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Flowing Tears - “Razorbliss” in depth with Helen Vogt and Benjamin Buss - April 2004


Prologue:
My favourite band at the moment, actually my favourite Gothic Metal band for quite some time now. Since I became aware of the Saarbrücken quartet my life has been filled with many reflective moments, which have inspired me again and again... and again. I got "Jade” when it was released at the turn of the new millennium. That album has some of my most treasured pearls of music; "Swallow”, "Sistersun”, "Radio Heroine”, and the title track I’ve heard a thousand times at least and never do I loose the emotional connection to those songs. "Serpentine” shares the same emotional cuts but is way heavier (and more fun to play onstage I imagine). These two albums I play often in my room, many times have I wondered about their next album, (I’ve even tried to draw a timeline in some desperate attempt to point out at least the year when a new FLOWING TEARS album will see the light of day) and now, finally, it is here. "Razorbliss” is the bands first album with new singer (and hardcore fan) Helen Vogt. So help me god if this one doesn’t land the much-deserved recognition cause this is how you combine delicate emotion and frustration properly on a whole new level, not in the commercial set-ups that made EVANESCENCE’s debut album go platinum several times.

This webspace is dedicated to the Germany’s most beautiful Gothic entity. Read on as I uncover interesting facts and remove the masks of these soulful songs together with guitarist Benjamin Buss and up’n’coming vocal temptress Helen Vogt.

Hello, how are you both holding up?

We’re doing great! We’ve just returned from a German tour with THE GATHERING which was a cool experience for us, and we’re doing a lot of promotional work for the new album right now, there seems to be a lot of interest in "Razorbliss” and that feels quite good….

How is Stefan doing after his injury by the way?

Helen: He’s ok again. He already had recovered three weeks later. He was quite lucky that he didn’t get injured worse. He could have been dead. The only thing we were sorry about was that we had to cancel our semi acoustic show with Johan Edlund in Berlin because of Stefan’s injury, as this would have really been a special event. But Stefan’s health was more important to that time and we all are happy that he’s completely recovered again…

Ben: It’s up to lawyers in the meantime what happens with the incident. There was that stacked up drum monitor that fell down and hit him on the head – and if the PA company had set that monitors up as they should have done it would never have fallen down….but anyway: Stefan’s recovered and in the end that’s all that counts…. Now he’ll stay away from his monitors, haha…

In my opinion you’ve outdone yourselves yet again with "Razorbliss”. How has it been judged in the media and bigger magazines?

Ben: Thank you! So far the reactions are absolutely great which we didn’t really expect as I know by myself that when a band changes a singer it’s quite hard for both fans and media to accept the change and to feel familiar with the new voice, so we expected that certain "it-was-better-in-the-past” percentage, but so far all the reactions are more than positive…

Helen: I’m quite surprise how open minded a lot of fans welcomed me. After shows a lot of people came to me or sent me mails telling me that they were sceptical in the beginning but now are happy that I’m the new singer and they really like it. I was quite nervous about how people would react on me and I knew it wouldn’t be easy – I’m a FLOWING TEARS fan myself since a lot of years, so I had a lot of respect when I came into the band – but I’m really happy about the fact that people are accepting me and moreover tell me they like what I do… :)

And is everyone in the band satisfied with the final result?

Ben: As far as I’m concerned: yes, but I cannot speak for the rest of the band….

Helen: Well, I love it…

Ben: Ok, then at least one half of the band loves the album, and I guess the other two do so as well, haha…. Something I really like about the album is that it’s not a constructed one. We wrote the whole album out of the feeling that we were happy to be a complete band again and that we’ve found a singer who didn’t only fit into FLOWING TEARS, but who even pushed us and inspired us a lot. This makes "Razorbliss” very special to me and I’m still quite surprised about the result….

Tell us a bit about the makings of "Razorbliss”, I think it’s a very detailed work, was it a difficult album to write?

Ben: No, not at all. When Helen finally joined the band and we felt like a complete band unit again after months of being cursed to do nothing but looking for a new singer we almost died to write new songs again. And together with the power and enthusiasm Helen brought with her into the band we experienced something like a creative explosion… at least we wrote most of the songs of "Razorbliss” in not more than three months, which is quite a short time for us. I felt like being on an intense tip during that time, I was working on the songs day and nighttime and everything I had in mind was the new album, and for the rest of the band it was the same. We went on and on writing new songs as we had a lot of new and thrilling ideas. I think we finished the last song two days before we went to studio to start recording the album….

The songs are definitely your most worked out material so far, it’s far more interesting arrangement wise.

