dEUS interview, c. 1996

This is another extract from the fanzines I found in the attic last night. It’s not “connected” to the others, but I thought it was a pretty cool memory of hanging out with some really sweet people, so preserved it for posterity.

IN A BAR, UNDER THE SEA (SOMEWHERE IN SOHO)

It’s all going horribly wrong. The interview was scheduled for seven o’clock, but the Legendary Bastard Security Guards (just ask Manhole) at the Astoria won’t let me through. I send three dEUS-related people to look for the tour manager, but he is nowhere to be found. Eventually, I give up and just go to watch the show. Tom Barman is propping up the bar, and we head for the aftershow party.

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Tom, like all of dEUS, is sweet, good-natured, unassuming, genuine, and – above all – lots of fun. At the party, the implausibly gorgeous Klaas and Danny dance enthusiastically to every song, even though Klaas dances like John Travolta on crack. Jules de Borgher giggles with everyone and Tom is sitting in the corner, having intelligent conversations with the few people not paralytically drunk. Stef stands quietly by the door. Everyone is happy.

dEUS are from Belgium. Ish. Actually, Craig’s from Scotland. The rest of the band hail from all over Europe. They’re based in Brussels, but for the last month they’ve been in Britain, supporting Placebo in a month-long tour that has seen few breaks. When Worst Case Scenario came out, dEUS were one of the most critically-acclaimed bands in the world, enjoying the sort of exposure Placebo had just before Nancy Boy came out. In short, they were dead certs. Since then, there’s been the odd lineup change, with Stef leaving to concentrate on Moondog Jr, and Craig (longtime friend of the band) was drafted in as a guitarist. Danny Mommens replaced Rudy Trouve on bass, and sales of another album (In A Bar, Under The Sea) have been poor, a factor that Craig puts down to changing British tastes:

Craig: Because we use a wide variety of styles in our music, it was always a worry that it might all end up a directionless mess.  I think the vocals hold it together, but we’re often misunderstood. I don’t think Britain understands us at all. The profile’s really gone down since the last album. We just did an interview with Melody Maker, and it’s half a page. Half a page! That’s what new bands get. We’ve had two-page interviews before, two or three years ago. The sales are bad – everywhere else in Europe, sales of this album have surpassed Worst Case Scenario. Island have pulled out all the stops promotionally, but it’s obviously not working. So much has happened, like Britpop, and now we’re really out on a limb. The reviews have been great, but where Worst Case Scenario was in the end-of-year Top 50 roundups, In A Bar, Under The Sea was nowhere to be seen.

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IN A  BAR, UNDER  A PORN SHOP

After the Zebra, a seedy drinking den is host to the night’s festivities. Tom is complaining about the price of E, as my new pal Ellie has gone to get one for Tom to take tomorrow. We stay for a few hours, drinking beers and listening to music. A lot of our crowd are from Luxembourg – much to the amusement of the Placebo fans in the gang – and a transcontinental ambience lends a thrilling atmosphere to the revelries. Europe has its drawbacks, though. Choosing a band name is hard enough, without having to worry about other bands having the same name.

Craig: Stef got into a lot of trouble over Moondog Jr, because in Germany, there’s a singer called Moondog. They had to withdraw all the copies of Moondog Jr’s album because Moondog had the power to do that. Stef phoned him, he wanted to talk to him in person. Me and Stef and Rudy were in Antwerp and it was one of those nights when the moon gets close to the horizon – it was enormous – it was an incredible night. So Stef called Moondog later that night to talk about it. The first thing he said was, “Did you see the moon tonight? It was amazing!”

Moondog said, “I’m blind.”

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IN A CLUB, IN REGENT STREET

Twenty four hours later, the band recouperate from the fantastic show they just played at the Pony Club, in the company of every ligger, celeb and party type in existence. Crawling afterwards into The Seediest Drinking Den In London, we exhaust our alcohol capacity entirely. Placebo’s Brian Molko is chatting animatedly to one of the girls from the previous night’s Zebra club. After an hour or two, I turn around and ask, “Where are Tom and Julles?”

