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VIDNA OBMANA (DIRK)

HOW ARE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU? Pretty good, thank you. I’m born and live in Belgium, nearby the city of Antwerp. 20 YEARS OF VIDNA OBMANA – WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? It truly means a lot to me as it gave me the opportunity to look back at my life as a human being and oeuvre as a musician. I’ve been lucky that personally I achieved my best work around this anniversary in the form of my Dante trilogy so this gave me the maturity to evaluate and look back at my work as vidnaObmana over these past 20 years with value and soberness. WITH SO MANY TRACKS AS YET UNRELEASED ON “ANTHOLOGY”, I GUESS IT WAS NOT MEANT TO MERELY BE A “BEST OF”, BUT RATHER AN OVERVIEW ON HOW YOU WORK AND WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU. CORRECT? Absolutely. What I meant to create with my anthology was a clear summary of what vidnaObmana stood for over these past 20 years. I’ve been musically exploring many forms and variations within a specific genre so that I felt it was needed to connect the parts and draw the red line throughout all of my work. I also felt that offering the listener an anthology based upon previously and commercially released music wasn’t really motivating at all so therefore I decided to select very rare and unreleased music from all periods and phases in the oeuvre of vidnaObmana. HOW DID COMPILING THE MATERIAL FEEL LIKE? DID THE TRACKS BRING UP A LOT OF MEMORIES? REGRETS POSSIBLY? It truly felt great and it was an immense pleasure to actually take out such a rarity piece, which for instance only existed until then on a lousy analog cassette, and remaster it on my laptop using the various editing software so that I can bring the soundquality up to the best level for a CD release. Somehow this procedure gave me a new insight in what I’ve achieved in the very past and actually started to enjoy that music again. A strange phase but one I really enjoyed. I experienced no regrets whatsoever as it made me realize that in the light of when and with what the older music was achieved it was essential back then for the person and musician who I’m now. DIDN’T IT FEEL HARD REDUCING YOUR OUEVRE TO THE SPACE ON JUST ONE CD? Well, I gave it sincere thoughts but finally decided to go for a single disc as I wanted to keep the power and variation on this CD as high as possible. If I would expand it again over a double, I’m sure the strength of the compilation itself got weaker. Issuing a single CD also gave me the possibility to compile a few other anthology CD’s as well, which will be released in the years to come, about more specific periods or style variations. SOMETHING I NOTICED WHEN LISTENING TO THE MUSIC ON “ANTHOLOGY”, WAS THE ABSOLUTE EQUALITY OF SOUND AND STRUCTURE, WHILE MOST WESTERN MUSIC TENDS TO STRESS JUST ONE OF THEM. ANY EXPLANATION FOR THIS “EGALITARIAN” APPROACH? Mmm, I always felt that I produced one of my most varied CD’s up till now but I appreciate the thoughts as it proves that even from way in the beginning when I was recording industrial music it had this kind of approach which you can recognise in the music I’m creating today. And in fact this is something what I hoped for when selecting a variety of pieces for this anthology album. THE INFO SHEET MENTIONED YOU WERE AT FIRST RELUCTANT TO COVER YOUR “INDUSTRIAL” PHASE AT ALL. WHY? EVEN THOUGH YOUR NEWER COMPOSITIONS ARE CLEARLY MORE REFINED, THERE IS A DISTINCT FEELING OF SOUL AND HUMANITY IN THE EARLY WORKS THAT MOST COMPARABLE ARTISTS LACK… Thanks. Well, I felt quite dissatisfied with the older work due to several reasons. First of all, considering when they were made I was much younger and unexperienced as a musician and the industrial music was actually created more out of a form of attitude than being creative with sound. But since I started to work on my Dante trilogy I rediscovered my noise and industrial music again and naturally thanks to the fantastic software applications for computer you currently have it was possible for me to boost up the soundquality of those older pieces. Through this procedure I really got to accept and evaluate these older industrial pieces as long as I continue to place them in the period of time I actually made them in. I’m actually producing a new anthology release on my own label covering only these obscure phase in my oeuvre. Really looking forward to unleash this collection upon the listener. I MIGHT EVEN TURN THE QUESTION AROUND: YOUR NEW WORK CLEARLY SHOWS YOUR IMPROVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF HARMONIC PROGRESSION. STILL: DON’T YOU SOMETIMES WHISH YOU COULD GO BACK TO THE DAYS WHEN YOU DID NOT KNOW WHAT EXACTLY YOU WERE PLAYING