Currently residing in Shanghai, Didjelirium is an MC who describes himself as a “bard, story-teller and prophet for the end of the world”. M3 caught up with him to discuss waning attention spans, the relevancy of copyright and how the fallout from the SOPA controversy was felt over in China…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Didjelirium – My name is Charlie, a.k.a. Didjelirium, I’m a dude from Tahiti living in Shanghai, China, and I make music with a russian brother I met through a German label. Yeah, I like it served international. :)
Also, I’m part of Uprooted Sunshine, Shanghai oldest reggae sound system, as well as Sub-Culture, a bass-driven crew inviting underground artists from all over the place. I was meant to be a philosophy teacher my whole life but I realized creation is what really helps me breathe. So I create. Worlds and universes and living things and deluded hopes the stars will sing.
What inspired you to start making music? What is your own musical background?
Where I come from, everybody plays music. Sitting on the beach around the fire with guitars and djembes and anything that can create a vibration. Mainly reggae music but not exclusively. So I didn’t really ‘start’ making music, music was always there. It was just a matter of being introduced to it. My favorite instrument is didgeridoo – which explains my artist name, Didjelirium, a mix between didgeridoo and delirium – and I can follow a rhythm on percussions. But I’m a writer. I used to lose myself in poetry for years then kind of naturally shifted to writing lyrics, once I could play a few chords on the guitar. I then produced music with computer later on, but I realized I’m better with words than with sound engineer matters, so ‘who the cap fit, let dem wear it’… I’m lucky enough to meet incredibly creative producers, and I simply collaborate as a storyteller. Really, I’m just a bard. I couldn’t care less about ‘genres’ and ‘styles’ – this is only the human need for classification, its attempt to simplify the world through artificial divisions. For me, music is music, vibration is vibration and I simply tell stories.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I used to listen mainly to CDs. I never owned a proper turntable so I never get to dive into vinyl collection/addiction myself, though I respect those who keep spinning the wax in the digital 2012. Lately, most of the music I listen to is on Soundcloud. I met quite a few people I now collaborate with ; there are myriads of unknown gems available online which labels will never hear about because they are not supported by officials sponsors nor do they appeal to commercially oriented people. But this is good music, and that’s what it’s all about. I don’t care if this is THE shit to listen to or not. If I feel the music, it’s all good to me, even when only 5 people played the track. I kinda suck at knowing labels and trendy artists and the whole who’s who of the music industry. I don’t deal with industry, I’m more attracted to handcrafting. I like home-made, with its mistake and this inimitable taste it leaves on the mind. And of course, I like live music. Seeing people interpreting their music will always be a deeper experience than playing a CD or finding the track online.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I’m a conceptual dude. I hate concision, I hate the 140 characters limit on those social network tools, I hate rushing because ‘there’s just no time!’ In my opinion, this is not about the digital age. It’s about the modern humans and their society. We’re in a world of ‘right here, right now’. Nobody wants to wait for anything, everybody wants immediateness, at the restaurant, in bed and in every life activity. So for them, listening to a whole album is too big a commitment. One track is good enough, because they can easily think they know it all. Once again, it’s all about the classification. ‘I heard that track from that artist so I know he’s doing this and that and that’s it. Next!’ It’s easy, the good people are dressed in white, the bad people are wearing black and the world is a magnificent dichotomic establishment. But I’m a fool. I’m a dreamer. If someone gives me 15 tracks to listen to, unified under a concept, showing some sort of evolution, I will travel through them and appreciate the effort. I know my music will never be in the top 100 because I’m not trying to reach the rushing population of our world. Each track is not the same than the previous one, I have a different voice for every person living in my head – and they are plentiful! I’m appealing to the other fools and the other dreamers who know it doesn’t have to be that way. Good things take time, and a good album takes time to be created, one with various secrets to unfold after many plays, keys and sounds to be heard only after one got really intimate with it. And this takes a certain amount of time people can’t afford to spend because there’s work and tv series and birthday parties and cat videos and celebrities interviews and football games and so on…
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I’m gonna go on a limb here and pretend I used to spend quite some time in record stores. I never did. Not that I didn’t want to but because there’s never been many where I was staying at. Yet I’ve been a few times, and I like the feeling. The human interaction mainly. I guess it’s easy to go on any of those websites to buy music and feel happy with it. But it’s oriented, one will buy what one came to buy – and if possible as fast as possible, cos there’s just no time! In a record store, the most important wasn’t necessarily the records but the person in charge of them, the one who knew all about them and could help you find something you would like though you never knew it did exist. One would slowly slide through shelves of records and feel the music, in its simplest physicality. I fear people will, once again, only go for the consumption and not the appreciation. Much like books. I read a lot of ebooks for sure, but I always feel happier with a real book in my hands. Yet, there’s less and less real bookstores. Only big shopping malls, HMV, Fnac, Virgin and what’s not. I guess the same apply to records. People will always go for the easy, the fast and the simple. Digital shopping brings that and only that. It’s sad. It’s the evolution of things, I agree, but I still find it sad. The fact humans forget what’s really important.
