Interview with The Escape by Tzina Dovve (DJ Lady Davinia)
The Escape… A goth/dark wave band is born on the German underground scene in the late eighties… Frontman Ingo Klemmens talks about the early goth days and beginnings, line-up changes, upcoming album and not only… An interesting and in-depth interview on what these German goth rockers are all about… The Escape… By Tzina Dovve (DJ Lady Davinia)…
Tzina: Welcome to Absolution… As I understand, The Escape date back to the late eighties on the German dark/goth scene. When and how exactly did your band form and what prompted you to start such a band to begin with?
Ingo: Hello! Yes, it is right that The Escape was formed in 1989, to be honest in 1988, when we had the first idea to create a band called ‘The Escape’. The very first line-up existed only for one gig in 1988 and it had me on bass guitar, our singer Thorsten Abel on guitar and an additional guitarist named Axel Kramer. After this gig Axel left the band and we re-formed The Escape as a synth-based dark wave band with Thorsten’s schoolmate Heiko Wersing and me on keyboards while Thorsten was singing. It took two or three years until we added guitars to the music again.
Tzina: There has been a number of line-up changes throughout the years of your music journey with members of the band. Who are the current members of The Escape?
Ingo: The current members besides me as the singer and guitarist are Andreas ‘Stonie’ Steinhaus on guitar (since 2018), Tommes Arensmann on ‘live’ keyboards (since 2001) and since December 2022 Sebastian ‘Sebi’ Hartstang on additional guitar. We really had several line-up changes over the years… I think the one with the most impact was when singer Elten, who did the first three albums, quit in the year 2000. At that time, we did not know how to carry on with the band until I decided to take the microphone and sing myself. It was a risk but thankfully it worked.
Tzina: What is the story behind the band’s name? Is there some sort of symbolic meaning behind the title ‘The Escape’. Can you elaborate…
Ingo: The name ‘The Escape’ indeed has a history. Before we formed ‘The Escape’ Thorsten Abel and me had a band called ‘Annuvin’, a prog-rock band with a classic line-up singer, guitarist, bassist, keysboard player and drummer. When this band split up in 1988 we had several auditions for guitarists and other musicians. That was very frustrating and after a few weeks we realized that we could not reform ‘Annuvin’ as it was originally so we decided to ‘escape’ this frustrating time and create something completely new. As Thorsten and me both like Goth and Dark Wave we thought of trying something like this. That is how the name ‘The Escape’ was born. The first attempt with a bass guitar and two more guitars did not work at all as we thought, as I mentioned above, but when we started as a dark wave synth band we had success from the very first gig.
Tzina: Your music could be categorised as trad goth/goth rock from your early days up to today. Who has been the main songwriter throughout the years and how is an Escape creation brought to life? What inspires you most to write such music and what are your main musical influences?
Ingo: The music from ‘The Escape’ is written and programmed by me but there are two songs on our last album ‘House Of Mind’ where the music was written by other members of the band. As I always have problems finding lyrics that won´t sound hilarious to me, I have always been glad, if someone else did the lyrics. Elten wrote half of the lyrics on ‘Amaryllis’ and ‘Faith And Decay’ and other musicians did some lyrics on ‘House Of Mind’. Currently we are working on new material and the music is still written by me with influences from ‘Stonie’ and ‘Sebi’. We have not finished all songs yet as some lyrics are still missing. We’ll see how and by whom they will get written.
As I had a classical musical education on piano I still have many influences from classical (piano) music, rock, even prog rock and some pop besides goth and dark wave… that´s why ‘The Escape’ always has very different songs on the albums, different styles and sounds. We started as a synth wave band but got more and more into goth rock. The classic goth bands like Sisters Of Mercy, The Cult, The Mission and Fields Of The Nephilim always had a big influence on my songwriting, but most of the time I try to use some other influences from classical music or metal, rock, etc… etc… into the songs. The writing itself is inspired by thoughts, stories I have heard or seen, political themes or just feelings I get through. Music is my way to express feelings… much more than lyrics can.
Tzina: The Escape have quite a number of albums under their belt over the years with their first release back in 1994. Your latest single ‘Navigator’ has just been released late last year (2022). What feedback has this received by your fans and music press so far? When can we expect to hear a full album by The Escape? Are you currently working on a new album?
Ingo: Yes, we are very glad and excited that ‘Navigator’ has gotten this positive feedback from fans and DJs. Our music has not been played on the dancefloor very often but our new single seems to fit there and has a good acceptance by people. We are working on a new album at the moment but as we all have jobs and families etc… and the new material needs time. We hope to get the new album done in 2023. It is planned to include new songs and older ones which we have re-recorded. If it’s possible an additional vinyl version will be released.
