Fall in love with SADO OPERA!
“The electro-punk Russians are coming!”
April 20th Kater Holzig
Whatever these words conjure up in your imagination, I can assure you the reality is even more fabulous. All they want is your pleasure – and a little bit of pain… you can try to resist all you like, but ultimately you will succumb to the force and magic of their charms.
“We love you. We must be together!”
I always secretly wanted to be a cabaret singer – 30s Paris, 20s Berlin – and having just decided to commit myself to being more open to decadent pleasures and dedicated to trying new experiences on my return to Berlin – the capital of modern day licentious behaviour, when I am presented with the unexpected opportunity to do just that.
The trio of travelers I am idly watching at Helsinki airport as they check-in before me has something strangely alluring about them – so I keep sneaking glances as we wait to board the plane, and then again while disembarking. A kind of vaudeville style that makes me want to run away with them or at least find out who they are. I wonder again to myself as I wait for my luggage, “Who are you people?”
I summon up my courage at the last minute, take a deep breath, and walk up as they are met by their friend outside the gates. “Hi, excuse me, are you doing a show?” I ask, and when they smile and confirm “yes”, I continue: “do you have any fliers?”. So I find myself at 4am in an underground Berlin club, chanting “SADO OPERA!” along with their fans. The gig is somewhat outside my usual range of experimental music and sound art, so I’m glad that I did follow that impulse to say hello, or I would never know who they were, and I wouldn’t have missed experiencing SADO OPERA for the world.
They start with a bang, “Fire on the dance floor, fire at the taco bell – danger! Danger! High Voltage! When we touch, when we kiss”… and I am transfixed. High energy doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of their show – I am electrified from the very first song, following a brilliant cinematic trailer build-up which could fill a stadium with fans screaming their name “SADO OPERA!” in a booming voice from the brilliant drummer/musical maestro the Android. Their comic magic and hardcore antics only get more intense and wild from here, with glitter hearts and a driving beat, melding into the beautifully debauched cabaret that is SADO OPERA live as the indefatigable presence of Herr Oberst (the Colonel) and the debauched antics of Magic Doll, Psycho Rabbit and Pierrot the Trickster drive the crowd into a frenzy. It’s four in the morning in an underground Berlin club, and the audience is high on pure adulation and adrenaline. The truly dynamic energy with which they attacked their original material is well matched by the exorbitant streams of glitter hearts and shiny confetti that were nearly constantly exploded onto the now-manic audience crowded into the Naherholung Sternchen in Berlin Mitte, behind the Rathaus and Kino International.
I am blown away by the ability of these five electro punk Russians to raise the energy of the room and create a sense of sheer spectacleusing their original music, magic dust, stage presence – and a LOT of glitter! – that will translate easily from the Tal Der Verwirrung party to a stadium filled with thousands of screaming fans. Their free spirits and philosophy of “aggressive hedonism” – enhancing pleasure and love with sexual freedom – are evident in their style and the way they engage with the crowd, bringing a light-hearted feeling to some edgy material, with songs touching on different aspects of sexuality.
The tongue-in-cheek comic magic tricks are ludicrous, however this is truly overcome by the sheer conviction with which they are performed – “Russian Magic, ladies and gentlemen! Magic! Magic!” but I leave you to discover the details yourself, when you will no doubt find your destiny as you are drawn to the love vibes emitted by SADO OPERA across the globe. I look forward to seeing SADO OPERA taking over the stage again to blow you away with their decadent spectacular.
“Magic powder” and “sexually enhanced” pleasure candies may have contributed to the overall effect, but the main impact of the show, which kept me transfixed throughout was entirely due to the artistry, good humour, purely decadent generosity and presence with which these remarkable performers grabbed our hearts and exploded them into a thousand glittering pieces with their debauched love bombs… I for one, will never be the same again, for which I am profoundly thankful!
SADO OPERA are given over to decadence and sensual indulgence and they want to help you, with the promise to change all that for anyone brave enough to take their magic trip… The show has a light touch, which combines humour, obscenity and absurdity, as evidenced in the upbeat chorus chant: “Be Obscene!” their tongue in cheek cover of Marilyn Manson’s song “mOBSCENE.”
The more hardcore aspects are conducted with a touch of gentility – aggressive but with elegance, as Herr Oberst describes. During their show, an over excited fan sprays his beer over the performers and is fiercely admonished by the row of enthusiastic devoted female fans in the front row. This reinforces the underlying message, if there is one beyond “pure decadence and debauchery!” that is: Yes! be sexually depraved and be outrageous, be obscene but do it with charm, do it with style, do it with wit, respect, intelligence and elegance.
As the group comes from St Petersburg, I am intrigued by the sense of truly subversive energy that is intimately bound into their aura of decadence, which has an edge beyond most of the alternative cabaret I’ve seen, and want to know more about their perspective on living and working in Russia, so arrange to meet where they promise to satisfy my curiosity.
