Lacrimosa is Latin for weeping, as well as the name of one of Germany’s most prolific gothic bands. They have traversed a variety of music styles throughout their career which has now spanned over 25 years, from goth and metal to classical and the one cohesive element that underlies everything is that all of it is inarguably gothic in essence.
Tilo Wolff is the band’s mastermind, and one of its only two permanent members, the other being Anne Nurmi who started out in Finnish gothic rock band, Two Witches. Tilo started the project back in 1990, and his aim was simply “to combine poetic lyrics with dark and emotional music,” he says. Things started off simple, but they didn’t stay that way for long: “Soon we started to bring in classical instruments in combination with hard beats and guitars,” he explains.
If you’re speaking to one of today’s most famous gothic musicians about how they first got into music, what would you expect their first instrument to be? The guitar or the synth? No, for Tilo it was the trumpet. “As a child I played the trumpet,” he says before continuing: “And since I bought my first record which was ‘The Final Cut’ from Pink Floyd, I was captured by this fascinating world of music.” He didn’t start creating gothic music with the trumpet though: “Once I bought an old second hand keyboard and that’s when I started doing music.”
I ask what went into, and still goes into Lacrimosa’s music, and the answer is a resounding: “Everything that I see, love, fear and feel!”
Throughout Lacrimosa’s career, their music has evolved to become more and more symphonic. From their roots with basic bass, keyboards and guitars they are now the creators of rich, complex orchestral compositions. The more that Tilo learnt about music, the more complex he wanted his music to become, and it’s a continuous journey: “The longer I compose the more I learn about composing and since I love orchestral music in the combination of rock and metal I bring it into my music as good as I can.”
Creating such complex compositions isn’t without its challenges, and when I ask about what some of the biggest ones are Tilo says: “Writing for about 15 different instruments, to bring them together in the same moment as well as writing the scores and rehearsing with the orchestras is always tough!”
It was four years after the band started, in 1994, when Lacrimosa first got to work with real orchestras. It is something that many bands aspire to, but still can’t achieve today. It’s a chance that Tilo is extremely grateful to have had. “The first recording with orchestras we did back in 1994 and it was one of the most exciting experiences of my life!” he says breathlessly before adding: “A dream coming true!”
While Lacrimosa’s style has evolved and taken on many forms over the years, there is something about their sound that makes them instantly recognisable. In Tilo’s opinion Lacrimosa is somehow a style all by itself. “It’s so different from what other bands do,” he states. “ It combines so many styles from gothic to metal, from baroque to classical, from blues to progressive.” Putting things into very simple terms it could be described as “Rock music with classical influences,” says Tilo.
Another term that fits all of Lacrimosa’s music is gothic. But, gothic as a term is something that is often hard to pinpoint and hard to define in itself. But if we’re talking simplistically again, “Basically gothic is dark and emotional music with equally emotional lyrics,” explains Tilo. Lacrimosa certainly fits that bill, all of their music is dark and emotional both musically and lyrically. “That’s how gothic started back in the seventies. Nowadays I don’t see many pure gothic bands anymore,” he says with a sense of disappointment. “Most of the people are afraid to show their feelings unfortunately!”
Something else that is very distinctive about the band is their style of album artwork and imagery, which consists of powerful black and white, sketch-like images. I asked Tilo what is behind this style. He explains: “Music creates pictures and since I am a very visual person, I always wanted to give my music a visual level as well. The covers reflect the atmosphere of the music, so I make sketches while composing, and after finding the right idea I go to see Stelio Diamantopoulos who I met while searching for an artist to draw my first album cover, and who is a good friend nowadays, after many talks and designs he makes the final painting.”
Lacrimosa are one of the most successful bands in the post-eighties world of dark music. Many came and passed before they even started, and many of their contemporaries have been and disappeared before them. Is there a reason why Lacrimosa has lasted so long as a band? Answering, Tilo says: “Maybe the dedicated love for music, or the fact that Lacrimosa is not a band with many members who could fight with each other.” This is often the case, especially when one person is the mastermind and members fight for creative control. “The musicians we play with on albums and on stage are always guest musicians,” he says. This is probably for the best as Tilo has complete creative control over the project, with guest musicians everyone knows where they stand. In fact, he went as far as creating his own record label so not even the industry could tell him what to do: “Or it could be the fact that I control Lacrimosa through my own record label so no-one from the music industry can tell me what to do?!”
When the band started, he didn’t have anything planned and he had no idea how big the project would go on to be. I asked him if he had any clue they’d end up going so far. “No way!” he emphasises, before adding: “I only thought of making a music tape for the DJ in the club I used to go to.
“I still get shivers when I think about the fact that I can go to nearly every place in this world and play my music in front of people who know my music and sing along!” says Tilo.
Although Lacrimosa has fans all over the world, most of their lyrics are in German. To be successful, most musicians have to sing in English to reach the widest audience possible, so why doesn’t Lacrimosa? “With my lyrics I want to express my feelings and the best way to do so is in my own mother-tongue. This is the language I know the best, therefore I use it the most.” In the beginning Tilo wasn’t even thinking about an international career, but not singing English doesn’t seem to have limited Lacrimosa’s audience: “Our biggest audience we have in Latin America and in Russia!”
Looking at the band’s tour history, it is very rare for them to visit the UK. If their language doesn’t limit their audience is there perhaps another reason for this? “This now might be because of the language, we don’t have much of of an audience in English speaking countries because the people there are used to English lyrics.”
Talking about a future visit to the UK he says: “If a promoter invites us to play again in the UK, of course. London used to be my kind of second home when I was younger! I was totally addicted to this city!”
What do musicians do when they’re not making music? I spoke to one band recently who said there is nothing else, but not in Tilo’s case. He says laughing: “I live my life like everyone does. I love going to movies, I love driving cars, I love to eat and drink with my friends.”
To end, Corrosion thanks Tilo for taking the time to talk to us to which he responds: “Thank you as well and yes: I want to send my love to the few but loyal people listening to Lacrimosa in the UK!”