Digging as a neverending obsession
C-drík Fermont (aka Kirdec) is a musician, singer, composer and drummer originally from Congo based in Berlin. He specializes on releasing electronic, experimental and industrial music from Asia, Africa and South America. Although he’s lived in Europe for most of his life, his origin as well as innate curiosity have lead him since the 90s to explore the unknown fields of non-Western unusual music, which he releases on his label Syrphe. He’s been also making a lot of music by himself both in solo projects and bands of various genres from breakcore and industrial to ambient and synth wave, as well as music for film and theater. He’s a straight edge, who respects the nature, antisexist and antiracist and his approach to life is wilful and thorough. This interview for Secret Thirteen was originally conducted in September 2013 in his community flat located in suburban part of Berlin and was updated in September 2014.
You run a label, write a book and essays, play with different people, create music for different projects, give lectures, travel around the globe – how do you manage being your own boss?
I prefer to do most things myself, because when something goes wrong, the only responsible person is myself. I don’t have to get mad at somebody except me and I also know which direction I take and why. I work a lot and some people wouldn’t follow me, if I would work with collaborators. Some of the projects I do take a lot of energy and time and I can afford to tell myself: OK today, I can’t sleep, cos I need to do that. And I would never ask somebody else not to sleep because of me.
I take some path which is not really usual, for example the label’s direction, organising tours and playing in places and continents where most people don’t especially go. And it’s easier for me to do that alone, because many of my friends don’t want to follow me in some countries for example, thinking that there is nothing interesting or it’s not worth it or it’s dangerous because of unstable political issues.
Are you a person of no compromises?
Mostly yes (laughter).
You have both European and African origins in your blood and you also lived in different places of the world. Would you mind to tell a bit about your past and how did it affect you, not only in terms of art and music, but also in terms of your life direction?
I was born in the Congo (Zaire), Africa and lived there for only 2 years. Then I moved to Belgium, where I grew up and lived most of my life. Then I also lived in the Netherlands for a little bit. After that I stayed for 6 months in Far-East Asia, but moving from one place to another, on tour basically. Now for four years I live in Germany.
How did this affect me? I guess that even if my culture was somehow more Western European back then, I always had a connection to Africa. Through the family or food and eventually music. So that shaped me a little bit.
Then I wondered why I saw so few Africans in this scene – let’s say electronic, industrial, punk and so on. I wanted to understand why we were so few and why most other people of African descent I knew weren’t at all into this music. I guess all this shaped me somehow. I also travelled here and there for holidays when I was a kid and I always wanted to know more about different cultures, languages, music etc.
In the primary school I was the only non-white kid, back then it was still possible in Belgium. Some excluded me somehow and that shaped me as well, regarding the fact that I am a stubborn person – when I do something I want to finish it, I want to look like I want to and nobody will never forbid me to dress like I want, to have the hairdo or piercings I want and so on. But I’ve been in conflict many times with everything: family, teachers… I fought for it and I won anyway.
So you are a discoverer since you are a kid. Because that’s what you still are now, you discover new musicians for many years.
Somehow yes, but when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer. In fact I got a lot of books about astronomy and astrophysics as well as scientific books for kids and teenagers. I was totally into it and with the time I’m still into astronomy. I do read a lot, but I don’t study it, cos I have no time for that.
When I was a teenager I started to listen to alternative electronic music like EBM or industrial music, I wanted to discover more and more, all the time. I discovered Front 242 first, then I discovered other bands like Skinny Puppy and Esplendor Geométrico, Laibach, Borghesia. And I thought OK, if I can find a band in Yugoslavia or in the USSR, maybe I can find something in Japan or in Brazil. So I wanted to go further and further and I started to dig. It became an obsession and so it still is now. I was thirsty all the time, it was never enough for me. I wanted to discover more and more and more music.
So let’s talk about Syrphe for a while, cos that’s were this passion leads to. You started it in early 90s and we think it was the first label that was focusing on this kind of music those times?
I started the label in 2002, but I run a tape label between 1991 and 1996, indeed. It was not called Syrphe, but it’s connected anyway. I published there my music and some artists from a bit everywhere, like De Fabriek from the Netherlands. But I also published some compilations including bands from South Africa, Chile or Japan and back then it was not always common, except for Japan. So I was one of the few ones and then with Syrphe I’ve been probably one of the first person to focus on alternative electronic music artists from Africa and Asia. There were few things before, but not so many. I think of Sonic Arts Network which published a very interesting compilation in 2007 with musicians from Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Angola… Or Somnus which published a Japanese, Taiwanese, Hongkongese compilation in 1994 or Etat Lab ten years later that was also focused onto Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and of course the South African tape label Network 77 that started to publish music in 1984 already.
For me it was important to be focused on it because this non-Western music is somehow oculted. It’s going better, mostly for the Middle-Eastern music or Arab experimental and electronic music, as well as the Chinese scene.
So how has this musical scene evolved during the years you have been focusing on it and running the label?
Wow, it exploded! Definitely. I remember, when I founded my tape label Sépulkrales Katakombes, it was so difficult to find anything from Africa. I just found Jay Scott in Cape Town producing tapes with international bands, but also bands from South Africa like his own project, Sphinx, and others like Willow and Carnage Visors as well… But this was my only contact there. I was trying hard. I wrote to some punks from the Philipines or Panama – and it was without internet back then. It was difficult. There were certainly little things going on here and there, but it was difficult to reach those artists. Now with the internet it’s so easy to communicate, and also a lot of people travel easily. Some of the musicians have members of their family living in Europe for example, so they come to visit them now and then. They bring back music eventually…
I’d say that during the past 10 years it literally exploded in many countries: China, Lebanon, Egypt, Indonesia… It’s pretty impressive. There are lots of young people just going deeper and deeper and now in some of those countries you can find something like an identity. In the past it was often a copy of what you can find in Europe, US, Australia, Japan. Now its changing. Quite fast.
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