Twenty years of successful career, 11 studio albums and a countless number of concerts – that’s what Tilo Wolff has achieved so far. He is one of the most interesting and unique musicians on the European scene, a true gothic subculture icon. His songs make people think, and his live performances look more like extravagant mono plays than rock shows.. But you forget this all when you meet him face to face, because what you have in front of you is not an inapproachable “legend”, but a gentle, smiling and easy-going person. It is impossible to resist his charm, and 15 minutes of his company leave you with a lot of nice memories and a desire to see him once again.
We caught Tilo in the dressing room of 1Rock Club right before Lacrimosa’s latest gig in Moscow. Finding a corner a bit away from the rest of the musicians and congratulating Tilo on the anniversary of his band, we got down to questions…
Looking back on your long career do you feel like there were some moments, some things you’d like to change?
TILO WOLFF: Well, actually no, because I’m very satisfied with where we are now and with all of our records. I mean I still listen to my own music privately and I’m kind of proud to have those albums in my discography. Of course you make mistakes and you learn by making them. But there’re no “basic” things that I would change about Lacrimosa. I’m very satisfied with it.
Now you have a new album out. It’s called “Schattenspiel” and I believe that it’s very important to know why any of your albums is called this or that way to understand its main idea, its message. So could you please tell the story of that title?
TILO WOLFF: Actually it’s very simple. “Schattenspiel” means in English “shadow play” and it’s got two meanings. First of all it’s one my favorite songs from Joy Division and Joy Division is one of the bands that inspired me to do music. And the other thing is that “shadow play” means that all this songs were “played in shadow” one day – I played them just to myself in my private time and nobody from the audience heard those songs. And now we’ve let the audience hear them. When we play the songs from this album at our concerts for me it’s like playing old songs, but for the audience it’s like hearing new songs. So these songs used to be in the shadow, that’s why the album is called “Shadow Play”.
You have two new songs written for the album, “Sellador” and “Ohne Dich ist Alles Nichts”. Why have you decided that you need these very songs to be on the album among the older ones?
TILO WOLFF: The first reason is very practical. When I release something I need something new on it. So I just needed new songs for this album. These two songs were written in January this year, and I recorded them in February, so they’re very fresh. And I thought that actually they fit this album very good because this album is so much about losing something and about how you’re looking back and though you have your memories, you can’t bring back all those things, they’re history now. And the topic of these songs is the same. They’re about memories of the things I can’t bring back anymore. And still they’re a part of my life. So they fit perfectly to this album.
Talking about new songs, are you planning a new release in the nearest future? Do you have any ideas for it so far?
TILO WOLFF: Yes, I’m already working on it. I’ve already recorded two songs and also composed a few… Actually, on the way from Krasnodar to Rostov I wrote half of a song and I’m always writing something, so it’s in process.
So you never face the “creativity crisis”, when you want to write something but have no inspiration, right?
TILO WOLFF: I used to have things like that, but nowadays I don’t see it as a crisis anymore, I see it as a holiday. Because I know that inspiration comes back anyhow, I don’t need to panic if there’s no inspiration. I don’t need to panic – that’s what I learned through the years. So if there’s no inspiration, I just have a holiday. I just say, “Ok, there’s nothing happening, so I can just take a few days off”. And than sooner or later inspiration comes back.
And what do you do when you have holidays like that?
TILO WOLFF: Well, than I can work more for Hall of Sermon and do more things connected with administration, you know… There’re always some things to do… Promotion and whatever.Giving interviews. (smiles)
You often say that your every album is a complete story. So do you invent this “story” first of all and than write songs needed to “tell” it, or do you write songs and than try to unite them somehow?
TILO WOLFF: Actually it’s a bit like the second, but not exactly. You know, I write songs without having a concept in mind, but the concept is actually my life. Actually it’s very simple: whatever I write comes from my heart, I get inspiration from my own life, so I don’t need to think about a concept, I only write down what I feel and it always fits together, it’s always like a story. Of course I develop from day to day and if I write something today and than write something tomorrow, this tomorrow thing might be the answer for what I wrote today. So it’s an emotional concept that appears automatically.
All your songs are very personal. For me reading the lyrics of your songs is like reading your diary. Aren’t you afraid of being too frank?
TILO WOLFF: The lyrics are diaries somehow, of course, because I write down my inner thoughts. In the beginning, when I started with Lacrimosa, there weren’t any fans, there wasn’t any audience, so I didn’t even bother about being so open. But then people started listening to my music and I realized, “Oh my God, they really can look through the lyrics straight into my heart”. Maybe that was one of the reasons why I didn’t go on stage during the first years. It took me like three years after I started with Lacrimosa to do my first concert. But then I started not to care about it anymore. I realized that if I tried to change something in my lyrics and hide some personal things, I couldn’t write them anymore. I didn’t feel the need to write them anymore. And then the whole Lacrimosa thing would die. So either I’m a bit brave and continue to write the same way or I’m wimpy and I stop. So I decided for being brave.
