An Interview with DID

DID

French progressive rock band DID definitely is not a newcomer on the scene, although they have released only one album under that name. The group’s beginnings go back at the beginning of 1990s. The band called Cafeine released two full-length releases via Musea Records before disbanding, but a few years ago they regrouped as DID.

Drummer Regis Bravi talked with Prog Sphere about the band’s early days, the new music, and working with a number of guest vocalists who helped DID to shape their 2017 release ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder.’

Define the mission of DID.

When we started this new project, we did not have a precise plan in mind, everything happened more or less naturally. DID is in fact the prolongation of our original group “Cafeine” which was founded at the beginning of the 90’s by Christophe Houssin (Keyboards, author and composer of DID) and Patrick Jobard (guitars). I joined the group in 1995. We brought out 2 albums with Musea Records: “la Citadelle” in 1994 and “L’Or des Indes” in 2000. This was followed by a title “way is open” which was composed and recorded specially for the concept album “Kalevala” edited by the label Musea Records in 2003. Our singer left the group during the recording of our second album which gave me the idea to invite different vocalists rather than try to bring in a more permanent replacement. (The result was more than satisfying and this formula was repeated again with pleasure on the DID project). After that period, we worked on individual music projects while keeping contact. When Christophe proposed a collaboration on his new project “Dissociative Identity Disorder” we decided to re-unite and play under the name of DID.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your recent album “Dissociative Identity Disorder” and the themes it captures.

At the beginning, Christophe had composed 3 titles for Caféine which we recorded in 2006 without really knowing where this would take us. He then wished to create a solo album based on titles which he had written over a long period. However when he was considering the musicians he needed to record, he naturally turned towards his friends from Caféine and he re-created the concept from the 3 first titles. None the less he started from a clean sheet and we had to record the first 3 titles a second time!

Even though he is responsible for the compositions, I participated in the arrangements and I proposed to manage the vocals. It was a proposition which he accepted with enthusiasm.  I therefore started to look for new vocalists to invite most of whom I have admired for a long time: Michel Sadler (Saga), Oliver Philipps (Everon), Marco Glümann (Sylvan), Maggy Luyten, (Ayreon, Nightmare) and Alan Szukics (Opium Baby).  We were lucky to be able to count on a veritable “dream team” made up of individual talents each with a vocal signature which was instantly recognizable. This formula was perfect for our new album.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

What is the message you are trying to give with “Dissociative Identity Disorder”? 

Even though Christophe had never been touched by the disorder himself, he had several friends who were Bipolar with their difficulties and their pain. They do not have enough help and support from society in general. He wanted that people understand better what goes on inside their heads in order to be more complacent and not make initial judgements. He was always fascinated by the DID syndrome, intrigued and saddened as well… We are aware that it is not a militant album, it is foremost about the music. Never the less Christophe sincerely hopes that it will allow at least a few people to go onto Internet and type in the word DID, at the very least.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

The titles have been created to be played in a very precise order. They follow the history of D.I.D which was written in a way to not have two consecutive titles with the same vocalist. It follows the passing of a complete day inside the head of someone suffering from the syndrome. We start with the morning and end with the evening however in between there is chaos! This however caused me much torment when I had to distribute the roles to each invited vocalist as I had to take into account their personal tastes and their vocal register while respecting the unfolding of the story line.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

When Christophe wrote the album, he initially recorded at home the basic tracks which already well elaborated and shared them with us. We were then able to discuss about the structure. Once these tracks were corrected and reworked we went into the studio (a great studio with our Bassist Didier Thery at the controls), to record all the drum parts in one 4 day session. The general orchestration was already well advanced at this stage and each musician then recorded his individual part. Christophe had to re-record certain keyboard tracks which didn’t fit any more with the new arrangements and add some additional guitars. We then recorded the vocals by sending the instrumental arrangement to the different vocalists of the project. Each vocalist recorded in his own country, laying down the main vocal tracks and backing vocals. America, Germany, Belgium and France. I had the possibility to present the framework in which we were creating while allowing and encouraging each vocalist to freely propose their ideas without being afraid to distance themselves from the vocal line written by Christophe. It was Christophe who supervised the sessions with Maggy and Alan, leaving me to manage Marco, Michael and Oliver. When all the tracks were laid down, it was Christophe and Didier who took the responsibility for mixing.

How long “Dissociative Identity Disorder” was in the making?

This album was long in the making for several reasons. In the beginning Christophe had written a first rough musical outline with a lyricist (who eventually left the project). It was necessary to start again from zero! He was then joined by a second lyricist who was able to write only a limited portion of the lyrics. Christophe had to finish the texts himself and re-construct the story. He then had to find the singers and mix the tracks. This took several years!! The advantage was that Christophe was able to make improvements over time and the final tracks have much more maturity than the original tracks. Finally the time taken to product this album is less important than the final result. It is amusing to note that he also wrote a solo album during the same period which took him only two months. (The Album will be released this year). It just shows that there are no written rules.

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

I am not sure that we can talk about influences. I would say that the conceptual approach and the structure of the album (with many titles) could remind us of an album such as “generation 13” from Saga. It’s an album that Christophe and I adore. We must have listened to this album at last 200 times! You can hear its influence now and again in our album. Apart from being an exceptional vocalist Michael has a strong vocal personality associated with Saga. Christophe did not have any specific influences during the writing of this album but rather connected to his musical tastes. YES, Porcupine Tree, Saga, Camel for the progressive side but also Archive (his preferred group) Muse, NIN and many classical composers such as Mahler, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov.

What is your view on technology in music?

Many contemporary keyboard players of progressive music are nostalgic of the past. The old keyboards and vintage material which is not however the case for Christophe. He likes hardware, even analog but not necessarily vintage. He hates the idea of re-doing what has already been done in the past. He likes the old sounds which can be identified with the mellotron or minimoog but he has great difficulty to use them. He considers also that modern sound technology, especially digital music is beneficial for recording an album even though sometimes it’s negative for the music itself.  It’s the mix between these two worlds which interests him. At home he uses analogue instruments but he records everything on his computer through an audio interface and mixes essentially with plug-ins.

DID 4

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

As I have already mentioned, Christophe wished to make the listener curious about the DID syndrome but it does not go any further. It is above all a progressive rock concept album which we hope to share with the maximum of people.

What are your plans for the future? 

First of all, following many messages from them, our fans must know that it is not possible to organize a live performance of this album as it would be impossible to re-unite all the participants on one stage. The vocalists have imprinted their personality on this album and I can’t see how to replace this in a live situation without changing the overall ambiance of the work.

Christophe should finish the recording and mixing of his solo album before the end of 2018 and we have started to work on a new DID album which will address a completely different subject. Having had the taste of collaborating with invited artists I already have many new ideas in the pipeline. Of course this remains confidential for the moment but you should know more at the beginning of 2019…

Dissociative Identity Disorder is available from Bandcamp. Visit DID’s Facebook page for more information about the band.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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