Tape the sound

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dirk Serries Interview

There and then.

About a year ago Dirk Serries was visiting Norway with the band Yodok III. I really had to talk to this man about music. You know: The things you have to do.
To be honest I was thinking about publishing this, in a ambient printed fanzine. But, time´s running and my schedule is to tight. No magazine yet.

Anyway I think the conversation we had at Chateu Neuf in Oslo is something to write about for all ambient fans and Dirk Serries fan especially. The occasion was Yodok III concert the same evening.

About Yodok III
Dirk tells with his own words:
- Christoffer Lo and Thomas Järmyr invited me about 4 years ago. (Now it is 5) They said they know my music, and they thought drum, tuba and my guitar would really work well together.
So they flew me over to a studio in Oslo, and we recorded our first album.
We communicate through music. I didn´t really know what to expect. But we started up a jam without talking. 20 minutes later with we had our A-side on the album.
From that moment it has been a constant work with projects and that´s why I am in Norway so often.

Dirk tell´s about how Yodok III works:
- The secret behind Yodok III is that there is no ego between musicians. It´s about the beauty of create.
It´s improvised. We don´t even know who´s gonna start playing at the concerts. It´s purely improvised.
Also the albums are. But that´s the beauty of it, and an amazing experiment.

Here in Norway, Christoffer Lo also play in the famous band Highaskite. So he is a well known man here in Norway. But maybe less known for this cooperation. 
Dirk Serries roots are from Antwerpen in Belgium. He now lives in the suburbs nearby. Living together with his wife and a couple of animals. To my relief he is not religious or spiritual fascinated. 
- No. I read a lot of philosophy books. Nietzsche and Goethe. But of course; ambient music, atmospheric music, can create a sort of special enviroment if you listen to it. But I never say how you gonna experience my music. Because everybody experience it in a different way. So why would you explain this? Why would you add up a concept around it?
Dirk explains his own questions;
- Everybody appreciates the music in they´re own way. Some read books to it. Some relax to it. Some sleep to it. But don´t force it upon your listener. That´s not cool. That´s not right to do, I think. The only things that illustrates my music is the photographs and the abstract titles. That´s it.

Vidna Obmana (vidnaObmana)
You can't talk with Dirk Serries without talking about his pseudonym vidnaObmana. He used this name from 1984 to 2007. Literally it is translated to "optical illusions" and it´s originally a word from Croatia. 
- In 2007 I stopped vidnaObmana completely. Because I was changing style a bit, and I didn´t feel comfortable with the name. 
I had to tell people that I was moving in other direction. And also for the first time in my life, I was comfortable to actually doing something in my own name.

When Mr. Serries talks about this, he also open his mind about the change to come.
- I had a serious "burned out" in 2003. I was at home for almost 1 1/2 year. Being dissatisfied that people expected for me so much; What to do and what to release. I feel that I could´t look back, with what I did, with pride. I look back with vidnaObmana with a sort of negative feeling. Like I was sick of it. I didn´t feel right with it.
-And then I rediscovered myself. All this facilities with ongoing search, for who am I, for what can I do, and what can I achieve with the ability I have. I have limited ability as a guitarist, but I have good ears. I can see what´s coming. I can respond. I know to react. And suddenly to all this kind of research, I can´t condemned my past.
I have to feel positive about what I did with vidnaObmana. That also make me as the person I am now.

Dirk has made a remarkable list over releases during the years. He also collaborates with several artists, and I had to ask about he´s own favorite album.
- I think I can look back to releases in the early 90´s. Like Passengers beauty (-91). Before that I was into industrial music. So this album was a complete makeover so to speach. And that still is a very important album for me. Of course I listen to it and think I could make it better. But at the time period, with the limitations I had…
After that, Steve Roach became a very important person to me. I learned a lot about technics and working with people.
But to tell about the most exciting time, was my first album under my own name; The origin reversal.
That´s a very important and favorite record. But there is difference with solo albums and collaboration album.
Yodok III is very close to my heart.

Streams of consciousness 
By now Dirk has released 10 album with Streams of consciousness as the title. All the releases in his own name. And he uses his iPhone to take all the picture to the album art.
- "Streams of consciousness" I just play. I hit the record button and play. They are all real time. Just cleaning up a little with EQ and mastering. That´s it. That´s the beauty of it. I transpose the idea of me as an ambient musicians. The sound need´s to be clear, need to be fine and precise. Totally different from a free jazz thing. 
But with ambient music, every little mistake, every little thing which is not correct… You can hear that. 
It destroys the mood you are creating. But I find out, that you can do it anyway. Even if you´re not prepared. Even if you love the control. You can do that. And you can come out with the same level of quality.

He tells me more about this:
- One day you sit in the studio. Delete something. Add something. Using 20-24 tracks. I was there. But suddenly I feel that I didn´t make music anymore. I wasn´t playing. I actually work in a laboratory. Like a doctor.
It was a long way for me to go. The only thing that didn´t change was how I use loops. How I use the repetition. How I layers things… That didn´t change. Either it was synthesizer or acoustic instrument, that is now a guitar. But the approach changed completely. And that is how you evolve and grow as a human being.

What Dirk Serries listen to.
- I think it is quite healthy for musicians, not only to focus on one genre. But listen to as much as you can. Because that educate yourself as well as a human being. 
So I listen to a lot. I listen to a lot of jazz. John Coltrane, Miles Davis. Fusion-works from the 70´s. On the other side I love Arvo Pärt. Now and then I listen to independent rock music. Like Radiohead. I was a huge David Bowie fan. But not so much ambient music though. The ambient music I play, is probably a big part of myself.
That is maybe why I don´t listen to much on others ambient music. Strangely enough.

A few hours after this conversation, Dirk Serries went on stage with Yodok III. 
Thank you Dirk, for sharing lot´s of thoughts with me. And thank you also for all the music pleasure you give.
Tom Ståle Engebretsen

Text and copyright photo by Tom Ståle Engebretsen