The Art of Trusting (in times of terror)

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The Art of Trusting (in times of terror)

Dear you,
Thanks for taking the time to read this and care enough.
It’s been a hard couple of days. So shocking. So sudden.
I can’t really say the right things about what happened in Paris. So I won’t. No words can describe the pain, the sadness, the despair, the feeling of total paralysis.
But I will say this. (And I use my words extremely sparingly, as I don’t know how else to put it.)
It’s hard to trust.
… (Wait, what, trust?! How can you talk about trust in this situation??!!)

What Hurts More?

So yes, it is incredibly hard to trust. Of course it is, because it HURTS when your trust is broken. Yes. It hurts. It hurts like hell and you cry without end when it happens. But I want to ask you and myself the following question. What hurts more? Trusting with the knowledge that it can hurt when something happens that tries to trample that trust? Or the fact of not trusting at all?
I’m sure many people would argue for the first one as it seems the more obvious one. If you don’t give something away (like in this case trust), it can’t be taken or stolen from you, and you can’t get hurt, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
It’s so wrong it even hurts thinking about possibly living in a world in which everyone thinks like this. It hurts because the first one we hurt when living like that, is ourself. And this is really ironic, because the primary reason we don’t dare to trust is self-preservation. We think we are protecting ourselves from something by withholding our trust, but we are in fact harming our own fragile little selves. Every. Single. Time.
But why does it hurt ? I think it hurt so much because that little fragile self of ours can’t possibly be whole, be happy, be elated or inspired when we block the first reflex that any living creature has as it is born into this world, the reflex of trust. Without it, we wouldn’t drink our mothers milk, ( it might be poisoned ! ), without it we would not learn to walk ( we might fall ! ), without it we would not learn to talk ( words can be so painful ! ). I would argue that without it, we would not learn. Anything.

The Radical Response to Terror (The “Good” Kind)

When faced with terror, it is of course SUPER hard, to keep our hearts wide open, trusting the world.
It hurts SO much. It’s SO sad. And of course we feel SO hurt, and SO afraid, and our first reactions are quite logically reactions of self-preservation. At least it seems rational and logical in first instance. But it is then that we have to decide if we will let terror into our hearts, if we will let the fear it induces control us.  The goal of all terror is control. And someone who fears is easily controlled. Someone who fears is predictable. Someone who fears will definitely not try anything new, anything potentially harmful, anything as messy and definitely unsafe as… trust.
As strange as it may seem, as counter-intuitive (depending on the definition of this intuition), I am convinced with all of my heart that the only thing we can do to get through things like this, as an individual AND as a community, is to increase our trust in each other.
And if you disagree, please do argue with me. It’s so important.
I’m nuanced in most everything, I think, but this one doesn’t seem to be done justice, nuancing.

I think it is of vital importance to be a radical, extremist truster. 

And will it hurt? Undoubtable. But we have to trust that there is always more love available than we could ever possibly need to heal the wounds, to pick ourselves and each other up again from the floor and to continue on trusting and loving. More fearless than before. I believe in our capacity to love and to trust and I know that if we all join hands and love and trust like we have never done before, we will thrive, we will evolve into a force that is unstoppable by anything.

Why I wrote this

I want you to know this is not an article in which I’m trying to tell you what to do. It’s an article that I needed to write, for myself. To give myself the courage to trust. More than ever before. And I ask for your help. Because it’s not easy. It’s scary. So scary. But I’m doing it. Even if it is.
So please.
Will you please help me trust? Will you please trust me? Will you please trust yourself? Will you please trust the world?
Thank you.
I love you.
I trust you.

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Resolutions for 2015 I’m planning to keep

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1. Being the most loving human being I can be, in the profound experience & knowledge that when I give fully, and hold nothing back, I am truly living, and being myself in my most natural state, beneficial to myself AND everyone around me in the best possible way.

2. Supporting, sharing and promoting wonderful ecologic and humanly economic projects.

3.  Consuming as ethically, honestly and responsibly as possible in a fun way, supporting with my money and energy the production processes I believe in, and want to see more of in the world.
Asking myself with each action (as I’ve heard it is said Native Americans used to do) : ‘What will the effect of this action be, if it is repeated for 7 generations.’ Will it be wonderful or harmful? If it is harmful, why do it?

