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You can never be sure what to expect from dEUS. After their first CD "Worst Case Scenario" they came up with a strange collage called "My Sister My Clock" - noises and fragments, all blended together by snippets of movie-soundtracks. Intense stuff, but hardly enjoyable. The next EP "Theme From Turnpike" seemed to go in yet another direction. So the new CD "In A Bar, Under The Sea" came quite as a surprise. It is more accessible than the recent stuff and focusses on songstructures, melody and singing more than on radical experiments. Although some offbeat/chaotic elements remain. Singer/Songwriter/Mastermind TOM seems to agree. Asked what would be the main differences between the new and the old stuff, he doesn´t have to think for too long:
TOM: This one is more melodic, less rock, more singing on it.

But the strange aspects of dEUS remain. There's the first track for instance.

TOM: Yeah, it's not on the advance-tape. We recorded it through a telephone, through a radio. We were nominated for a prize in Belgium. But we couldn't come so they phoned us and told us we were the winner and we played this song through the radio through phone from France to Belgium. And someone recorded it. And that is the first song on the album. You'll hear it sounds like a 50's recording it's not even Low-Fi it's No-Fi. It really sounds like Billie Holiday recording from the BBC in the 50's. So - not recording-wise, not soundwise - but if it sounds good, we use it. We are open for anything.

dEUS seem to thrive on the extremes - brutality / tenderness, loudness / quiet stuff, slow / fast...

TOM: Absolutely, we like that. But we respected a bit more the nature of the song this time. A few years back we would have put a lot of distortion at the end of quiet songs. But now we said "just let us keep it soft and smooth". But I like all sorts of music. And when we come up with something more traditional it's because that is just a side of us. dEUS from the biginning was under the premise that you could expect anything from us. So I think that our fans have the same opinion. What's next? And I think that is our strength. So - do I feel good with it? Of course - otherwise I wouldn't do it.

"Little Arithmetics" is the first single off this album. It is a beautiful, tender song with a wonderful melody and nearly no offsetting bits and pieces. So this could be a touchstone there. What would they do if this became a huge hit?

TOM: I don't know. As I said, we are not against having a hit. It would make the record company happy first of all. Second we would never write something in function of "this is going to be..." you know. We recognize the catchyness of "Arithmetics". So what would we do? I don't know. Nothing. Life would go on. Sometimes hits grow over the heads of the band and almost destroy them. Take for instance Radiohead. I find it pretty dangerous the way the record company and all the journalists talk about "Arithmetics" and say "Oh, this is going to be...". It's putting too much pressure on that song. Especially the record company. I mean, they do what they want and I don't care. I thought "Suds & Soda" had everything to be a huge hit. I didn't expect it to be but when you look at other hits it could have been. I wasn't unhappy that it didn't happen. But if it happens it's okay.

How did the changes in the line-up reflect on the music. (guitarist Rudy was replaced by Craig Ward)?

TOM: Rudy's on the album also. The only thing that changed is that Craig is a more lyrical guitarplayer. He's more into melody and he works harder on textures than Rudy did. And as I said there's more singing. Rudy wasn't such a great singer. He had more of this deep talking voice. Whereas Craig is really a melodic factor now.

With all this focussing on texture and structur and melody: What exactly is the function of the noisy parts nowadays?

TOM: I think we used them a bit more subtle than on "Worst Case Scenario". I don't think there's less of them but for instance I've been singing through those microphones from the beginning. (Which procuce these distorted voices.) I've been very much influenced by 900 Ft. Jesus. I thought it had something so dark and sinister about it singing through those microphones. But now I use it probably for just one line or something. So I was a bit more economic with it.

I asked about Morphine, because Mark Sandmann also sings through retro-microphones, because he wants it to be his super-ego-voice.

TOM: Sure, I know Morphine. Dana Colley plays saxophone on our record. But no, I don't have a philosophy like that. I use it live a lot because I find it interesting to change the sound. Maybe unconsciously I like to sing the more tight and morbid and intense stuff this way. But I improvise with it.

So what's the approach on the lyrics?

TOM: I write most of them but sometimes CRAIG and STEF have their own parts in their songs. And the meaning of the lyrics? That changes from song to song. Take "Serpentine" for instance. That is about a theme. The difficulty of being faithful in a relations and ethical problems you have with that if you're not. But then there's a song like "Fell Off The Floor", which we wrote together. It's just noises and interesting words. It just has to have this fun-feeling about them. So that's two different things.

