Flowing Tears Interview
11/11/2004 § Leave a comment
By: Sam Grant
With: Benjamin Buss & Helen Vogt of Flowing Tears
Female Voices Metal Fest II
Present – Sam Grant, Charlie Farrell, Benjamin Buss, Helen Vogt [to join]
Our interview with Flowing Tears took place in the early evening. Given our hectic interview schedule over the course of the Festival, we were only able to catch the final two songs of what appeared to have been a storming set by the band from Saarbrücken, Germany. The Hall at the Ancienne Belgique was packed and the crowd of over two thousand seemed thrilled with the band’s performance. They seemed a far more confident outfit than the one last seen on stage at the London Astoria in support of British Doom masters My Dying Bride and it was thrilling to hear the band sound so powerful and for them to receive such a rapturous reception from the crowd.
Backstage we caught up with Benjamin Buss who handles guitars and programming for the band. Lovely vocalist Helen Vogt also joined us for part of the interview.
Charlie: Is this the first date of your tour?
Ben: No, we’re already on tour for two weeks and we are almost in the middle of the tour right now. Today is a day off from the Samael tour and we’re playing this festival.
Charlie: Was this date organized first?
Ben: Actually yes, we had the date for the festival, then we got the proposal to play the Samael tour and we said that we would play the tour but on November 7th we will play this festival because –
Charlie: It’s a great opportunity to play to a new audience.
Charlie: Could you give me a quite history of the band?
Ben: I will make it very short, so as not to bore you.
Charlie: No, that’s fine, that’s just what I want.
Ben: Well we started in 96. Our first album was released yeah, in ’96 and is called Swansongs, which was very different.
Charlie: And which no one can find these days.
Ben: Yeah, but nobody should find it. It’s not because I feel ashamed by that. I still like it, but it’s very different. We didn’t have a female singer then, it was male grunt vocals, it was doomy stuff with 13-minute songs and stuff. I still like it but I always tell people ‘Don’t try to get it on Ebay or wherever and pay a lot of money for it because you will probably be disappointed’, because people who know the band from nowadays pay a lot of money for this album and its just like … something completely different, so I tell people not to try and get the album.
Sam: These are the real die-hard fans I suppose.
Ben: Yeah. It is some collectors item, but I always tell people who send me an email asking about this album, if you find this for 2 Euros then yeah, maybe buy it, but don’t go and pay something like 30/40 euros for it because its very different.
Sam: There are plenty of people who would be willing to pay that, I imagine.
Charlie: You wouldn’t consider re-releasing it or something?
Ben: No, this one not. I mean the second one ‘Joy Parade’ we may re-release some day, if we find a possibility but the first one is like ‘early history’.
Ben: Pre-history is a good word.
At this point Charlie mentioned the news of tragic death of two of the band’s earliest members, which had happened in a car accident a few weeks earlier.
(From the band’s website)
On October 20th two founding members of Flowing tears, Björn Lorson and Christian Zimmer died in a tragic car accident. Even though they already left the band in ´95 and ´96 (Björn after the first demo tape “Bijou” and Christian after “Swansongs” ), Flowing Tears may never have existed, if they hadn’t been. We will keep you in our minds and hearts. These days we take a breath to listen to the tunes of songs such as “Flowing tears & withered Flowers” or “Waterbride” – while mourning about two young people who had to die much too early.” Rest in Peace guys – we will never forget you!
Ben: Yeah, just 1 week before the tour started. It was very hard, I mean they were founding members and they left the band even before the first album but in the very beginning they were very important. For me personally it wasn’t that hard because I was not in contact with them anymore since a lot of years but for our bass player, they were his two best friends so it was really … he still is … in quite a bad mood because of this but these things happen and life goes on. When he came off the stage he said he was playing for both of them.
Charlie: So we’re up to Joy Parade, history-wise.
Ben: OK. First album with female vocals, so it’s the first album for me that officially counts because it’s the style of music that we play today. After Joy Parade we left our former label and joined Century Media, so since then we made 3 albums for Century Media including Razorbliss, the current one.
Sam: How are you finding Century Media as a label.
Ben: Well, it’s always good to have a record label, to have someone to give the blame for everything. No generally we’re happy. Sometimes there are, you know, some small or larger problems but I guess that you have that with any label. We have good cooperation, so it works quite good and we’re happy to be with them.
