Belgium is a perfect breeding ground for amazing bands. I have the pleasure to present you another interesting project from this country. Limburg’s KABUL GOLF CLUB have just released their new EP called “Le bal du rat mort”. It’s full of danceable, but intense tunes that will make you move. Believe me :) Their crazy rhythms caught my attention and resulted in this cool interview, in which the band talk about their beginnings, math rock / post hardcore influences, the EP, their view on modern music industry, the Middle East, and a few more.
Are you into THE BLOOD OF BROTHERS? No?! No matter what your answer is, you simply need to check these boys out.
Hey, guys! Please introduce yourself, tell us where do you come from? Do you come in peace? [smiles]
Let’s give it a try. Keep in mind that I’m not a native English speaker. We’re all from Belgium, the most of us from the Dutch speaking part of the country (Flanders). My name is Jan and I’m living in Brussels, the capital of Europe. I’m the guitarist, the one without skills but a certain talent for destructured noise. The three other guys are living in Tongeren, the oldest city of Belgium. Florent, the singer/guitarist is the youngest one and he comes from the French speaking part of Belgium (Wallonia). He loves his guitar, he sleeps with it and he loves to play songs of THE LOCUST. Joey, the bassist, is as solid as a rock and a full-time father (his wife will give birth to the second one in August). My brother Maarten plays the drums and acts like Animal from The Muppets on stage. He’s got a little family as well (2 children). We’re all working to make a living and we find each other in the rehearsal room as KABUL GOLF CLUB. Different generations, different backgrounds, different influences and a common passion for music. Most of us have roots in the hardcore/punk scene and we still try to live up to the DIY approach. And we come in peace, of course! Our music maybe reflects the “dark side” of life, but we’re all humanists and we all like to have a good laugh!
How did you guys team up for this project? Tell me more about your beginnings.
My brother Maarten met up with Joey accidentally and they ended up talking about music. Joey was playing with Florent in a garage rock band at that time, THE POWERKRAUTS. It was pretty straight up forward stuff and they needed a new drummer, so Maarten joined in. Gradually they started experimenting with other influences and gradually the music evolved towards a more twisted kind of rock. At that point they started looking for a second guitarist to create a more dynamic and powerful sound. That’s where I came in the picture. Our first rehearsal was quite special as we all felt that something was happening between the four of us, even if it wasn’t clear what we were heading for. It was sparkling, refreshing, it was a kind of chemistry that you don’t experience often when you’re playing with other people : il all felt together, like the pieces of a puzzle. From that point on, we started to write songs and we tried to avoid formats. This was pretty liberating and pretty interesting as we were coming from different backgrounds. It’s funny that you talk about a “project” in your question. Is KGC a band or a project? And what’s the difference between the two of them? Does it have to do with involvement or engagement? One thing is sure: there will be a moment that it will end, when the chemistry is gone and when all of us or some of us will have realised that it’s time to move on to something new or different. A relationship can be fragile, but a band is even more and I’d like to refer to the documentary “some kind of monster”: this is completely over the top and even if you question the motivation(s) of this band, it is still an interesting portrait of the mariage that we usually call “rock band”.
[smiles] Nice one. You’re still a very young band. In terms of performing live, do you already fell comfortable with one another?
We don’t have that many songs but we’ve been working hard on our live performance. I mean, we want to live up to the standard of our record: our music has to be played very tight. Last year we’ve been playing the songs over and over again and we’ve been working on all the details because we had quite a lot of live shows planned after the release of “le bal du rat mort”. And it worked because we felt confident on stage. It felt naturally, as if the music crawled under our skin. It’s something we need to keep focus on, which isn’t always easy. We’re very proud of the way the EP has been recorded: what you hear is what you get. We did 4 or 5 takes of every song, all the instruments together, in order to conserve the “live feel”. We only recorded the vocals afterwards. We didn’t add any extra tracks, we didn’t do any adjustments (you can hear this in the details). The approach was pretty basic and that’s the way we want to work.
You have planned some shows for April. Any plans for a bigger trek later this year?
We’ll be playing shows in April and Mai. Then we take a break to work on new songs. We plan to record some new stuff in autumn for a release in February 2014. Our singer/guitarist Florent will record a new album very soon with THE ROTTCHILDS. He plays the bass in that band and people should check them out because they’re awesome! If there would be an opportunity to play a couple of shows abroad, we wouldn’t refuse of course.
How did you tap Micha for the production duties for your 2012 EP? How do you remember that time? How did he influence your sound? Any ideas who will take his spot next time?
We knew Micha for quite some time and we liked his work with other bands. Micha is a very good musician in the first place and he likes to think “out of the box”. We went to a studio somewhere in the countryside to record the EP. This particular studio (GAM) was build in the seventies and it has a unique sound. It was a very nice experience. Micha is creative and he stimulated us to experiment with different sounds. Just to give one example: the guitar intro from “fast moving consumer goods” has been played on a tiny amplifier (not bigger than the palm of a hand) that was fabricated by Micha. It has this particular sound that is produced by some toys for children. Micha also added “the finishing touch” on a couple of songs. He gaves us confidence as well and he pushed us to record the songs “live” on tape (very old school but it gives a warm sound). Besides that, it was a real pleasure to spend time with Micha, Joey, Florent, Maarten and Marijn (he cooked some nice food) even if the whole creative process was frustrating at times. But that’s part of the game, I guess. We would love to work with Micha again but we’re afraid that he won’t have time because he’s involved in different projects/bands (look out for “Chrome Brulee”, a dedication to the old school synths from the seventies/eighties and check out one of his bands “Vermin Twins”). One thing is sure: one year after the release of “le bal du rat mort”, we’re still blown away by the quality of the recordings.
Who handles distribution of the new EP?
That’s an interesting question. The distribution of “le bal du rat mort” has been handled by Rough Trade Benelux & the EP has been released on a french independant label “Uproar for Veneration” records (UVF). We don’t know yet with whom we’re going to collaborate for the next release. There are some labels that have shown interest and we’re discussing at the moment the possibilities (promotion, distribution,…). KGC is not playing the kind of music that will seduce the masses but we try to work efficiently to reach as many people as possible. The main objectif is to create opportunities to play cool live shows (that’s why we do it for, in the end).
You have received lots of amazing reviews. Do you still get much feedback these days? Any mail that really surprised you recently?
We don’t get that much feedback any more knowing that the EP has been released more then one year ago. We got a lot of support from bloggers and smaller webzines, which is cool for a band like KGC knowing that mainstream/traditional media are not that accessible. We discovered a platform of people who are writing and talking about music in a passionate and open-minded way. They don’t give a damn about formats or trends. And what I find so amazing is that alle these people took the time to listen to our stuff and to write some lines about it in a world where information and choices are so overwhelming. I like the back-to-basics-and-DIY-spirit in combination with a powerfull medium like internet. About the reviews: some reviews are so well written and manage to capture the essence of KGC at that point that it seems that the writer was living in our head while we were writing the songs. Another thing: apparently people think of the weirdest images while listening to a KGC song. I suppose that this has to do with the way we DEcompose our songs [smiles].
How much space for freestyle interpretations do you leave for your listeners? Is there only one truth about your lyrics and message?
A lot of space. We didn’t publish the lyrics because we are not a band with an outspoken opinion. We have a message, yes, but this message has been completely decomposed. Most lyrics are written by Florent and myself. It starts off with a stream of thoughts with a minimum of association and build up around one specific idea. Then Florent starts composing his own version by mixing up words and sentences or just by deleting and inventing. What we strife for, is absolute freedom. Or maybe it’s just an excuse to hide bad song writing. It’s up to the listener to find out but we don’t have the ambition, nor the skills to become the next MORRISSEY. Is there only one truth? I don’t believe so. I’d rather lose myself in nuances then in dogmas.
Alright, guys. Do you have some material left? Any chance to see another release later this year?
Unfortunately not. We stick to the plan: we’ll play some shows the upcoming months and after that we’ll be working on new material. We’ll record some new stuff in October for a release in February/March 2014. In the meantime we’re looking for people who want to contribute to this release (design, clip,…). For the overall design (from the cover of the album to everything regarding online communication) we’ll be working with a very cool illustrator. He’s working mostly for mainstream media but he’s 100% rock ‘n roll and he wants to be involved, so that’s great. Another thing that excites us: the next release will be issued on vinyl as well and one of the interested labels agreed to reissue “le bal du rat mort” on vinyl (the fact that this didn’t happen is still a frustration for all of us).
Great move. You should definitely make it happen.
Tell me, guys.. do you play noise rock? [smiles] How do you call your style? Are there bands you compare yourself to?
Ai, that’s a difficult one. It’s pretty hard to describe our music but noise-math-rock is maybe something that comes close to the truth. There are bands that inspire us, to name a few: FUGAZI, BLOOD BROTHERS, COALESCE, SHELLAC,…What they all have in common, besides the energy they create on stage, is their urge to leave the classical patterns of song writing. But we always try to keep it “groovy”. Our new songs are a little bit more punky, but still with an edge to it. Some people even compare us to PRIMUS and after a show in Holland a metalhead came up to us and in al his excitement he compared us to MESHUGGAH?! Dear Karol, I would like to return this question to the sender: how would you describe our music? [smiles]
Ha! Pretty much the same, dude. But you won’t force me to shoot you a review, because I sincerely don’t like music examination. Reviews are just opinions, and everyone’s opinions differ. So, my reviews for you is: you really need to check it out to you’re your own judgment [smiles]. I suppose if I was really forced to choose, I’d label you as mathy post punk noise rock, or something like that [laughs].
Tell me, how do you try to translate the energy of the live tracks into the tracks you’re recording in studio?
First of all: we play everything live. No overdubs, no instruments are recorded separately. It’s the best way to create something spontaneous, something that comes near to the live sound. Secondly: we recorded the EP on TAPE (analog). It’s the old school way of working (vs digital) and you can create a warm and dynamic sound. Last but not least: you have to work with a producer who feels the band and who’s able to translate your sound (and we think that Micha did a great job).
What advantages of digital technology do you acknowledge?
It offers thousand facilities because of its modern technology and It revolutionized the music industry (recording possibilities & facilities).
How do you see the music industry developing over the next few years?
Interesting question. The music industry is still going through a crisis today and this crisis has been generated by the digital revolution (free download etcetera). Recent figures show that digital sales (i-tunes etcetera) don’t compensate the loss of physical sales (CD’s). Consequently record companies are looking for a profitable business model to survive: “360 degrees”, which means that they try to commercialize their product through all means possible (sponsoring, gadgets, merchandise, publicity,…). There are different consequences in my eyes:
1. record companies don’t take any risk anymore, which isn’t a good thing for bands or musicians that don’t play mainstream-music,
2. there’s a tendency to format bands (everything is marketing & marketing is everything),
3. record companies & promoters often monopolize the program of bigger festivals and events (less chances for alternative bands to play & less visibility knowing that bands need to play shows to collect some money to invest in their future).
It’s a vicious circle and a big part of the available means are absorbed by corporate initiatives.
But I want to end this answer on a positive note: there are still a lot of independent initiatives/structures & smaller labels that invest in a “counter-culture”. And the internet can be a powerful medium if it’s used properly. And last but not least: the sale of vinyl is going up since a couple of years!
And I’m so happy it’s so vital these days.
I don’t use none of them and I don’t download. I don’t have a computer at home, nor a television. I listen to music when I’m at work (YouTube or MySpace) or at home (CD’s or radio). What I like the most = go out to see the bands live on stage. Nothing compares to that! I’m pretty old school I guess [smiles].
Yup, that’s it, mate!
Alright, before we finish off, tell me about the origins of your name.
Usually this is the first question to pop up. Let’s give it a try! Maarten and I have been travelling in the Middle East and we are interested in topics covering the region. We’ve spend some time in Syria in 2001 and it’s strange to see what this country is becoming right now (and I don’t even mention the hypocrisy of Europe and The US in this matter). To return to your question: KABUL GOLF CLUB is a golf court near the city of Kabul in Afghanistan. This court looks like a desert and it’s pretty dangerous to go out and play (pieces of ammo are all over the place & there are still terrorist attacks). We don’t associate Afghanistan with golf but people are really playing golf out there. One can look at it as a symbol of resistance and hope in a region that has been devastated by wars (Sovjet invasion, Taliban,…). We really liked the image because it’s weird and it challenges your common sense.
What exactly inspired you to travel these regions? Was it safe to go there?
Well, our trip in Syria was planned just after the attack on the Twin Towers. At that time George Bush Junior declared that Syria was a part of “the axis of evil”. People warned us not to talk about politics when we were there and when we went to get our passports at the Syrian embassy in Brussels, we felt a strange atmosphere. It felt like we were being watched or something like that. Anyway, this didn’t change our mind and we went off and we had such a great time. A few days after we had been arrived, we went to the university of Damascus. We met some nice people there en we started to travel around with them. Travelling like that is completely different because you’re going to places where you wouldn’t go if you’re a regular tourist. And we even talked about politics knowing that people were extremely careful because the secret police was everywhere (this regime was 100% totalitarian and you felt it in every breath). I’ve to add that Belgian people had a lot of credit in Syria because our Minister of Foreign Affairs back in the days (Louis Michel) was outspoken pro-Palestinian.
Would go back there today?
No, not today. It’s too dangerous. It’s a warzone and even journalists are not safe. But I’m a very curious about the outcome of this conflict and I feel pity for the victims and the innocent people.
Alright, boys. What else? Meanwhile, you managed to prepare a new patternfor your shirt, right? Who’s done it?
Well, we just booked some studio time and we are all excited (we’re going into the studio at the end of October)! The guy who did the design for the shirt is an illustrator who works under the name Steebz. We like his work and he’s going to be in charge of the design of the next release. About the shirt: I think that this is going to be a one-shot knowing that we don’t have that much merchandise. What else? We still have some cool shows going on and we’re looking forward to be on stage. And last but not least: thank you Karol for the interview and your interest in KGC and congrats with your website… it’s well done and it proves that there are still interesting platforms for unconventional music & opinions. People who want to write us, can contact us at [email protected] Après nous le déluge…
Thanks so much for your time! Cheers!