An interview with Denis Karimani aka Remute
by Christophe Becker
Denis Karimani, aka Remute, was born in 1983 in Belgrade, Serbia, before his family moved to Hamburg. As a DJ, he keeps a low-tech approach to music and systematically uses out-of-date material, releasing Generations for Sega Dreamcast in 2022 and To the Bone for the Commodore C64 the following year.
In 2023, he is releasing Decoder* as a Sega Mega Drive / Genesis cartridge, aspiring to “retell the story of Decoder* in a more linear and compact way” with both a musical visual novel and a new soundtrack.
Remute founded his own label in 2008 and defines himself as “a musician, dreamer and cartridge dealer.”
For obvious, practical reasons, the 1984 movie is written as Decoder, while Remute’s eponymous VN is written as Decoder*.
Christophe Becker: When did you first see Decoder?
Denis Karimani: The first time I saw Decoder was sometime in the early 2000s. It was a sort of after-party classic and friends played shoddy VHS-bootlegs of the movie during these parties at their home cinemas — there were parties where I watched it several times in a row. And so I fell in love with its story and atmosphere. Decoder had a very deep impact on me. Nowadays I am happy to own the proper DVD and Blu Ray versions of course.
C. B.: Were you a fan of science fiction at the time?
D. K.: I am a lifetime fan of all sorts of SciFi. Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, William Gibson — they made me.
C. B.: Klaus is adamant Decoder is not a Cyberpunk movie. What did you make of it? Did you consider it as a unique work of art, or were you able to establish connections with other atypical movies?
D. K.: I think Decoder is a unique piece of art with a very special atmosphere that can’t be defined solely as Cyberpunk — it’s really a genre on its own. For me, it has a similar atmosphere to movies like [Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s] Tetsuo or even [David Lynch’s] Eraserhead in its psychedelic moments.
C. B.: When did you first meet Klaus Maeck?
D. K.: I got in touch with Klaus via email during the pandemic and I was very happy and grateful how open-minded, professional and overall cool he is. We discussed the setting and the characters a great deal, their relationships to each other and to larger groups as well, and he gave me a deeper insight into the world of Decoder. We discussed the WORLD corporation more than anything — a very interesting and controversial topic.
Later on, we had the opportunity to meet a few times — for example at the premiere of his fantastic documentary Alles Ist 1 Ausser der 0 here in Hamburg.
C. B.: Did you ever have the opportunity to meet other members of the film crew?
D. K.: Not yet unfortunately, but I’d really love to! But wait… not long ago I met William Burroughs in my dreams… does this count?
C. B.: Did you know about William Burroughs’ Electronic Revolution at the time? Were you familiar with his sound theories and experiments?
D. K.: I’ve been following the work of William Burroughs for a long time and am absolutely into it. His sound theories are groundbreaking; I think it is not exaggerated to claim he had a very early vision of “sampling.” So that’s of course very important to me as a musician. Besides that, I read and watch Naked Lunch at least once a year to keep myself weird enough.
Naked Lunch was the first book I read from him. Discovering the even weirder and more twisted writing style of Burroughs was groundbreaking.
C. B.: The notion of a work of art that could trigger a revolution or riots is central to Decoder (1984 and 2023). It is also a burroughsian trope. What do you think is the role of artists in the political debate — if any?
D. K.: I think artists are very powerful, even more powerful than politicians or political debates probably. Art goes straight into your mind and is able to reprogram you on a deep level. Reprogramming while getting entertained — only artists can achieve that.
C. B.: How did you settle on adapting the movie as a Sega Genesis / Mega Drive cartridge?
D. K.: The Sega Genesis is my favorite game console. Especially its FM synth-like sound chip [or YM2612 sound chip]. And as Decoder is very focused on sound, I decided to port it to the console with the best sound, easy as that. Plus, the Sega Genesis is a joy to program and produce for and still has a huge fanbase of retrogamers worldwide.
C. B.: You’ve defined Decoder*as a “musical visual novel.”
D. K.: Visual novels are amongst my favorite videogame-genres. It’s quite relaxing and deep. My visual novels of choice are Steins;Gate, Hotel Dusk: Room 215 or Danganronpa.