Tzina: The Escape have also been an active live band throughout their music journey with numerous shows in Germany and not only. What do you enjoy most about playing live? What is one of your fondest memories from one of your shows over the years?
Ingo: Yes, I really love playing live gigs, getting feedback from the audience and giving our music to the people. ‘The Escape’ has always been a live band although our song creating is based on a computer nowadays with studio-technics and not jamming in rehearsal rooms. When we create and record our new songs we will then decide which of them we will play live and how we will get them on stage. Live gigs are always sort of magical. You get a complete new feeling about your songs and how they sound and send vibes to people. It’s amazing and I love it! I have a lot of great live memories over the decades but one of the greatest moments was when we played at ‘Wave-Gotik-Treffen’ in Leipzig in 2000 and the festival got crashed as the promotor went bankrupt. We played at ‘Agra-Halle’ on the Sunday where there was a compensatory program, organised by some people from the goth scene. There were over 3000 people in there and they all loved that we and other bands were playing for free, just to keep the festival running. The atmosphere was amazing as we never had thousands of such enthusiastic people before. Another moment where I got goosebumps had been at a festival where I did my first gig as the new singer of ‘The Escape’… walking in Eltens shoes that were too big… but the audience was great. We were a great success and it made me sure that we made the right decision to carry on with the band like we did.
Tzina: Are there any plans for upcoming shows in 2023? Are there any particular cities you would like to visit and share your music?
Ingo: As I really love to play live we are looking for gigs at the moment. We want to play some shows in 2023 and present our new songs (and of course the older ones to the fans!). Of course there are some cities I would like to visit and to play in… London, Athens, Madrid and naturally a lot of German cities… We’ll see where we can get to this year..
Tzina: The past couple of years of the pandemic were very difficult for musicians and the music industry in general. During this time many bands took to the virtual world of online streaming in order to get their music heard. What are your views on this virtual world and do you believe it is something permanent now?
Ingo: I must admit that I did not see even one of these virtual concerts or streams… When I want to hear live music I want to go to a concert and have a look at the band right in front of me. Seeing them playing live in a stream is just like a video from any other concert… I am not that much into the digital world to enjoy this.
Tzina: Are The Escape part of this virtual world? Are you fans of this digital era?
Ingo: As I said before… not really… I must admit that it’s not easy to survive as a band without all this stuff but it is not the way I like to promote my music. Anyway, we have to do it to get recognized, so we now have our songs on Spotify, Amazon, Bandcamp, YouTube, Apple and other streaming platforms. I grew up with vinyl LP´s, big booklets and great art on cover designs. I would really miss that if music would get completely drowned into this digital and virtual world.
Tzina: How much do you think the dark/goth scene has changed since your early beginnings in your home country? Do you believe it differs from the rest of the world?
Ingo: The fact that hurts me most is that live concerts are not appreciated as much anymore as they were in the 80´s and 90´s when we did lots of small club gigs with full venues and great audiences. People are often too lazy to go to concerts as they are saturated with online music and videos and only go to big festivals, where they can get ‘all inclusive’ live events. There are only a few smaller venues or promoters left who do smaller festivals and gigs and they just can’t survive doing this as a profession. I don´t know if this is a typical German problem but I think in other western countries the situation might be similar. To be honest I wish that people will start to appreciate a band that is playing live in front of an audience again, even if it is not one of the top acts on the scene.
Tzina: There has been a surge of new bands on the dark/goth scene during the past few years and quite a few older bands back out there.. Do you think there is some sort of goth revival happening at the moment? Do you follow the scene? Any particular contemporary artists you admire?
Ingo: I really would love to see a goth revival, especially on live stages. In the past 20 years Electro / EBM has dominated the scene so much that some younger people don’t even know that goth music had been based on guitars and club gigs in small dark cellars in the past… In the mid and late 2000´s we often had the experience that on an evening with a gig and aftershow party there were 30 people who came to see the band and after that 300 who came to dance to the music of the DJ… That was very frustrating. I follow the scene as far as I can besides work and family. There are some newer interesting bands that seem to keep the goth spirit alive… We shall see, if they will turn the tide from electro to goth and wave sometimes in the near future.
Tzina: Thank you for your time.. Anything else you would like to share with your fans around the world? What can they expect from The Escape in 2023?
Ingo: To our fans we would like to send the message to support your favourite bands, go to concerts and see them live. It is worth so much for both band and fans, even at small events. It’s fuel to get the motivation and spirit running. We really hope to get the new album done in 2023… but despite that we will release some other new songs or new recorded old songs from time to time and we want to play live! You will hear from us, definitely.
The Escape is on Facebook