zaterdag 22 oktober 2016

Breaking Barriers: 40 years of punk. People who do not want to take a sincere position, should not think they have anything to do with punk.

How time flies. Punk is already 40 years old. But rest assured, a midlife crisis is still not in the making. According to an expert on the matter, punk will become at least 4000 years old. So it will be a celebration, and our expert - none other than Malcolm Nix, best known as DJ, concert organizer and opinion maker - will make it a nice three-day festival under the name ‘Breaking Barriers’.

Breaking Barriers will celebrate the 40th anniversary punk. 1976 is obviously the explosion of punk in England, but a lot happened before that, such as the CBGB scene in New York with the Ramones, Television and Patti Smith. Why did you choose 1976 as the birth of the movement?

 One could say that punk can be seen as yet another event in a continuum of cultural resistance of which we find traces in the folk music of all past and living cultures, but that way of course there is no starting point that can be remembered. In itself, that would be okay, but people often tend to catalogue what they perceive in their environment. That is also the reason why there are so many genres and subgenres. Everyone catalogues everything because the amount of information is too chaotic for our limited brain. We cannot deny the reality. At one point in time, a consensus emerged to call a certain movement punk, and so this starting point arose.

We can discuss this for a long time, but we need to take a decision in the end. In 1977, all the pioneering bands were busy for a while, while in 1975 they were so isolated that there was no scene yet. So it has become in 1976. Culture is not determined by the artists, but by the public. The artists are simply the intermediary between artistic content and the people who want to be presented with this content. In 1976, there were enough of those people to be able to speak of a movement.

You choose for a very British interpretation of punk, right?

No I don’t. I just need to take into account the affordability of the bands, and then it automatically results with in bands and British bands. American bands, for instance, are far too expensive, even for a hall as Het Depot. Of course there are very cheap bands in many other European countries, but they are usually so obscure that no one will come to watch them, what indirectly explains their low price.

With The Damned, The Mob, The Ruts -actually successor Ruts DC-, and The Membranes, you were able to book a few of the bands from the first punk wave. Is the event meant to celebrate the bands from the early beginnings?

I tried to find a balance between all kinds of tendencies. The Damned was an obvious headliner. It is a very famous band that has never played in Leuven yet. Ruts DC represent the link between old punk and reggae, which in later generations has been replaced by the link between punk and ska. The Mob represents the integrity of the overall DIY approach. They even refused to send a band photo on the website, as they see it as star worship. The Membranes began in 1977, but achieved success only years later. They do no longer sound as in their early days. In other words, it's not about the age of the bands. It should just be musically varied and fascinating.

At the same time, I must admit that there are few recent bands on the bill. This is partly due to lack of time, because it seemed meaningless to cram even more bands on the bill. Unfortunately, little genuine instant classics were released in terms of punk recent years. I would really like to have a lot of new bands, possibly with one or two old heroes, but we repeatedly realised at Het Depot that you can not attract a lot of people do with only the promise that the music will be good. Many people are unwilling to go to a band that they do not know yet.

In the past, young alternative bands got many opportunities to build an audience in youth clubs and the likes, but that’s not easy anymore with all the norms and rules of today. Het Depot can play a role in this, but in fact there should be a small room in each municipality where music-conscious residents gather two or three times a month to watch bands that they do not know. Most people are too focussed on fixed values. It will unfortunately take more than a little festival in order to change that.

Discharge headlines the second day. They represent the second wave of punk and were at the roots of crust and grindcore in the early 80s. Aren’t they an outsider on the bill?

 Discharge actually exists since 1977. They are also part of that first generation, although they chose for a radically different sound later on. I do not see them as outsiders, but as a logical consequence of the evolution that had already been initiated and from which they took the logical next step.

Our dear Belgium is represented well with Funeral Dress, Belgian Asociality and Zyklome A. Furthermore, Kloot per W and Elvis Peeters will do spoken words performances. Is this how you ‘support your local scene’?

