Your new album is a concept album. What does this mean? What’s the message?

I was thinking, why would anyone still care to buy CDs when everything can be downloaded just as easily? So I wanted to do something special that can’t be obtained online. The songs are woven together and you can let yourself be carried from one mood to another in the course of an hour.

On top of that the album also contains videos and a web link leads to a site that features the lyrics and background stories to every single song. Moreover, there’s an extensive photo album. A real entertainment package.

It’s like in the 70s – back then you put on a record, rolled a joint, sang along and admired the cover art. You didn’t listen to the single songs but the entire album as a thread pulled the different parts together.

This album, too, features a thread that merges the stories of the three protagonists into a whole: it’s about Walter, Willie and Sally, their fates, experiences, stories, small and huge tragedies. The entire plot is linked to a fair ground attraction – the Voodoo Barbeque, which is supervised by the Voodoo Guru who leads through the program. Eventually, though, everyone has to die.

The fair ground is divided into three parts. What are they?

The first part is “The Devil’s Playground”: It’s about people who are an easy target for the Devil because they are pursuing the fulfilment of their desires. Take “Limousines & Whiskey Queens”, for example – actually the opening number that introduces the story and its characters –, which is about someone with fancy clothes and shoes who enters a club assuming this event is going to be the high point of his life. He earnestly believes he’s close to realizing his dreams. Really, it’s just a smelly dump and everything he experiences is not like he imagined it to be. Despite all disappointments he still dreams of hitting it big time, of quenching his desires. Someone whose craving is deep but never fulfilled is, like I said, an easy target for the Devil.

The second part “Jesters & Demons” is about two contrasting personalities that everyone has inside of themselves and that everyone has to deal with: the jester and the demon. The jester symbolizes the naivety of someone who’s willing to submit to everything. And the demon tempts you to engage in wicked activities.

An example is the title song “Speak of the Devil”, which is about a woman who evokes a felling of invincibility inside you, and who subtly suggests that life with her will be amazing. Quite the contrary, though: this woman abuses you for her purposes, she sucks you dry, chews you up. Like the Devil. And the jester inside you believes her while the demon inside you lures you into making the wrong decisions.

The following song is called “Laughing at the Clown”. It’s not about the jester inside you but the revelation that you really are the jester. Unexpectedly, you’ll find that people don’t laugh about your jokes but at you.

The third part is the “Voodoo Suite”, which marks the apocalyptic ending of the story. The hero of “Hoopin’ & Howlin’” has long given up on himself. He’s partying and having a blast but he can’t enjoy himself anymore. He just can’t think of anything else to do.

In “Voodoo Barbeque (Reprise)” they all get together again. It’s a macabre party at which all of the fairy tale’s characters end up as victims of the fair ground attraction – they find an abrupt death.

Of course you have to take it with a grain of salt, however, you should simply enjoy the story…

Your issue seems to be death and the Devil now. Is Speak of the Devil Dr. Will’s dark side?

Indeed, in contrast to the last album death occurs repeatedly. Of course, it’s about sex, too – this time, though, it even ends with murder. And transvestites are more focussed on than before. So, death, the Devil and drag queens dominate this album. This has been neglected for way too long.

And “Zip! Zip!” is about getting stripped, so it’s not all that sinister.

Itching Again featured songs about steam machines and binge drinking. Now there are songs about loss, murder, homelessness. You seem to be really enraged on “I Can’t Sing the Blues” or “Born Angry”. Has Dr. Will become angrier, more serious?

I have always been angry and I’ve also always had a serious side. Maybe it has yet to emerge to its full extent.

Still: I’m recapitulating on “I Can’t Sing the Blues”: My wife lost her job, I buried my best friend, and even my favourite shoes were stolen. “And you’ve got the nerve to tell me I can’t sing the blues.” As ever, reading between the lines there are amusing overtones.

“Laughing at the Clown” or “No Shelter”, however, do not communicate that cheerful quality.

Compared with the music, how important are the lyrics? Which is more significant to you?

Spontaneously, I’d say the music is more essential. But: When I listen to music myself and the lyrics don’t appeal to me because they either aren’t good or they don’t evoke any kind of feeling in me, screw the song. That’s how I create my own songs. I always try to convey a certain emotion. So, I wouldn’t say the music is more important than the lyrics or vice versa. In my opinion they both depend on one another.

