A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF AUSGANG

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Ausgang caught the music industries attention back in the early/mid 80’s with their unique look and style.  Since their recent reformation, they have gone on from strength to strength with a very busy 2023.  During the festive season I was fortunate to spend some down-time with them to do this interview with the whole band as they ready themselves for 2024.

Interview by Songs of Preys, pictures by Andrew Lawrence

Original members Max and Matthew were first joined by Victor Guillamon on drums, then later Sarah Tonin completed the line-up on bass.

After a very hectic 2023, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Ausgang after a rehearsal.

Before we delve into the trials and tribulations of the last 12 months, it’s nice to get a bit of a back story for all the eager fans out there. 

Questions in italics, answers in bold.

Matthew, at which point in your life did you want to be in a band?

I started my first band when I was 13. I probably would have started one earlier if I could find anyone to be in a band with. We played some classic rock covers – mostly Status Quo as they were easy to play! At the local youth club. I don’t think we even had a singer. Just 3 guitars going through the same amp and a cheap drum kit.

I’d played the violin in orchestras from 9 or 10 and sung in the choir for years from very young. My parents were both musicians, so we went to lots of concerts and gigs. I saw Stephane Grappelli with my dad and was blown away by the sound. I think I always wanted to be on stage.

Max, to you, when you first created Ausgang, (from the embers of Kabuki) what direction did you feel your music was going in?

Kabuki was very much us trying to get away from the old rock’n’roll way of doing things, and we fitted right in with the whole ‘post-punk’ thing. The songs were great, but there was a theatricality about the live shows that was a little difficult to maintain and started to feel a little forced and pretentious. So, Matthew, Cub and Ibo decided to strip things back to basics – even to the point of sacking two members – the synth player and backing vocalist. Everything became a little darker and intense. But even though we made that decision to make a change, the direction we were going was still pretty organic – there was nothing forced about it. It felt very natural.

So, Sarah, with you being the latest edition to the stellar line-up, how do you feel about being the ‘new kid on the block’ in such as an established band like Ausgang?

My first year as a member of Ausgang has been an absolute blast!  I will never take any of it for granted.  The surreality of being/playing bass in one of the original post-punk bands is, some days, mind blowing.  I am more than aware of the band’s history, a history that I am now a part of – WOW!

My bandmates have been so welcoming to me, I feel very privileged and a little spoiled.

Also, Sarah, do you think that your early goth roots in Leeds have leant themselves well to the Ausgang sound and style?

I was born and grew up in Leeds where it was hard to avoid the emergence of ‘alternative’ sub-cultures.  There seemed to be something in the Yorkshire water as far as the music scene in Leeds was concerned.  This inadvertent exposure has given me a good grounding to cope with the style and sound of Ausgang.

Victor, as the smiley and enthusiastic drummer of the band, how does being a drum teacher/instructor compare with playing live with Ausgang?

I really feel that the process of playing with Ausgang has helped me with the tuition because it means I am feeling my most inspired and passionate musically. Also, many of my students have been shown parts of our songs so now a dep would be easy to find!

Max, I have seen your recent live sets first hand, but how does performing life in the early 80’s compare to 2023?

Even though there were lots of other bands experimenting in a similar way to us back then, it took a while for that knowledge to filter thru as this was pre-internet, so for a while, we honestly thought we were on our own, forging a path that no-one else was. That felt exciting, so from that perspective, there’s a part of me that favours those days. However, we’re more skilled nowadays, more confident, more experienced. And we have a worldwide audience which feels awesome! And I still love performing live.

Matthew, what do you derive the most pleasure from; writing, recording, or performing songs live?

I love recording with the band, but we’ve not done that in this set up with Victor and Sarah yet. We will next year. It’s a magical process.  Playing live is fantastic fun. You have to love it – all that travelling and hanging about for an hour or so on stage. It’s been brilliant doing a run of 3/4 gigs and I’d love to do more. Looks like we’re doing a couple in Texas and then the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico in 2024 so I’m really excited about that.

Every Ausgang fan has their personal favourite, but Max, of your earlier work, which songs do you enjoy listening to, and performing the most?

I’ve just been writing about this in the history of Ausgang book I’m in the middle of writing. I think our time with Criminal Damage Records was our most creative. Songs like ‘Vice-Like Grip’, ‘Solid Glass Spine’ and ‘Sink Into You’ are my favourites. I even like the alter Kabuki songs like ‘Hey Bed’, that were never recorded properly, but which we still perform live now.

Matthew, it’s obvious to those that attend your shows that there is a strong bond between all four band members, do you think that unity is important?

A band is like a family. Sometimes you get on and sometimes you don’t. We all live quite a way away from each other so don’t hang out apart from rehearsal and gigs. Having Victor and Sarah in the band is like new members of the family and I’m loving it. The bond is the music and trying to play the best we can. Wanting to give the best show we can. It’s very addictive.

