There can be no doubt about it: every music journalist who has had the pleasure of interviewing Tilo Wolff, leader of Swiss gothic legends Lacrimosa, will tell you how nice it is to talk to the man. Even if he is two zones away from you, and even if it’s just his voice he’s using, he still radiates unbelievable amounts of charm and charisma. Even being deeply immersed in preparations for the band’s upcoming Russian tour bearing an intriguing title of “The Double Feature Live”, Tilo managed to find 30 minutes in his tough schedule to share with our webzine his ideas about the future of his projects, Lacrimosa’s live activities (which have recently been captured on a double live CD called “Live In Mexico City”) and, of course, his upcoming return to this country.
It’s always a great pleasure to see the billboards of your concerts in my city. Your next visit is just a couple of weeks away. It looks like you already know almost everything about Russia. But are there any secrets about our country that you haven’t discovered yet?
Tilo Wolff: (laughs) Well, I guess not, because then they will no longer be secrets anymore. Maybe I will discover this time new things again. We plan to visit new cities, where we haven’t played yet. Maybe new people in these cities can invite us into new secrets of this country. So far it has always been great, because we always meet new people, who are showing us around and telling new interesting things, short stories about buildings, history. Yeah, I think there are so many stories to tell. And I hope this time, when we are back in Russia, we will necessarily discover some new things and secrets again.
During the upcoming tour you will visit two Russian cities – Novosibirsk and Omsk – for the first time. Did you already know something about these territories?
Tilo Wolff: No, absolutely not, and actually I don’t want to go to the Internet beforehand, you know. When I come to a new place I want to be totally open to all the things that are gonna happen, and how the city is. If I learn something from the Internet, it wouldn’t be a surprise and not so much fun for me anymore. I want to be totally blank when I land on a new territory. I always look forward to it. It’s always great to visit new cities without knowing anything about this city.
The tour title “Double Feature Live” clearly tells us that there is a special concept behind the new concerts. You probably won’t open all the secrets in advance, but maybe you could at least give us some hints of what to expect from the upcoming tour?
Tilo Wolff: Actually, you are right, I will not tell you much. But you can imagine a kind of two parts – the traditional Lacrimosa concert part and another, more experimental part. We have played a lot of tours in Russia in the past years, and now I want to invite our audience to some new directions of our music, that we haven’t done before actually ever. So that’s the idea behind it. But of course it’s gonna be a Lacrimosa show, this is not something totally different, something that will not allow you to recognize the band. That would be horrible. (laughs)
Why did you decide to release a new live album now? The previous live album and this one are divided by only two studio albums.
Tilo Wolff: I always wanted to release a live album which would include recordings from only one show. The previous live album, “Lichtjahre” (2007) includes recordings from many of our shows around the world, the best tracks from the whole tour. I was very happy with this album, but this time I wanted to capture the atmosphere of a live show on a record. We had many great evenings during the last tour, beautiful set lists, which were following one emotional line, and the audience felt it. When we had done the first part of the “Revolution” tour, the European part, during the break I thought that it would be sad if we started the second part of the tour with nothing to remember, to put in the CD player and to listen again. Then while we began to prepare to following concerts, I started working on the organization of the recording of this album. Actually for me it’s a possibility to remember this tour and this part of Lacrimosa history.
The first edition of the new live album is complemented with a DVD with some songs filed at the same show. Was the full version of the concert filmed? Will it be released separately?
Tilo Wolff: Yeah, it was filmed. But so far I haven’t actually come to edit the material, so that’s the reason why it’s not released yet. Actually I had a plan to release it this autumn, but I don’t have the time again. I don’t know when it’s coming, just because of a lack of time.
The new live album’s cover art surprised many of your fans. Why did you decide not to use your permanent cover artist Stelio Diamantopoulos this time?
Tilo Wolff: Because it’s a live album. As you maybe noticed, on our last singles and EPs, everything apart from full-length albums, we didn’t use painted covers either. The two previous live albums also had painted covers, so this time I thought that it would be interesting to bring in some difference. I think it’s a kind of combination of a photograph and painting. This photo cover is made in traditional Lacrimosa black and white colors. You cannot see, for example, such colors and background on regular concert shoots. But of course the next studio album will again have a full painted cover.
You have pretty interesting and specific manner of behavior on stage. Where does it come from? Was there anybody that inspired you?
Tilo Wolff: (seems puzzled by the question) Well… You know… I just come up on stage and do whatever I do. (laughs) In the beginning I never thought about the specifics of my behavior. I was always concentrating on singing, on the emotions of the lyrics and on bringing these emotions over to the audience. After a while people started filming our shows, and I saw the first vide, that was made for a Lacrimosa concert, in the beginning I was a little bit shocked and decided that I would not do it in the future. I remember well the tour when I decided that I would try not to move at all on stage. But shortly I realized that in this case I just cannot concentrate on singing or emotions. And I said to myself, “Forget about it, do what you wanna do. You need to feel the show and keep an emotional connection with the audience.”
