This interview was published in Alfa Centauri magazine issue #45, June 2006. The interview was conducted by Roel Steverink and took place a few weeks after the Alfa Centauri festival 2005 (where Dom performed live).
Note: copies of the original interview in the magazine are added below the text.
DFS = Dom F. Scab, RS = Roel Steverink, all pictures (c) by Ed in den Bosch.
RS: When did you get involved with electronic sounds?
DFS: Oh, that was a long time ago! I was very young, now I’m 40. A friend of mine showed me an analog synthesizer in his studio that he had just bought. I was fascinated, because until that moment I had only played the piano. These new sounds and the ability to manipulate them opened my eyes to a new way of understanding and composing music. And now I believe that being able to make new sounds is just as important as the relationship between two notes.
RS: What year was this and what analog synthesizer?
DFS: I don’t remember the exact year, but the synthesizer was a Korg Mono/Poly. We spent a long time making sounds. This device was great, it had its own arpeggiator !
RS : Wasn’t it difficult to make your own sounds with such an old analog synthesizer?
DFS : If you have no experience, everything can be difficult. The learning process is a wonderful experience. I can still feel the sense of satisfaction when we had made a beautiful sound.
RS : Unfortunately I never heard your first album Innerseed . Can you tell me a bit more about how the album came about?
DFS : It was a creative necessity and at the same time a liberation for me. I had just left my old group, At-Mooss , at that moment ; I was asked too much to play a certain role, with no creative freedom and so I felt I had to stop. That’s why I decided to work on my first solo album, to be able to move and express myself more freely. At-Mooss was too hermetic a concept, but I did gain important experience in it.
RS : But did you already have your own style when you played at At-Mooss or did that style only emerge when you were working on your debut album Innerseed ? And is Innerseed coming out again? I’m asking this because the album has been sold out for years.
DF S : Within At-mooss we were four musicians, so we didn’t have much room to process our own ideas on every CD. That’s why I needed more creative space and what could be better than working on my own album. And if you’re not tied to one style, you can go either way. Innerseed was the sound of my creative liberation then, now, over time, I don’t look too big on it. It is not my intention to re-release this work.
RS : How are you with John Lakveet came into contact and how did the collaboration go during the making of the “ Silent Mars” album?
DFS : John and I met in 1991 at a Klaus concert Schulze in Barcelona ! We’ve been good friends ever since. We were both at At-mooss and, like me, wanted to do things differently. We thought it was a good idea to make an album together. John is a very creative person and I love his music. I think we complement each other well.
RS : How is your music developing?
DF S : In many ways. The creative process is a mystery, a quirk of the brain. The artist, at least in my case, shouldn’t be obsessed with it. Sometimes just playing a piano can bring out an idea. Another time it happens by improvising on a sequence . Once I have the basic structure, I’ll add other elements to it. My own sound is also an important source of inspiration.
RS : Is it difficult to come up with the right title for a song?
DFS : Sometimes it’s very easy, other times it can be a nightmare. Sometimes it’s like a little joke. It’s like giving a name to an abstract painting! Often you can just think of any name for it and it always ends up that title and work become inseparable from each other.
RS : What interests influence your music?
DFS : Life is the greatest source of inspiration. My brain must be full of optimism and joy, attitude to the French poets. I don’t want to be depressed and these days it’s hard enough not to get into trouble. When I want to recharge my battery, I leave the city more often and walk through the field. That is a great source of inspiration.
RS : You mean walking through nature? And if so, do you have a special bond with her?
DF S : Yes, I like going for a walk in nature. I don’t like the city, despite living there. There’s just too much noise; all the people you see show nervous behavior. I am then forced to absorb all this negative energy.
RS : As a keyboard player, how do you communicate with instruments such as guitar, bass and drums?
DFS : I like all instruments, acoustic or electronic, modern or traditional…maybe because I practice so many different styles. And I don’t understand electronic music orthodoxy. Music goes beyond styles. There are people who think that if you don’t have a Moog Modular synthesizer, that you are not an electronic musician. That is not a positive attitude. I like sound, because every instrument has its own personality. I like progressive rock, because that’s where a good integration of all these instruments comes about.
RS : That’s not what I meant. I mean, how do you go about as a keyboard player, to integrate as well as possible with guitar, bass guitar and drums?
