Category Archives: Recordings

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

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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!

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!

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

Exclusive new track from the equally exclusive Pencils or Guitar Strings

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Susan and I have been working on a new project together.

We’re writing new songs together and arranging them for a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments.

Just to get started on that and explore some of the sound possibilities, I remixed (with her artistic assistance) one of Susan’s songs, namely the eponymous track from her forthcoming album : Life Is…

One of the challenges was to try and make it more radio-friendly, try and touch more people with the purpose of pulling them into our world and say more than “We’re up all night to get some, We’re up all night to get lucky” (sorry folks, nothing personal), with music we do stand behind. Try and accompany them into our world with some ear candy like Pink Floyd did when David Gilmour gave the audience a good blues-rock guitar solo before going into all kinds of experimentations.

And… I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty happy with the result! What do you think ?

We also made a profile on Belgian music site Vibe where you can read our bio, which translates like this :

Fukushima finished Tchernobyl’s work in creating a hybrid being that sings and produces healing energy. The tremors gave it a sense of rhythm in sync with its radioactive universe. After laying down knocked out by the fumes for an endless moment in time the being awoke to a new consciousness. And it started singing : lalalalala.

As you must already be thinking, reading the bio and looking at the picture (which is a mixture of our faces)… weirdness catches up. Well, we’re a couple of weirdos after all.

Antoine

‘Childhood Dreams’ Susan Clynes & Simon Lenski

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WebTeaser of my first Official Album, recorded entirely Live – appropriately entitled ‘Life Is…’ featuring Simon Lenski, the amazing cellist from the Belgian experimental -contemporary-folk-rock band DAAU (Die Anarchistische Abend Unterhaltung) and my own compositions. Energetic musical contributions of Pierre Mottet & Nico Chkifi – and stacked with spontaneity allover. Out on MoonJune Records in February 2014 and currently crowdfunding it – with 21 days left to go!

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 Scène” = “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.

Making a heavy dark trance track

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Today I was nervous. Some things happened that pissed me off a couple of times. In silence though so my muscles were just cramping up…

So I made some music with a lot of sub bass.

I mixed with headphones (Bose SC15) so I’d say it’s best to listen with headphones, but as long as your system gets the sub bass right I guess it should be ok…

I used one of NASA’s Symphonies of the Planets for the atmosphere, then sampled and tweaks bits of that same track to make some beats (the ones that add to the rest from ca. 0:36 on). Add a very sub bassey line, a few improvised synths and some of Apple’s preinstalled text-to-speech function (with effects though) and you get this little beginning of a track.

I don’t know if it will go anywhere after that, maybe I’ll finish it, maybe I’ll leave it like this. Point is, I feel good now…

Hope you’ll enjoy it too, who knows…

Antoine.

PS : What it says in the chorus at the end is “Misery is only overruled by consciousness”. I’ll let you guess what the two other phrases are, you get a free cd from me if you manage to get it right… I mean it (but I won’t pay for shipping).

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 légume” 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