A global depression, a universal “pestilence” has swept through the past decades. Let’s see where we’re at in 10 years… What changes does humanity need to face. It’s obvious that we need to alter our attitude in order to keep our world a suitable place for living. A lot of people feel that something is wrong and they protest in many different ways: musicians take out their guitars, tune it down and play slow, doomy music to blast their amps. Just like French band Dirge does. We caught up with singer-guitarist Marc T. through email in 2000. And then reloaded our conversation with Stéphane L. in 2011, due to their upcoming European tour and the fact that they are finally playing in Hungary too! Read on!
Chapter I: 2000
endhits: First of all, I would like to ask you to introduce the band, the members and the instruments you play.
Marc T.: Dirge was founded in 1994. Since then, many changes have occured in the line-up. Now, the band is composed of Alain B (drums), David K (bass), Frank T (guitar & voice), Zomb (sampler), J-C Noug (video) and me, Marc T (guitar & voice).
endhits: How many albums have you released so far, what are their names and when were they put out?
Marc T.: In the beginning, we released demo tapes: Infected by Rain Machine (late 1994), Mind Time Control (late 1995), Dead Network Access (late 1996), then our first full length album Down, Last Level (late 1997). It was released by a distributor in Switzerland. We are finishing a new album, Blight and Vision Below a Faded Sun, which we hope to release in September 2000.
endhits: Where have you played live so far?
Marc T.: We played live quite often in 1998 in France, Switzerland, Belgium. Then, we changed our lineup in 1999, which created a kind of break. We hope to play more often as soon as the new record comes out.
endhits: What inspires you to play this deep, cold, slow music?
Marc T.: We are looking for intensity when we compose. We don’t know how to make “fun” music, we must see a feeling merge as well as a deep energy. We pass on an emotion with intense and heavy music.
endhits: What does the term “underground music” mean to you?
Marc T.: To me, “underground music” is the whole bunch of people who put passion and belief in their music – whatever the style of music is – unlike people who only think about promoting themselves through the media, about their personal achievement only and who use the underground as a means of self-promotion.
endhits: How would you define Dirge’s music?
Marc T.: Our musical style is more and more open: from an “industrial-metal” basis, we have integrated noise-rock, ambient, and even 70’s sounds. We all come from different musical backgrounds, but we share our attachment to metal music.
endhits: How does the French underground music scene look like? Are there many good bands around?
Marc T.: The “French scene” is quite weird. Some very good bands only get a succčs d’estime. Other ones, far less talented, always get full venues when they play. It’s just a problem of culture, France is not very keen on rock music. But there are (or were) some very good bands in France: Hint, Bastard, Sleepers, My Own. One of the only good bands who got success was Treponem Pal.
endhits: Let’s talk a little bit about your first record, Down, Last Level. What’s the message of the album? Is there any conception, political reference or something else in the lyrics?
Marc T.: On Down… there is no real message. We rather try to pass on an emotion. We don’t really want to impose our point of view to people, our way to see the human universe. We prefer feelings, quite dark indeed, but they are not messages.
endhits: You are probably familiar with the American band Neurosis, whose music is similar to yours in many ways. I had the opportunity to see them in October 1999 in Budapest and I was amazed how strong their belief is about what they do. Do you share the same kind of ideology?
Marc T.: It’s true that there are some similar gimmicks between Neurosis and Dirge. And we feel respect for them. We have not studied their lyrics, though, but we feel that we go the same way. The most amazing for me remains people who feel nothing for it¼
endhits: When I made an interview with Scott Kelly from Neurosis, I asked him if they consciously write songs in a way that they often play one riff or sound for minutes, and he answered that the repetitiveness is a key-word in their songwriting, and that they would play it as long as it sounds right to them. What do you think about that? Do you guys do the same way to reach the effect you want?
Marc T.: It’s true that we have a very physical way to deal with music, a raw feeling. There is also a kind of selfish dimension: we don’t care if people like a part of the song or not. Music is like an extension of ourselves. We can take risks that other bands would avoid.
endhits: On Down, Last Level there are some German samples in the songs. Why German samples instead of French or English?
Marc T.: Why not German samples? We like its hard sounding. If we like the way a sample sounds, we don’t care if it’s French or Russian…
endhits: I like the beginning of God Cut My Legs with the South-American music sample. Are you attracted to that kind of ethnic-folk music? Do you listen to tribal, ethnic music?
Marc T.: It’s another example of the same feeling; this sample has been taken out from a documentary film about nuclear tests which occurred in the 50’s in Polynesia. We were moved by it and the sample was totally suitable for the track.
endhits: Weak is the most experimental, deepest – sort of ambient – song on the album. Is it an epilogue of Down, Last Level or perhaps it shows a new direction for the next album?
Marc T.: It’s one of the ways we use to communicate. We like to do different things in our tracks, and as I told you above we can scan a wide range of music thanks to the six members of the bands. The most important for us is to keep the “color” of our sound whatever the track is.
endhits: Do you know any Hungarian bands? There are some groups, who toured in France, such as VHK (Gallopping Coroners – who are pretty much a cult-band), Másfél, Korai Öröm or the more underground stuff: Trottel, Persona Non Grata etc.
Marc T.: I once met Persona Non Grata, but very quickly, during a show where I performed with my other act, Dither. But in France, we scarcely hear about the Hungarian scene and bands from other Eastern countries. It’s a pity, I am convinced there are a lot of talented bands there…
endhits: What do you think about this trendy music coming from the USA – in the face of nu-metal acts such as Korn, Limp Bizkit etc.
