Name: Deri Dako
Recent Release: Deri Dako's Low Motor is out via his own bandcamp store. It "explores sonic imperfections as inspired by a strange and unidentified virus he contracted while living in Malaysia in 2013."
If you enjoyed this interview with Deri Dako, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
The point of departure for your new album was a period in your life when you were affected by a mysterious virus. Can you tell me just a little bit more about what this time was like?
At that time in I was living in Malaysia - enjoying the warmest Winters you can ask for. And one early morning I woke up, from a lot of belly pain and couldn't move. During the day the pain was not so heavy, so I could walk a little, but at night it was hell - I saw strange visions, it seemed that I could talk mandarin, which I never learned - it was weird. This went on for more than 2 weeks.
During that time I couldn't eat or think properly, my body was overtaken and doctors couldn't tell what it was. Finally, after spending some time in hospital I got better and the virus went away. But a similar scenario happened a few months later when I was back in Europe. I did all the possible tests - doctors didn't find what it was specifically, but they concluded that it was an exotic unidentified virus which struck hard and tested me in stages.
This was one of the most intense experiences I had.
These things probably weren't top priorities back then, but: Did the virus change your music listening habits? Were you already making music during your phase of illness in 2013 – and, if so, what was it like?
I would quote Mad Max here - that in these type of situations a man is reduced to a single instinct: survival. During that time the only thing you want is silence.
I wasn’t producing music back in 2013, but was an active listener. And there definitely was a switch towards more melancholic, slow paced music after that experience.
No cure was found for the virus, but as I understand it, you were at some point considered “healed”. Looking back, what do terms like illness and health mean in your opinion? They seem to be more fluid than many assume …
Yes, they couldn’t identify what it was exactly, but after it went away I just felt better - and I guess that’s when you know that you are ok.
These type of things adjusts your perception - it brings you outside the comfort zone - and gives another angle to consider. It’s especially clear the first days after the illness goes away.
Already your previous album Plantago Major explored the border between science/medicine and music. How do you see the relationship between the two?
It’s no secret that music can serve as the most effective medicine. I find a quite clear parallel between the two. We listen to music when we’re happy, when we’re sad - in all those cases it affects our brain and body, just as medicine would do.
Ayahuasca ceremonies, for example - most of the time has music as part of it. Many people who have taken Ayahuasca claim that the experience led to positive, long-term, life-altering changes. Recent research has shown that Ayahuasca may benefit health — particularly brain health — in a number of ways. So I think medicine and music can work together nicely, to help us live betters lives.
Science is one way of dealing with illness and physical crisis, art is another. What are the differences do you feel in terms of what they can uncover and tell us?
I see science as more functional/rational solution, while art being more expressive/emotion based.
Science continually seeks to adjust its theories to more accurately predict actual results. It always trying to find the perfect answer based on the data available at the time. Science is only science if it’s justified otherwise it’s simply a claim.
Art, on the other hand - by definition is very subjective and it can exclude the laws of the real world completely. There’s more freedom in it, usually art provides more than one specific answer. The same piece can evoke different emotions and provide a different meaning to different people.
We are still in the process of learning how music influences our body and mind. What are some of the most important findings in this area from your point of view?
Our brain is a plastic organ which constantly adapts to the environment and to the activity it performs. Developing expertise in, for example, playing a musical instrument changes brain structures and functionalities in the specific brain areas that are used in these tasks. Active listening to music is no exception.
For a while, researchers believed that classical music increased brain activity and made its listeners smarter, a phenomenon called the Mozart effect. In recent studies, neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugaya and world-renowned violinist Ayako Yonetani found that people with dementia respond better to the music they grew up listening to. If you play someone’s favorite music, different parts of the brain light up. That means memories associated with music are emotional memories, which never fade out — even in Alzheimer’s patients.
When it comes to the healing properties of music, in which way (if any) do you actively try to incorporate them into your music?
I don’t have a specific goal that my music should heal. But I hope that it will resonate on an emotional level.
I enjoy producing music in my studio - I would say time there is like a therapy to me. I love the idea of active meditation, but for me it’s too hard to keep focus, so I would say my meditation is the time spent in the studio producing new sounds.
What was the concrete stimulus for Low Motor after so many years?
Curiosity. To see what beautiful I can create by exploring those dark moments.
The way the press release is written would suggest you conducted some research on the history of artists working with brain injuries. If so, tell me about some of the most interesting cases, please.
For centuries visual artists have been preoccupied with rendering objects and their surroundings accurately. Underlying the problem of descriptive accuracy in drawing and painting is the role of knowledge.
Oxford publication ‘The Neuropsychology of Visual Art’ investigated a story which described an artist with an acquired achromatopsia following a traumatic brain injury. His earlier paintings were colorful and abstract. After the accident everything appeared "dirt gray" to him. His initial attempts to use color did not work and he resigned himself to painting in black and white. Eventually he incorporated a limited set of colors in his paintings. After an initial sense of helplessness, he considered his new way of seeing as a strange gift. He thought he saw the world as pure form, uncluttered by color, and endowed with a new range of expressions.
Other being the experience of the artist Loring Hughes, who after a right hemisphere stroke had difficulty coordinating the spatial relationship between lines. This forced her to abandon her premorbid style of accuracy in realistic depiction. Instead she turned to her own imagination and emotions. Initially, she was too ashamed to display her paintings, but she began to show publicly once she became comfortable with her new style. The artistic community responded well to these distorted images. The critic Eileen Watkins described her work as now delivering "an emotional wallop" that was not present previously.
Could you describe the process of recording Low Motor? How did you concretely realise music that is “more abstract, symbolic and vibrant while growing ever less rooted in the real world”?
It was a process of experimentation. I had a solid foundation of context I was working with - so that served as a good framework. But musically with each track I didn’t followed any prescribed roadmap. That resulted in variety of arrangements, more key shifts and deviations.
I was also sampling quite a bit of material related to the clinical tests, brain scan sounds, patient voices etc. It was heavily processed till those specific sounds became almost unrecognisable and was incorporated in some of the tracks.
When listening to the finished album today, what's your emotional response to it? Do you feel as though it's really taking you back to that time? Are the results satisfying – or rather unpleasant?
Even though it was inspired by illness - today this music sounds different and there are many good takeaways from it. So unless I think specifically about the painful side of that story, it’s mostly positive feelings. What does not kill you makes you stronger.
Each of your albums so far has been based around a specific concept. With this one, however, you also introduced a different way of working with your materials. Is the approach of Low Motor finished – or do you see it becoming part of future albums as well?
As for the Low Motor - I would say this chapter is done. But the approach of experimentation is definitely here to stay. I have few raw ideas which are completely different from what I have made so far, so I would like to explore those new paths in the near future.