By Steph McQuaid | Spittingflower Productions | January 25, 2015
“People may like it or not but I won’t budge an inch… We’ve been through rough times but we’ve always stuck to our guns…No surrender No compromise! “ ( J-C VTH founder member and vocalist of VUDUVOX )
One of the Big highlights of the year here at Spittingflower Productions is the long awaited release of the debut album from VUDUVOX ‘Vaudou Électrique’. With stomping beats and radical electro groove this angst ridden two piece originating from rainy post-industrial Flanders are as uncompromising in their approach, as they are their sound! We caught up with founder member and vocalist J-C VTH to find out what VUDUVOX have in store for us this year, and how debut album ‘Vaudou Électrique’ has been received across Europe & beyond!
Tell us about the formation of VUDUVOX – You and Oliver T both have a sizeable body of work between you prior to VUDUVOX ( J-C BUZZ , Oliver TSA42/GrandChaos). How did you meet, and what made you decide to record an album together?
I’d seen Olivier play live electro-percussions for EBM acts Grandchaos and SA42 a couple of times and we’d met through our mutual friend Jacky Meurisse (SA42). They both had seen me perform live as well with my former project BUZZ resuscitated from the 80’s, and Olivier had taken live pictures of us on one occasion. They mentioned that they really liked my energy onstage. About two weeks later, in the middle of a string of eight gigs across France and Belgium, the guitar-player unexpectedly threw in the towel, so I contacted Olivier and he took the job! The following week we supported ‘Implant’ and then ‘Parade Ground’, and then ‘Spectra Paris’ in France, Belgium and Holland before taking a short break to think things over. We were already working on the new album with Dirk Da Davo of ‘The Neon Judgement’ but things were at a standstill because of all the changes. To be perfectly honest with you, we don’t actually realize that we have ‘a sizeable body of work’ unless people tell us so. To me, every new song is a new start as they say, as fresh as the very first one I wrote.
Around the time of recording the new album we decided it was a perfect opportunity for a name-change. It took me about three years of brainstorming to come up with the name ‘VUDUVOX’, ie one that could be pronounced easily in every possible language and would also sound evocative. And I’ve had amazing feedback on this too! As regards the album, in late 2011 I scrapped all the former guitarist’s parts and re-arranged each and every track while Olivier swopped his kit for a guitar. This new partnership had also boosted my songwriting so we chose to insert a couple of new tracks like “Au rythme des incendies”, “Silex”, “Kamikazes” and “Vuduvox (part 1 and 2)”.
It all clicked in around the same time when the guys from the Italian EBM/Electro/Darkwave/Industrial label EKP (EK Product), who had been distributing my five self-released BUZZ albums in Italy, proposed to sign VUDUVOX without having even heard a single demo. To cut a long story short, a duo is the perfect combination to me. It’s much more convenient for information to flow properly between band-members. I’ve always preferred this option to that of the more tribal four-piece. I do enjoy the more minimal/industrial feel of being only two band members on stage with our accompanying videos. Plus, I couldn’t care less about working with a drummer or a bass-player. They’d inevitably slow down our tempos for one, and wouldn’t add anything to our alchemy of machines + vox + guitar.
Your debut release ‘Vaudou Électrique’ has a very obvious abrasive direct & unapologetic feel to it – does this reflect the theme of the album or the general ethos of VUDUVOX?
I’m glad you say this and ‘Vaudou’ has been received this way from Peru and Brazil to Belarus and the UK. Intravenous magazine concluded their recent review by stating that ‘VUDUVOX have crafted a manifesto’. This fully reflects our ‘No Compromise, No Surrender’ motto. I wanted ‘Vaudou Électrique’ to sound as raw and live-like as possible which is why sound-wise we used the same kit from one track to the next quite Ramones-style, if you see what I mean. No need for lavish studio effects or changing our bass-drum or guitar sound from one song to the next. We’re not fucking Supertramp! Once a Punk, always a Punk I guess, even when you switch to machines. People may like it or not but I won’t budge an inch. Adam Ant once said in a 1978 interview that ‘he didn’t cater for an audience but much rather aimed to create one’ and I can relate to this. We’ve been through rough times but we’ve always stuck to our guns and the current feedback would rather tend to prove us right. So ‘Je ne regrette rien.’
You recently signed to Napoli-based label ‘EK Product’ last year – how does the experience of being with a recognised label differ from former self-released projects?