DF S : Even though your main instruments are keyboards, it’s important to know the characteristic features of your other instruments as well, so that you can adapt them to your way of composing as well. That certainly improves the result. In my compositions I sometimes use simulated sounds of acoustic instruments, such as a bass guitar, to accentuate the harmonic changes. I give an example. I use the bass to give more weight to the composition. And sometimes something like that happens with drums, hi hat and other percussion. I have also used an electric guitar once. I like the distorted sound. I think the harmonic sound field is way above that of synthesizers.
RS : You just got a concert data during the 11th Alfa Centauri EM Festival in Huizen. How did the concert go?
DFS : Wow…that was a great experience. I’m very excited, just like Odracir Lavid . We played at an unusual hour for us, but I still felt fine, yes. People in the Netherlands are very friendly and everything was very well organized.
RS : What is an ideal time for you and why?
DF S : In Spain most concerts start at 10 pm or 11 pm. Every country has its own traditions and the schedules are so different! Now have breakfast. Here people have breakfast between 9 and 10 am, lunch is usually at 2 pm and people have dinner at 10 pm.
RS : How long did the preparation for this concert take?
DFS : Some songs were new, but most were older; I’ve played it before at other concerts. A concert we gave in Spain two days before served as a rehearsal. When I have to give a concert and another musician accompanies me, as during this concert, I try to make sure that there is enough time to practice. I think it’s important to take as much preparation time as possible, so that the best comes out live. It’s also important to rehearse with other musicians as much as possible, because that way it’s also more fluid. And if I don’t have a concert, I practice two to three times a week, because I live from music!
RS : You mean you make a living from composing and playing EM?
DF S : I earn my living through music, not just EM. Actually it is different: My EM concerts are only a very small part of my musical activities. At most concerts I play as keyboard player together with other musicians. I have also written work for Catalan television, but also for other TV channels etc. I love to play music from others, but certainly, my goal is to be able to give more electronic concerts.
RS : During the concert you played together with a very talented musician: Odracir Lavid . How did you meet him and what is the advantage of working with this particular percussionist?
DFS : Odracir and I work together in many projects.. When I give a concert, he accompanies me on guitar synthesizer and percussion. When he gives a concert, I’m the keyboard player. In addition to being a professional collaboration, there is also friendship at the same time. We got to know each other well over the years. Now we are in the middle of another project from ethno electronic jazz with the drummer Andreu Jacob . I like to play with other musicians; there is no better way to communicate optimally with each other.
RS : Is there a difference in reaction between the Spanish and the Dutch public?
DF S : Yes,… the Dutch public is more grateful. The people of Spain are reacting more cautiously. It seems like a contradiction, because the Latin character is much warmer, but in this case it doesn’t! The Spanish public is friendly, but not very enthusiastic. At ethnic concerts it is a bit different.
RS : Spain is something unknown to many Dutch people when we talk about electronic music. The people know Neuronium , but often the knowledge does not go further. Can you tell me a bit more about the history of electronic music in Spain?
DFS : Neuronium is an important part of electronic music history and of course it still is. There have been other composers, who may not have been as popular, but who had a unique style… Artists like Ildfonso Aquilar , Teddy Bautista , Susoc Saiz , Alberto Gimenez , Iury Lech , Eduardo Polonio , etc…And of course the makers of the Barcellonese e-sound : Odracri Lavid , Samo Vitoulis , John Lacquet , Sergio Koval , Aleix Riera , Epakta , Joan Cerezo , Max Corbacho , Bruno Sanfilippo and many others. Electronic music in Spain has never been more popular. Unlike the 1970s, when there was a great tradition of symphonic rock. There were also mixtures with other music styles and it was also the time when EM was important.
RS : Can you tell me more about the Insolit Music Forum (IMF) and how important is that?
DFS : IMF is a young festival with an uncertain future. Odracri Lavid – he is the director – has to fight with the authorities over money. Two years ago, the first edition consisted of three days filled with concerts, … and stands. But alas, the public declined. It is normal in Spain that a festival that does not receive a lot of publicity, gets little attention. This year the festival has a different format; solo concerts throughout the year. Max ‘s performances have just been Corbacho and Bruno Sanfilippo . They were very successful. In addition, we prepare, the Barcelona E-Sound collective , a new cycle of concerts for next year.
RS : But I also saw that famous composers like Wendy Carlos gave a lecture during one of the festival’s editions? What was the purpose of these lectures?
DFS : I don’t remember this…maybe it was a tentative request. But I think you Constance Demby means. I was at her concert, it was the opening of the festival. A very nice concert full of feelings.
RS : You give different concerts throughout the year in Spain, mostly at festivals. How do you get in there? What’s your secret?
