"It is wonderful to be able experience art without understanding how it was meant or what makes it good." (Kim Boekbinder said that during an interview I did with her) I might not have the biggest knowledge about music but I have a great passion for it. Passion is what counts.
I live in Berlin, Germany (born, raised and still resident) and this is my personal blog about music and other things that cross my way. Things I love to be exact. And even though I am German and my English is still not perfect, this blog is in English.
Mister and Mississippi “Northern Sky” (live at Gi:el)
How beautiful is the voice of singer Maxime Barlag? Like velvet, like summer rain, like something you want to cover yourself on days where everything goes wrong but occasionally a bit rough. It’s sounds like perfect harmony when she and Samgar Lemuël Jacobs, second singer and percussionist, sing together. And the rest of the band is rather surprising as well: two guitars. Sometimes Tom Broshuis will also play keyboards and Danny van Tiggele also joins in with some vocals. Result of this Dutch quartet is a calm Folk, different from what you normally get to hear. I just fell instantly in love with this song. I imagine their self-titled album (released end of 2013) is just as awesome.
Thank you for reading,
07.06. Beverungen, Orange Blossom Festival
08.06. Hamburg, Knust
20.06. Würzburg, Umsonst & Draußen
02.07. Stuttgart, Café Galao
03.07. Stuttgart, Marienplatzfest
19.07. Heppstadt, Kuckucksheim Open Air
02.08. Breitenbach, Burg Herzberg Festival
Whenever I think of this band it’s not the music I think but the joy of playing live. I didn’t knew them or their music when I entered their concert on a festival in 2012. It hit me right away. These guys are having the time of their life and they’ll let anyone in the room feel that. That’s amazing. And then their energy on stage. It’s impressive, they have more energy than some bands who are half as old as those gentlemen.
Last Month their follow-up album to "All This Dancin’ Around" was released. By now I have "By Absence Of The Sun" listened on repeat - a solid rock record which explores all different shades of Rock. I was luck enough to sit down with singer and guitarist Ruben Block, bassist Paul Van Bruystegem and drummer Mario Goossens.
Dörte: Are you more excited about playing live than being in the studio or is it just my impression because it where I saw you first?
Mario Goossens: It’s nice to have both bits going on. It’s very normal to go on a tour after you made an album. After you spend some time working and making a new album, you go back on the road. The diversity of it is so nice. It keeps you fresh. In the last few years we’ve been so much on the road, we actually called the manager and said we need some time, we need to make a new album.
You re-released your last album for Germany in 2012, so what was old you, was quite fresh for us.
Mario: Yes, that’s true.
Paul Van Bruystegem: I think we’re a little bit old school, the difference between between live recording and studio recording is not too big because in the old tradition you make a record and you go and play it live. If you record you play it live, too. Except for other mics in front of your amplifiers and you don’t have an audience. For me there doesn’t really exist something like a live band or a studio band. Studioband maybe, yeah.
Ruben: For us the live thing is about interaction, the immediate interaction between the three of us. It is very important when we do a concert but it is also very important when we play in the studio. When we play the basics when we record an album it’s about the interaction and whether that’s right or not. That’s how we decide if a take is good.
Is it important for you that when you record a song that you’re able to play it live?
Ruben: Sometimes it’s harder, even now. It sometimes takes a lot of practice to be able to play the songs live. We had it with the previous album, too. You come up with certain guitar riffs, with interesting vocals and then it’s pretty hard to sing and play it live at the same time but we really wanna try to do that. Because at the moment, being just the three of us, is amazing.
Some songs gonna be a challenge again but we try to record an album with the three of us that sounds like a three piece band and here and there we added some colours, some harmonics, for example Saxophone. But those elements are put in there as a harmonic texture, not really upfront because what you still hear at first is a three piece band.
When you work in the studio, do you belong to those people who look at a computer screen watching faders move or do you lean back and just listen?
Mario: Of course we recorded our album old school on tape and of course we use pro tools like computers as well but mainly we recorded it on tape and put it into the computer as a back up. Even when when we go into mixes we use protool because it is very handy. It depends on you. For me it is very clear: You make great records on tape, then you make great records on computer watching the screen. It all depends on you. I think, you have to do it for you own way. It’s not a big issue. Sometimes I hear bands say ‘we recorded an album only tape’. It doesn’t mean that you make better albums.
Paul: But it’s true: You look at it while you’re hearing…
Mario: That’s why we also tested ourselves sometimes because sometimes the idea of doing something gets bigger than the reality. “We record on tape because it’s the best.” Once in a while Greg would take a certain track and ask “what do you prefer? This one or that one?” We didn’t know which one was what. We would question ourselves sometimes like if we are just too romantic sometimes about tapes and check out the reality.
