1. Frank, first of all thank you for agreeing to this interview for ALTvenger! As the new Born For Bliss album “Falling Back To Never” has raised quite some dust and has received excellent feedback, are you pleased with how it has been recognized so far?
Hi Marija, thank you for doing this interview and yes, it’s always an exciting moment to wait for the first reviews showing up after a new album release. Overall we have had some pretty good reviews, so I am really pleased about that.
2. As you have been present on the music scene for quite a long time now, and you have also been involved in various bands and projects, can you tells us how it all started for you?
Well, that’s a long story. I’ll try to keep it short. Since I was 18 years old I have been playing in several local new wave bands. But of course it all started for real, back in 1985 when I joined Clan Of Xymox during the 4AD years and played my parts on the first two Albums, ‘Clan Of Xymox’ and ‘Medusa’. After that I stayed with the band as live -guitarist and -keyboard player until 1991, after finishing the American ‘Twist Of Shadows’ tour. I then started my own band ‘Born For Bliss’ and in 1997 we released our first album ‘Flowing with the Flu’ for ‘Deathwish Office’, by that time a subdivision of German label ‘Nuclear Blast’. Unfortunately, Nuclear Blast decided to get rid of ‘Deathwish Office’ and so, right after we had finished the recordings for our follow up album ‘Between Living and Dreaming’, all of a sudden we were without a label and management, so the album never got released. I then stepped back from the alternative music scene for a while until the beginning of 2009, when I contributed for ‘White Rose Transmission’, the project founded by Carlo van Putten (now the singer of Dead Guitars) and the so sadly missed Adrian Borland (front man of English 80’s cult band The Sound) as co-writer, band member and producer for the album ‘Spiders in the Mind Web’ (released May 2010 – label; Echozone). Later that year, German label Echozone also released that long forgotten second Born For Bliss album ‘Between Living and Dreaming’ and the rebirth of Born For Bliss was a fact. Although the final release of our third album had to wait until 2015… In the mean time I also worked on an ambient trip-hop project with Remco Helbers, ‘Stargazing Project’ for which we did a digital release in 2011. In 2012 I started working on a dark-wave project together with Dutch vocalist Yvette Winkler with whom I later released our ‘Vaselyne’ debut album ‘The Fire Within’. In 2013 Born For Bliss released the ‘Innocent’ EP as a warming op for the third album ‘Falling Back to Never’, which was released by Echozone in October 2015. And that’s where we are now…
3. Most artists don’t really like to be labelled or put into drawers when it comes to their work, because surely, the music they create can please whoever cares to listen to it and enjoy it. But as you are often recognized for your work in the “gothic, alternative and indie scene”, how do you feel about that particular scene?
Of course I cannot deny my background as a member of the original Clan of Xymox line-up, so yes that’s where it basically started for me and therefore still a lot of people will categorize my music as Gothic. But If you listen to our latest Born For Bliss album you will find that there are not that much Gothic influences left. I personally would not want to label our music at all but if I had to, I would say it comes close to ‘Alternative Psychedelic Wave’.
4. Born For Bliss has certainly gone through an evolution process. And sometimes we can witness bands and music artists fall into even a regressive state, however this has not been the case with Born For Bliss. How do you feel towards your previous releases compared to “Falling Back To Never”?
It has been a while ago since we did the previous B4B album. Since then I did a lot of other projects and productions. During those years I improved my studio skills and I learned a lot of new things about producing and working in the digital domain with software like ProTools. I have been experimenting with different sound structures and building arrangements existing of many layered tracks to create our typical B4B sound. Today it is much easier to do this in my own studio then how it was some 15 years ago, when we recorded and mixed “Between Living and Dreaming” with the limitation of a 24 track analog tape-recorder. Back then it would not have been possible to do the complete production and recording in my own studio like I did now. So for “Falling Back to Never”, I could take all the time that I needed to work on the songs until I was really satisfied about the final product. That’s why, in my opinion, this album sounds much more balanced and more mature than everything else that I did before and now, our typical B4B sound has evolved to something really solid.
5. In the band’s career, there were quite a few obstacles on the way which increased the time between releases. Why is that so?