4.  Recycling and upcycling as much as possible, making treasure out of trash and if I can’t do it myself, having it done for me by these amazing people. (Don’t want to ruin the surprise, just check it out, you seriously won’t be sorry.)

5. Asking and accepting the help & support I need when I need it in the knowledge that asking and accepting help is allowing others into our hearts, that vulnerability doesn’t make me weak but actually reveals my true strength.

6. Finding what it is I can do to benefit the world and beings in it in the best way possible.

7. Appreciating all the beauty within each and every one of us, focussing on it so it can grow.

Happy 2015 sweet people. What are your resolutions you plan on keeping this year ?
Love –
The half of the couple of weirdos called
Susan

Resolutions for 2015 I plan on keeping.

Inspiring little image.

How I became a Vegetarian thanks to “Pay what you want” philosophies

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How I became a Vegetarian thanks to “Pay what you want” philosophies

PWYW

In the last couple of years our interest for “pay what you want” strategies (PWYW), crowdfunding and open-source philosophies has been growing steadily. I started with funding a significant part of SH.TG.N’s debut on MoonJune Records with a crowdfunding campaign, went on with a lot of reading, and recently Susan and I experimented with donation-based living room concerts with our new project RUNtoSEED. We also placed our own bids on crowdfunding campaigns such as Boyan Slat’s “The Ocean Cleanup”-project which managed to raise over $2M from 38000 funders from 160 countries in 100 days to clean up the ocean.

Not only did we discover new ways to consider a music career, but we were exposed to entirely new ways to look at the world, which would change us forever. But in this article I will focus on one in particular : I’ve become a Vegetarian.

Consumption

Now what do these things have to do with each other ? Well simply put : consumption. Being busy with price and consumption in a different, more flexible way, I started to take a different look on what I bought. With no obligation to pay and no set price, you start gaining consciousness of what your payment really represents : an endorsement. And that’s what any payment is, really, even with a set price. The real power of the money we spend is there. If I choose to buy something at one store instead of another, I choose to support that one store over the other one.

So that got me thinking, when I buy something, who am I endorsing ? What am I supporting ? Who am I giving a tap on the shoulder saying “keep doing what you do, this is good work!” ? And naturally I realized I had been an accomplice of a whole bunch of practices I obviously couldn’t support. Now of course I knew they existed, and in a lot of cases I knew the products I bought were unethical and sure I tried to buy, like, fair-trade coffee, organic food and avoid Monsanto or such products (these specific causes happen to be more advertised than others). But I didn’t exactly realize how far my endorsement went, or how big my power actually was.

Everyone does the best they can

Let’s cut ourselves some slack for a minute. We are trained to think fatalistically about the world. The old “this is how it is and has always been and you won’t do anything about it” song. We are trained to look at people who want to do otherwise as either disconnected idealists, crazy radicals, or both. I’m no exception. And I must say realizing it doesn’t have to be that way is a long and complicated process. For one, you start asking a lot of questions, lose one’s points of reference, and it might seem like you start saying ‘no’ too often. So I learn to say no with a radiant smile.

Because now I know, when I say no to casual meat-eating, I’m saying no to the current trivialization of massive insensitive killings, to deforestation, to objectification of animals, to global disconnection with the life-and-death cycle, etc. etc. etc. And my little ‘no’ to a little toast with, say, foie-gras on it, is a big ‘yes’ to embracing life, the world, and my own personal power to make it an even better place. Definitely worth a smile.

I’m aware that being 100% coherent is this approach is difficult and I’m absolutely not there yet. While contemplating veganism (animals are mistreated whether it’s for their meat or what they produce), I do not yet feel ready to make the step. I own clothes and electronics that have been partly created by exploited workers (I’m typing on my Apple computer right now). Even parts of my instrument probably have been. But demanding to be entirely coherent from the start is part of what’s been paralyzing me and influencing me to keep my eyes closed. Now each day they open a little more. And that also means more of the world’s beauty to see.

