Interview with Torben Wendt (Diorama): talking about the 10th album!

  Van Muylem    6 oktober 2020

I just reviewed the 10th album of Diorama and got an opportunity to ask a few questions to Torben Wendt. The questions came fast, just as the answers! It's nice to look back in order to look further and explore the new album a bit deeper!

It’s the 10th album since you started in 1996, how do you look back at it?

Starting out, everything was surrounded by a cloud of curiosity, excitement and naivity. I was 18 years old, had a number of somber songs in my portfolio and an Atari.

When I first read the title of the new album I was thinking it would be an album filled with tracks that didn’t get on the previous albums, but it’s simply much more (and yet I feel like it’s building a bridge between old and new material)? I suppose you have album outtakes and maybe we even could get them one day?

We've found and established a new type of tonality that we feel extremely comfortable with, despite the disconcerting atmosphere that goes along with it. I would describe it as an obsession with details, a penchant for complex arrangements and structures, an emotional density... by letting these elements interact with old virtues like epic harmonic chorusses the needle on the compass came to rest. And we've relentlessly marched into this direction. It had to be done.

How was it to work with the Dutch artist Faizki who provided a series of images exclusively for this release and why him?

No other work from no other modern artist is known to me that would reflect the disruption, turmoil and inner conflicts the songs are shaped by on a pictorial level better than the "Sociogram" series by Faizki. Getting in touch out of the blue and then actually collaborating was very encouraging. I've learned yet again how important it can be to take a step forward and reach out to people that you feel you share some common ground with. Or as Felix would say "once you set it all in motion, things will never be the same".

What’s wrong with Charles de Gaulle or is it more the deception on how people went on after he died? He fought in the 2 world wars and was a hard politician afterwards but working hard to make France a better country, no? How do you see the end of both world wars, from the point of view of a German?

I cannot take a specifically national perspective on the end of both world wars, I don't even know what that means. Historical documentation and literature are crystal clear at this point - just as Germany's undeniable and unarguable historical responsibility.

I have a feeling the album goes mainly about looking back and commenting on political rulers (of the world)?

You can never expel important personalities and celebrities from sneaking into your head. :-) But the album is far from being primarily inspired by a political context from the past.

“iisland” is that a typo or a wordplay (if yes: what do you mean with it?)?

The title obviously follows the logic of wordplays like iphone and irobot. It represents your very own little island, personalized and individualized. Lonely. But so hip.

Have you ever been to Yukon (in Canada) as you mention it in “The Minimum”? I first was thinking about a place in Japan, but luckily I googled it. Why did you mention it?

I went on a canoe trip on Yukon river from Whitehorse to Dawson, some 11 years ago. For me, this region depicts a feeling of secludedness, freedom and simplicity, and that's what I'm striving for in the text bit. A geographical parallel to the minimum I have in mind.

I also got the remixes and first one was the Tofino remix (Tofino is the name of the cat that Jan Dewulf from Diskonnekted, Mildred, Your Life on Hold … uses when he draws funny stories). But it’s also a beautiful Island close to Vancouver. I suppose the remixer is rather from over there? Otherwise Jan also does remixes and I think You know him too, right?

You're talking about the song "Horizons". The remixer is myself, in this case. And I named the mix "Tofino" after Tofino on Vancouver Island and the beautiful beaches surrounding it. The landscape there is especially stunning and looking out on the Pacific, the horizon appears endless. Actually, I stood there as a teenager and the horizon appeared even more endless back then I'm afraid.

Was it hard to decide on how the songs should sound like on the album? I’m referring here to my comments about the remixes as some of them are really great (although I normally hate remixes).

The characteristic sound of the album was evolving in a flowing process over a long period of time. Yes, we knew what we were doing as already mentioned but our considerations were not of a strategic or commercial nature. It just felt right and we knew at the same time what felt wrong.

You toured, worked together with, recorded music with Adrian Hates and are on his label. He was the guy who took you in. How do you look back at it?

Looking back means looking back on a friendship that has lasted for almost 25 years. Countless events, insider jokes and story lines. It started with "end of flowers", the second Diary of Dreams album that I've been a huge fan of and that made me contact Adrian. A lot of doors have opened ever since and I believe it's good that they have.

I saw you for the first time on stage in Ghent (at The Vooruit, during the Black Easter festival): it was just you and a synth: bringing very sensitive songs, very intimate. Would you consider do a tour like this again (it’s actually a possible thing as Covid-19 asks for limited audience and lesser people on stage)?

I would love to flick in some acoustic shows in a reduced line up. The main problem with this kind of projects is finding the time to properly organize, promote, prepare and rehearse next to everything else. If I was allowed to concentrate only on my career as an artist, things might be easier. Or maybe I'm just thinking too complicated. Note to self: Acoustic show (reconsider!)

Something that fans would certainly appreciate is bringing a cover version of Tears of Laughter, have you thought about it? To be honest in Belgium the crowds are very limited and the numbers of Covid-19 cases are rising sky high, meaning more and more events are cancelled or narrowed down, so that could fit the game and still go on tour.

I enjoy playing "Tears of Laughter" on the piano at home, from time to time. That's about it with my cover ambitions (laughs).

How is it in Germany, for sure now that you just released your album and are planning to go on tour?

Every event we had planned for this year was canceled. But after evaluating the situation for a couple of months back and forth, we've decided to release the album anyway, knowing that there would be very few, if any, opportunities to perform it live. The songs convey their validity and relevance for us now, in 2020. And the wait since our last album has been long enough.

Last track on the album is Orbitalia, it announces the end of the album/story or is it also the end of an era for Diorama? On the other end: these are uncertain times as It could be one of us might die after catching Covid-19 next week. I also ask it as I see this album as a bridge builder between the first albums and the 2020 sound of Diorama or am I totally wrong with this view?

You're right. It comes across as a farewell song, it seems to celebrate the end of an era in a conciliatory and disarming manner. Touching on the big questions of life and death, the strange and questionable times we're living in and how we're dragging ourselves through them. And although it's not intended to refer to a particular stage in the course of our musical activities, I think it does a meaningful job as final chord of this album.

Stay healthy and hope to see you one day back on stage in Belgium!

Here's one of my favorite tracks from the past:

Album review