Communicating with Torben Wendt was a pleasure to say the least. Kind and gentle, he spent his valuable time answering our questions, in a period quite busy for him and Diorama, as Diorama’s brand new album “The Art of Creating Confusing Spirits” is being released these days.
Not only was he generous with us, but he also announced the interview at Diorama’s site.
LE – Torben, how did you decide to start writing music? Which was the first song that you composed ever, and which were the groups and generally the artists that inspired you in the beginning? Have you taken part at any other musical schemes before forming Diorama? Is Diorama enough for you to have a decent income and to not need to have another job at the same time?
Torben – I didn’t really have to decide to make music, it just happened. As far as I remember it correctly, my first song ever was a song about a dog who hates cats. I must have been about 7 years old. When I wrote my first “real” song, leaving Hollywood, at the age of 15 or 16, I started to feel that making music might not be a pure leisure activity but something I would have to pursue in life to be able to live happily. Before that I took part in several more or less questionnable projects, “Drinking Beer” (punk) and “Nexus” (trance) being the most remarkable ones. Like most other musicians in our genre, my band members and me got inspired by the wave sound of the 80s, hence bands like Black, Kraftwerk, Alan Parson’s Project or Ultravox.
Let’s not talk about money. Ask me again in 5 years..
LE – In your writing you oftenly include terms and words like “death”, “love”, “wisdom”, “charm”, “dream” and others. Do these come from personal experiences? Apart from music, what are the inspirations in your life and is Diorama an alternative way of expression for you?
Torben – Everybody has his or her way of communicating thoughts and emotions, whether it is through words, paintings, letters, sports, clothing etc. My way of coping with my private inferno is music. Of course, everything I sing about stems purely from my personal experience. Believe me, I’m not a spectacular person with epoche making opinions and visions I would have to share with the world. All I’m trying is not to drown in myself. I long for something indefinable, something peaceful, beautiful, meaningful. Diorama brings me at least a little closer to a perception of what I’m searching for.
My other inspirations in life are melancholy, friendship, and nature. And…
LE – How do you compose your songs? Do you start by composing the music and then you add the lyrics, or the opposite way? What software do you use and which was the first synth you ever had?
Torben – That totally depends on the song. I guess most of the song come into existence as a whole. In this case, words and music are composed simultaneously.
We’re using Cubase and my first synth was a casio keyboard with 12 sounds and 12 grooves. I cannot remember the specification, Samba kicked ass, though.
LE – Have you ever thought of using female vocals on your songs – maybe as baking vocals? If you ever decided to do so, which female singers would you wish to collaborate with?
Torben – Yes, it has always been my dream to work with female artists. Maybe this will happen in the future. I love the voices of Anneke van Giersbergen and Beth Gibbons. If only I had the choice… However, applications can be made via email :O).
LE – It seems that you changed your style and your sound a little bit at “Her Liquid Arms”. HLA sounds more danceable and maybe not so “dark” as Pale. Did this have anything to do with what you were listening when you were writing the songs for the 2nd album?
Torben – I guess so, although we didn’t adapt to any stylistic direction deliberately. When we produced her liquid arms, we enjoyed the combination of beats and grooves with atmospheric strings and vocals a lot and we found that a more rhythmical orientation would fit well into the basic character of the album.
LE – We would like to know your opinion about Internet as a way of promoting your work. Generally how do you feel about the power that promotion has nowadays? Do you think that anyone could make a successful career if he gets huge promotion even if he had nothing new and decent to offer (musically)? Do you think that “good music” is the only thing that an artist needs in order to succeed?
Torben – The internet will surely be one of the key factors in promoting music in the future. At the moment it’s not as powerful as magazines, radio or television, but it’s growing rapidly. For me the internet is a rather ambigous thing. On the one hand I don’t appreciate it being a perfect platform for all kinds of anonymous idiots. On the other hand I rely on the communicative and informative aspects of the internet. It’s the same as with all other things. Good until people start misusing it.
If you’re asking me, “good” music is absolutely negligible to succeed as an artist, if we ignore the fact that after all it’s a question of taste. Take a look around. Our Media Control Charts are ridiculous, it’s breath taking. And even in our independent scene, it appears to me that people are often more interested in what an artist stands for or how he or she is dressed than in his or her actual music. Sex sells better than sound, even in the music industry itself. No, you don’t have to make “good” music in order to become commercially successful. Get a good manager.
