LOUD AS GIANTS INTERVIEW WITH PSYCHEDELIC BABY MAGAZINE
Talking about the nature of Loud As Giants, Dirk Serries marks that for both him and Justin K. Broadrick the project is more like “a trip down memory lane.” Thirteen years after their collaboration as Fear Falls Burning and Final, these two kindred spirits return with an album that symbolizes their mutual fascination for the 80’s culture in which they grew up and all the relevant and groundbreaking genres Justin and Dirk were influenced by.
“Loud As Giants is our collaboration not to invent new music but just to bring together the music we grew up with, were/are inspired by and we just like to do ourselves.” – explains Dirk talking about his creative partnership with Broadrick: “So the appreciation has been there since the beginning, and I also think this is the foundation of our collaboration.
While been musically in sync since the early eighties when they both were active in the underground cassette network. Both with the highest appreciation for each other’s work for almost two decades, they finally met during a joint tour where Serries, as Fear Falls Burning, supported Jesu. Justin comments on the beginning of the long partnership with Dirk saying: “We had the concept of this project on the back burner for some years. It’s taken some time for it to take shape, but now we feel the time is right, and we have the right record in place.”
Pandemic, the isolation and global nostalgia became crucial factors that affected both artists carefully uniting together the release that became ‘Empty Homes’. “I love isolation, but only when chosen by me, but I love the night, again, empty streets, quiet, I feel like I can exist then. I hate mornings; I hate low sunlight. It immediately depresses me. This album for me embodies a world I personally feel happier in.” – explains Broadrick talking about a dream-like state, far from the busyness of big cities and overcrowded streets. While the image of empty homes united the musical and esthetic part reflected in the music: “Homes fascinate me; the rooms we dwell in and spend our existences in, I can’t quite compute it nor articulate it, but I feel it’s all full of loss and emptiness…”
“Loud As Giants is a project that truly can go any direction as long as it resembles our mutual passion”
How did you two first get to know each other 30 years ago when you ?
Dirk Serries: We met in person when the fantastic Belgian (now defunct) Conspiracy Records brought us together for the Jesu tour, promoting the ‘Conqueror’ album, with my Fear Falls Burning project as support. It’s there in the tour bus we started to talk, share experiences and realized that we knew each other’s music for many years. We both have been active in the early eighties in the underground experimental and industrial music cassette network, sharing labels we both were on. A better foundation to become friends and kindred creative spirits you couldn’t wish yourself. From there on we started to talk about working together. On that tour Justin started to play with me on the intro and outro during my support concerts.
Justin K. Broadrick: Yes, exactly as Dirk said, I think prior to this we possibly had an initial exchange on MySpace! And, one of my favourite ambient albums I bought in the early 90’s was Dirk as Vidna Obmana, the album ‘Revealed by Composed Nature,’ this has always been one of my favourite ambient albums of all times!
When was the initial idea behind Loud As Giants initiated and what was your overall vision of the project / sound?
Dirk: We always want to collaborate, whether it’s remixing each other’s music, participating with sources and additional layers of music to a project but it was after our Final and Fear Falls Burning album we started to think of a full collaboration under a new name. Initially we wanted to do a full-on industrial project but then it got expanded to a duo that reflects our love for the music of the early eighties. For us it’s a trip down memory lane, a project of nostalgia while at the same time a perfect time for us to join creative forces and re-create that love into a work that is significant for us together. Loud As Giants is a project that truly can go any direction as long as it resembles our mutual passion, in any which genre.
Justin: Dirk suggested the band title and doing something even more collaborative than our ‘Final + Fear Falls Burning’ collaboration from 2009. As Dirk says, we explored many ideas, then time went against us, which really was a benefit to readdress the project, thus arriving at this record.
Tell us how the collaboration for Fear Falls Burning and Final came about? Would you be able to draw parallels with Loud as Giants?
Dirk: Conceptually it was a totally different project. Both of our projects back then were already quite established so it was a matter of combining both visions together to make that collaboration work. While Loud As Giants has been more a project of finding the time and that exact moment when the music was created spontaneously, our Fear Falls Burning and Final collaboration was more of a straightforward and linear work. We just brought our musical worlds together in the strict concept of what our music then meant for us. Perhaps it sounds simple but actually it was a process that was smooth and easy to construct and finalize. Loud As Giants has been a dual project that started from scratch with even not knowing which style direction to take.
