KEY SILENCE – ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

 
 
 Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

 
 

THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING KEY SILENCE
Why an anthology? It's fairly obvious: because we detest the concept.

All anthologies are, by default, embellishments of the truth. Full of subtle exaggerations and refined lies. They are works of fiction based on actual events, if you will. Devised to convince the public - by use of unscrupulous rhetoric and subjective reasoning - that a particular artist deserves a place in their heart and a piece of their wallet. In order to achieve this goal, the artist's body of work is dismembered and reduced to questionable milestones, alleged turning points and screenplay drafts. The artists's faults, blunders and artistic cul-de-sacks are discretely omitted, thus depriving us of vital information required to assess the true value of one's work. Anthologies can therefore be construed as pimps with good intentions, specialized in providing publicity for artists that are, as we are led to believe, far too good to need publicity.

As you can see, anthologies are much too dangerous to be entrusted to some self-proclaimed connoisseur in the future. Especially if he/she is benevolent and well-intentioned. We're well aware of the devastating power of good intentions.

Is anthology just a fancier way of saying best of? No.
Even though Key is a selection of pivotal Silence tracks, it is far from your typical best of. You see, the term best of implies the existence of hits. As our bank accounts show no sign of the latter, the term anthology seemed like a more appropriate choice.

To us, Key is a selection of our less faulty tracks and most interesting failures. Musically, lyrically, production-wise and feedback-wise. We believe that the only way to comprehend the complexity of one's work is to be familiar with his/her shortcomings. That is why we've made no attempts to hide our faults, blunders and artistic cul-de-sacks. A word of advice: I may be lying.

Is this Silence's last release? Yes.
Every record we released so far was – at the time of its release – our last record. You see, musicians are able to think like ordinary people only for a short period of time: a couple of months after the release of their new record. Thoughts like: don't be a romantic fool, think about your future… consider the disproportion between the invested effort and the gains start to surface. For a short, horrific while, musicians become reasonable. In the vast majority of cases, romantic delusions and self-destructive behaviour – the vital traits of every decent musician – soon return. As far as we're concerned, we've managed to release six albums despite being musicians – the least lucrative occupation in the music business. The kind of relentless stupidity one can only be proud of. And, as history has taught us, stupidity is the one thing we can always rely on.

Benko, February 2006

 Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

CD1 / ANTHOLOGY
01 La troia
02 The Girl of My Best Friend
03 I Love You
04 Kraljestvo mačjih oči
05 Scream, Greeneyes (Ernst Horn remix) 
06 P. S. 
07 The 5th Elephant (live) 
08 The Chant – Reprise (feat. Andja Marić) 
09 Belief
10 Hall of Mirrors (feat. Anne Clark) 
11 Pitaju me pitaju
12 Runalong – Acoustic Version
13 Lagrimae

Why did these particular 13 songs deserve a place on the anthology more than others? Here are the reasons, as explained by Benko:

We both perceive La troia as the track that marks the end of our musical infancy. It was the first track that we've written that wasn't plagued with the usual teething troubles we encounter in music written by inexperienced and overzealous musicians. For the very first time, we managed to write a song that was somehow – lacking a better word to describe it – waterproof.

The Girl of My Best Friend was originally written for a theatre play, a bizarre comedy entitled Elvis de Luxe. It was our first commissioned work and our first encounter with theatre. It was also our first cover – in this case an Elvis Presley classic. At our very beginnings, we scorned remakes. I don't know why, really, I guess we considered them a waste of time with all the groundbreaking music waiting to be written (by us, of course). After a while, you discover that music is more or less like history – constantly recurrent. A musician's job – stripped of self-complacency and artistic bullshit – boils down to leaving a personal mark on what is essentially the universality of human emotion. A lesson we learned during the making of this track. Long live the King!

The central, instrumental part of I Love You is a pleasant reminder of the intoxicating power of blind, thoughtless enthusiasm. This cocktail of rapture, fearlessness and unfounded self-complacency – the closest equivalent to a phone call from god, if you ask me – often grants young artists the power to exceed their capabilities and come up with ideas that are ordinarily beyond their reach. It's the kind of creative bliss old farts like us can only dream of.