I already kind of explained that in question nr. 2. In 1999, we finished the final recordings for our second album “Between Living and Dreaming”. Unfortunately, a few months later the band disintegrated due to problems with our management and record label and the album was never released. At the same time, I got frustrated with the music scene and decided to step out of it for a while. It’s an understatement to say that this took a bit longer than I thought it would be… In 2010 I started to work with “White Rose Transmission” and we released an album on German label Echozone. That’s how I got into contact with Jörg Tochtenhagen from Echozone. He was interested in releasing “Between Living and Dreaming”. One led to another, and finally the band got back together again. In the fall of 2013 we released the EP “Innocent” as an introduction to the new full album “Falling Back to Never”.
6. As you are a multi-instrumentalist, how difficult is it for one person to devote their time to more than one “job” when it comes to creating, recording, mixing and producing, and how much freedom do you have in return for being able to make music this way?
I don’t really see it as more than one job. Playing different instruments has always been a natural thing for me and when I start writing a song I always try to see the bigger picture as far as the arrangement for the song and production are concerned. Of course it’s a wonderful thing to be able to work in your own studio and to have total freedom over the creative process…
7. You yourself have clearly evolved as a vocalist as well. Was it something that came naturally to you and are you satisfied with where the years of work have led you?
In the beginning I never saw myself as a vocalist. I guess on the first album I just used my voice as another instrument to complete the overall musical picture. Later I started to really put more time and effort into my singing and I guess my voice sounds more mature now. Also, since I recorded all my vocals in my own studio, without the time and money pressure of an expensive studio, like I had to deal with in the early days, I now can experiment and try out different layers of vocals to have my voice sound exactly the way I like it.
8. Can you compare the music making process back in the “old days” to how it’s being done today? What do new technologies bring to music production?
Well, in the “old days” we would make demo tapes on 4 track or 8 track tape machines and then if the record company would like the songs, there would be a budget available to record the tracks for real in a bigger studio. Today the whole process from making a demo to the final production of an album can be done in my own studio. Of course every band or artist have their own way of working. I could only try to explain how it works for me.
For my studio setup I work with two computers that are synced to each other. One for everything that is midi related, installed with software like Nuendo, Cubase, Ableton Live, and Reason and the other one is basically running my ProTools rig. Compared to the “old days”, there is no track limitation. I can use as many tracks as I would like and no need to bounce tracks like we used to do in the old days with our ancient 8 track tape recorder…
When I come up with an idea for a song, I first record the basic layout in ProTools with a simple rhythm track as a guide and then start to layer tracks to try out different sounds and structures. Sometimes I start with recording guitars, other times I start with Piano or synth. Later in the process I try out different vocal melodies and then when the song really gets some shape I send a demo file to my other band mates Remco and Willem. Remco then returns me his files with bass, loops and soundscapes and Willem sends me his drum arrangement. After I have loaded these files into Protools, I start to edit and rearrange the song, add extra instruments and write the final lyrics and record my vocals. Then it’s time to do a final mix. I usually do a couple of edits for a song, like a long and short version etc…
On other occasions Remco sends me a short looped guitar- or bass riff that I use to build a song around, but the process of building the song is basically the same. It took me about a year to write, record, mix and finish this album. That’s the beauty of working in your own studio. No time schedule to keep and no pressure.
9. We have witnessed more and more bands turn to crowdfunding campaigns in order to release an album, what can a financing method such as this offer to musicians and do you think we will see more of this in the future, at least for some?
It’s a lot of work to organize a crowdfunding campaign and to have as much people involved as possible. You definitely need to have a substantial fan base and you need to use all of your available connections through social media like facebook and twitter and keep track of your mailing lists. Furthermore, it’s a good thing to use all your resources and music pages like ReverbNation etc. and of course create your own band website(s). Once you have started the campaign you can’t just sit back and watch the funding come in. That’s not going to work. You need to put a lot of effort into it to keep everything going and to make sure that everyone stays motivated to support you.
