Birgit Gasser of the SDV Tontrager label, Germany.
I can’t really recall how I came into contact with Birgit Gasser ( also known as Dino Oon) but it must have been the late 1980s as part of my expanded contacts in Germany. The scene seemed very fertile to me at the time and I was getting tapes from all over Germany. In fact, there was a time when I was receiving more material from there than anywhere. Much of this was due to Lord Litter who had put me in touch with many musicians and label owners there. Other main contacts were Guido Erfen, Harold “Sack” Ziegler, Andreas Bick, Carsten Olbrich and some others.
The music of Dino Oon and her then partner, Detlef Funder ( also known as Konrad Kraft) was high quality, dark, industrial style music with definite experimental edges. Electronic beats, spacey textures, deep and immersive atmospheres prevailed. Sometimes a touch of rock or pop would appear in a form of a song.
Kevyn Dymond and I met Gasser and Funder at their Dusseldorf flat one day late in 1991 when we were traveling Europe. Friendly, attractive and intelligent people who spoke English well, especially Birgit. They showed us their big mixing board, their studio and the isolation booth they had constructed especially for vocals. It was very impressive. This reinforced my opinion at the time that The Germans had the best technology and equipment. Everywhere we went in Germany, there was a extensive attention to detail and a sort of distrust or disgust of lo fi.
Their label was called SDV Tontrager and they released many fine tapes, LPs, a 12”, and CDs. Their label had a particular feeling of darkwave industrial and experimental ambient. This is music that sounds excellent even today and it was evident then that they were highly creative and contemporary thinking people.
I lost touch with Birgit and Detlef for many years but recently have come back to be in contact again. She has moved to Berlin to pursue her artistic endeavors and Detlef remains in Dusseldorf ( I believe) creating his electronic works still as Konrad Kraft.
“Stimme Des Volkes”, a compilation LP that featured Sons Of Care, Dino Oon, Bourbonese Qualk, Seventh Day, Mynox Layh, Deus Baleines Blanche and others. 1990.
Mynox Layh, a dark industrial style band released this LP on SDV Tontrager in 1991.Later re-released on CD.
Living Archive interview Birgit Gasser
What did SDV stand for? And what year did you start operations? Was this you and Konrad Kraft ( Detlef Funder) only?
SDV (Stimme des Volkes) stood for Vox Populi, peoples Voices. We started off in the early eighties, when we began to make and record music.
Member of the label was also Bernd Sevens (Seventh Day), who released one of his early tapes in a heavy, full lead block (I still have it)
Basically we started the whole tape label thing, because we wanted to play our tracks to others, so we released it on tape. *
In that time we had a Korg MS10, a TR 303, a fabulous (;O) basic sequencer on an Atari Computer and a 4-track recorder. Dubbing, mixing and using effects was quite exciting in that time..
Soon everybody, who was involved in electronic or weird music, got to know each other. We met in the important local record shops. (“Rock on”, “Pure Freude” and later “Heartbeat”-where Siegfried Fischer (Phase Pervers) presented his weekly excellent choice of new to music to us))
So, quite naturally arised a bunch of people with same enthusiasm for music and we started to exchange music, cooperate and of course we began to release their stuff too.
Looking back, I find it was a stroke of luck to have found all these people in that special and exciting time, where everybody was manic about new music and the possibilities that lay in all the young technologies. Today, everybody can easily have access to music software, instruments, fx, mixing and recording facililies and it’s no problem to give access to the own music via internet.
In the eighties, we found a compete new territory, which was free to explore and I remember, that I was mad with excitement, when I found, I could play a sample of a household machine as part of a drumrhythm.
Detlef and I build up our little studio more and more and of course it was free to use for the others as well(Temps Perdu, Mynox layh, Phase Pervers, Pype Non etc) .
Later also built a small recording box for vocals, saxophone etc (and it was so hot inside, that you usually had to take towels inside)
These were highly energetic, creative and extraordinary times with great fun, where everybody benefitted from each other.
I must say, that I would be somebody else today, if I had not listened to all that synapse twisting music from Tuxedomoon, Dome, Clock DVA, Gadgets,etc. that gave the decicive impulses.
We released Compilations and did concerts and music festivals -also together with Time Base and Turn-about-Tapes.
Why did you use the name Dino Oon? Does it have a secret meaning?
The name “Dino Oon” emerged by itself, it has some secret roots, which I cannot tell .
(* I dicovered the TAPE-Universe as a child , my grandma gave me a tape recorder for birthday and from then on, I spend much time in front of the radio, recording music.
