Laibach was formed in 1980 shortly after the death of Marshall Josip Broz Tito the Yugoslavian post-war leader who had spent his political career establishing principles of non-alignment within the communist world. His death began a period of uncertainty in Yugoslavia, resulting in power struggles between Stalinist hard-liners and more liberal politicians, a period of uncertainty that saw struggles and disagreements between the different republics constituting Yugoslavia. Laibach’s response to this confusion was to present their group as a totalitarian organization whose zeal for authority far outstripped that of the state. Laibach They announced their formation through poster campaigns around Trbovlje and Ljubljana, utilizing elements of National Socialist and Social Realist propaganda imagery coupled with partisan folk art to create a startling effect. Confronted by these powerful images and the fact that Laibach is actually the German for Ljubljana, Slovenes were forcefully reminded of their own wartime past under the Nazi and Italian occupation of World War Two. Hailing from Trbovlje, a province famous for its mines and political activism, Laibach were determined to keep this tradition for agitation alive and willfully baited the Yugoslavian government at every opportunity. This was evident in their first outing in September 1980 when they staged a show called „Red Districts“ (Rdeci revirji ). This event was scheduled to take place in Trbovlje with the sole intention of challenging a number of contradictions that the group saw as being inherent in the town’s political structures at that time. Not surprisingly this provocative project was banned before it had even opened, on the grounds that it incorporated an inappropriate use of symbols, something that would become a regular occurrence in Laibach’s early history.

The state effectively intervened in the second year of Laibach’s existence too, when their compulsory military service prevented the group from staging any projects during 1981 but this did not stop a retrospective exhibition being mounted in Belgrade’s Student Cultural Centre that featured painting, graphic works, articles and a presentation of Laibach’s music. When they re-appeared in 1982 the group resumed their radical operations with an added zeal, staging their first concert in Ljubljana and following it with shows around Yugoslavia before returning for a confrontational headline appearance at Ljubljana’s New Rock festival in the centre of the city. Dressed in stark black uniforms Laibach performed ferocious noise assaults before a backdrop of totalitarian regalia and wartime slides with political speeches from Tito and others being spliced into the mix. Playing in front of an aggressive and hostile crowd was not without danger as lead singer Tomaz Hostnik discovered after a flying bottle struck him during the New Rock festival concert. It left him with a bleeding face. Sadly Hostnik did not get to perform to more appreciative audiences as in December 1982 he took his own life.

Determined to continue with the work that Hostnik had helped to establish, the group made their first television appearance in June 1983 with an interview on the current affairs programme TV Tednik. Wearing fascistic military fatigues that bore a simple constructivist style cross, Laibach were interviewed in front of images of large rallies more than a little reminiscent of those at Nuremberg whilst reciting their ‚Documents of Oppression‘. Their flirtation with such controversial imagery once again revealed uncomfortable similarities between fascist and Socialist Realist iconography, instantly posing questions about who the real oppressors of the Yugoslav people were. Their highly provocative appearance on this program, prompted the show’s host to brand them ‚enemies of the people‘, appealing to respectable citizens everywhere, to destroy this dangerous group.

Agents of the government were also watching the group’s TV debut and outraged banned all planned public appearances in Slovenia and even the use of the name Laibach. Undeterred Laibach spent November and December of 1983 on their „Occupied Europe Tour“, playing shows that visited 16 cities in 8 countries in Eastern and Western Europe. During the intervening years Laibach played a cat-and-mouse game with the various authorities that seemed to be embarrassed by this group were consciously calling on them to exercise their authority more rigorously. However their desire to agitate regularly created problems for them as the group discovered when the Czech authorities refused to allow them into their country, while in Poland they were branded as communists and in other parts of Europe suspected to be fascists but this controversy successfully sparked wider interest in their musical output.Despite the total ban on their performances in their native Yugoslavia, the group made a successful anonymous appearance at the Malci Belic Hall, Ljubljana in December 1984 before co-founding the NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst – New Slovenian Art), a guerilla art collective created from the union of a three groups, namely Laibach, Irwin – the visual artists collective and the Scipion Nasice Theatre. This alliance was spurred on by radical politics and their desire to bring about change in their homeland. In turn they prompted the formation of a number of subgroups working in various media but always revolving around the main three. Through NSK, they began addressing the nationalist aspirations surfacing in Yugoslavia, most notably in the spectacular NSK theatre presentation „Baptism Under Tiglav“ (Laibach’s soundtrack is available in a lavishly illustrated set was released by Sub Rosa/Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien) „Baptism“ is also the best illustration of the NSK retrograde method, a belief that traumas from the past affect the present and future can only be resolved by returning to the initial conflict.

