Pedal Chained Bleakness [2019-04-17]Damien De Coene, a relative newcomer to the wall noise scene, has made a name for himself through the quality of his prolific output, which covers a wide range of sounds from barely-there Drone to full-blown HNW, as well as a distinctive visual identity. Damien kindly agreed to give Musique [Machine] an interview.
M[m]: First off- What genres were you interested in before you discovered Wall Noise?
Damien If I had to pinpoint three genres I’d say black, doom and death metal. But honestly, anything that has a dark or unusual twist to it has always piqued my interest. I have to say that since I really got into music (around 13/14 years old); the more extreme something sounded, the more I loved it. And it quickly became clear that in those extremes I favoured the monotonous, time defyingly slow and long slabs of a-melodic sounds. So all that digging finally (and unsurprisingly) led to its ultimate form: HNW.
M[m]: How did you start making HNW yourself? Is there a release or artist in particular that triggered your interest?
Damien I started making HNW about two years ago, and releasing material for a year and a half (more or less). I moved to Basque Country about three years ago, but before that, I already did poetry/noise gigs from time to time in and around Ghent (Belgium). The First real HNW I ever heard was Vomir’s Claustration about ten years ago, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I remember loving the density of it, that complete monolithic nihilism blasting through the speakers. I also remember having to go back to it a couple of times before being able to listen to the whole thing! Next was (no surprise) The Rita’s Thousands Of Dead Gods. Both remain favourites to this day, not in the least for its nostalgic value. I listened to these artists, but apart from some releases here and there I never bothered to really delve into the genre. Some years back I got a bit bored with music (and life) in general, nothing would interest me anymore. Always one to make matters worse by providing an appropriate soundtrack to my state of being, I started listening to and searching the Internet for more HNW artists. That’s when I discovered a whole bunch of artists, really making the concept of walled noise their own: a lot more colours had been added to the palet, apart from Vomir’s pitch-black. I started making my first walls by just strumming all the strings of my bass guitar as hard and fast as I could through a Big Muff. That worked for about two days until I got bored with that. Sometimes I dug up an old GT10 Boss Digital Effects Processor, which was ridiculously expensive to purchase- I brought it as a teenager who just received his vacation job payment, but to be honest I didn’t like the plastic sound of it. So I started looking on the Internet, also paying attention to the gear talk of artists whose sound I liked, and started expanding my collection. Then the wallet-draining began: Reading about and buying pedals.
M[m]: You mention starting to release your sounds one year and a half ago. In this time you have had a prolific output. Do you record all the time or rather with a release in view?
Damien I am a recording addict. I have a girlfriend and a two-year-old daughter, so time is quite limited. In order to scratch the itch, I wake up early and/or go to bed late. This allows me to have at least some hours to myself so I can set up my gear and start creating. During the day I usually think about themes, projects, certain types of wall-craft I want to achieve and how to set up my gear to accomplish that. Free time away from my gear is usually spent drawing for projects. Sometimes I do pull the lever though, and oblígate myself to read, write or simply watch a movie.
Not a lot of stuff ever gets recorded without at least a certain image, concept or even a title in mind.
M[m]: Do you consider yourself a gear-addict? Is there some rotation in your gear, or do you stick to one set-up? I know I buy & sell a lot of gear… Maybe I could sell you some!
Damien I can’t afford to be a gear-addict, literally. I have been working with the same pedals for about a year I think, and to this day I am satisfied with what I have. I think I have covered basically all the ways I can set up my gear, but by changing the sound source it stays fresh and interesting to me. For that, I rely heavily on the Zoom H1 recorder.
Selling my gear is something my budget disapproves of! Come to think of it, trading gear does sound interesting to me.
M[m]: You mention a special state-of-mind you had some years back and the way wall can be the soundtrack to some pretty heavy stuff on a personal level. Do you think this is a mutual trait in the scene?
Damien What I love about HNW is the abstraction of it. From very specific fetishes to big existential ideas, anything goes really. Not sure if it is a mutual trait, although some projects and releases come to mind which has a painfully personal story to them. The absolutely brilliant Grief box-set by Big Hole (the artist grieving over the death of his father) or the equally brilliant Mourning Processes by Lost Graves (mourning the death of loved/close ones) for example.
What I do know is that almost every HNW artist I have spoken with gets a lot out of listening to and recording HNW. I feel, in general, there is a serious dedication to making walls. And for almost everybody it is a way to block out things; be it your immediate environment or your personal demons.