I hated it, when the track wasn’t completely over and radio moderator started speaking over the music, so I reversed the tape exactly onto the postion where the guy started talking, using the mechanic little wheel with numbers to navigate. The next days I waited for the track to be played again on radio and started the recorder approximately at that point, where the old recoding was interrupted. Mostly, a few lines were double on the tape, so I opened it up, cut out the unnecessary duplicate and fixed it with scotch tape, to have the song completely.My childhood-tapes were full of edits and bloops ;O) It lies in the nature of recording with tape, that I started to record bits and snippets soon. So later, I had an easy access to abstract and noisy music and it comes as no surprise that I became a film-editor ;O)
So, it sounds like the scene was pretty active and healthy in that part of Germany. Did you also travel or have friends in Berlin? Did you ever have contact with musicians in the East before the wall fell? Perhaps Jorg Thomasius or Conrad Schnitzler?
I think there was not much contact between the scenes in Düsseldorf and Berlin at that time. In comparison to Cologne, (which had more guitar bands) Düsseldorf stood for Electronic Music.(Düsseldorf had Kraftwerk and DAF and did’nt like the Neubauten ;O, I think both cities were actually competing for Innovation) We personally liked Frieder Butzmann and Die tödliche Doris, but never had big contacts to the scene in Berlin, except to Lord Litter. In the East we were often featured by the great Radio DT64.
Did SDV releases get much radio play in Germany or Europe?
Yes, we got loads of radio plays by brilliant independent Radio Stations in Germany, Belgium (Sandy Nys’ great revolutionary Shows!), Portugal (Luis Carlos!!), France, Holland, Spain and the USA (mostly students’ radio).
Did you ever have tapes released on other labels? And your records, how did you get them distributed?
We had tracks released on other labels, but no tapes.
I think we started distributing our first records ourselves, later we had a little contract with Nikel Pallat (Ton Steine Scherben) from Indigo (an indie-sub of EFA)
How did you find out information about the international scene and begin trading tapes and records with The USA, England,etc?
We didn’t really try to find out information concerning the scene or trading records. It was all pure serendipity, we found things, we did’nt seek. It all happened without any effort.
(Until the days, when we actually had to cope too much with contracts. When things started to put pressure on us, the magic was gone. But that was later..)
We met gorgeous people on festivals like the yearly Ones in Sint Niklaas (Belgium) which were absolutely wonderful, vivid and innovative.
I think,mostly, people from Radio Stations and Music Magazines contacted us.
Today there are many women involved in experimental and independent music. But in the 1980s and early 1990s there didn’t seem like many. Did you know many other women at the time who were working as solo artists or label owners?
Personally I knew only very few women doing experimental music, mostly they were only doing vocals. Concerning electronic music, there were even less. In fact the only exception was Maria Zerfall. And god,she was really extreme!
But there were woman involved in Label-work like in one of my favourite labels of that time: Les Disques du Crepuscule.
Düsseldorfs most important and extraordinary record shop (and label) Pure Freude was run by Carmen Knoebel. Not to forget Monika Döring who organised phantastic concerts and run the famous venue “Loft” in Berlin.
Do you think something changed in regards to women wanting to create experimental / electronic/indepenedent music?
Surely there was a change at the Ende of the 90s, when women became more active, also as DJs, but concerning electronic and abstract music, I still wish it would become better.
Did you or Detlef ever make guest appearances on other bands/artists recordings?
We did a few tracks with other musicians during the SDV time.
What year did you move to Berlin? Was it for personal or artistic reasons?
I worked as a Free-lance Editor in Berlin before and I moved completely here, after SDV and doing music as Oon/Kraft was finished.
It was all ugly and sick. You see, with SDV, we never did anything for personal financal profit. It was only about the music. And we were euphoric about it. Some people gave us very bad energy, they spoiled the whole work and atmosphere. I am sorry, I can’t say it in any other way.
Of course,there were other reasons as well. In 93’ the label work had become much administration, work on the writing desk, which I did’nt enjoy.. Detlef and I also ended our 13-Year- relationship.
At some point, it was just over and you could’nt bring it back.
In 94, a friend and I built a new sound-studio for music, film mixing radio-plays, here in Berlin and I started to do the music for the experimental radio play “City of Glass” by Paul Auster.
Does the SDV catalog exist online? And is there a way to still get the recordings from that period ( archived online perhaps?)?
There is a little Catalogue on discogs:
I never tried to get it together. Maybe I should put digitize some tapes, but unfortunately, meanwhile all my tape-recorders broke down.
Thank you Birgit and good luck with all.
Many greeting. Birgit