Also, Matthew, since your reformation, what has been your most stand-out live performance, either personally or as a whole?

The first show we did in Germany when we first reformed was incredible. Having not played together for so long and the size of the crowd and the reaction was astonishing. LA first time was amazing.   NY is always great, but I think the Murder of Crows festival in 2023 was a real highlight. The band played really well – we just clicked that night, and the crowd and venue were awesome.

Sarah, 2023 marked your first ever visits to the USA, after two trips there, how well-received do you think Ausgang’s music is?

As a ‘newbie’ to visiting the US I went with an open mind, not knowing American audiences at all.  Blimey!  What an enthusiastic, welcoming, and lovely bunch they are.  The crowds loved it and it’s good to be appreciated for what you do.  I LOVE my new bass and performing in the US must have a HUGE thank you to Schecter Guitar Research, who endorsed the band and came out to our L.A. show.

Also, when it comes to the band, what are you Sarah looking forward to most in 2024 and beyond?

2024 is shaping up nicely, with interesting and high-profile festivals, gigs and recording opportunities both in the UK and abroad.  And I thought 2023 was amazing – just watch Ausgang in 2024!

Victor, it really shows that both yourself and Sarah Tonin really fit in with the 21st sound of Ausgang, what do you think you have brought to the band’s sound and style?

I think it’s pretty obvious that we add incredible style and good looks to Ausgang!

In all seriousness though, I have done a lot of work looking (and then re-looking a few more times) at the whole history of the post punk/goth scene and I have a huge respect for it. At the same time, I feel I have also been encouraged to bring other feels and dynamics into the music to put my own personality into it, which has been a pleasure and an honour.

 Also, how much do you feel you have grown into Ausgang over the last 12 months?

I think we’ve all worked so hard, both individually and as a team, to get a strong set together over the last 12 months. The live performance is only getting better and better as we all get more comfortable performing together and get to just have fun with it!  It’s so cool to now be an official part of Ausgang history. The whole process has been such an enjoyable adventure that I can’t wait to continue for as long as possible.

Max, as another year begins, what does the future hold for Ausgang, and what, if anything, do you have planned for the not-too-distant future?

There’s lots of exciting projects in the pipeline! Recording new material with our new line-up, re-issuing our early material, playing more shows around the world – especially Mexico and South America. And hopefully next year will see the publication of the Ausgang book I mentioned earlier.

Victor, outside of the life of a rock ‘n’ roll star, when not performing and creating new music with Ausgang, what do you do to un-wind?

The majority of my free time unwinding is spent with my dogs. We spend hours every night listening to lots of music of all different styles (although their favourite to fall asleep to is undeniably Thom Yorke).

This has been a very enlightening interview, but before we go, I have a question for all of you, but PLEASE do not all answer at once.

So, to all of you, and firstly Max to answer, at present, what is your favourite Ausgang song to perform live?

For me, it almost changes from show to show, depending on the reaction we’re getting from the audience. But I think if you were to press me, I love us playing ‘Sink Into You’ – I love the song, it’s a great one to connect with the audience and it always seems to go down well.

Now Sarah, All the tunes are fun to play, but I love ‘4 Tin Doors’ for several reasons.  It’s a great show opener and it is also the first song that I played with the band when I first joined, so I am sentimental about this one!

Victor, the same question for you,  I truly don’t have a singular favourite. But… if pushed I would probably say “Hey Bed”. Or maybe “Crawling the Walls”. But seriously, the whole set is my favourite- that’s why I’m always smiling when I play.

Now finally Matthew, we’ve got some new takes on old songs which are really fun to play. I think the new version of ‘Hey Bed’ it is a really old song we never even recorded properly, it sounds really powerful and Victor and Sarah’s playing on “I Fear the Fear” have elevated that song to new heights.

I Can’t finish the year without a mention to Stu. He joined the band when Cub left and then when we first reformed. He died too young at 60 this autumn. A lovely gentle man. Sorely missed.

I was lucky enough to catch some of the Ausgang live shows in 2023 and I have to say that the do the genre proud, as do the fans, particularly those in the USA.  The ‘goth’ scene in the UK has become very fractured and a far cry from its powerful origins in West Yorkshire in 1980.  However, the fans in the USA and Germany really into that 80’s sound and feel and respect the origins.  If 2024 is anything like 2023 has been for Ausgang, then people better get ready for the hurricane.

** at the moment of writing, Ausgang already being confirmed to play WGT in Leipzig in May, San Antonio, Texas for Halloween and headline the Day of the Dead Festival in Mexico 1st and 2nd November.  More dates to be announced in 2024 **

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