Read DIRK SERRIES‘ interview on Ambient Landscapes about the recording of his unique NOCTURNAL DISCORD album (cassette released on Cloudchamber Recordings.
We caught up with Mr. Dirk Serries, the Belgium Jazz and Ambient artist (and pioneer), again as he embarks on the next phase of his unique journey into the ambient/experimental world of sound-craft. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions that were on our mind as we previewed his latest album, Nocturnal Discord:
1. Thanks for sitting down with us today, Dirk. With all the pioneering ground you’ve covered in the ambient genera (both solo & collaboratively) as vidnaObmana, we were curious as to why, with the release of ‘Nocturnal Discord’, this new direction now?
I always have been keen on exploring new ways and bringing those to my realm of ambient music. Of course sometimes that process takes time as it not only means you’ve to realize new techniques or approaches to your existing style but first you need to come to terms with what your style is.
Coming out of the turmoil how VIDNA OBMANA ended (artistic frustration and exhaustion caused me to crash heavily) and re-discovering myself as an ambient musician using solely the electric guitar, it took me a while to get me that perfect set-up with which I could easily create the music I wanted to without the complexity of the studio that the work of VIDNA OBMANA always demanded. Fast forward almost 20 years and of course new tools (read pedal effects) were developed and which could give me that extension my ambient music longed for. While I tried during in the latter phase of my MICROPHONICS project to work with digital tool on the laptop, I never felt comfortable and dropped that option quite fast to only return to the analog rig of pedal effects and a guitar. So when I discovered a few interesting new tools to use, this new segment in my sound as an ambient artist awoke. While it still holds my passion for minimalism and working around the strength of a few notes, these new effects granted me a freedom to expand and take my so-called trademark ambience out of its own comfort zone. NOCTURNAL DISCORD is that first step, a rather bold one immediately but a necessary one to take and evaluate how it will proceed. I do see it coming even more in sync with my original style of ambience. As a matter of fact, I’m recording right now an album that also sets the pace for unification of both directions.
2. If you can put your finger on it; how would you categorize the differences between your previous, synth-based, ambient content and what you seek to achieve with this new, guitar-driven pathway; from both a creator’s and listener’s perspective ?
Musically now I think I really succeeded in bringing my guitar ambient music to that trademark sound I had with VIDNA OBMANA, done on synths.
Technically back then it was way more complicated, no rocket science, but you needed midi, a sequencer, outboard effects if your synths didn’t have them on board, a mixing desk, etc. and the full set-up you needed as well when you wanted to play live. Early on in the mid eighties it was still ok but from the moment the computer got involved, the musical process became so multi-layered that towards the end of the VIDNA OBMANA era that the pleasure of just playing and creating music diminished over time. Really felt that I got stuck in a sort of laboratory that completely excluded the thrill of making music so when I decided to end VIDNA OBMANA, I really made a decision to change my style, techniques and which instruments I would use.
The electric guitar became my prime instrument to guide me through the various projects I started (FEAR FALLS BURNING, MICROPHONICS, etc.). And along the way I invested my experience to simulate the so-called VIDNA OBMANA sound with the electric guitar and just a handful of pedal effects.
A process that took a while but now I’m very happy and proud I can generate the ambient music I care for so much with such a minimal set-up.
3. Are there specific takeaways or methodologies from what you’ve learned working with A New Wave of Jazz that now bleeds into the new ambient content?
Oh absolutely, the pure pleasure of creating on the spot, pushing the boundaries without the fear of failure and just embracing the result with heart.
I learned a lot from teaming up with these great free improvisation/free jazz artists as they really taught me the ability to drop control and just move towards that momentum on stage or in the studio with open vision and no actual definite plan. This is what I also take with me when I’m creating my ambient music these days. Most music I created since I learned the magic of full-on improvising has been one takes without any post editing.
NOCTURNAL DISCORD has been exactly that, music created on the fly while working with all the effects there on the spot too. Some of the treatments you hear on this album are accidents, burbs from the electronic devices which are never repeated again but became just vital to each of those pieces on the album. If this have happened about 25 years ago, I definitely would have stopped the recorded and deleted the file. Now I just love those twists, turns and unexpected guidelines to stir me into a different direction.
4. And, as a follow up to the previous question, will these newer ambient treatments bleed back into A New Wave of Jazz?
Who knows, not that I’ve a plan yet to introduce this into A NEW WAVE OF JAZZ but never say never. If this ever would happen, I think at least it will be part of a new sub label, like I’m doing with the cassette releases on NWOJ where the music has more noise ingredients. Its musical language is at this point quite different: the pace, the instant interaction and the way how I use the guitar is totally the opposite. But it surely could be an interesting angle for when that moment arrives.
5. Finally, with ‘Nocturnal Discord’ setting the stage for a “darker”, “stranger” and “more abstract” first step . . . can you
forecast what we can expect from your next step (or perhaps, leap)?
NOCTURNAL DISCORD is not per-sé the next necessary step in my ongoing progression as an artist but more a side path, a way of testing the range of possibilities. But most important to combine this with the trademark ambient music I’m known for. Like I said I’m currently working on an album that more or less already mixes both approaches. Exciting as it gives flare, new life and spirit to what I know so well is creating my kind of ambient music.
The ongoing (re)search for the sublime in sound just keeps me motivated.