How much progress have you made in guitar playing in the past few years? Do you have plans to learn another new instrument in the near future? Will we some day see Tilo Wolff playing drums, for example?
Tilo Wolff: Oh, I think that I will be the worst drummer in the world. (everybody laughs) I have absolutely no ability to concentrate on rhythm, which makes it impossible for me to be a drummer. And I am really not a good guitar player. Of course it’s very funny. On the last two albums in the studio, I played guitar in full. It’s of course easier than playing on stage. In the studio, you can always start all over again, which is impossible on stage. I will try to get a little bit better in guitar-playing, but my main focus is composing. For example, last Christmas we released an EP called “Heute Nacht”. On this song there’s a guitar solo, that I played in the studio. Later, when we were listening to this song in the studio again, I asked our guitarist to play a solo. Of course he did it much better, and I decided that on stage he would play it. So on stage I prefer playing riffs and not so complicated stuff, you know. Because the main focus for me should be the singing and concentrating on feelings.
You perform at various gothic festivals pretty often. Do you also get offers to perform at bigger rock- and metal festivals, such as Wacken Open Air, or Summer Breeze, for example?
Tilo Wolff: Yes, sometimes. Wacken Open Air, for example, has made offers to us many times, but it always comes to nothing. We headlined Summer Breeze some years ago… I think it was 2006 maybe. I like to play big metal-, rock- or gothic festivals. In last few years we also played in the Czech Republic and in Austria. I like it because it’s always great to have a chance to play in front of an audience that maybe doesn’t know you so well, and also because we’re playing with different kind of bands, you know. I like to listen not only to gothic music.
I have noticed that at your latest concerts you are paying less attention to long and multi-structured songs? What is the reason? Such tracks have always held a special place in your music.
Tilo Wolff: I don’t know. There’s no special reason. I see the songs as a story that can bring you to the new dimension of which you had no idea at the beginning. When I watch a movie, I don’t want to know in the first 10 minutes what it would tell you in the future. I like to surprise the audience. Songs on the radio are very often boring: verse-chorus, verse-chorus… I just get bored.
How often can you visit the live shows of your personal music idols? And what was the latest one?
Tilo Wolff: Unfortunately, very seldom.Because I’m always on the road, in the studio etc. Very seldom I have the opportunity to attend concerts of my favorite bands and artists. I already know that during our next tour in Russia there will be a few concerts I actually would like to see. But this will not happen unfortunately. The last show I watched… (pause)… oh yeah, it was a Billy Idol concert a month ago. That was really cool.
Do you keep in touch with past sessions members of Lacrimosa?
Tilo Wolff: With some – yes, with some – no. But of course it’s not associated with any differences or the fact that they are no longer members of Lacrimosa. We don’t have a problem with each other. Just because our life went in the different direction. For example, I met Sascha Gerbig (former guitarist – ed.) two years ago. We were totally glad to meet each other again. We had a beautiful evening telling each other how our lives had changed in the past few years. It’s always great to meet old friends and bandmembers, I am always open for these meetings. I think one day it will be a good idea – for my 50th birthday or something like that – when all ex-members of Lacrimosa would came together and play a show for me. (laughs)
You side-project SnakeSkin has been on hold for almost 8 years. Do you have any plans to bring it back to life?
Tilo Wolff: Absolutely. And there is actually a song existing that I wrote and completely produced half a year ago or something like that. I wanted to do more, but there is a lack of time again. I’m totally loaded with Lacrimosa and some other projects right now. But SnakeSkin will come back. I think 2016 will be the year for SnakeSkin again.
Apart from CDs, in the 90s you albums were issued on vinyl. Now it’s really hard to get these rare editions. I know that you’re a big fan on this musical format. Vinyl is again very popular now. Are you thinking about re-releasing your old classics (and later albums too) on vinyl?
Tilo Wolff: Yes, I am thinking about it. There is a small project that I keep in my head connected with this idea, and I hope to realize it soon.
Recently you mentioned some connection between non-album tracks “Morning Glory” and “Heute Nacht”. What particularly do these songs have in common?
