Interview – Secret Sounds

Wilmer Wolf on Secret Sounds, the 80’s and his musical heritage.

My band, Secret Sounds, existed for about 7 years, back in the Eighties – which is quite a long time for a band. It’s long ago, and it’s done. I don’t like bands that do endless reunions trying to hold on to something long gone. We were a good reflection of our time, which is a great thing to achieve.

After those 7 years with the band, I have been active for more than 20 years as a sound engineer and producer in various studios. Yes, it is “behind the scenes”, but it is very creative and responsible work. Because you have to process- and deal with a lot of musicality and applied psychology in this line of work. I learned a lot from it as a person. I also had a “lost weekend” for about 5 years fighting my problems with addiction. A case of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I guess. 

After this period, we reissued ‘The Complete Secret Sounds Box,’ and I released my solo album: ‘The Inside Story.’ I felt my heritage had been taken care of. It made me feel complete.

I’m basically a gentle guy, but also stubborn and with a tendency towards melancholy. And I’m afraid I can be quite self-centered. This is useful and sometimes even necessary in a life of music. Still, it can be difficult and demanding for my loved ones. My sister once said in my worst time, “Do you know how hard it is for us to live with you …?” To which I replied, “Do you know how hard it is for me to live with myself?”

Back in the 80’s I would have probably said Music and The Band are what I value most in life. These days I would rather say, Love. My family: my beautiful sons and their mothers and offspring – even if I rarely see them. That may be my own fault, you know. I haven’t been there for them so many times. But maybe that’s inherent to being a musical artist with a lot of gigs and work. 

I keep myself occupied with everything that makes life bearable. Call it Art; music, film, dance, visual arts, photography, and comics, of course. COVID doesn’t really matter to me, because I hardly get outside anyway. For a few years now, I have been suffering from physical disabilities/limitations that make me no longer really mobile. That and COVID threw a spanner in the works promoting ‘The Inside Story.’ No in-store promotions or performances anymore, unfortunately.

Having stopped after those seven years as a touring & recording band, I had expected to miss the spirit of the earlier days, the ’80s, the band, and those times more than I did. Playing live and being on the road is a lot of hassle. The promotional obligations, like press, TV, etc. are even more tiring. 

But in all honesty: playing live is simply one of the biggest kicks ever. I was blessed with the guys & girls I have played with. With the right combination of venue, band, crew, and audience, it is as if everyone is floating slightly above the ground. And then, magically, things can come together and grow to a higher level. I think it still could be like that. 

Touching people, directly, is thé great power of music. Emotions, goosebumps, tears, dancing, being excited, and being happy are all part of the power of rock & roll. Letting ourselves go, and seeing the audience letting themselves go. “Swinging with depth.” That was something very dear to our band. 

After those beautiful years, I moved on to really appreciating and enjoying my studio work. Maybe because of my time spent in the studio, I have always kept an open ear for new sound and music developments. Just like we did with Secret Sounds. We were essentially a New Wave bass, drums, guitar trio in the vein of The Police, The Clash, The Jam, etc. But in our development, we also let ourselves be influenced by Dub, Rap, Prince, and other influences. At the time, we eventually integrated synths, samplers, and drum computers. Many friends and colleagues got stuck in the 70s or 80s, but so much excellent music has been made after that.  

We did have something to say with Secret Sounds. Racism and intolerance were central themes in our songs “Beating On The Danger Drum” and “Wasteland” at the time. That message is still relevant. Also: Don’t get carried away by the so-called “new normal” craziness (“Don’t get fooled by Wasteland lies..”) and, above all, stay faithful and loyal to yourself, and be kind to each other.

 Wilmer Wolf

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