Well, Soft Verdict
is not a real group,it doesn't work like a traditional rock band formed by
people collaborating in order to create their own music. In fact I never worked
in that way because I'm very bad in collaborative work in term of composition.
So my compositional work since May 1981 was alwaysdone alone. Normally I write down a lot of
music and afterwards I look for the musicians who will perform it. It's only six months now that I
formed this duo with Dirk Descheemaecker and we play this kind of derivate
school music or in french "musique derivée". The pieces are still the
same but they are arranged for a duo.
Dirk Descheemaecker & W.M.
So , may
we affirm that in reality Soft Verdict is Wim Mertens ?
Yes, in some ways.
It's one of the projects I'm developing.I already edited three different works
under this name. A cassette which is something......
completely, I mean in terms of sound yes, but not in terms of what I think
about music. In reality it's a mixed media project including video and flippers
( manipulated using fingers). We removed the upper part of the flippers and obtained
sounds simply touching (playing) the devices of the game field.We recorded
these sounds using a 16 tracks recorder (I always use 16 tracks recorders). The
other project featured was conceived at the end of 81 as I came back from NY.
1979 I first visited the "New American Festival" and I was impressed
by the quantity of composers who were working on this kind of expression.
Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Peter Gordon, Glenn Branca , Harold Budd.........
At the moment I'm
also working on a project called "Four Cantos" coming from a series
of poems written by Ezra Pound the American Poet. I'm using Latin texts
(as I also did during the concert). I took these
poems, which are composed by 104 cantos, and I separated Latin text from the
rest.At present I'm developing with other musicians a new way of singing, based
on Latin texts. I really enjoy performing music using my voice. I think this
project will be completed very soon.
Did you have any
Well, I studied
musicology and followed lessons at the conservatory. Anyhow I'm not a virtuoso
as you should have realized tonight. In fact I'm a classical guitarist. I
studied classical guitar for some years when I was younger and I started
playing piano rather late.
I'm really not a
good player, that's why I'm always using this Crumar Piano, which is an Italian
Piano. The model I use is the smallest of the Crumar series. I'm using it
because my music is based on " tschh-tschh-tschh" and this model
permits you to easily change the speed. But the sound doesn't come entirely
from the piano, in fact I'm also using a base amplifier for electric bass that
gives me an extremely wide range of sounds.So I can use very
low sounds but also very high ones depending from this system.
Which are your
roots and influences?
I'm influenced by
classical music but also by Philip Glass (I like his music very much), Michael
Nyman and lesser by Steve Reich. I also listen to a lot of popular music.
So I'm somewhere between classical and popular music, I think. But where
exactly this is, I don't know.So the only way to find out is to continue to produce
the music I like.
do you have with Les Disques Du Crepuscule?
Oh Crepuscule was
quite important to me. I was with them at the beginnning.But not as a
performer.I'm a music producer for Belgian radio, it's my job. So I had
connections with people like Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman in England and
also with some American musicians.That brought me to be a kind of adviser for
Crepuscule. I also made some productions like the Gavin Bryars album and a few
I collaborated on
the cassette "From Brussels with Love" and I contacted some of
the artists participating to it like Brian Eno.
also gave me the opportunity to start writing my music. The very first piece I
ever wrote was "Circular breathing" and the second "Multiple
12" and they are both featured on the "Vergessen" album.
What will be the
title of your next album ?
"Struggle for pleasure"
How do you chose
the musicians you are collaborating with?
It's doesn't depend
on friendship, not so personal. I'm more thinking about the capacity of
musicians. In most part of the music we do now as a duo, it's really a matter of
survival for the clarinet and saxophone player.It's really a hard job! This was
only the fourth concert for our duo and Dirk is a very good player.
My desire of a
music physically so strongly performed by the soloists doesn’t give me
possibility to have a large choice of musicians.The music, in reality, doesn't sound so
"difficult", and that's probably because I'm working on the global sound.
But the musicians I worked with all said "it's very difficult!". For
example the reed player has to use the technique of circular breathing because
he can't normally breath while playing.This means that he is not opening his
mouth,but he is pushing the air from the mouth into the instrument while
breathing through the nose and so it goes on.This technique comes from the
States and a lot of musicians of Philip Glass are using it, even singers.This
depends on the fact that there are a lot of long pieces where the climax
has always to be maintained at the
same high level. So no moments of relaxation! It's going on with energy and sustained
climax is always there!
But recently I
also started to write very slow pieces. Surely I started to work less
conceptually than before: I think. I am getting freer writing music
without any reference to a specific compositional system.
What about the
musicians who participated to "Vergessen"?
There are some
jazz musicians , like John Ruocco who is a great saxophone player.He went back
to USA after one year in Belgium. He is
a classical trained clarinettist normally playing jazz.Marilyn Maingart from Miami playing
Piccolo on the album is a full-time classical pieces performer. And the
Vereertbrugghen brothers playing bass and percussion are pop musicians. Recently
I've started working wit electronic bass lines synchronized with a Roland
rhythm-box. So the way my music sounds is a little bit amusing and that's why
it's not appreciated by classical musicians. So it stays in an in-between
Do you think as
Dominique Lawalree could be placed in this mid position?
I know him ,he
just had a whole new set of organ pieces, may be he is less influenced by pop
music than me.
What do you think
about Julverne and Univers Zero?
Dirk is coming
from both of this bands , but I don't like them very much.I mean what they do
is too sophisticated ,in the classical sense of the word. I find the philosophy
of Univers Zero too negative.I don't feel related to these bands. I think the
position of Soft Verdict is quite unique in Belgium. The only references I see
is with some American music. As I already said my preferred composers are Glass