The young Tilo would never believe the international success Lacrimosa has achieved. Not for a second.
18/07/2014, Xavier KRUTH
photos: © Germán S. García
Lacrimosa is back with a new cd: ‘Live In Mexico City’. The cd is meant to be a reflection of the last tour, after the excellent cd ‘Revolution’. Peek-a-boo had the chance to have an exclusive chat with Lacrimosa-masterbrain Tilo Wolff. He told us about the new cd for sure, but also about the history of Lacrimosa, about his motivation… and he even tells us why Belgium holds a special place for him and for the story of his project.
‘Live In Mexico City’ is the third live-cd of Lacrimosa, after ‘Live’ and ‘Lichtjahre’. You only released two albums since ‘Lichtjahre’: ‘Sehnsucht’ and ‘Revolution’. Why do you think it was the right decision to produce a new live-cd?
Tilo Wolff: There are two reasons mainly. The first was the last album ‘Revolution’. It’s the first time that we play almost all the songs of an album live. I was very enthusiastic about the live versions of the songs and I wanted to have a live recording for my own archive, to be able to listen to it. Sometimes people ask me if they can have a recording of the concert they’ve been to, as a kind of souvenir, something you can listen to again. I know that feeling. I feel so too. For instance, I was very glad that Leonard Cohen released two live-cd’s from his last tour. The second reason is that ‘Lichtjahre’ was more of a compilation of a whole tour, in which we chose songs recorded at different concerts. This time we wanted to record a whole concert from beginning till end, with the special atmosphere that it brings and the tension that builds up during the show. We were actually taking a break after the tour in Europe and Russia before going to Latin America when I got the idea to record one of the concerts. I was so happy with the tour that I wanted to record a complete concert.
So it has nothing to do with the fact that it was recorded in Mexico? You enjoy a massive success there, and actually in the whole of Latin America and in Asia also. It’s surprising that such an alternative gothic-metal band has achieved such a status, especially since you sing mainly in German. How would you explain this?
I think it’s because Lacrimosa is a very emotional band. That works well with the Latin American people. But we also have a rougher side. The Latin American people like rough music, like metal. And they also listen to a lot of emotional music. I think this combination - hard and emotional - works perfectly with Lacrimosa. As for Asia, I think it’s just the fact that we are one of the only western or European bands that are playing there. They just don’t know that many western bands, and they appreciate that we come to play there. We’re one of the only western bands that played these countries two times in the past few years. It’s really funny, because when we were there last time, we were among the likes of Tina Turner. Only two other western bands were programmed, and Tina Turner was one of them.
It looks like you have achieved this success with only little media exposure. I mean, Lacrimosa is seldom played on the radio, except in very specialised gothic or metal programmes. Seemingly, the fans just find their way to your music, without a lot of interference by the media.
That could be true. I hear a lot of stories about people of how they learned to know Lacrimosa. Many seem to have found out through their relations. They had a girlfriend that was into dark music and they learned to like it too. There’s a lot of mouth-to-mouth promotion going on, and you sometimes hear really surprising things. Some time ago, I heard of a German journalist that got to know Lacrimosa through his Brazilian girlfriend. So, he was living in Germany but needed this Brazilian connection in order to know us.
The Revolution Tour was something very special. I went to see two shows. In Germany, as you didn’t play in Belgium. You never sounded so engaged, sometimes even a bit preaching. In the past, Lacrimosa was known for its rather pessimistic vision of society and human relations. Now it looks like you really want to change all that’s wrong in this world. Do you agree?
Yes, in a way. It is true that Lacrimosa is more identified with a pessimistic worldview. I was always very pessimistic about the society we live in. I still am, I think our society is aversive to life and humans. But in the last few years I was thinking more and more: it’s not enough to complain… just do something about it! Stop mourning and grieving, and act. That was the basic idea behind ‘Revolution’. You could say it all started earlier, with ‘Fassade’ (2001), which was a reflection on society and the connection with the individual. But it was still different. We didn’t really want to appeal to people to think positively and act at that time.
One of the songs in which this is obvious is ‘Weil du Hilfe brauchst’, which is also featured on the new cd. It is an appeal to more understanding and altruism. When I was listening to this song, I couldn’t help thinking about ‘Der letzte Hilfeschrei’, a song on your first album ‘Angst’. Could it be that the older and wiser Tilo is now answering the cry for help of the younger Tilo with his anxieties?
I never thought of it that way. I never made the connection. But it’s a good point you’re making. There is certainly no conscious reference to Der letzte Hilfeschrei in Weil du Hilfe brauchst. That was entirely not in my thoughts. Perhaps something stayed in my subconsciousness and remained there for a long time. I would say it is rather another perspective. When I wrote Der letzte Hilfeschrei, I was just expressing my feelings in a very straight manner. Also, on ‘Angst’, you will hear only keyboads and synth. No guitars, no symphonic orchestra, no other instruments. Weil du Hilfe brauchst is another perspective, that of an outsider looking at someone who needs help. It’s the same topic maybe, but from another point of view. It was never meant to be a reference to Der letzte Hilfeschrei.
Now, suppose you were able to meet the younger Tilo, the one who recorded ‘Angst’. What would you tell him?
I’m not sure I would want to tell him anything at all, as I don’t want him to change anything he would do next. If I had the chance to talk to him, maybe he would not record ‘Angst’, or he would not make the follow-up album ‘Einsamkeit’. He would not be making all that great music. I would not want to influence him. Maybe I would talk to him, but I just hope he wouldn’t care and would just carry on with what he is doing.
