Interview with Dictaphone

Questions answered by Oliver Doerell.

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QCR: Hey Guys, thanks so much for answering some questions for us and for contributing a mix. We are huge fans so it is a real honor to host you. Dictaphone has had several members over the years who all have several side projects so perhaps you guys could introduce yourselves. 

OD: Dictaphone was formed in 1999 in Berlin by Brussels born multiinstrumentalist Oliver Doerell. In 2000 Roger Döring (clarinet/saxophone) joined the project. We had guest appearances by Stephan Wöhrmann ( SWOD), Malka Spigel ( Minimal Compact), Alex Stolze ( Bodi Bill ) and others over the years. We released 4 albums until now. The first 2 releases were released on City Centre Offices, then the third album on Sonic Pieces and now we signed to Denovali Records. The band played more than 200 shows worldwide, including appearances at Mutek /Montreal, Unsound / Krakow, and Transmediale /Berlin.


QCR: I know we are incredibly lucky to secure a mix from you guys - I don’t think I have ever seen a mix from you before. Tell us how you approached it, did one person mix it all or did you guys take turns selecting pieces for the journey? 


OD: I mixed it (Oliver Doerell), the mix is mainly based on music from Brussels from the 80ties, which had a big influence on our work. It´s mainly worn out vinyl. The " old " sound is a basic element of the Dictaphone sound.


QCR: You guys create immensely interesting electro-acoustic soundscapes in a way that is really unmatched. Take us on a tour of your studio, what instruments do you use & what are your go-to bits of hardware/software for both pre & post-composition?

OD: I guess the main point for me is to work at home. I have a small studio in my apartment. In this Studio you can find all sorts of instruments, classic instruments, electronic instruments, and self-built ones. I have a " morbid instrument " concept, the rule is that old instruments are not being repaired I don´t replace the strings of the guitar, I adapt my way to play the instruments.


QCR: It’s interesting to compare APR70 with M.=Addiction. They were created 15 years apart yet sound like contemporaries. As electronics feature heavily in your compositions, how have you seen technology change and what changes has this evolution made to the composition of songs over time? 


OD: It didn´t affect too much our music, because we didn´t change so much the production process. the computer stays a recording tool, all sounds are created out of the box.


QCR: Your back catalog was recently re-issued by our favorite label (Denovali) in one of the most beautiful box sets we have ever seen. Tell us a little bit about the photographs that accompany the release and how did your relationship with Denovali come about. 

OD: Yes, we are very happy about this release! The cover artwork is based on travel photographs by my father from the 70ties. My mother was his favorite model.


QCR: Originally Dictaphone found a home on the influential label City Center Offices. How did that relationship form and what was it that led to Nacht being released back in 2004?

OD: In 2001 we were introduced to Thaddeus Herrmann ( label boss of City _centre_offices ) at our first show, he decided to sign us. The label was very important for us to start the journey. Thaddeus is still a good friend.


QCR: APR 70 (your latest album) was in my top 3 albums of 2017 (alongside Terminus Drift by Joshua Sabin & Everything by Ben Lukas Boysen & Sebastian Plano). It came five years after Poems from a Rooftop. Was this LP written over that whole period or was there a sudden burst of creativity?

OD: Yes, we have the tendency to work over long periods, meeting and recording new material. Just when we decide to have a new album released we start to choose and finalize the tracks and find out in what direction the album should go.

An endless process, sometimes very old tracks can be part of a new album, like the track " lofi opium " on the last album is more than 10 years old, it just needed the right moment to be released.


QCR: APR 70 has quite a darker feel to it than your other albums, was this intentional or did these environments emerge by accident?

OD: I don´t know, I don´t compare so much our albums, I don´t even listen to them again after the release. I think the Dictaphone sound is getting more precise & deeper.


QCR: One question I always swore I would ask if I had the chance was to shed some light on the amazing titles you give your albums. ‘Poems from a rooftop’ is explained on the Sonic Pieces page as such ‘The title ‘Poems from a rooftop’ comes from Iran’s ‘green revolution’, where people were so afraid to go out on the street that they emerged on their own rooftops to protest the stifling regime.’  What is the story behind ‘M.=Addiction’ and ‘APR70’


OD: Honestly, I don´t remember, what M. = addiction was meaning at that time for me. I guess it´s up to the listener to find some sense in the abstract titles. For the title APR70 I still know the motivation, but I won´t tell you.


QCR: Recently pictures surfaced online of you guys back in the studio - can we expect a follow up to APR 70 soon?


OD: As I said before we are always in the process, so expect a new album in the next 4 years! We don´t work with deadlines and our label leaves us all the freedom we need to work as long as it is needed.

QCR: One of our favorite musicians, Nil’s Frahm, counts himself alongside your many fans - even citing your music as a powerful force that made him move to Berlin. Whom would you cite in this same way? Which artists have has a profound effect on your musical journeys? 


OD: For us, it´s mainly the Brussels art & music postpunk scene from the 80ties. It was a very vivid and creative period in Brussels with great international artists and labels (Tuxedomoon, Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew to name a few and the fantastic Crammed Discs label of Marc Hollander ). Then I was lucky to live in Berlin in the 90ties, which also had a big influence of course.


QCR: Tell us a little bit about your other current projects - we are huge fans of Swod, recently rediscovered ‘Z’ and have been spinning ‘Mankind Animal’ for several years now. What other musical avenues do you guys walk down?


OD: My other main project is Cummi Flu, which I share with Helga Raimondi. A more psychedelic, dada post-punk approach and I regularly compose for modern dance, theatre and film. My first solo release, based on music for theatre will be out on the new Oxmose label in November. ( Oliver Doerell / my live with M. ( Oxmose 2019 ). Swod is sleeping at the moment but will be back around 2023.


QCR: Whenever I discover new music in this style it never comes as a surprise to learn that the musician resides in Berlin. Why do you guys think Berlin is the world capital for the music of this nature? 


OD: Is it? I think it is more connected to the " artist paradise "Berlin, that until now life was in comparison cheap here and you could develop music, with less commercial pressure . All this is now over, Berlin is becoming as shitty as other big cities, with the same problems than other big cities. Nowadays I wouldn´t move here anymore.