To say Wilde’s Crown (February 2, 2016) is an experimental piece undermines the eclectic range of D/SIR. Emily Steigerwald and Hex Wolves reside in Los Angeles, and are known for producing streams of progressive, dark ambient sounds backed by clean drum machines. D/SIR’s music can be described as ghostly story-telling, especially with newer releases such as the split CD Wild Host (December 21, 2015) with UK’s WIK▲N (released by Death Camp Audio), and The Rook (February 8, 2015) from Phantasma Disques. However, D/SIR’s new release Wilde’s Crown, produced by record label Pale Noir, was acutely designed for progressive listening. Wild’s Crown is an LP, and D/SIR’s first major physical release. The experience I had listening to the LP on my record player was compelling: I spent an evening writing on my vintage Underwood Bank 4 while listening to Wild’s Crown, and I can’t describe how much I had to go back and reset the needle due to the vivid complexity and beauty that this LP offers. This release was made for record; it’s a very different experience listening via mp3. In this release, D/SIR produces sounds that recapture a vintage age, with slowed bass vocals on tracks like “Hair to the Peak” and grayed synths on “Mistakes.” The LP as a whole can be described as avant-garde jazz under a dark possession. D/SIR is the ghost in the attic of witch house music.
I’ve had the honor of meeting and hanging with both Hex and Emily, and I would like to say to both: thank you for always being kind and down to earth.
Jared: Is there a unique meaning or story behind the title Wilde’s Crown?
Hex – Yeah, the album is based on the story by Robert Chambers titled “Repairer of Reputations” which has a few wild characters that are a bit distorted by the narrator’s unreliable point of view. Basically he is lead to believe he’s heir to an empire and perceives a worthless costume crown as some kind of treasured object. This reality is further distorted by Wilde, a deformed repairer of reputations that feeds his madness and illusion of grandeur.
Emily – As Hex said, it is really part soundtrack form and commentary of “The King in Yellow” by Chambers. I’ve been obsessed with weird fiction for years now, but almost nothing has stuck the way “The King in Yellow” has (but I can go on a bit about Machen and Ligotti too!). In terms of the release, it’s the fundamental evil of the pursuit of power for it’s own sake that is both fascinating and repellant, that we wanted to explore.
Jared: That’s interesting! What was the source of inspiration for Wilde’s Crown? How did the creation process differ in making this LP (as opposed to others)?
Hex – The sound is inspired by southern blues, gospel and 60’s soul. This was to give a distinctly American sound, which might be a little pretentious. Nah, it’s super pretentious! We didn’t want to emulate or sound like other Witch House, Future Garage acts that are popping up in Europe. I think it’s important to have a cultural and regional identity. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of European music acts and their take on dark electronic music. I just think we didn’t want to be easily categorize as a just another American group trying to sound like a European act.
The process is the same as anything we write, we talk about the subject we want to write about in detail. Design a theme, build palates and compose several drafts that have their layers stripped to the most basic elements. We argue back and forth on what should be taken out, what should remain, what needs to change. Basically anything that’s shit to one of us gets thrown in the trash. We both have to like it before we put the stamp of approval on it. This leads to some hilarious fights over silly details such as placement of a hi hat, level of a bass line, how long or short a section should be. Emily definitely ensure quality control over the entire product before we move it to the mixing stage.
Jared: Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. You guys defiantly have your own sound. How did you guys begin working with record label Pale Noir, and will there be future releases with them?
Emily – We “met” on Soundcloud and a few messages back and forth later we were part of the Pale Noir family!
Hex – Mahr is great to work with. If things go well with this record, we’ll more than likely work with her again on a future release. If anything, we love submitting tracks to Pale Noir’s compilation seasonal compilations.
Jared: You guys have played a handful of times here in LA, and I have been fortunate enough to catch you guys on multiple occasions. Your sets are dynamic in the sense that the sound is gradual; you start off slow and with a melodic pace, but then gradually employ progressing synths and percussion. Is it possible a complete live set would be dedicated to performing Wild’s Crown?
Emily – Thank you! And we’re always happy to see you there by the way!
Hex – Anything is possible. This is a more difficult record to perform live due to its non-dance format. I think it’s important for the dance floor to have a good movement of energy, so we might do a more dance oriented version of the album live. Nothing worse than a bored crowd in a dark night club.
Jared: [Laughing] Is there a particular show that you guys have performed and particularly favored?
