Chris Korda: The Bob Dylan of Climate Change
By Arno Raffeiner
September 10, 2019
Chris Korda became known in the 1990s with two electro albums on DJ Hell's Gigolo label. Not only were their idiosyncratic songs visionary, but also their emancipated, open handling of their identity as a transgendered person, as they characterized themselves. With Terre Thaemlitz, Korda was the first artist to make her trans-identity a theme in the techno scene. At the same time, she was also a scandal noodle, Korda shocked with her own religious community, the Church Of Euthanasia. Their radical slogan "Save the planet - kill yourself" is now developing unexpected relevance in the face of an impending climate apocalypse. After a 15-year hiatus, Chris Korda is back with an album on Perlon. Arno Raffeiner met the musician in Berlin.
Some make plastic-free once a year. Others sail across the Atlantic on a sailing yacht. Most cultivate a little bit of flying shame while booking their next weekend trip. Chris Korda does nothing of all the trendy world rescue folklore. When it comes to disaster prevention, she prefers abortion, dadaism and the abolition of the four-quarter time. And has been for over 25 years. But one thing after another.
For the at times most-hated person in the techno circus, Korda makes a rather foolish impression. Shorts, wide-cut top, a sloppy jacket above. The hair is short and a bit sparse in places, the nail polish is pink-gold in color, the need for notification is significantly increased. In the middle of Korda's almost two-hour lecture on polymeter and antinatalism, a young woman comes to our table. She just wanted to say how great she found Korda's outfit, especially the earrings. Korda is thrilled: "Do you see? That's exactly why I want to move to Berlin! "
Korda was not always and everywhere as popular as this summer evening in the Princess Gardens in Berlin, a place where alternative ways of life for urban space are being tried out. Alternative models are Korda's purpose in life. It was once considered a walking provocation. Today the standard reaction is rather: Chris who? There was no new music or scandal reports from her for over 15 years. In the late 1990s and early 1990s, both were practically synonymous.
In a league with Stockhausen
September 11, 2001 is porn. The World Trade Center the double phallus of arch-capitalism. The exploding jets are penetration and squirting fantasies. And the world is just awesome to watch.
That was the message from “I Like to Watch”, a video clip that Korda released shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Internet. So after the death of almost 3000 people and the collapse of a world order. Korda used money shots from porn films to assemble pictures of the burning WTC towers in New York and bodies falling to their death, along with funky beats and lines on the soundtrack such as: "That plane-shaped hole really gets me hot." At the time, hardly anyone understood the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of art.
Seen from a distance, "I Like to Watch" is the prime example of Korda's activism par excellence. Polemical and exaggerated beyond the pain threshold, regardless of piety, reasonableness or other old conventions. At least in a league with Karlheinz Stockhausen's comments on 9/11 as the greatest work of art of all time, maybe one step above. "It was super extreme, I recognize that," says Korda today. "But I'm not ashamed of it." Still, she disappeared a little later.
In 2003 she released the album The Man of the Future, which defined the progress rhetoric of techno somewhat differently. In the title track, a euphoric pitched voice sings: "Those who cannot adapt must be destroyed." Korda also adapted herself by mothballing her desktop computer, which she had toured for live performances, and abolished herself as a hate-loved club icon, at least temporarily. She didn't release music and stopped playing gigs.
Suicide as a survival strategy
Korda's place has always been in between. With her music, art, software and activism, she primarily communicates that conventional binary attributions do not suit her. If she feels that she belongs somewhere, it is what she calls the "gender bending movement". "The willingness to fill the middle, not to be ashamed of being neither-nor - that is extremely important to me," she says. She does not want to make regulations as to how exactly she should be addressed. She finds that too normative. She sees it more as a matter of respect and courtesy when addressed as a biological man with female pronouns. And as a compliment that makes her happy as well as the spontaneous comment on her earrings.
"Playing dressed as a woman in Poland was damn risky and almost cost me my life."
Korda was born in New York in 1962. She now lives in a suburb of Boston, but has been thinking about leaving the United States for some time. If Donald Trump should be elected President a second time in November 2020, she will definitely do so, she explains, and asks if you happen to know anything about a vacant apartment in Berlin. Aside from the local scenes in Detroit and Chicago, American music never played a role anyway. But she was all the more striking on the dance floors in Europe.
She appeared in drag, which caused quite a stir in the minimal beer harvest of that time. "I've risked death enough times, even on tour in Europe," she says. “Playing dressed as a woman in Poland was damn risky and almost cost me my life. I did cross-dressing and gender bending long before it was accepted or harmless. It was brave. It had to be done. And that's why I still do it today."