Passive resistance

You know in the end all this, including the whole PWYW thing, is nothing but Ghandi’s Satyagraha. Holding on to truth, not to force. So I’ll leave you with that song Susan and I wrote together a few months ago for our project RUNtoSEED, performed live at La Monnaie/De Munt (Belgium’s National Opera House), and called “Satyagraha”. With the whole personal power talk I could have as well picked my song “You’re in Charge” but I’ll let you discover that one on your own on our site.

We’ll talk about PWYW and all that again very soon : we’re busy setting up a Patreon account for RUNtoSEED.

Antoine Guenet

PS : Just to show that we have more individual power than we tend to think : here’s a PETA report showing that each vegan individually saves the lives of in average 185 (most of them mistreated) animals per year.

3 Valses pour ma Famille

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We’re back! After several months without a post on the blog, we’re finally back. Both Susan and I have been very busy lately, between the NY tour, the intensive writing, and other fun stuff. An important part of what I’ve personally been busy with is available for you to listen to right here (for free ;-)) :

Three “waltzes” in French for some members of my family who’ve been in a conflict for about two years, and haven’t seen each other for a year. Feeling powerless when we talked about it, I decided to write them songs to express what I needed to express. Isn’t that basically the use of a song ? My family being French-speaking I naturally chose to write them in French (a first for me).

I won’t go into details about the content of the lyrics but I just want to talk about one little verse which comes back in all three songs :

Le vrai pardon est salvateur
Celui qui vient vraiment du coeur
Et s’il n’est pas une sinécure
De ta douleur il est la cure

It basically means that real forgiveness can save you and while I’m aware it’s not easy, it’s their pain’s cure. You know… what else can you say to three people who love each other but can’t see each other ?

Anyway. I’ll take this chance to officially announce Susan and I will be touring soon with our brand new duo project SEEd ! The three songs I’m sharing here with you can give you an idea of the direction we’ll be taking in terms of content, although they obviously will be arranged differently to fit our duo line up. Can’t wait!

Love you all people, thanks for reading!

Antoine

Susan Clynes – Life Is… (2014)

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Waking up the blogging activities again – by a wonderful review of Rafaella Berry for Prog Sphere … Enjoy?

Love

– Susan

Fire of Unknown Origin

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TRACKLISTING:
1. Life Is (4:21)
2. A Good Man (3:49)
3. Childhood Dreams (6:31)
4. Les Larmes (9:36)
5. Tuesday Rain (5:08)
6. Ileana’s Song (3:37)
7. When You’re Dead (7:15)
8. Pigeon’s Intrusion (6:00)
9. Le Voyage (3:22)
10. Linear Blindness (4:12)
11. Butterflies (6:38)

LINEUP:
Susan Clynes – piano, vocals
Simon Lenski – cello (3, 4, 7, 8, 11)
Pierre Mottet – bass (2, 6)
Nico Chkifi – drums (2, 6)

Belgian singer/pianist/composer Susan Clynes first came to the attention of the progressive rock audience for her stunning vocal performance on the song “Glass Cubes” (written by her husband, keyboardist Antoine Guenet, also a member of Univers Zéro and Sh.t.gn) on The Wrong Object’s critically acclaimed 2013 album After the Exhibition. With a solid academic background supporting her obvious passion for music, it was just a matter of time before Clynes’s talent – first showcased…

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My first year with Univers Zero (part 2 : studio and RIO Festival)

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Hi there again,

First of all thank you all for you enthusiasm around the first part of this story. Now with the album coming out in two days (!!!) it’s time for me to post the second part.

Back home : Gentse Feesten and Fluxx

Fluxx, Colliding Universes (© Susan Clynes)

Fluxx, Colliding Universes (© Susan Clynes)

After a week of great experiences in Mexico we got back to Brussels and split (to go home of course, don’t worry the band didn’t split up!). I took the train alone for an hour, looking at the pictures of that week, still a little high from the whole thing. The next day was my daughter’s very first little school show, I was still a little jet-lagged and the skin on my face is disintegrating from the giant Teotihuacan sunburn in the middle of it, but I enjoyed the day immensely. For a few months after that the band didn’t see each other and I focused on my last creation as an Artist in Residence (three years, one creation a year) for the Gentse Feesten (one of the biggest cultural festivals in Europe) . It’s called Fluxx, it’s some kind of live drum’n’bass/electro with a string quartet (the great Bl!ndman [Strings]), and I shared the composing job with Koen Quintyn, a young composer from Ghent who I chose as my successor as Artist in Residence. Three months doing strictly something else.

