THE FANZINE THAT FEATURES SMALL AND UNSIGNED BANDS
Sunday, May 2, 2010
INTERVIEW WITH RED ZEBRA
Red Zebra are without any doubt one of the most influential bands Belgium will ever have known. Maybe it took a long time but finally it seems Red Zebra are having what they deserve to have after all these years : recognition outside Belgium. I usually don’t believe bands who say such things but on the Facebook I learnt that it’s true, Red Zebra mean something… Here is an interview I did for Dutch magazine Dark Entries (and translated it for you) with one of the greatest post-punkbands ever!
HELLO, YOU DID YOUR THING BACK IN THE 80’S FROM BRUGGE. WAS THERE SOME SORT OF SCENE OR WERE YOU A BUNCH OF OUTSIDERS?
In the beginning thee was no scene at all. There was no internet and nobody knew from any other Belgian bands that were doing the same as us. Of course the British bands had wide coverage throughout the NME which was available here too. It was only since we started gigging that we met our Belgian soulmates like Siglo XX, Cultural Decay, Struggler or De Brassers.
I WAS QUITE YOUNG WHEN RED ZEBRA WAS AROUND SO I DON’T KNOW, BUT I’M ALMOST CERTAIN THE PRESS WASN’T THAT IMPRESSED BY YOUR SOUND…
Correct. When we played the Rock Rally Contest here in Belgium in 1980 the jury consisted of pressmen only. It was only the quite legendary Marc Didden who defended us and De Brassers. He tried to convince the others for hours, but without any luck as in the end The Machines won. (Not a bad band but they’re very Beatles-like. Ed.)
I COULD ASK THIS TO EVERY OTHER BELGIAN BAND I GUESS, BUT WERE YOU INFLUENCED BY AMERICAN OR ENGLISH POST-PUNKBANDS?
Of course we were influenced. It were the years of bands like Joy Division, The Sound, Echo & The Bunnymen, Magazine, Gang Of Four, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & The Banshees and others. Every band we mentioned had influenced us in one way or another. The beginning days of the 80’s were the highlights of music.
“I CAN’T LIVE IN A LIVING ROOM” WAS A TOTALLY DIY-SINGLE AND IT EVOKED A REAL EARTHQUAKE HERE… IN ALL HONESTY, I DON’T THINK THIS WOULD BE POSSIBLE NOW AS TODAY DIY-SINGLES DON’T EVEN GOT PLAYED ON RADIO….
Today that would be indeed impossible, but then we had no other choice either. On radio we just had BRT1, 2 and 3 and not even a radio for the youngsters. The only change to get played was during Wedsnesday-afternoon (Vrijaf with Gust De Coster) and on Saturday eve with Luk Jansen (the John Peel from Belgium-ed.). Recordlabels weren’t even interested in new wavestuff. It’s from out of that spirit that punk came above : paying for your recordings, caring about the artwork yourself, pressing your own records, looking for a distributor and that’s it. A band got known in these times by gigging a lot, what we did at that time. These times the record companies aren’t really interested in music, it all has to be a product. You can state that now the radio is in the hands of the recordlabels who dictate them what to do.
THE YOUNGSTERS WILL START LAUGHING AND SAYING THAT BACK THEN IT WAS MUCH MORE EASIER…
It was just different you know… Now every girl or boy takes a guitar and that means automatically much more concurrency. If it doesn’t work like they want to, then the guitar easily ends up in the corner. It was just a matter of not that many bands around and those who were in a band were real musicfreaks and they did it for the music only. Of course you can find these days such bands too, but they have to fight a lot…so in that sense it was different back then. But if you succeed these days, the success is huger too. The communications methods are there and a tour out of Belgium seems all so logic.
WE CAN STATE YOU WERE PUNKS… IF YOU LOOK NOW, DOESN’T SEEM THE WHOLE FIGHT WAS IN VAIN?
Yes, indeed and on the musical front it only got worse. Punk, post-punk and new wave caused a wave of small labels, little recordshops which were all run by people who were bitten by the musical microbe. These days it all seems to be vanished. Almost no independents around and all recordshops are gone. We only have the majors and megastores left in where you can find cds just like they sell toothpaste. CD’s have become thrown away-products. New talents stand in the spotlight for a half year and then it’s time for someone else. It’s time now to start to invest again in music.
