Strom/morts ist ein experimentelles Drone-Projekt aus der Schweiz, das 2018 von ehemaligen Mitgliedern der Schweizer Post-Metal-Bands Abraham und Knut gegründet wurde. 2019 haben Olivier Hähnel, Mathieu Jallut und Didier Severin ihre ersten Tracks veröffentlicht. Vor einem Jahr starteten die Soundtüftler ihr spannendes Projekt „Colab-20/21“ und seitdem 12 Collaboration-Tracks mit Musiker*innen unterschiedlicher Genres veröffentlicht. Das Projekt hat uns neugierig gemacht! In unserem Interview sprechen die Künstler über den Klang ihrer Musik, die ersten musikalischen Erinnerungen und über die Herangehensweise und Hintergründe ihres musikalischen Schaffens.

Who is behind strom|morts?
Olivier: Olivier Hähnel (analog/modular synthesizer), Mathieu Jallut (guitar/lapsteel), Didier Séverin (digital/modular synthesizer). We also use a shruti box, harmonium, tibetan bowls, azzax, gong, woodblock and sometimes do vocals.
Didier: Olivier and Mathieu were members of the metal band Abraham based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and I was the singer of the metal/hardcore band Knut from Genf, which started way before a bear with same name, 1994-2012.

How did the project come into being? What made you decide to start strom|morts?
Didier: Well, we all moved to the same town in Wallis that is surrounded by mountains and we met by chance while taking our kids to school. I never thought I would meet people into synthesizers & drone music there. I think it’s a cosmic joke that got us together. We even used to live on the same street with Olivier.

Can you tell us few things about the connection between you three and your journey into the music?
Mathieu: The first thing I would say about our connection is that there is something special, musically and also on the human side. I’ve known Olivier for more than 20 years and we played in Abraham for 10 years together. We met Didier in our current town Conthey and began playing together something like 2 years ago, and it immediately clicked, musically and on the human side. We are more than bandmates now, we are friends. Musically, we were pretty amazed by the results we had in our first drones mixing modular, moog and black metal-ish guitars. The more awesome thing is that the magic kept on happening every time we created or performed together, and is still happening today. So, to sum it up, I would say we all have a clear view of what we want artistically, a strong experience of playing in bands and an awesome human connection, which pretty much does the trick!

How did your band name come about, and what does it mean to you?
Olivier: Strom is a German word meaning current, electric power, torrent. Morts is a French word meaning the dead. We think that the strommorts palindrome is like a sinister ying yang which fits perfectly to our vision of the actual world and the sound of our drones.

If you had to describe your music in terms of not music…what would you say?
Olivier: Sometimes it’s bright, sometimes it’s dark, like a nice dream or one of your worst nightmares.

What is sound to you?
Mathieu: This one is pretty tough … But I would say my personal way of perceiving sound is pretty linked to music. I often hear sounds around me that remind me of rhythms or melodies or even drones. Like right now, for example: I am in my kitchen and I hear a clock ticking, which is playing a classic 4/4 beat. Then I got my fridge discretely droning and a couple of noises outside giving more deepness to the „song“ (steps, forks of people eating, steps and various noises). Sometimes it seems to me all noises create a permanent song somehow. And what fascinates me the most is that the universe itself seems to be vibration. If we look at string theory for example, we can see that matter itself vibrates deep inside with tiny strings (smaller than neutrinos) which create harmony between themselves, thus creating all the matter we know, all the atoms we are made of, and so on. I think this is really awesome.

What are your first musical memories?
Mathieu: When my father played blues solos in the living room, probably when I was 2-3 years old already, and also when we were listening to Dire Straits in the car on our way to the summer holidays.

Which person, artist or incident inspired you when you first started making music?
Didier: When I started making music, I was into a lot of different stuff: The Young Gods, Punk stuff, alternative/indie bands, techno industrial stuff like Skinny Puppy and also more industrial stuff like Einstürzende Neubauten. So I was into experimentation with a punk attitude and knew it was ok to be Swiss because of The Young Gods.

What is the most surprising record on your CD /Vinyl-shelf?
Mathieu: I guess I will go for Stuck Mojo “Pigwalk”. Never really liked this record though but it was a kind of running joke between me and Olivier and it makes me laugh that I still have it.

How does the birth of a new composition or a new project happen for you?
Olivier: It’s always synthesizers first. Didier and I do the basis. Then we add guitar or other instruments if needed. We do live improvisations or strictly studio songs. I am in charge of the arrangements and the mix/mastering process. There are two kinds of project: concept album, where we try to make the sounds fit to the concept as much as possible, and experimental/ambient album, where we let the instruments speak and just follow the vibe.

Where does your inspiration for music come from? Which sort of mood produces the best song?
Olivier: Inspiration comes a lot from our direct environment (huge mountains). That’s why we called our genre massive alpine drone. The best mood is to feel free to do whatever you want.

Almost a year ago you started your year-long collaborative project Colab-20/21. How was the idea for this project born?
Didier: When the Covid crisis started we had a tour and a residency cancelled so we had to rethink all our activities. We came up quite fast with this idea of remote collaboration. So we set up this Colab-20/21 project with the idea to release 12 collaborations, 1 per month for one year with 6 Swiss musicians and 6 foreign musicians. We first got help from Pro Helvetia to do this and then some more help from other funding institutions. You can hear the results on our bandcamp page (Link). It is all the titles starting with the letter R and numbered from R0 to R11. You can also find interviews, trailers and videos to Colab-20/21 on our Youtube channel (Link) and our Colab-20/21 playlist (Link).

What are your plans for the near future?
Didier: We have worked for 8 months on an audio dome project which is a 3.50 m diameter and 3 m high geodesic dome that hosts 16 loudspeakers. It’s a small multichannel diffusion system with which we hope to experiment some more. We also have an album in the works that will be produced by Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Boris, Black Mountain). We also do an exhibition named “Eternal music” that is displayed in the public libraries of State of Wallis. This exhibition is about the place and importance of the drone in music history. We have quite a lot of stuff going on. Stay tuned!

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