The average listener who isn’t a musicians can’t always hear what you did…
Mario: We have to make an album we’re happy with. That is the first thing. We have to make an album where we think it kicks ass and sounds amazing. And then the only thing we can do is to present it to the rest of people and if they like it is the best.
Why did you went back to work with Greg Gordon [producer]? The first records you made on your own and for the last one you worked with Greg. How did that developed happen from working on your own to then go to someone else and continue working with him?
Mario: It was because I was producing Black Box Revelation where I got the opportunity from the record label that said “you can find somebody who can mix the album in America, you want someone in America?” Because I actually wanted to work with someone else but his management recommended Greg Gordon. I found out on the list of what he did that he did actually a lot of Belgium bands. I have started talking to some people and they all were like “you don’t need that other guy, you should work with Greg. He is the main guy. He is really good.” That’s why I started working with him for two albums of Black Box and then I texted the band from America: “Listen, the next album we should do with Greg.” And now it’s the same thing. We were so happy with result of that album and the four years we were touring we did some record store day releases with him and he worked on some stuff and he mixed our live album. He is a friend, he is such a great producer and such a great…
Paul: He knows both, tape and protools. You don’t have too many engineers who can work with tape, especially with three tape machines in different speeds. He is kind of a wizard.
Mario: And even on the level of humanity he is such a great guy. He is not the typical producer who sits there and says “I know how it works”. He is such a sweet guy and thinks like we do. The security of him reflects back on us and he is like a fourth band member.
Ruben: It’s nice to be able to be insecure because it’s a normal situation to be in when you’re creating stuff. Non of the four of us is pretending to know everything and always to have a solution. It’s a very nice way of working if you see that everyone is trying to make the best album we can make and allow to be insecure about some ideas. You can show it out there and talk about it. And look for a solution and that is pretty great.
I guess it is very important part to be insecure about something, also when you try something new. Because normally you’re insecure about stuff.
Ruben: Yeah, it means that you’re taking risks and you’re questioning yourself doing some new stuff instead of doing the safe thing that you know. Make it interesting, doubt yourself.
“All This Dancin’ Around” has more Blues in it, I feel like it’s almost gone. Was it on purpose or is it because it had been four years since your last studio album?
Ruben: I guess it’s not on purpose although we definitely don’t want to make an album that is a copy of a previous album. There is no use in it for us. It is not interesting.
Then you would be KISS. [Mario laughs]
Ruben: It’s nice to make an album with is a little different but still sounds like us. You start writing songs and some of the songs are leading against what we already did. All the songs ended up being different and we liked it. We talked about it how some songs get created, the arrangement is really different. The arrangement which ends up on the record for instance I might program a little beat on the computer and look for a guitar riff over it but it sounds really different than as a three piece rock band like the three of us.
It’s cool that it is something different because it leaves room for interpretation and everybody of the three of us can put their stamp on it, put their sound in it, put their groove in it. But I must admit that there were a couple of songs that I started out as a demo and I send to them and I said “I don’t know if this is a good song for the record because it is very different”. A lot of the times they said “we love it, let’s try it”.
Paul: When we three are together it sounds like us. It’s maybe a limitation but I don’t see it as a limitation.
Is it always like this that you give the ideas?
Ruben: It usually it starts with me. There is one song that started with Mario. “Halfway There” we made for a soundtrack for a movie [“Offline”, 2012].
How did that come along that you wrote a soundtrack?
Mario: They asked us to do this movie in Belgium. We were like “well, we haven’t done that before” so…
Paul: It sounded like fun.
Mario: Yeah, and it was like “ok, let’s do it” and then we had to leave for tour for three weeks [laughs] and we were all on the computer making some stuff. That was fun. You totally dig for a vibe and then you can get like little scenes of the movie and watch it. It’s different. “Halfway There” is coming out of it. And even “Masters of all Fears” came out of the “Movie Sessions” as we call it.
Ruben: It’s great because “Halfway There” intended to be an instrumental, moody kind of thing. The three of us were taking different stuff of the movie to create stuff. Mario was making stuff and I was doing stuff and he showed that track to us, he made an instrumental out of it. I just asked if he would mind if I put a melody and some lyrics on it because maybe I have an idea. He didn’t and then we ended up with that song. It’s pretty cool. “Splendor On The Grass” is also a song I wrote for the movie but didn’t get used because it didn’t fit the vibe.
Is it something that could change for the future?
Ruben: Yes, of course. We’re always open. Anybody can come up with ideas and there is another song that Mario started. With every album we make, we make a big list of all the ideas we have. We write them down and then we select a group of songs that fit with each other. There are a lot of songs and ideas that are really good but don’t fit into the album, so we keep them for the next album or another project.
