BIMfest 2009 SOL 19

Interview with SOL19

The fun part of synthesizers and computers, is that it feels like stepping into a spaceship...

The challenge of opening BIM festival, will this year be performed by SOL19. These veterans of the dark scene are barely known, exept around few Antwerp underground places. Earlier discovered by Dirk Ivens, we hope with opening BIMfest, you might discover them too.

Can you introduce SOL19 to the Dark Entries and the audience of BIMfest?

Ka: SOL19 is the title covering most of my personal musical projects, however it contains lots of (remixed) songs and ideas from Roel (aka Rat-Project). Later, the bassist named Roefke joined us. You may consider SOL19 as a sort of musical diary, therefor not in chronological order. It is a suitcase filled with periodical memories or a jukebox of momentary recordings, expressing feelings into sounds and words.

Where does the name SOL19 (or SOLXIX as seen earlier) come from? Why did you chose this? It reminds of suns and galaxies. Is this revealing a intrest in astronomics or SF? Is there a story of changing XIX into 19?

Ka: Just like with the chicken and the egg; in the end, it doesn't matter. It's only a number that has "persued" me, crossing my path alot. So the number nineteen simply has gotten a huge symbolic value in my very own biased interpretations, whether they're written in Roman or Western characters.

Once upon a time, i was happily jumping through french sunflower fields in summer and after this, the name Tournesol XIX spooked my mind for a time. Another time, i was busy creating a sort of ode to Frieda Harris in a Flash presentation. This person has painted the Tarot cards for Crowley, which i quite admire. In Tarot, the 19th card represents the sun or SOL, so SOLXIX became very obvious. To put clear however; i am not a Crowley-adept nor a Tarot-master and i do not feel any need to predict the future, but these paintings are just overwhelming and it is a very fine approach of connecting feelings and spheres to a mathematical set of numbers.

Apart from this, of course i like a little bit of magic and mysticism, what's a theatre without fools and magic? But sure, our intrests lay also with galaxies, psychology, history, alchemy, SF and bad movies...

What kind of music would describe SOL19? I think i hear some The Cure influences and even Pink Floyd... There's electro, cold wave and space psycho rock...

Ka: We define it as "ridiculous complaints", but it's impossible to label it under one certain style nor classify it. We grew up with rock'n'roll, hippie stuff, disco and first heavy metal, known as hardrock... Becoming adolescents, reggae, punk, psychedelic, new wave and (synth)pop came in. At the same time, we were taught classics in music schools and playing hoempapa in the local town's brass band! Later, jazz and blues passed by, as well as EBM, electro, house techno and industrial. The ninetees brought hiphop, hardcore, trance, space, jungle, goa and later psytrance. Luckily, we missed the R&B part!

Our lives have been a constant flow of music and these influences will therefor be found in our music, often in one song. Because the song itself is mostly oppressed by dramatic overtones, the other different styles become parts of the undertones. However, when i start singing, the song becomes mostly coldwave and of course the result of being brainwashed by Pink Floyd, The Cure, Joy Division, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, Dead Can Dance, Front242, NIN, but even Moloko, Ozric Tentacles, Eat Static. Etc.etc. Listing influences would give a top 1000.

So at first, SOL19 was a band of 2, now there's 3. How did you people meet?

Ka: I know Roel since school back in 1985, sharing the same classroom. In summer 1986, we met again when other friends decided to form a band. Roel was gonna play keys, i was gonna sing (Sven, drummer of Implant and good friend was there too). That summer, we recorded a dozen songs that quite changed our lives. A few months later, the band split up and members moved to other bands, but Roel and i kept sharing a common passion for oscillators and creating songs. Eventually, when other social obligations and different priorities stepped into life, it became harder to share that common frequency and as we both started collecting our own gear, we ended up mostly creating our own songs within our own little homestudio.

During the 90's, i kept remixing the old songs because i couldn't say goodbye. Inbetween, i was constantly seeking new experimental horizons. Finally, in 1999, i found myself with a hundred songs on a PC and i decided to forge these into albums, which i tried before, but always delayed it. When in 2001, my life went somewhat down the drain again, the following years, i would canalize this into a lot of new, experimental songs. Almost living like a hermit and constantly analyzing myself and the world, brought some very emotional recordings.