Let’s start recording

As soon as I was done with Fluxx and the concert was over, it was time to start recording with Univers Zero. To be fair we had seen each other a few times before anyway, to prepare the recording. It was time for the longest recording session I’d ever had. I was used to, like, 2-days recording sessions (those things are expensive ya know…). This one was 16 days, non-stop, every day, weekend included. We were going to take our time to do things well and without rushing. I told Susan it wasn’t going to be to heavy on her with the kid because anyway I was coming back home every evening, not late. She’ll tell you I was wrong : when I came home everyday I was so exhausted it was impossible for me to do anything. Well it is intense music.

In the studio (© Laura Di Tullio, Nicolas Denis or Daniel Denis)

In the studio with Univers Zero

First day, again, problems with my gear (among other things). We didn’t play that day. I spent most of my day trying to figure out why the midi signal didn’t send to the sound engineer’s (Renzo Gotto) mixing table. Again, I have no idea what the problem was but it did get fixed… Then I had to open up my Nord Stage to fix a key that was not reacting properly (I just had to clean up behind it). I fixed it but the problem moved to another key, so I opened again, fixed again, problem moved again, had lunch, opened again, fixed again, played a little, went home. The next days the band was so tight and motivated we ended up like 3 days ahead of schedule. Days that the band’s perfectionism of course made us catch up later. We particularly spent a lot of time on some parts of Kurt Budé’s composition “Danse Mécanique”. The attention was on every detail. What was hard with that groove was to find what exactly was the best feel for it. It has to feel extremely natural while it’s not. My left hand (organ) is supposed to play tight with changing time signatures (3/4-5/8-5/8) while my right hand plays piano in 4/4, extremely expressive and laid-back. We could do them separately but it’s important to me to get the feel of the band together. Meanwhile all of the band’s attention is on that tight-but-natural feel and we make close to 20 different takes that are all just slightly different. Again, I’d never worked in such detail before (the advantage of time here, usually we just have to be happy with the 2 or 3 takes we make… no time to do more!). On the solos spontaneity is the key though, so one or two takes max. About that, I just noticed that the only excerpt from the album on YouTube is a solo of mine 🙂 Here it is.

While it was hard and exhausting work it was also very exciting and at the same time a very nice and chill time. We were lucky enough to have some sun, Kurt cooked great lunches for us every day, that we ate in the garden, next to the roosters (sometimes maybe provoking them by eating chicken!)…

Rock-in-Opposition Festival – before our show (Romantic Warriors II, meeting people, the effect of the European Union expansion on Chicago)

In a gas station on the road

Picture I took from the ground of a gas station in France on our way to Carmaux.

Soon after that was the time to get back to work on a live set as we were invited

The concert hall in Carmaux

The concert hall in Carmaux

to play in Carmaux, France, for the Rock-in-Opposition Festival. A few days before leaving, Susan and I watched the Romantic Warriors II documentary about Rock-in-Opposition which extensively features the festival, and Univers Zero. That way we knew a little bit more about the whole movement. I strongly recommend watching the documentary, it’s brilliant! Besides, their makers are busy editing the third episode, which will feature The Wrong Object (we played a few songs for them, including my composition Glass Cubes, the first real vocal track I sing on a record, with Susan (who just rocks it!) – I challenge you to make the difference between our singing voices by the way, it seems that a lot of people didn’t manage… Little hint : the highest one is generally me :-P) Daniel left a couple of days before us and stayed there longer so he could enjoy a little holiday with his wife Chantal. Kurt went in the van with Present (which he was joining for a show at the same festival). And Nicolas, Dimitri, Jeremy and Susan and me went in a giant van with all our material (including Daniel’s drums). Susan came to enjoy the weekend with us and take pictures of our concert.