Charlie: With Helen joining quite recently, did the changeover work quite smoothly?
Ben: Ummhh, no not really, I mean. But the hardest time of the changeover of the vocalist was the time before our former vocalist Stephanie actually really left, because it was not really a disagreement or whatever about the music or personal reasons, but there was a development after we came back from touring for Serpentine, we realized that she wanted to spend more time at home. She wanted to spend less time with the band because she never really liked being on tour and the rest of the band wanted to do more and we really liked being on tour and so we tried to find a compromise for half a year, and then we realized that there were really different opinions about how to run the band in the future and so we said either it means the slow and certain end of the band or … It was a painful decision because I think that she is a very talented singer but we had to take this decision to go on with the band in the style that we wanted.
Charlie: Did it take a while to find a singer?
Ben: Well yes. We rehearsed with a lot of really good singers but with most of them we felt like a cover band because there were really talented singers around but they never really clicked.
Charlie: Did they have a different style?
Ben: Yeah, we rehearsed with some singers who sang in a different style but the point is that those deep female vocals have become something of a trademark for Flowing Tears over the years because there are so many bands around today who have those high soprano vocals but we just don’t want to be band number 962 doing this, so we really wanted to keep this style. We were not looking for a Stephanie copycat but we wanted to keep that style. By coincidence she sounds quite similar.
Sam: Did the change over work well personally. Did [Helen] integrate with the rest of the band very well on a personal level?
Ben: The thing was when we decided to take a new singer I was quite sure that even if we were to find a very good singer for us, that it would take us a while until we felt like a real band again, so I thought OK we will need half a year until we can really start working on songs and everything but the funny thing that was in the first rehearsal she came in the room, it was just like .. Yeah, thanks.. It felt like we had never rehearsed with anyone else, it was very funny.
Sam: Had she heard of the band before?
Ben: She was a huge fan of the band. Maybe that’s the fact that made it even easier compared to somebody very new to the band who didn’t know about the history of the band. She knew everything; she saw the band growing so she was really into it. It was very funny, at the first rehearsal she came into the room and said ‘hey let’s play this and this song from that and that album’ and we went ‘whoa. What song? We don’t remember it’. She actually knew the songs much better than we did, but it made it very easy, you know, to accept her and not being the new one. So yeah …
Sam: So it has been a kind of a continuation, really, hasn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, more than we expected ourselves.
Sam: Yeah, she does sound exceptionally similar to Stephanie.
Ben: Yes, but that wasn’t the plan. Maybe it’s another kind of coincidence. Maybe she sounds very similar because the very literal influence in starting to sing was actually Stephanie.
Ben: Yes, I was checking the website of her former band and there was a questionnaire ‘My influence in starting to sing was Stephanie from Flowing Tears’ and I thought ‘oh’
Sam: It’s highly complimentary, isn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, yeah, and another coincidence was that she just lives next door. We had a lot of singers coming from really far away and the first singer that we rehearsed with from really next-door was Helen.
Sam: I’d like to just say very quickly about Razorbliss – I think that this year has been a pretty stagnant year for Gothic Metal. It’s been a disappointment for Gothic Metal, overall. There are a lot of albums which were expected to be very good which fell short of expectations. Razorbliss surprised me because it was far…far better than I expected it to be and it was definitely one of my best albums of the year.
Ben: Thank you very much.
Sam: It’s a very impressive work. How long did it take to write the album and what was your idea behind writing it? Were you thinking ‘this is the kind of sound we want to create and we want these perfect little explanations of what Gothic Metal is’?
Ben: Actually it was an album that we wrote in a very, very short time. The point is that we spent almost half a year looking for a new singer and we couldn’t do anything creative in this time because I can’t write songs when I don’t know for whom I write the songs. So I spent half a year almost doing nothing, except rehearsing with singers and I was really dying to start getting started again.
Sam: That must have been very frustrating.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, because when she was in the band it was like ‘Hey, lets start now’ and it was just flowing. Normally we are a band who spends a lot of time thinking about can we do this, can we do that, ‘no we probably can’t but let’s try’ but this time it was like ‘Yeah. Why not? Let’s just do it’. Maybe there was the influence of Helen as well, because before she joined us, she played 5 shows with a local band and that’s it, so she’s not really into the scene, she didn’t really know anything about the business and everything, so she had a certain kind of childish approach to everything. She didn’t care about anything because she didn’t know about it, so it was just like if we played something and said ‘No we can’t play this, it sounds too much like them’, she’d say ‘Yeah, but why not?’ and we’d say ‘Yeah, you’re right, why not? Let’s do it’, so we was just like a new start for the band, which is good.
