5 Questions: Daniel Crokaert

Daniel Crokaert is the man behind the decade standing Mystery Sea cdr label and has recently started a new label under the name Unfathomless. He currently resides in Brussels, Belgium and at my request was kind enough to indulge upon a few of my inquiries.

SF: In a past email you had mentioned that you have an insatiable appetite for music. Can you briefly talk about how you first became aware of outsider music culture and how you eventually began Mystery Sea?

DC: Since my early childhood, I've been bathed in various forms of music, as my father used to compile his own tapes from various vinyls he borrowed from friends... it's only much later than I realized how important these days were...

but the true triggering moment of my love for outsider music culture was my quasi direct experience of the punk DIY ethos (yes, I'm that old !) which seemed to meet all my hopes for change, rebellion against numbing/standard values, giving new directions... it's at that precise moment in time that I caught the “virus”, and that I became increasingly interested in all forms of non-mainstream art & music... then I had the chance to exchange correspondence with and meet some artists that turned me completely upside down, constituting some ideal model through their sheer passion, and formidable emotional impact, and all the background behind their own venture : Eyeless In Gaza ! The name Mystery Sea is a reverential tribute to Martyn Bates (half of the EIG duo)... this band has given me so much that it felt natural as a choice... the theme for the series poured out of itself...I started it a good 10 years ago, at the junction of the new century we're now in...and no end in sight yet...(endless seas...)

You've recently started a second label called Unfathomless with a focus on sonic interpretations of specific places. What was the inspiration behind this new venture? Do you see this new label as a personal opportunity to fulfill a different goal, perhaps something that could not be actualized within the scope of Mystery Sea?

If the Mystery Sea series was initially more based on “drone” as leitmotif, along the “episodes”, it gradually incorporated more works where field recordings had a paramount role... Along my years as a student in interior architecture, I had the chance to do some specific installation in an old building, the atmosphere of which deeply moved me...I've always been fascinated as well with the intimate relations we can share with environments that mirror us in a way, but also with what still seems to linger on in those...something far beyond words... it's so strange to remark that most of the places we frequent will survive us, and have been permeated with our passage...There are numerous artists who practice in that field, and who consciously or not did have a decisive influence on me... I used also to be an avid reader of this blog :http://sense--of--place.blogspot.com/

the U series has as aim to deepen the MS experience, and while still being ltd edition,it offers perhaps a bit more perennity to artists ' works since those are on CD (not CDR)...It also reflects my own thirst of expanding the act of listening - I recently acquired a Zoom h4n, and I do thus my own sound “photography”...

All the aspects of your releases, whether on Mystery Sea or Unfathomless, subscribe to a central ethos that shines through in the packaging, artwork and music. Probably most apparent is the deep-ocean-drones theme found within the Mystery Sea releases. Is it required that artists provide work that fits the theme, or is it more of a matter of accepting what they give you?

I try very much to get original works created specifically for each label, and thus probably conceptually stronger... though I'm not willing to close my door, and from time to time, I receive submissions outside of any invitation, yet more or less having a natural tie with the themes...it's sometimes nice to throw in a little anomaly, diversion to stay away from the routine... The challenge is then to find a way of linking them, and it can lead to other unexpected perspectives, I believe...

From your site and your stunning artwork, I've discerned that you have an interest in the blending of sounds with visuals as the complete package. Do you see this crossing of mediums becoming more of a focus in future label releases? any DVDs on the horizon? How do you feel about visual accompaniment during musical performance?

As much as I feel strong connections between the visual and sound aspects, that can complement each other for an enriched perspective, I've also my doubts about a forced or sometimes weak cohabitation... it certain cases it can be misleading, or simply decrease the potential of the imaginary... like a book translated into a movie : the encounter of these two spheres can be fruitful and point out new ways of appreciation, it can also be destructive...I've always done the artworks with much respect for the music, the artist, trying to be as close as possible to the mood in which the work has seen the daylight, or its emotional resonance in me...I hope it shows...For the reasons evoked in previous lines, and also financial ones, I haven't planned any DVDs so far...

You are centered in Belgium and have released work from artists all over the world. In your opinion where are some of the more interesting contemporary musical regions and why? Can you provide a written playlist of some of the music you've been into lately?

Interesting things happen all over the world really, mostly in the continents/countries where there's the luxury to be involved in such cultural activities...for economical/political/religious reasons, some people will most probably never have access to these...Nowadays, musical progress & diffusion is largely depending on the access to internet...I'm a bulimic music lover, and so my collection is always expanding, and I find myself often only listening to the latest things just in : currently spinning, and springing spontaneously to mind (a lot of usual suspects !)

Philip Sulidae “Hidden & Tied” MP3
Christopher McFall “The body as I left it” CD
Ubeboet “Archival” LP
Asher “Interference” Tape
Lasse-Marc Riek “Harbour” CD
Scott Smallwood “Desert winds : six windblown sound pieces” CD
Joda Clément “Movement + Rest” CD
Hapsburg Braganza “Hatchling” CD
Yann Novak “The Breeze Blowing Us” CDR
Anne Guthrie “Standing sitting” CDR
Chris Watson “Outside the circle of fire” CD
Simon Whetham “Restricted access” CDR
Various unreleased works from
James McDougall, Juan José Calarco,
Hiroki Sasajima, Tarab, Christopher McFall, Chubby Wolf...etc...

Mystery Sea ~ Unfathomless

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