ISN’T “I CAN’T LIVE IN A LIVING ROOM” BOTH YOUR GODSEND AND YOUR CURSE? I MEAN, IT MUST BE KIND OF FRUSTRATING THAT PEOPLE ALWAYS TEND TO FALL BACK ON THAT ONE SONG IN PARTICULAR?
You hit the nail on the head. We are still very pleased that after 30 years we created a song that still put people on fire. But in the end it’s up to us to convince a public that we’re more than just a song. Our fans of course know that for ages…
YOUR ALBUMS “MAQUIS” AND “BASTOGNE” ARE GENIUS 80’S CLASSICS, BUT WERE THEY A SUCCESS BACK THEN?
“Bastogne” was, “Maquis” was less because by the time it was released the Belgian boom was over and no one was interested in buying Belgian albums. “Bastogne” was released in the middle of that boom and was released on Zebra Records (later on Parsley). From that records we sold a couple of thousands though.
AFTER “MAQUIS” IT BECAME SILENT, DO YOU THINK YOU MADE ANY BAD DECISIONS BACK THEN?
I don’t think so. We did what we thought we had to do, no matter what the rest of the world was thinking of that. The reason why it was so silent after “Maquis” was because of the downfall from the Belgian boom. Not one band could sell an album and gigs weren’t that much of a success either.
WITH ALL THE RESPECT I HAVE, I DON’T THINK RED ZEBRA REALLY COULD HAVE ITS PROFIT FROM THAT BELGIAN BOOM…
But we never were signed on a big label too, we kicked too much in some balls I guess. What mattered for us was the music and we never went down on our knees for someone. No, we regret nothing. After all, we can’t say it was for nothing as today we still can be seen in venues that matters.
YOUR NEW ALBUMS ALWAYS GOT COMPARED WITH YOUR EARLIER STUFF, NEVER GOT TIRED FROM THAT?
That’s how the human being is like I guess. We all like it when a band plays old material, but not only that as we soon would get bored of it. And it’s so that as a band you still like working on new material. On stage we always try to keep a balance between the old and the new.
ON YOUR WEBSITE THERE IS MENTION FROM A NEW RELEASE TOO…
We’re working on that. The basic structures from the songs are almost finished and they’ve been tried out on stage some times before. Honestly said, we see the songs are more in the new wave area. I hope we can surprise so people with it though.
RECENTLY YOU RE-RELEASED YOUR OLD MATERIAL ON “EIGHTIES”, WAS THAT A REACTION TO THE VERY EXPENSIVE COLLECTORS THAT “MAQUIS” AND “BASTOGNE” HAVE BECOME?
Not really, but we just wanted to released something on the black gold for the vinyljunks among you. That won’t change a bit for the collectors, but it gives the change to our fans to buy our stuff on vinyl at fair prices.
IN FACT HOW DOES IT FEEL FOR A PUNK TO SEE THAT YOUR MATERIAL IS ON THE COLLECTOR’S MARKET?
Of course it’s a double feeling. We were quite satisfied to see that our material is loved and that people wanna pay for it instead of them ending up in the sales area. Otherwise, it’s true that it’s not exactly for young people who haven’t that much money.
YOU ARE ALSO PART OF THE WAVE & GOTHIK TREFFEN, NOT?
We play indeed in Leipzig at the Gothik Pogo Festival. Having said that we noticed that Germany quite like us last years, we have some great fans over there who know our songs from the beginning to the end. I can also reveal you that you can catch Red Zebra in Italy, at the Moonlight Festival in Fano-Rimini to be precisely. So anyone who is coming to Italy, better come to Fano.
WILL THERE EVER BE A FINAL CONCERT BY RED ZEBRA YOU THINK?
I guess it will stop once but for the moment being we don’t care about that. It’s still more ace to write new songs instead of planning final farewell parties, not? As long as the public wants us and it’s fun for us, we keep on going.
THE FINAL QUESTION EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW, NEVER GET BORED BY THE BANANAS?