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Interview with Darrin Verhagen of Shinjuku Thief - conducted by e-mail - 1/98

Jester: After years of working on collaboration projects such as Shinjuku Thief, why did you recently choose to release an album under your own name?

Darrin: Generally, I use names ("Thief", "Filth", "Richmann", "Verhagen") as a means of giving the audience a reasonable indication of the style of a given album. Despite the genre shifts throughout the Shinjuku Thief back catalog, from psycho-tribal ambience, through minimalism and Gothic dark orchestral, all the CD's are united by a very cinematic approach to composition - the use of soundscape settings, spot effects, soundbites, theatrical music references, etc.

"Soft Ash" was the start of a shift away from that style of writing into a more subtle realm which references many of the more detached approaches of minimal Electro-Acoustic composition, rather than film. The concept behind the work is still pretty narrative in its approach, but essentially, it, as well as some of the more 'user friendly' musical techniques employed are there as an entry point into some of the pieces which could be classified as more Experimental than your average Shinjuku track.

The next Darrin Verhagen solo CD will probably be further along the path of subdued Electronica, and will shed even more of the 'romantic' aspects of "Soft Ash". Essentially, I guess, the albums released under my own name would be works I'd classify as 'more personal'.

Jester: Is the Professor Richmann project also a solo effort by you? Why did you choose the name Richmann?

Darrin: Yes - Professor Richmann is a 'solo' project as well, but owing a fair amount to trends in Industrial dance and Experimental Techno. The "Succulent Blue Sway" CD still has aspects of the cinematic Shinjuku feel, but much of this was dispensed with on the Black Lung remixes I did for David Thrussel, on "The More Confusion the More Profit". The name refers to a Swedish physicist from the 18th century who was killed while attempting to duplicate Franklin's experiments with lightening who lacked the necessary grounding precautions. 'Arc' from "Succulent Blue Sway" was written to accompany an illustrative woodcut constructed at the time

Jester: Where did the 'toxic air' concept behind "Soft Ash" originate?

Darrin: I remember reading about atmospheric inversions a couple of years back and was fascinated by the notion. On further research, particularly after reading about the Belgian and London 'killer fogs', the dramatic potential for a musical treatment seemed quite strong. Once hooking up with Dr. Kurt Patterson's lectures on the subject, highlighting the part atmospheric inversions played in other major environmental disasters such as Union Carbide, Chernobyl and the like, I was sold on the project of using these ideas as a starting point.

Jester: I hear a lot of Ryoji Ikeda style sounds on "Soft Ash". Would you consider Ryoji Ikeda to be a strong musical influence on you?

Darrin: While it's not necessarily a conscious thing at the compositional stage, I think the potential for creating awareness out of subtle shifts in perception, as offered by artists such as Ryoji, Bernhard Gunter, Thomas Koner and the like, is one which had a definite effect on my own approaches. A love of the minimal end of dark ambience, the Experimental end of Techno, together with a further exploration of Electro-Acoustic composers, certainly fired me up when writing "Soft Ash".

Jester: How did you first get involved with composing and performing music?

Darrin: Originally, my musical upbringing was pretty conservative and mainstream. It was only into high school that I discovered the German electronic movement, and branched out from there. At school I started writing works for piano, most of which were like some mutant, not to mention extremely worrying, cross between George Winston and Kitaro, moved into electronic music with my first synth, a Korg Monopoly, following the Jarre, Tangerine Dream path, and thereafter pursuing my fledgling interests in world music, Industrial, Musique Concrete, Techno and Post-Classical styles.

Jester: What were the events that lead to the creation of Dorobo Records as a vehicle to release your own music?

Darrin: Basically it was the lack of label interest in "The Scribbler". The Industrial labels we presented it to found it "too classical", while the more "New Music" labels found it "too Industrial". Initiall, I pressed 500 with the idea of it being a limited edition run, but was surprised at the response, and the label, somewhat foolishly, grew from there.

Jester: What is it like running both a record label as a business and trying to to release and promote your music as an artist?

Darrin: Awful. Absolutely hideous. Very quickly, the label side of things, such as screaming at overseas distributors for money, overtakes all the time as well as part of the joy associated with writing music. More recently, as I've started getting work in Australia as a paid composer, I've followed the possibilities offered by licensing Dorobo discs elsewhere, thereby handballing most of the headaches associated with manufacture and distribution. I think this is the only way of successfully running both in parallel.

Jester: What motivated the decision to create a sub-label called Iridium Records?

Darrin: When David Thrussel offered me Black Lung's "Depopulation Bomb", I was hesitant about releasing it on Dorobo. I felt the nasty Techno edge was a far way removed stylistically from the rest of the label, and realistically, in a different world altogether when it came to marketing and distribution. Iridium therefore was a way out, maintaining a degree of consistency with the Dorobo aesthetic, while still releasing dance material I enjoyed. Anything which is more firmly grounded in either Techno or Industrial usually gets passed on to the Iridium imprint.

Jester: Will all future Dorobo Records releases be distributed by Darkwave (Projekt Records) in the US?

Darrin: Darkwave will carry all our CD's as part of their mail order service. The rest of our distribution is being carried out by Dutch East India.

Jester: You mentioned to me once before about completing the Shinjuku Thief 'Witch' trilogy. When can we expect the final release?

Darrin: It has actually been 2/3rds finished for some time now, but I had to shelve its completion while working on the "Raised by Wolves" production last year, and an Electro-Acoustic composition for ABC National Radio this year. I hope to have it completed around April/May. Thus far I am really happy with the direction it has taken, more accomplished musically than its predecessors, but set into a much more disturbing soundscape

Jester: What about follow up albums to "The Scribbler" and "Bloody Tourist"?

Darrin: There were plans for a "Scribbler" follow up, using Kafka's "The Penal Colony" as a starting point. Realistically, I can't see finding the time to do any work on that in the foreseeable future, even though a temporary return to minimalism holds considerable appeal. That said, one of the tracks which was started, ended up getting overhauled and used as 'The Art' in "Raised by Wolves". "Another Bloody Tourist" was also started, a ten minute track "Simbi" completed and used in an Australian dance production a couple of years back, but once again I ran into time constraints. Generally speaking, while the initial structure of a piece can take form very quickly for me, the detailing usually takes five times longer. As a result, a Leeb/Fulber release rate is nigh well impossible.

Jester: Where did all the out-takes that eventually became the Shinjuku Filth "Junk" album come from?

Darrin: Many of those tracks were actually written during and after the original "Bloody Tourist" sessions - eventually released after pressure from a number of local radio DJ's.

Jester: Will there be anymore Shinjuku Filth releases?

Darrin: The most recent remix I did for the Snog single, 'Hooray', was a Shinjuku Filth work. The limited edition Industrial dance score "Raised by Wolves" was issued as a "Shinjuku Filth" release. 400 copies have been allocated for the States and should be available from DEI and Projekt while stocks last. It's about as far removed from the subtlety of "Soft Ash" as you could possibly imagine, but has outstripped the "Darrin Verhagen" sales in Australia by about 4:1. It's actually a CD of which I never tire of listening.

Jester: Who/what is the visual design firm I+T=R that develops all of your album covers as well as the Dorobo video compilation?

Darrin: That credit goes to Richard Grant, a local design wizard. He's single-handedly responsible for the entire aesthetic of the label. Rik's actually employed, full-time, doing corporate design work, but spends the rest of his life experimenting for underground Experimental, Techno, and Industrial artists.

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