Rock-in-Opposition 2013 poster

Rock-in-Opposition 2013 poster

RIO Festival is quite a special thing. People come from all around the world for it, to that former mining site in the middle of nowhere, for bands that are totally unknown to the general masses. But that’s how great their dedication is to that music. It was a chance for me to meet lots of fantastic people – some of which I had already met online – and Susan and I felt at home. We arrived at night, had a couple of drinks and went straight to bed. The next morning unfortunately I was too nervous (Dimitri had warned me it was important to be on top with this concert because it was a demanding and knowledgeable audience, as well as some promoters… Pressure was the word) and taken with the installation and everything to go and see the other bands. Susan however caught Cheer Accident‘s show and photographed them (she had no zoom so for their concert as well as ours she was running around, climbing on everything she could, and the result is just awesome). She fell in love with their music. I just was able to see 15 minutes of it and understood indeed that they set the bar high. We met these fantastic people/musicians later and their drummer/leader Thymme Jones gave us a DVD of his TV-show back in Chicago. We watched it in the van on our way back, jeez what a crazy act, reminds me of Andy Kauffman’s stuff, you never really know if it’s real and you laugh at the total absurdity (about “the effect of the European Union expansion on Chicago”). I was also happy to see cd’s of The Wrong Object and SH.TG.N, two of my other bands, for sale there (and even someone with a Wrong Object t-shirt!), and to finally meet in person the Leonardo Pavkovic who released these albums for us on his label MoonJune Records in New York. Unfortunately I ran into him while I was literally running to my soundcheck so we just exchanged a few words and planned to talk to each other later but that never happened. Next time i saw him he was busy with The Soft Machine which is the band from his roster he accompanied there, and after that I didn’t find him again.

During and after our show (technical issues, interview, great community)

Faust's chainsaw

Faust’s musical chainsaw

I found it exciting to find Faust‘s chainsaw and masks on stage before we installed ourselves. Our concert went well, appart from some technical issues (little fight with the light guy who just refused to follow our light plan and ended up doing nothing like what we wanted – which got Daniel and his wife angry ; floor tom falling appart in the middle of the show). All in all that might even have helped the energy… Right after we were done we had to run to the public interview (first time ever for me). I hate talking in public so you can bet this wasn’t an easy task for me. Luckily of course it was mostly Daniel and Kurt they wanted to hear so I didn’t have to talk too much. Dimitri and Nicolas just stayed in the audience (Dimitri was late because he had other business to attend to and Nicolas really didn’t want to participate so he walked with us to the table but stopped in the audience and took a seat!).

Kurt and I (© Susan Clynes)

Kurt and I (© Susan Clynes)

After that everything was just fun and games, meeting this whole great community I just found out existed, having drinks on the terrasse, releasing the pressure and seeing a few gigs. On festivals like these I always want to see everything but when I play myself I just can’t : before the show I’m too nervous and focused, after the show I’m too saturated and I need to release the pressure and talk to people). Anyway I did catch a bit of Poil‘s show which was great, in the line of Mr Bungle and Le Singe Blanc. I also saw a part of The Soft Machine which I didn’t want to miss but did anyway… It was a little out of context to have such a straight forward jazz band like this there, plus I’m a giant fan of the Robert Wyatt era and didn’t really know what they were doing nowadays so you can imagine my surprise. Great quality blues/jazz rock though, just not the moment for me.

Quickly said, kudos to Michel Besset for the organization of this amazing festival I recommend to anybody looking for challenging music in a great atmosphere.

After : mixing the album

Univers Zéro's new album coming up!

Univers Zéro’s new album coming up!

I’m not going to get into the details for the rest but after we got back it was time to start mixing the album, again 2 weeks of uninterrupted work by mostly Didier de Roos and Daniel. I did pass by once to listen and make sure I was satisfied with the way they treated my sounds mostly. Didier has the most amazing mixing studio I’ve ever seen, and a great talent. You’ll hear it on the album : he did amazing work! Now I’m just looking forward to see the album, and get some reactions. It’s coming out in Japan (where our new label DiskUnion/Arcangelo is based) and the rest of the world (where there will be distributors of course) next wednesday. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Thanks for reading, cheers,

Antoine

PS : I updated the first part with a video compilation of excerpts from what we did with the avant garde silent films in Mexico, and a video from a composition of mine we played at that same concert!