Since most of those people live in Antwerp, I'm not sure if this is still really the ‘local scene’. But they are more than welcome, of course. It would be rather silly to organize such a festival and not try to get some of the best native representatives on stage.

We do try to support the real local scene, as will become clear in your next question...

There are a remarkable number of additional activities for the festival: free performances by TV Smith - ex-The Adverts! - And Ulrike's Dream, as well as Bunkerleute goth party and a ska party on the day before the festival, and there is even a punk record fair on 11 November. It seems as if all of Leuven has to turn punk for three days…

This is exactly the way we try to support the ‘local scene’. We cannot possibly give everyone a place on our own stage, but we can work together with others. The local scene should never be dependent on one single place. That has happened in many places and the disappearance of that single place immediately led to the collapse of the scene itself.

In my view, this is a festival for Leuven and anyone who wants to can join the parties. In this way, we create a lot more atmosphere for everyone. There are of course major festivals with six or more stages, but this is much looser. You can grab something for free or linger at a specific spot. By doing these activities a day earlier, no one has to miss anything. The bands in the Rockcafé, for example, begin only when TV Smith stops at cafe Libertad. I prefer to do it this way instead of a big festival with several stages where people are forced to choose between various venues where all the bands play simultaneously.

I can only hope that the public appreciates it too, and will not only come to Leuven for those few big names playing in our main hall. In my eyes, the additional activities are just as much part of the whole.

Punk is often narrowed to fast songs of three chords, but this festival offers a lot of variety. We will hear both hardcore and oi, and even dub, reggae and lectures. Are you happy with the balance that you have achieved?

It can always be better, right? But I am terribly happy. This is a dream bill, full of talent and charisma. We have no less than three bands that have never really been on a Belgian stage and we have a band that wants to give us their first show in 31 years.

I would have liked to add a few bands that further push the limits of punk, but it must remain practicable. This is already hard for all the volunteers who ultimately form the backbone of our organization. At some point, one has to draw a line and say that the program is good enough.

You also choose several very committed bands. Are punk and politics inseparable?

No, it's different. Everything is political. Every human interaction is a political act. People who think that a political position should be an opinion about government policy or so, are mistaken. Even the choice of a particular brand of bottled water is a political decision. In my eyes, punk is pre-eminently a critical movement, which automatically leads to political positions. I can formulate it differently. People who do not want to take a sincere position, should not think they have anything to do with punk. Blink-182 is not on the bill.

Punk in our region seems to attract an older audience, mainly. In countries such as Indonesia, Burma, Japan and even China, however, we can see strong and vibrant punk movements with young people fully opting for the punk lifestyle. What do you think about this?

I'm jealous. I can only hope that we can experience this here again too. Well, young people over there can have a hard time being a punk, especially in Indonesia. That is obviously something I would not want to see here. When I look at those who are against punk over there, I can only say that they are bringing things about. Sometimes you must dare to be proud of the enemies that you have created. They are the sign that you are bringing things about.

Finally, why do you conclude that punk will live for year 4000?

It's just an estimate. I can be wrong by twenty to thirty years. I can see no reason why punk would disappear. Every year, millions of people flock to Athens to visit the millennia-old monuments on the Acropolis. Is the first album by The Ruts not an highlight in the history of mankind? I almost wrote ‘the history of human civilization’, but this must still begin, unfortunately. In any case, Punk is a firm first step in that direction.

Pictures: Luc Luyten

Breaking Barriers: website / facebook

dinsdag 11 oktober 2016

Messier 39: It's a way to get a grip on my sometimes bizarre reality, to convey it without giving everything away.

Take a look at the stars if you want to see Messier 39. Indeed, it is the name of an open cluster of stars at 825 light years from our planet. It is also the name of an exciting new project of minimal wave, consisting of the Belgian Jan Vinoelst on keys and the Polish-Dutch Ludwika Jakubowska on vocals. We saw their first performance on the Black Planet Fest on Friday October 14th, and soon we will host them at our very own Dark Entries Night at the Kinky Star in Ghent. To introduce you to this interesting newcomer, we shot a number of questions at the duo.