And would the young Tilo believe that Lacrimosa would achieve this worldwide success and still be around after 34 years?
No. Not for a second. That was absolutely not in my mind. When I first started recording my songs, I just wanted to make a tape for some friends and for myself, to listen to. My motivation was to put music to my poetry and express my feelings. I didn’t think about success. There was no plan. The most musicians I know didn’t have a plan to become famous. Of course there are some people who start a band and want to become famous, but it is not that simple. And it was not my case.
Let’s go back to the cd. We noticed that ‘Live In Mexico City’ is the first Lacrimosa album that has a title of more than one word. How come?
We wanted a title that fitted the content in the first place. I have been thinking about a shorter title. I thought of ‘Live III’, but that is already two words. I was looking for a beautiful word that would sum it up, but it was really difficult. ‘Live In Mexico City’ really says it all. It is one concert, one evening. It is also important that it was recorded in Latin America. It’s the first time that a cd is released on which a Latin American public sings along with songs in German. We wanted that to be clear from the title too.
There is also a special edition of the cd which includes a live DVD. But there are only four songs on the DVD. I guess you recorded the whole of the concert, so why just four songs?
When we planned the release of the album, I was going trough the image sources we had. I thought it would be a good idea to do a first release of the cd with some of the footage we did. The two live cd’s in the first edition are just the same as the regular cd version, but it has an extra DVD for the same price. We actually have edited only four songs of the concert, and they’re the ones you will find on the DVD. We didn’t have time to do more. It is very busy at the moment. There’s a lot of work.
What are you working on?
Of course there’s a lot of work connected with the release of the album. A lot of promotional stuff. We get questions for interviews from all over the world. This will certainly last a few more days. I hope it will be over soon. After that we will start rehearsing for the two festivals we will play at in Germany: Waterschloss Klaffenbach by Chemnitz and the Amphi Festival in Cologne. We have a completely new setlist for these festivals. We will record some new things also.
You once said there would be a new Snakeskin (Tilo’s electronic side-project, xk) album coming up too…
Yes, I was planning to do a new Snakeskin album after the tour. But then came the idea to do a live album and that took a lot of time and work. So I postponed all the plans with Snakeskin until 2016.
That’s quite a while. Now, there are a lot of German gothic-metal bands today, bands that combine hard guitars with bombastic symphonic arrangements. I think about ASP, Mantus, Samsas Traum… Well, that’s three bands from Trisol of course. Do you feel like you influenced them in a way? Do you think that Lacrimosa has opened the door for them?
Yes, indeed. They also tell me when I meet them, that they listened to Lacrimosa, that it was important for them. I once was at a festival where several of those bands played, and someone said to me: ‘Look, they are your children. You are their father.’ So yes, I think I opened the door. Without Lacrimosa, they wouldn’t be doing the same thing. They would perhaps not be singing in German. They would do something else.
You were the first one to come up with this kind of music, certainly in German. That was quite risky at the time. You had your deal of criticism when ‘Inferno’ (the album with which Lacrimosa switched from dark wave to gothic metal, xk) was released.
When I released the first single in the new Lacrimosa style - Schakal -, everybody was like ‘what’s that!’ The goth dj’s were confused. They said it was not gothic but metal. Some didn’t want to play it. It’s amusing because nowadays people consider ‘Inferno’ to be a landmark album, and Schakal to be great song, a classic. But at the time, the gothic press was saying ‘this is not gothic’. And the metal press… well, they were basically saying nothing at all. It was too dark for them. They just ignored it.
It was risky, but it paid off. I once wrote in a review that for every fan that you lost back then, you gained 10 new ones, or even 100. If you look at the bands you were compared to in the beginning - like Goethes Erben or Das Ich - Lacrimosa obviously became bigger than them. So the risks you took have turned out fine…
Maybe that’s right. I think the new style has been especially helpful in breaking through internationally, certainly outside the European continent. You know, when I was young I used to listen to Joy Division and Bauhaus, great bands that were creating dark music. I loved them but I didn’t want to repeat what they were doing. And they were not that hard. I also had a harder side in me. On the other hand, I liked harder bands like Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC, but they were not dark enough for me. I wanted to make the combination between hard music and dark music. That was my goal when I released ‘Inferno’. As a consequence, I was too hard for the gothics and too dark for the metal people at first. But it turned out well. And it gave me the opportunity to break through internationally.
We can say that you have a very loyal fanbase, sometimes even boarding to the fanatical. When I look at it, I think this fanbase consists of people who will still buy the cd’s of Lacrimosa, despite the crisis in the music industry. Do you have the feeling that Lacrimosa suffers less from the crisis in the music business because of that?
Oh, I feel the crisis. It affects us too. But in a way you’re right. We have a very loyal fanbase. And I am often thinking that I must be happy with that. I think it must be a lot harder for bands that do not have such loyal fans.
I’m out of questions. Do you have some last words you want to add?
Yes I do. You said that we didn’t play in Belgium during the last two tours, and I feel very sad about it too. Because Belgium was the country where it actually started for Lacrimosa… at least on the international level. It was the first country in which we were invited to play outside of Germany. So Belgium is very important to me. It was the start. And I am conscious that we have a loyal fanbase in Belgium. We would like to play in Belgium again. We tried to, but we couldn’t find any organisers in the last few years that were willing to set up a Lacrimosa concert. We don’t have a management. We have our own label: Hall of Sermon. Everything we do is on my desk. That makes it more difficult when organising tours. But I hope we will be able to play in Belgium again in the future.
And so do we. Thank you very much for this interview.
Thank you too, for your time and for the interview.
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