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Frank Vollmann: Itís all about the kiss

A dark and rainy Scandinavian night and itís Halloween, special double feature gothic party on a boat in Helsinki harbor, perfectly set within a stormy Finnish autumn. The boatís upper deck for EBM, lower deck for post-punkers, excessively adorned in fake spider webs, florescent plastic tarantulas and authentic squeaks of the old wooden boat. Special guests of the night Ė two electronic bands from Sweden and one something goth from Berlin (but who is American in fact).

I donít know anymore if this interview was a good idea after all, or if anything good at all can come out of the Devilís night? These were the most intense forty minutes of all the journalism Iíve ever done. I shouldíve thought of that beforehand, but Frank, known in the gothic scene as the frontman of Frank the Baptist and now making his debut appearance on Finnish stage as Telegram Frank, was faster to speak first when suddenly he went: any unflattering photos of me and I am coming after you! Iíll fly to Finland, I will f-l-y to Hell-sin-ki all the way from ÖBerlin and I will find Y-O-U! Let me tell you a little something, sweetheart: any photos of me unflattering Ė Iím not very photogenicÖ

So do you care so much how you appear to the public, photos and all?
No I donít actually. I donít give a ratís ass and I will tell you why. My appearance is to amuse me, because Iíll tell you this: my appearance is not my contribution to this planet. Ok? And those who think that their appearance is their contribution to this planet, are a bit ofÖ you know? I care about looks, but not to the extent of how refined I am, not to ease other peopleís lives, but as a timeline to myself of my own history. My physical appearance shows me the timelineÖ [laughs] of my stupidity! A scar here [points to the left of his upper lip], scar here [points to the right of his upper lip], another here [points to the corner of his left eye]Ö

You know the saying that scars make men more attractive?
If stupidity makes men more attractive, then yes I have the scars to prove it.

Do you want to say what happened?
How much time do we have?!

As much as you want to talk!
[sigh] Iíll tell you about the scars when you come to Berlin, ok? Right now we havenít got enough time. Iím about to take another one of this [points to a shot glass full with Fisu]. This one is from an escalator and so is this one [points to his upper lip], and this one is from a fight in Jersey, this one is from a baseball bat [points to his eye], ok?! [laughs] My life has not been a charm.

What were those fights?!
This was in a backyard, I took a baseball in the eye. I was working in Jersey and I got in a fight with three guards. That was this one and this was lucky, I was very lucky to have gotten away with just this one. And this was from our gig in Warsaw, I took a header on an escalator and got one here and one hereÖ Itís pretty caveman, itís not very flattering. Itís not exactly cerebral to talk about itÖ

It depends, some people like to share their experiencesÖ
Iím too educated to turn into a fucking thug for my fights, and all this bullshit, Iím a little too intelligent for that. Itís fucking stupid because I couldíve had avoided it. Any idiot can talk himself out of a fight but I have just a little too much passion, or whatever you want to call it, and I like to engage.

You donít seem like an aggressive kind of personÖ
If I get tormented and put into a corner, I could be weak enough to be that guy, an angry guy. Itís an absolute 100% weakness. Being aggressive is fucking easy. What is hard is to control yourself and to maybe find a common ground, when you can actually think about this and find another way to figure this out. Itís just so fucking easy to be aggressive! I am embarrassed to say that sometimes I canít control myself.

Whatís your situation with alcohol?
Well, thatís me! [evil laughter]

What happens to you when you drink? Like some people become very talkative or courageous, feeling they can conquer the worldÖ
I can conquer the world when Iím sober; when I drink I want to fight the world, I donít care what for. If you give me a hard time Ė Iíll fight you: verbally, physically, whatever. When Iím sober you canít beat me, when I drink Ė I want to dance and I want to love you. But if youíll give me a hard time Ė I will fight you. I will fight wherever you are, here or anywhere, because I am a passionate person. And that is what I am addicted to, it is passion. I donít give a fuck about drugs, or whatever, but itís passion. Thereís nothing in the world that I canít handle when Iím sober, I donít care about robbery, I donít care about shit, when Iím sober Ė I can handle everything. When Iím drunk Ė I either dance and love you or I fucking fight. Thatís how it is. Sorry that Iím taking so much time, Iím stupidÖ

[long pause and a deep eye stare] I am completely focused on lust. I love everything from kissing, from licking a womanís lips, to staring into her eyes, you name itÖ. Just wrapping my hand around her neckÖ I lust. From touching to holding hands, to planting a kiss on her lips, I have no fucking control! Thatís all I am, a passionate, emotional guy. If Iím not that, then Iím nothing.

Sounds like a lifeís motto!
[laughs] oh no! Donít give this to anybody Ė nobody wants to go on my path. Nobody wants to live my path, NOOOO!!! Thatís bad news. Iíve been in a jail a couple of times over this shit, you donít want to know, you donít want to be me. Nobody wants to be me, trust me.

OkÖ and envy?
If you live a life like mine, you donít really envy a lot of people. Sometimes I want to live a very steady life, somewhere in suburbia, I go to work, I come home, thereís nothing else to do, just hang out there with each other, me and the wife, boring lifestyle. Oh poor womenÖ Those poor women whom I have in my life, they donít get enough attention because thereís too much shit going on. But if I live that lifestyle, all Iíve to do is go home, pay a little attention to them, watch some tv and then we go to sleep. But no, thatís not going to happen any time soon.

