Dimitri: “I want to make music that takes you elsewhere.”

Ahead of the release of his new album entitled Adverts, Love Songs and Official Soundtracks, DIMITRI joins us to have a chat before his live In Session performance. The meeting was fixed for a top-secret location deep in the bowels of Castlegate, and with some slight apprehension, Exposed sat down to face up to the penetrating gaze coming from behind a pair of ginormous retro shades donned by this shadowy character.

How would you describe yourself for those who don’t know you?
Have you ever been on holiday? And heard great music on holiday? That’s DIMITRI and probably was DIMITRI. The sounds used and the content of the lyrics make you feel like you’re on holiday – it’s a euphoric feeling. I want to make music that takes you elsewhere.

Is ‘science music’ a fitting way to describe your sound?
Definitely, I have a background in science. I studied science and I like to apply scientific research to most of my material. Whether that is a certain tempo that may raise the pulse, or a certain sound or note that will create a different effect for the listener. I also like to think about the space between notes or the infinite space between notes, if we want to get really scientific.

Where else do you pull inspiration from?
I went to a great poetry evening last week, which left me very inspired and led me to write two new numbers. But the main inspiration behind my work is the subject matter. In August I have a collection of songs coming out called Adverts, Love Songs and Official Soundtracks and each of those is either an advert, a love song or an official soundtrack. What I like to do is ask the audience “What do you think this song is?” The inspiration behind each song, then, depends on whether I’m creating an advert, a love song or an official soundtrack. I’ll show you – this is a bottle for Dimilkrem, an alcoholic milk-based drink with holistic healing properties, so I’m told. The idea behind one of the songs is to promote this drink. Therefore it’s an advert.

Where do these products come from?
These are all created by me – I sell them at shows and online. I also have with me a sample for a lifetime fragrance, DIMA.
This album will contain no songs that are directly about cars. Why the change in subject matter?
I’d say that a large proportion of my previous material and what people may know me for is music about cars. One of my big songs from last year was ‘Night-Time Driving Music’, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Its sound is designed for driving at night-time, I’m sure you can imagine how it sounds. That was part of a trilogy, which was accompanied by ‘All-Time Driving Music’ and ‘Life-Time Driving Music’. So people may know me for creating songs about automobiles. This is maybe something that I’ll come back to, but for now there are just small references.

So now we know about your advertisements, fill us in on the love songs and official soundtracks on the album.
Love songs can be about anything really. I blurred the lines between each of the three different things. For example, the song about, say, Dimilkrem, could be an advert for the product but also be a love song about it and the official soundtrack for it.
When I perform, I like to ask the crowd what they think it is. I always learn something new from the audience about the product. They may think it’s a love song about it, or an advert or official soundtrack. It makes me question what it is. I’m learning from the audience constantly. Originally it was more clear-cut than this, but as I have been performing these songs around Europe, the possibilities of the songs have opened up. People are always giving me different answers and it became apparent that it isn’t binary.

How important is it to have this interaction with your audience?
People are very important to me, I love people. Without them I wouldn’t get as much joy from creating and performing music. It’s good to speak to the people about what you’re performing, and you get a reaction on the spot. It may also influence what song you play next. If it’s feeling particularly melancholic, this may be a point when I check in with the audience. I ask them if they want another melancholic one, or is it too emotional and I should play something more upbeat. I like to talk to the audience.

This must give a welcome variation to your shows.
Music for me is a conversation, and you wouldn’t plan a conversation. It’s an interaction. For example, if you’re playing bass guitar with a band you’re going to be following what the synth is playing or what the singer is doing. If you’re not, then you obviously aren’t listening. If I’m performing on stage and not listening to the audience, then what am I doing?

Why did you decide to release the album on cassette as well as online?
The cassette gives me flexibility. I am writing a personalised message for each order, and I thought that doing this with the cassette is the best way to do it. Each message is personalised per order, which I’m sure will take a long time because at the moment it is nearly sold out. Also, cassette is an underrated format. I really don’t like the sound quality of CDs and I dislike MP3 immensely. Records, however, I am saving for another day.

You have described your recent live show at Delicious Clam as an immersive DIMITRI experience IRL. What does this experience entail?
You’re getting the full DIMITRI package. From performing around Europe over the past few months DIMITRI has been performing at all types of venues – from a burlesque club in Paris to more standard venues. For this one, it’s just the full on DIMITRI experience. We’re also offering executive packages for people who want to come and spend an hour or so with Dimitri beforehand. That will be a great experience: letting the fans cross through the barrier and come backstage for a chat and maybe some Dimfandel (DIMITRI’s very own Zinfandel product).

In Sheffield at the moment there seems to be a thriving scene of independent, co-operatively run labels and recording studios – Delicious Clam is a part of this and is home to many well-loved bands and creatives.
Yes, I think Sheffield has always been a very independent city, especially with creating music. It’s a forward thinking place. You don’t have to look far back to see artists that were pioneering in Sheffield. I think what’s happening now is that musicians and creatives have taken matters into their own hands, they are no longer relying on corporations or record labels for money anymore. They’re just going ahead and doing it. Definitely with the Delicious Clam guys, they have built that place up from nothing and it’s great. They’re always hosting super-hot bands, and they have a great smoke machine which is the main reason why I’m using the space. As for the Blancmange group, they’re consistently putting out great music and I can’t thank them enough for creating my record.

Blancmange Lounge are another small but prolific collective. What can you tell us about this working relationship?
In the instance of my new album, Jackie Moonbather, who is one of the pre-eminent members of the Blancmange Lounge crew produced a few numbers on that. They’re also releasing my record through their channels, so they’re helping me out a lot. These independent labels are such a good thing, because you’re getting music straight from the artist. Musicians are taking business into their own hands, there’s no middle-man or promoter chasing sales and numbers. The big businesses very much stifle creative minds.

You’re about halfway through your summer tour. How is it going?
It’s been amazing so far. Some of the best experiences of my life, really. I kicked off the tour in London and then performed three times in Paris over two days. This was quite exhausting but the venues and people were amazing. I even performed some of the DIMITRI material in French at these shows. I mean my French isn’t the best, but it really enamoured me with the audiences. It was a great experience.
There was also a fan that had travelled to Paris from Strasbourg. It was a delight to get her on stage and serenade her. It was a beautiful moment. I also did a double encore at this show. I’m really not a fan of encores but the fans wanted it. To my amazement the fans were singing along to my songs, even my unreleased material. Most of the material from the forthcoming album is unreleased, so only a select few have heard it. But there were people singing along, which really shocked me.

How is the rest of 2019 shaping up for DIMITRI?
I have a date in Newcastle in September and after that I will focus on some business ventures and work on new material. I have some things in the works already, but these might not be ready until 2020.

You’ve said that DIMITRI may never return to Sheffield. Say it ain’t so?
Yeah, I may never. You don’t know how these things are going to work out really. At the moment I am kind of tied to Sheffield because I’m trying to sell a nightclub – there is a song about this on the forthcoming release fittingly called ‘Nightclub for Sale’. This is tying me to the city for the time being, but who knows what will happen in the future!

Adverts, Love Songs and Official Soundtracks is out now and available at blancmangelounge.bandcamp.com

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