What inspires you when you write a song? Where do your ideas come from?

I believe you just have to be lucky with the songs. Like Keith Richards once said – and I can only confirm it: melodies are dangling in the air. You just have to grab them.

As for the lyrics, oftentimes I come up with one line or I happen to overhear a phrase I like. I always take notes that are turned into a song at a much later time. It happens so that I come up with a melody that goes well with a line I jutted down two years earlier. That gets me going… Constructing the rest of the song and completing the lyrics requires a lot of work and craft.

And where do you get the ideas for your arrangements? What about, for instance, the trombone on “No Shelter”, playing the theme?

Such things happen during the recording. Once the basic structure has been recorded the song comes to life. “No Shelter” sounded sorrowful and lonesome even without the vocals. I then try to accentuate this mood. And is there anything more sorrowful and lonesome than a muted trombone?

One song definitely stands out because of its title: Wegwerfwerner. What’s the idea?

Wegwerfwerner is an instrumental. I adopted the xylophone theme from an old song of mine; by the way, the very first song I wrote and recorded on my own. Back then I was into German lyrics and the song was called “Wegwerfwerner.” It went like this: “Dieter is gone, Gabi goes out for dinner with Werner. Dieter is back, Gabi doesn’t need Werner anymore. Wegwerfwerner.” This was at the beginning of the 80s.

I actually wanted to name the instrumental “Lick My Lovepump” but Spinal Tap has a song called that. That’s why I stuck to the original title.

Keyword German lyrics. So you used to sing in German. German is absolutely in vogue again. Why do you sing in English?

That’s right: Your native language is the obvious thing, it’s utterly natural to sing in your mother tongue. But I lived in London for many years and therefore I sort of consider it to be my language, too. The main reason is, though: I don’t want to restrain myself. Listening to the lyrics, as many people as possible should be able to understand my music. Also, English is the most popular language of the western world. Thank God it’s not French, that would be horrible!

On Speak of the Devil there’s radio recordings, sitar sounds, lots of loops – and less guitar than on Itching Again. Have you lost the likes for the guitar?

When I make music I feel like a little boy who discovers a treasure chest or opens a magic kit. There are so many possibilities in creating music and in evoking emotions through instrumentation and arrangement. I love guitars but it’s also fun to play with instruments and elements that usually don’t get any attention whatsoever in Blues or Blues-rock. This offers as yet undiscovered possibilities. It’s also fun to combine sounds that have never been heard that way.

Aside from the traditional ones, which instruments are used on Speak of the Devil?

Banjo, trombone, sitar guitar, cello, xylophone, Glockenspiel, various clarinets, Stroh violin, ukulele, farfisa organ, tablas, wine glasses… and a 20-piece children’s choir! Moreover, there’s experiments with loops and mouth-percussion, beatbox etc.

For years, you devoted yourself to and made New Orleans music. You don’t hear much of that on the new album…

That’s true. I’ve been oriented towards Rhythm ‘n’ Blues from New Orleans for a pretty long time, which has pinned me down me in a way. You really just copy something that has already existed, which does not satisfy me in the long run. I find it much more exciting to try something new, to create something that doesn’t “sound like…”

Dr. Will used to stand for partying and dancing, Itching Again was more about creativity, about your own songs. How would you describe your development with Speak of the Devil?

Itching Again was about doing whatever the hell I wanted to, regardless of its marketability and of its radio compatibility, or even if it corresponds with the zeitgeist; or if it meets the standards of how a particular kind of music is supposed to sound.

As for experimenting, I sort of tasted blood then. Working on the new CD I thought to myself: ‘You can be much more radical; and you can be much more radical in doing exclusively what you like. Just be much bolder.’ I think Speak of the Devil is the obvious progression of Itching Again. Of course there’s new colors added. Plus: The last CD featured an authentic Country number which, in that form, could also be found on a Nashville production. There’s nothing like that on the new CD. I gave up trying to copy a certain style as best as I could. I think the new CD totally sounds like Dr. Will.

In Germany we are fond of categorizations. Music wise, how may we pigeon-hole Dr. Will?