When I interview Herr Oberst (the Colonel) and Magic Doll, despite their claim to have given me the special pleasure candies, it truly doesn’t take any magic to fall completely under the spell of these utterly charming, delightfully articulate, debauched and enchanting characters. Their unique blend of absurdity, joyful sexuality and outrageous flirtation continues off-stage as we delve into the questions I have about what the intentions behind their “act” and the message of freedom to express yourself with pleasure and love that they wish to share with people everywhere.
We start our conversation naked – as people’s inhibitions fall away with their clothes simply on being in the same room… They promise to demonstrate their philosophy of “aggressive hedonism” with me after the interview. I comment that my friend who came to the show was too scared to eat the candy, he really thought it would have some serious effect on him.
The Colonel replies: “Smart of him! Did he eat it in the end, though? NO. But this is typical for the human psyche to be afraid of the pleasure you can get. We are like doctors, we are helping people to fight with these psychological blocks in their mind, and not to be afraid of the highest pleasure they can get – we are trying to teach… and this is partly one of the messages of our show. For example, like anal sex – a lot of young girls are afraid of this, some boys are afraid of this – but in the end if they find the proper teacher, they discover the real art of pleasure. Not in this primitive penis vagina sex which is just typical for animals, or for people who don’t really want to think…”
And so we dive straight into the deep end with my first question eliciting a panegyric to the joys of anal sex. Much like the Ancient Greeks, Sado Opera truly believe this holds the key to a heightened experience of sexual pleasure in its deepest and most spiritual form. I didn’t even have a religious education and yet I still seem to have absorbed the guilt about pleasure and mythology that our culture surrounds sex with shame and sin, and haven’t entirely broken free of these constrictions. Maybe Sado Opera can help…
I ask if Berlin is more or less hedonistic than St Petersburg, and the Colonel replies: “Yes, definitely Berlin is a more hedonistic city than St Petersburg, and many other cities in the world. It is easier to help people in Berlin than to help people in St Petersburg, that’s what I can say – but at the same time we are still going to continue working with people in Russia as well, because who else can help them if not us?”
Apparently you are the only electro punk cabaret in St Petersburg? Is this true?
“It looks like at least – we were trying to find some colleagues, but we never saw them. Maybe they were hiding somewhere because of the high level of homophobia and xenophobia and other phobias,” Magic Doll interrupts “magic phobia,” the Colonel continues “and love phobia, which is very common in Russia. The love phobia is one of the main problems of people now.”
Really? The fear of love.. and during the set you also say that in Russia this song is illegal, and there was a lot of protest recently about homosexual rights in Russia. Is it legal or illegal to be homosexual in Russia?
C: “It is illegal to be homosexual in Russia. Illegal to be sexual, illegal to be lovable, illegal to be yourself – that is why people really are forced to pretend and they are filled with tension, on every step. And we really love people, that is why we feel responsibility to help them and to save them from all this shit.”
Magic Doll: “Yes, but Russia is a great country. Please, when you have time visit the Red Square, (Colonel: “and get naked there”) you’re going to see Lenin, that’s the guy who made the revolution, that’s fun, and you can see the parade of the big military Russian forces, and this “Big Ben” at the red square, and a lot of police guys…
Colonel: “Police, police is everywhere, that’s what Russia is famous for! Men in uniform everywhere, but they are very tensioned and unfortunately they don’t let themselves explore and be themselves again. That is why they feel very nervous when they see us, unfortunately we sometimes even had not a nice cases happening with the Russian police – because they probably feel that they want to embrace, lick us, kiss us and give their bodies to us for us to do something to them – but they are afraid of that.. we understand that, we forgive them, and we wish them only happiness…” Magic Doll: “and love!”
That’s so beautiful, I can feel the love in the room. It seems that you’re coming from quite a serious social-political context, and you’re like, bursting with energy and life and you’re really pushing something that is not at all hard or heavy but just beautiful and exploding with excitement and joy – and I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about this and where you’re coming from?
C: Well it’s a very long story, because it starts in 1772, when the Marquis de Sade and his servants just hired four prostitutes in Marseille for a big orgy. They were feeding them with the sexual stimulating candies which we are usually feeding everybody – so anyway, we are the descendants of the Marquis de Sade and his servants, or these four prostitutes –
JR: You’re the direct descendants of the Marquis de Sade?
C: Not the direct descendants, but maybe of his servants – it also was connected with these four prostitutes
MD: But for sure, yes – my grandma she was a prostitute, I’m not ashamed of that
C: We hope that at least one drop of the Marquis de Sade was in each of us . Maybe even more. Anyway, what is special about this story is that Marquis de Sade never had any vagina contact with women – like all of us – he only liked them, how is it – more appropriate to say on this radio interview? In the ass! That is why all these prostitutes, got pregnant – through the ass, which is possible.