Justin: Yes, Loud As Giants was more measured and for us both I think a more pleasing collaboration than the Final / Fear Falls Burning, I personally would have approached my contributions differently now, at that time I was still searching for the identity of Final, which has been more satisfactory to me in the last two years only!
Both of you are very interested in a variety of music, if I may, are music nerds as I am. Would you like to take us back to the early days? What kind of records and fanzines would we find in your room? Tell us about some of those early influences that shaped who you become?
Dirk: From industrial, experimental electronic music to the cold and new wave that was being released back then. Coincident with the bleak atmosphere of that period, just think about the nuclear war threads, the terrorist attacks, social turmoil, huge unemployment, et cetera, but somehow it also sparked creativity and marked the eighties for Justin and myself as one of the most interesting phrases in music history. It’s pretty hard to pick out a favorite but thinking out loud I would say Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Test Department, Magazine, Test Department, Maurizio Bianchi, Asmus Tietchens, Blurt, Dome, Giancarlo Toniutti and so on. The music industry has changed extremely since then. Don’t want to sound like an old guy but back then it was a community, a platform of networking, exchanging music, et cetera and all this without the so-called glory of the internet.
Justin: Very much the same as Dirk! We both come from industrial/power electronics music from the early 80’s. Initially I was in punk bands in my first year of high school, then I discovered industrial music, but around 1985 I went full circle, and went back to abstract punk rock; my final project opened up to include my rediscovery after existing solely as an industrial/power electronics entity. It was this rediscovery that landed me as the main music writer in Napalm Death, after Nic Bullen discovered my return to punk roots Final demo in 1985. My initial obsession at the age of 8/9 was The Stranglers, due to my stepdad and mom being into punk rock in 1977 and having their own band Anti-Social. I also discovered much music from my stepdad, it led me to Crass and Discharge, then Killing Joke, and then onto industrial music – Throbbing Gristle, which immediately led me to Whitehouse and Ramleh. A very similar trajectory as Dirk. My stepdad’s love of Roxy Music led him to the solo work of Brian Eno, which I then discovered too…
One of the most fascinating concepts in counterculture is the underground cassette network you were both involved with. I would be delighted if you can take some time and reflect on underground tape culture in your country and abroad. What was it like to be part of the scene?
Dirk: The early eighties up till the early nineties was truly a fantastic period to be in. Creatively you had the cassette network which was, like I said before, a community of kindred spirits. People who wanted to do something different, fully independent and unique. From experimental music without boundaries to mail-art, everything was embraced with a vision that could be anything and nothing. With no internet at your disposal you had to be inventive to make contacts and this was through the postal system and the fantastic music and mail-art festivals. Here in Belgium you had them on a yearly basis as well in the Netherlands and I’m sure they were actually everywhere. The cassette network itself was a world-wide expanded circuit of small cassette labels. Labels and artists you could reach by sending them a letter, a package with your own music, including a IRC (an international reply coupon). Sometimes it looks like months to get a reply but that was actually the beauty and charm of the period. Nothing was short-lived, the network lived by the grace of the old postal system so the music, the creativity and the activities existed at a totally different pace we know now, and we’re actually forced to live by. But also to my humble opinion, the network was also way more adventurous than the music industry we know now. Everything was possible, music that was done with a minimal set-up of instruments, sometimes self-made, recorded in your own small bedroom, etc. The cassette releases you did yourself by duplicating copies, going to the copy center for your cover, cutting them by hand, et cetera. Everything was just fully self-controlled and made. The cassette network was also an important one since as a musician you learned everything from scratch. Aspects of learning craftsmanship: how to set up a label, how to promote your music, etc. You just became fully independent and this is still a vital experience in my current dealings with labels, promoters and venues.
Justin: I had a cassette label in 1984; Post Mortem Records, I was 13/14 yrs old. It released Final when we were 2 and some times more, we went through a number of names before I settled on Final, initially, when there were two of us, with my good friend Andy Swan, he called us Smear Campaign and our first show in 1984 was under this. Within 6 months my tape label had approx. 45 releases! At least 35 of them were my projects under a variety of different names! At 14 I already had numerous projects, and this is exactly as I continued with my obsession to this day! I was in contact with many labels and artists back then and released their material and they in turn released mine, some notables were Un Kommuniti and their label Black Dwarf Rekordings – we shared releases, the chief person there being Tim Gane who became central to Stereolab. I also released tapes by, and they in turn released mine, was the lovingly titled Anal Probe label, and their act Opera For Infantry who became the notorious The Grey Wolves, I also released some of the earliest tapes by Con Dom. Important note – I barely sold any tapes haha, but traded many…
You probably have a huge collection of tapes and records. Do you still go out and dig through piles of records these days? What are some of the latest finds?
