CULTURE

Eccentric and eclectic Belgian dEUS breaks its six-year silence

This Belgian blender of a band first plugged into our power sockets in the early 1990s. dEUS started off by playing Violent Femmes and Velvet Underground covers at various venues around Antwerp, such as the Muziekdoos (Musical Box). When the covers band decided to start writing original material, both inspiration and luck were on its side. The band played its first show beyond Belgium as the support act for Americans Girls Against Boys, a band whom agents were treating as the new Nirvana. Quite astonishingly, however, it was the Belgians who left the club at the end of the evening with a record deal in hand. Carrying rock, pop, punk and jazz influences for an eccentric mix where Captain Beefheart meets Frank Zappa and the Pixies intersect with Sonic Youth, it is difficult to categorize the Belgian act’s work, but it’s certainly recognizable as dEUS. The music – which fuses melodic pop and chaotic rock, always with an interest in experimentation and an avant-garde approach – often neglected market demands. Even so, Belgium quickly proved too small for dEUS. With a brand-new album just out, the Belgians returned to Greece for two shows in Athens and one in Thessaloniki. Just hours before the band hit the stage at Club 22 in the Greek capital, Tom Barman, the act’s frontman, spoke to Kathimerini English Edition about his group’s highly anticipated return. dEUS, of course, was never meant to be the new Nirvana. So much the better. People say you are difficult and inaccessible. We have not made it easy on the people that sell our records, and we have not made it easy on the people that like us because we were kind of unpredictable. On the other hand, I think people like us because we are unpredictable. It’s a Catch-22 situation. The other day we played in Thessaloniki and the crowd was full of 19-20-year-olds. So something must have happened in the meantime so that people who were 10 years old when «Worst Case Scenario» came out have caught up with us. So I don’t think we are inaccessible at all… just eclectic. But you have not always been market compatible. One thing in the business world is basically that the more you repeat yourself the more people are going to cling to it. It’s all marketing and it’s all based on image and not even in an intellectually challenging way, as David Bowie did it when he was reinventing himself and students could write papers about his changes. Now it’s just boring. The biggest example of how downhill it’s gone: I was watching Coldplay on MTV the other day and on the left corner of the screen it said «alternative.» The guys sell 15 million records and the screen said «alternative»! And that says it all. Back in the ’90s – I don’t want to sound like an old fart, but alternative was the Boredoms, it was the Evil Superstars, John Spencer Blues Explosion, it was Sebadoh recording on a video camera [Lou Barlow] playing in the kitchen while his mother was cleaning the f…… floor! That was alternative. And now they play Radiohead and Beck on alternative shows. Sometimes I see the frustration in the old-school fans who say «The Real Sugar» [from the new album] sounds like a normal song. But I am a bit old, I want to write normal songs sometimes. Why? Because I’ve never done it. It’s often said that dEUS is hard to pin down. How would you define yourselves? I would say it’s «hard-to-define.» But the bottom line has always been songs and I think one of the reasons we’re still out there is that people still like the songs we’ve written. Back in the old days it was easy to make an amplifier explode but to write a good melody… that’s something else… There is a kind of freshness now and I think this has to do with the fact that we changed, we are not tired of each other for the simple reason that the old members aren’t there anymore. I like dark sounds and I like beautiful melodies and I think the contrast of that is probably present in all the songs. What is a «pocket revolution,» the title of your new album? It’s basically an oxymoron. It was just my state of mind at the time of making the album. Things were quite difficult and I just thought maybe a couple of small changes would be better than trying to make one big change and so I came up with the idea of a pocket revolution. Revolution is a very heavy word, and if you put pocket before it it’s probably a typically Belgian way of getting away with it. But it’s still a revolution for me at a personal level. You changed your lineup halfway through recording. How did that affect the album? I am not going to kick against anybody but… they basically left me with the shit so I wasn’t going to throw these good songs away… Of course when you are in a situation where people leave you halfway through recording it generates a new energy which is, basically, revenge. You want to make the album even better… A year ago we were basically non-existent, I wanted to stop, I was depressed, and we had fights and it was one big struggle and there was nothing coming out… We really want to use the energy which is very positive right now and for once make a record where we don’t want to kill each other. You used to complain that you are not popular enough outside Belgium… I have nothing to complain of now… I just want to take it further. Everywhere we played this year was full… I think we are winning the UEFA cup with this tour and I would like to go to the Champions League next year.