Category Archives: Belgium

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 ūüôā ) 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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!

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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 Bud√© 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 Dech√™ne 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 :

10 reasons to attend Staalhard at Trix in Antwerp tomorrow

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My band SH.TG.N played the day before yesterday in its hometown Ghent. The band had been on standby for almost a year so we were extremely excited to find each other again and rediscover the extreme pleasure of playing that music for a (jumping) audience!

SH.TG.N in action

The concert was meant as a try-out for tomorrow’s showcase at Trix in Antwerp where ‘Staalhard’ will be presented.

Staalhard is an initiative of non-profit 666Decibel and came to existence when a bunch of people in the Belgian scene noticed that most people in Belgium had no idea there was so much great metal in Belgium. They decided they’d do something about it. And they put together a compilation LP of their selection of Flemish Underground Metal. And they asked SH.TG.N to be a part of it. We’re extremely proud and happy to be part of such a great initiative!

Now for those who don’t know the band, I gotta tell you, SH.TG.N will be a little bit of a black sheep in that context since it’s arguable we’re even a metal band at all. There is definitely something¬†metal about our music and the (punkish) approach to what we do.
Let’s say the only stable thing about SH.TG.N is that we play everything intensely and that our sound is raw and hard. Now for the structures, rhythms, melodies… that’s a different story. Oh and did I mention we have a vibraphone in the band ?

Staalhard

You know what, I’ll just let you (re-)discover it on your own. At the end of this post is our full debut album we released in 2012 on MoonJune Records. Now it’s time to play. If you’re around Antwerp (or willing to travel) tomorrow Saturday, January 25, I strongly recommend the Staalhard evening at Trix. For at least 10 reasons :

  1. 9 bands play a 30-min set
  2. It’s all for free for God’s sake!
  3. All 9 bands are awesome
  4. There’s for every taste in metal (death, punk, prog, hair, …)
  5. It’s probably your only chance to buy the compilation since after that it’s only meant for promotion purposes with professionals
  6. It’s a fantastic initiative, and supporting it is supporting the Belgian scene
  7. It’s a chance to meet lots of great, passionate people
  8. The venue is great
  9. The beer is good
  10. SH.TG.N will be opening at 7.30pm (bottom line : don’t be late! Be there at 7pm!)

Antoine

To my Belgian artist friends and other people who want to know about our situation (EN/FR/NL)

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I updated the article with some more info, it’s at the end of the text, in all three languages.

Text in English first, in French a bit further, in Dutch at the end.

Meme Generator
Meme Generator

EN

To my Belgian artists friends :

I see a lot of you haven’t heard about the new regulations yet so I’ll just warn you here of what I understood of it. If I’m wrong anywhere please correct me!

Soon we’ll need an artist visa (a little card you ask the government and they give you if they think you’re worthy of it…) to be allowed to make artist contracts or RPI/KVR. Since this visa is not yet available but the law is in application since the 1st of January, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED not to make any artist contract or RPI/KVR until the situation is cleared out, all the contracts you make in that period could turn out being illegal.
It’s not me saying it, it’s SMartBE vzw/asbl. I also got some valuable info from the Facebook group of the FACIR (Musicians union of the Wallonia/Brussels Federation).

I’m aware this basically means we can’t work but that’s also pretty much what our government is telling us. They also say they’ll be much harder on artists working in black so really I think they mean it’s forbidden to be a professional artist (since it’s also illegal to work for free in your own field of expertise).

The only options in the meantime imply not working, having the status of independent, or pretending there is an employer/employee relationship whenever you work.

Good luck,

Antoine

PS : more info¬†here¬†; I also suggest to fill in Smart’s type letter to ask a visa and send it to Smart so they can send them all at once as they intend to, and flood the mailbox of the ones in charge.

UPDATE 16/1

After having read yet more about this situation I found out there is still a way for us to declare our work right now without having the status of independent and that is to make “interim” contracts, in which – indeed – we are employee of the interim company.

UPDATE 24/1

According to people at Smart, since the visa doesn’t exist yet, a recorded delivery of your registered letter to the Artists Commission to ask for your visa will act as the visa itself until things are put into place for us to actually get that said visa. So again I insist : send a registered letter to the Artists Commission, ask your visa! Or send it to Smart using their¬†type letter¬†and they’ll make sure you get your recorded delivery.

Yet more valuable info in French to be found here¬†(by Beno√ģt Vreux). He calls this situation the “biggest legal bug of an artist’s career”. This article is a must read if you want to know exactly what to do and what’s going on.

FR

A mes amis artistes belges :

Je vois que beaucoup d’entre vous ne sont pas encore au courant des nouvelles r√©gulations donc je vais juste vous pr√©venir ici de ce que j’en ai compris. Si je me trompe quelque part, s’il-vous-pla√ģt corrigez-moi!