Korda saw electronic dance music as the ideal vehicle for her radical social criticism. At the same time, she brought a touch of showbiz back to the clubs with her dresses and wigs. It was a perfect match for DJ Hell's International DJ Gigolos and the ensuing electroclash wave, like the fist for Schwarzenegger's biceps in the label's logo.
When her first Gigolo album “Six Billion Humans Can’t Be Wrong” was released in 1999, Korda had already had a life as a software developer, female impersonator and founder of a religious community. Korda is still the Reverend of the Church Of Euthanasia. The creed of religion is as simple as it is contradictory: suicide as a survival strategy. In 1993, Korda made the slogan "Save the planet, kill yourself!" The title of an agitprop techno smasher, which she initially published herself and which only spread a few years later.
The Church is antinatalist, so it is directed against the multiplication of humanity as the greatest threat to planet earth. Church members see their protests and processions in the tradition of Dadaism: the absurdity of the world is fought with equally absurd means. Suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy are the four pillars with which the Church works against overpopulation and ultimately for the preservation of the habitat of the human species. “These options are optional,” explains Korda, because the Church knows only one command: You shouldn't procreate.
Further than Steve Reich
Korda has kept the bid. "The Church is more relevant than ever," she says. Nevertheless, she was not particularly active as a reverend for a long time. For the past 15 years, she has spent most of her time developing software for 3D printers. In addition, she worked on her own, unconventional sequencers and other open source tools. Now she is releasing new music on Perlon, a concept album: Akoko Ajeji, overflowing with polymeter euphoria, without any controversial messages.
Korda made a prominent comeback appearance for the Boiler Room in DC-10 in Ibiza. Seth Troxler announced one of his “favorite artists ever”. It stood next to him in a glittering silver sequin dress with a bright blue wig. With her set, Korda made sure to touch the chunky laptop in front of her as little as possible. Instead, she danced an elf dance and practiced lip-syncing to the melodies of her old tracks. A charming, irritating appearance. "My show was a hit," says Korda, "there is a lot of talk about it."
As a teenager in New York, Korda lived through the disco era that originated in the gay subculture. She was a pioneer in several socio-political fields that could hardly be more relevant today. LGBTQI movement, veganism, also on the World Wide Web with its techno-social potential, Korda was one of the early adopters. Now, with this agenda, she is returning to a scene in which queerness and diversity are common buzzwords and labels and DJs may also think about their ecological footprint. Korda could hardly fit in better. But can it contribute significantly new things? She has no doubt about that. She speaks of her new album and the concept behind it as a revolution.
Korda worked on the idea back in the nineties: polymeter. Each soundtrack in a piece follows its own meter, based on prime numbers. In this way, the individual elements are constantly shifting towards each other and always morphing and mutating the overall sound. Korda names Steve Reich as a role model for their process. But there is more to it than the works of the contemporary composer, she says. “Steve Reich didn't push the method as far as I did. And he wasn't particularly concerned with making music that was listenable. I find a lot of him pretty difficult, not particularly accessible. ”
Lopsided tempos for strange times
Akoko Ajeji is Yoruba, Korda translates the album title into English with "Strange Time". Lopsided tempos for strange times. There is no biographical information in the press info for the album, but a number of bare facts about the individual tracks. For "Ala Aye", for example, it says: "The polymeter repeats itself after 118,731,810,156,960 beats (around 1.7 million years)." Anyone who inscribes such longevity in his art must have a reasonably positive relationship with the future, despite all evidence and all activism.
Korda does not see this as a contradiction. The idea of transcending human perception of time through art has always inspired her. "Geological time dimensions are an antidote to current confusion and our fear of the future," she explains. "If the extinction of mankind seems plausible, if we are surrounded by climate chaos and the people who flee from it, if we have the feeling that civilization will break apart from this crisis and become fascism, then such a calendar has something very comforting. I think that's the connection between the ideology behind the Church Of Euthanasia and my interest in extreme timescales.”
Everything on Akoko Ajeji is time and rhythm. The sound design is clearly of minor interest. The sounds have to be as clear as possible, explains Korda, so that the polymeters come into their own. This ensures that the album sometimes sounds like a heavily shaken sack of MIDI preset fleas. The music appears complex, but not difficult. It is playful, sunny, friendly to people. And: purely instrumental. The big club of social criticism saves Korda a little more. A new EP under the spiritual name of Church Of Euthanasia has already been produced.
"It is more politically charged than before," says Korda. “I've become the Bob Dylan of climate change. There are many texts about antinatalism, economic inequality, the extinction of humanity. As dark as it gets, and definitely with the potential to scare people. "Korda gives a taste:" Rich people are dumb / I hope they succumb / In expensive cars / Or condos on Mars. "
"Akoko Ajeji" was released on September 6th, 2019 on Perlon.