C. B.: Did you immediately have an exact idea of the end result you wished for?
D. K.: Yes, right from the beginning I was thinking of a visual novel focused on sound and music. The goal was to retell the story of Decoder in a more linear and compact way.
C. B.: Using the range of sounds provided by the YM2612, Decoder* seems somehow lighter, perhaps more cheerful.
D. K.: Yes, my soundtrack isn’t very “industrial,” but more synthetic and artificial sounding. I like the YM2612 sound chip because it turns everything into SciFi.
C. B.: Now that you’re mentioning the Industrial scene, did Genesis P-Orridge have a bearing on your work while you were striving to become a musician? Were you familiar with his musical projects and programmatic texts?
D. K.: Of course! Genesis P-Orridge — what a unique person, what a unique, irreplaceable spirit. I love Throbbing Gristle, but, to be honest, I’ve always been more into Psychic TV. Their album A Pagan Day [Temple Records, 1984], especially, is amongst my all-time favorites and hugely inspiring.
C. B.: Were you into the German Industrial scene?
D. K.: I still enjoy all Industrial music from the 80s and early 90s. Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Front 242 and, needless to say, Einstürzende Neubauten.
Nowadays, I love listening to all sorts of electronic music. I prefer the very twisted stuff like Squarepusher or early Aphex Twin, but also some extreme stuff like Merzbow. I obviously like some contemporary dance music from people like Legowelt, Daniel Avery or Bicep, or some game music by guys like Tee Lopes.
C. B.: Klaus considers the sentences GPO improvised during the movie as essential to Decoder: “Information is like a bank. Some of us are rich, some of us are poor with information. All of us can be rich. Our job, your job, is to rob the bank, to kill the guard, to go out there, to destroy everybody who keeps and hides the whole information.”
D. K.: These sentences are the essence of Decoder indeed. I can’t believe that this was improvised, but then it just proves the brilliancy of GPO’s mind.
C. B.: How did you work with Kabuto and Alien?
D. K.: I’ve been working with these guys since my album Technoptimistic which also came out for the Sega Genesis [on March, 2019]. They are my “dream-team.” Kabuto is centered on some deep level coding for the console while Alien concentrates on all things regarding graphics. For Decoder* we met for countless hours on Discord and discussed and shaped things there… It was a very smooth and precise operation and I am absolutely happy with the outcome.
C. B.: The line “All association tracks are obsessional” uttered by Burroughs in Decoder* does not appear in the movie. It actually comes from “The Invisible Generation” section in The Ticket That Exploded (1962). Can you comment on these revisions?
D. K.: I’ve learned about this line in the booklet of a Decoder DVD-release. It’s just… true. And so I had to include it in my adaptation.
C. B.: You were born in 1983 in Belgrade, Serbia, a year before Decoder was released. You never were a contemporary of German radical movements like 2 June Movement or the Rote Armee Fraktion. How do you explain the fact that the political overtone of the movie clearly appealed to someone of your generation?
D. K.: The psychological spirit of these radical movements is timeless and can be applied even on this present era. The establishment needs to be shaken up constantly. Maybe not with bombs, violence or abductions, but with ideas — the most deadly and effective weapons.
C. B.: You founded your cassette tape label, Occult Tracks, at a time where cassette players were deemed obsolete. What was your intention then?
D. K.: I like the sound of a cassette tape recording that gets slightly overdriven. That special “tape feeling” inspired me to a series of improvised tracks which wouldn’t happen without the tape recorder sitting right in front of me. And so the Occult Tracks get released exclusively on cassette tapes — more to come soon!
C. B.: The paradox is, people like Vittore Baroni from TRAX or even GPO with Industrial Records used cassette tapes on account of them being cheap. It was a simpler way to record and distribute albums. Nowadays it seems to be more of a challenge: a voluntary hindrance.
D. K.: I love to use equipment with limitations — synthesizers, game consoles or tape recorders, it doesn’t matter. It’s easier to decorate a small room than a large hall where you can get lost in.
C. B.: Were cassette labels significant during your education as a musician?
D. K.: I’ve grown up with cassette tapes full of DJ-mixes — from my father’s collection. Full of acid house, electro or other weird stuff. I really enjoyed browsing through his messy tape collection.
C. B.: What is your relation to the occult and / or magick?
D. K.: I am an explorer [smile].