How important would humor be in that context and since they are a band from Belgium: Do they have to take that into consideration when writing English lyrics?

TOM: Humor? I certainly know that we put it in but I don't know if it comes out. That's for the listener to decide. The album is much more intimate than "Worst Case Scenario". And if we have a dark song like "Serpentine" we put a song like "Supermarket" behind it to go for some frivolity and then comes another dark song. And English is not a thing I have to take into consideration, because I was brought up speaking three languages.

dEUS did a video for "Theme From Turnpike" which will be distributed in cinemas.

TOM: Yes, I do all the videos myself. For "Theme from Turnpike" we worked with the actor Seymour Cassel and Sam Lowry, who is a dancer. They are basically walking down Paris streets. And you see all the credits, director, writer, MGM presents. But you'll have to see it. It's actually an opening credit for a movie. It is going to be in cinema theatres in Germany, opening for "Trainspotting". In Belgium and Luxembourg it's all over the place. We would be interested in doing movie-soundtracks but we didn't have a decent offer yet.

The overall approach of dEUS seems to be quite intiuitive. For instance TOM mentioned that they like to record wherever they are.

TOM: Well, "Sister" was done mostly at home, the first track I already explained, but we also like the studio. It's not that we are Low-Fi, it's not that we are not Low-Fi. If it sounds good we just use it. You can't discuss music techniquewise. I mean Sebadoh have done brilliant stuff and Palace Brothers or Velvet Underground. All those albums sound brilliant without Hi-Fi. We worked with the producer Eric Drew Feldman. He worked with Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu and the Pixies. Now he plays keyboards with PJ Harvey. He played a lot of piano and organ. What a producer does for us is not interfere too much. But after three days we trusted him, because his ideas were good. For example pronunciation or choosing overdubs and stuff. It's a lot of dialogue going on.

So what would TOM like to do musically what hasn't been done before?

dEUS
TOM: I'd like to start a band with just a drummer, I would be the singer and a string quartet. Not in the sense of modern classic, but really funky tunes with a cello a viola and two violins. Based on the Mo-Wax-label-feeling. Really nothing arty, but funky stuff. It must be interesting visual also. The quartet on the right, the drummer in the center and me on the left or something.

What about the strings on the new record?

TOM: For "Gimme The Heat" we asked the producer from "Worst Case Scenario" to do it. We gave him the tape and at home he did it with synthesizers. And then the quartet came and in two hours it was done. Ultraprofessional.

Whom would he like to work with?

TOM: Oh, there are lots of people. I would like to work with one of the Beastie Boys. I'd like to work with 900 Ft. Jesus. I think it's super cool and sexy. I'm really sad about what Frank Black does now. I think he did so well with the Pixies, but I really don't like what he does now. But I would like to work with him. Obviously there's much more than that. But you only have one life.

One thing that I really had to ask was what the idea behind "My Sister Is My Clock" might have been. I found that nearly unlistenable and was under the impression that - if other pieces of music would have been chosen - it could have been really interesting.

TOM: How many times have you listened to it? 2 times? Well that's not enough. This is something that has to be listened to several times. But I can see your point: If it doesn't invite you to listen to it, it's hard. There is melodic stuff on it but it's less. I tell you what the original idea was. It was to be on a b-side. We had a bunch of songs and we came from a long tour and were happy to be in the studio. But there's some strange music-ploice which decides that singles cannot be longer than 20 minutes. So we decided to put it out seperately. The record company weren't really happy, though. There was no promotion or anything. My philosophy is that it found it's way to the people who enjoy it. It's not for everyone, though.

My impression of TOM was that he was someone who is always searching for new ways to express himself.

TOM: Yes, as a musician you never attain what you are aiming at. But I think that you don't make music to achieve a goal. I think that you make music to learn to know yourself and the world. Everything you bring out is a reaction to something that you have done before. I think that the end of a musician comes when he is repeating himself. Or when he says "I don't enjoy this anymore". But I'm not at this stage by far. I think that we can really make five or six great records and that is what keeps me going.

So we might expect pretty much unsusal stuff from dEUS in the future. dEUS are touring in November/December.

[Erstveröffentlichung im Baby Talk-Fanzine #9, Dezember 1996]

Interview: -Ullrich Maurer-
Fotos: -Ullrich Maurer-

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