Ben: Thanx. We spent a lot of time on detail work for "Razorbliss”. For me such very small details that you don’t even recognise when you listen to the album for the first time are really important as they keep an album being interesting even after listening to it 20 times in a row. There’s much more detailed programming on "Razorbliss” than on our previous releases, which maybe is a result of the fact that I spent some time experimenting with sequencer stuff and analogue synths. I think it’s a good balanced we’ve found on "Razorbliss” to write quite simple structured catchy songs, but with a lot of details going on under the surface of a song….

So is Helen really what you were looking for now that you got the first album with her in the can, how much input from her side is reflected in the new songs?

Ben: Her influence was quite a big one, even if it was not really a direct participation in the songwriting process. We haven’t changed our way of writing music, it’s still me who writes all the basics, both for the music and the lyrics. Helen’s influence was but a general one: Helen is a fan of really heavy music, and when in one of the first rehearsals we did after she joined the band we played a few heavy riffs just for fun, she suddenly said: "Hey, that’s cool, let’s write something like that!” – and we were quite surprised, as former singer Stefanie never felt familiar with heavy music, so we always kept our heavy side in a box…. I mean, it would have made no sense to write some heavy songs with a singer who wouldn’t like it, as I think it’s essential for a song that the singer can identify with it, otherwise it’s impossible to do a good performance on it…. Well, however: this was a moment when Helen set a new aspect of FLOWING TEARS free, and somehow this was something like an initial starting point for the songwriting for "Razorbliss”. Suddenly we were allowed to play heavy stuff. What a fun!!! Haha…. We somehow felt like if we had just founded the band, and everything is allowed, everything is thrilling…. I guess that would have never happened without Helen’s influence….

Helen: Yeah, I kicked their asses, haha… I didn’t even know if it was right to tell them that I like this heavier stuff, as you know, I was a FLOWING TEARS fan for years and I wondered if I even would be allowed to give any opinion, but they seemed to like it that I brought a new opinion into the band…

She sounds pretty close to Steffi but has a deeper register that suits the new songs better.

Ben: Definitely. It was quite important for me to learn to know the voice of the new singer first before I started writing songs, as I write songs for a certain voice, I need to know what ideas could sound good with a certain voice and which not. The funny thing about Helen was that when we wrote the first song together, I think it was "Maladine” – I was just about to play a vocal line to her that I imagined for the chorus line of the song, when she started singing that line by herself before I even told her what I had in mind….

Helen: It’s because I’ve been a fan for so many years and I know their old songs as good as they know them themselves, so I guess I had developed a feeling for the way Ben writes the songs…

Ben: ….you can believe me, I was quite surprised…. We didn’t need much time to get used to each other, she joined the band and we immediately started working on the album as if we’d never done anything else before…. Almost frightening somehow, haha….

I hope you don’t mind doing a track-by-track analysis, cause I’m really curious to know more about albums songs. Ok off we go then:

Razorbliss: An obvious choice for the first single. I think the song works well as an opener, it’s different and surprises the listener with a lighter atmosphere don’t you think?

Ben: For me personally the song has quite a dark atmosphere, with this downtuned guitar stuff and that heavy riffing stuff…but you’re right, it’s the perfect opener, it’s a compact and catchy song that exposes a lot of new aspects in our sound, but is a typical FLOWING TEARS song to the same time….

Believe: You know the main riff of the song might be your heaviest so far he he, you really notice the change in the guitars here. What’s Dirk from ANGEL DUST doing on the song, is he representing any specific character?

Ben: It was quite a spontaneous idea to let Dirk sing that second voice. He’s a good friend of us and he visited us in studio on the day we were about to record the vocals for that song. Suddenly someone had the idea that a 2nd voice would sound good on that chorus line, so we simply asked Dirk if he’d like to try something. Well, he did, we were really surprised and half an hour later it was on tape.

Helen: I love that song. It’s really dynamic and intense. And it has that dark atmosphere I love about FLOWING TEARS songs since years…

Ben: It’s atmospherically linked with "Starfish Ride” from "Serpentine”. It has a similar vibe, but it’s much more…. Evil! Yes, Evil… the starfish has turned into a shark, haha….

Virago: To me, this song sounds like a continuation of "Merlin” from your "Serpentine" album, is there something you haven’t revealed yet he he, is there any connection between these two songs?

Ben: You’re right, now that you say that I see it myself. There’s a certain musical connection between both of the songs, both of them are quite experimental, both of them have some strange vocal experiments, both of them have a very catchy guitar riffing instead of a traditional chorus line, both of them have a whispered chorus line…. Hey, and both of them were the last songs we wrote for each of the albums…. Hey, man, you’re good. You’re revealing things we haven’t even recognised ourselves…. I guess "Virago” will become a highlight in our liveset very soon…. Just like "Merlin”….