JR: Now you’re really stretching my credibility…
MD: Not only pregnant through the ass but also giving birth through the ass, which is proved in the documents, and actually the first case in history when children were born through the ass…
C: But anyway, in returning to this birth from the ass – you can also see it in some of our shows. We have a magic trick, in German we call it arsch-geboren-kinder – we didn’t do it this time – it is a very special trick.
I have to speak a little about the characters of our show – Magic Doll is definitely the one who is responsible for all magic in the show. I am the Colonel, I am responsible for all military stuff, for fame, power, commanding – everything I like. We also have the Psycho Rabbit, Frau aus Moskau, we have the little Pierrot the Trickster, and he is responsible for all trickster stuff.” Magic Doll: “I don’t know if you noticed, he is always trying to spoil the show?”
Surely you need some trickster element to keep you on your toes, otherwise you’d all be all loved up all the time?
“Yes definitely, and there is Android, the drummer and the sound engineer – who is German. And we only have German sound engineers and German drummers because they are so attentive, much more attentive than Russians.”
I don’t know if this is like, a stereotype, I have this image of Russians as being very wild and free-spirited, a little bit chaotic, a little bit intense, prone to, like drama and poetry and passion…
“It is true. This stereotype is true. Well, actually, this is a funny thing, because we once had this question in the interview, about stereotypes – but we just had to admit that almost all stereotypes about Russia are true, in the world… I mean, not really extreme ones like bears on the street, but I think in some places really it happens, at least wolves are coming and stealing dogs in the wintertime.. but the stereotype that Russian men are aggressive, drinking too much, that they are not polite, that they don’t respect your privacy and women are really highly discriminated – this is all true.
The thing about free spirit, is probably also true but we don’t really notice it in the majority. It is probably lying deep in the Russian mentality, and if you discover it maybe Russians are – more open to the possibilities of spiritual development than a lot of Western people – I am certainly talking about the majority, But they don’t really notice it often, unfortunately, but we are trying to do this…”
This is really part of your mission, to release this freedom in everyone?
Colonel: “Yes, yes sure! And as well, to take the best details from all these things which I just described, but sometimes it is good to be a little bit aggressive, but just a little bit – to stay elegant, and female discrimination is also sweet…”
Magic Doll: “Yes, but for sure, we are proud of representing Russia and being a part of Russian culture in a way, because if you close your eyes and try not to mention all the really bad and hard things which are happening – for sure we are proud of Russian literature and cultural background”
Colonel: “and I am proud of the Russian military force, you know, those big rockets and guns… ooooh” Magic Doll: “and actually when you look on the map and you see how big is Russia, that’s really impressive”
JR: So how did you two spawn of the Marquis de Sade end up in St Petersburg? How were you brought together? Was it on the streets of St Petersburg, was it in a lion’s den, at your mother’s breast?
Magic Doll: “Destiny”
Colonel: “Yes, destiny brought us together”
MD: “and how did you meet Maestro and me and psycho rabbit”
C: “I don’t remember, I think that it was in the church, maybe traveling, I don’t really remember it was such a long time ago. You know we are all very spiritual? We are Pagans, we don’t really belong to any official religion, but we really respect all the temples, all the magic rituals – we really like the magic rituals.”
MD: “So when I was studying at the magic school and I got a course of prediction, and I predicted myself a big orgy, where I gonna meet three strange people who are also not the same like regular humans, and I predicted it to myself, and I came to this place which I saw in my crystal ball, and they really were there and waiting for me – and of course we had some sexually stimulating candies which I also learned to cook, in this magic school, and then, when the orgy was already in progress, I suddenly realised that they are all my very close relatives, who I never saw before, but they have the special sign on the body, which we all have, all the descendants of Marquis…”
C: “Which you can see now, Jodi!”
MD: “Our grandmothers put this sign on each of us so that we could find ourselves in the world – so that we can recognise each other”
JR: “I have a magic circle, just here – is this the sign?”
C: “A magic circle, oh my god, we found a new sister! Certainly.”
MD: “But it’s not only the magic circle that…”
You reminded me of something, in your spiel, on the internet – you say that you will tell my fortune and you will heal my broken heart, and I’d quite like to have my fortune told… and my broken heart healed!
C. “But this is a magic secret ritual, we cannot make it when the microphone is on… but we are ready to do this. You really have a broken heart?”
MD: “and also because there is no one way to heal the broken heart, and if we now try to show it on radio, live and then people would try to do it themselves at home, the heart can be even more broken, that is why.”
C: “It is dangerous”
MD: “Yes, don’t try to repeat this at home – it is always very very special, and we have this personal touch in healing the broken heart, and everybody is welcome, you just have to come to our show or contact us and we really would love to help you. Because, heart should be loving and not broken. No, not broken.”
