THE VISION BLEAK
TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This live interview with Ulf Theodor Schwadorf of The Vision Bleak was done by Boris Van Berlo at the Twieoo in Belgium on February 28th, 2004, where they performed that evening.
Thanks a lot to firstname.lastname@example.org for the photos!
Maybe to start this interview a short question on how the response on your new album ďThe Deathship Has A New CaptainĒ has been so far from the press and fans?
We had very good responses for the album in the German press, we received high scores in all the big magazines, and on the tour we get very good responses from the fans as well. Also in Italy the response is very great, so the overall responses to the album are very nice.
The music on your demo ďSongs Of Good TasteĒ is quite different, more romantic, and has more in common with your earlier work like Empyrium and Autumnblaze. So I was wondering: what are the reasons for this transformation?
It was just a natural flow, when we did the first couple of songs on the demo we maybe played together for a year. When you just start up a band you need some time to find your own style and the demo was just a stepping stone for us while with the album now we found our style. The demo has no real relevance to us anymore, itís so old and it doesnít really fit with the new album anymore. We will also not play any songs from the demo live.
Like you said there is a change in what you do now. In the past with Empyrium nature was a very important part of the whole concept (music, lyrics and artwork), now itís more in the line of horror and mystique. I assume that these two themes are a big passion of yours. Did you deliberately separate them and are you going to combine these two in the future?
First of all with Empyrium I did eight years the same kind of music with the same kind of concept, so I wanted to do something new. I wanted to go on, and with Mr. Konstanz I found the perfect counterpart. I think itís important for me and Konstanz as well to have this concept, this frame around everything Ö but in a way I think that The Vision Bleak and Empyrium have some things alike. Compared to the earlier songs the new album is much more atmospheric and much more mystical and thatís something we need to do. There is no way to escape because this is our way of writing music I guess. So the demo back then was some kind of intermediate.
The introís and the instrumental parts on the new album remind me of some things you did in the past, especially the atmosphere, so it is obvious that it is still your music.
Yeah, but with Empyrium it was only with acoustical instruments and I did four albums with it, therefore it was time to move on to a new style. The main difference between The Vision Bleak an Empyrium is that with TVB itís about writing songs, catchy songs. Off course they have to hold this atmosphere but the main goal is to write a catchy song that the listener can easily coop with, while with Empyrium there was no goal, it was just about the atmosphere.
Has there also been a switch in the musical influences?
Maybe not a switch, but like every metal head I grew up with metal bands and in the early nineties I listened to a lot of death metal and later black metal. But these influences were never really brought into other projects, so itís like a step back into our youth when it comes to the musical influences and of course a lot of horror music soundtracks, especially from the Universal and Hammer Film studios. These soundtracks were very influential for us.
Connected to this: if you had the budget, would you like to do something on stage like a big epic horror spectacle or rather keep it down to scale?
Definitely a big show. Right now we donít have the budget off course, but we try to bring the atmosphere on stage right now as well with special clothes and stuff like that, but if we had the money we would do a really big spectacular show, definitely.
And what about comparisations with Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper or Mortiis. Would you have problems with that?
I think there is a main difference between for example TVB and Alice Cooper because he uses the horror thing as an image, he doesnít sing about it. With TVB the whole thing is more about a piece of art: the music, the lyrics, the lay-out of the album, our presentation on stage, itís all about horror Ö so we donít see it as an image. Because an image is something to play with, but for us this is the real thing!
I also read that on the ĎThe Deathship Has A New Captainí there are some spoken word parts done by Saruman. Is it Christopher Lee or the German voice?
No, itís the German voice of Christopher Lee, but itís a perfect voice like you will hear on the album.
Is he doing an intro for every song?
No. We did a so called Ďsnippet CDí as a presentation for TVB which was done for promotional purposes. And our label wanted to do Ďfade out fade iní for every song but we said no this is to boring lets try out some spoken words in between. We didnít know who we should consult for this and so we just said we want the voice of Christopher Lee. Maybe it was megalomania, but a half hour later we got the call from our label that we can record him in two days in a Berlin hotel. So we did this and we are happy as hell.
Does this person have some kind of connection with the horror or fantasy genre or does he only do voices?
No he just does voices of English actors and he is well known because of the movies he did.
Going further on the lyrics: they are all in English. Is it because you think the German language does not fit in this horror theme?
No, it could fit but with TVB our main inspiration for the lyrics comes from English literature and English speaking horror movies. So the English language fits a lot better to express the horror atmosphere. With Empyrium it was folklore based, so the German language fit in a lot better then.