AND EVERYTHING WAS POSSIBLE? It still is. I’m an autodidact musician so therefore I can’t read notes and write them down for that matter. Everything I do in the studio or on stage is completed based upon feeling and my ability to listen to sound and correspond with it. But I do agree that being an autodidact is just one of the surplus values of my music as vidnaObmana. It gives me an insight into sound that most likely wasn’t there if I had a classical training. But then again, you never know how interesting my music had been if I actually had followed class. I FELT THAT MANY PIECES FROM WHAT HAS BEEN CALLED YOUR “AMBIENT” PHASE START OUT FROM A SIMILAR POINT, BUT THEN VERY SMALL DETAILS CHANGE THE WHOLE COURSE. ARE YOU SOMETIMES SURPRISED WHERE YOU ARE AT THE END OF A TRACK? Absolutely and this is just the beautiful and interesting aspect of creating music in the first place. The interaction you’ve with the sound and its development over the course of the piece makes the recording and performing process so multi-dimentional and inspiring. Although you start out with an initial idea or theme, the correspondence between the different harmonics and how you actually respond to this determines how a song or piece actually gets composed and realized. I definitely matured in my performances as a musician so that currently I’m doing much more real time and live on the spot in the studio than about 10 years ago so that the flavor and and course of a song or piece is different from the older work. But the basic principle remains the same so that, apart from its initial idea or theme, everything what happens afterwards is still unknown at the time when the recording starts. WATER SEEMS TO HAVE A SPECIAL MEANING TO YOUR MUSIC AND IT HAS OFTEN BEEN COMPARED TO IT. ANY CLUE AS TO WHY? ARE YOU MAYBE AWARE OF THE COMPOSITION “WAITING FOR COUSTEAU” BY JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, WHICH HAS A VERY SIMILAR FEELING: THAT OF CLOUDS OVER THE OCEAN OR RIPPLES ON THE WATERS SURFACE: CONSTANTLY CHANGING, ALWAYS STAYING THE SAME. In my pure ambient period I was indeed very fascinated by the multi aspect of water. Like you said yourself, the sound of water has a very lively but steady character and this is just why I found it so rewarding to use water in my music. Naturally, water is also a very tricky element to use as it can be very cheesy or mellow for that matter (as it has been used in New Age) but I think Jarre’s Waiting for Cousteau is a fine example of how it actually can be used correctly. It’s a very soothing and inviting long form piece and quite different to what we originally know Jean-Michel Jarre for. More recently I moved away from using these acoustic elements more as the organic and mutated form of sound started to interest me more butI did enjoy working with the sound of water as more than often it was a perfect companion to the expansive character of my music I wanted to create. AS YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU ARE STILL USING LOOPED MATERIAL AS A BASIS OF YOUR COMPOSITIONS: HOW DO YOU AVOID THE TRACKS ACTUALLY SOUNDING LOOPED AND REPETITIVE? I FELT THAT THEY HAVE AN ABSOLUTE AND ASTONISHING FEELING OF NON-LINEAR DEVELOPMENT. Thanks again. I’m using loops in different time signatures so that they never run linear or synchronized. You can compare it to Bach’s original Canon-method where you’ve one pattern that starts at point zero and another one starting at point one. This way both patterns will meet each other but never at the same point in time or at the same note configuration. Most of the times, in my more recent works, I add upon these layers of loops real-time performances with the same ingredients so that the loop itself has constantly another shape. OVERTONES ARE AN IMPORTANT ISSUE IN YOUR NEW WORKS. CAN YOU SHED SOME LIGHT INTO HOW THE OVERTONE FLUTE “FUJARA” WORKS? Absolutely, even through the combination of loops, timbres and the different elements I use in my music I create overtones and subtones. Therefore when I got exposed to the fantastic but quite rare Fujara flute, I knew I finally found an instrument which is so part of my personal world of music. It’s during my collaboration with Belgian multi-instrumentalist Jan Marmenout I got overwhelmed by the unique character of the Fujara flute. The Fujara is a Slovenian flute made out of a very fragile type of wood. Handmade it’s a quite huge windinstrument with 3 fingerholes. The harmonic sound is overall created by your breathing and blowing air into the flute. Through the different canals in the flute its sound is being generated and by using your fingers on the fingerholes you can adjust the pitch and play variations. Along with the various blowing techniques (like the circular breathing) the sound