M[m]: What was your first project? What kind of set-up did you have at the time ?
Damien My first project was Renoffski. I've still make a release under this name, though the project is now completely beat/pulse-oriented and has nothing to do with the pure HNW it used to be.
M[m]: You release you're walls as Charles Razeur but also under your own name, how do you decide which release belongs to which name?
Damien Sometimes they do tend to overlap, but basically, the really dark, bleak, drone-ish work is reserved for Charles Razeur. Under my own name, anything goes really: it’s mostly HNW; but also field recordings, “normal” noise and “continuous sound experiments” have been released so far.
M[m]: What's the origin of the name Charles Razeur ?
Damien Charles refers to Charles Baudelaire, the poète maudit from the 19th century, whose work “Les Fleurs Du Mal” incited my interest for poetry (and literature in general). Razeur means “razor” in old French and refers to the depressive, suicidal nature of the project.
M[m]: Do you associate Beaudelaire with your work because of some specific works by him? Some poems maybe ?..
Damien I was just drawn to this artist ever since I learned about him. He wrote beautifully about wretchedness, filth. That “beauty in ugliness” theme is something I have a real soft spot for. The mad look in his eyes, the depressions, the fits of drunken and drugged outrage…more than anything: the escapism. Someone who simply didn’t feel well living in the world he lived in. All too relatable. He wrote about that desire to escape to another world brilliantly in the poem “L’invitation au voyage”.
M[m]: One of your latest releases, a self-titled Charles Razeur one on Lost Light Records, reminds me a lot of reductionism. Is it a genre you're interested in? If yes, who / what records influenced you in this vein?
Damien It most definitely is. In fact, the very first releases of Charles Razeur (and coincidentally my last ones as well) all have an intentionally low volume. I feel that much more than high volume, a low volume really demands a concentrated listen. That concentration puts you (or me at least) in a very earnest condition, mentally and physically. I get sucked into the extreme minimalism of it, trying hard to perceive what’s going on. You just really try to hear it, and in doing so, you disconnect with whatever is going on for the rest. It calms me down a lot. Also, it clicks with the seclusive vibe of the project, since you really need to be by yourself without any (or not too much) distractions from the outer world.
Damien My influences were basically the artists making ambient noise wall (ANW), like Nemanja Nikolic, Yume Hayashi (her netlabels Static Minimalism and avocado tapes especially) and Sergey Pakhomov’s Minimalist Recordings. Outside of the walled noise artist scene, I listened to and picked up a lot from Steve Roden.
M[m]: You mention producing sounds with an intentionally low volume, how is your hearing these days?
Damien Worse and worse. Little to do with recording volume, all the more with the Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction I suffer from. Wikipedia will take it over from here:
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD, TMJD) is an umbrella term covering pain and dysfunction of the muscles of mastication (the muscles that move the jaw) and the temporomandibular joints (the joints which connect the mandible to the skull). The most important feature is pain, followed by restricted mandibular movement, and noises from the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) during jaw movement. Although TMD is not life-threatening, it can be detrimental to quality of life,because the symptoms can become chronic and difficult to manage.
Damien This has caused for severe tinnitus ever since I can remember, It is something that just gets worse with time, so it’s live with it or go crazy I’m afraid. Worst moments are in bed: those dead silent moments where the only sound I hear comes from within myself. Like La Monte Young has discovered the panflute.
M[m]: Sorry to hear that. I’ve got some pretty bad tinnitus myself and I know how damaging it can be.
M[m]: Another question: I think that your brother does the very distinct artwork for most Charles Razeur releases, how do you work together? What are his influences?
Damien Well, not really. The crude, primitive drawings used for a lot of CR releases are actually my doing. Quinten has let me use some of his paintings for releases under my own name and as Renoffski way back. His most important contribution, however, is that he does all the artwork for the Dark Field Recordings netlabel. Working together with him is very, very easy. He is six years younger than I am, though we are brothers with almost identical interests. I get his stuff, and he gets mine. No words are necessary. In the past, he has provided artwork for a poetry book I released, and I “recited” poetry at an exhibition he had some years ago. This is an ongoing collaboration for which we still have a lot of plans. The kind of collaboration that will end when one of us dies, I guess. As far as artwork goes: Rothko, Rodin, Freud, Bacon, De Cordier, Giacometti, the Old Masters,…
M[m]: Can you tell me about your project Renoffski ? How do you record for this project and what gear do you use ?