We don't like remixes. It's not so much their constant, nonsensical pursuit of fleeting trends or their inherent milking-cow logic, it's their habit of forcing original recordings into different tempos and unsuitable contexts (usually resulting in something that sounds artificial and ridiculous) that unnerves us. That's why we enjoyed Ernst Horn's version of Scream, Greeneyes so much. Horn's track is not so much a remix than a remake inspired by the original. In the eyes of the music business, he does it all wrong: he respects the original, disregards trends and adds a strong personal touch by changing the harmonic structure of the original track. To us, Horn's Scream, Greeneyes is a statement of a like-minded colleague who is as tired as we are of the little Frankenstein's monsters created daily by the music business.

Kraljestvo mačjih oči (Cats' Eyes Kingdom) is incredibly candid, flirting with downright naivety. A rare occurrence in our music, one that grants this song a unique status in our body of work. Kraljestvo is also one of a handful of tracks – most were never released – written in our native language. People – especially our compatriots – often attribute the small number of Silence songs in Slovene language to our lack of patriotism and national pride. Their presumptions are, of course, absolutely correct. There is nothing more dangerous – besides English cuisine, that is – than ridiculously abstract concepts like patriotism or nationalism. Don't take my word for it, ask history. However, the main reason for the predominance of English lyrics in our music is far more pragmatic and materialistic. You see, as an artist, making a living and retaining your integrity in a market of 2 million people is a daunting task. Some people consider it a challenge. To us, it feels more like masochism. I guess we're pussies.

P. S. was not written, it just came into existence. It wasn't the musician who was looking for a song, it was the other way around. Finished in less than an hour, P. S. represents the exact opposite of the eternally unfinished The 5th Elephant (see below). Similar things have been known to happen, but P.S. was – by far – the most extreme case of songwriter-hijacking committed by an unwritten song that I've ever experienced. It was also the most pleasant one.

Songwriting is a vicious circle: the blissful intoxication one experiences during the making of a song regularly results in a serious hangover once the song is finished. It's incredible how quickly a song loses its appeal once it is recorded. A couple of years later, it is merely an embarrassing reminder of your general greenness at the time of its creation, a shaky step on the long way to something better and purer. From all the songs we've written so far, The 5th Elephant is the only one that refuses to comply to this rule. Eight years after the first demo of the song was made, Elephant still feels unfinished. The acoustic version featured on the anthology – a distant cousin of the aggressive Unlike A Virgin version – is just the last in a long line of attempts at perfecting an ever-elusive theme. A theme that's been haunting us for almost a decade. A theme that is apparently determined to mature with us.

We love writing music for theatre plays and dance performances. Mostly because directors and choreographers – unlike most people in the music business – rarely perceive the desire to explore new ground as a nuisance. Nothing compares to the remarkable freedom that is theatre. We grasped the full extent of this addictive freedom during the making of the Maison des rendez-vous soundtrack, when The Chant Reprise was written. Since then, we've grabbed every opportunity to revel in this boundless playground. The result is an ever-growing collection of diverse soundtracks and the gradual side-tracking of classic songwriting.

We both perceive Belief as the peak of the creative renaissance we experienced when we started producing (and later recording) our own material. Maison des rendez-vous owes much of its unbridled experimentation to this creative emancipation. But it wasn't until Vain – A Tribute to a Ghost that this new-found independence yielded mature and remarkably fulfilling results. The highlight was – at least as far as we're concerned – this gentle ballad that earned me the reputation of a love-hater.

Limited recording time due to high expenses – the downside of hired studios – prevented the realization of more complex vocal patterns (achieved by extensive layering) during the making of our first three albums. This frustrating limitation was finally overcome in 2002, when our private recording facility, the Daily Girl studio, was opened. The oriental finale of Hall of Mirrors – a tribute to the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – is where we first exploited this remarkable privilege to the extremes.

Oliver Mandić's Pitaju me pitaju has had a profound impact on the sound of Silence. Over the years, it spawned a myriad of subconscious references throughout our entire body of work. It also contributed – in no small way – to Silence's very creation. A cover version was therefore only a matter of time (or should I say arrogance? Believe me, a certain amount of arrogance is required to tackle with a song like that). On a more personal level, I see the lyrics of Pitaju Me Pitaju – written in Serbian – as the perfect résumé of my feelings towards the mess that once used to be our homeland. This song is also a tribute to the promises of youth, castrated by the folly and bloodshed that ensued.