Why did you went to L.A. to record the last two albums? For me it does fit your sound more than Belgium.
Paul: It has two reasons: A) It’s because Greg is living there. It’s easier. And b) to be away from everything that is distracting us from making music. Not too much phone calls, not to much distraction - just focus on the record. And of course it’s a nice place although the last time has been a ambivalent. In three or four years time the number of homeless people raised immense. They are everywhere. You see the hills and the rich people and you see the homeless people and at the same time you’re happy to be there and to work in a legendary studio. It’s ambivalent.
Does it show off in your music that you had this double experience there?
Ruben: I guess so, we had the greatest time the last years to play and so much great stuff happened to us. On one hand that’s what we reflecting in some of the songs but like Paul said. If you’re out there it’s different than when you read the paper and there is stuff about Greece or riots in Istanbul or Detroit - you just flip the page and it’s surreal. We’re just used to read about that intense stuff.
It became a daily thing…
Ruben: But it’s different when you’re there. We were in Athens and in Istanbul and in Los Angeles and then it’s much harder to step over it because you’re there with your fantastic pretty, great life in your fancy suit and then there it is. It’s not only junkies in Los Angeles. We have seen an old, decent dressed woman just going to the garbage to get some food or whatever. It’s troubling stuff. Sometimes it sticks to you and it’s doesn’t stay easy to step over it and just go on. You ask yourself “How am I supposed to combine all this together?” On one hand to create this fantastic, the joy and on the other those things. I think it reflects in a couple of lyrics or to me it was a starting point to write a lyric. Maybe to someone else there is something else shining out of it and that’s perfectly fine. I am happy with the tone of the lyrics. For me it is in there.
In which song for example?
Ruben: There are a couple of songs that address it: A song like “Splendor In The Grass” for instance. The chorus line goes “Free As A Bird” but it means something else for a lot of different people being free as a bird. Those homeless people are also free as a bird but it’s something else. And on the other side it’s really amazing to see how strong people are that are in a bad situation. They really find energy and the drive to go on, to carry on.
Somehow make it a life still.
Ruben: That’s why we also didn’t want to make a depressing album. We want to make a good album with good music because it’s a joy making it and and it’s a joy playing it.
You are one of the few lucky people who got to life of what they love.
Ruben: We are are lucky fucking bastards. So we might as well use our time very good and try to make good stuff, good music and good albums.
…and good liveshows. The awesome thing about this is that when I saw you for the first time, I could see it right away when you were on stage and having the time of your life. And that’s not always the case with bands that you see it right away.
Mario: Well, it’s a shame for them. You better have a good time when you do it instead of hanging there and wishing you weren’t there. I think it’s a privilege to be there.
Even though you have lots of press days and stuff like that?
Mario: Talking about your new album is a great thing, isn’t it? [all agree]
Ruben: And you know what: Talking about the lyric stuff, you learn something about yourself sometimes if the interview is interesting. People take time to listen to the album and make their own thing about it. We also learn stuff about ourselves or how we ended up making that album or are giving sort of an insight. Usually it takes some time to discover what an album is all about or what the face of an album is. You have been like here [holds his hand right in front of his face]] for a year. They start out as songs, then you rehearse them, you record them and then they are still songs. But from the moment you start mixing it, it also starts to be a very technical process. You have to try to combine to hear it as a song and at the same time watch all the little details at once like is it high and loud enough, is there enough kick drum, is the guitar not too loud, where are the vocals, more effects, less effects - so, it’s a very, very detailed technical process. When you finished mixing, it’s mastering. That’s even more technical. You’re listening to frequencies. So, after that it takes a while until you can listen to it as a song again. It’s gonna take a while until we’re going to see what it means but I have a pretty good feeling about the album.
I really like it. And I don’t know why but when I first listened to it I thought “oh, who is this? Oh, it’s Triggerfinger!” [laughter]
Paul: Being a live band, you’re playing live tonight, do your thing….a little fairytale. But it’s not like doing nothing. You have to work, that’s for sure.
That’s the part they never tell in fairytales. [all agree]
Ruben: We see it sometimes with young bands that their eyes a going like this [wide open] if they see how madly we’re doing this - whether we’re in the studio or rehearsing or touring. The only way you can do it is, that you love it very, very much because it’s immensely tiring to be touring in that tempo and write songs in the meantime.
Mario: And recording. Even our own crew who came over to Los Angeles because they missed us and they saw us working and were like “fucking hell, this is what you’re doing here? You guys are totally mad because you start of at 11 o’clock in the morning and by 11 o’clock in the evening you were still on a high”.
Paul: They are in the music business for a long time, like 30 years. He didn’t know what recording was about. “Ok, they play, it’s finished.”