April 1985 saw the release of the first Laibach album on the Slovenian Ropot („Noise“) label. The ban on the use of their name meant that the record’s sleeve only carried an image of their now distinctive black cross symbol but it was to be the first of many records they would release on a variety of labels around the world. This debut was the sound of Wagnerian horns over the beat of a marching army with singer Milan Fras growling lyrics including nationalistic speeches by Marshall Tito in a gravely bass voice that had become his trademark.

Their songs were rich in sly irony but all delivered with the straightest of faces. The next LP „Rekapitulacija 1980-1984“ (1985) on Hamburg independent label Walter Ulbricht Records, was the first Laibach record to gain an international release with „Nova Akropola“ (1986) following on UK independent Cherry Red. The band then commenced their first UK tour bemusing audiences by including woodcutters on their stage at some venues but Mute Records quickly recognized Laibach’s rampant individuality and signed them to the label releasing „Opus Dei“ in 1987. Once again this album showcased the band’s considerable wit and humor this time directed at the subversion of contemporary rock music by presenting it as anthemic industrial hymns. „Opus Dei“ contains their grandiose covers of Queen’s „One Vision“ and Euro sing-a-long hit „Life Is Life,“ delivered in both German and English. Still willfully courting controversy Laibach were not afraid of hijacking and subverting Nazi imagery either. Their videos were skilful parodies of Nazi propaganda films like „Triumph Of The Will“ but a reproduction of a swastika made of axes of the LPs’s sleeve caused outrage in so called politically correct circles until the more astute pointed out that the symbol had actually been taken from the anti-Nazi art of John Heartfield.The group spent much of 1987 performing and spreading their messages, providing music for the acclaimed British dancer Michael Clark’s company as well as creating music for a Deutsches Schauspielhaus production of Macbeth. Refused entry into the USA on the grounds that they might be radical Communists, Laibach performed their first Slovenian concert since their national ban instead.

1988 saw a continuation of Laibach’s playful usage of rock mythology when they released dual EPs filled with 6 different cover versions of the The Rolling Stones‘ „Sympathy For The Devil“ (1988) in their own triumphalist style as well as in disco, rock and acid house versions too. They followed it with their wry parody of the Beatles final LP „Let It Be“(1988), which they believed to be the group’s worst. Laibach realized the whole record as a song for song cover of original, (minus the title track) transforming each song into melodramatic Wagnerian epics of drinking and fighting. By remolding The Beatles‘ least successful LP in their own image, they were in essence paralleling the disintegration of pop’s utopian dream contrasting it with the accelerating disintegration of Tito’s dream of a single multi-cultural Yugoslavia. They were also interrogating pop music’s cherished ideal of originality. Laibach’s cover versions challenged the meaning of copyright in the age of computerized reproduction, pop music for Laibach being typified by its history of repetition and copying. On „Let It Be“, „Maggie Mae“ became traditional German marching music while „Across the Universe“ featured an angelic female choir accompanied by a harpsichord. The overall affect was comedic although Laibach’s arrangements were often very beautiful too.

1989 saw Laibach finally permitted to tour the USA on a 16-date schedule. It was followed by a tour of Yugoslavia that even took them to Belgrade where they had not performed since Slobodan Milosevic had come to power in 1987. Slovenia was now openly moving towards becoming an independent state, antagonizing Serbia who responded with an economic boycott of the republic. Laibach made the risky decision to play two concerts in this centre of Serbian nationalism amid strong suspicions that the Slovenian authorities sponsored them, a rumor that persisted due to Laibach’s willful expression of their Slovenian identity through their traditional clothes, symbols and imagery coupled with references to Joze Plecnik’s Slovene parliament. The group then completed a wider European tour before returning to record a full studio version of their 1987 soundtrack to the Deutsches Schauspielhaus production of „Macbeth“ (1990)

In December 1990 Laibach staged a concert at the thermoelectric power station in Trbovlje, their first appearance in their hometown since their initial banned project of 1980. The fact that the concert marked their tenth anniversary was a significant event in itself but rather more exciting was the announcement that Slovenia was finally an independent state, the event that Laibach had been campaigning for since their formation. With their goal finally realized Laibach turned their analytical gaze to new topics, the first being the New World Order and the former Eastern Europe’s move into the free market economy, meaty subjects examined with humor and put to industrial jackhammer beats on „Kapital“ (1993). The album sampled snippets of business newscasts, political speeches and poignant snatches of traditional Eastern European music to create a fascinating snapshot of life at the start of a new period in Europe’s history.

To remind everyone how Laibach had developed Mute released Ljubljana-Zagreb- Beograd (1993) a fascinating historical compilation covering Laibach’s politically charged activities of 1982 including their first concert, first sessions and a track from the Novi Rock festival in Ljubljana. All the tracks here feature Laibach’s original lead singer and spokesman the late Tomaz Hostnik as well as their early totalitarian industrial noise sound.

