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The Durian Brothers interviewed: "An arc of suspense works differently on people who are dancing."

The Durian Brothers interviewed: "An arc of suspense works differently on people who are dancing."

by Nicholas Glover , 20 August 2013

Conducting an interview via email is a minefield. Face to face or phone interviews are bad enough - people are forever misinterpreting your body language and second-guessing your implied preconceptions. "What the fuck do you mean, 'am I impatient for success?'" Most of the time you end up sitting down to transcribe the whole thing and realise you've completely missed the point.

Email interviews should be more straightforward. After all, the questions are there, flat, on a screen. The interviewee can answer them in his or her own time, think them over, even research them if necessary. They can put them to committee in a way which would seem paranoid if it was done in real time (the whole band goes into a huddle - hushed voices, finger-pointing, a sideways glance back to check you're not lip-reading - they relax back into their sofas - 'Yeah, tour was fun'). But then, as everyone knows, it's incredibly easy to offend someone with even the blandest of emails.

So when I got the chance to interview Durian Brothers following their very excellent split EP on Fat Cat Records, I was naturally a little daunted by conducting an interview via email with someone whose native language is German. Luckily, I don't think I offended Florian Meyer too much.


Hi guys, thanks for talking to us. What are you up to right at this moment?

Florian: Answering my emails! I had a late and good breakfast, the dishes are still on the table, it's been really hot for two weeks in Southern Germany and I think I will go to the nearby lake for two or three hours before I have to seam (like fold) the cover for the Don't DJ release on Diskant which I've printed in the last few days.

I reviewed your split with Ensemble Skalectrik and it kind of blew me away. What did you think to the idea of having your music paired with another artist?

When I was like 14 or 16 years old I loved split releases - there was no internet where I could pre-listen to the songs so I had to rely on reviews and I had little money, therefore split releases felt like a "two for one" deal! When I was 18 to 24 or so I DJ'd a lot using vinyl exclusively - I still had little money. By that time I hated split releases because normally you wanted one artist and the other was kind of dead weight. Today I enjoy the format again - maybe partly because of nostalgia, but mainly exactly because it forces me to get some music on my turntable, which was not my first choice. It revitalizes my musical habitat by bringing diversity from other people's choices.

You use record decks in a myriad of different ways to create sounds that they were perhaps not intended to produce. Can you talk a little bit about your different methods for producing sound?

It is best seen in concerts, or even better tried at home with anything you have lying around. Most things you can hit your needle with just produce a noisy impulse. Here the DJ-mixer becomes important to make that impulse a clap or hi-hat or bass drum. On the other hand you can make noise layers which can be shaped accordingly or even be cut with the faders on your mixer. A very important sound for Durian Brothers comes from rubber-bands. There are a lot of different ways to apply them: you can bow them or hit them, play with hands or sticky paper on the turning table. Anyway, they work like strings: if they can swing freely, you can put the needle of your pickup-system directly on the rubber-band and it will transform the movement of the rubber into oscillating voltage, which you can amplify and send to your speakers. There's tons of other ways... I don't want to explain how the spirograph in 'Angstbirne' works exactly - like I said I rather want to go to the lake - if you are interested you should get one and try yourself - spirographs are always fun anyways!

How important is the spirit of improvisation to you?

Quite important! We want to produce dance music. I believe that bodies have a certain timing depending on what they do. My timing changes a lot from when I am working on the computer to when I am out dancing. When we record a track, we prepare some patterns, than play it live - while standing and dancing (as far as the setup permits). Afterwards we often edit stuff on the computer - but we stick to the timing of the recording session because when recording the timing felt right, the arc of suspense needs some time to unfold when you want to dance to it. When I am producing a track only on the computer, repetition gets boring quite fast so the whole track normally doesn't last longer than two minutes - which is all right: it is an intellectual enjoyment, but dance-tracks should be recorded dancing!

I like how you say dance music should be recorded dancing. Do you think you have a short attention span?

When I said that dance music should be recorded dancing I meant to say that an arc of suspense works differently on people who are dancing and ones which are sitting in a studio in front of a computer screen. I think there is no direct connection to 'attention span' since I can easily concentrate on boring music (even very long) it just won't have me shake my derrière (at least not naturally).

Of course these affections are completely individual and subject to taste and other personal bias. I don't want to introduce some esoteric theory of dance music - nevertheless there is something to the flow of sessions which sometimes seems missing in those highly elaborate computer generated compositions which makes the first work naturally for the dance-floor whereas the latter fail to (although you thought they were bangers when listening them while checking your new downloads on the train-ride to the DJ gig).

The thing that impressed me most about the split record, and about the live show, is the amount of focus you manage to produce from so many carcophonies of rhythm and tone. Do you ever find it hard to reconcile your ideas for producing odd and new sounds with your desire to just whip up a crowd?

Our strength and weakness, at the same time, is the method of production: to some degree we are forced to produce new sounds because some of the 'gimmicks' are so hard to reproduce, we hardly manage - especially during a live concert. This might sometimes end up with some track not sounding as cool as it did on the record - but for us it actually is really great fun. Trying to reproduce some elements of tracks we recorded often ends up either in new discoveries or kind of parodies of the 'originals' - either way they never fail to surprise us, so concerts are never boring to us - in fact we might be the ones having the most fun out of our concerts - while getting paid - what a great deal!

This may be a simplistic comparison, but your style of making music (often concentrating on the means of production, rather than sitting for hours just in front of a computer) reminds me a bit of Brandt Brauer Frick, and also of Dosh. Who were your biggest influences growing up and getting into dance music?

A first major experience when discovering the record collection of my parents around 5 years of age was 'Rivers of Babylon' by Boney M - a project by Frank Farian. It enchanted me to hear those tunes and voices - they seemed to have magical powers. I went back to listening to fairytales on tapes until 1987 Pop strongly crashed into my life with Michael Jackson's 'Bad', Bomb The Bass - 'Beat Dis' and MARRS - 'Pump Up The Volume'.

Many others followed and I became a fan of different genres, eventually leading me to discover Crass. Subsequently I got deeply into the Punk/Hardcore/DIY thing which remains a strong influence until today. The early 90s saw the rise of a dedicated, illegal and drug affine Techno culture, which sucked me in and made me start DJ-ing. But coming from hardcore I never got dogmatic - in fact I opened up my horizons more and more to discover the joy of jazz as well as the Noise scene which seemed to me as a logical continuation of the Hardcore movement after Infest introduced "power-violence". Let me add that Ween was some blind passenger on that journey, maybe even a blind captain and it breaks my heart that they broke up before Shinola 2!

Finally, any plans to come to England?

We do plan to play England - on September 28 at UNSOUND London.


Fat Cat's Split Series #22 featuring Durian Brothers and Ensemble Skalectrik is available now.

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