It sure helps a lot, and in more ways than one. First it makes you feel more confident and somewhat comfortable in the sense that you are backed. Mind you, my first signing in the early stages of BUZZ ended up in a disaster. Once bitten twice shy! After sending a couple of demos to one of two so-called indie labels, who are nothing other than majors in disguise if you ask me, I got no response so I gave up altogether and stopped sending anything to anyone. Instead I self-released no fewer than five BUZZ albums in five years, featuring collaborations and/or remixes from ‘SA42′,’ The Neon Judgement’, ‘Implant’, Gary Asquith (of Rema Rema/Mass/Renegade Soundwave fame), David Harrow, Danny Briottet (RSW), Bertrand Siffert (viz. The Young Gods) and so on and so forth. Anyway, being signed to a label doesn’t mean you can start kicking your heels and let them do all the work, on the contrary. It simply means that both energies will fuse and achieve more, which is precisely what is happening these days. It is a mere matter of trust and mutual respect. I enjoy the perfect freedom ‘VUDUVOX’ is granted by EKP. I am keen on handling matters as much as possible, controlling our sound and image, from the album to the live-set, plus accompanying videos, right down to our t-shirts and record sleeves. Plus, I knew I wasn’t to expect much from the French scene and media. Be it local or national, one must be “a friend of a friend” or a member of the Socialist coterie to get recognition, regardless of one’s musical abilities. We’re not interested in pleasing these little tycoons. Signing to an Italian indie label is much more exciting, and so was recording, pre-mixing and mixing in Northern France and Belgium. Backing vocals were provided by a friend from Hamburg, the mastering completed in Belgium and Italy. We’re also attracting attention in the UK by being reviewed and getting airplay and also across Belarus, Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Peru, and Brazil (so far).
The process of recording an album can be a particularly exciting yet a pretty intense process. How would you describe the evolution of ‘Vaudou Électrique’?
It means a lot of work and knowing where you wanna get, but not entirely how you are gonna get there! “Vaudou Électrique” became somehow obsessive over time and achieving a proper mix took much longer than the actual recording itself. It also meant a lot of re-starting from scratch and stripping down everything that had been mixed to start all over again before feeling truly happy with it. But we finally got there, otherwise the record would never have seen the light of day! Believe me, this is why we had to keep the fans waiting and waiting, and it sure involved a lot of agonizing and doubting. Throughout this lengthy period, not more than five people actually heard the demos, but on the other hand the label never put any pressure on us in any way which is rare enough to mention. Now that this is over I feel we’ve got the (almost) ‘perfect’ recipe for the next release. Making the album also helped us improve our live-sound to no end. So much so that most of the friends and fans who’d been repeatedly asking for the CD over the last two years or so now fully agree it was well worth the wait! We’ve very much got some kind of ‘mission accomplished’ feeling, and believe it or not we embarked on the next album’s sessions even before the first one got officially released. I wrote a couple of new tracks for it over the last few days while we’ve got about ninety other completed tracks waiting in the VUDUVOX vault.
How much of an influence does your environment have in your work. Do you take inspiration from rainy post industrial Flanders?
I do indeed. To put you in the picture, I’ve always lived in Lille but I’ve travelled quite a lot around Europe. I also spent a year working in London. I must admit I prefer the city vibes to the countryside. Lille is a city in Northern France not unlike Leeds or Sheffield in the UK. Nearby Belgium also has a lot of this Northern feel… “L’usine” is like this, combining my own visions of grey skies, bricks and concrete in our surroundings to readings of Alan Sillitoe and like-minded writers. This is/was reflected in UK bands too, especially up North if you come to think of the early Human League, Clock DVA and Cabaret Voltaire stuff, not to mention Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Paradise Lost, The Sisters of Mercy or NMA. This part of France benefits a lot from its proximity to Belgium, which is where all the good gigs and festivals have happened over the years, featuring all the aforementioned and an impressive array of brilliant Belgian bands too.
There is some excellent video footage on YouTube of VUDUVOX recent live dates in Paris, are there any plans in the offing to tour ‘Vaudou Électrique’ across Europe or further afield?
Well, this videographer from Paris, Brumaire, came up to us after the ESN festival in Belgium in 2012 and was quite enthusiastic about shooting a live video. So we met again at our next Paris gig in March 2013. Brumaire sent us his work several weeks later and great work it was/is indeed. We are planning to do several more videos with him in the near future. On the other hand the ‘Berlin’ video was shot by Andrew of the ‘Venus Fly Trap’ on his mobile phone when we played Belgium together. I then edited it in a rather punkyish D-I-Y way. As you can see in all these videos, VUDUVOX really go for it on stage ! We’d love to play more gigs abroad but good gigs can be quite hard to get these days! As they say ‘have car, will travel’ even if driving on the left is necessary (hint-hint, nudge-nudge). To this day, VUDUVOX have mainly played Northern France and Belgium. However now the record is released, I am going to reactivate all our contacts in Portugal, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, previously raided by BUZZ.
