Red Bull

Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

The self-made musical handyman

The most beautiful thing about finishing a record is that you can put away the songs in a cupboard somewhere.

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Patrick Dumoulin, Hantrax

Hail Mother Mary and praise the lord, for a new child is born. Pascal Deweze’s first solo project has been christened Cult of Yes — not to be mistaken for the Badass Belly Dance & Party Starters duo by the same name. Luckily, we came to that conclusion after just a few of these ladies’ videos.

But back to Deweze, a man whose CV deserves some highlighting. You might remember him as Sukilove’s front man, one of the founding fathers of Metal Molly and Broken Glass Heroes, or bands like Gruppo Di Pawlowski, Novastar and Black Cassette. As a producer, Deweze has worked on Krankland’s Wanderrooms and the first Van Jets record, to name but a few. Along with Philippe Cortens, he’s also responsible for bringing back Planètes, Jean Hoyoux’s cult record, which won the Vinyl Frontier Award winner for Best Reissue. In short: Deweze is rather awesome. 

One day, motherfucker. I’ll get you one day.

We meet up with Pascal Deweze just before release day. Deweze: “It’s not experimental enough for the experimental lovers, and not accessible enough to be mainstream, just like back in the day with Sukilove. I’ll just wait and see. It’s interesting how you can use marketing to build a story around a record without really talking about the music itself. Once people are on board with the story, they just eat up the music, making arguments like accessibility irrelevant. That strengthens my belief that this record will be easier to swallow than Sukilove was.”

“The most beautiful thing about finishing a record is that you can put away the songs in a cupboard somewhere. Bye bye, songs. They won’t be coming back to haunt my brain space. Some songs have been floating around in there for ten years without ever coming to completion. Sometimes they slip by and I think: one day, motherfucker. I’ll get you one day.”

Dutch garbage
The record has been through a lengthy process, due to Deweze allowing himself complete freedom. “I thought I’d make a record I won’t play live. It will free me of the concerns of how to translate it to a live a gig, as well as having to worry about being able to pay the musicians.” At first, this approach resulted in a record filled with Dutch-spoken songs, all of which ended up in the garbage bin. “No one has ever heard any of these tracks, mostly because I failed to find the right abstract tone in Dutch. English has become moulding clay to me, over the years. In Dutch, though, I’ve lost the touch.”

So Deweze went back to the drawing board, as he likes to call it. In his studio, he rules over every piece of equipment and gives himself time to find the right sound using different instruments and setups. Deweze: “I play everything except for brass. Of course, I don’t play every instrument with the utmost talent. But virtuosity isn’t as important as it used to be. You can fix a lot of things afterwards.”

Exclucive! Exclusive!

Chucking out certain songs while making a selection for the album is a difficult process for many artists. Sometimes a song is great, but doesn’t fit the atmosphere of the record. Other times, there are just too many good songs. About a week after the release of Cult of Yes, Deweze makes our day with an unreleased track and ditto video. A Vinyl Frontier exclusive, ladies and gents!

Cutting and pasting

Just like the songs, the album artwork is the result of some personal cutting and pasting. Deweze: “These geometrical shapes don’t have to be perfectly drawn or cut out. In my songs, I sometimes use the first rough recordings as well. Sometimes, these are just better, even though they’re not perfect. However, Joke Leonare added her personal touch to my collage, just like I do when producing other people’s records. She amplified what I’d already made.”

Studio Jezus is Pascal Deweze's personal recording studio in Hoboken. It’s where he recorded his own albums as well as the whole of Sukilove’s oeuvre and records he produced for The Van Jets, Krankland, Stijn Meuris, Maurits Pauwels, a couple of Chantal Acda songs, Hamster Axis of the One-Click Panther and many more.

Deweze: “Producing is a two-way interaction. I get great ideas from all these bands and hope to inspire them in turn. Most bands are capable of so much more than they think. Sometimes things take a little longer then if I’d just step in, but that moment when you figure things out as a band is worth so much more. It’s a real confidence boost. So I refrain from action when possible. For some bands, all I do is set up mics and make coffee. I’m great at making coffee.”

I thought we weren’t going to play this live?

“De Studio in Antwerp called, asking if I wanted to play a gig. I didn’t have a record yet, let alone a band. But I was aching to say yes, so now we have a full band with Karen Willems (Inwolves) on drums, Alan Gevaert (dEUS) on bass, musical blood brother Sjoerd Bruil (Black Cassette, Gruppo Di Pawlowski) on guitar, Hans De Prins (Go March, Millionaire) on keys, Noah Melis (Bed Rugs) as a percussionist and second drummer and Lien Moris (Arabian Nightingale of Piquet) and Anne-Sophie Ooghe (High Hi) as backing vocals. In this fine company of eight, the only thing left for me to do is sing and maybe hit a cymbal once or twice”, Deweze laughs.

“I’m excited about only having to sing, even though it was a tough choice. I’ve toured with a Claude François tribute band for two years. Yes, really. I’m a big fan. Besides being a great performer, Claude was a fantastic songwriter. His early oeuvre consisted of complex arrangements and live, the band play everything so fast you’d think it was The Ramones. My band sweated through all the rehearsals. Anyhow. For the first time, I got to focus only on singing. And boy, it was a true revelation.”

Pascal Deweze is a beautiful person writing beautiful songs and telling beautiful tales. This first solo album is not the last you’ll hear of him and this mere fact, just like his album, has got us happily whistling the afternoon away. We’ll sure you’ll join in on the fun.