Susan Clynes – Life is… (2014)

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Susan Clynes – Life is… (2014)

Thank you Alfonso for this lovely review ! I will have some Italian friends translate it to English to understand it even better , but even with Google Translate it makes me very happy! All the best to you, Susan

La Luna di Alfonso

cover_SC.jpgMJR061 – 2014

Parafrasando un’efficace frase del dialogo finale del bel film di Valerio Zurlini “La prima notte di quiete”, defineremmo Susan Clyne come una donna dai buoni ascolti. Il disco d’esordio internazionale della vocalist e pianista belga, registrato dal vivo in tre differenti occasioni con organico variabile dal solo al trio, mette in mostra un repertorio ricco di influenze disparate, assemblate in un percorso sonoro già abbastanza personale.

Si parte strizzando l’occhio al pop americano di qualità, con la title-track e la successiva A Good Man che richiama alla mente Tori Amos, ma subito dopo questo piacevole incipit si cambia passo con le evidenti tracce di minimalismo “a la Reich” che introducono e permeano lo sviluppo dell’intensa Childhood Dreams, ben sostenuta dal cello di Simon Lenski, dove Susan mette in luce le sue peculiari caratteristiche: vocalità potente ed istintiva, a tratti “maleducata” e declamante nello stile di Annette…

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How it feels to release a Debut Album

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1 : You get sick of your cover picture even though you love it

The thing is : you see that cover picture everywhere you look…
'Life Is...' Cover
And even if it’s the single best picture anyone has ever taken, (which is of course how I feel about my very first official album cover 🙂 ) if you see it 24/7, at some point, enough is just… ENOUGH! And in my own particular case, it is my own particular face – and not with the most  joyful expression on it either… in particular 🙂

And the album isn’t even out yet! So just to refresh my retina but still stay on topic – here’s a picture of my arm… Background-Arm-cutout

2 : You get frustrated with the Post-Man but suspect they are your biggest fans

Let me state the obvious first… so we get that out of the way. We love our Mail-Men, Mail-Women and everyone else working in the Mail around the world (We wouldn’t want to get any angry letters…). But if an American Record Label sends some nice lady in Belgium some of her CD’s, and they are sent on January 27th – doesn’t that mean there should be ample time to get them to her in time for her Release-Date on the 18th of February ? Of course – they ought to leave the costal shores at one point. Which they… didn’t yet?! Well… Dear sweet readers… I have a theory that explains everything! Here it comes. I think the people of the Mail have become my biggest fans. Because, not only did I not receive them, but I found out they are actually ‘stationed’ in New York – and have been stuck there since the 29th of January.
So : dear people of the mail : I love that you dig my music. I really do. And I understand you want to keep it ALL to yourself. But you know, dear MailGirls&Boys – I haven’t even seen my own CD’s yet! Imagine if YOU would have been deprived of the opportunity to see MY CD’s. That would make you sad, now wouldn’t it? Well… IMAGINE HOW I FEEL!
Ok… Sorry I lost my temper there. But you know – if you like my music so much, you should really do your best to make make me happy again. Then maybe I’ll send you some more CD’s to hog during more than a week!

<CRUCIAL UPDATE> The CD’s are now ‘somewhere’ – which makes more sense of course…

3 : You find out they are not your biggest fans and remain frustrated

I think this is somehow a self-explanatory statement. But I am of course delighted to elaborate. Just send me a mail – for a detailed description of my feelings about this.

4 : You spend your life on your computer

Having a hernia and being forced to sit lying down most of the time might add to this, but hey, when people are talking about you, you want to know what they are saying – right? For now it’s mostly press-releases, although there is already one review of the song Childhood Dreams which you can listen to here or just simply watch us play it on the YouTube below.

Apart from that, your PC-quality time is spent making sure your site is up to date, sharing press-releases, talking with fans and communicating quickly and efficiently with all people involved (label, PR-people, booking-agents, etc…). And of course, liking adorable selfies of dogs…

5 : Blogging about how it feels to release a debut-album

I’m not sure how much I’ve said about how it actually feels – and there is so much fun stuff to talk about – I just thought I should get this post started. Inspiration will surely strike sooner or later… Sometimes it will be romantic – all with inspirational success stories, princesses, hardship and breakthroughs. Just not today. Sorry 🙂

Until then – thanks for your interest in reading this blog and this post. And if you have no idea what I am talking about – and somehow missed my incessant spamming on the subject – here’s a video explaining it all. (I hope.) And for the ladies – the guy doing the interview is really hot, right? Hands off though – he’s mine!

