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Jack Strify

Jack Strify
Just Older

04.02.2014

Архив интервью | Русская версия

Jack Strify is no stranger to Russia – just a while ago the singer, then known simply as Strify, fronted successful German band Cinema Bizarre, which was especially popular among the younger audience. Fans have cried a lot of tears since the boys announced that they were going separate ways in 2010, and the die-hards kept on hoping to see their idols on stage. Their patience paid off – Jack Strify is coming back to Russia in February, this time as a solo artist. Moreover, he promises to perform old Cinema Bizarre hits at his shows. Even though Jack’s own compositions that can be heard on his first solo EP “Glitter & Dirt” don’t have that much in common with the Cinema Bizarre aesthetics, loved so much by the fans, the audience that has been waiting for too long will definitely welcome him with great enthusiasm.

How are you doing?


I’m very fine! I just did some sports, now I’m having some interviews and then I’m going to rehearsals for the tour, so it’s a great day!

Yeah, that sounds great! Well, you’ve started your solo career recently. Do you feel more freedom now? Can you express yourself in the ways you couldn’t think of before?

Actually I do, but not because I’m solo but because I work differently than with Cinema Bizarre. At the moment I work without a record company, so it means that on the one hand I have a smaller budget, less money and less promotion, but artistically I can do what I want to do, and it feels good, it feels great, yes.

Is it much harder to work that way?

Well, I think there are always some difficulties, and maybe I make some mistakes now that I wouldn’t make with a record company, but it feels much better to do that and to do it this way. It’s not the record company, it’s me – and that feels great.

Does it mean that now you need to settle all the financial issues yourself?

Yes…for example.

Were there any things you wanted to keep from Cinema Bizarre image or sound, and were there any things you wanted to get rid of?


There was nothing I wanted to get rid of, I just think that we were really young with Cinema Bizarre and now I am older and I’ve learned so much more. I think that all the things that I would change now, I would change them just because I’m older and not because I think that something was bad. It was a really good time, we had much fun and we had a lot of experience and so much success – it was really great for us! But now I think I just wanna do things differently because I’m different now.

Was the gratitude for Cinema Bizarre the reason you didn’t change your nickname Strify?

No, that nickname existed before Cinema Bizarre and I just wanted to keep it.

And where did this “Jack” come from?

It was always my name. It was even before Cinema Bizarre. I got it when I was 14 or 15 years old. It’s not just a nickname, it’s the way I am, what I wanna be. And I just like the sound of “Jack Strify”, I like this opposition, there’s a contrast – you have this name “Strify” which is completely unique and you have the name “Jack” that just could be anyone. I love this contrast of the two worlds because I think that’s also me. I am very unique and very extraordinary and very expressive and I may be difficult sometimes, but sometimes I’m just a boy and I just wanna lie in bed all day, I wanna watch a movie at home and just do the things that everybody does, so I think it’s perfect, it’s me, Jack Strify is me. And I thought it sounds like a fashion brand.

How did you come up with the idea of your first mini-album “Glitter & Dirt”? Is it you who generates all these concepts, or do you take any advice?

I do everything on my own. I mean, I don’t write songs completely obviously because even though I’m a songwriter too and I have learnt so much, I still wanna work with people because I don’t play any instrument perfectly, so I need help anyways. So it’s always collaborations with people. But it’s so great – I work with different people but you can always hear that it’s me, there’s always the same thing inside, and that’s me. And with everything else – with the artwork, with the look – I do everything. I even design my own shirts, I’ve designed my own stage now for the upcoming tour, I make the setlist, I choose the songs, I do everything on my own.

So how did you come up with this contrast between glitter and dirt?

I came up with “Glitter and Dirt” because I always think that Berlin is full of glitter and it’s full of dirt. And so am I. (laughs) Because nobody’s perfect and that’s why I feel at home in Berlin so much – there are so many contrasts. When something is glittering and glamorous it seems to be kind of trashy as well, especially if you look at the Berlin fashion week – it’s not like Paris or Milan, which is just haute couture, which is really art – here it’s a bit “wanna be” and that’s also what glitter is about. I love glitter, but of course it’s completely artificial – it’s shiny but it’s more like an illusion, and I’m fascinated by illusions because I think so many things are illusions. And if you look at the whole world, people always keep on talking about realities but every reality is man-made: the system we live in, the society we live in – somehow it may be just an illusion. I’m not saying it, I’m just asking questions. This is glitter and dirt because it’s glittery but maybe underneath it’s really dirty.

Does it mean that the city you live in and some general life circumstances inspire you most of all?

They do, they do. And also people, because I think you’re only as good as the people you’re surrounded by. So it’s both my friends, the people I work with and Berlin itself. It’s also movies, I love to watch movies! It’s also fashion I love to look at. My work is always very visual. When I write a song, I imagine what the video would look like.

Do you have any plans to release a full-length album?

Yeah.

Could you tell me about it?