Most normal people can’t imagine what it’s like.
Mario: If you haven’t experienced it, it’s normal that you can’t imagine how it exactly works. That’s why it’s sometimes interesting when one of our girlfriends comes along, especially when they have never toured with us, and then they see how tiring it is. Or someone from our management or our agents comes a long they’re like “I am just three days away from home and I am exhausted already and you guys go on for weeks”.
Paul: On the other hand it is good that the “normal” people who buy the records believe in that fairytale. They don’t have to know how we suffered. it’s just that “I want to buy that record”.
Ruben: And for us it’s still the best job in the world, it’s fantastic.
Is it, because you’re doing what you love the whole time, sometimes difficult to be doing what you love the whole time?
Ruben: It’s not a question. There is no other way. Music… you can’t turn it off. Because when you wake up in the morning and if you see something interesting or you hear a great song on the radio, it always inspires you. You can’t turn it on and off.
Paul: You know how strong it is: It is that strong that when you have your private problems like someboby is dying or some things happen and it’s the music that graps you at your neck and put you back on track. It’s incredible.
It’s the same for me with music. It has the same effect. Thank you for the interview Ruben, Paul and Mario! It’s been a pleasure.
They are on the road for the next couple of month:
Thank you for reading,
To be honest: I have not much to say about this video. Glitter, beard, a long kiss - what more do you want? It’s Kevin Drew's “Mexican Aftershow Party” from his newest album "Darlings". The album is 43 minutes of love, sex and tenderness. It’ll drive you over the edge like a good lover will do.
I’ll be a little scared to actually watch Drew perform this live…. but I’ll go anyway to his date in Germany and probably should take my lover with me. Who knows…
28.06., The Banff Centre, Banff, AB
12.08., Bitterzoet Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL
13.08., Postbahnhof, Berlin, DE
18.08., XOYO, London, UK
In the next couple of weeks you’ll learn more about some bands from Drew’s label Arts & Crafts. Unintentionally I have two more bands, who I want to tell you about and who are signed to his label.
Have a good day,
P.S. Just in case you were thinking “I want more romance” or “where is the grand piano”, here it is:
P.P.S. Read the first CMW Special, an interview with The Sheepdogs, here.
For round about 25 years The Notwist are making music together. The core of the German band are Martin Gretschmann, Andi Haberl and the brothers Markus and Michael Acher. Last week they played at Heimathafen in Berlin a sold out concert and it was amazing. The crowd danced throughout for over two hours and three encores. And what counted was their music. They didn’t put on a huge show or were saying anything except for ‘many thanks’ and stuff like that. They are engineers - they look like a bunch of men who spend their days in a cellar working like (insane) engineers on their music and and just ocassionally leave it to play an amazing concert…. ok, they’re on tour around Europe for some weeks to promote their first record in six years, “Close To The Glass”.
Their mix of electro and rock is rather eclectic which could easily drop into a completely mess but they know how it works. They’re very good at wandering on this fine line with they electro fiddeling, drums, bass guitar and their very own xylophone player - that’s something I haven’t seen to often on Rock concerts to be honest.
I brought some photos with me - they did have some extra lights:
Thanks for reading,
10 Mar - D-Stuttgart - Wagenhallen
11 Mar - F-Lyon - Epicerie Moderne
12 Mar - F-Nantes - Stereolux sold-out
13 Mar - P-Paris - La Maroquinerie
14 Mar - F-Lille - Le Grand Mix
15 Mar - UK-Manchester - The Deaf Institute
16 Mar - UK-Glasgow - Mono
17 Mar - UK-Bristol - The Fleece
18 Mar - UK London - Village Underground
19 Mar - B-Brussels - Botanique
20 Mar - D-Köln - E-Werk
05 Apr - IT-Milano - Magnolia
06 Apr - IT-Foligno - Serendipity
07 Apr - IT-Roma - Parco della Musica
08 Apr - IT-Bolgna - Estratgon
09 Apr - IT-Padova - Mame
10 Apr - SL-Ljubljana - Channel Zero
11 Apr - HR-Zagreb - Mochvara
12 Apr - A-Linz - Posthof
13 Apr - D-München - Circus Krone
25 May - D-Berlin - Astra
26 May - D-Berlin - Astra
27 May - D-Hamburg - Laeiszhalle
28 May - NL-Amsterdam - Melkweg
9 Jun - US-New York - Webster Hall
10 Jun - US-Philadelphia - Theatre of Living Arts
11 Jun - CAN-Montreal - Societe des arts technologiques
12 Jun - CAN-Toronto - Lee’s Place
13 Jun - US-Chicago - House of Blues
14 Jun - US-San Francisco - Regency Ballroom
15 Jun - US-Los Angeles - The Fonda Theatre