Damien Renoffski now is a rhythmic noise/techno project. The goal is to create the same kind of abstract, monotonous atmosphere of walled noise, but with a pulse. I use exactly the same gear as I do for Charles Razeur or any other project of mine, with one change: I enable the self-oscillation mode of my Rochambeau Dirty Doper pedal. All “beats” stem from this pedal mode. Rochambeau Musical Apparatus just has to be mentioned. Provider of my two sickest pedals!
Damien Apart from my affection towards hard, cold techno and industrial your Vagrant project from some years bars back has been my most direct influence into creating this kind of walls. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you on this kind of stuff.
M[m]: You mentioned your netlabel, Dark Field Recordings-where you ask artists to create tracks out of field recordings- can you tell me how you got this idea?
Damien Yes, Dark Field Recordings was the result of me enjoying my ass off disappearing into the forests and mountains here for whole days, in search for interesting sounds to record. A stream of wáter, electric wires in the mist, raindrops falling down like the ultimate crackles…I absolutely love it. It’s not only about recording these sounds. It’s searching for them. It’s paying attention to your environment, Walking away from civilization so you can draw your attention to the noises of nature. It goes back to that whole concentration/isolation aspect which is fundamental in my life. It really feeds my soul. Making noise has just been my way to go about it.
Damien Through social media, I have come in contact with a lot of interesting and talented artists (at least it’s good for that!) who are often equally or more passionate about their work, and often more talented too. So I was just curious what others came up with. Also, I searched the web, and there isn’t (to my knowledge at least) any website specifically dedicated to dark field recordings. The dark vibe is just what interests me the most. Enough and plenty of chirping bird recordings out there.
Damien The netlabel has two rules: your sound source has to be a field recording (or multiple field recordings), and the end result must have a dark vibe to it. For the rest, anything goes. I couldn’t be more pleased with the material already released on the page. All of it is at least very good, and some are downright jaw-droppingly good. Always open for submission, so do not hesitate to send your work to my e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
M[m]: I know you are preparing two huge works, a box-set and a tribute to Vomir, can you tell me what we should expect from these?
Damien The box-set (edition of one; already spoken for) contains 16 C60 tapes of basically any kind of walled noise I make. There is HNW, ANW, DNW, field recordings,…Still working on the artwork, but so far it is turning out beautifully. For artwork, I am mixing my crude pen drawings with the very colourful flower photos of my girlfriend. When all is done, this box-set will be made digitally available for purchase (some euro’s). Usually, my stuff is free, but this has been such a time-consuming and big work that I cannot bring myself to just handing it out for free.
Damien The tribute to Vomir will be released as Renoffski. It will consist out of Renoffski-styled pulsive versions of Vomir’s Claustration walls. About halfway done on this one, and really happy with the result so far. I think I actually managed to créate a similar relentlessly nihilistic vibe with completely different means.
Apart from these two works, I have just self-released two C60’s under my own name: DNW I and DNW II. Each tape contains two drone noise walls. All the artwork is drawn by my hand; so each tape will have its own unique artwork. What unites them is the style: everything is drawn in the crude, primitive way I draw for Charles Razeur.
Damien Here things overlaps again; this is a typical CR release in every aspect, though I decided to release it under my own name due to the personal background these tapes carry. Won’t go into that matter any further though. These tapes are limited to 15 copies each and can be ordered directly from me.
I made them digitally available as well, though as with the future box-set, these won’t go for free. Same story: a lot of money and effort went into these, so putting a price on them is just a way of keeping loss to the mínimum.
I would like to thank you sincerely for your interest!
M[m]: Last question: You say that your music is usually available for free, is it important for you? Do you have some kind of philosophy behind it?
Damien Honestly, in this extreme sub-genre, I am already more than happy that people take the time to check my stuff out and listen to it. I do not see a reason to charge people for it. I love recording; just searching for the right textures, balance,…really takes the edge off for me. Making HNW is a losing game anyway. Gear costs money, electricity costs money. I kind of made peace with that from the get-go. This said the future box-set will be digitally purchasable for some euro’s. The reason I already explained before.
Even though downloading is usually free, people have more than once paid for a release. That kind of appreciation is something you can’t be anything but grateful for.
A deep thank you to Damien for his time and thoughtful answers. You can check out Damien's work with the following links:
Damien's Bandcamp: https://damiendecoene.bandcamp.com/
Charles Razeur Bandcamp: https://doodsreutel.bandcamp.com/
Dark Field Recordings: https://darkfieldrecordings.bandcamp.com/
Also, keep your eyes peeled for the Renoffski tribute to Vomir box-set!