And how do you feel if you know that they spread some rumors about you based on your lyrics?
TILO WOLFF: It’s funny, because, you know, if people wouldn’t talk about Lacrimosa, then it would be a bad sign, I think. So whenever they think something about Lacrimosa and make some rumors, I think it’s a compliment, because they care about the band. Either in good or in bad way, but they care. (smiles)
On your records you had symphonic orchestra, children choir and female vocals, of course… What’s next you want to try? Don’t you think about inviting some other famous artists to sing with you, for example?
TILO WOLFF: So far not, but we’ve only reached twenty years, so I hope that there will be some more years and some more collaborations with other artists and we’ll do some duets or something like that.
You’re not only a musician, but also a producer. What a band or an artist should be like for you to produce them?
TILO WOLFF: They need to touch me, they need to touch my soul. I need to listen to their music and realize that they have something to say, they have an emotion – then I choose them to work with me. But it’s long time ago that I produced somebody else, because I’m so busy with Lacrimosa and Snakeskin. But it’s all about feelings.
In some of your previous interviews you said that you work with some other bands besides Cinema Bizarre. Don’t you think that it’s time to open the secret what these bands are?
TILO WOLFF: No. Because, you know… Talking about Cinema Bizarre, I never wanted people to know about that. When they found the thing out I wasn’t happy about it. And of course I wouldn’t tell about the other bands I’m working for, as long as nobody finds it out.
TILO WOLFF: It’s because with Lacrimosa I wanted to be just “in the back”, at least in the beginning. As I said I didn’t think about doing concerts and so on… I like doing music, but actually I’m not the person who wants to be in the lamplight all the time.
And don’t you think about touring with Snakeskin?
TILO WOLFF: Sometimes I think about it, but the problem is that I don’t even have time to tour all the cities and all the towns with Lacrimosa. So if I start doing it with Snakeskin I won’t have time for anything anymore.
After the release of your “Lichtgestalt” album you were on tour for two years. Don’t you get tired of such long tours?
TILO WOLFF: We always had some breaks in between not to get tired, because whenever you’re going on stage it’s important that you’re burning on stage. You never can go on stage and think, “Oh my God, I hope that soon it will be over”. So that’s why we made some breaks all the time. But there’re two reasons why it never gets boring or tiresome. The first reason is that you get to know so many people and so many cities and different cultures. It’s always fascinating. Other people work for the whole year to go on holidays and see something new. But we’re doing that every day. We get invited and travel to new cities. Therefore it’s so exiting. And it’s also very exiting to share our music with people and to get all these emotions back from our audiences. That’s something that makes every day totally different. When we’re getting ready for going on stage and I’m writing a set-list I know that though every time we play something like 50 or 60 percent the same songs we played one night before, still every time turns out to be different, because the audiences are always giving something back, they are reacting and we have new experience all the time.
When you’re on stage you’re not only singing, you’re also acting. All the professional actors practice some gestures and some movements before they face the audience. And do you plan how to act during your shows looking in the mirror?
TILO WOLFF: Never did that, but people told me I should do it because some of my movements look really strange. But I thought, “OK, they may look strange, but I don’t wanna change them”. If I would learn that in front of the mirror, that moment I’m on stage I would think about how stupid I felt when I was in front of the mirror and then I wouldn’t be able to show my emotions anymore. So I just do what I feel right at the moment.
So it’s just spontaneous…
TILO WOLFF: Yeah, absolutely.
What should happen in Moscow or what should people here do for you to write a song about our city? I mean, you have a song about Krasnodar (“I Lost My Star in Krasnodar”), but what about other Russian cities?
TILO WOLFF: (laughs) Well… If I tell you, people would make such a situation, so it wouldn’t be true anymore. No, I don’t know. It depends. I mean, if there happens something… But, you know, on the other hand it would be boring to write a song about Moscow now, because Krasnodar and Moscow are both in Russia, so people from all over the world would say “Why there’s no song about Paris or whatever?” I don’t think that I would write another song about Russian city, because this one is actually for whole Russia.
And don’t you think about learning the Russian language? I mean, you seem to be so interested in our country and nothing can help you understand another nation better than learning its language…
TILO WOLFF: Yeah, actually I decided to do so and I have a bet with two girls from Krasnodar. One of them is learning English, the other one is learning German and I’m learning Russian. And when we meet again we’ll have to prove that we learned something. So I definitely wanna learn some Russian.
© HeadBanger.ru Ksenia Artamonova, Natalie “Snakeheart” Patrashova, 2010
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