Bient√īt nous aurons besoin d’un visa d’artiste (une petite carte qu’il faut demander au gouvernement, et qu’il nous donnera s’il pense qu’on la m√©rite…) pour avoir le droit de r√©diger des contrats d’artiste ou des RPI. Vu que ce visa n’est pas encore disponible mais que la loi est en application depuis le 1er janvier, il est FORTEMENT RECOMMANDE de ne faire aucun contrat d’artiste ou de RPI tant que la situation n’est pas clarifi√©e. Autrement il se pourrait que tous les contrats faits durant cette p√©riode deviennent ill√©gaux.
Cette mise en garde ne vient pas de moi mais de SMartBE ASBL (qui a d√©j√† mis en standby son service de RPI). J’ai aussi re√ßu des informations importantes du groupe Facebook du FACIR (F√©d√©ration des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Interpr√®tes R√©unis, en F√©d√©ration Wallonie-Bruxelles, dont je vous conseille de devenir membres par ailleurs ; et de leur groupe Facebook).

Je suis conscient que √ßa signifie en gros qu’on ne peut pas travailler mais c’est aussi √† peu pr√®s ce que notre gouvernement essaye de nous dire. Ils pr√©viennent aussi qu’il sera beaucoup plus difficile de travailler en noir donc vraiment je pense qu’ils nous annoncent officiellement l’interdiction d’√™tre artiste professionnel (vu qu’il est aussi ill√©gal en Belgique de travailler gratuitement dans notre propre domaine d’expertise).

Les seules options que nous avons en attendant implique de ne pas travailler, d’avoir le statut d’ind√©pendant, or de pr√©tendre qu’il y a une relation d’employeur/employ√© quand on travaille.

Bonne chance,

Antoine

PS : plus d’info¬†ici¬†; je sugg√®re √©galement de remplir le courrier type de Smart pour faire votre demande de visa et de l’envoyer √† Smart afin qu’ils soient en mesure de les envoyer toutes ensemble (par recommand√©) telle qu’est leur intention, et inonder la bo√ģte aux lettres de nos repr√©sentants au gouvernement.

UPDATE 16/1

Apr√®s avoir lu encore un peu plus sur cette situation j’ai appris qu’il y a toujours un moyen pour nous de d√©clarer notre travail pour le moment sans avoir le statut d’ind√©pendant. Nous pouvons faire des contrats d’int√©rimaire dans lesquels – effectivement – nous sommes employ√© de la bo√ģte d’int√©rim.

UPDATE 24/1

D’apr√®s des collaborateurs de Smart, vu que le visa n’existe pas encore, un accus√© de r√©ception de votre recommand√© envoy√© √† la Commission Artistes pour faire votre demande de visa aura le m√™me effet que ce visa jusqu’√† ce que tout soit mis en place pour que nous puissions enfin obtenir ce dit visa. Donc encore une fois j’insiste : envoyez un recommand√© √† la Commission Artistes, demandez votre visa! Ou envoyez-le √† Smart en utilisant leur courrier type et il s’assureront que vous receviez votre accus√© de r√©ception (le mien est arriv√© hier donc je peux recommencer √† faire des 1bis et des RPI!).

Encore plus d’info importante et en Fran√ßais ici¬†(par Beno√ģt Vreux). Il appelle cette situation le “plus grand bug juridique de [la] carri√®re [d’un artiste]”. Cet article est √† lire absolument si vous voulez savoir exactement que faire et ce qu’il se passe.

NL

Aan mijn Belgische kunstenaar vrienden :

Ik zie dat veel mensen onder jullie nog niet op de hoogte zijn van de nieuwe voorschriften dus ik zal jullie gewoon hier waarschuwen van wat ik daarvan heb verstaan. Moest er iets fouts in zitten, aub verbeter mij.

Binnenkort hebben we een artiest visum nodig (een kaartje dat je aan de overheid moet vragen, en dat je krijgt als ze vinden dat je het verdient…) om de recht te krijgen om artiestencontracten te maken, of KVR’s. Aangezien deze visum nog niet beschikbaar is maar de wet is al effectief sinds 1 Januari, het is ECHT AANGERADEN om g√©√©n artiestencontract of RPI te maken tot de situatie duidelijker wordt. Alle contracten gemaakt tijdens deze periode kunnen anders illegaal worden.
Deze waarschuw komt niet van mij maar van SMartBE VZW (die hun KVR-dienst al in standby heeft gezet). Ik heb ook belangrijke info gevonden op de Facebook group van de FACIR (soort nieuwe muzikantenbond van Walloni√ę/Brussel).