Tilo Wolff: I started to write “Heute Nacht” before I started with “Morning Glory”. While working on this song, the feeling took me in a new direction, from which subsequently “Morning Glory” was born. But at the same time, I felt that the story is not over just with this song, and then I went back to “Heute Nacht” and finished writing it. This was the final point of the “Revolution” chapter. The result was a kind of cyclical finale that begins with “Heute Nacht”, goes on with “Morning Glory”, and ends with “Heute Nacht” again. This is also the reason why I put them together on the EP. And it’s also why I put a second version of “Morning Glory” on it. I wanted to bring it closer to the musical feeling of “Heute Nacht” which I started to write before.
The last two Lacrimosa albums were produced by you personally. Are you happy with the result? Are you going to continue to work in this capacity, or was it a one-off experiment?
Tilo Wolff: I’m pretty happy actually, and I think I will continue with this. I mean I produced actually the albums before, too, but I didn’t engineer them by myself and I didn’t do it mostly in my own studio. Production is very important for me, because I don’t want people to tell me what to do and to say that it’s gonna be like this and like that. It’s also a big help in the writing process. In the beginning I realize how almost all parts should sound. It is as if to tell something to the listener. I can always tell a story better, if I know how things should be said from the beginning to the end, because I’m already working on it. But sometimes the opposite happens when you, for example, come to the studio with five songs, and try to bring them to life, but you lose connection with the basic ideas and feelings with which you started, because you are already concentrating on the process of production. I think a high-quality production is not a rock’n’roll trade anymore. There are a little bit parts on previous albums about which I can say that they could sound more rock’n’roll. They are too clean.
Do you already have any ideas for the next studio record?
Tilo Wolff: I’m working on it, so it’s already in my head. Yes.
Next year there will be the 25th anniversary of Lacrimosa. Do you already have a plan for some surprises for your fans?
Tilo Wolff: Of course there will be something, some kind of surprise that will help us to celebrate 25th anniversary. I’m very much looking forward to make it.
In the recent months, Russia has experienced a negative trend, associated with attempts of religious activists to ban concerts of some metal bands. These activists want to ban the bands whose music is too “evil”, “satanic” and generally dangerous to young people. What do you personally, as a Christian, thing about this issue? Do you approve of the action of the church or religious activists promoting censorship of certain genres of heavy music?
Tilo Wolff: It’s really sad that many bands are playing with this kind of satanic symbols. Actually many friends I have are playing in bands that are pretending to be satanic. But those people have nothing to do with any satanic ideas. They are very nice and gentle people, they are far away from that. They just do it on stage, you know, because their fans like it and ask for it. It’s just actually a commercial thought. That’s the basic set-up.
On the other hand it’s kind of misunderstanding of some bands from the USA. They write lyrics about evil and blah blah blah. They don’t mean that they are really evil, satanic or want to kill each other. They mean they are against the clean American Christian society, when Christianity is on the surface. It’s different in Europe, where people are not so often discussing what they believe in. For me, I have never had a problem to bring my Christianity to my music, be it rock ‘n’ roll or gothic, because its feelings and emotions are very close to what Christianity brings to us. On the other hand I don’t want to bring music into a political context. Of course sometimes I use single religious phrases in my lyrics or, for example, translation from the Bible, because it’s a part of my life and my background.
In addition to working with Lacrimosa, you spend a lot of time travelling. Do you have any especially memorable places where you’re ready to come back year by year?
Tilo Wolff: Definitely. There are many places in Latin America, which I have always wanted to visit again, such as Mexico City. Very soon we will come back to Russia, and I am totally looking forward to visiting St. Petersburg again, which is one of my all-time favorite cities on this planet. It is not only a city with great history and architecture that just fascinates e so much. This is a very modern city, with beautiful modern culture.
In Moscow some things are always fascinating me too, but some things looks pretty strange for me, I don’t understand it, as a person who came from Germany of Switzerland. (laughs) For example, the story about the big statue of Columbus, which the sculptor tried to donate or sell to the Spanish. They didn’t like it, and later it became the basis for the creation of a monument to Peter the Great. I find it a very strange idea. I like this sculpture, but every time I see it in Moscow, I always have the same thought, “Who came up with the idea to actually replace Columbus with Peter the Great?” But it’s still fascinating. Hope I can discover more things when I travel there this time. People always meet us and show us around the cities. And of course there’s so much more to discover.
I heard that on one of your previous birthdays you got an unusual present from your fans – a Russian language manual based on Lacrimosa songs. How big has been your progress in learning it?
Tilo Wolff: (everybody laughs) Unfortunately it’s sub-zero. I have absolutely no time, moreover, I have so little talent to learn languages. I’m really so bad at it. I think the best way to learn a language is “people to people”, and when we generally come to Russia I have only two weeks for practicing. I have tried to learn something from this manual, but I think people should not expect great success from me. (laughs)
© HeadBanger.ru 2014, Михаил “IronMike” Шаталин
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