene I could be part of. But growing up in switzerland in the 80ies and 90ies there wasn’t really anything except sports or maybe a last dying leg of creative hip-hop culture. I eventually chose something that has been living in a vacuum for a long time already – jazz music of the nitty gritty kind with a touch of gospel and soul – as my scene and I pretty much spent my teenage years with people that were four times my age, sucking up their stories and attitudes and behavior and humor and music.
Maybe Bonaparte was the subconscious experiment of forming my own micro-cosmos of a scene for a few years in time.
What would you like to sing in a karaoke bar?
I would probably choose something with a cockrock momentum like “TNT” or “Come Together” to check the grounds – then iIwould risk a quick detour to country music singing “Jolene” by Dolly Parton… then I’d ask for a Bonaparte song and throw myself onto the floor in a dramatic temper tandrom because they don’t have it. What?! Only to be back on my feet in a minute and deliver a wild rendition of “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton. I’ll close my Karaoke medley with “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers – and I’ll sing that one twice, bitch!
What are your favourite five albums?
I could write five down and then i’d lie about them tomorrow. I can’t nail things like that… let me fake my way around it. I would definitely include something by Serge Gainsbourg as he is a master of stories, attitudes and words. I would probably add something obscure so you think i’m a super nerdy guy like Yma Sumac or Jean-Jacques Perrey or my newest discovery The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band (I think they only ever released one album, so at least it would be easy to choose which one). If I added a nostalgic one from my childhood it might be one of the Beatles or the first Tracy Chapman album or Swiss chansons from the 60ies or the album “Barcelona Gener De 1976″ by Lluis Llach, which my mother played to us a lot.
If you came over to my house to engage in illegal gambling i’ll definitely put on some jazz like something nitty-gritty from Blue Note Records with Grant Green on guitar or a mellow big-band record with Ben Webster or Dexter Gordon blowing a mean horn while we commute to the terrace for a smoke. When we’re ready to party I’ll spin some electronic Berlin friends like Siriusmo, Modeselektor or Housemeister. And if you stay for the night I’ll open my secret box of erotic Hawaiian Hula music and the rest will remain a secret.
What is it like to be on tour again – is it harder to be on tour or to stay at home, managing the “Alltag”?
I seriously can’t tell at the moment. As much as I long for being in a cozy place for a long period of time and as much as I hate to leave, I love being on tour because I am owned by the heart of a vagabond and I live for the moment to perform music live. I am trying to combine both as much as that is possible. That’s why some of the people in the crew are family members, so we can be together even when we are on the road.
Also, there are different kinds of “Alltag”. Who says that doing the 9 to 5 is more normal than being a traveling man? Hang in there! You’ll always want to be where everyone else is… it’s human. We are at day 14 of a tour of 32 cities and only have been at the hospital 4 times – we’re doing great!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. BONAPARTE!
Listen to a great FUKK OFFF Remix of “Quarantine” here:
SORRY WE’RE OPEN TOUR
15.11. NL – Amsterdam – Paradiso
16.11. GER – Frankfurt – Union Halle
17.11. GER – Leipzig – Werk 2
10.12. B – Bruxelles – Botanique
11.12. CH – Zurich – Xtra
12.12. GER – Ulm – Roxy
13.12. CH – Bern – Dachstock
14.12. CH – Bern – Dachstock
15.12. CH – Lausanne – Label Suisse @ Les Docks
16.12. GER – Stuttgart – LKA
17.12. GER – Düsseldorf – Zakk
18.12. GER – Münster – Skaters Palace
19.12. GER – Hamburg – Grosse Freiheit
20.12. GER – Berlin – Columbia Halle
BONAPARTEs new album SORRY, WE’RE OPEN is now out on Staatsakt/Warner