Hi Jan and Ludwika. You form Messier 39. How did you meet? Did you immediately plan to make music together?

Ludwika: I saw a call for a singer Jan had posted on facebook. I immediately reacted and sent him some covers which I have sung a long time ago. He contacted me to say that my voice suited his music and ideas. That’s how our collaboration began. We were both very excited and really wanted to make it work. We wanted to do a project where we would both be satisfied.

The name ‘Messier 39’ refers to a star formation. On your bandcamp page, I read that it is a ‘celestial object typically seen as one star but in fact it consists of tons of far away stars acting together as one…’ I want to know more about that.

Jan: You can see Messier 39 as an apt metaphor that illustrates the geographical distance between the two musicians on the one hand, and on the other hand a network of musical ideas, in time and space, connected to each other, and eventually the songs as palpable whole.

Your debut EP 'Coil' came out in June. How were the reactions so far?

Jan: ‘Coil’ mainly aims to introduce Messier 39 in the scene. We see daily movement on the bandcamp page and also on the SoundCloud, so it’s doing great.

Ludwika: The reactions were very positive and many were disappointed that the physical copies were sold out so quickly. It has been said that some things could be better in terms of recording and mixing, something I can agree with (but don’t listen to me, I'm a perfectionist). It is intended to give people an idea of ​​what we are doing, it just happens to be our first - self-released - issue, which is rather a preview on our LP.

When I listen to your music, I think of of Sixth June, Minuit Machine and especially Keluar. How do you feel about such comparisons?

Ludwika: They are all names within the genre which I really appreciate, so it's nice that people think we are on a similar line as them. But each of those bands - including ourselves - have a unique style. I think people always need to categorize. They make connections with what already exists and what they know. Ultimately, we want to sound as Messier 39 and create our own distinctive signature.

You play minimal wave, a style that is very 'in' nowadays. It even manages to attract a younger audience to a scene that seems to consist mainly of people in their forties and fifties. Do you consider yourselves a part of this larger movement?

Ludwika: Although I like to listen to minimal wave and definitely take inspiration from it, I never feel part of a group or a movement, either musically or personally. At the same time I think that many interesting developments are currently taking place and I also want to support the surrounding scene. It's a paradox.

Jan is from Belgium, Ludwika from the Netherlands, and even originally from Poland. Do you see differences in the scenes in these countries and did this affect your approach in Messier 39?

Jan: These differences are not something we necessarily stood still with. A natural synergy emerges between our worlds and experiences with which we can start to write new songs.

Ludwika: I have the musical vocabulary of Polish music, but not necessarily from the scene. I bring along the Polish language and roots that are a source of inspiration. Ultimately, the creative process is very organic and I don’t care if a scene affects it or not.

The lyrics are very intriguing. They are often very personal, but also cover issues like magic. Can you explain more?

Ludwika: My lyrics are indeed very personal and deal with thoughts that I have and events I experience. It's a way to get a grip on my sometimes bizarre reality, to convey it without giving everything away. Ultimately, I like it very much that I am the only one who knows what the lyrics are all about. The audience can give their own interpretation to it.

I went to your first gig in June. I certainly was not the only one who thought it was excellent. Were you satisfied?

Jan: It really tastes like more. We left our first impressions and immediately received good reviews. It was a very rewarding performance.

Ludwika: It could have been better in terms of sound, but overall I loved to perform there. It's a very nice feeling to have worked on something together and to present it to an audience responding so enthusiastically. I get a lot of pleasure and satisfaction out of performing. I hope we will have the chance to perform many times again.

The few physical copies of your ep were sold out in no time. Are there plans to make more physical copies?

Ludwika: Yes, we are working on it very hard.

Jan: ‘Coil’ was deliberately released as a limited edition CD. The reason for this is that on the one hand it is a self release, and then also because we have negotiations with a label for an album on vinyl.