Do you think the digital age has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
Digital has made stealing easier, that’s for sure. Illusion of anonymity, less fear of being punished, which brings less respect for rules and regulations ; generally speaking, less respect for creation. So copyright laws weren’t made obsolete, on the contrary, we probably need them more than ever now that everything is so accessible. The main issue is the lack of education. Respect is something to be learnt. Those who spend time creating should be acknowledged as such. But nobody gives a damn about this because this is not the issue people are interested in. In fact, when we talk about copyright, really, we’re only talking about business and money and capitalism. People complain about their rights when in fact they’re simply mad that they’re not getting paid. It’s normal but I don’t think it’s good. For example, I’m always happy when I hear or see my music posted somewhere, with the proper mention of my name and the links toward my various pages. This is enough for me. Of course, I wouldn’t mind some money for my bills, true. But the respect of the author is, in my opinion, much more important, and the message or the vibes or whatever it is properly are sharing, and yet the real author is mentioned. I think copyright is important as a way to clearly link a creation to its creator. Yet, in our society and all the heated discussions about it, copyright is merely nothing else than getting more and more money for something you own. Thus the big majors going all inquisition-style on the netizens, the big investors paying presidents elections, the real rulers of this world shaking earth and skies to punish those who don’t respect copyrights laws while the independent artists simply struggle to get food on the table. It’s all about the money, roots of all evil. But then again, I live in China and, as you might know, copyright is a funny foreign word here. If something is good, let’s copy it and pretend it’s ours ! Yeaaah ! >_<
Similarly, do you think that copyright laws could be seen as a threat to the creativity of organically formed fan cultures (artists that make use of lots of samples, for instance)? Do you think actions with music, film, or any kind of copyrighted media for non-commercial purposes should be subject to legal sanctions?
Well, as I previously stated, copyright laws are a mechanical tool to teach people to respect ownership and creativity. But, practically, it is used as a weapon to protect only a few interests, mainly those with the most money and influences. Nobody’s gonna give a crap if you’re a simple producer from central Egypt and some big producer samples your track and make millions with it. In theory it should, but we don’t live in theory – though I’d really like to go there, seems like a really nice place where everything works perfectly. In reality, if the same humble Egyptian producer samples a famous name, then the copyright laws will apply immediately, but not the other way around. Once again, it should be an equal system, but it’s not. Because it takes a lot of resources, including time and money, to defend your rights, and those of us at the end of the music industry food chain don’t have that luxury. At the end of the day – like most of humans worries – it all comes down to this nonsense money issue. In our previous example, as long as the Egyptian producer isn’t famous or doesn’t get any attention, nobody cares if he used that copyrighted sample, even if he plays his track at his nephew’s wedding. But if he starts getting money and being acknowledged, then the holy money shadows will find him for sure, because they will claim their part of that money, and that’s all there is to it. Money. Especially more money. As I see it, if I were to produce a track with some famous samples and, one day, I hear suits knocking on my door, I would be happy, because it would mean I enjoy a bit of exposure, my music is reaching a few distant shores. What if there wouldn’t be any money involved ? If I weren’t making any cash out of it but simply wanted to praise the quality of that sample ? Then yeah, technically the laws would still apply, and that’s where things need to change. Non-Commercial projects shouldn’t have to pay anything, except their respect to the original sources and authors. But it’s a foolish thing to talk about non-commercial activities or moneyless intended projects in our modern world. Nobody would believe you. Because money is what we want and money is what we need. Or so I heard.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
