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Das Pop

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Bent Van Looy, am: 08.12.2009 ]

Fast sechs Jahre hat es gedauert, bis Das Pop aus dem belgischen Ghent mit einem neuen Album um die Ecke kamen. Doch ein so facettenreiches und vielschichtiges Popalbum wie ihr drittes selbstbetiteltes Werk will schließlich Weile haben. Obwohl die neuen Songs mit ihren Verweisen auf klassische 80er Popstrukturen und den Diskoeskapaden der 70er Jahre fast allesamt sehr tanzfreudig daherkommen wurde leider eine ganze Reihe an Daten der diesjährigen Europatour abgesagt. Man darf auf baldige Nachholtermine hoffen, denn was sich auf dem Album an sonnigen Songs versammelt hat, ist mehr als geeignet das erdrückende Grau des deutschen Winters zu vertreiben. Wir sprachen mit Sänger Bent Van Looy über seine musikalische Sozialisation, die Tourabsage und den gesellschaftlichen Stellenwert von Musik.


Musicscan: Please, tell me a little bit about how the new album came together. Did you approach this album any differently than your previous efforts?

Das Pop: After wrapping up the tour of the last album (The Human Thing) we found ourselves in the studio as a trio. Like in chemistry, if you add or subtract a single element from a formula, that formula changes not somewhat but totally. We noticed the songs we started making were completely different from anything we’d done before. We were especially baffled by the ease with which the tracks were coming together. You could say we were sitting back as it were, watching the songs write themselves! Before we used to think pop music was rocket science and we weren’t happy unless we’d lost buckets of sweat during the making of an album. We learned that you have to be open for coincidence to enter the room and join the band for a bit. Stephen and David, when the came aboard were the ones who suggested that he true force of Das Pop lays in playing the tracks together, live and direct, in a small room. It was weird for us at first to leave behind bells and whistles because we are all avid arrangers but soon we realised just how right our producers had been. Stripped naked, our music began to open up and revealed a much sleeker, more direct and urgent sound. Recording everything live on real tape gave this album its distinct sound and Das Pop a new, fresh face.

Musicscan: The album is very eclectic again and draws from a variety of styles and musical aesthetics. Are there any major influences that inspired you when working on this album, not necessarily limited to music?

Das Pop: I have a theory about influences: you can lock yourself in with a stack of records of the likes of Sonic Youth, Beach Boys, Neu! or Gram Parsons but at some point you’ll have to go out to buy some food. On the way to the supermarket you might hear a Shakira track and whilst paying for your muesli Dr Alban may be playing on the shop’s sound system. The Sonic Youth albums will start mixing in your brain with Sing Halleluiah now, thus becoming part of your influences. It is impossible to choose what will influence you. We soak up culture just like we adopt a dialect or drink the chalk in the tap water. That is what makes music move forward.

Musicscan: I was wondering why the tour has been canceled? What led to the postponing of the German dates?

Das Pop: We had to synchronize the German and other European dates with the release date of the album and world wide tour plans early next year. It sort of sucks to postpone because we are always ready to play and we were looking forward to the autumn dates just as much as the fans were, if not more so. Next week we’ll announce the new tour dates. They are looking great so far! We cannot wait to get going because playing the tracks live is what we like most.

Musicscan: How would you describe the Belgian independent scene? Is there a great deal of collaboration between the bands or does everyone pretty much stick to themselves? What do you find particularly interesting about the Belgian scene?

Das Pop: Belgium is extremely small so you have no choice but to hang out with other bands and musiciansm especially if you’ve grown up in Ghent, a town where every fourth person plays in a band or spends the weekend playing records in a club. Our rehearsal room used to be right next Soulwax’s so whenever someone would need a pair of bongos or a rare synth we’d just go knock at the neighbours. It’s like the musician’s cup of sugar! It was incredible to work with Stephen and David on this album. Working on songs everyone loves whilst hanging out with good friends, making dinner together after a long day in the studio, day we’ll never forget. In this same spirit Reinhard, Niek and myself produced the debut album of incredible Antwerp band The Hickey Underworld. Some people may deem all this extraordinary but I think it’s only natural to help one another out especially in a field as uncertain as the music industry. Belgian or not, by the way. Who cares, music is music.

Musicscan: What effect do you think does the accessibility of music have on the music itself? Do you think music might be valued differently nowadays because it’s basically free for everyone and one does not necessarily have to engage with any of its context in order to appreciate it?