gets an unique flavor. The beauty of the Fujara is that you can adjust the style of playing to the way you want to play yourself. There’s actually no official indication on how you need to play it. Along with some fine-tuned toneprocessors the Fujara I use gets a very special and unique sound. I PERSONALLY FELT THAT OVERTONES ONLY REACH THEIR FULL EFFECT AND IMPACT, WHEN YOU ARE ACTUALLY PRODUCING THEM YOURSELF (E.G. BY SINGING IN A GROUP). DO YOU FEEL THE SAME? AND IF SO: HOW DO YOU TRANSPORT THE MAGIC OF THIS EXPERIENCE TO AN AUDIENCE OR A LISTENER IN GENERAL? More ore less, you can also produce overtones with a single instrument. It just depends on how you play with the tonalities. I myself, like I just said, created a set-up for playing the Fujara that creates these overtones and subtones easily. It’s by routing the sound of the Fujara through a set-up of various effect-processors and by adjusting the style of playing you create these unique tonalities which are so present in my music of today. The beauty is also that the fujara lends itself perfectly to being played live on stage. This way I’m able to completely re-create the flavor and intensity of the fujara on CD in a live setting. ACCORDING TO YOURSELF, YOU QUITE FREQUENTLY HAVE THE ALBUM TITLE BEFORE YOU START RECORDING ANY MUSIC AT AL. DOES THIS MEAN THERE IS A CONNCETION IN YOUR MIND BETWEEN LANGUAGE, MUSIC AND EVEN VISUAL ASPECTS? ARE YOU POSSIBLY A SYNAESTHESIST? Correct, I do feel that the relationship between language, music and visual expression is essential to my sort of music. Especially the connection between music and visuals is so important as it translates and in a sense explains the music much more refined and accurate than any philosophical concept. The most important reason why I take so much pride in selecting the visuals for each of my albums. I got very lucky when my wife Martina Verhoeven (www.martinaverhoeven.be) started to produce a staggering series of abstract photographs which were so in tune with what I was creating musically. This was purely coincidence but it pushed the imagery of vidnaObmana forward. It truly opened a lot of doors as I’m using her photography as well during my live performances. The correspondence between both triggers all senses and completes the music and visuals as one entity. THERE’S BEEN MANY CO-OPERATIONS, BUT NONE WITH A VOCALIST (IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN). WHY NOT? I THINK IT COULD BE A FASCINATING MUSICAL ENCOUNTER! True, there’ve been some exceptions like one song I did together with a Turkish singer and saz-player for the ‘Twilight of Perception’ album on Projekt and the pop/ folk group Dreams in Exile used their vocals as well on their sources for my Opera for Four Fusion Works (Act I on Hypnos) but I never worked directly with a vocalist. Although for the new and forthcoming solo album ‘Legacy’, which will complete my Dante trilogy for Relapse Records, I was so fortunate enough to get a fantastic vocal contribution from Steve Von Till (vocalist and guitarist of Neurosis). Steve and I are very happy about how the song got realized so hopefully this is the beginning of a new area in the field of collaborating. STEVE ROACH LIKES USING THE TERM “DREAMTIME” FOR DESCRIBING THE DISTORTION IN TIME THAT OCCURS WHEN LISTENING TO HIS MUSIC. I HAD THE FEELING THAT YOUR WERE PERSUING A VERY SIMILAR APPROACH ALREADY IN YOUR EARLY YEARS. DID THIS COLLABORATION THEREFORE FEEL LIKE SOMETHING THAT “HAD TO HAPPEN”? DID IT SOMEHOW FEEL VERY NATURAL TO YOU? Absolutely, Steve and I met in 1993 during his German tour since he got by accident my album “Passage in Beauty” through his recordlabel. Before a year or so I never heard of his music but from the moment I did I heard a kindred spirit and a true visionair. When we met, we immediately connected and before we knew it we’re planning studio sessions together. You can say that our approach to music has similarities but the difference in landscape, culture and environment makes our approach to creating music different as well, but always complimentary. HOW DO THESE SESSIONS WITH ROACH PROGRESS? DO YOU BOTH BRING PREPARED MATERIAL TO THE STUDIO OR IS IT ALL IMPROVISATION? Both, depending on the funding of the project and circumstances in which the album is created. But most of our collaborations together we’ve created real-time in the studio and to be honest they’ve been the most succesful ones as well. For example, the 3CD set “Ascension of Shadows” was recorded at my small studio in Belgium during the week Steve was here for a concert we’re doing together. Although we didn’t plan a real studio recording, from the moment we set up and started to jam magic occurred and within 3 days we had a 3CD set full of beautiful and harmonic