I would love to tell you so much about it, I even would love to play you some songs. The last three years I experimented a lot, I worked with different people, I didn’t really know where exactly I wanted to go and my first EP is the result of that time. And the reason it was released was because of my fans, because they were so loyal and I just couldn’t believe it, they were still there – I didn’t do so much, but they were there. And it was a “thank you”, and it was a great way to kick everything off because now I’m even on tour because of the EP. I started to work on my album last year in September, and we already have like half the album and it’s really-really great, it will be good. I’m working on my full album with a songwriter called Michelle Leonard. She’s a very-very good friend of mine and I love what’s she’s doing, she’s so talented and her songwriting skills are so brilliant and she always understands me and what I want to do like no one else. She wrote “Lovesongs” (Cinema Bizarre’s debut single and trademark song – ed.), I wrote “My Obsession” (second single off the “ToyZ” album – ed.) with her as well. We worked on many songs – one was called “Je Ne Regrette Rien” (also off “ToyZ” – ed.), we played it with Cinema Bizarre. And now I’m working with her as well and we already have some great songs. For example, one song is called “Lovers When It’s Cold” and I really love that song and it will be on my album. But it will all still take a little while because we’re also planning different things and it’s also about time. Maybe I will even release my second EP before. I’d also like to make a DVD of the tour in Russia now if everything works out well. That’s the thing – if I do everything on my own, I take more risks and sometimes it’s more difficult to do something. But that’s what we’re planning now. Maybe at the end of the year there will be a single and in 2015 there will definitely be my first full album.

Talking about loyal fans, it feels like you have a lot of true and very devoted fans in Russia. Is the Russian audience special to you?

Yeah, because they’re so energetic. They’re really energetic and they have so much power.

I believe your DVD will be very energetic too, as long as it will be filmed here…

Yes, yes, exactly. And I also think it will be great to play my first concerts in Russia and Ukraine because I think it will rejuvenate me, because it’s like a circle – I give them energy, they give me energy too. That what makes touring and playing concerts so special for me.

There are some phrases in Russian in your track “Sanctuary”. Why did you decide to struggle with our obviously hard-to-pronounce language?

Does it really sound very bad? (laughs)

Not at all. And I can tell you that I truly respect everyone who tries to reach people using their native languages. But what I mean is that it doesn’t feel like you can speak fluent Russian and I assume you did those lines on some purpose for that record.

Well, I can write and read in Russian, I learnt the Cyrillic alphabet and I really like that. I have a lot of Russian friends and even was in a Russian relationship once. (laughs) But of course Russian is difficult and for me it’s difficult because it sounds completely different compared to German. But it’s also a very fascinating language. I just wanted to try it. I wanted to do this for my fans too. I think it’s not that bad, I think I did a good job. (laughs) I can speak a little Russian because I started learning Russian a little bit, but I can’t say much. I can say the typical stuff like, “Privet, men’ja zovut Jack Strify” (“Hi, my name is Jack Strify”).

That’s great! It’s always nice for fans to hear artists speak their language.


Yeah, if someone comes from somewhere else and tries to speak German, I always think it’s nice. And there can be great sort of accents.

Do you think you can record a whole song in Russian some day?

(laughs) Who knows, who knows, maybe. (laughs)

I’m sure your Russian fans would appreciate that. And by the way a lot of your fans seem to want you to sing in German. Why don’t you?

Because it’s just my artistic decision and that’s my artistic expression to do it in English. I will always keep on singing in English because it feels better and I never thought about singing in German when I was younger and I don’t think about that now. It’s just not who I am. It’s not what I do. Actually I wanted to incorporate a German song in my setlist as well but we changed some plans in the end and I didn’t. But maybe one day you will actually hear me sing a German song but it will be a unique and special experience. It won’t be a thing that I will always do.

In the greeting video you called your upcoming shows a science-fiction cabaret. Could you tell more about this concept?

Well, I was always intrigued by science fiction and I also like the idea of a cabaret and I think those two things go very well together. It’s not like a cabaret as you would imagine. A science-fiction cabaret means that it’s my playground and I can do whatever I want there. It means there are no laws, there are no restrictions. It’s like when I’m on stage and this is my place, it doesn’t belong to a country, it doesn’t belong to any religion, it doesn’t belong to any political view. There are no restrictions and I can just make music and sing there. It’s a little bubble (laughs) where I can do what I want to do. That’s my idea behind that. Of course I also had some other very good ideas but we changed many things in the end, as I told you. We can’t do everything that I was planning to do. But it’s always like this. People never see what’s going on behind the stage. But it also means that I can change it. If I, for example, come back with that tour, I can change it, I can always like upgrade it and update it.

Science-fiction is supposed to deal with possible changes in human history. What do you want to change in our world?

Well, right now I think that there needs to be more love in this world because I think some things are very unfair, there are so many people who are so rich and so many people who don’t have anything at all. There’s so much inequality in this world. This makes me really sad. And I think that people are too focused on money sometimes. Maybe they should think more about love again. (laughs) That’s what I sometimes feel and I think this should change because I don’t wanna be a slave to a system.

I see… You’re going to sing some Cinema Bizarre songs during your shows. Does it feel different without your former band members?


