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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

Belgian Nuggets: B-sides & undiscovered gems

Belgian Nuggets: B-sides & undiscovered gems

Browsing in the record store your eye might have fallen on the 'Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, Vol. 1' compilation. The design is an eye-catching picture by Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert. The music on the compilation is a selection of Belgian pop, rock and electro music released between 1990 and 2010. All these tracks remained under the radar for some reason. Tony Vandenbogaerde, the founder of Mayway Records, aims to give those forgotten gems a new life through this compilation.

Tony: “Remember that feeling stepping in a candy store as a kid? The feeling of abundance and hard choices to make? A few years ago I had the good fortune of purchasing a huge collection of cd’s at the Belgian public service broadcaster VRT. Those cds were sent by labels and artists over the years in hopes of receiving rotation on national radio. In one fell swoop, this batch of CDs gave an extensive overview of the Belgian music landscape between roughly 1990-2010.
I realised they had to make the most of this opportunity and that is why early this year I decided to launch the Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s compilation series, collecting obscure Belgian tracks of superior quality dating back to that specific period: forgotten singles, B-sides, album tracks and demo’s.”

We asked Tony to comment on a few of the tracks he selected:

dEUS - My Wife Jan (Tom Barman/Stef Kamil Carlens) taken from the 'Little Arithmetics' single (1996)

"In the late 80s and early 90s, home-grown Belgian talent and quality was starting to make some serious waves on the international scene, turning Belgian music into a hallmark of quality. dEUS paved the way for many other Belgian bands so naturally they had to be included on vol. 1 of Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s. dEUS' ''My Wife Jan' truly is a hidden gem. It's a typical early dEUS song: crafted on the Captain Beefheart track ‘Wild Life’ (from the 'Trout Mask Replica' album), true to the loud-quiet-loud song structure and including a typical softly sung yet wayward intermezzo.

While the vocal tandem Tom Barman & Stef Kamil Carlens is on fire, guitarist Rudy Trouvé lets himself go on the killer riff that dominates and defines the track. I remember that in those days (1994-1996) the song was a favourite among fans and often the last song of their live set.

I can’t really guess why it didn’t make it to the 'In The Bar, Under The Sea' album. Perhaps it was too 'rocking', too 'loud' for the more subtle and poppy tracklist of the second dEUS album. The song eventually was added as B-side to the 'Little Arithmetics' single. Anyway, a lost chance, in my humble opinion, but a godsend opportunity for Mayway Records. 'My Wife Jan' shines brightly on the tracklist and is one of the many highlights on the first volume of Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s.

Two Russian Cowboys - The Spider In Love (Dr. Dekerpel) taken from the 'Killem' album (2005)

The opening track of Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, vol. 1 is a feisty, smart and great two minutes gem by Two Russian Cowboys. It's the kind of song that makes you wonder why you never heard it before. In another world it would never have appeared on a compilation like mine, because it would have been a worldwide hit single already. But as it isn't, I couldn't have dreamt of a better opening track for the first volume of my compilation series.

It is also a textbook example of the enormous musical talent of the Kortrijk/Courtrai scene, that should not yield for the more well-known and notorious Antwerp scene. First of all: it was guitarist Hugo Bourgeois who saved 'The Spider In Love' from oblivion. The song was written in 1979 by Dr. Dekerpel, song writer and guitarist of Ugly Papas. Two Russian Cowboys emerged from the ashes of Ugly Papas, once touted 'Belgium's best band ever' by Mauro Pawlowski, with singer Luc Dufourmont (aka 'Roste Luc' from the Canvas television series 'Bevergem') and bass player Dick Descamps (see also Ozark Henry, The Revelaires, The Whodads) as central band members. Cleo Dufourmont, daughter of frontman Luc, handles vocal duties in a true Moon Unit Zappa style on 'The Spider In Love'.

In the early 90s Bourgeois played guitar under the alias of Island Jim in the short-lived, yet superior garage-/bluesrock Menin cult band Party At Vanzetti's. It was fronted by Bart Vanneste, better known as comedian/actor Freddy Devadder nowadays. Drummer Wim 'Peewee' Vanwuytswinkel was also part of the band. Party At Vanzetti's: remember that name. Vanwuytswinkel drummed in several other Kortrijk/Courtrai based bands, of which Hawai, Galatasaray, Black Shark (remember that one, too!) are the most known. The striking contrabass intro/-line is played by Hans Corne, who also was in Hawai. Are you still following? Maybe you considered only the Antwerp/dEUS scene productive and hyper active in that era?