Marc T.: We don’t feel attracted by this American scene swamped by business and money. Their music is commercial. But we love a few American bands who seem to have a more European feeling: Melvins, Neurosis, Unsane, Tool… For us, them and Godflesh, Einstürzende Neubauten or Breach represent the true meaning of intensity.
endhits: Who is the producer of your dreams?
Marc T.: We’d love to work with many people, whose work is fantastic. But there are not known by a large audience. Moreover, we don’t have much money, so we are our own producers, in my home studio. And, you know, production is an image too – think of Ross Robinson for example.
endhits: Are you keen on modern technology? How do you see our future with all these cloning, sicknesses, negative utopia in general?
Marc T.: We are like everyone. We suffer from the modification of our environment, without being able to interfere. But technology is only a factor of speed, it does not change our fate. Human race does not change.
endhits: A stupid question for the end. As a Frenchman, who do you find more interesting: Napoleon or Jeanne D’arc for what he/she achieved?
Marc T.: Maybe Joan of Arc, for her mystical dimension. Her history remains full of mysteries. It mixes legend and history…
Chapter II: 2011
endhits: Eleven years ago we made an interview with you (see Chapter I) in which Marc T. introduces the band and the first album. Has the line-up changed since then and is there a different attitude towards music and playing in Dirge today?
Stéphane L.: Yes, the line-up has changed in 2001. Christian & I have joined the band in 2001 to replace David (bass) and Frank (guitar). The band remains the same today, except for this European tour on which our friend Luz (ex-Ausweis, cult French post-punk band) exceptionally replaces Christian. Concerning our attitude towards the music thing, we still have the same point of view about the way to consider and to comprehend music. That’s one of the elements which bind us with each other in the band. So playing in Dirge in 2011 is as it has always been. Only our style has evolved with the years. But our aims are the same.
endhits: Your music generates very deep, powerful and strange energies which make its reception and understanding quite hard, but it still gives something more, you get the feeling of it. How popular is this kind of music around you – in and out of your own music community? How do people react to it? Who are the receivers of Dirge’s music in 2011?
Stéphane L.: There has been a sort of “buzz” around the so-called post-hardcore/post-metal genre a few years ago; a lot of bands appeared then, other changed their original style in order to be more “actual”… But, despite the fact that we were already making something close to this musical current before it became “trendy”, we didn’t take any advantage of this “mode”. We have remained quite in the background mainly because we don’t tour a lot and we don’t make a lot of concerts. But anyway, there are quite many people who like our music, or at least who would like it, if they had the possibility to discover it :). But I don’t think there is just one single kind of people who like our music and we can see it during our concerts. Of course there are a lot of people coming from the hardcore, metal, sludge or doom scene, but you’ll also may find people from very different other musical horizons.
endhits: I’m quoting Marc from 2000: “Human race does not change.” What did he mean by that regarding the question of our future? Does he still agree with his own statement today?
Stéphane L.: You just have to take a look around and you’ll see the answer. Conflicts, injustice, Earth dying etc. The same things like 11 years ago. Humanity evolves, knows how to adapt, but at last doesn’t change in essence. I mean, there is a big difference between “change” and “evolution”. Despite its faculty to think, humans remain animals and don’t change its way to “be”. I think our inner structure is like this, unfortunately.
endhits: What makes you go on and create music for almost over 20 years? Where do you gain inspiration from?
Stéphane L.: We simply love and need making music. That’s the only reason for so many sacrifices. To play in a band is like an endless well where you throw your time, your energy and your money :). But from the same well comes joy, achievement and so much of other good things! Without this achievement, it would be no use to go on. Concerning the inspiration, it comes from different sources: visions, spleen, frustration, anger, contemplation, memories or simply from the things hidden inside…
endhits: Tell me a few words about the albums the you have put out since Down, Last Level, please! (Differences between them – in short, of course)
Stéphane L.: The band released Blight and Vision Below a Faded Sun in 2000 on it’s own label Blight Records. This album was less electro/industrial-oriented. With a real drummer and two guitars, the songs were then much more frontal, also more organic.
In 2004, we have released And Shall the Sky Descend. Just 4 long songs ranging from 10 to 24 minutes, with a very deep and claustrophobic sound. At this time we began to work on very progressive pieces, trying to stretch riffs at their maximum to reach a sort of trance.
In 2007, we have recorded the Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas double album. This is not the follow up of ASTSD, despite the extreme length of the songs. This album remains very heavy, but in many ways it is also very luminous as well as very psychedelic. The second CD featured a 1 hour long track, with different kind of atmospheres, a lot of layers… Everything was recorded live on WOLODS. I’d say today that this album was a very ambitious project, but I think we managed it pretty well. And it received a very good response from the press, so…
And right now, we’ve just released our 5th album Elysian Magnetic Fields. We have kept the natural core of Dirge but we have tried to bring our music towards something a bit different, maybe more melodic and less monolithic… But this is still Dirge, you’ll see it on stage :)
endhits: I think, during this Euro-tour, these are your first shows in Hungary (in Budapest and Szeged). What can we expect from a Dirge show? Which songs make the core of your shows on this tour? Are you playing some older songs as well that we might know off Down… and Blight…?
Stéphane L.: Yes, this is the first time we’ll play in Hungary, we are so happy for that! I won’t reveal what our show will be all about, but I’d say that a Dirge concert is something physical and visual. We’ll play a lot of stuffs from our new record and one older track.
endhits: Thanks. See you on stage!
Chapter I of this interveiw was published in VOL.10 fanzine (volume 11) in 2000.
Watch Dirge live: