SOULWAX INTERVIEW (FROM THE FUNKY MOFO ARCHIVES)
The year 1999 saw the arrival of Soulwax’s first UK release ‘Much Against Everyone’s Advice’. The album received critical approval across Europe but only a handful of music lovers fell for the admirably constructed beats, the intricate guitar chord sequences and Belgian-English crossover lyrics penned by the Dewaele brothers. They have built a solid fanbase thanks to extensive touring and many festival appearances but it was with 2Many DJs that the broader audience really started noticing the Dewaele brothers and their Soulwax combo. With remixes of Playgroup and DJ Shadow they also gained credibility in their musical abilities that not many other artists have achieved despite them trying! One needs to stress that these remixes were produced under the Soulwax name rather than 2Many DJs.
Soulwax has been on Funky Mofo’s Must Interview list for a long time. The band is one of the reasons why both FM creators befriended each other and went on to put their ideas into practice, much against everyone’s advice! Jo had fallen in love with Soulwax thanks to a magazine compilation and was so mesmerised by the drumming on ‘Funny’, she took the album to her drum teacher! Céline, coming from the continent, always had a keen ear for Belgian music (dEUS, Venus) and was very quick in succumbing to Soulwax’s charm. They had at last found someone in the UK who knew who Soulwax were! You can then imagine the state they both were in when it was confirmed that an interview would take place in Bristol, before Soulwax’s gig at the Fleece & Firkin.
Now was our chance to talk to Soulwax about their latest release ‘Any Minute Now’, a heavy mother of a record that sees the band returning to good form despite some rearrangements in the line up. We set up in the back room of the venue with the guitar player, Dave, comfortably installed in an armchair and reading his favourite gossip magazine! The full band will gradually fill the room throughout the meeting and quietly take seat around us.
Funky Mofo: My first question is about your original keyboard player, she went onto maternity leave, right?
Stephen Dewaele:I think Inge had a baby a couple of months ago. So it was kind of hard for her to go on tour with us. Since then we took another guitar player because we thought it was kind of stupid to replace her by another keyboard player. We wanted to do something else so we added a second guitar player. Keyboard player leaves, guitar player comes!
FM: How did it affect Soulwax’s dynamics?
SD:It’s just more guys so it means like… when Inge was in the band we would try to be polite. We at least had to give people the idea that we weren’t stupid guys. Now nobody holds back, it’s all guys!
FM: Gosh, I wouldn’t wish to be on your bus!
SD:No you don’t! [laughs] That was the good thing with Inge on the bus, we all had to behave! Everybody had to make sure she had her privacy and everyone was taking care of her but it also meant that we were also being.. I don’t know… there’s something about being on the road with a bunch of guys, it’s like being on a ship or something. It’s weird! The only thing I miss about Inge is that not having her means that we, after a couple of days, started being really like guys.
FM: Do you miss that female touch to the band?
SD: Yeah, there was a certain something about having her in the band!
FM: What’s Soulwax’s work method, how do you work as a band?
SD:I don’t know, we just make music. Me and my brother write, Stephaan was in the original line-up. Steve was our second drummer, then he went to New York and came back. Dave has his own band but is now playing second guitar. All the rest is fairly boring!
FM: How did you manage to make an album in those conditions?
SD:Phew, yeah. You just try and focus on it. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it goes really fast. Depends on how creative you are. I don’t know, it’s a hard question. Everybody asks how you work as a band or how you write songs and how you do things. There’s something about it that you can’t explain which is probably also the reason why you’re doing it. You get sucked into it!
FM: Whilst you were recording Any Minute Now you were also performing as 2 Many DJ’s and Soulwax also does a lot of remixes. Does one experience feed the other and vice versa?
SD:Yeah. I know people want me to say no, but yeah! It’s all intertwined for me. The hardest one is playing live with a band because that’s a lot of effort and it takes a lot of time. You need to go on tour with a lot of people while playing as DJ’s you just need to take two bags of records and you play other peoples music and people pay you lots of money! It’s not right! [laughs] But I mean it’s okay, I can’t complain, best of both worlds but I mean sometimes it’s kinda hard.
Stephen’s honesty is a rare occurrence in this “Music Business world” and although I was a bit apprehensive in mentioning 2ManyDJs in a Soulwax context, I must admit Stephen’s answer both delighted and comforted me that As Heard On Radio Soulwax had stemmed from a real passion for music and musical artists and is, in my eyes, the ultimate tribute to all musical genres. The copyright issue that dogged AHORS, forcing the album to be taken off the shops’ shelves for a lengthy period of time, was a pointless and money-driven farce. We, at Funky Mofo, believe there is no need for politics and greed in Art and it is unfortunate that talented artists still cannot express themselves more freely and in good faith because some fat cat wants his share of the success without lifting a finger.
FM: Any Minute Now sounds a lot heavier than Much Against Everyone’s Advice. Was that intentional or is that how it just happened in the studio?
SD:I don’t think it was intentional, it was just a phase we were in. Coming out of the Much Against album and then doing 2 Many DJ’s I think that was the mood we were in. I don’t think we would make the same album now, probably if we went into the studio now it would be more towards Much Against again. It’s just something we had to go through to make and actually spend a very interesting ride with it. It’s seems like now after a year people are really getting into it. Everywhere I go I have people saying “Wait, I was listening to that album, now I really understand”. It’s kinda weird!
At this moment, David tiptoes into the dressing room, wondering what is going on…
SD:Ah, now all the other questions you can do with Dave! He is the master. We don’t do anything, he’s the boss. (David then wears a satisfied grin on his face and takes Stephen’s place to carry on with the interview.)
At this point we’re informed by Soulwax’s tour manager that the band has to get changed for the show but we manage to slip one last question to David.
FM: Do you still do the TV and Radio shows?
David Dewaele:No, not anymore. We did a 2-hour thing for Radio One, the Essential Mix. We wanted to do some more but we would need more time.
Much to our despair, and excitement to see the band live at last, we parted with Soulwax. Half an hour later the band invested the stage for what has to be, in our eyes, the best gig of 2005 so far. Soulwax played a seamless set that mixed compositions from ‘Much Against Anyone’s Advice’ and ‘Any Minute Now’ and got the crowd going wilder with each song. No doubt many of the spectators that night had already witnessed Soulwax and 2Many DJs live in a festival or other and I bet you it won’t take long for Soulwax’s popularity to grow into a beautiful monster!