Adrian Hates has been the voice of and mastermind behind Diary of Dreams since the group’s inception in 1989. Their first album Cholymelan emerged in 1994, and the group has released over a dozen albums since that time. While this musically eclectic project which blends both synth and guitar-driven sounds certainly attracts a goth/industrial crowd, Diary of Dreams branches out to other groups. They are playing major metal fest Wacken Open Air this year in August.
Hates recently called me from Germany to do an interview for my new Billboard feature on Convergence 25, which he headlines tomorrow night in Boston, and the state of Goth today. Our exclusive A.D.D. chat spanned many topics.
You’ve toured the States before.
I lived in the States 32 years ago. A long time ago.
Just before Diary Of Dreams?
Actually, it was kind of the point in time when I got started. I was living on a farm in upstate New York. I had two pianos, and one of the kids in the house played piano and that totally got me hooked. I really started taking lessons during my time in New York. That was kind of the point where I started writing the first lyrics and all that stuff. When I came back home, I really started getting into it and then trying to write music.
You’re a classically trained musician too?
Yeah, I was trained from the age of seven or eight. I started to get forced into playing classical guitar, and at that time, at least in Germany, it was still more like a drill instructor than anything else was. It wasn’t really like a guitar teacher. We played the stupidest lines for weeks and weeks and weeks, just finger training. It was not like learning classical guitar at that point, at least not with the teachers that I got to know. It was not about having fun with an instrument, but about being very intensively trained. That’s almost made me dislike music because it was not about having fun with an instrument. That’s pretty much it.
Did you learn piano as well? Or was it mostly guitar?
It was really guitar until I was 15, and then it was piano. I really stuck with the piano for quite some time and trained myself. I’m not a really good musician. There are so many musicians that are so much better than I am. I just think I have a nice feeding for moods, and I have a good sense for what sounds good together. Songwriting is something that I feel comfortable with, in the way that I would say I’m a songwriter. But I would never call myself a musician. Especially when I listen to a lot of the musicians that I work with — I feel like a little boy next to them. I think it was still a good basis for my knowledge for working with music.
You’re very much into atmospheric music. Your first album is very moody and ambient, and then as you went on it got dancier and more rocking in different measures. I remember Metropolis started releasing your stuff here around the turn of the century.
It was the late ’90s. Moments of Bloom was the first release that we did because of the signing with Metropolis, then followed by Psychoma. I stopped working with them about two or three albums ago because if you don’t get proper physical distribution anymore and proper promotion for the physical release, then I can do the digital release myself. I still talk to them on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it sound like I have any bad feelings at all. We had a long time together, and it was a great help and they supported us for a very long time. But the market has changed so drastically. I have the label and have the structure, so I want to do it myself.
I was chatting with Aedra Oh the singer from FIRES, who’s also going to be playing Convergence 25 along with you, London After Midnight, and other groups. She was saying how the American goth scene has gotten a bit less elitist in the States over the years and become much more about trying to include different styles. It crosses over into subgenres like synthwave, which has become more and more popular over here. Synthwave is still underground, but you get little breakthroughs. Your music is obviously eclectic as well. Now you tour with a full band, but you do your studio music mostly by yourself, don’t you?
It depends. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It’s always a matter of the album. The past albums was recordings with a complete string set up with real drums, many guitars, and bass. We used a lot of instruments. I think it’s always a matter of what the album demands. Sometimes I have a very cold and very naked atmosphere that is very strict and very organized. Too many live instruments make it too lively. It’s really not a concept behind that. I just give every album what I think the album needs.
Is there a common factor with all the goth and industrial groups that have been around the longest? Do you think there are any common denominators to explain why certain groups have stayed around for 20, 30, even 40 years?
I have a theory, yes. First of all, I think the reason why there are always the same band names on festival lineups right now, especially in Europe and Germany, is because it’s very hard for new bands to get a big name and to get out there. So the old heroes remain the big heroes. I think that we survived so many crises. All these bands survived such a long time because we just stuck to it. We just kept going on through all the circumstances. It’s a matter of holding on. That’s the main part. People that give up or disappear for 10 years, they often find it difficult to get back into the whole genre. I think once they have lost track of you, it’s difficult to get back on. I think we have this authenticity. We’re true to ourselves, and I think most of us don’t need to prove anything anymore. We’re just doing this because we love it, and because we really have dedicated our lives to it.
I feel very sorry for today’s artists that are getting started now because they need to be A&R specialists, graphic specialists, and need to be perfect in studio work. I don’t think I could sell our first album today because I think people would be so specific and would be so much more into criticizing something. Imagine all these Amazon reviews that you get. People are so brutally honest and so brutally destructive at the same time. I think in the ’80s and ’90s you could do a debut album and people would say, “Hey, this is quite a cool album. There’s some really good stuff on there. We’ll give this band one or two albums to develop and to grow up a little.” I don’t think anybody gives bands these days a second shot or a third shot even. So you do your debut album, people like it or not, and then then the subject is over. That’s really, really sad. And I really think that bands today have to deliver too much and offer too much. The whole social media stuff is, in my eyes, insane. Sometimes I read the stuff, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I try to give the person that writes these lines a face and then I try to make this person look really ridiculous. Then it’s easier to digest that. But I think 99% of what is said online would never be said face to face, and that’s a shame.
What are the major goth and darkwave festivals in Europe now?
I think the same cup of tea as the past 10 or 20 years. M’era Luna is a big one. Wave Gotik Treffen is always a big one. Amphi Festival in Cologne, which honestly is one of the nicest ones. It’s a festival that is really close together and all walking distance and close to the river Rhine with a beach there. It’s a really nice venue and good to hang out there. But all the festivals that are left over are doing a proper job and are nice and have their own individuality.
When was the last time you were in England?
England is a difficult territory. I think there are a lot of insecurities right now going on [because of Brexit]. I just had a promoter from England who wanted to put something together with me, building up the scene again because it’s been suffering in the past 10 or 15 years, if you ask me. I think the times where this kind of music had the leading force from England are long over now. That’s maybe ’80s, even ’90s. I was in conversations to really put something together in England, but not before I know if it’s any good. Because if I can’t travel there or nobody from Europe can travel there anymore, then what’s the purpose?
Are you excited to be playing Convergence 25?
It’s totally exciting. Finally we’re coming back. We haven’t been in the States for ages — 13 years or something? We’ve been having a hard time getting our feet on the ground in the States. I can’t explain it. Maybe because we’re a bit of everything –- a bit of rock, a bit of electro, a bit of EBM, a bit of pop, darkwave, new wave. Maybe that’s what makes it difficult for Americans to like it or dislike it. I don’t know. We were never really able to show our live qualities onstage in America, which we here do on a regular basis. I have no really good explanation for the fact as to why it’s been so difficult for us. But now we are coming back, and I really hope that a lot of people show up and enjoy the shows so we can come back sooner.