I don’t know. It probably belongs in the Roots section. Experimental Roots music? My publisher calls it “Voodoo Mumbo Jumbo”. I could, though, name several genres I don’t dovetail with…

OK, let’s drop the question. There are guest musicians on your CD. Who are they and how did you get to cooperate with them?

I got to know Claudia Cane at the beginning of the 90s in London – although we both come from Munich. That woman has an incredible voice, extremely sexy, and I’ve always wanted to work with her.

Arjan Bakker comes from the Netherlands, he plays the guitar and writes instrumental pieces. Arjan is my “internet acquaintance”. We got to know each other online and made music together via the internet without ever having met in person. We exchanged files that way, which was an exciting and stress-free collaboration!

I first met Son of Dave through my co-producer from London, Alex McGowan. He used to be in the Crash Test Dummies and has established a one man show using harp, and has thousands of funky ideas. He revealed the true nature of the song „Speak Of The Devil“. Son of Dave is one of the most innovative musicians I know. He’s real big in England and France, unfortunately though, he’s not that famous in Germany yet. But that’s sure going to change.

Enik usually makes experimental pop music and is not so much into Blues. I like the disparity of our voices. Enik is pretty successful, together with Thomas D. he just sang and produced the theme song for the German version of a Keanu Reeves movie.

There are many other musicians who contributed to the album, my brother Schorsch for example, and my live band The Wizards, of course.

Dr. Will is famous for the freaky jamboree that characterizes the concerts. What’s your live show going to look like in the future?

Really, the new CD is the soundtrack to the show that we’ve been doing for quite a while. The whole voodoo thing, the dramatic interludes – these are going to remain in the show, they might get a little more extreme though.

On stage, too, I want to offer something special: there’s nothing more boring than watching five guys in jeans on stage who languidly mumble their lyrics and outdo each other with their solos.

It’s important to me to offer something sensual, to cast a spell on the audience for the period of the concert, they are supposed to find themselves in another world and to forget what’s happening around them.

Thank God I found musicians who share my excitement. Nevertheless, they are outstanding craftsmen, too!

Who are the musicians in your live band?

After a couple recasts Dr. Will & the Wizards have been playing in the same constellation for three years:

Doghouse Dom plays double bass. He’s an extremely musical person who’s our tower of strength on stage. We’ve been making music together for years.

Olaf Giebe from Hannover plays guitar. He was a member of my other band Gangsters of Love, too, and ardent rock sounds are his shtick. A hell of a guitar player!

Uli Kümpfel plays guitar and banjo. He’s a real multi-instrumentalist who plays many other instruments like ukulele and organ on the album. 25 years ago we already performed together.

Our drummer, Dim Sclichter, comes from the USA. His origins lie in the theater music, he’s a true work of art that stands for itself. Now he’s really something!

Are there any plans for a new album and is it going to go in a completely new direction?

I’m already working on the new album, I’m busy composing and recording. It’s hard to say in which direction it’s going to go. I’d say it’s going to be more Blues oriented and less complex.


How come?

Well, you have to try something new. First and foremost are the songs which you have to live up to. Momentarily, I have so many songs floating around that are relatively simple and bluesy.

But I have no idea as to how the new album is eventually going to be. Such a production always gains a life of its own at some point. Which is exciting, you have to let it happen.

Aside from the new album, are there any other events or projects?

First we want to perform as much as possible to put the album across.

Right now I’m producing my brother’s band’s latest album, Schorsch und de Bagasch.

Shortly, I’m going to record the soundtrack for a Bavarian end time Western movie together with Uli Kümpfel. However, my lips are sealed for now.

Also, I would like to host a cabaret; with acrobats, striptease dancers and a flea circus – with live music, which goes without saying. I’m definitely going to do that, but it needs thorough organizing.

What music do you listen to? Who’s your favourite musician?

I don’t have any particular musician I favor. But I like Los Lobos terribly much. I can listen to them any time. I can almost always listen to CCR. I find Jon Spencer great. And Chuck E. Weiss, of course. The king of absurd humor! Dadaistic lyrics, wild music. Tom Waits said he sang like the Devil was chasing him. That’s true!

Be honest: Which CD is in your stereo right now?

Mine: Speak of the Devil!