Sam: People are always going to make comparisons, aren’t they? I’ll say it again – the likes of Evanescence. What other bands have you been compared to? Do people compare you to Lacuna Coil etc.?
Ben: Yeah…yeah, I mean sometimes we even get compared to Nightwish and whatever. I can’t understand it because I don’t see any similarities. But I’m not the kind of musician who doesn’t want to be compared to anybody. Journalists need to describe music – If you say to somebody ‘If you maybe like Evanescence then you will probably like this as well’ – as long as I myself, don’t have in my head ‘this sounds like that’, then it’s fine of course. But at least one thing that I got a little pissed of was, there were some reviews in some magazines, writing that ‘Now that Evanescence is getting big, there are a lot of young bands that try to play the same way’. I mean, we play this stuff since 1997.
Sam: You can look at what they have done positively, though.
Ben: Yeah they opened a lot of doors. I see it positively. Its good if we can look at Nightwish’s success on the mainstream level, it can only be good for a band like Flowing Tears, I mean, but if not, I don’t care. I know that this metal stuff is quite big in the mainstream but in two years nobody will talk about that. It is scarier. We make this since a lot of years and we will continue to make this for a lot of years, as well. So its actually nice to have such a wave, you know, probably you sell some more records because of that, but if not, then that’s alright as well.
Sam: So it is partially interest?
Ben: Probably yes, I mean because the mainstream music business works like that. I mean its partially bands like Nightwish and all this symphonic stuff, which for nearly 2 years has been something different.
Charlie: What is the German (club) Scene like – in terms of the sorts of places where you play? Are you very reliant upon the big festivals like Mera Luna etc?
Ben: With Razorbliss we didn’t play so many club shows, I mean we played 3 tours now. This is the third tour that we are doing for the album, so we played a few headlining club shows in Germany. Actually I think that there is quite an audience for this kind of music actually and it is a really young audience. If you look at the audience today there are a lot of 15 and 16 year old people, its quite nice.
Charlie: Have the tours that you have done before, been mainly concentrated upon Germany?
Ben: Basically the first tour that we did was Germany only, it was a semi-acoustic tour with The Gathering. Then we did a Germany/Benelux tour with After Forever, and well, now we’re on tour with Samael, which touches 13 or 14 European countries and which is not only Germany. For us being a German band, its actually a little bit boring playing in Germany. It’s everyday business and German audiences, you know, and its always a little bit .. its OK, you know before the show that people will like it, but they won’t show it. Plus it’s exciting playing in new countries, I mean, some days ago we went to Croatia for the very first time and it was just like we were blown away, there were so many people singing along with the lyrics and it was just like coming home, some how. Yet we had never been there before and there were so many really dedicated fans, it was like … Amazing!
Sam: So many of these countries don’t get the opportunity to see these bands play. The UK is one of them. I know that you have played the UK recently.
Charlie: Yeah I saw you play with My Dying Bride.
Ben: Oh that was not one of our best gigs.
Sam: Was it badly received?
Ben: Which was Ok, I mean they came for My Dying Bride. We didn’t really fit, which was OK, but no, we didn’t really play that good. I mean we were in the studio recording Razorbliss when we got the phone call ‘do you want to play that show’ and I said ‘No, we can’t, we are in the studio’, but then of course people said “It’s a very good show’ and I’m a big fan of My Dying Bride as well’, so I said ‘OK, I’ll do that basically to see My Dying Bride’, but we hadn’t rehearsed any live set since half a year as we had really focused on doing the album and we had two shows together with Helen before we came to London to play this show and both these shows were half a year before, so she wasn’t on stage for half a year and then suddenly she was thrown on to the big Astoria stage. I feel really nervous playing in front of the English audience, because being a German band trying to sing in English we feel a bit ashamed playing in front of native speakers.
Sam: I was just wondering what the interest in Gothic Metal was because the music that My Dying Bride make and the music that Flowing Tears make are very different.