Dirk: I still have a large collection but also sold or gave away a lot during the years. Some of them to my own regret though. But yes like to delve into my collection and re-experience some of the older music again. While some music has been on the shelf for a long time just because I wasn’t interested anymore, re-listening to them after a decade or so gives the music a different perspective. You experience the music differently and most of the time you do re-value that music as well, knowing when and how it was made. Some of my latest discoveries are Conrad Schnitzler’s ‘Conal’ (LP from 1981 on Uniton Records), AMM’s ‘AMMMusic 1966’ (LP from 1967 on Elektra) and Sleep Chamber’s ‘Submit To Desire’ (LP from 1985 on Inner X Music).
Justin: Exactly the same as Dirk! Bizarrely, the Conrad Schnitzler album Dirk mentions above we have never discussed, and this has been one of my favourite albums since the early 90’s ! I rarely visit stores these days; I’ve exhausted mostly everything! But I still thirst for music!
What are some of the most interesting tapes/records in your collection?
Dirk: I still have a some of the cassette and LP releases from the Broken Flag label (Gary Mundy’s Ramleh record label from the UK), some of the original Maurizio Bianchi records and of course some of favorite free jazz/free improvisation records from Derek Bailey, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler.
Justin: Again, very much the same as Dirk; I have valuable originals by Whitehouse/Come Organisation, Ramleh/Broken Flag, Throbbing Gristle, Maurizio Bianchi, and a lot of similar avant-jazz too!
Do you feel that ‘Empty Homes’ would sound differently without the pandemic? Have you found the isolation creatively challenging or freeing?
Dirk: Not sure, difficult to tell but perhaps it would have sounded different and if there was no pandemic it could easily have been the case that ‘Empty Homes’ wasn’t recorded due to our limited time we both have. Anyway, Justin and I are very happy it finally exists and that we were able to give birth to our Loud As Giants project. From here on the future will tell us where to go.
Justin: Besides the pandemic being a horror show in every respect, It gladly gave me the time to formulate and finalise my input on the Loud As Giants album, and to make the decision to include a rhythmic aspect, which may have not happened if i was performing a lot much like I was pre-COVID. I never run creatively dry thankfully, and hope I never do; I use the creative process as liberation from my mental health conditions – both autism and PTSD, of which I have been professionally diagnosed. I have to sometimes stop myself from creating, such is the endless river and the relief that creative process gives me.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Dirk: ‘(No Pussyfooting)’ by Fripp & Eno from 1973, a must for everyone and an album I can’t stop recommending – this is drone music avant la lettre.
‘La Mutazione’ by Giancarlo Toniutti from 1984, an unbelievable experimental record – remains one of my all-time favorites. It’s super moody and brilliantly constructed long form music.
‘Trance’ by Chris & Cosey from 1981, two members from Throbbing Gristle, but for here in top form with an experimental electronic album that just has the perfect balance between the industrial of Throbbing Gristle, the electronic side of Chris & Cosey and the experimentation of the early eighties.
‘Ascension’ by John Coltrane from 1966, for me personally the pivotal record that John Coltrane made – prime example of how far ahead he was and how free free jazz could be – essential listening.
‘Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call by Simple Minds from 1981, remains one of my favorite new wave albums – perfect songwriting, great sound production and a voice back then so unique – an album I return to almost every couple of months.
Justin: Interestingly, besides the Simple Minds albums, which I need to revisit in the future, I love every album Dirk shares with us above! Some recent discoveries have been: Atrax Morgue (I was ignorant of this period of industrial music in the 90’s due to my 80’s only industrial music obsession), David Gilden, Eric La Casa, Government Alpha, Beatriz Ferreyra, Richard Landry, Jumping Tiger, Joe McPhee, Werner Durand, Ariel Kalma, Ben Vida, K2, Dead Body Love, Matt Rösner, Thomas DeLio, Microcorps, Adrianne Lenker, Mlehst… all somewhat recent discoveries.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
Dirk: I can only hope that music keeps on connecting people. We need it in this constantly polarizing world
Justin: Thank you for the interest! And I agree wholeheartedly with Dirk’s sentiments above!
Klemen Breznikar/Psychedelic Baby Magazine