Roefke is a friend from the early 90's and when i needed to perform the "The Real You" track for the SITD complation, i didn't feel like doing this alone, so he proposed to help, playing bass. Roel joined back in to tweak some buttons and keys. Being a group, i feel tons more comfortable on stage. Together, we picked the "strongest" songs and cast them into a playlist.

How does a SOL19 song comes to life? How do you progress from ideas to a finished song?

Ka: After we've been recording for 23 years now, all kinds of ways have happened. The fun part of synthesizers and computers, is that it feels like stepping into a spaceship and take off for a flight upon a spontanious path. With shiny lights, buttons, waves and midi-blocks in front of you. You steer the ship in a mathematical way but it's also unavoidable that the ship starts leading it's own life. A ghost of the machine drops in and mostly takes me on a melancholic level. Maybe that ghost is actually the melody. I guess a melody or catchy tune is the heart around which you plow the song. One thing i know, is that every song ends in a mix of comedy and tragedy.

The early years where dark wave, with african rythms experiments, you know, pots and pans. Later came more monotonic songs. Roel got himself some orchestric songs. From 1998, it became all more digital but much later, after 2001, i got back interested in chords and songs with verses and choruses, kinda singalongs, danceable although sad. On purpose, i wanted the computer to sound like a band, even adding analog instruments again. I like combining both digital and analog worlds.

Working with Roel, sure changes the way of working. and brings different approaches as well. Strong melodies survive in the end and ideas get remixed and grow over years. Apart from that, the loss of data (and synths) for instance also put you to the fact, you'd had to start over with complete different sounds, rebuilding it.

In the end, i find it difficult to call a song finished. Sometimes, it takes me years when it occurs that a cretain note would better be erased or you needed a cymbal just right there on the spot. I am mostly unhappy about the sound of the snare and my singing is mostly a bit weak because of recorded in a living room in which i always fear to wake up the neighbors.

People often ask if a song starts with a bass line, a drum track or wether the lyrics are written before or after the music. Again, i think we done most variations and probably await more unknown territory.

What does a SOL19 lyric tell and where do you find inspiration for them?

Ka: Definitely, for 99% about love. Nothing in the world can make you feel so sad, altho' it shouldn't be of course. It tells some experiences of human relations and their related behavior. I guess it's pure from the heart. Sure, our earlier influences from writers, musicians, movies and theater will rise up to become twisted into our own interpretations. We also like to play with psychological concepts, or tales of war in a love relationship. As far as i know, "Never Again" is the only song with some political character, but it is twisted in such a ridiculous sense that it becomes silly, which politics in fact are. We consider it stupid unless it endangers our freedom of course!

How is the response from abroad? What reactions/fanmail do you get?

Ka: Oh, because there hasn't really been a published album sofar and the fact we were wired to computers in dark caves for ages, we are as good as unknown internationally. With the rise of networking, reactions do come of course! Few, but also from the heart: f.e. an electro-punk who explains he had to cry with a certain song and that he knew how it must have felt, or someone who tells that his girlfriend was disappointed that she couldn't get the cd-r into her iPod. Some have posted clips on YouTube. These reactions surely makes you smile!

Do you often play live? Any fine memories of passed gigs?

Ka: Well no, live performances are very rare. Possibly because none of us knows a manager or agent and none of us have these qualities either. However, Roefke is trying hard to pull us out of the cave. Thanks to the SITD compilation, some people start to appreciate us. Besides we try organising something ourselves once a year, but this happens in a closed circle.

In the past, there were some local gigs and some private parties, but those days i didn't like performing live because it felt too stressing having to concentrate that all midi gear would run correctly. At present, together with Roel and Roef, i only have to concentrate about singing, which feels more comfortable having less technical worries. Each of us has a role now and performing becomes more fun instead of stress, which of course reflects in a better performance.

Memories; i will never forget our first gig in the Phantom just for the sake of its 'zeitgeist'. And we sure liked it when Liquid came to shout "Never Again" with us in 't Kompas.

What's the band's favorite song? Mine is already "Little Wicked" that even reminds to Wire.

Ka: "Where Are You" is getting us in trance everytime, we also like playing "Possessed" and "Wardrums" a lot and of course "Never Again".

