OK, I'll bite—what's “Za Bakdaz”?

Page Wood: It is the title of Klaus Nomi's Unfinished Symphony, or Operetta, or "Space Western". It was also a song from his show, and it's the title of this new release. Loosely translated, it means Heaven, or "Homeland for Nomis".

George Elliott: A very strange simple song... the kernel of a postmodern postmortem glossolallic opera... a way of life!

PW: Science Fiction is also "Space Opera", from "Horse Opera" the nickname for Westerns, since the original Buck Rogers serials were just oaters transposed to space. Joey Arias and Tony Frere, who were in the original Nomi Show, got that joke first and wrote "Rubber Band Laser" early enough to get it on Nomi's second album- an alternate version is included here.

I should warn you, this is a dark journey- there’s no happy ending; we didn’t get that far- it’s unfinished! Nor did Klaus himself get a happy ending- his own story was a Tragic Opera- so it all seems appropriate; here at least we arranged to end on a humorous, and then a hopeful, note.

So where does “Za Bakdaz” come from?

PW: Back then, we always listened to everything backwards- looking for secret messages. One evening Klaus and I had some choir singers going, and boom! There it was: Za! Cusay cusa cuza, Bakdaz... Pretty soon he was correcting my spelling- I had it "Bagdas"- he wanted a "k" and a "z" because they were pointier.

GE: ‘Za’ was an unusual collaboration to begin with: I had a cool theme of music done at Page’s studio; one night he and Nomi found that and took their backwards-heard words and combined them, with magical results I think; a good version was started but never finished, and the song became a feature of Nomi’s vocal + tape shows, but he died too soon to include it on album 3…I released the song plus Nomi’s Silent Night [a cassette Christmas gift for friends] in ’99, as a CD single. Both are included on this new ‘Za’.

Another track is “Cre Spoda”. What's that?

PW: Klaus spoke German and English, some French, and listened to a lot of Italian Opera; a lot of the time he's just making it up or mangling all of it, whatever worked. There's a great word for that: glossolalia. Not to be confused with echolalia.

GE: The music is an evocative two-part theme- the first suggests underwatery seductive undulations; the second, wide-open western or optimistic galactic spaces…

PW: Mermaids, then a shootout at the corral- but with laser beams.

GE: Strange Party [the band George, Page, Joey, Tony and Janus from Nomi’s show formed in 1980] fans might remember it with different words from that band's repertoire.

Klaus Nomi died in 1983- and now all of a sudden we have this thing. What gives?

PW: We were gearing up for the next project and had sketches, experiments, working demos, finished demos, soundscapes and background music we used in live shows... then suddenly it was over. I was at a total loss as to what to do with this stuff, so I threw it all into a shoebox, literally, and wrapped that in a garbage bag, and sealed it with tape. Wherever I moved over the next 25 years, it came with me- I couldn't just throw it away—but I had no plans to do anything with it, then I got away from music entirely.

Then you heard from Andy Horn.

PW: Yes- I get a call from him out of the blue, and eventually he produced The Nomi Song film. That was about seven years ago. Andy had me digging into the shoebox looking for stuff, so about five years ago, I got back into it- I built a little music studio and started playing around with the tapes. Meanwhile George had been doing the same thing, so we decided to compare notes.

GE: And ended up collaborating solely via email and posting CDs to each other bi-coastally, haven’t seen that guy since his east coast marriage [and of course the documentary]!

I thought you said it was "Unfinished".

GE: See Saul Bellow's Humboldt’s Gift; from seeds of great artist's trees can sprout predestined yet unbeknownst gifts- magic beans, a walking staff that blooms! Some stories are told unintentionally, the best mysteries unfold enigmatically to their very makers; the timeless sculpture scoffs from Eternity at time's defacings.

PW: We had partial recordings, things that had gotten taped over, and things Klaus hadn't sung on yet. We started to reconstruct and map out the whole piece, and realized we had some holes. Now we had an 'ethical' dilemma: We could do it the easy way, and bring in a countertenor or soprano to fill out the parts; or we could do it the hard way, use what we had- that meant serious micro-editing in a few places.

You did it the hard way?

PW: Yes- and I am proud to say this is 100% Klaus Nomi vocals, guaranteed- thanks to the "Nomellotron"...

GE: -Except Enchanté where Nomi & I did a duet, and Valentines Day where Klaus's friends Joey & Tony make a cameo and I sing backup.


PW: I made samples of Klaus' voice that corresponded to all 12 notes of the scale, so I could play him like an organ!

GE: A picture is worth a thousand words; Jules Verne-meets-Harry Partch-meets Frankenstein, anyone?

PW: …got good mileage out of that. Our original plan was: everything had to be from that period, and no new instruments! Only Nomellotron- but we loosened that restriction near the end and added, yes- bells and whistles. Oh, and there's a Theremin in there too. The one exception is High Wire, the opening track- we did record that new; but- it's from an OLD tv show- Danger Man, also known as Secret Agent. It was a mutual favorite of Klaus' and mine- he loved that mad scientist harpsichord- and we always wanted to use it somewhere.

These liner notes are the strangest. I thought we were getting a "Brief History of Klaus".

PW: To get that story, and it's a good one- you need to have Andy Horn's film. I thought a larger point needed to be made: Klaus Nomi IS, not was, a robust character loaded with possibilities, like Mickey Mouse or Batman. Those stories relate to the songs, and are also clues to solving a puzzle- you will need to have the CD in your hand to even get what we're talking about.

Do we get a hint?

PW: It's a dossier about Nomi collected by a mysterious quasi-governmental agency. They have combed through classic literature searching for clues that might explain his sudden reappearance. The solution is right there in plain sight, and should be solvable by anyone. The process also reveals an ongoing battle between two opposing forces.

I think after 25 years I just plain missed him, and wanted to go back to that
weird world and walk around one last time.

GE: We've given new risky life- to an old shared fragment of
imagination, with as much faithfulness and magic as we could conjure.
The delux CD package and puzzle is something any Nomi nut’ll need now.
"Suis enchanté / dans idee" muses Klaus somewhere...