You are both engaged in graphic art, if I'm not mistaken. Can you give some more explanation about this? Do you see a connection with the work of Messier 39?

Ludwika: Well, not quite. I have a background in classical painting techniques, but I get a lot of inspiration from the graphic arts for my own projects. I especially like the meeting of organic forms with clean graphic lines, fractals and geometric shapes. These forms are reflected in the accessories that I make and also in the things I want to contribute to the performances of Messier 39, as well as for designs record covers. I think it's good a gathering of organic and synthetic in the style of Messier 39.

On October 14 you play on the Dark Entries Night at the Kinky Star Ghent. Will it be very different from the first gig? What can we expect?

Jan: We're going to throw some new songs in the set, of course. But we also want to radiate at least the same energy and convince the public again!

In Eernegem, you already played several songs that are not on the EP, including a song in Polish. I know you are now writing new songs now. Do you plan future releases? What are your future plans?

Jan: The new songs will appear on the LP, but we will be busy for some time in the studio. We hope to release it before the end of 2016. Moreover, there are a number of organizations in Belgium, the Netherlands and France that will give us a stage in 2017.

Ludwika: So, the future? We will continue to make new music, more performances, more releases, continue to grow creatively and get great pleasure from the whole process.

Pictures and video: Patrice Hoerner

Interview: Xavier Kruth

Messier 39: facebook / soundcloud / bandcamp

zondag 2 oktober 2016

DaGeist: We find our motivation in sharing our music with the people and in the exchanges we have with the public. It is all happiness, because we only meet wonderful people.

DaGeist is doing well. This young - well, the band is young, the members are a bit older - dark wave and electro band issued its debut ‘40’ earlier this year. We love it, and since, we hear positive echoes about their live performances. We have not seen them play yet, but that will change soon. On October 14 indeed, when they will perform at the 16th edition of the Dark Entries Nights, at the Kinky Star in Ghent. We asked them a few questions in advance.

DaGeist released the debut album '40' a few months ago. Congratulations, we love it. Are you satisfied?

Thanks for the congratulations, Xavier. We are obviously very happy to have released our record, because it is a lot of work and it is a project that is close to our heart and that we absolutely wanted to achieve.
You describe yourselves as ‘new wave, cold wave, darkwave, electro’. More or less everything that is popular in the wave scene. Do you feel that the combination of new wave guitars and basses with electronic darkwave appeals to people?

Indeed, DaGeist is a bit of a mix of all these sounds, especially the dark wave and electro, and it is true that people love it. The album was very well received by the public, but also by professionals, and it is even received more enthousiasticly when we play live!

DaGeist has existed since 2008, but it was a very different formation. You had five musicians back then. How did the band originate, and for what purposes?

In the beginning, the group was an opportunity to come together around a shared passion: ‘Newave’. We listened to songs, and slowly we have formed a band to play this music together.

After a while, you have limited the group to a duo with singer Schago and Fred on bass. Why?

With life and its requirements, it is not always easy to find time to get together and to have rehearsals and concerts. The two of us are getting along really well and we have the same objectives regarding DaGeist.

But most of the songs were already written in the old formation, right? Have you written new songs together for the CD?

Let us say that the base for the numbers was already present, but we had to rework every song so that the bass sound would come out better. We have already written new songs and we play them live. And other compositions are on the way!

You've worked hard on the right sound for the record. The bass has a dominant position. Fred, you told me that you have carefully analyzed the sound of great bass players as Peter Hook and Steve Severin. Can you tell me more about it?

I've always been a fan of these two bassists and the ‘cold’ sound that they were able to produce with their bass. So I started searching for the same effect pedals that were used at that time - in the 80s - to use them for DaGeist, without necessarily copying what Peter Hook and Steve Severin have done before.

The group has no guitarist anymore. But I can still hear guitars on several tracks. Where do they come from?

It is the old guitarist who recorded them. But we have reworked the guitar to make it fit into the overall mix of the songs.