Truly, i don't like singing "Little Wicked" that much, because it feels i am mocking someone. but sure it is a catchy singalong song. Singing particular lyrics however can make things kinda surreal when people form an image of you because of words that date from a long ago.

Compared with Wire, i think that only goes for the rythm. It's kinda militaristic, a marching song and therefor alike to the 2 beat up-tempo of punk(rock). The sequence is most simplistic and used a thousand times before. The deep synth and the piano however, give it a spooky twist and i don't know why but it feels very 'American' to me, a 'Louisiana/Mississippi' feeling. The piano suspense reminds me of the "Adams Family" or "The Nightmare before Christmas" kind of spheres.

SOL19 claims to have 12 albums, not released but in time audible through a website on the internet. Besides, there's a SOL19 cd-r circulating and "The Real You" appeared on Dirk Ivens' "Shadows in the Dark" (Minimal Maximal) compilation. Did you ever try to release an album through a label or doesn't that interest you?

Ka: Well, after 23 years of making music, i think 12 albums is even few. I swear to have hard drives filled with so many ideas, i even won't be able to finish each before i die! There were years that i stored 4 ideas each month. Kinda one song a week, but a draft. Like i said, the strong melodies survive and get remixed and edited into a song.

But ok, there you are with a pile of demo's of which most labels reacted with: "yeah this is kinda good, but...", and with "but" it stayed... On the other hand, i understand that listening to a SOL19 album is like; you start off with new wave to go to a slow dark song. Next to pop, followed by some tearjerkers and inbetween a trance track to end the album with classical piece. Labels don't get this because they represent a certain style, not this mumbo jumbo. In the end, i even agree from a label's point of view, it would be a complete commercial disaster! But i never stopped making music of course.
Moreover, i've been brainstorming years on organizing which songs belong to what album, just like the woman painter, trying to fit the concept, which is the album's title in my case. Therefor, i often react somewhat stubborn when others would like to see a different order of songs.

We remember seeing The Klinik in the Phantom (a renowned New-Wave club (1986-1989) in Kalmthout, Belgium, run by Peter Mastbooms aka BORG, nvdr) when we were 17 or 18 and i met Dirk Ivens at some occasions later. Although we both create different styles, there's a mutual respect. For the "The Real You", i created a (small) Dive alike basis to the song, especially for the SITD compilation. I am grateful to the man for collecting unknown belgian underground talents and trying to support these.

The website... well, it's a pain in the ass due to the time it takes, creating little flash movies, but yeah, i have a dream and try to build some kind of SOL19 museum. The albums can be listened (mp3 format of course) like some online player. But it's still in an early stage; i hope to have the 1st album "from the inside out" ready somewhere December.

The cd-r was made on request and being able to offer something at least. It is also a unique compilation.

Today, it is affordable to release something on your own and i might do this with the 1st album soon. The only reason, a label would still interest me, is the chance of recording the songs in a professional studio. I do not doubt that being locked up in a studio for a week would bring a better result in the end, compared to our homestudio recordings. I also like putting my time more into the creation of music/sounds/songs itself than finalizing it. Equalizing and frequencies are a science an sich and there's a lot of better soundmen out there than myself.

How do you like the line-up of the BIM-festival? Who are you going to see?

Ka: Oh, we grew up with Red Zebra, Aroma di Amore, Crash Course in Science and C Cat Trance, so... 32Crash i wanna see... mhm, think i wanna see all, hope that will be possible. Good thing we play first, alore!

What may we expect from SOL19 at BIMfest?

Ka: The Bar Mondial playlist was impressive, so i'd like to repeat that. Might seem kinda cowardish to play "safe", but opening this kind of festival, i see no other option. We'd be stupid not to play the strongest tracks. But because we don't like to repeat ourselves either, we plan 2 new (old) songs and another 2 songs will be added to stir the playlist a bit.

Why do we need to come see SOL19 at BIMfest?

Ka: Because we don't play live often and therefor, it will be a unique moment. Besides , it's gonna be raining that afternoon, so you might just as well come dance and sing with us. And because SOL19 in pole-position, is like a fish in the sea!

I would say: come early enough to not miss this disregarded belgian talent!

Henk Vereecken