For us the Music Pledge crowd funding campaign we did was successful and we reached our goal to get the funding for our new album release. I do think this will be the future for independent artists who can’t reach out for the bigger labels. It definitely is a lot of work but at least, if you do it right, you have a lot of control over what you want to release.
10. You also have your own record label, so can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Four years ago I first started Turmoil Music as a network platform to help promote independent alternative music and it is now evolving into an independent music label, from artists for artists. Turmoil Music is not about profit or commercial production but it is a place where professional, independent artists and musicians with similar views connect over creative ideas. At this time, as I am still working to improve the new website I would like to keep it small and just release the stuff of my own projects and some befriended artists, but I do have the intention to try to make it bigger as soon as I have more time available…
11. You have also another project Vaselyne with Yvette Winkler and you have released what I consider to be an excellent album named “The Fire Within”. Can you tell us how this project was brought to life?
Yvette worked together with Pieter Nooten and did some of the lead- and backing vocals on his album ‘Here Is why’ (2010). Through Pieter (whom I know from the time that I was with Clan Of Xymox), she became familiar with my work and she contacted me and suggested that we maybe could work together on a new project. So we decided to do a first demo and from the moment that I recorded Yvette’s initial vocals in my studio, I was blown away by the unique timbre and deepness of her voice. I knew right away that this collaboration was going to be more than just another project.
12. “The Fire Within” surely differs from Born For Bliss music, and it offers more classical elements, a flowing feel throughout an album and a bit more of melancholia, perfect listening material for some emotional souls. What are your personal thoughts about that album?
I am very pleased with the album. It was a good experience to write music with Yvette’s voice in mind. Usually I write music while I already have a vocal melody in the back of my head, and then arrange the complete song before I add my own vocals. This time, I just started with simple instrumental tracks, only played on piano or acoustic guitar. I then shared a drop box folder with Yvette and uploaded these demo tracks, so she could play the music at her home and listen to my ideas. Yvette would then write her lyrics and add the vocal melody to it. Subsequently, in my studio we recorded her vocal parts and after that I started to add different instruments and drum tracks and slowly the Vaselyne sound started to take shape and come to the surface…
13. You also covered Depeche Mode’s “World In My Eyes” and there is a cover of Nine Inch Nails song “Home” on Vaselyne new EP “In Dreams”. So I suppose some of your influences in music are surely Depeche Mode and NIN. Can you reveal some others for us?
I was influenced by many artists, impossible to all mention them, that would be an extended list… to name a few; Peter Hammill, (early) David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Sound, The Chameleons, Porcupine Tree…
14. As we all know, the music industry has changed and has been changing forever, so what does it offer to artists today with all those online services that allow people to listen to the music for free? Do you see it as a good way to reach out to the audience, or in a way devaluating the hard work we all know musicians put into their projects?
It appears that today’s music audience is not interested in buying CD’s anymore. They prefer downloading from iTunes or stream music with their Spotify accounts. So, yes I really think the music industry got worse for indie music and especially with the coming of ‘streaming music’ giants, like Spotify, who don’t really care about the independent musicians but mostly have eye for the mega artists, we have come to the point that it’s almost an impossible task for indie musicians to earn money for their hard work.
15. As I will get back now to “Falling Back To Never” what clearly follows the dark, melancholy and emotionally painted sound are the lyrics. If they are written from your personal state and experiences, do you care that people out there can identify with them or did you just want to put your own thoughts out there?
To be honest. I don’t like to explain my lyrics. I would like to leave that open for interpretation by the listener. But to me personally the lyrics are equally important as any other element of a song. The main inspiration for the whole album is a series of events that took place in the last cycle of 7 years that drastically changed the course of my life. I relocated from one place to another. Relationships and friendships ended, new ones began, people close to me died. Fate and causality, my interest in astrological psychology. That kind of stuff. All of these events changed my perception of things and my view on life in general… They say that we live our lives in cycles of 7 years. In that perspective, to me, ‘Falling Back to Never’ could perhaps represent the end of such a cycle and at the same time the beginning of a new one…
16. Can you tell us if there are any live gigs scheduled for Born To Bliss where we would be able to enjoy your new material live?
A short answer to this one. No, not yet.