Synthesists Bakis Sirros and Dave Bessell have released album of electronic music, Dystopia, that explores ‘a dark and foreboding sound world’.
The album is duo’s second collaboration, following 2012’s Morphogenic.
Both musicians will be familiar to fans of Ian Boddy‘s DiN electronic music label. Sirros (aka Parallel Worlds) has previously released two solo albums on the label, plus collaborations with Ian Boddy and others. And Bessell has released a solo album and two albums with the ‘synth supergroup’ Node.
In this interview, Bessell & Sirros tell us about the making of their new album and give us preview of the music of Dystopia.
Synthtopia: What got each of you into electronic music?
Bakis Sirros: From a young age, around 13 years old, I started listening to Jean-Michel Jarre. Of course, I was fascinated by some of his classic albums, like Oxygene, Equinoxe and Zoolook.
Zoolook was the very first album of electronic music that I ever heard.. Then I also started listening to Vangelis, and when I was around 18 years old, I discovered Tangerine Dream. And that was the start of my obsession with electronic music and synthesizers!
Synthtopia: So what was your first synth?
Dave Bessell: The first synth I had regular access to was a Minimoog. I borrowed it, along with a Mellotron, from some guys who managed (vinyl) record shops and bands.
I used a Minimoog on the new album but not the same one.
Bakis Sirros: My very first synth was a Yamaha SY-22. I do not have it anymore, so it was not used in the Dystopia album.
The first synth that made a great impression to me, though, was the Korg Wavestation. I got it around 1991. I still have that synth, but it was not used in the Dystopia album. My first analog synth was the Roland SH-101 and, at least in a virtual way, I still got it in the form of the Roland Boutique SH-01A synth.
Synthtopia: How did the two of you originally connect and decide to make music together?
Bakis Sirros: We were connected via Youtube!
I heard some tracks by David (by his first solo album actually) and I was very impressed by his style. I thought, ‘He makes music that is rather similar to mine.’
Dave Bessell: We were both already releasing things on Ian Boddy’s DiN label.
I listened to the stuff that Bakis had been doing and thought, “This is pretty good.” Not just good, but the mood he was creating was quite sympathetic to some things I wanted to explore. I tend towards the dark side!
Bakis Sirros: And I contacted him, and the rest was history!
Synthtopia: The two of you have just released a new album, Dystopia. How would each of you describe or categorize the music on the new album?
Bakis Sirros: If I had to give a label to our music, I would say it’s dark IDM and ambient electronica.
Dave Bessell: I’m really rubbish at being objective about music I have played on, especially if it is fairly recent.
Bakis Sirros: We make dark electronic music and that is valid for our first album (Morphogenic DiN41, 2012) as well.
Dave Bessell: It has elements of dark ambient, as well as IDM and a hint of classical influence.
There are psychedelic bits, ideas related to film music, touches of Krautrock, and probably other stuff which I am forgetting to mention
When you mix all those styles up, what comes out is not exactly like any of them. It has experimental aspects alongside melodies and complex rhythms.
Synthtopia: Why the title, ‘Dystopia’? Are there themes – conceptual or musical – that you wanted to explore with this album?
Bakis Sirros: Our tracks are mostly dark electronica, so they kind of describe a dark future… so, ‘Dystopia’ would be the future that our music describes. A future that would be ruled by big inhuman corporations and the triumph of the machines in most levels of life…
Dave Bessell: When we started work, we did have a thematic idea. But that disappeared pretty quickly as the music just took on a life of its own.
Looking back on it, now that it’s finished, I think it has a kind of dark epic sci-fi theme running through it. It’s the missing soundtrack to William Gibson’s early novels! If anyone ever makes a film of Neuromancer, they should give us a call!
Bakis came up with the title when we had finished and it kind of summed up the overall mood nicely.
For people who are interested in the nuts and bolts of how music works, I used a kind of ‘hidden secret formula’ for making the harmony on this album. I would be impressed if anyone could figure it out!
Synthtopia: How does a Parallel Worlds and Dave Bessell collaboration work?
Bakis Sirros: When we decide to start a collaboration, I start half of the tracks in Ableton Live that I use, and then I send to Dave the multitracks, so he can proceed and finish the tracks. And for David, it’s the other way around. He starts half of the tracks in his DAW and then he sends me the multitracks, and I work with my Ableton Live to finish the tracks.
Dave Bessell: It’s a simple process really. I start a track, then send it to Bakis to complete. Then he starts one and I complete it. We carry on like that until we have enough for an album.
It’s generally a smooth process, because our musical taste overlaps quite a bit. We nearly always agree on when something is good and we usually see the same potential in a musical idea.
That is interesting, because I have a classical training and Bakis is more intuitive. These things work together quite well: Bakis will sometimes do something musically, which I wouldn’t have thought of, while I have a lot of options available that help with developing and expanding ideas.
One of the most interesting things about music is that there is also a creative aspect that is hard to put into words. It has nothing to do with the conscious intention, but it is a kind of intangible thing which the musicians channel.
Synthtopia: Do you have ‘dead-ends’ along the way? How do you decide when a track isn’t going anywhere, or maybe it isn’t a fit for your collaboration?
Bakis Sirros: During the making of Morphogenic….we tried to include a track with female vocals in it. We tried, for a few days, to give to the track a dark atmosphere that is characteristic of our tracks.
But this track could not be made to fit our special music style, so we rejected it and moved on.
Dave Bessell: I think that only happened once in this project.
We had one track right at the start that Bakis wasn’t sure about. We eventually used the track for the charity compilation Touched 3, so it doesn’t appear on this new release.