Ben: Definitely yeah, but the funny thing is that I am a huge fan of My Dying Bride and Aaron from My Dying Bride is actually quite a huge Flowing Tears fan, which is one of the biggest compliments that I ever got in all my career was when he wrote me an email saying that he really likes our albums.
Sam: Are you getting more and more popular at the moment and more and more well received?
Sam: Does that mean that you have the luxury of being able to spend 100% of your time on the band or are you still having to do day jobs?
Ben: Er no. We all do things besides playing music, that’s why actually on this tour we’re playing with a replacement drummer and replacement bass-player. But today we play with the original line-up just for this Festival, but they will drive back home today. It is because they have to be at University and at work, but the point for us is that I would never give up doing something very different besides music because I don’t want to end up being really dependant upon how much records I sell. And the point is of course we could now take the step and say ‘OK we will focus on doing music only because its running quite good and we start selling more’. I am quite sure that we would regret that in five years because there are just very few bands who are allowed to be on stage at the age of 40 or something. I don’t think that I would really like to be on stage then.
Sam: It just doesn’t work for a lot of bands.
Ben: I mean I am quite sure that I will play music until the end of my life, but probably not being a touring musician, so its very important for me to have something else besides the band. Which is as well is a kind of inspiration for me. I wouldn’t like the typical musician’s life of getting up at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, playing a little bit of guitar etc, you know – it would be horrible for me, it wouldn’t suit my style of living. I wouldn’t get any inspiration from that lifestyle. I mean being on tour is very good, but I’m already very happy when I’m back home again and can do different things besides ‘when is the sound check’, ‘when is show time’ and everything. So yeah, but it works quite good, but sometime you have to arrange things, you have to plan very good, when do we have time to be on tour, when do we have time to work with replacement musicians. Obviously we couldn’t go on a half a year US tour, but actually we don’t want to, so we’re just fine with the way it’s going right now
Charlie: So you don’t want to follow in the steps of Lacuna Coil? They’re spending so much time over in the states.
Ben: It’s good for them. I know them. They enjoy this very much, but I don’t think that we would really enjoy it. The tour we’re playing right now is 5 ½ weeks, which is a great time but then again it’s a very uncreative time because you just hang around and play shows. Its good to be back home doing some things. I don’t know if I would really like to spend 1 year being on tour constantly. We’ve played 3 tours for this album, which is already quite a lot for us and that’s fine.
Charlie: Going back to the album, to Razorbliss, did you choose to work with the same producer again or was it the label’s decision?
Ben: No, it was our decision to do that. I mean Waldymar did a great job on both of the previous albums, so there was no reason not to work with him again and then the other thing was that he was not just producing because in the meantime he was something like a good friend of the band and something like an additional band member when it comes to production and so he was also quite involved in the process of finding a new singer, so for me it was clear that we would record the album with him. Actually maybe on the next one it will be time for a change, not because I don’t like the work he did. I think he did an excellent job, but you know, if you like the color red, you don’t sit in a red room all your life. So maybe it can be inspiring to work with somebody else. But we will see, we haven’t even started figuring out some new ideas but the plan is to maybe change a little bit, to get some new inspirations
Sam: Will the music change then or will you still be writing the same kind of material?
Ben: There’s a certain kind of songwriting that won’t change because I can’t get out of my skin but I guess that we will experiment much more than what we did on Razorbliss. On Razorbliss, we starting integrating more modern stuff and more dynamic elements, but still maybe in the back, we had the idea in mind we had to show people, that even though we have a new singer, we are still flowing tears so we can’t do really strange stuff and I think that on the next album we will actually start experimenting more. I mean if you saw the show tonight, Helen started experimenting with doing grunt vocals.
Sam: Yeah? Really? It’s a shame that I missed that.
Ben: It sounds really impressive. So hopefully there will be a few grunts on the new album.
Sam: You had elements of that on Razorbliss.
Ben: Yeah, but it was only something like a small hint that we could maybe do this.
Sam: Well it work’s pretty well, I thought.
Ben: Yeah, thank you. I think on our next album we will, you know, allow ourselves to do some more steps in this direction. Whatever, we will try to be more extreme. This point of this is, that the Razorbliss songs are very balanced. A lot of mid-tempo stuff that’s quite good but that (probably) actually, if I would start song-writing tomorrow, I would take much more of the extremes – really silent ambient parts whatever and a little bit more atmospheric and then really heavy grooving parts so we will double it and see what happens.