music. The latest and most recent album “Spirit Dome” was created in a similar way when we had set up our gear in a hotel room in Philadelphia (USA). From the moment we pushed the recording button something precious and magical happened again. It’s pretty fair to say that my most successful collaborations are those with Steve as not only we correspond in harmony through sound but as individuals we’ve the greatest respect for each other in terms of our look at life and our existence on this planet. Steve is a friend for life and even now when I’m slowly moving into more experimental terrain because I need to evolve, there’s absolutely no reason on earth not to do any collaboration with Steve again. When this happen, I’ll take up that chance to work with him again. There isn’t a more inspiring, joyful and creative collaboration than this one with Steve Roach. HOW ON EARTH DID THE CONNECTION WITH RELAPSE COME ABOUT? ON THEIR HOMEPAGE, MUTUAL INTEREST IS MENTIONED – DOES THAT MEAN, YOU LISTEN TO EXTREME METAL A LOT? With the guys at Relapse I already had years of correspondence before we actually decided to work together and I firmly believe the timing couldn’t be more right than now. Relapse expressed their interest in vidnaObmana already for years before I actually could work together with them, due to labelcommitments and my personal view on where I was at with vidnaObmana. But when I finally got focused to record the challenging Dante trilogy, a trilogy which was going to introduce earlier Industrial influences again, I knew that Relapse was the best home for the 3 CD’s. Not only was I starting to listen to more extreme guitar-orientated music, I also felt that vidnaObmana’s profile needed to change as well. And Relapse gave me this opportunity. DID YOU KNOW THAT TANGERINE DREAM ARE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF RECORDING A DANTE TRILOGY AS WELL? THEIR SECOND ALBUM (OF THE TRILOGY), “INFERNO”, HAS JUST BEEN RELEASED AND HERALDS THEIR BEST WORK FOR OVER TEN YEARS IN MY OPINION. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS SO FASCINATING ABOUT DANTE THAT MANY DIFFERENT ARTISTS USE HIM FOR INSPIRATION? To be clear about this, I absolutely didn’t know that Tangerine Dream was recording a Dante trilogy as well. It was from very early in my ambient phase that I got so fascinated by Dante’s Inferno poem but I never found the right opportunity to freely connect the poem with my music. I also felt that Dante was too often identified with extreme blood and gore while the poem is actually a beautiful but intense translation of people’s inner conflicts. When I stranded musically and emotionally with my music in late 1999, I almost felt that I was part of that Inferno world Dante created. Completely overwhelmed by the most negative thoughts about my music and what I had achieved so far, I slowly started to understand that it was time to walk down different paths in my life as a musician and with vidnaObmana. Coming to terms with my industrial past and connecting with Relapse motivated me to pick up the courage and record the trilogy, loosely based upon Dante’s Inferno. The expansive and beautiful, calm and sacred structures and harmonies of my previous work slowly disappeared as I wanted to score a trilogy which unites all the elements I already used in my work till that day but seen through a different pair of eyes. CAN YOU BRING SOME LIGHT INTO WHO THE “VERY SPECIAL GUESTS” FOR THE NEXT ALBUM IN THE TRILOGY MIGHT BE? Sure. There’re a few guestappearances on this album. Aside from my wife’s voice I used to recycle and process, I also asked local Blues musician Paul Van Den Berg and Tex on electric guitar and bass to contribute a few layers. But in order to fade out the artifcial boundaries between genres more clearly, I took the chance of inviting Steve Von Till (from Neurosis) and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) for a guestcontribution. With both musicians I was in correspondence as we all appreciated and loved each other work. They both agreed immediately. Steve Von Till contributed his fantastic deep vocals to the opening track while Steven Wilson performed one of his longest guitarsolo’s on the end song. They both managed to supply me with fantastic source material and it gave me the unique chance to cross over to different genres and timbres. It truly makes the album so unique, to my humble feeling, and realizes what I wanted to achieve with the Dante trilogy. NOW YOU HAVE ALMOST FULFILLED YOUR DEAL WITH RELAPSE, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CO-OPERATION? ANY PROBLEMS BECAUSE OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN SEPERATING YOU? DID YOU HAVE FULL ARTISTIC FREEDOM? ANY CHANCE FOR THE CONTRACT TO BE RENEWD? Relapse