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.
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.
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?
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]!
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: 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?
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