As an internet user, I’m concerned about my freedom to access everything I want whenever I want. Trust me, Chinese network is way more locked down than any Sopist or Actist countries. But this is for other reasons which I won’t mention here. Bottom-line is, I don’t support the control and general lock-down of the only way humans have to really share something together, no matter color race or country. But humans tend to exaggerate everything, to overreact to any situation. I don’t understand how a tourist who take a picture of his girlfriend in front of a monument could be sued because he failed to notice the commercial poster for Whats-the-Name brand sitting in the back, which is so copyrighted and protected that this poor tourist will be banned from accessing certain website or use his internet or might even risk jail time, and his family will never be able to watch his holiday pictures. You think it’s exaggerated and this is not what SOPA/ACTA is all about? Well, I might be mistaken, but if you read through the lines, this is what it is. A total and permanent state of war where everyone will be able to attack or limit another’s freedom simply on a conundrum of accusation. Well, not everyone. Only those with money. Yeah, I know, I’m talking about money again. But in the end, this is all humans care about. If we were to respect each others for the simple sake of respecting and loving each others and thinking further than national debt and the price of a cinema ticket, we wouldn’t need SOPA/ACTA. But, as I told you before, I’m a fool. I’m a dreamer.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
It totally depends on what the musician/band are aiming for. Why they’re making music, to start with. If you aim at being in the top 50 charts, making millions by having your pictures printed on a can of soda and being praised by an overwhelming crowd of living zombies the marketing directors call ‘customers’, then your main challenge is how well you’re gonna sell yourself, and that implies how raped you don’t mind to be. Your soul will be dirty but who cares? Your pockets will be full, girls will want to be with you and guys will want to be you (or vice-versa). You will have to talk in simple words, build non complicated melodies and don’t appeal to any concepts that could hurt one’s sensibility. Be Lady Gaga for example. Or better, shoot your music video only with cats in it, if possible playing together. People like that, YouTube told me.
Then again, if you’re a fool too, make music cos you need to make music and make it as you want to make it. It might not sell, it might not bring you fame and orgies and pictures in the magazine, but is that why you started making music? I remember a time, sitting on the beach, playing guitar with people singing, and that was the best music ever. I write music like I write my novels : for myself. If people like it and share it, good. If they don’t, good. Don’t think about people, they are mainly treacherous bastards who will love you to death, at least until the next best thing is shown to them on their television. Then you won’t even exist or be remembered. Who still knows Aesop, La Fontaine, Plato, and the whole list of worthy individuals that walked this earth? But they can recite the whole biography of Justin Bieber or Rebecca Black and they truly would fuck David Guetta, simply because he’s famous…
My main advice would be : free yourself from numbers. Humans are too oppressed and controlled by numbers. Break the chains of numbers and then you will breathe better and your music will sound better too. That’s why I mainly use Soundcloud. I found great artists better than most of the Top 50 and they have less than 50 followers. Yet their music is brilliant. Millions don’t certify value. And if you doubt me, check which videos have gazillions views online. See if you find an interesting one.
Finally, what does the future hold for Didjelirium?
Didjelirium is a sick individual, suffering from this lethal curse called ‘humanitis’. So death is mainly what the future holds for Didjelirium. Maybe in 200 years from now on, if there are still humans on Earth – I sincerely hope not, for the sake of the universe - someone will find my writings and/or hear my music and realize how prophetic it was. Or maybe not. And whatever will be fine. Meanwhile, I shall keep rocking my foolish boat, letting aboard all the other foolish dreamers I will meet on the way and telling my stories to whoever might be crazy enough to ask about them. Most of them are being gathered in this project called Original Fools, in collaboration with Damscray, from Orenburg, Russia, and I can’t but advise you to listen to it, simply because you won’t otherwise. If you need a genre to locate it on the music map, we do what we call ‘Spice Opera’. It’s a lot of fables about distant worlds and different beings that somehow, live and act exactly like earhtlings. It might interest you. But don’t feel sorry if you don’t, I’ll understand. I never expect anything from anyone, so I’m always happily surprised, no matter what. For the most important is not the destination nor any final goal, but the journey toward it and the people we meet on the way. So let the music play !
Bless y’all !
For more information about Didjelirium, you can visit his official website and find him on Facebook and Soundcloud. To find out more about his Original Fools project, you can also visit their Soundcloud page.