DFS : Okay, it’s true, but most concerts are own productions and not during festivals. We do many concerts, because I work with the Office Management – BCN – events . We are working on all kinds of projects: EM , ethno , synthetic jazz. I work with several musicians. Many cities have auditoriums with good programming. The problem is that there are so many musicians and too few stages.
RS : Can you tell me a little bit about how you go about working on a new album in the studio?
DFS : Throughout the year I spend many hours in my studio playing my instruments without recording anything. Sometimes there’s some kind of instinct or some kind of sensation that makes me rush to my PC to record. Then I know I have to take advantage of that moment of inspiration. But it is always different.
RS : How do you choose the design for an album?
DFS : I give absolute freedom to the creative minds. I give them the opportunity to make their own creations, without preconditions, of course I give them my opinion. I have already worked with Pablo Magne , Lola Holgueras , Ramon Bachs , all very talented designers.
RS : You seem to have a special preference for the analog sound of the past. Not many musicians today still play on a CS-80! How important do you think that instrument is to your sound? And what is the function of the digital devices, such as the JD-800 that you also use a lot?
DFS : I think the most important thing is, the result, the music. Technology at the service of people. That’s why I try to exercise control over all musical and technical aspects. Analog sounds are great, but so are digital ones. They complement each other. I like that harmonic richness, movement and dimensional depth coexist in the compositions. And that all this is obtained through the combination of elements with different characters. Another very important thing: the expressiveness…
That’s why a synthesizer like the CS-80 is so important, because it has so many possibilities of expression. The JD-800 is also a great sound engine, as is the Kurzweil K-2000/2500.
RS : Are you satisfied with the sound possibilities that these devices have to offer or do you still have unfulfilled desires?
DFS : Yes, I am satisfied! Maybe in the future I’ll want to integrate more acoustic sounds in the future.
RS : You use a lot of different, nice sounds and effects on your albums? I have the impression that you are a composer, who immediately throws out the factory sounds, in order to immediately build up a library of your own sounds. How long do you drag on the mold before they are ready to be used?
DFS : That depends on many factors. Often I am engaged in programming, when at the same time I am looking for harmonic and expressive means at the same time. I spend hours programming sounds. I know it will take a lot of time. Usually start with basic sounds, even presets, and build the structure from there. Then comes the programming. It is very important to find your own sounds, the same goes for finding your own style.
RS : Sequencers are an important part of your sound. Do you use hardware or software sequencers or both and why this choice?
DFS : I simply use my computer to create sequences. Sometimes I use the sequencer of my own Workstation during concerts . But I just want to make it clear that I don’t have an orthodox way of thinking when it comes to sequencers , as so many do in the EM world. To me it is no more than a source, just as harmonies or arrangements are sources. I sometimes have friendly discussions with John on this subject. Our opinions don’t match. Sequencing is much more important to him. I find all elements equally important whether it be sounds, harmonies, melodies, arrangements, rhythms… and even silence.
RS : You are also involved in the group At-Mooss , as you mentioned earlier in the interview. Which musicians were in this band and what kind of music is it?
DFS : Each of us had a role. I now see it as a serious mistake, because we even put limits on our creativity. That’s one reason why I got tired, John ( Lakveet ed) got tired and Toni. Now only Joseph is left Loibant of the hard core, who now surrounds himself with other musicians. Everyone in the band had their own style: John developed industrial style, Tony with sequencers , Joseph brought in the funk sound and I the more melodic one.
RS : How important is it for you to express emotions through music and how far do you go?
DFS : Every music, in its own style, should evoke emotions. Some music, such as dance , is used to evoke more basic and primitive emotions. Other music, like mine as I believe myself, exudes more cerebral emotions. But that’s not intentional. I don’t look for emotions that match mine. I leave each person free to feel their own emotions.
RS : Where does this new wave of electronic composers come from? Besides your self, we can call it John Lacquer , Max Corbacho , Bruno Sanfilippo , Samo Vitoulis and Odracri Lavid .
DFS : Good question. All these musicians are all great artists, who have a very personal style. It’s strange, but they all happen to be from Barcelona . Of course there are plenty of other talented musicians in the rest of Spain. But we are currently living in one of the worst times in the history of music; therefore, nowadays it is very difficult to develop a successful career.
RS : What are your plans for the future?
DFS : I don’t think much about the future, but try to enjoy the present. But if I look at the musical situation, I think I give priority to the concerts. I don’t know if I’m going to release another album.
Editor’s note: Now, about a year after this interview, Dom F. Scab has made the decision: he has decided not to make and/or release electronic music any more in order to fully give his further professional musical career space.