by Verena Spilker

The Hidden Cameras, originally from Canada, emerged from the Toronto queercore scene and play sweet pop songs with lyrics that range from political statements such as Ban Marriage on their first album The Smell of Our Own to love songs, using many images varying from mundane to religious. While the first album seems quite happy alltogether you can find more ballads on their second and third album, even though songs like I Believe In The Good of Life are more than life affirming, but never loose a critical touch.
The newest album, Origin:Orphan that was released in 2009 on the Canadian Arts&Crafts label seems to be a little darker, others may say more complex, than the albums before.
Whether this comes from growing up or had other reasons I discussed with Joel Gibb, the singer, songwriter, founder and mastermind behind The Hidden Cameras. He met with us on a sunny afternoon in Berlin, in front of Lido, where he was about to play a show later that day.

TQU: Why did you move to Berlin?

JG: To live in another city, another country and to learn a new language and gain a new perspective to the world.

TQU: There is a quite big queer scene in Toronto and in Berlin as well. Did that influence your decision to move to Berlin?

JG: Yes, that’s right, not too big, but it’s there.

TQU: Were you involved in the queercore scene in Canada in your past? Like with JD’s magazine?

JG: Right, yes. But this zine was about a scene that wasn’t there. It was a fictional scene, but I do think that now, 20 years later there is something like a scene. And it’s good it’s growing bigger and bigger every year.

TQU: I heard an explanation you gave, that Origin: Orphan, the title of your album, had something to do with the idea, that the gay community doesn’t think about building a family, and this way are more like orphans and have to think of new ways of creating a family, for example as a big circle of friends.

JG: Wow, that’s great. Can that be my answer?
Yes, I like that. There are these lyrics in The Little Bit: “we could build a family being who we wanna be” – I don’t know it just made me think of that.
I am understanding my own art more now!

TQU: Since you are traveling a lot, is it easy for you to stay in touch with your friends?

JG: Yes, yesterday for example we skyped with two of our friends – our viola player from Toronto, he plays in the orchestra in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada now – I skyped with him and Lara skyped his friend and we had the two computers facing each other. That was fun and that is a way… And also the other day we talked to another member of The Hidden Cameras, he lives in Canada and is a political organizer in Toronto. He sometimes tours with us, but not always. He just founded a new organization called Better Ballots, oh wait I always say it wrong. Better Ballots, like for the municipal election, but then I always say better ballads, like the song. I should tell him that. But yeah, he watched our soundcheck and was playing guitar along. So…

TQU: How important is it for you to always have a changing set of people with you on stage?

JG: It’s not that it is important. It’s just the type of people that I work with are artists and organizers, they all do their own things and it’s not really realistic to expect them to tour all the time with us. Also it’s harder to bring over a lot of people from Canada, that is why there are a lot of european people that play with us. But it’s good, it’s like a different type of band, it’s more like a community thing, people get to know each other, like so many people have played in the band and… you know… the model of a band just doesn’t apply in a way to the project.

TQU: I read that you said, that now that you are growing older, that you question things more and don’t take them from granted. is that what the Underage song is about?

JG: Yeah, or just to keep that kind of quality, somehow bring that into your daily life as an adult.

TQU: Your new album is a lot different from the ones before. It’s not that happy and it is different lyrically and musically. How did that change come?

JG: Just, I guess, freeing… just trying to be more free with how you write songs and how you record them. And so this record was recorded in Canada, in Germany, in London, in different studios with different people, it was mixed by somebody else and mastered in a new place – just, it wasn’t like we set down and recorded a record in this small frame of time. It was years, like two of the songs are from the previous album sessions, every song has a different story, that is why they are kind of like orphans – it’s like an orphanage.

TQU: Would you like to tell us the story behind one of your songs? How you came to think of the lyrics or something like that?

JG: I first thought of In the NA in Reichenbergerstrasse, here in Berlin. Not all the lyrics, but the idea… The song was recorded in Canada. And here as well. Back and froth. That is the concept of the album.

TQU: And what is coming for the future? You are a visual artist as well, are you working on something there?

JG: Oh yeah, I was supposed to finish it today, for this show. I have this reinterpretation of the Stasi-Logo and I just.. my back was really hurting the last two weeks and sewing by hand is really not what I should be doing, but maybe I can get some help. There is not much more to do for it.

TQU: And did you have an exhibition in Germany or in Berlin sometime?

JG: I had one a year or so ago in EXILE on Alexandrinerstrasse in Kreuzberg. I showed some stuff with some other friends, GB Jones, from JD’s – she showed her drawings, and Christophe Chemin, a french guy and my friend Gwenael Rattke, who is from here.

TQU: You are also working on a film with Vaginal Davis?

JG: Really? Oh, we were in one with the GB Jones Film and I’m gonna be filming Vaginal this summer hopefully.

TQU: And I also read that you are planning a narrative production of your album at Hebbel Am Ufer?

JG: Oh shit. No. Well maybe, but I don’t like, I mean we haven’t organized it yet, I’ve been too busy…. It’s bad to talk about things that are not like [certain]… bad.

TQU: But there are some remixes coming out I heard, from a band in Spain?

JG: Yeah, it’s these people. It’s like an EP. They took the vocal tracks and made a whole EP from it. It’s pretty cool.

TQU: And when is that coming out?

JG: I think they are putting it out next month, in Spain. And I’m gonna put it out on my label in Canada, but we should find somewhere to put it out in Germany. But nobody wants to put music out now…

TQU: Really?

JG: CDs? No…

TQU: But if you have a small amount of records that you could sell on tour? I’m sure that would sell.

JG: Yeah, that’s right, that might work.

Interview by Verena Spilker