We are very fond of Runalong – Acoustic Version because of its remarkable minimalism – a quality we always strive for but rarely achieve in our work. Don't ask me why. I guess we owe it to our Slavic genes – we're addicted to drama, brooding polyphony and grandeur, not to mention the fact that we simply love doing things the hard way.

Lagrimae is, in our opinion, the perfect closing for the anthology. Why? Well, you'll have to figure this one by yourself. I've babbled enough as it is.

 Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

Photo: Jože Suhadolnik

CD2 / RARITIES
01 Talkshow
02 Puta Royale
03 Transition Blues
04 Der Untergang
05 Les Égoistes
06 The Last Dance
07 Subaquea
08 God Forsaken Country (Rožmarinke Version) 
09 3 besede / 3 Words
10 Piano Theme #3

SONG-BY-SONG COMMENTARY
Talkshow. Previously unreleased. Spellbound by the work of various excellent vocalists (Bobby McFerrin, Mike Patton, Björk etc.) Silence toyed with the idea of recording an a cappella track – a track comprised exclusively of vocals – for a long time before amassing the necessary amount of experiences and arrogance, as Benko put it. The band decided to "vocalize" Talkshow, an old Silence track from the Unlike a Virgin period. The subject of the lyrics – the uncanny power of voices – suited the idea perfectly.

Puta Royale is the ultimate testament to the power of good news. The song was written immediately after Benko read a newspaper article announcing that Stanley Kubrick (of whom Benko is a die-hard fan) started working on his new film, Eyes Wide Shut. Mesmerized by the title (and devoid of any additional information regarding the film) Benko wrote the song in less than 30 minutes with an assorted selection of images dancing before his eyes: apes creeping around a black monolith, Jack Nicholson wielding an axe … The track's lyrics – Benko's take on romantic disillusionment – was inspired exclusively by the movie's title. Nevertheless, it is remarkably close to the issues addressed by the movie's screenplay (based on Arthur Schnitzler's novel). The song was recorded in 1998, during the production of the band's second album, Unlike a Virgin. However, due to an excess of material and some highly subjective reasoning, Puta Royale never made it onto the album.

Der Untergang, Les Égoistes and The Last Dance were all written for Lulubaj, a play based on Frank Wedekind's expressionist novel Lulu. All three tracks are variations of the same song. Each track illustrates the emotional state of the cast at the focal points of their imaginary journey throughout Europe. The most interesting thing though, is that Der Untergang and Les Égoistes represent Hladnik's lyrical debut, as well as Benko's first encounter with German and French.

God Forsaken Country originally appeared on Silence's second album, Unlike a Virgin. The version featured on this album, performed by the Rožmarinke string quartet, was written for the ensemble's 2004 debut album.

3 besede / 3 Words was written for the Vain – A Tribute to a Ghost album. The track was inspired by the concept of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, a record that traces the arc of a modern romantic relationship (from initial flirtation to the relationship's eventual disintegration) through 12 beautiful remakes of classic love songs. Following the same premise, 3 Words focuses on the transition between two extremes of human sentiment: love and hate. Each verse is a separate confession – one of love, the second of hate. Benko wrote the first confession in Slovene – his mother tongue. Why? In his own words: Expressing love or writing about it in English always sounds somewhat impersonal, as though the language itself distances you from what you've written. Ordinarily, this works perfectly for me. Actually, that's an excellent question: why did I write the first strophe in Slovene? The slow-paced ballad was eventually excluded from the album in order to avert an excessive drop in the record's overall tempo.

Subaquea and Transition Blues were originally written for Nunca Mais, a documentary film about the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the shores of Galicia in 2003. The project was never finalized.

Piano Theme #3 was written for Wrestling Dostoievsky, a play based on Dostoievsky's Crime And Punishment. This subtle piano miniature was performed by Hladnik on a vintage, slightly de-tuned Friedrich Ehrbar grand piano.