Emily – Hmm, well there hasn’t been a show yet that we didn’t enjoy playing at! We’re very lucky to be here in LA where there are so many amazing promoters and shows (Warlock, Wasteland, Club Berlin, Lil Death and Complex) and open-minded people who go out to see shows! I can’t think of any other city as supportive and diverse! But a specific favorite was at Complex when we finished our set with a “dark” cover of “Dayman” from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, because we love that show and well, it hit the crowd completely out of left field, haha.
Hex – One of my favorites was performing with Subheim in LA. The turnout was not fantastic, but we had a great time and Subheim was just magical in his delivery of sound and atmosphere.
Jared: YOu guys always have great sets! Can you both explain your position in D/SIR, music writing, lyrics, recording and such?
Emily – Sure! We both write, but Hex writes at a pretty manic pace (he can sketch up a few tracks in the time it takes for me to start one!) But, Hex is passionate about music and sound, whereas I’m spread a bit thin in visual art/design projects. I think I can summarize it better by explaining our intentions: I see writing music as a means to an end in telling a story in the way that music can, while I think Hex has purer intentions and enjoys sound for it’s own sake.
Hex – The ongoing joke we have is that I’m the tech/roadie that has to make sure everything works in the studio and at the live shows. “Fumes a bit” – I’m the one that causes problems by introducing new software/hardware to “improve” our performances or studio setup. Basically I beta test everything before we incorporate it and then try to sell Emily on its value to the band. As far as the writing goes, we both take equal turns in that department. We have near identical setups, using Maschine, Bitwig, U-he, Waves, Reaper, Roland products to write/record with. This allows us to pass projects back and forth with some ease. When I’m stuck or at a stopping point, I send the project her way and visa-versa. I tend to cloud things up and she tends to keep things stripped down, so we have a good balance for the end result.
I love building synth patches from a basic saw/square/sine wave and then shape it into something wonderful. We use these patches in our songs to give a different type of flavor not heard in most electronic music. I tend to not make synth sounds that have no point, unless I’m just experimenting for the point of experimenting. When it comes to writing patches for a song, I make sure it will fit with the theme we are working with. Plus it’s nice to have a library of your own presets you can recall for other songs. It really helps for speed writing when you have these libraries available for use and you know it won’t sound like a bunch of crappy stock sounds found in any old synth. Except for romplers like the Yamaha M1, I love those shitty sounds because they are cliche and cheesy. You gotta have bread and butter sounds from the late 80’s/90’s for anything witchy or gothy.
Jared: Sounds like a good alchemic blend! I feel the witch house genre keeps growing, and new artist pop up almost weekly, how did D/SIR get started?
Hex – I was a solo artist for many years under the unsuccessful moniker Cursed Chimera. In 2010 Emily and I started working on music together as Cursed Chimera. This lasted for about 2-3 years before we realized that we wanted to start fresh with a different kind of sound. She came up with the idea/concept behind D/SIR and I happily went along. Cursed Chimera was pretty much done at that point and there was no more room to grow with that particular sound.
Jared: Now, Emily, the art for Wilde’s Crown is your original painting. What was the inspiration and vision behind the creative process?
Emily – I was just trying to give a visual to the sound without trying to draw something from “The King in Yellow” directly, but more like: this is us in this world. I guess the painting is pretty directly my belief that the lust for power will be destructive in the end (I’m not very subtle, Haha)
Jared: Is there anything you two would like to add (i.e. the future of D/SIR, a favorite vice or muse, bad habits you can’t resist [Laughs]?
Emily – We’re gonna be releasing a few things early this year that we’ve been polishing up most of last year, but we’re looking at our interests and changing tastes and may be taking D/SIR in a slightly different direction, but the core “vibe” won’t change! Aside from music, we both spend way too much time playing video games and I’ve been on a pretty obsessive “Read all the Glen Cook novels” kick the last couple of weeks, to the detriment of all my other projects!
Hex – I know we’ll be finishing up some exclusive mixes and remixes for various people/labels. D/SIR is by far my favorite project, partly because I get to work with my wonderful partner and I believe the music is pretty darn good. My bad habit involves writing terrible music under my solo moniker (Hexwolves). Right now I’m finishing up on EP with a producer named Prince of Space that is themed around 1980’s AIDS PSAs and Celebrities with AIDS. Next up will be the hot new genre of ISIS Trap. Yeah, I’m a bit fucked up to tackle such serious material with a glib approach. I guess that’s the prankster in me. *snorts*