has been a fantastic and very respectful home for vidnaObmana. My correspondence with the guys at Relapse has been very enjoying and fruitful. There hasn’t been any kind of conflict and discussion about the artistic creativity as they backed me up 200% in achieving this Dante trilogy. It’s of course very different and more complex to work with a label that resides on the other side of the ocean but I’ve been used to this. But every time we meet up in the States or in Europe the gatherings have been very inspiring and very pleasant. I do hope I can collaborate with Relapse in the future but the Dante trilogy isn’t over yet as we’re planning a DVD release about this trilogy with a 5+1 concert and 3 videoclips and also hopefully a recycle/remix album. After the completion of the Dante trilogy and the forthcoming concerts, I’m planning a break with vidnaObmana in order to let the albums in the trilogy breathe and get to its audience. Naturally I’ll persue music under different projects and names in the meanwhile so I’m sure my experience with Relapse will be practical to have my other music, whether solo or in groupformation, out there. TALKING ABOUT LABELS: IS PROJEKT YOUR OWN LABEL? IF SO: WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ARTISTS THAT ARE ON IT AND WHAT YOUR CRITERIA ARE FOR RELEASING ALBUMS ON THIS IMPRINT. No, Projekt is the label of Sam Rosenthal (who is the leading man behind Black Tape for a Blue Girl) but it’s also with him I’ve a longtime bonding. Projekt has been responsible for the greatest part of my oeuvre as they supported me by releasing many of my albums. Also my collaborations with Steve Roach have been released on Projekt as well. Ikon is however my own label on which I just released my first anthology CD. This CD was still in conjunction with Projekt (they loved the album so much that they wanted to co-release the CD in the States). I hope to establish Ikon more in the near future with a few other anthologies and a sublabel for other music as well. We’ll see how Ikon will evolve over time. YOU REVEALED IN AN INTERVIEW THAT YOU STILL WORK AS A CLERK. WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR JOB? ANY CHANCE THAT YOU MIGHT EVER MANAGE TO LIVE OFF YOUR MUSIC? HAVEN’T THE LAST 20 YEARS BEEN HARD WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR EXPEXTATIONS AND THE LOVE OF THE CRITICS, WHEN IT IS STILL A SELECT GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT ACTUALLY KNOWS ABOUT YOU? I would be lying if the combination with a fulltime job and the marginal exposure of music in the music industry isn’t frustrating at times but I do realize that this style of music, which is totally uncommercial and created without commitments, will never be able to reach a huge audience or that the general press and distribution companies for that matter would risk to promote this kind of music. Nevertheless I’ve been quite fortunate to work together with a few bigger labels like Projekt and Relapse who made it possible for me to not only get the music out to those who are interested but also to tour the States and Europe with a decent funding each time. And that’s probably already more than many of the mainstream musicians and groups can afford. So it’s a thing I have realize and that I do have to work on every album and its promotion as it’s my first debut album. Nothing is sacred in the music industry no matter how independent or artistic the scene may be. I’m working for the tax department in the province of Antwerp (Belgium) so you can easily say it isn’t the most inspiring and rewarding job but it pays the bills and it also secures my life as an artist without committing myself to artistic suicide in the light of achieving commercial success. THE PERSON DIRK SERRIES FROM HIS INDUSTRIAL YEARS AND THE MAN HE IS NOW: HOW HAS HE CHANGED AND HIS VIEWS ON MUSIC, THE MUSIC BUSINESS AND PERSONAL GOALS? Naturally I matured as a person as I got older as well but I think my philosophy towards what I want to achieve has remain pretty much the same. The music business definitely changed and it has become much more difficult as well to get a contract going with a label but on the other hand has the Internet given us an independent and alternative way to share our music with those out there who’re interested. That’s beauty and while many of the major companies are screaming for restricting the internet laws, I firmly believe it’s just a good sign that there’s panic amongst the majors as it proves that the Internet can give the artists also independent freedom. Naturally there’re downsides to the Internet as well as I can’t approve the illegal downloads of music but for me personally it gives me a new platform to tap into.

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