Of course it feels different. But I still love to perform those songs, that’s why I chose to do it. But of course it’s different. Just because they are not there anymore. (laughs)

As far as I remember, you said that Cinema Bizarre reunion is absolutely impossible. Why? Are there any hard feelings?

There are no hard feelings, it’s just that we changed so much. At the end of our second tour… I think I’ll speak for all of us if I say that we were really burnt-out and even though the tour was such a success and it was amazing, there were also some things with the record company that didn’t make us very happy. We were needed to be very strong, but as I said we were burnt-out and we didn’t have any more power and I just didn’t want to fade away, so we talked about it and said, “Okay, let’s call it quits”. At that time we didn’t know how we would feel in a year, that’s why we said that we were going to do a break. But after a year or so it was pretty clear that it wasn’t just a break, it was more of a break-up. But there are no hard feelings because… In the first year we didn’t see each other very often, and I think it was very good because now we can be friends again. A week ago I spent Kiro’s birthday with him, and I work a lot with Shin, he’s also working on my videos and he’s really brilliant. I don’t see Yu a lot because he doesn’t live in Berlin. But there are no hard feelings.

As Cinema Bizarre, you used to work with Tilo Wolff of Lacrimosa. Do you stay in touch?

It’s been ages since I met Tilo Wolff. I haven’t seen him for a very long time. He’s a very-very-very busy man, always playing concerts and working on his music too, and he’s living not in Berlin, he’s living far away, so I haven’t seen him in a while.

Are you planning to remain a soloist, or do you want to create another band some day?

I have my band right now. I’m a solo artist but I’m bringing a band to Russia and Ukraine. We are three people, I have somebody on piano and somebody on guitar. You can also see these guys… They’re really talented, they’re great, they’re really brilliant. You can see them in the acoustic video that I posted just a week ago (“Fix Me”). And I’m coming on tour with them, I’m bringing them with me.

Well, but that feels like an accompanying band for Jack Strify. I mean, it’s like you and two musicians, it’s not that “equal”, so to speak…

Well, our relationship is completely equal. (laughs) But they do so many things, they play in different bands and with different people, so they don’t even have the time to be in a band like you imagine that.

On your Twitter you wrote that you’re very creative and if you had a bigger budget you could make fantastic shows. Do you want to make shows just for yourself, or do you consider the possibility of changing your profession and becoming a stage director, for example?


I think that would be very-very interesting! I can imagine that.

What about acting?

I don’t know. I don’t think I’m a good actor. (laughs) Sometimes it’s very easy if you have a certain level of fame, it’s easy to get roles. I mean, we have seen a lot of celebrities who became actors. But sometimes I just think it’s not so good. Just because people know you, it doesn’t mean you’re a good actor. So if I ever acted, I would want to take acting lessons before. The difficult thing is that, for example, if somebody told me I need to cut my hair, I don’t know if I would do it. (laughs)

So you prefer to be yourself.


Exactly. Exactly.

And you’re more interested in such kinds of creativity as designing, right?

I am. I do a lot of those things already. I never learned anything like it, I just do it.

And do you want to learn something about it?

At the moment, no.

Is there something in your current situation that makes you especially proud of yourself?

Oh… (laughs) I don’t know, I’m proud of everything I do right now. But I don’t think about it like this very often. It’s just about the work and I just love to do what I do and I’m happy that I’m able to do what I do. I never take it with so much pride because I think it can be the downfall of an artist. Of course you need to be confident, but you also need to be vulnerable. Too much ego and too much pride can destroy you. So I don’t think about it that way.

How do you spend your free time?

Oh well, I love to sleep! (laughs)

Anything else?

I love to sleep, I love to read, I love to watch movies. It also depends on the weather. Like today actually it’s the first snow this year in Berlin… And in the summer I like to go out a lot and enjoy the sun.

Are you more of a sociable guy, or do you like being alone in your free time?

Well, it always depends on my mood. Sometimes I wake up and I just don’t wanna see anyone. Usually those are the days when I need to see millions of people. (laughs) But that’s a great thing that I can deal with everything. That’s always cool. That’s life. Everybody can feel like that. (laughs) But I think sometimes it feels good to be alone, to have a little bit of down time. Especially in this industry, in this business – it’s so crazy, it’s so fast. Sometimes I just need to calm down. I meet so many crazy but great people, but sometimes I just need to breathe and relax. Anyway, I love people. Sometimes when I spend a day alone in the end I just call up a friend and say, “Come up, let’s watch a movie” or “Let’s go out”.

Well, let’s finish your interview with a couple of words to your Russian fans who are anticipating your shows, shall we?


Well, hello everyone in Russia. I’m very-very happy to come back to Russia. It’s been such a long time and I’m dying of excitement because I will play my first solo shows of the “Strange New World” tour. And I just hope to see you there and that you are as excited as I am!

Jack Strify on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jackstrifyofficial

Special thanks to Alexei Kuzovlev (The Motley Concerts) for arranging this interview

Interview by Ksenia Artamonova
Photos by Marcel Gothow
January 20, 2014
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