Why the name DaGeist? It sounds German, but if I'm not mistaken, it is not a German word.

The word Geist is German for spirit or ghost. But we wanted to create our own word for the band, and so we got the idea to add Da before it, so it would still continue to sound German.

The record is called '40', and if I have understood it well, it is that a reference to your age...

Absolutely correct! We wanted to use a number as the name of the disc. And we wanted to say that at 40, everything remains possible.

It's not easy to make a record and give concerts at 40 years or more. What motivates you?

We find our motivation in sharing our music with the people and in the exchanges we have with the public. Being on the road and discovering new places, all those beautiful moments in life ... It is all happiness, because we only meet wonderful people.

You play live regularly, both in France and in Belgium. We just learned that you are going tour in England. And you will play at the Dark Entries Night of October 14th, of course. How would you describe a DaGeist live show?

We are excited about playing the Dark Entries Night. Thanks again to the whole team. And indeed, in January, we will embark to England. We will play some shows with the musicians of Lene Lovich, including a set in London. The purpose of our shows is to get our dark and sometimes melancholic feelings to the audience to make their mind to travel by giving the maximum of ourselves.

By the way, does the Belgian scene still attract the French to the same extent?

I can confirm! It is a pleasure to play in the Belgian scene. I was born there, in Menen. And it is great because there is always a goth community whith which we have had good contacts for years, and we meet so much ... even in Leipzig.

And what are your future plans?

We just signed to the German label Danse Macabre! You can expect DaGeist soon near Germany ... We also prepare a 45" vinyl. And we are quietly working on our second album, but we want to do things well, not in a rush. And of course we have to prioritize the planned concerts!


Pictures: Patrice Hoerner

Interview: Xavier Kruth

DaGeist: Nous trouvons nos motivations dans le partage de notre musique avec les gens, des échanges que nous pouvons avoir avec le public. Ce n'est que du bonheur car nous ne rencontrons que des personnes adorables.

DaGeist se porte bien. Ce jeune - bon, le groupe est jeune, les membres un peu moins - groupe dark wave et électro a publié son premier album '40' plus tôt cette année. Nous l'aimons bien, et depuis, nous entendons des échos positifs de leurs performances live. On ne les a pas encore vu jouer nous-mêmes, mais cela va changer bientôt. Le 14 Octobre en effet, quand ils se produiront à la 16e édition des Dark Entries Ningts, au Kinky Star à Gand. En attendant, nous leur avons déjà posé quelques questions.

DaGeist a sorti son premier album ‘40’ il y a quelques mois. Toutes nos félicitations, nous l'aimons bien. Êtes-vous contents ?

Un grand merci pour les félicitations Xavier! Nous sommes forcement très heureux d'avoir pu sortir notre album car c'est beaucoup de travail et c'est vraiment un projet qui nous tenait a cœur et que nous voulions réaliser.

Vous vous identifiez comme un goupe ‘new wave, coldwave, darkwave, electro’. Bref, tout ce qui est populaire dans la scène wave. Sentez-vous que le mix de sons de basse et guitares new wave et d'électronique darkwave accroche chez les gens ? 

Effectivement, DaGeist est un peu un mélange de tous ces sonorités, particulièrement la musique darkwave avec l’électro, et c'est vrai que pour les personnes aimant ce genre de musique. L'album a reçu un  superbe accueil de la part du public mais aussi des professionnels et encore plus lors des lives.

DaGeist existe déjà depuis 2008, mais c’était une tout autre formation. Il y avait alors cinq membres. Comment c'est formé le groupe alors et quel était son but?

Au départ, le groupe était l'occasion de se réunir entre amis autour d'une passion commune : la musique ‘Newave’. Nous écoutions des morceaux, et petit à petit nous avons formé un groupe pour jouer ensemble.

Après un temps, vous avez réduit le groupe à un duo avec Schago au chant et Fred à la basse. Pourquoi?

