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Feet on the ground
Hooverphonioc's Musik ist zwar nicht so gitarrenbetont, wie es eigentlich im Baby Talk immer zugeht, aber trotzdem soll diese sehr nette und tolle Band aus Belgien nicht in Vergessenheit geraten. Seitdem ich die CD bekommen habe, läuft sie fast ständig im CD-Player, und immer wieder kann man neue Dinge erhören. Live waren sie auch sehr, sehr gut, aber leider haben sie am total falschen Ort zur total falschen Zeit gespielt. Sie sind am 29.11.96 in Oberhausen im Rahmen einer Techno-Party (oder so) aufgetreten, und die meisten Leute waren eh' mit dem Raven im Raum nebenan beschäftigt, und von den 50 Leuten, die dann tatsächlich beim Konzert anwesend waren, haben auch nur knapp die Hälfte wirklich zugehört. Schande!!! Perlen vor die Säue!!! Aber dennoch hatte ich am Nachmittag das Vergnügen, eine sehr gut aufgelegte Band zu treffen, und obwohl auch die wundervolle Sängerin Lies anwesend war, übernahm Alex kurzerhand das Interview...
Let's start with the band's history - please let us know all about...

Well, actually, me (Alex - programming) and Frank, our keyboard player, we knew each other from school, together with Raymond (guitar) we played in a lot of different bands, Frank and I both went to film school in Brussels, and after finishing our studies we had this urge to form a band again, you know, it's something quite addicting, so decided to start something. As a student I did some engineering for Raymond's band, which was a cover-band, and just when we started the new band, his band split up, so I ran into him. Then we started to play some kind of 60s naive guitar pop, bit like the Cardigans, although we were very interested in having some samples into the music, but we couldn't afford it. So, we had different jobs, and when you have a job, you've got more money to buy samplers or computers. So we started experimenting with it, a female singer joined us, in the first place only for some backing vocals, but afterwards she appeared to have the kind of angel voice that we were looking for - but it wasn't Lies - and then after a while, we finally recorded our first demo, which sounded like the Hooverphonic stuff now, and then we sent it to some record companies, and we got a lot of reactions from a lot of different sorts of labels. We wanted to sign to Sony, and on the day we wanted to sign the contract, our singer left the band, so there we were, with a major deal and a major problem, because we didn't have a singer! Then we were looking for another singer, and after about 30 different singers, we just wanted to quit the band, and finally I called a friend of mine, who had a little studio, and he said "Well, my wife, her colleague at work, her daughter, she can sing!" - so I got the phone number from Lies, called her, and she appeared to be the one we were looking for! And she's even better than the original one...

There were quite a few confusions with the name - is it Hoover or Hooverphonic?

Yeah, in Belgium and the rest of Europe, it's Hoover, and in America and Germany it's Hooverphonic, because there is already a band named Hoover in those countries, so we had to change it. For the next release we will probably change it to one name...

As you said before, Hooverphonic started with guitar pop, and now it all seems so different - did the change come just by using samplers etc.??!

Well, it's quite easy. I listen to a lot of different sorts of music - if you would see my record collection at home, I listen to drum'n'bass, easy listening, Elvis, Bossanova, whatever you can imagine. The same goes for the rest of the band. You know, I used to listen to a lot of guitar noise, like Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr. - you know, as a student you've got only money for a guitar, and having a job, you could start experimenting, and I think that's the main thing, we like to do something different anytime. Although it was a very slow process, it was also very spontaneous.

In all the interviews and press releases, there's always the connection between you and Trip-Hop - what do you think about that?

We don't like it. I think we're on the same line there with Morcheeba, who said that they're just playing comtemporary pop music, we're just using modern equipment to do so, and with Hooverphonic, Trip-Hop is just one of the many influences. It's true, there is the Trip-Hop influence, but it's just one of them, and then you have influences of 4AD-bands, like This Mortal Coil, and on Creation it's Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. So, in that way, we think the term Trip-Hop is too narrow-minded - we just play comtemporary ambient pop music.

I read in an interview with Hooverphonic, that the motto is "You can never get too many effects" - isn't there the danger of overloading a song?

