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Interview: Days of Sorrow

by François Zappa

We discovered the music of German post-punk/darkwave act Days of Sorrow thanks to the compilation that cult Spanish label Dead Wax Records released in 2018. That same year, another national label, Mental Experience reissued their first EP, Remembering the Days, proving that there was still a great interest in the band. Soon, Days of Sorrow were back on stages, recording a new album a few years later. We have talked about this with William Lennox, singer of the band that will be playing on the 26th of November at Ombra Festival.

—What were your influences back in the day? Joy Division and Siouxsie?

Oh yeah, easy to detect really…we sort of came from punk in the late 70s but found the sound of Joy Division and Siouxsie very appealing. It gave you more room for creative experiments in contrast to punk.

—How was living in the Dortmund area at the beginning of the 80s? How big was the post-punk scene back then there?

I found the early 80s a fascinating time with new options for young guys like myself in terms of music and instrumentation. I went jobbing in a DIY store to get the money for my TR808 and then the Juno 60. If you weren’t really good at any instrument, like me, this now gave you the chance to press some keys and express yourself! The scene around Dortmund/Bochum was a good scene with a few clubs and music to our liking, still frequent visits to Berlin were a given. Being influenced by the late industrial era in which we lived in (Dortmund) and going the city inside the wall (Berlin) was a crazy mix in our minds. 

—The band had a Roland TR-808 as you said in an interview for Dark Valencia. You were using it just for composing, right? You already had a drummer.

Right, we had a drummer, but we wanted a more electronic sound resulting in our drummer doing mostly percussion, playing toms, doing some cymbals etc. So, we started using the drum machine for live too.

—”Wild World” was your vision of the world at that moment. Do you think the lyric is still relevant?

Oh yes, absolutely. We were and are, always living in an everchanging world, always moving, always asking questions, which you won’t always be able to answer. Maybe the topics shift a little, but the overall feel, I think, is still there. There`s always an amount of doubt, internal and external, where you demand an immediate answer to help you go on. Of course, these answers might not be found, but they still occupy your thoughts. 

—That song, “Wild World” has appeared in all your releases. What do you think that make the song so special?

First and foremost, I think, it’s the atmosphere of the song driven by the chorused bass line, the lyrics and melody. “Whatever happens…” , it starts with a question everyone was asking themselves in a world so strange to us at that age. I think a lot of people hooked on to that. 

—Did signing with Rough Trade help getting more successful?

No, not really. Well, maybe a little as you could organize a tour when you had a label at that time. Completely different to today, everything done by phone and in letters! Completely analogue times. What made us known in Spain was a coincidence really. We met people from Tarragona who were visiting Dortmund, took them along to rehearsals and got friends with them. They then took back some vinyl’s and through their connections it got played in some clubs in Spain. We visited them a couple of months later where they set up radio interviews in Barcelona and Tarragona for us. We’re still thankful for that. 

—The songs ( “Youth”, “Venus and Back”, Break my silence, It’s about Time and “Dianne”.) found on Whatever happen were going to appear in a full album, right? Why wasn’t it released?

We had a change in our line up with a keyboarder and a new drummer joining. So we were bound to change our sound a little. I guess we were still unsure if this was the right direction after we recorded those demos. I can’t remember that Rough Trade were really interested in us doing some more records. It was also the time when “John Tollhaus” the owner of the label which released our first EP, decided to call it a day, I think for personal reasons. Now we had a new manager, a new label, new band members…lost in confusion, that was our state. 

—After having listened to all these five songs, have you thought about releasing the full lost album? With the three other songs available through download, there is only one track missing.

Thought about it, yes. But for now, we’ve decided on trying ourselves on some new material and playing live. 

—What happened that the band disbanded in 1987?

I think for various reasons, things were not going in the right direction for me, one or two wanted to go to university, the drummer started a business. And with this confusion we thought it best to quit. 

Days Of Sorrow at Nocturnal Culture Night on 04.09.2022 at the Kulturpark Deutzen (Parkbühne)

—You were later in a hard rock band, first called The Riffs and later Crash N’ Burn. What can you please tell us of these days?

Frank Becking (producer of our two EPs) was the guitarist of the rock band The Riffs, later Crash n’ Burn. They had a record deal with RCA (BMG) at the time but were lacking a singer. So he asked me. I definitely wanted to stay in the music scene, so I said yes. We recorded an album in London, went on tour, moved to London, wrote a second album, recorded it in Memphis, Tennessee and toured again. The problem was that we had a record deal with RCA in Germany who didn’t let us switch to RCA England. Ironically, the day we entered the rock charts in England, RCA Germany stopped all payments and support for us. That was the end of that. 