So you also answered my next question about influences from literature like Edgar Allan Poe Ö
Ö and Lovecraft. Itís in English and itís much easier to express the same atmosphere like these writers when you use the same language.
Something else: are you still involved in other projects besides TVB?
Right now nothing else. I quit Autumnblaze and Empyrium Ö I am doing a small project with the singer of Empyrium but itís nothing.
I heard there will be a split album of Sun Of The Sleepless.
Itís just all the songs I recorded during the years, some were never released, an now they are all compiled on a CD, so nothing new. And I donít have any plans with other bands, I am totally focusing on TVB.
You also have your own studio ĎKlangschmiedeí and I know you did some productions and engineering of Empyrium and other Prophecy albums. Is this some kind of full time job for you?
Yes, I earn my living with producing other bands and running my own studio.
And did this just came along with being in the music business, or was it something you wanted to do for a long time?
When I recorded the first demo with Empyrium we entered the studio for the first time and I was very interested in how it all worked. So when we recorded the next album we went to the same studio and I tried to do some mixing. On the third album I already could record the others and help with the mixing, and I was really fascinated by these possibilities to sculpt the sound. With all the money I earned from Empyrium I bought myself a home studio. I got kind of obsessed with recording equipment and bought more and more and got really into it. So it was about time to open my own studio.
Because of the studio, your involvement in different projects all connected to Prophecy Productions, the fact that the debut of Empyrium was the first release of Prophecy, Ö what is the connection between you and Prophecy?
Me and Martin are very good friends, we even lived in the same house for four years and I know him very well and trust him. And itís the same vice versa. Itís not the typical label/artist relationship, the contact is much better. For example on the tour we phone each other every day, so itís more like a friendship.
Have you ever worked for Prophecy Productions as an employee?
Yes, the studio was actually in the same house as the office of Prophecy. Itís also a fifty-fifty company of Martin and me, both the studio and the company. He is a great business partner and great friend.
Back to the music of The Vision Bleak. With Empyrium you went from electric guitars to more acoustic music, and now you are getting back to the heavier guitar riffs Ö
Ö back then with Empyrium I wanted to abandon heavy guitar riffs because I was bored of it and I wanted to try other styles. But you cannot hide from your roots. I am a metal head in my hart and so it was just natural. I didnít play electric guitar anymore for almost three years before I started TVB, so it was a great feeling to do some heavy riffing again after years of acoustic guitar. It just happened, nothing planned.
And you as a musician. Did you have any musical education or are you an autodidact?
I had some lessons on drums when I was young but the rest was all autodidact. Konstanz is a learned musician, he started on drums.
Now I have a few questions that concern Empyrium, is this ok for you or do you say no, this is a Vision Bleak interview?
Basically I would prefer not too much questions about Empyrium. If they are interconnected with TVB itís OK, but Empyrium is dead now.
I have one which is connected, about touring. With TVB you are now on tour in the early stages. Not going on tour with Empyrium was this personal or just practically impossible?
It was very difficult to do it technically and on the other hand Empyrium was not really a live act. Itís more music that you listen to at home. Especially the last Empyrium album was so huge and complex. With TVB itís much more easier to bring the energy on stage.
How do you look back at the first two albums of Empyrium? There are bands who are ashamed of their earlier work. What are your feelings concerning this?
Of course today I would do it totally different. Back then I was a 16 year old boy and it was what I felt and I can still cope with that. But now when I look back I do not like the first album very much. Songs Of Moors is still a good album, but the first album has something very youthly to it.
On the Empyrium and Prophecy websites there are a lot of people very sad and concerned about the end of Empyrium. Can you understand this? Did you realize that you touched people with Empyrium in this way?
I can understand when people are sad when their favourite band decides to quit. Of course I understand, but I cannot understand that people always want from me to play the same music for eternity. I donít want to play for 50 years acoustic guitar music, that would be something untrue to myself. When I would play the same music for 50 years only to please the fans that is something I couldnít cope with. I just need something new and thatís what I did.
The final question: the reasons that you quit Empyrium?
I just had the feeling that I expressed everything I wanted to express and I just felt empty of nature and mystique or whatever. I just felt that it was time to try out something new.
And the change in style was so radical that you had to change the name op the band?
With Empyrium the concept was nature from beginning till the end, so it wouldnít make any sense to make an album like we did with TVB under the banner of Empyrium, it would be stupid.
Ok, do you have any final words for our readers?
Just check out our album ďThe Deathship Has A New CaptainĒ, itís worth listening to.
Thank you very much.
Links of interest:
The Vision Bleak