C: “As we mentioned during the last show – magic – real magic, hurts. So, be careful!”
I will consider myself warned… Thank you very much. So where is your magic life taking you next? You’re back to St Petersburg on the weekend – what else are you cooking up for the legion of fans you must have out there? Adoring you and waiting for your to come into their hearts, again and again…
MD: “Now we will go to Russia, to have some shows in St Petersburg and Moscow, and then back to Berlin for a show at Kater Holzig on April 20th, and we come again in May, to have a big performance at our colleague, dj Noema’s party “The Magic Movement” It’s going to be in the club called “Chalet.”
JR: “I could really see you guys kicking it big festivals – because, you have like a very big presence, and a lot of glitter… you could, like rock out with the 5,000 people stage, I think”
C: “I would love to”
MD: “That’s what we’re going to do in Austria in July, because its the big body painting festival, with artists from all over the world, collecting a crowd of thousands of people – and our stage is going to be in the medieval castle. Party “Surreal Ballroom”, 03.07 at the World Bodypainting Festival, Pörtschach, Austria.
C: “and we are going even to live in this castle, and this is I guess the Sado Castle – because I don’t remember if we said this at the beginning? We live in the Sado Palace, sure and that is why it is very important for us.”
MD: “That’s on the rider. So yes if you have time in July, every body is welcome to join us at the world body painting festival in Austria – at the Sado Castle – and after that we plan to go to another festival in Dresden – schaubudensommer – which is the festival for theatres, also international.”
And what would be your dream place to perform – if you could do anything, anywhere, where would you like to see yourselves?
C: “Well, actually the castle – I have to say that we really love “Salon-zur wilden Renate” in Berlin, because it is like a SADO Palace for us, and we are really in love with the place and the family of the club, so it is one of our dream places where the dream came true… The SADO Castle is also exciting me – but we are having a plan to become a stadium band, and to make this punk cabaret on a very big stage. We already had an experience on a stage with the, like more than a thousand people. This was in St Petersburg, the same stage where Morrisey performed, even Franz Ferdinand performed there, so this was a big stage and we really felt that we fit to the stage. Maybe we want to do even a mix of classic cabaret with our electronic music, in the way Prodigy did their shows at big festivals.”
You’re mainly writing your own material? Because you made one song that I recognised: “danger danger, high voltage” and then the rest were original?
C: “Yes, we sometimes do some covers, some songs which we like but we do it in our SADO OPERA way, for instance there is also “Be Obscene, which is our version of Marilyn Manson’s “mOBSCENE,” but certainly we have our own songs which are usually stories about us, or about our famous relatives… and also some songs which can help people, like medication.”
MD: “Yes, soon we’re gonna upload the song which you heard live on the show, it is called ‘Doctor Squirt’”
C: “Which is a very important song for Russian women, first of all – because Russian women, because of this terrible female discrimination in Russia, they have problems with feeling pleasure, and with feeling themselves free in sexual relationship, that is why we are trying to help at least with this song. But also it looks like, maybe German women also need it sometimes… So it’s international cure.”
JR: “I think everyone needs a little help sometimes, because no matter how free and open minded you are, there is still social pressures or cultural prejudices that kind of sneak in, there’s, you know – there’s all kinds of things that can make you feel bad about your sexuality… and to embrace that, to like, jump up and down and scream “Be Obscene!” I think is wonderful! You’re doing a very valuable service – Thank You!”
C: “Thank you so much, it’s so pleasant to hear, I feel vibrations of pleasure in my body – what do you feel Magic Doll?
MD: I do.”
I ask for their SADO OPERA mantra, a few parting words from the Colonel & Magic Doll:
MD: “We are SADO OPERA. We live in the SADO Palace. We drive the SADO Mobile. We do magic shows. We heal broken hearts. We bring happiness and joy. We must be together.”
C: “I should say, first – We love you, and then we must be together.”
MD: “We love you more than your own mother..”
C: “Definitely we love you more – because, your mother loves you, just naturally, it’s not a love which your mother is spending a lot of energy to feel. She is spending a lot of energy to raise you and educate you, but it is a natural love.
JR: “And your love is an unnatural love, right?”
C: “Yes! Our love is artificial as art is – it’s artificial, it’s love for arts sake – for love’s sake – and its art for arts sake, sure.”
To the wonderful, the hardcore and fabulous SADO OPERA! I do hope, dear readers, you’ll have the chance to enjoy their magic, and their mystery in the very near future. If you ever wished to visit 20’s Berlin, this decadent troupe will take you there in a SADO OPERAtic time capsule. They really can tell your fortune and heal your broken heart, but to find out how that is done you will have to experience the pleasure and pain of SADO OPERA for yourself.
“We love you. We must be together!”
Images courtesy of SADO OPERA