All these musicians and bands paved the way for the next and successfull generation of Kortrijk/Courtrai bands: Goose, Balthazar, Warhaus, SX, Ozark Henry, Gèsman or Amenra just to name a few. The Spider In Love' featured on the score of the British cult film Spidarlings (2012) and standup comedian Gunter Lamoot used it in his shows. On Youtube you can find a great video made by Joost Laperre (Broektoe Production Company).

Maxon Blewitt - Mexicali (Bjorn Eriksson/Peter Pask) taken from the 'June '81' album (2011)

The gracious Americana song 'Mexicali' is one of the finest contributions to Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, vol. 1. While Bjorn Eriksson sings as if Brigitte Bardot is breathing down his neck, the female triad Eva Eriksson, Sarah Fissette and Nathalie Delcroix sounds utterly brittle and delicate. Bjorn Eriksson said that making of 'June '81' was a wonderful and most intense experience. "Producer Peter Obbels lifted the record to a higher level: for months we worked very close together, we painted the music, with love, with passion. I look back at that period, with - how should I say it - a kind of David Hamilton-esque flou artistique feeling", reveals Eriksson. Unfortunately, due to a few shady music industry characters, this exquisite song never got the chance to shine.

All that could go wrong, went wrong. The CD-pressing went ran off the rails and although the record label promised to solve the problem, they never did and the faulty CDs ended up in the record stores. To soothe the band members the label ordered a few 'correct' CDs from 'cheapCDreproduction.com'. But also at 'cheapCDreproduction.com' they messed up: no Maxon Blewitt, but dutch schlager music. To cut the story short: the 'June '81' album and the 'Mexicali' single never took off and the band decided to forget about it.

Maxon Blewitt is centred around Bjorn Eriksson (Eriksson Delcroix, Zita Swoon). Other members are Peter Pask, Tim Coenen (both Few Bits), Alain Rylant, Larsen Bervoets, and these three fine ladies: Eva Eriksson, Sarah Fissette and Nathalie Delcroix. Simon Lenski (DAAU) mixed and arranged the music. The version on Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, vol. 1 is the - excellent - four minutes single edit by Tom Pintens (Zita Swoon, Flowers For Breakfast, Het Zesde Metaal). On the album you will hear the full 6:50 version. The band still exists, however is inactive at this time. 

Starving - La Plage (Starving) taken from the 'Tout N'est Pas Rose' album (2004)

Starving was an electro/indie rock band from the Borinage region in the heart of Wallonia. They were able to make a name for themselves there in the southern part of Belgium, especially after they swapped from singing in English to their native French.

Label Anorak Supersport were quick to sign them, with various television show performances and wide radio airplay rotation in Wallonia and France with the tracks ‘La Plage’, ‘Enervé’ and ‘Allumeuse’. ‘Allumeuse’ was also integrated in a notorious promotional campaign for the French gay magazine 'Têtu'. The single 'Nos Acides' topped PureFM's La Décompte-chart (Studio Brussel's 'De Afrekening' equivalent at RTBF) for five consecutive weeks. Various tracks were included on compilation albums such as 'Dour New Grass', 'Les Nuits Botaniques/Sacrée Nuit' and 'Sacrés Belges'.

In Flanders though there was complete silence ... until now: Mayway Records is proud to include ‘La Plage’ on the tracklist of 'Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s, vol. 1' and bring the song under the attention of music lovers in the whole of Belgium and abroad. It's a superior electro-rock track with the sugar-coated vocals of Claudia Chiaramonte interacting perfectly with the voluptuous synths and sharp guitar sound of Fabrice 'Boods' Baudour. Fabrice Baudour is no stranger in Wallonia: being a event organiser (a.o. collaboration with Dour Festival), record producer and DJ, he's a charismatic and respected personality. It was also him who wrote the lyrics for ‘La Plage’ in just a few minutes, during a band’s rehearsal break. They were written on a beer mat in the notorious café 'Le Midem' in Dour.

La Plage' appears on the highly acclaimed 2004 'Tout n'est pas rose' album. Besides Claudia Chiaramonte and Fabrice Baudour, the band consisted of Eric Robette, Michael Debels, Vanessa Aucello, Florence Sabeva et Maxime Hayez.

In addition to a careful track selection, no effort was spared in terms of visuals for the forthcoming compilation series: the cover photo is courtesy of Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert whereas Tim Broothaers (a.o. Zeal Records) is responsible for the overall design. Every volume is released on vinyl (2-LP gatefold) and CD (3-panel digisleeve) with detailed liner notes on each track.

With Belgian Nuggets 90s-00s it is Mayway Records' ambition to launch a multi-volume top series of sought after items by music lovers and collectors both in Belgium and abroad. Or as Nid & Sancy (track 11) says: 'This is what you want, this is what you get!'