Das Pop: I have noticed that music has a much shorter shelf life these days. Pop music has always been a matter of the now but I have the feeling it becoming more quicksilver like each day. Fourteen year old kids have a different report with it then we did, I think. Gone are the days of laying splayed on the bed, listening to an album you’ve bought with your pocket money over and over again, gazing at the cover for the millionth time. Or are they? Whereas the album and certainly the utterly charmless compact disk is definitely on it last legs, the song, or the single, is anything but. Thanks to the internet, iPods and streamings the one track song is becoming the norm again. The LP was an adaptation to a new technology back in the late sixties. Carefully compiling until you have about 12 songs that are good enough and also fit together may work for certain bands or genres but I am convinced that for pop music it could be much more exciting to finish a track and release it immediately. The artist wants to get it out immediately because he is thrilled with a new song, and the audience will be able to follow the development very closely as well. Everyone wins.

Musicscan: What consequences does that have on the artists themselves? Can you still live off of your record sales? How do you make ends meet when you are not involved with music?

Das Pop: It has been a while since we released an album, so we had no idea what to expect. It really is quite shocking to see how few people buy records these days. Ridiculous even. The only things you can still make some money with are concerts and having your songs used in films or commercials. That is it, really. So yeah, grim days! The thing is, making music is so fulfilling that when you enter the stage and play the first few bars of the opening track you have already forgotten the bills that are waiting at home and the rope you walk on getting thinner every day.

Musicscan: What makes for the perfect song in your opinion? Have you ever achieved something like a perfect song in your opinion? How would you define a perfect song?

Das Pop: To write the perfect pop song is the idea with every song you write. It is very hard to define. I think every song has the potential to be the perfect pop song to someone, somewhere, at some point in time. Sometimes a song can jump on you, like a leopard from a tree. You may have known this song forever and not have thought of it as very special but now, all of a sudden it changes your world and everything seems to make sense. That is the unique power of the pop song. To be knocked off your feet by a book, a film or even a painting, you have to invest at least something; a song will leave you no choice.

Musicscan: Do you think there are still genuinely new sounds to be discovered or can modern music basically be said to be a recombination of already existing forms and elements?

Das Pop: I am sure there are new sounds to be discovered and I am sure it is happening as we speak in a studio somewhere. What I am also sure of is that people making pop music in our day and age have an ocean of history and baggage that people like Buddy Holly or Paul McCartney just didn’t in that range. I believe everything in art is in some way or form a reaction to what happened before. One can revolt against ones predecessors, or polish their work to perfection. I don’t believe in Kaspar Hauser-like, unspoiled “original” manifestations of creation. It is possible to strive for something exciting and of our time whilst raping and pillaging everything that’s happened before.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from a Das Pop show?

Das Pop: The best way to enjoy Das Pop is in a club whilst we play the songs live, letting them out for a walk, so they can live and breathe in the moment. The amazing moment when band, song and crowd seize to be themselves and become one big thing is truly magic and the reason we keep doing what we do. Rather than plowing through the songs of the album, we really aim to make the night special for everyone involved, as corny as that may sound. It is a little hard to advertise our live shows without coming across as boastful. It is realy what we do best, something to live for and a something we take great pride in. We won’t rest until everyone heart is beating at least twice as fast as when they entered the venue.

Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?

Das Pop: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think it is perfectly acceptable to make and attempt to sell something “beautiful” and nice. There is nothing wrong with allowing people to escape to a safer, brighter place for a little while. Art, however entails something more. Art doesn’t need to please. It can disgust or make you throw away all your beliefs in a jiffy. What I find interesting is when the two meet. Warhol’s embrace of commerce for instance, or the dark, dark sadness that lies beneath the shiny, blonde varnish of Abba’s The Winner Takes It All.

Musicscan: Can music have political dimensions? Do sounds have directly political semantics or is any attempt to politicize music always only achieved through discourse about the music?

Das Pop: Haha. What a lovely German question! I don’t think a sound can ever be described as political. A right wing bass drum. A neo liberal brass section. No, you are right, of course. It’s the discourse, baby, not the disco.

Musicscan: What can we expect from Das Pop in the near future?

Das Pop: We promise not to take as long with the next album. In fact, we are going to Stockholm this month to start working on whatever will become our fourth album. It is always a little scary to start a new album from scratch, so best to get that over with. When we are making a record, what I like to do is fantasize about what it will become. It’s great to have the infinite possibilities in the air that haven’t yet become concrete and real. We are always involved in different projects. Reinhard is writing an orchestral peace based on the album, we may produce the next Hickey underworld album. Also we are working together with French knit wear brand Le Mont St Michel on the new summer collection. The first result of this collaboration is in the shops right now. But first we cannot wait to get on the bus and play these songs to everyone who cares to hear them. From Tokio to Heidelberg!

Musicscan: Anything you would like to add?

Das Pop: Nope. That about does it. Thank you for questions that are actually worth answering!

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