—You have been working for a music production company during these years. What kind of music were you working on?

Five or six years later I moved to Berlin to join forces with Frank Becking again. We set up a production company, focussing on finding young, alternative bands, offering them a publishing contract, recording with them in our studio at the famous “Berlin East Side”. 

—How was the contact with Spanish label Dead Wax? Did it surprise you to know that people were interested?

Yeah, I knew people were still interested. Once in a while I was asked about our EPs, if I still had some, if I knew where to find some. The Dead Wax connection came via Facebook and Andre Schreiber, founding member of Days of Sorrow. We soon agreed on giving out whatever material we could find in exchange for one or two copies for personal use. No money involved, stupid, I know, lol. We hadn’t really thought about joining up again. 

—How did you feel when you heard that Dead Wax compilation sold so quickly? Now the copies are quite expensive in discogs. Was it the main reason to reactivate the band?

Frankly I was surprised, it sold out so quickly. This might have triggered some requests of fans asking if we’ll ever play live again. After talking to Andre we thought it would be fun to play again. At first, we were just messing about, but after a while we had some songs we thought were good to go, apart from “Wild World”, “Travel” and “War” from the first EP Remembering the Days. But, yes, it’s a Wild World and Covid stopped our plans for some time. 

—How did you feel playing again in with the rest of the band?

Now we were two again in the rehearsals. We found our former guitarist Woelli but he declined our invite to join because of personal reasons. The others were untraceable. So, I asked my old friend Frank Junge if he’d like to play keys with us. He produced the demo “Diane” and some other unreleased songs with us in former times making us a three-piece band which feels good and easier to travel.

—Let’s talk now about Soulmate Sister, Days of Sorrow’s new album. First, it was going to be an EP, but at the end, a full album was released, why?

I think it’s because of Covid. We didn’t rehearse, so I wrote more songs than anticipated making us adjust our decision that we might have enough material for an album. 

—The first song released with the new line-up was “Running”. Do you think it was representative of the new sound of the band?

I have to be honest here. “Running” was more or less a test for us, see how the reaction was after such a long time. Making a DIY video and all the rest. So, more or less I would say it represented one new sound of the band. 

—What happened with “Dance with me” that you decided not to include it in the album?

After releasing I thought more and more that it needed a couple of changes, I like it, don’t get me wrong, but I thought we’d make some changes and maybe save it for the next one. 

—How is the public receiving the new songs?

We received some really good feedback from many. Our aim is to get it out to more people, the ones our age from way back then and to reach out for new listeners who never had the chance in former times. We need to get out and play live, but it’s not that easy to get gigs in the current situation. 

—As a band, how do you see the record industry after all these years?

We really don’t care that much. We did everything on our own for Soulmate Sister and tend to keep it this way, at least for now. I know there’s some good labels out there, but we’re not rushing. Are they interested? I don’t know. It’s always a question of what is right for you at the given moment of time. We don’t need a label just for the sake of it. 

—Do you think that the band has chosen a bad moment to be back? I mean with all the Covid and the posterior situation.

We didn’t choose the moment; we had this number of songs we couldn’t hold back. So, we just went for it. It is, what it is. Sure, the situation is far from ideal, very little live slots available, been too long away for some promoters, a lot of venues and festivals struggling.

But we’re trying to make the best of it. Trying to be ready and available whenever opportunity knocks. We’re even talking to Mexico and Latin America at the moment. If it’s going to happen, I don’t know. All you promoters and festivals out there, just get in touch with us. 

—In the interview that you made for Dark Valencia you said that next album is going to be more electronic. Why are you moving in this direction?

We thought we’d have it a little more electronic and take a more simplistic approach just like in our beginnings, not over loading songs with another and another synth, bass or guitar track. Believe me it’s not that easy for me when it comes down to stripping down songs, lol.

We’d like to stick to our 80s sound and not change too much. It must work as one reviewer from our Return to the Batcave show said “Even the new songs sound like the 80s! 

—What can we expect of your concert at Ombra Festival?

First of all, you’ll see us smiling as we are very much honoured to be playing there, Very excited! We’ll give it a good go with a mix of our old, recent and future (maybe next EP or album) songs. We want to make the people dance, close their eyes and time travel with us! 

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