Undying: I love this one. The intro reminds me of "For Tonight” but it’s darker, twisted, melodic, the chorus sucks you dry, the vocals are brilliant, basically everything I like to have in a FLOWING TEARS song.

Helen: thanx…. It’s one of my favourite songs as well. Very typical FLOWING TEARS somehow, but with a much darker taste.

Ben: It’s the first time we managed to write a stupid little story. No personal lyrics, no hiding behind weird images, just a little stupid cheap sad story about a girl who was tired of her life. I thought it was time for cliché gothic lyrics, haha…. Musically one of the catchiest songs we’ve ever done. Quite simple, somehow it works almost like a singer/songwriter song, if it weren’t far too heavy for that….

Helen: A great live song as well, you can put a lot of emotions in that song on stage….

Radium Angel: I can’t get this song out of my head. There’s something about this song track screams TIAMAT, weird sounds, it’s a very original song and that’s a quite impressive solo spot you got there Ben.

Ben: Haha, thanx. I made this for the Japanese market, haha…. Some guitar hero shit… no, but honestly: I never wanted to play any solos. It’s the rest of the band who pushed me towards playing some melodic stuff, and for a few songs on the record it even worked...the funny thing is that I wrote this song completely without any guitars, it was written on a sequencer only, and there’s still a whole lot of electronic stuff going on in the background, possibly more electronic details than on the whole last album together, haha….

Helen: I love to sing that song. It was one of the first we had finished and it still felt strange hearing my own voice on a song of one of my fave bands, but when listening to a demo version of that song there was a moment when it just clicked and I realised that this is my own voice and it feels like FLOWING TEARS even though…

Ben: We changed that song quite a lot during the pre production we did with producer Waldemar before going to studio, I think we never tried so many versions of any song so far, but it was worth it as I really like the structure of the song….

Firedream: More straightforward and aggressive. This is actually one of rare occasions where the riffs take control, is there some kind of personal frustration behind this track?

Helen: Yesss! This is the "I want to get rid of my frustration” song on the album. Feels great to play that one live!

Ben: Yeah, it’s a completely new experience to play a FLOWING TEARS song and put aggression and frustration in it. I never thought we could play such an aggressive song, but it just fits. I guess we’ll do some more of that in the future, for the frustration still to come, haha….

Ballad Of A Lonely God: An interesting song about a lonesome god, what’s the story here? It’s definitely one of the slowest track you’ve done, are you trying to re-connect with the bands doomy influences?

Ben: After "Undying” this is the second little story text on the album. A very sarcastic ironic fictive story about a lonely old god sitting on his goddamn cloud thinking about whom to destroy next…. No, we weren’t on drugs, haha…. Once again a song that has this singer/songwriter appeal for me. Very basic, very simple, and yes, very doomy. You’re right, it has something of our early releases, it could have been a song on JJoy Parade” as well….

Snakes Of Grey: Sounds like a second single to me, a bit lighter in atmosphere and a chorus to die for. By the way, you own this song Helen!

Helen: Hey, thanx! I love to sing it…. You’re right, once again a very catchy one, this one will probably be put on some compilations. It’s maybe the most "pop” song on the album, even if there’s that really heavy guitar part…

Ben: The chorus sounds very bright, almost like a surf song for me…. I didn’t know if I’d like that chorus line until I heard the final version when we mixed the album. I didn’t think that this happy chorus line would suit to a FLOWING TEARS song, but now afterwards it makes the song quite interesting and diverse….

Mine Is The Ocean: Are those NIGHTWISH influences showing up in the song title? A very moving song, the electronics work magnificently with the beautiful atmosphere, your tribute to the ocean maybe?

Ben: Haha… NIGHTWISH influences…??? Hey, man, who do you think we are????

Helen: Haha, you’ve found something you could bother him with for hours…. :)

Ben: Well, however: definitely no NIGHTWISH influences at all.

Helen: It’s a song about personal changes. It’s connected to the album title "Razorbliss” which stands for the process of going through hard and painful times to be able to see the light again. Well, and „Mine is the ocean” deals with the aspect of a new start in this process. You leave something behind, even if it’s painful, and you see new possibilities arising at the horizon, you feel like you’re free to do whatever you want to – yours is the ocean.

Ben: Megalomania in Gothic Rock, haha…. .pfff… NIGHTWISH influences….

Maladine: FLOWING TEARS goes oriental he he. What inspired this character and music, is it possible that „Maladine” is „Justine’s” counterpart, is there any connection between these two songs?

