Enigma Online Chat Report

Gavin Stok December 18, 1996

Please note that some of the comments mentioned below are based the experiences of myself and Enigma mailing list members - while I strongly believe that what I have written is true, not everything may necessarily reflect what occurred. Clarifications will be made as necessary in the future if necessary.

It would be an understatement to conclude that the "live chat" arranged with Enigma on December 13, 1996 was bad. It served as an injustice to Michael Cretu, Virgin Records, journalists and the web community as a whole.

Firstly the arrangers of the chat should hang their head in shame. The record company's Enigma site is housed in two sites - the UK and the US. Towards the beginning of the chat it was incredibly hard to access either of these sites. But more ashamedly, anyone who finally got connected and tried to access the chat from the record company's UK site was simply presented with the advertisement for the chat. This is despite the page advertising for weeks that the chat would occur on that page. Inexcusably, the web site developers never bothered to mention that it would only occur at the US site.

I was finally able to connect to the US site's chat room approximately five minutes before the end of the chat. Reading the transcript it stated that people could ask questions by clicking on certain buttons. But where were the buttons? They weren't on livechatu.html (the non-Shockwave page). Were they on livechat.html? (the Shockwave page). Even so, why did people have to submit questions before the chat if the availability was there to ask them on the day? And if it was a "live chat", why were some of the questions submitted over the previous weeks used? (evidence of this has come from members of the Enigma mailing list). Overall, the organisation and execution of this event was far from professional, and probably resulted in many people not having access to the chat. And, as the "live chat" was aimed as much to journalists as to the public, it has only helped in hindering the media's already negative attitude towards the Internet.

So what about the chat itself? Well most of the questions appeared to come from fans rather than journalists, and a number of these questions were ones for which answers are already known (eg. why Michael Cretu calls himself "Curly M.C.", and confirmation that he lives in Ibiza and is Romanian). The answers were equally as poor and had many shortcomings. Michael Cretu answered many questions with single word answers and other answers were almost mocking in their nature. For example:

As a person, you have always remained deliberately obscure. Do you think this part of the Enigma attraction?

I don't know ... ask the buyers.

This was clearly either a chat Michael Cretu wanted no part in, or one in which he was extremely limited in how broad his answers could be because of the limitations of the Internet and number of questions being asked at once. Regardless, it was aimed as an interview, and supposedly his only one for the year. Giving an answer of "no" when asking whether he plans on doing a concert does not offer a journalist to write about, and is more likely to deter an article being written at all.

On the positive side, some further insight was given into Enigma and the music. We learnt of Michaels' favourite track from the album (Morphing Thru Time), had some rumors quashed, learnt that he's been on the Internet for a month. But this small amount of additional information can not compare to the overall disappointment that I and others experienced from this farce. Virgin, please explain!

For those interested, these are the 5 questions I entered for the chat:

  • Notable artists not on the new album are Jens Gad and Angel (Andy Hard). Why is this so? Is the missing appearance of Jens Gad linked to a new-found disinterest in remixes (as hinted at on the Beyond the Invisible single)?
  • In listening to the album I could not help but get the feeling that there is a hidden desire for you to do a full soundtrack or dance-orientated album. In the past when I asked you whether you wished to do any side projects you said they interested you, but you had no time. Is this still the case? Is there an inner passion to try your hand at something else?
  • In reviewing the latest album, many critics have stated that it is less "original" than all previous albums. They have also stated that there appears to be elements of it which seem "copied" or "stolen" from artists such as Deep Forest and Vangelis. Were any artists an inspiration for this album? How do you feel about the criticism placed on the album?
  • How do you feel about the use of the Internet to promote music such as your own? Do you feel that it is another marketing channel, or do you see it as having more potential? Do you have any future plans for its use?
  • When Deep Forest recently toured the world, they gave a totally new and exciting light on their tracks through the use of a number of live analogue instrumentation and the use of a number of additional performers. In a letter to me last year you stated that you have thought about a one-off concert to be held in an exotic location after the release of Enigma 3. Is this still the case? Do you feel that Enigma's music is adaptable to a live setting?

Read the transcript of the chat