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|Born||12 January 1959|
West Berlin, West Germany
Blixa Bargeld (born Christian Emmerich on 12 January 1959) is a German musician active in a wide range of artistic fields. He is best known for his studio work and live performances with the groups Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and ANBB. His stage name comes from Blixa, a German brand of blue felt pen, and Bargeld, which is German for "cash". Bargeld also refers to German Dada artist Johannes Theodor Baargeld.
Bargeld left school prior to completion, and is self-taught. He revealed in 2010: "[I] would never have guessed when I was 13 that I would have become a professional musician. It was so far away as to become a reality in my personal life." Bargeld experimented with audio equipment as a teenager, including the disassembling of tape recorders. The first album he owned was by Pink Floyd.
Bargeld is from the Tempelhof area of West Berlin and he moved out of his parents' home in the late 1970s. A 2008 documentary featured him visiting his mother and talking to her about his childhood and the relationship he had with his parents.
In 1980, he founded the music group Einstürzende Neubauten ("Collapsing New Buildings"). He quickly moved onto German rock Krautrock acts such as Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, which he described as his biggest influences at the time. Bargeld spoke of the early days of Neubauten in 2010:
The starting point for Neubauten was more that we didn't have anything, so I didn't really have the choice to say 'I am doing this, I am doing that, or maybe I should play organ'. I didn't have any of these things, and I could not afford any of these things, and neither could anybody else in the group. It was more of the logical consequence of what can we obtain, and that's how it turned out. It certainly didn't start out as an artistic concept to say "let's do something different", it started as an extension of the live situation as it already was.
From 1983 to 2003, Bargeld was guitarist and backing vocalist with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Bargeld also sang lead vocals alongside Cave on several songs, such as on "The Carny" and "The Weeping Song". Cave first saw Bargeld performing with Einstürzende Neubauten on TV while The Birthday Party, Cave's band at the time, were touring in Amsterdam. He described the music as "mournful", Bargeld as looking "destroyed", and his screams as: "a sound you would expect to hear from strangled cats or dying children".
Since the mid-1990s Bargeld has appeared live with his solo Rede/Speech Performances. During these performances, usually supported by Neubauten's sound engineer Boris Wilsdorf, he works with microphones, sound effects, overdubbing with the help of sampler loops, and speaks English or German. The performed pieces include a vocal creation of the DNA of an angel and a parody of a techno song.
In 2007 he started a collaborative project with Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai called ANBB, an abbreviation of Noto's and Bargeld's initials. An EP, Ret Marut Handshake, was released on 26 June 2010, followed later that year by a full-length album, Mimikry.
In June 2013, a collaboration with Italian composer Teho Teardo Still Smiling was released on the Specula record label. A music video for the song "Mi Scusi" was published on the Teho Teardo YouTube channel and a corresponding Italian tour is scheduled.
In early October, Neubauten announced 24 November 2014 as the release date for their next album, Lament, described as a "concept album based on a live performance and installation commissioned by the Flemish city of Diksmuide, Belgium to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War in 1914". Bargeld explained in the official press release: "The Second World War is nothing but the elongation of the first one ... As a child of the post Second World War era, and the resulting division of Germany and Berlin, I'm of course hugely influenced in my upbringing about the results of that".
Bargeld explained in October 2014 that Neubauten is essentially a materialistic band, leading them to employ two scientific researchers to seek out material to support the development of Lament after the album received financial backing in August 2013. The band opened their 2014 European tour, in support of Lament, with a performance in Diksmuide, Belgium.
Jennifer Shryane, in her book Blixa Bargeld and Einstürzende Neubauten: German Experimental Music. Evading do-re-mi (2011), explores how the themes and threads of Bargeld's work with Neubauten show even greater variation and experimentation in his performance work outside of the band. For example, the range extends from his surreal, electronic Dadaist-cabaret Rede and collaborations with Alva Noto, to his expert direction of Coetzee's Warten auf die Barbaren (Waiting for the Barbarians) for the Salzburg Festival in 2005, where he employed multi-layered symbolism through an ice-white setting and an interplay of voices, screams and noise.
Shryane's book particularly examines his vocal strategies and his trademark scream (describing the scream in dance terms as the endless pirouette or unanticipated giant leap) and the labyrinthine concerns of his texts - all through Artaudian performance theory (The Theatre and its Double, 1938). She also stresses Bargeld's passionate stance on the socializing aspects of music (à la John Cage), citing his comment on Grundstück that "it's the social aspects which are important for me".
Bargeld's guitars of choice are a Fender Jaguar and a Fender Mustang, as seen on the concert DVD God Is In The House and at various media appearances. Initially he used a battered Höfner Model 173 and a red Höfner Colorama II until they "broke down". After his effect pedals were stolen in the early 1980s, he relied exclusively on the Fender floating/dynamic tremolo (like the Höfner units)-- which both raise and lower pitch -- Fender Twin amplifiers, metal slides, and changing his amp settings for each individual song, to create a unique guitar sound.
Bargeld is married to Chinese American Erin Zhu. Together they developed the concept of web-based fan subscriptions as a new business model for musicians. The couple is featured among 37 other design and media figures in the 2010 book Designing Media, by designer and IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge. The couple resides with their daughter in San Francisco, Beijing, and Berlin.
Bargeld was a vegetarian for 30 years, but ceased the lifestyle option due to the difficulties he had practicing vegetarianism in China. He was also a smoker for a long period, but quit smoking in the early 2000s. The sound of Bargeld smoking a cigarette is a part of Einstürzende Neubauten's song "Silence Is Sexy" (2000), which is featured on the Silence Is Sexy studio album.