Taking their cue from the change and upheaval that was occurring as part of the European reunification process. Laibach became the founding fathers of the state of NSK in 1994. The world’s newest state formally announced its existence with official celebrations in Moscow and Berlin, issuing passports, stamps, currency and creating its own flag. Laibach and their collaborators announced that the NSK is not as a physical state with traditional ideas of geographical borders, but rather an extra- territorial state, which peacefully co-exists within and without the host body of any pre-existing state where it chooses to temporarily materialize itself. The state of NSK formally replaced the Neue Slowensiche Kunst organization and passports were required for entry to NSK events from this point on although temporary visas issueby NSK staff also allowed access into this new territory. The reunification of Europe was not without conflict and NATO’s unwillingness to halt the aggression in Bosnia and the nationalist disputes of ex-Yugoslavia and the ex- Soviet Union provided the inspiration for Laibach’s next LP, „NATO“ (1994). The album seemed aware of the paradoxes inherent in Europe’s coalition army now having to side with its former enemies and its message was largely an anti military one delivered through a series of hilarious cover versions. This time war-related music was extracted from sources as wide reaching as Holst . Covers of Edwin Starr’s „War“, Status Quo’s „In the Army Now“ and perhaps best of all, Europe’s „The Final Countdown“ succeeded in playfully subverting all of the original songs. With war soon spreading throughout the former Yugoslavia the album appeared to be a very timely warning indeed. Laibach supported the „NATO“ LP with their lengthy „Occupied Europe NATO Tour 1994-95“ which ended with two concerts in besieged, war torn Sarajevo as part of their „NSK State Sarajevo“ event. The tour was documented in „Occupied Europe NATO Tour 1994-95“ on Mute in 1996.

One of the most significant concerts of Laibach’s career was to follow too, when the group performed at the opening event of European Cultural Month in Ljubljana. The group appeared before the presidents of several states as well as invited diplomats and dignitaries, presenting a monumental concert even by their standards. The Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and a choir performed Laibach’s early heavy industrial music, orchestrated into a massive philharmonic sound that somewhat inevitably given the group’s history produced controversial reactions, including a walkout by the Archbishop of Ljubljana.

In 1997 Mute released another live recording from Laibach’s politically charged past. „M.B. DECEMBER 21, 1984“ captured more of Laibach’s early brutal industrial noise in a set from Ljubljana Zagreb and their appearance at the Berlin Atonal Festival in 1995.The seven-year period that followed saw Laibach concentrate on side projects occasionally taking part in recordings that were part of the Slovenian electronica scene that the group had helped to establish. The band returned in 2003 with „WAT“ a typically superb Laibach offering launched with suitable bombast. Sung in both German and English WAT pondered the lofty subjects of the Iraq War, anti-Semitism, terrorism and crisis in the modern world. Their single „Tanz mit Laibach“ was a minor hit propelled by a suitably tongue in cheek video and was the group’s homage to the electro-pop duo Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. Laibach also claimed that the title track was influenced by The Pop Group. WAT intensified Laibach’s analysis of the traumatic relationships between music and power, art and ideology, life and death. Laibach carried out a great European tour and also conquered America with their WAT tour. Their US experience coincided with the elections and took the form of a new documentary called “Divided States of America”, set up to be released by MUTE sometime in 2006.

In 2004 the band released a collection of their best songs under the title “Laibach Anthems”. An extensive tour followed with more than 100 live dates throughout Europe and America.

In 2006 Laibach announced a brand new album release, Volk. The follow up to 2003’s WAT, the album is released on Mute on 23rd October and will be preceded by a single release, Anglia on 9th October 2006. Volk, meaning “people” (i.e. people as a nation), is a collection of interpretations of national anthems and includes the national anthem for NSK, the State in time without territory and national boundaries which Laibach have been linked with since its formation in 1984. Laibach picture themselves as shepherds disguised as wolves facing pop music, which is for the sheep. This grand project sees Laibach utilising new sonic avenues previously uncharted by the band, but with a result that is Laibach to the core. Each of the tracks is based on and inspired by an original anthem. The tracks are mostly sung in English and each anthem has a guest singer, often singing in their native language. By reinterpreting the music and translating the lyrics of each anthem, the band have not only shown us this common ground, they have also offered up a very pertinent comment on today’s political situation and a warning for future generations.And now we are here looking back over a lengthy career that demonstrates just how Laibach have never attempted to be an ordinary rock group. The barriers that they have been active in breaking down have often been physical as well as mental and ideological. Rather like super heroes in a comic book, it seems that wherever there is injustice there is also Laibach always attempting to save the day. Saviors of the universe? It could happen yet!