Avec la vie en générale et ses obligations, il n'est pas facile de trouver du temps pour se réunir afin d'assurer les répétitions et les concerts. Et puis la à deux en plus de s'entendre très bien nous avons les même objectifs concernant DaGeist.

La plupart des chansons existaient déjà, non? Avez-vous fait de nouvelles compositions ensemble pour le CD?

Disons que la base musicale des morceaux étaient existantes mais nous avons dû retravailler chaque morceaux afin de laisser une présence plus prononcée pour la basse. Il y a déjà de nouvelles compositions que nous jouons en live et d’autres nouvelles compositions sont en cours!

Vous avez beaucoup travaillé sur le son du disque. La basse a reçue un rôle dominant. Fred, tu m'as dit que tu avais beaucoup analysé le son de grands bassistes comme Peter Hook et Steve Severin. Tu peux m'en dire plus ?

J'ai toujours été un fan de ces deux grand bassistes et surtout des sons ‘cold’ qu'ils produisaient avec leur basse. Je me suis donc mis à la recherche des mêmes pédales d'effets utilisées à l’époque, les années 80, afin de pouvoir les appliquer pour DaGeist sans toutefois copier ce que faisaient Peter Hook et Steve Severin.

Le groupe n'a plus de guitariste. Pourtant, j'entends bien des guitares sur plusieurs morceaux. D'où viennent-elles?

C'est l'ancien guitariste qui les a enregistré. Mais la aussi la guitare a été retravaillé pour la fondre dans le mix générale des chansons.

Pourquoi le nom DaGeist? Ca sonne allemand, mais ce n'est pas un vrai mot allemand, si je ne me trompe pas.

Le mot Geist est allemand en fait qui veut dire le fantôme, esprit... mais nous voulions créer notre propre mot pour le groupe et nous avons eu l’idée de rajouter Da pour que ça continue de ‘sonner’ allemand!!

Le disque s'appelle '40', et si j'ai bien compris, c'est une  référence à votre âge?

Tout à fait exact! Nous voulions donner un chiffre comme nom d'album. Et on voulait dire qu'à 40 ans, tout est encore possible!!!

Il n'est pas évident de sortir un album et de faire des concerts à 40 ans ou plus. Qu'est-ce qui vous motive?

Nous trouvons nos motivations dans le partage de notre musique avec les gens, des échanges que nous pouvons avoir avec le public. Être sur les routes et de découvrir de nouveaux lieux, tout ces bon moments de vie… Ce n'est que du bonheur car nous ne rencontrons que des personnes adorables.

Vous jouez régulièrement live, autant en Belgique qu'en France. Nous venons d'apprendre que vous préparez une tournée en Angleterre, et évidement, vous jouerez à la Dark Entries Night du 14 octobre à Gand. Comment décriveriez-vous un concert de DaGeist?

 Nous sommes très heureux de jouer pour la Dark Entries Night. Encore merci a toute l’équipe. Et oui, en janvier nous serons en Angleterre avec les musiciens du groupe LENE LOVICH, à Londres notamment. Le but de nos concerts, c'est de transmettre nos émotions sombres parfois mélancoliques au public, de faire voyager leur esprit en donnant le maximum de nous même comme.

En fait, la scène belge attire toujours autant les goths français?

Je te le confirme!! C'est un plaisir de venir jouer sur la scène belge déjà parce que j'y suis né (à Menen) et qu'il  il y a toujours une communauté goths et darks présentes avec qui nous nous entendons très bien depuis des années et que l'on prend plaisir à se voir... comme au WGT à Leipzig par exemple...

Quels sont vos plans pour le future?

Nous venons de signer sous le label allemand Danse Macabre Records! Vous allez retrouver normalement bientôt DaGeist du coté de l'Allemagne... Un projet de maxi 45tours est également en préparation. Pour le futur, nous avançons aussi tranquillement pour le 2eme album, mais nous voulons faire les choses bien sans se précipiter, et puis nous devons déjà assurer les concerts prévus!!!

Photos: Patrice Hoerner
Interview: Xavier Kruth