Ik ben er bewust van dat het betekent dat we niet meer mogen werken maar het lijkt ook ongeveer wat onze regering ons probeert te zeggen te zijn. Ze waarschuwen ook dat het moeilijker wordt om in het zwart te werken dus ik denk dat ze gewoon het verbod aankondigen om professionele kunstenaar te zijn (en het is ook illegaal in Belgi√ę om gratis te werken in uw eigen vakgebied).

Enige andere opties dat we hebben tot dan zijn ofwel niet werken, zelfstandige statuut hebben, of beweren dat er een werkgever/werknemer is.

Succes daarmee,

Antoine

PS : Meer info hier en hier (+ andere recente artikels op dezelfde pagina) ; ik raad het ook aan om de modelbrief van Smart in te vullen om uw visumaanvrag te maken en om die onmiddelijk naar Smart door te sturen zodat ze al die brieven ineens kunnen sturen en de brievenbus van onze regering kunnen doen overstromen.

UPDATE 16/1

Ik heb nu nog een beetje meer gelezen over deze situatie en ik heb geleerd dat er toch nog een manier is om ons werk te declareren zonder zelfstandige te zijn. We mogen nog interim contracten maken want daarmee zijn we werknemers van het interimkantoor.

UPDATE 24/1

Volgens Smart medewerkers, aangezien de visum nog niet bestaat is een ontvangstbevestiging van uw aangetekende visumsaanvraag naar de Artiestencommissie geldig als visum tot alles eigenlijk klaar is voor ons om die echte visum te krijgen. Dus is zeg het nog eens : stuurt een aangetekende brief naar de Artiestencommisie, vraagt uw visum! Of stuurt het naar Smart, maakt gebruik¬†van hun modelbrief¬†en ze zullen ervoor zorgen dat u het ontvangstbevestiging krijgt (die van mij is er gisteren aangekomen dus ik mag terug veilig KVR’s en 1bis maken!).

Nog meer belangrijk info in het Frans hier¬†(door Beno√ģt Vreux). Hij noemt deze situatie de “grootste juridistische bug van de carri√®re van een kunstenaar”. Dit article is een must-read moest je exact willen weten wat je moet doen en wat er aan de hand is. Gebruik dus maar Google Translate als je geen Frans verstaat maar leest het toch.

On finishing a heavy dark trance track, and the Official Dumbass Week.

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Well there we go finally… I couldn’t leave it like that. So I developed the little track I made yesterday and here we go, we get a 9-min dark techno track or something.

After I read about the new Belgian regulations for Artists, and the Socialist Party’s good ideas, I couldn’t make it much brighter. First our Government makes it very difficult for Artists to declare their work. Then, they make it very hard for us to get unemployment. Now, they announce we’ll need a special work visa (that no other profession needs) if we want to be able to work as Artists. And finally, our Socialist Party (main party here) thinks it’s a fun idea to launch a competition of “political songs”¬†(“Rouge en Sc√®ne” = “Red on Stage” so political songs for them can only be red, the only people who have things to fight for are socialists)¬†so they don’t have to pay for the music they’ll use to promote their party. The prize : a recording in a real recording studio (obviously if they want to use the song for their disgusting propaganda they’re going to have to record it so it’s a win-win).

That in combination with other events,¬†I’m going to have to call for an Official Dumbass Week.

So this song is not particularly about that but the way this made me feel was perfectly compatible with it. Now I’m making a call to all Belgian people : send your crappy, insulting, obnoxious song to our socialist party for the competition, maybe we’ll create a flood and wake them up.

Hope you’ll enjoy my song, may it let you scream a bit in a pillow if you need to.

Yours,

Antoine.

Grosse Légume

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So this is the first post on this new blog of ours.

Susan’s lying in the couch like a vegetable (but she has a doctor’s note) so I’ll be the one writing it.

You know, I was thinking we need something special to talk about – this is the first post after all. But instead I’ll just post this track I made a few days ago when I was Googling about an old French expression.

“Grosse l√©gume” means something like “VIP” in pretty old French but literally it’s something like “fat vegetable”. Wiktionary has a great sample to help people pronounce it right. So I made a track out of that sample, using some sounds I made for a rearrangement of Susan’s song “Life Is…” to accompany it. It’s in the grand Belgian tradition of New Beat like this memorable track, but less ambitious. Let’s call it new new beat.

There’s more about Belgian New Beat on this page called “1980’s Belgian New Beat…Shittiest Music Genre Ever?”. Ah! the great cultural heritage of my rainy country!

Ok so now you gotta have extremely high expectations on this blog so my job is done.

Thanks, welcome, have fun, happy new year and cheers,

Antoine Damn-I-Hope-You-Understand-Sarcasm Guenet