Sam: I think that would work very well.
Charlie: How do you compose? Is it something that you do on computers?
Ben: Actually Razorbliss was the first album that I wrote without the guitar. It was very strange for me because I’m a guitar player. For Razorbliss, I always started programming some loops or short sounds or whatever and they made me, you know, get a certain atmosphere from a keyboard. Actually the guitar (parts) is what I wrote at the very end, but it was the first time that we wrote songs like that and I don’t know that we will do that again. But writing a song is not something that I can plan. The only thing that I know about song writing is that whenever you really try to write a song you fail. So if I sit there and say ‘Oh, I have some spare time, I will sit down and write a song’ you can forget it. It just happens so you can’t plan it.
Charlie: Do you carry a mini-disk player with you?
Ben: I actually bought on of these, yes. The funny thing is that most of the ideas that I have, I have when I am stuck in a traffic jam in my car or something, where I can’t record it, so I bought one of these, so I can record the melody or whatever.
Helen Vogt joins at this point.
Sam: Welcome Back. Are you going to see Nightwish later? Do you like them?
Helen: I like parts of their music, but I’m not really a big fan of soprano vocal stuff, I like more heavy music. I don’t really like that many bands with female vocals.
Sam: But Flowing Tears was your main inspiration.
Helen: Yeah, definitely it was. I knew them since 1998 and since then I began to sing along with Stephanie.
Sam: This must be quite a dream for you.
Helen: It is, and since you saw onstage tonight, I love to be on stage doing this and its great.
Sam: If you’re following in the footsteps of one of your idols, isn’t it a little difficult because it’s a tough act to follow?
Helen: Yeah, at first I felt a little nervous because I sung for a little-known local Gothic Metal band, and the first concert I had with Flowing Tears was the Wave Gothik Treffen. There were 3000 people of something like that … I was really excited.
Sam: Were you nervous the first few proper performances you did with Flowing Tears?
Helen: Oh yeah, sure. But I love being on stage so it was OK.
Sam: So you slipped into in pretty easily. So you like heavy music, what kind of stuff?
Helen: I really like female rock bands like The Gathering and Lacuna Coil, then I like much more hard stuff like Kreator and Slayer and Megadeth and stuff like that.
Sam: Hasn’t your life completely changed since you’ve been in Flowing Tears? What were you doing before hand?
Helen: I was studying medicine.
Sam: Wow! A bit of a gear-change!
Helen: Now I spend a lot of time with the band recording and all the organizations but I’m still studying because I have 1 year more to go.
Charlie: Are you studying to be a Doctor?
Sam: But is it a track that you want to stay on? You have this fantastic set-up at the moment, you are in probably the band that you’d most want to be in. It’s many people’s dream, and never realized by many people, and then you have this medical career waiting in the wings. Which side are you going to pick up?
Helen: I can be a Doctor when I’m 40 years old, but for now I can be a musician, so music has the first priority at the moment. I’m studying as long as it works beside [music], but when I am too busy with the music then I will just do music.
Charlie: Once you have qualified as a Doctor, then you can be a doctor at any time of your life.
Helen: Yeah, sure.
Sam: It’s probably not the way round that you’d think of doing things necessarily, I mean, you can become a qualified doctor and then become a musician.
Helen: Why not? I could become a tour doctor or open a sanitarium for insane musicians – I’m sure that there would be a lot of clients for this.
Sam: But you’ll probably forget much of what you’ve learned, because you spend years touring around Europe and then when you get back you’ll have forgotten most of it.
Helen: No, not really. You know that every human uses just a little bit of his brain, so .. he can use just a little bit more.
Ben: You know we’ve been on tour since 2 weeks and we left our brains at home. We can’t use it all at the moment. (Laughs)
Sam: Well thank you very much both of you, I wish I’d got chance to see you downstairs, but unfortunately I was up here all of the time … so Next time! Keep up the good work, its all going very well for you.
Charlie: Sorry, 1 more question. When are you next going to be on tour? Presumably you are now going to write and record a new album.
Helen: We are on tour now.
Ben: If there is a master plan right now, then the plan is to write the album in spring, record it in the summer and be on tour in the autumn.