Do you want this kind of lifestyle? Music can still be thereÖ
Maybe I do. Hereís the thing: I want this family life, but I write music all the time and Iím just not that guy. I want to be that guy, but Iím not. I havenít chosen anything, it just seems to be.

I wish I had more, but I donít. I donít give ratís ass, I just donítÖ

What more do you want?!
I want to be able to support my family and my friends. I donít give a fuck about money! But if I can support my family and my friends Ė thatís cool. I donít give a ratís ass otherwise. Everything Iíve been doing is just to satisfy whatís empty in me, itís like Iím on a project. Iím a project manager. This is what I do, I start these projects, I think them off my visionary, I think them up and I get them done. If something comes out of it Ė fine. If not Ė ok. This is what I do. Iím not a greedy person, I wish I was. I really wish I was. Money comes through Ė cool. If not Ė I donít care. I donít need to change anything of what Iím doing, itís all finding its way to me. And if they say, ďhey itís commercialĒ Ė fine.

And vanity?
I donít think I have enough. I think I have some vanityÖ ďso how do I look? WellÖĒ and then I think, itís fucking rockíníroll, so who cares?! I donít give a fuck how I look. My appearance is not my contribution to this planet.

Whatís your contribution then?
You tell me. Now youíre on the spot, so you tell me: whatís my contribution to this planet? Youíre interviewing me, why?! Do you know anything about what I was singing tonight? Be honest: nothing. So then you canít tell me, youíre too late. You were supposed to tell me whatís my contribution to the planet, but you werenít there. You were not there when I sung. Youíve no idea what makes me tick. You have no right to ask me these questions, because you werenít there, you donít know what makes me tick. Listen sweetheart, you donít give a shit. You were not there!!! You donít know my songs, youíre asking me these questions now hoping to catch a few good phrases for your articleÖ

This is unjust!!! I am spending my time talking to you, which I could be spending on the dance-floor or with my friendsÖ
Öoh, me too!!!

But I thought you were an interesting and unusual person to talk to. Maybe your music is not exactly my kind of scene, but I am still interested in what Iíve heard and seen of you on stage, I thought this guy is worth getting to know better. But Iím not this kind of journalist who just wants to get some catchy words from you for a flashy headline, I am taking this work seriously and the media I represent is serious and respected, too! And with my ďcrappyĒ questions you can give some deeper answersÖ
Öand I have been answering them for a while! And Iíve been entertaining you for quite a while, but letís be honest with each other: you canít just ask me and hope it goes fine, I say this and you say that, and itís all easy-going. Look: youíre fucking with another human beingís life and Iíve been giving it to you. Iíve put my soul on a fucking plate for you, I have and you know this. Thereís no disputing it.

Why are you angry at me?
I am not angry at you. [pause] And you have fine blue eyes. Are those natural?

Of course they are natural, but hey, you donít take me serious now. Maybe I donít know your band so well, but right now I am interested in you. I donít want to do another ďwhatís this song Ė whenís the next record coming outĒ interview, the readers can read this off your MySpace.
I know, I knowÖ You donít know much about my band or my songs, I know, I get it, itís okÖ

What do you think is the meaning of life? You can take as long as you want, but this answer I need.
Unfortunately thereís a part of me that says that itís this regurgitation. Everything comes through again and again and again, and itís meaningless. But thereís a part of me that says: youíre given this, your generic cells, your bones, your whole self Ė what are you going to do with it? WHAT are YOU going to do with THIS? No one says this, no one thinks this, but you have it and so there you are. Something shocks you and you think ďIíve got to do somethingĒ, you have to edge or imprint on Ė I donít know Ė life?! On the ground, on the planet Ė whatever! Thereís a thread that runs through all of us, underlines it all, weíve to figure out what to do with it. We can act like assholes, we can smash things, we can act like kids, or we can go into the depth of things, to the core and at the end, have something to show for it.

Do you believe in destiny?
I believe in passion. In destiny Ė not, but I wish I did. And you want to know why? Because it would mean that there are answers to all my questions.

What stops you from believing?
First of all itís bullshit. Because Iíve been working some 30 odd years making it on my own, maybe I didnít Ė maybe somebody else made my destiny. Maybe all the stupid shit that Iíve pulled is all somebody elseís design. But in my own time Iíve created someÖ

Are you happy?
[takes a long pause] I am not happy.

ItísÖ my thought process. If it wouldíve been different, I wouldnít be in hell. If only I could change that, my thought-processÖ I need to stop this [points at the tipsy people passing by, at the empty glasses on our table, at his clothes and make-up] for three or four months, I can do that. Then I will say: ďthis was ridiculous!Ē And what about you, Blue Eyes? What about your life? Are you happy? I can ask the same! Are you? Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Are you happy!?!?!!! Are kisses important to you?!? Let me tell you this: I can die a thousand deaths over the kiss from the right person. Iím weird like that. I used to work for the porn industry, for the adult film industry, had sex with this, that and the other Ė I donít give a ratís ass about sex. I donít care. But the right kiss of the right person Ė that to me is worth a fight with a thousand men, the kiss of a right woman.

And then we got interrupted, as meanwhile the party had ended, the club was closing and the security asked us all to clear off the boat. So that was it, Mr Frank Vollmann on a plateÖ More about his works and music can be found at the links below, but the real Frank was just here, exclusively.


Author: Marina Sidyakina, transl. Sandy Mahrer, photos: Anssi Salakka
Date: 2008-12-01

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