My experience as a 27 year old fresh member of 40 year old cultband Univers Zero (Part 1 : Joining for Mexico)

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“How do you feel about becoming Univers Zero’s new keyboardist ?”

Univers Zero

A little more than a year ago I was offered to join then 39 year old cultband Univers Zero. We were in Marrakech, Marocco, on our honeymoon when my bride Susan saw I had a new text message. As I was packing my luggage to fly back home, she told me to quickly come and check my phone, I was going to be happy about what I’d read. “How do you feel about becoming Univers Zero’s new keyboardist ?” was what my friend Dimitri Evers – the band’s bass player and my ex-fellow musician in (S)hhh (my very first band) – had sent me. I called him from Marrakech airport, as soon as I could, very excited.

Soon a few scores arrived for the first rehearsal, on December 18, 2012. I had about a month to prepare. What gave me most trouble was making sounds close to these of a harmonium, pipe organ, and horns, with my Nord Stage’s Hammond organ and synth, and the song Phobia from the album Rhythmix (never performed live before). I was nervous for the first rehearsal but I was ready. I was however going to have to expend my setup to the use of a laptop because it was necessary to have a real good harmonium sound, among others. I hadn’t yet considered it because I simply had never done it before and thought they were looking for self made sounds more than replicas of acoustic instruments. Also I didn’t own a laptop.

After that started the real work : Daniel Denis sent lots of new scores he and Kurt Budé had composed especially for Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional concert with short avant grade silent movies. And I had a whole bunch of new things to learn : a new way to play, a new way to feel rhythms (often two at the same time), a new way of setting up sounds. I had never worked with a laptop on stage before so I had to figure out how to setup the midi system, and change sounds without having to touch the computer. Daniel came to my house once to check out the sounds with me and choose together. I redesigned a few things in accordance with the needs of the music (like expending the harmonium sound to the full range of a piano). And damn I practiced. Constantly. I wanted to master the repertoire to feel completely at ease. And good I did because that seemed to be the expectation : on the first rehearsal already everybody knew their parts almost perfectly. All we worked on on rehearsals for four months before the Mexican tour was musicality and sound. And perfecting what was not perfect. And day after day, I was testing different setups, different sounds. One problem I faced was the impossibility to turn pages on my sometimes 25 pages scores (extremely difficult to learn by heart). So I went out and bought an iPad and a pedal that turns the pages for me… Solved all my problems.
I’d never played with such a professional, nice, dedicated band before. And damn was the music good and the experience rewarding!

Mexico’s Teatro de la Ciudad : first show, soundcheck panic, bass player arrested

At the Teatro de la Ciudad, Mexico

At the Teatro de la Ciudad, Mexico

After four months rehearsing intensely we flew to Mexico for a couple of shows and had a total blast. Here I am for my first show with them and it’s 1) Mexico 2) In the Theater of the City for a lot of people who 3) know the music and I suspect are waiting to see if the change of line-up really was a good idea. Imagine the pressure… I had asked to install our material in the morning so I could make sure everything is ok with the back line and transfer the presets from my laptop to the Nord Stage they had rented for me. Good I did because nothing worked. I had made backup of my presets to load them there, not knowing that the midi settings weren’t a part of it. And I didn’t remember how I did it. I spent a big part of the day trying to fix it, and while I was preparing a stupid B-solution suddenly I hit a button or God knows what I did but everything worked again. I wrote all the settings on paper and finally was able to have a beer with the band. I meditated for an hour before the show and felt astonishingly chill during the whole thing and really enjoyed it. This is extremely fun music to play once you know it. Right after the show Dimitri was arrested for drinking a beer on the street, right outside the backstage. Around us were hundreds of Mexicans drinking cocktails (there was an outdoor cocktail bar). But apparently drinking alcohol on the streets is illegal. Especially if you’re European and the cops think you might have money. He negotiated the price for his liberation and we went back to our hotel.

Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional : avantgarde silent films and dedicated fans

Soundcheck at the Cineteca Nacional, Mexico (pic by Jeremy Trossat)

Soundcheck at the Cineteca Nacional, Mexico

The next day we played in the Cineteca, had a blast again, and in the afternoon new guitarist in the band Nicolas Dechêne and I visited the house of Frida Kahlo which I’d been wanting to see for years, and happened to be right next door. It was a weird, totally unexpected experience, to have to spend an hour after the show taking pictures with fans before we were able to pack our stuff and go celebrate. But I appreciated the devotion of Univers Zero’s audience. Nicolas and I already had a foretaste of that on our first day in Mexico, before our first ever show with the band, when we visited, together with Jeremy Trossat our sound technician, the Ministry of Education where Diego Rivera painted murals for years. Our guide, for some reason, asked us if we were musicians. When we said yes he answered he knew a band from Belgium, it was called Univers Zero. “Is that you ?” We ended up taking pictures with the guy during our visit, while we hadn’t even played with the band once on stage yet!

Day off : No sunblock at Teotihuacan = bad idea

On top of the Pyramid with Nicolas, getting red.

On top of the Pyramid with Nicolas, getting red.

For one of our off days our dear friends Carlos and his son Carlos arranged for some of us to visit Teotihuacan and it’s pyramids. It was amazing but here’s a bad idea for you (don’t try this at home) : meditate and sungaze without sunblock. For weeks after we came back home I looked like a zombie with my face’s skin hanging and disintegrating. Before we flew back, Young Carlos explained to us what Univers Zero’s music meant for him, and how it pushed him to dare to go for his dreams. There you know why you’re doing this job.

In the next episode I’ll you about what happened after Mexico, the recording session and Rock-in-Opposition festival.

UPDATE : Here is PART II !

Cheers,

Antoine

PS : Here’s a video compilation of excerpts from what we did with the avant garde silent films in Mexico :

… and a video of a composition of mine we played at that same concert :

What organic food won’t do for you

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Picture from http://taracreel.com/10-superfoods-children/

So we’ve been eating exclusively organic food at home for a couple of months now and while we can’t deny it tastes a zillion times better and we definitely feel a difference in our way of consuming and our energy, it did however not meet all of our expectations. So here’s a few things organic food won’t do for you :

  • Organic food won’t clean up your house
  • Organic food won’t tie your shoelaces
  • No matter how nicely you ask, organic food won’t massage you (although sometimes a little from the inside)
  • Organic food won’t listen to your problems when you really need a friend
  • Organic food won’t buy you a new house (or you’d really need a lot of it and a very hungry real estate agent)
  • Organic food won’t babysit for you (we tried and ended up having to come home early after the neighbors called the police)
  • Organic food makes the work easier but it won’t actually digest itself
  • …nor will it shop itself
  • And finally, it won’t write your blog posts for you. I was hoping hoping it would and look where that got us!

So don’t listen to what they say : obviously organic food doesn’t buy happiness! What a scam!

Just one last thing it won’t do if you’re doing it right, and which might be surprising to most : it won’t create a hole in your wallet.
For health reasons, Susan is forced to avoid wheat, soy, tomatoes, asparagus, processed sugar, all kinds of milk but sheep and buffalo, all kinds of meat but poultry and fish. You’d think there’s just nothing left… Well that actually forced us make the step to 100% organic since organic shops are the ones where it’s easiest to find what he can it, and to find numerous alternatives. I thought we wouldn’t be able to sustain it financially. But turns out we’re not spending more than before. Yes, the items are more expensive. But we buy less. This change our whole way of consuming. We have more respect for our food and the work of our mostly local farmers. And we stopped filling ourselves until we can’t move anymore. We reach the point where e’ve teen enough and even if we could eat more, we stop. This way we keep our energy for more relevant things than digesting unnecessary quantities of food, we stay fit, we save money, and we consume more responsibly. And this all just happened very naturally.
Makes you question the effect that over abundance of chemically processed food has on our psyche and habits, doesn’t it?

Antoine