Ben: Not really, except of the fact that both of the song titles are woman’s names. It’s strange that this is the very first time we’ve integrated some oriental tunes in a FLOWING TEARS song as I like such stuff quite a lot and I’m experimenting with such melodies since years, but it never felt right for a FLOWING TEARS song.

Helen: The very first song we did after I joined the band….

Ben: Yeah, it was something special, it felt like being reborn to have the first song finished after that long break. This is why this song still touches me quite a lot every time I listen to it.

Unspoken: Maybe THE track for me, words escape me when I listen to this song. Where do all these electronic arrangements come from anyway?

Ben: Stolen from an early DEPECHE MODE album, haha…. No, this is another song I’ve written completely without guitars. I added all the guitars later on and the whole song turned into a very dynamic one then. But first of all there was that loop and those electronic elements. I wrote that song when I was very busy discovering the world of sequencers, maybe that’s why it has this electronic appeal…. But strange as it is this has turned into a very living, breathing song. I hope we’ll play that one live as it will be a lot of fun to perform that one on stage…

Helen: I was interesting to sing that one, I have a lot of space on that song to do some strange things with my voice….

Pitch Black Water: A very atypical song for you. Has all your trademarks but also marks the use of a very epic chorus and a genuine night time atmosphere.

Ben: It’s the first classical FLOWING TEARS ballad ever!

Helen: You’re right, it’s quite an untypical one. I like those contrasts between the quiet and the heavy parts in that song, it’s a very emotional one. And I absolutely love the chorus line!

Ben: I think it’s a good song to end the album with. It’s emotional, it’s diverse and it leaves the listener with that long feedback loop that goes on through the whole song….

And what’s your favourite song after going through every single one?

Ben: "Virago”. It rocks.

Helen: "Undying” and "Believe”.

Ben: Oh… and "Pitch Black Water”...

Ok, now let’s talk some more about other bands music for a moment. I’d like to get your opinions on the following albums if you don’t mind.

THE GATHERING: Sleepy Buildings (saw it coming didn’t you he?)

Ben: A great idea of a great band. Everybody who had seen them perform live in the last two years knows why they simply HAD to make this album. They’re an exceptional band in the Rock scene and with this album they prove that on the contrary to many great studio bands which have no charisma when being on stage THE GATHERING are masters in both situations….

METALLICA: St. Anger:

Ben: To be honest, I only know the songs they’ve made videos for and I don’t know what to think about them. I mean, it’s cool that such a big band does an album that’s a statement against all expectations, but does that make the album being a good one? I don’t think so, and if any underground band would have dared to release a demo CD with those songs, they would have been laughed at….

KATATONIA: Viva Emptiness

Ben: What should I say. They’re brilliant! Even though I don’t love the whole album, "Criminals” and "Remembrance” are the best KATATONIA songs ever in my opinion, but I don’t really like the rest of the album even though it’s absolutely great. It’s just that I’m more in love with "Last Fair Deal Gone Down”…. But thank god there are bands like KATATONIA!!!!

TIAMAT: Prey

Ben: Well, I’m a fan and can’t really judge it. I love all TIAMAT albums, there’s no exception for me, and so I also love this one. "Cain” or "Carry Your Cross…” simply are something like prototypes of a perfect song. Johan is for me one of the most talented songwriters ever. You see, I’m a fanatic… ;-)

So are any touring plans scheduled for the band?

Ben: We’re just about to check possible touring options. Nothing’s confirmed so far, but I guess there will be some tour dates announced quite soon – "Razorbliss” was written to be played on stage, so be sure we’ll take every chance we get to play live this year!!!!

No offence but a tour with THE GATHERING would be cool he he.

Ben: Yep, and we just did that. We supported them on their semi acoustic tour. Quite a great experience for us as we played a semi acoustic set as well, which was quite a new thing for us to discover. I know it’s quite strange to release a really heavy album and then go out to play some semi acoustic shows, but right because of that it was both challenging and exiting for us and we enjoyed it a lot – I guess we’ll play such shows again from time to time in the future as it’s something completely different from regular live business….

Ok, I think that’ll be all for this time. Do you have anything to add?

Ben: Well thanx four your interest and this great interview!!! And thanx to all those who spent the time reading this one – risk an ear and listen to „Razorbliss” – it rocks!!!!

Thanks for doing another interview, especially for going through each track together with a dedicated fan. Good luck in supporting "Razorbliss”.

Discography:

1996: Swansongs (CD, Seven Art Music)

1998: Joy Parade (CD, Seven Art Music)

1999: Swallow (CD, Self-production)

2000: Jade (CD, Century Media)

2002: Serpentine (CD, Century Media)

2004: Razorbliss (CD, Century Media)

Frodi Stenberg



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