"For this commissioned work I’ve invited two musicians, with whom I already worked closely together before: Tom Malmendier on drums and Rutger Zuydervelt on electronics."

An esteemed legend of the ambient underground, Dirk Serries has been incredibly prolific over the years. Aside from his enormous catalogue of releases, both under the iconic Vidna Obmana banner and in a variety of other guises and collaborations, Serries has become a staple of Roadburn line-ups, offering some of the most transcendental sounds to ever grace the festival. This year, minds will be blown once again, albeit within 2021’s unavoidable restrictions. If anyone can transcend the moment and send us skyward, it’s Dirk

Dom Lawson

How have you adapted to our weird new reality over the last year? Any new challenges, in terms of being creative?

“Of course, the pandemic left us all quite breathless for a while, cancelling all planned concerts, studio sessions, and so on. So it took a bit of time to adjust to this new way of interacting, but creativity doesn’t fade if you keep on thinking and re-creating the possibilities. I do realise there’s no digital concert that equals the experience of a live concert in your favourite venue, but nothing else is possible right now, so why not? This is where Roadburn really excels, in organising this fantastic alternative. But also, on a more compositional level, you do have software tools which allow you to play with your fellow musicians online. It’s most likely not suitable for every genre but, at my own free jazz label, we already did a full album using such software during the first main lockdown. So to keep on creating you do have possibilities to explore, you just need the will.”

What can you tell us about your forthcoming Roadburn performance?

“Since I started with music in 1984 I’ve been exploring different genres, from the heavy industrial music in the eighties to drone and ambient music in the nineties and noughties, and currently being deeply involved with the free improvisation scene. Amazingly, Roadburn has followed me on this path. I’ve been enormously fortunate enough to have played Roadburn six times already, each time with one of my different projects (from twice with Fear Falls Burning, solo or with Yodok III). The support of Roadburn, specifically Walter, has just been amazing, and their faith in what I do has boosted me to creative heights.
“Now being invited for a commissioned work on Roadburn Redux is more than an honour, and it’s a fine opportunity to introduce my ambient music to the Roadburn audience, and not only because the digital concert format gives me way more freedom and less pressure than during a real live concert, as the construction and build-up of my ambient music is slower, more detailed and refined. Also, since the beginning, this is the music for which I’ve been acknowledged worldwide, and through which I got to know a lot of fellow musicians who already played Roadburn themselves, so it’s time to share this with the festival. I originally worked on this style of music exclusively with synthesisers and electronic devices, but in the late nineties I slowly started to convert it to electric guitar and effects, making it way easier and flexible to perform live. For this commissioned work I’ve invited two musicians, with whom I already worked closely together before: Tom Malmendier on drums and Rutger Zuydervelt on electronics. Two fantastic musicians who will for sure play their own part to create along with me a beautiful space to experience. It’s partially composed but with still a lot of freedom to interact in the moment of creating the live experience. I’m really looking forward to it!”

What does Roadburn mean to you, as creative people and on a personal level?

“Roadburn is a philosophy. Every year, with every edition, it becomes a way of living differently, meeting up with comrades inside but also outside. And it’s fantastic to see how the city of Tilburg embraces this event, becoming the village for such kindred spirits. But also Roadburn wouldn’t be the same festival if it would just book the same bands and the same genres, but over the years they have taken up the brave opportunity to introduce their faithful audience to new genres, new bands, new projects and to expand the scope of what Roadburn stands for. On top of that it’s just amazing to experience first-hand that the audience just embraces the adventurous programming of the festival. It lifts you as a musician to way higher levels.”

Can you tell us about your favourite past experience(s) of Roadburn? Were there any shows that had a strong impact?

“The festival is always the highlight, but of course some are printed in your memory forever. On a personal level when I played with the fantastic Kristoffer Lo (on amplified tuba) and Tomas Järmyr (on drums) with our band Yodok III. The way we were able to interact with the audience in a fully packed Green Room was just overwhelming. Another one was when I was able to accompany good friend Justin Broadrick for the return of Godflesh to Roadburn with the performance of Streetcleaner. Amazing to see and hear that monumental album live in the big hall, helping him out with setting up and doing the live mix. Goosebumps.”

What are your hopes and plans for the (hopefully post-pandemic) future?

“Hoping that I can continue with my A New Wave Of Jazz label releasing exciting music and arranging concerts and studio sessions, and wishing for those Kodian Trio and Yodok III tours to happen, which were cancelled last year. And of course, staying Covid-free!”

What else are you looking forward to experiencing during Roadburn Redux?

“Absorbing the atmosphere of a real Roadburn festival will be impossible, and completely understandable. All performance slots are full separately so hanging out with the other musicians and bands will not be possible. Nevertheless, I hope to catch most of Friday and Saturday before fully dedicating myself for my own performance on Sunday. It goes without saying I’m super psyched to be part of this unique edition and Roadburn can already be very proud of making this happen.”

Dirk Serries will perform Epitaph as part of Roadburn Redux on Sunday 18 April at 14.50 CEST.