Experimental Kitchen

Talking sex, politics and sauerkraut with Ute Lemper

But One Day was really mellow and often sad. Where does that anguish come from?

I always have to dig into the deeper zones; it just seems that's where I want to go. I'm a quite satisfied and happy person. I have great children and a great relationship, and I try to find harmony in my life. But in my art, I go underneath that. Onstage, I dip into tragedy. After Sept. 11, all the Berlin songs I had been singing had so much more meaning—living for today because you don't know what will happen tomorrow. The French have always had that in their songs and poetry. It was new for the Americans, I think.

Americans divided into two camps: "Kill them all" and a more humanitarian, John Lennon sentiment about realizing we're just like everyone else in the world, so we better come together.

And it didn't do any good. The clichť of the Middle Eastern people has gone terribly wrong, and we've created a new enemy. But Americans had no option. They believed what the media told them. The poor people who live out in the Midwest don't hear any other viewpoints other than what they are fed, which is fear. I saw Bowling for Columbineagain the other day, and it's so amazingly true. You can't watch the news anymore after watching that movie. It's all so paranoid—an enemy around every corner. On the other hand, they are all crazy with this holy war out there. I don't know what the solution is. Maybe in the next election, we'll have a better chance.

Are you addressing this in your new show?

Right now, I'm taking an interesting journey throughout the world. There will be Berlin in there, but I also touch on some of the stuff I've learned about that has to do with the chaotic zones of the world. I sing some Middle Eastern songs—the same song in Arabic and Hebrew; it's a musical vision of opposition. I sing some songs in Yiddish, which I enjoy tremendously. Some Edith Piaf, some Jacques Brel. They're all songs that look at the outcast and the anti-hero. I'm trying to bring cabaret into this millennium—not the standard Broadway show, where you sing Ellington and Porter and what you sang in your own Broadway show—but the school of the Berlin cabaret, which has nothing to do with your private life or your personal anecdotes. It's always a political journey.

And that begs a very political question: What the hell is the deal with sauerkraut? It's god-awful. [Laughs] I hate sauerkraut! The word says it all—it's a sour experience, a bitter pill! You're supposed to eat it with pig hooves and pig tongue and ears—it's terrible. Here in New York, it's not so bad—if you put it on a hot dog, I guess.


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