Well, that's what they probably wrote down, but it's not what we really mean. All we say, is like we use every effect if it's necessary, if it adds something to the music, when it makes it more intense and more powerful, than we will use it. You know, there's this kind of low-fi music, where a lot of people are against effects, like last year, it was like "No reverb! No delay! Don't use it, because it's cheap!" - and we don't believe in that. We just think that you have to use it when it's necessary, and you don't if it's not! But it's not cheap, you know. You can use it in a good way and make something good out of it. We use everything what we think we can use, if we think it's good for our music.

Coming from the town Sint-Niklaas, what's it like there for a band like Hooverphonic?

It keeps you with your feet on the ground! It's a small town, where you have a lot of social control, but it's nice, because it's like the "Heimat", I was born there. You wouldn't understand it, if you weren't born there, because a lot of people say "Why do you stay in such a small boring town?" - it's just because we know a lot of people over there, and that's good, because it keeps you with your feet on the ground. You know, you stay with your old friends, and those friends are there not because you're in a band and becoming a bit more popular, but because they like you.

When it comes to song-writing - who starts with what?

Well, it's starts with a guitar. That's still the link with my guitar past, you know. Just an acoustic guitar, then we start to write a song, just like an ordinary pop song. Then we start working on it with samples.

So, you would be able to play your songs just with a guitar?

Yeah, we already did on MTV [grrr, I've missed that one! If anyone has got a copy, please contact me at once!!! -db], and now we're working on some acoustic things, maybe we will record some of it. Anyway, after the MTV thing, the English people from Sony asked us to record it, but we're not sure yet. We'll see, but it's perfectly possible. And that's the main difference with a lot of Trip-Hop bands, because we write our songs with an acoustic guitar and we're able to play them like that.

So, how important are the lyrics? I've noticed that the lyrics on the album are quite short...

Well, the album is quite short, the gigs are quite short [sadly -db], because we like short intense things, you know. We don't like things to be too long. But the lyrics are mostly enhancing the atmosphere of the music, so we just try not to tell stories, but with words try to evoke atmospheres. Although there are differences - it depends on the song, for example "2 Wicky" is more like an effect kind of thing, while "Nr. 9" is really a love song, while "Wardrope" really tells a story. You should really ask specific questions on the songs if you want to know more.

Was it difficult to record the debut album?

It wasn't difficult. The only problem was finding a good singer! I think, the harder you try, the less you get. We didn't try that hard, we just made the things we wanted to, we were just enjoying ourselves, and I think that's the main thing, you should enjoy doing this kind of thing. Once a Dutch guy asked me why so many Belgium bands became popular and the Dutch bands didn't, and I just said "Well, you shouldn't try that hard!"'s typical Dutch, they try very hard! Wheres we're a bit more lazy...

Who came up with the really long album title?!?

Well, on the outro of "Inhaler" we were looking for a sample, and I've got this tape-recorder from my grandmother, and I knew that my father had this tape you got with your tape-recorder in the 60s when you bought one, a sort of demonstration tape, and I used to listen to it very often when I was young, and one day I just blew up my father's tape-recorder, and when we were working on "Inhaler", I got this other one from my grandmother that was still working. So, the first thing I did when I got this recorder, I put on the tape and me and Raymond listened to it, and there was this guy saying "A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular", and then we just sampled it for "Inhaler". And after a while, that song was sort of the turning point in what we were doing, you know. That was the point when we decided to work without a drummer and bass player, and to programme a lot. Also, Frank and me, we were sound engineers, and a stereophonic thing is the aim for every sound engineer, to have a very wide mix, and that's the thing we like. So, it became quite obvious to chose that line as the title. I know for you Germans it's very difficult to pronounce! Last time all the journalists had difficulties, so try it!

[and so I did -db]

Yeah, good, give this man a beer!

Tja, das Bier habe ich dann noch am Abend bekommen, und außerdem noch ein tolles Geburtstagsgeschenk in Form eines wirklich tollen Konzerts. Hooverphonic schreiben gerade an neuen Songs, die dann sehr wahrscheinlich im Juni oder Juli erscheinen werden, inzwischen wird es "2 Wicky" und "Inhaler" als Singles geben, und sie werden hoffentlich im März auf Deutschland-Tour kommen, falls ihnen der Auftritt in Oberhausen nicht allzu sehr im Magen liegt.

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

Weitere Infos:
Interview: -David Bluhm-
Fotos: -David Bluhm-

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A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular


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