Helge Wiegand from Wiegand, T.O.Y. and Diorama
Helge Wiegand is a busy man these days. Apart from working on his album as WIEGAND, he supports two projects on vocals and keyboards - DIORAMA and T.O.Y. Both bands have plenty of work doing recordings for new releases plus they do play concerts. I catch up with Helge on his way home from the writing session which took place in a very special place - at the banks of Rhine River in Cologne, so my very question was about the “Cologne Style of Writing”.
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Do you often go there to write?
Helge Wiegand [HW]: Yup. Just a suitable headline for the scenery: me, sitting there, writing lyrics for song no ten, watching the flow of the river and ships passing by trying to catch some inspiration always have to be in the right mood. That goes for lyrics AND for composing.
RoD: You are in charge of keyboard and vocals in DIORAMA and T.O.Y. - how does the cooperation between the two projects differ and what’s your input?
HW: Two very different bands... my focus in DIORAMA is more the “additional” keyboard playing and the important backing voice, where in T.O.Y. the focus is more on playing piano lines and some synth sounds, not so much vocals. Two different styles of bands…
RoD: In what way are they different? In your opinion?
HW: In my opinion, T.O.Y. is the more “polished” Pop music type that goes right in the ear and is easy to remember. DIORAMA is much more experimental with an absolute incredible song writing from Torben. I like them both by the way.
RoD: Saying “experimental” what would you mean? The general production process or a rather the final effect?
HW: It’s the whole production process. The usage of sounds, how they fit together, in combination with the lyrics. Drum breaks that are not expected in the first, secrets that reveal after listen to the songs over and over again. The downside in this type of song writing is that it’s not made for mainstream (not for the masses). For a musician like me I like it very much.
RoD: So every time you are surprised?
HW: Not every time (laughs). But there is this certain DIORAMA moment that always pops up when listening to new tracks from DIORAMA... “How the hell did he do that”? Luckily he tells me and that’s always great inspiration.
RoD: Do you recognize the particular feel between the bands? The specific atmosphere about the band the composition goes for?
HW: For me the main difference between those two bands is that DIORAMA is the more “melancholic” direction. Those bands are really hard to compare... that’s what I feel while I am writing these line (laughs).
RoD: Apart from the above mentioned bands you also perform as WIEGAND. Both, DIORAMA and T.O.Y, combine lyrical, heart touching parts with some dancy, even harsh electronic tones whereas in WIEGAND subtlety and or, so to say, melancholia seem to prevail. How do you feel about the genres represented by all projects and what’s your very own inspiration for creating music? After listening to your songs I see your personal thing as much softer as the other two... are you a softie?
HW: (laughs) I like ballads and it’s not a secret that I always start with some piano playing to find a good idea for a song but since I am getting in contact with many good musicians I think I am on a good way to get this more dancy, electronic tunes. My goal is to always create “earworms”. That’s always my thing.
RoD: Among the bands that influenced you, you mentioned MINERVE, DE/VISION, SEABOUND - have you ever met those guys or shared a stage with them (apart from DIORAMA and FROZEN PLASMA of course)? Is there anyone you’d particularly like to work with?
HW: This must be an old entry... where did you read that?! (laughs) I have never met Frank Spinath from SEABOUND (wish I would, love his voice and song writing). DE/VISION would be nice also, we have met on festivals but not the chance to have a chat. I’d like to work with other artists, sure, but for now I think the most important step for me is to release my album this year. After release of that album we’ll talk again about me being a softie (laughs)…
RoD: I notice there’s plenty of new things under construction in both projects - could you please say something more about what you’re cooking for us and when can we expect the final results?
HW: My goal is to release the album this year in October. The last song is musically nearly completed. Next step is to sing the final vocals of all songs and then hand it over to the mastering process. It will be a digital release, yet there will be one live concert with DIORAMA this year and also one with T.O.Y. - rest of the time will be finishing my album.
RoD: You’re also a songwriter - will there be any pieces written by yourself on the upcoming albums? Still looking at your schedule I see you have other things prepared as an individual, too. OK, I mentioned WIEGAND before - is it your most beloved child, meaning is it your main focus right now on do you rather concentrate on supporting the other two projects? How does the work on your individual one differ from working with other musicians - apart from the fact that you are your own boss?
HW: There sure will be some additional input coming from me for the next T.O.Y. album, although the main song writing is done by Volker. DIORAMA is Torben and Felix, and my addition there will be on live performances. But you are right, the most effort goes into my own project. I think I feel that this is really my time. I am writing music since I was 14, but never released anything to public. That changed the moment I met Torben and many other talented musicians like Vasi (Vallis, FROZEN PLASMA), Volker and so on.
RoD: Are they your mentors in a way? In things that you do?
HW: Yes. Giving feedback, inspiring me... or even giving me a deadline for releasing this album (Vasi). I think he skipped the deadline four times now. (Don’t tell him that I said the album will be out October).
RoD: I’m wondering how the creative process looks like in general - is it an individual work or is it a brainstorming thing?
HW: I started several times with a “brainstorming” process. It does not work for me… I have to be in the right mood, don’t know what gets me into it. Just sit at my keyboard, trying some sounds and suddenly there is one that sounds interesting. Searching for another sound that suits and sometimes a sequence is created that sounds nice that’s the creation process. The rest is always the same. Load a piano, find some nice melody, adding drums, sounds, FX... and finally lyrics.
RoD: Live performances – I’ve had a chance to see you just once so far - in Bolków 2017 with DIORAMA and you seemed pretty comfy on the castle stage. How do you feel about live performances in general? Do you ever feel stage fright?
HW: Every time. The 15 minutes before the show I am absolutely quiet (!) and focused. I always need the 2-3 songs to get comfy on stage.
RoD: To close our conversation I have one last question - you seem to take a lot of joy from making your music. What is music for you, what do you personally gain out of being a musician?
HW: I think it’s the best way to transport feelings or stories. I am feeling honoured if people are telling me that they love my music.
RoD: Is it all about joy or also a kind of a message?
HW: Yes. Creating music is for joy and there is always a true story in every song I write... so maybe people listening to my music get this “I know exactly what he is talking of” effect. In the end for me it’s also a conservation of fragments of my life. Nice song title by the way fragments of life.
RoD: Your life?
HW: Yes. For example the little man. Birth of my son. There will be a German song on the album called ‘Superheld’. That’s the next one about him. Watching him growing up, understanding the things.
RoD: Well, that was pretty cool… Helge, thank you for your time and good luck with everything.
HW: It was very nice Karolina!!!
Pictures by Janina Lindner, Marcin Pflanz, Micha Bock and Helge Wiegand