The track was OK, but at that point, we still had the idea of a concept running through the whole album and this one just didn’t fit with that really.
Once we abandoned that concept idea, then the music started to flow and we were fine from that point on.
I think it’s a sign of a good collaboration when pretty much everything ends up being useable. Of course, you still need to work up the ideas and polish them, but for us, complete dead ends almost never happen.
Synthtopia: It’s sometimes more challenging for listeners to understand what each artist is doing with an electronic group than with a traditional band, where each member has a specific role.
Do you see each other taking particular roles in your music – like melodic elements vs rhythmic elements – in your collaborations?
Bakis Sirros: I do not think so… we both make melodic and rhythmic parts in a track.
The difference is that I use my modulars and synths, most of the time, but David also uses his guitar for some parts of the tracks we are working on.
Dave Bessell: We have never discussed fixed musical roles in our collaboration, so it is open for either of us to do any aspect of the music.
Listeners will recognize, though, that the rhythmic approach comes mainly from Bakis. He has a distinctive detailed rhythm style, so I let him run with that. From time to time I will throw in some kind of percussive idea that Bakis wouldn’t have used just to make some variety.
Apart from that, it’s pretty even really. We both share the other musical roles equally – chords, bass. melody, instrumental color. Often swapping these roles within the same track.
It’s quite tightly and intricately woven together, so I probably couldn’t unpick it all now even if I tried!
I like to put in small touches of guitar because I think it adds more depth to the sound than just synths alone. Also I am a better guitar player than a keyboard player, so it’s nice to use those skills a bit.
Synthtopia: You both have a wide array of gear.
Are there particular instruments, or approaches to synthesis, that each of you explore on Dystopia that you think would be of interest to Synthtopia readers?
Bakis Sirros: I generally use my beloved Eurorack modular (with Make Noise, Intellijel, Verbos, Mutable Instruments, ALM, etc ,etc, modules) and then the Buchla modular also.
That happens in many of the tracks in Dystopia.
To be more specific, I start with clean sine waves in my modulars and use wave-shapers and wave multipliers to add harmonics to these sine waves.
So, I would say that, rather recently, I make additive patches in my modulars, most of the time. With my classic monosynths (MS20, ARP 2600, etc) I work the other way around, with analog subtractive synthesis.
Dave Bessell: On this album, we used a lot of analogue gear of course.
That includes lots of modular and keyboard stuff both vintage and modern. Actually far too many to list – you may have seen the pics of Bakis’s modular wall of doom!
The unusual things I used on this one include some occasional touches of a new instrument called the Aum Guitar, which was invented by Gareth Whittock.
The Aum Guitar looks like a lap steel guitar, but it’s designed to be played with an EBow and sounds more like woodwind, than anything to do with the guitar.
I also recently put together some Euro modules which allow me to do physical modelling with an entirely analogue signal path. I’ve only just begun to explore that, but there are some bits and pieces on this album.
Synthtopia: What are each of your working on next?
Bakis Sirros: I have already started creating some modular soundscapes and percussive loops, that I will probably use in my next collab album with Self Oscillate, and, soon, I will start preparing ambient scapes material with my modulars, for my next collab album with ambient master Alio Die.
Those are the only plans I have for the future of Parallel Worlds. But, you never know, anything can happen…
Dave Bessell: I’ve just done an experimental track which is nearly all analogue physical modelling, which will be on the new Tone Science compilation album from DiN records.
I also have another collaboration project which is in the very early stages but is looking promising. That is with Ishq aka Matt Hillier.
He is an artist who came out of the dance style of electronics, but who has recently been doing mostly ambient stuff. It’s interesting for me because the style is a little different than the more retro influenced things I am known for.
Finally, I am about half way through working on a new solo album which will be a follow up to Black Horses of the Sun. I’m taking my time with that one – solo albums are an opportunity to really see what you can do, and I am exploring a variety of things. Trying to push the envelope a bit.
The thing I really like about retro electronic styles, was the attitude those artists had to exploring what were then new possibilities. On my solo work, I aim to carry that idea with me.
I hope to compose with the ghosts of all those great Krautrock explorers looking over my shoulder. But I try to imitate their creative fearlessness, rather than the specific sounds they made. Actually, thinking about it what happens with Bakis too, the new album doesn’t really sound like anyone else.
Synthtopia: Thanks to both of you for taking the time to tell us a little about your new album!
Parallel Worlds & Dave Bessell’s new album, Dystopia, is available now on the DiN label. You can preview it below:
01 Cipher 6:39
02 Filament 9:49
03 Underclouds 6:55
04 Into The Distance 8:48
05 Forest Of Stars 8:54
06 Mutagen 5:36
07 Devoid 3:49
08 Mycelium 10:01
Total Time 60:45
- Bakis Sirros: ARP-2600, Doepfer A-100, Concussor, Eurorack modular (with Make Noise, Intellijel, Mutable Instruments, Waldorf, Cyndustries, Tiptop audio modules), Serge, Buchla, Blacet/Metalbox/CGS modulars, Oberheim Xpander, OB-Mx, Waldorf Microwave 1, Microwave XT, Roland System-100, Nord Modular, Yamaha FS1R, Emu EMAX II, and other sound modifiers, tape echo & software.
- Dave Bessell: Macbeth M5n, Minimoog, Moog Sub37, Alesis A6, Vermona Perfourmer, MosLab System 32, Gibson Les Paul, Laney and Fender amps & Aum guitar.
See their sites for more information:
Bakis Sirros photos: [email protected]