“Um …”

“Err …”

“Oh bugger, I think they must have got lost …”

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IN A BAR, NEXT TO THE ASTORIA

Finally! Friday afternoon sees the long-awaited interview actually take place in The George, downstairs, with Marvin Gaye blasting away on the jukebox. Craig is the only one awake enough to do the interview, and we sit at a table with Craig’s girlfriend Lisa dipping her finger into his pint of Guinness and licking off the froth. Craig is intelligent, talkative, genial and open. I begin by asking him about the eclecticism of the music.

Craig: It’s not a matter of saying we’ll do this style on song A and style B on song B; it just sort of happens that way. The writing comes from lots of different places. Tom writes the basic material, so you have simple pop songs and sometimes it’s a matter of who gets there first, whether it’s me or Klaas. If Klaas is the first to stamp his authority on it, it’s angular and stiffer and if it’s me, then it’s got more guitar on it. We try to get immersed in each song and get a mood or direction for each song. That’s why we have such violent mood swings on the record.

What would you like to achieve over the next five years?

Craig: Steady growth … some inroads in America. We’re touring over there next month – some gigs with Cake, some with Morphine. Morphine had a great idea but didn’t have another, you know what I mean? They’re great for two songs. S***! I hope they don’t read this fanzine! Tom and Stef are fans of Morphine.

Is there anything you’d like to change about dEUS?

Craig: I’d try to make it possible for all six of us to write an album’s worth of material together. It’s really frustrating with all of us working on our own projects all the time. It always ends up with some people having more input than others.

When we started writing In A Bar, Under The Sea, Stef was on tour with Moondog Jr and one person conspicuously absent so there were only four of us. We’ve got a month off in May where we’re starting again writing, but Klaas and Pete are doing a soundtrack with Moondog Jr so there’s just me, Tom, Danny and Julles. It’s always like that. Sometimes we just present them with material we’ve been working on for four weeks. It would be nice to get everyone together from the start.

Have you ever got into trouble for using samples? There’s a Charlie Mingus sample on Theme From Turnpike and a Frank Zappa sample on W.C.S. (first draft).

Craig: I’m going to say something sh*te: we’re post-modernists. We’re just pilfering in a creative way, which is better than dance music, which is all borrowed. If we’re going to do something wildly different in each song, then so what? There was an argument that the bridge in Roses was too Nirvana. Eric the producer said, “So what? It lasts six seconds and no other part of the song sounds like Nirvana, so who cares?” Obviously we only sample dead people.

Craig laughs.

I really hate it when samples aren’t credited. As long as you’re honest about it, it’s just like doing a cover. The Mingus sample was fine. They were really nice about it at the Jazz Workshop, who represent him. They only took 33% when we’d have been willing to give them 50%. Zappa takes 100%, the bastard. I bet it’s the last thing he said on his deathbed: “100% or nothing,” which is sh*te, because Tom wrote the lyrics. It’s always Tom who comes up with the idea of using a sample and it takes me months to warm to the idea. Both the dEUS albums have one track that sticks out like a sore thumb for using one sampled riff the whole way through. We’ve done it twice and the song even sits in the same position on the album. I don’t think we should do it again; we should use samples more subtly next time.

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ON A STAGE, IN LONDON

dEUS hit the stage with no fewer than three percussionists. Stef joins them for a stint as special guest vocalist, and bounds around the stage with relentless enthusiasm. Tonight is the last night of a very exhausting tour, which has seen the band swallow up their budget with expensive hotel rooms rather than roughing it on a tourbus. It’s been a tough but rewarding time, and dEUS, up on a stage, giving it their all, remember exactly why they went into music in the first place.

Being one of the greatest bands on the planet gives dEUS some cosmic weight. So, knackered out after a night on the stage, what divine words of wisdom can dEUS conclude such a momentous tour with?

Craig: Er, does anyone know of any decent bars?

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4 comments on “dEUS interview, c. 1996

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