LE – It’s been said that the biggest success comes if and when there is acceptance of a group in the US. Is America’s music market a dream of yours? Do you like the music industry as it works right now
in the US with all these R n’ B / hip hop / soul groups? Do you think there is still a place for quality synthpop / darkwave artists and groups like Diorama?
Torben – There is definitely space for groups like us. Many bands from our genre are already successful in the states. I believe that there is an equally diversified market as in Europe in spite of that massive black music movement. This HipHop industry is quite hard for me to understand. With all due respect, I wonder if people will wake up one day and start thinking about what nonsense they’re actually listening to and what kind of videos they’re watching. No doubt, there are quite a few outstanding HipHop or RnB artists, but that doesn’t justify a battalion of boring specialists contributing to making us all primitive. This is, however, not an American phenomenon.
Of course, we’d like to have a standing on the American market to be able to play concerts there, even though we’re not craving for that. We might not agree with some cultural or political aspects, but the US are still a wonderful country.
LE – What’s your opinion about the darkwave / synthpop music scene, nowadays? Do you think that it has the power to become massive and to be recognized and cherished by a wider number of people in the future? Would you ever consider going mainstream just for the purpose of targeting a bigger audience? Would you sign with a big record company if this (going mainstream) was one of the contract terms?
Torben – Honestly, I’m not in a position to estimate the state or the development of our music scene. I don’t care about these things too much, either. The power to become massive depends on whether you’re willing to reduce your musical ambitions to a basic essence that everybody is capable of grasping. People want to be entertained. Maybe that is what you mean by “going mainstream”. Insofar, let us all hope, that darkwave/synthpop will not become the number one genre in the music business.
I didn’t bring Diorama into being to become rich or to celebrate chart positions. Of course, we’d like to reach as many people as possible, but we would have to give up drawing this undefinable energy from our music, if we were a goddamn mainstream band.
LE – I’d like to hear your opinion about the following artists and groups:
Clan Of Xymox
Torben – Obviously one of the most important and formative bands of the gothic scene. Very nice guys at the same time.
Torben – Their new album rocks till Peking. I admire their ability to create complex atmospheres with few sounds and instruments.
Torben – Well, incredible band, but I think their market value is exploited a little too much.
LE – “It’s the feeling “I won’t anchor here”, no rest, impatient flood a coward’s flight is turned to strolling walk or even pure attack”
Kain’s advice is my favorite song from “Pale”. Could you tell us some words about this song and its
meaning? What was your inspiration for writing this song?
Torben – The song contains situations and experiences from my youth, one of which has been the death of my father. I cannot go into detail that much, Kain’s advice is one of these songs that I don’t really understand myself, the meaning is hidden somewhere in subconscious spheres. The main message seems to be something like 1.) this is not my world, 2.) there will be no other.
LE – What can you tell us about the new album? “The art of creating confusing spirits”. How did you think of this title? Are there any collaborations on that? What does this 3rd album mean to you? Should we wait for any surprises?
Torben – The art of creating confusing spirits is, at least in parts, definitely something new. I cannot tell you what it is precisely, but we added a new dimension to our music. Most of the songs got their unique character during our band rehearsals. The fact that we’re acting as a band now and not as a solo project anymore is already an important change. A big asset is contributed by our new band member Bernard le Sigue with his strange base lines, as well as the fact that we weren’t always perfectly sober during our studio sessions.
The title refers to our view of music as something you’re interacting with. You’re creating a form of energy that has the power to surprise, shock, please or comfort you, something that goes beyond your own mere existence. We imagine this energy embodied by fluttering ghosts you’re not able to control. We’re all very thankful that we have the possibility to enrich our lives and hopefully the lives of others by making the kind of music we’ve always wanted to make.
LE – Do you have any message to send to all the Greek fans of Diorama? Have you consider playing in Greece? Could this happen anytime soon?
Torben – Shame on me, I have never visited Hellas although I always wanted to do so. We would love to play in Greece…… AND WE WILL!!! I just got an email from our booking agency that we’ll be playing at HYPNOBEAT 2003, April 26th or 27th, in Athen. Man, I’m glad to hear that! We’re looking forward very much to having the chance to meet and talk to our Greek friends for the first time ever. Stay safe. CU soon.