‘Vaudou Électrique’ appears to have been particularly well received by the alternative music press and the fans alike. Do you have a favourite track or a personal preference from the album?
Indeed, the reception has been smashingly positive so far, and from all sides. It would be unfair to say I have a favourite track on the album. They are all favourites, each and every one stands for something that is dear to my heart. As I was saying earlier, none would have been released if we’d felt it deserved a better treatment. Two tracks actually didn’t make it on this one because we had too many, and I’ve got about eighty or ninety more in demo form fully written with music and lyrics. Plus more keep coming, so I won’t complain. This will also give us the possibility to choose which tracks to release from record to record and play on their respective textures rather than put out twelve same-spirited tracks under pressure. On “Vaudou Électrique” two tracks date from the mid-eighties but have been duly revisited. One or two other tracks date from 2006 or 2007, and the rest are from 2011-12-13. One track was written around May 2014 to be tested live in the Ardennes in late June. That track was included at the very last minute! Yet it all feels like a homogeneous batch of songs, not your odd motley, which brings us back to that ‘Ramones’ feeling. We truly tried to work on a progression with the album, or at least, we were intent on keeping the same type of tension from beginning to end. This has been noted and stressed by a couple of reviewers. No fillers, just killers!
How would you define the VUDUVOX style/sound?
I guess it’s a mixture of electro-industrial influences and a punkier or post-punk/ coldwave/synthpop/new-wavish approach. I do not really know to be perfectly honest. No bleeding solos anyway, that’s for sure. An italian reviewer recently compared VUDUVOX to early Skinny Puppy, a band that I know of but have never actively listened to. These last few years I’ve been more into Brazilian classics, Portuguese Fado or Renaissance lute works (Jenkins, Dowland to Purcell) and before that it was Flamenco, and Italian musicby Franco Battiato. On a regular basis I also listen to a fair deal of ‘T-Rex’, the odd Gainsbourg, ‘The Cult’, Anne Clark, ‘Dead Can Dance’, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and also ‘The Young Gods’, Marvin Gaye, Chet Baker, ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ or ‘The Sound’ — once good friends, now sadly missed. ‘Ski Patrol’ and ‘Orange Cardigan’ are also two wicked postpunk acts that should have made it big. I also enjoy ‘New Order’, (before and after their Ibiza antics) and early ‘Adam & the Ants’. (saw them live in 1979 in Leeds and never recovered). I don’t wanna sound pretentious but I do feel the need to listen to stuff that is totally disconnected from what I do so as not to be conditioned, even ‘subliminally’. So many people are, and some record labels would like you to rejoice and marvel at some Sisters of Mercy clones, Front 242 copycats or Nitzer Ebb mk.35. This is just pathetic, and needless to say perhaps I’ve always thoroughly ignored or hated the Beatles, the Doors and Seventies hippie dirge. Our sound is a reaction to such crap. We are a somewhat radical two-piece, happy to be perceived as ‘abrasive and unapologetic’. The album also features vocals in French and a fair amount of samples in every possible language. I could sing in English but this would radically change both my topics and my scansion. Singing in French is also something of a challenge. Words generally have more syllables and are latin-based. In French the music translates into an almost blasé and perhaps more tongue-in-cheek feel which I rely on quite a lot.
What does the future hold for VUDUVOX? Where do you see things going for VUDUVOX in 2015?
Another album is in the making, as is a smashing review by Spittingflowers! Positive reviews keep pouring in. We’re working on the next album and a couple of collaborations (hush hush) plus remixes. More gigs would be welcome and as I said earlier, we don’t really mind the distance. On the contrary, since playing abroad is always a great experience… so you’ve been warned !
‘VUDUVOX ‘ ‘Vaudou Électrique’, 15 tracks + 12 interludes, 68 minutes. Out now on EKP. Pre-mixed by ‘The Neon Judgement’s Dirk Da Davo, mastered by ‘Implant’s Len Lemeire (CD version) and ‘Pankow’s Maurizio Fasolo (digital version). International distribution by Audioglobe / Broken Silence.
Photo Credits : Yannick Lagier
Video Credits : Brumaire Brume
Special thanks : J-C VTH ‘Vuduvox’
Facebook : https://es-es.facebook.com/vuduvox