Stuff are something special live. Consisting of Andrew Claes (sax), Dries Laheye (bass), Menno (‘Mixmonster’ – the DJ), Joris Caluwaerts (keys), Lander Gyselinck (drums) and coming straight out of Ghent, Belgium, the quintet recently blew the roof off Band On The Wall with a ferocious soundscape of future jazz. I sat down with Menno for a summation of goings on.

About five years ago, I was playing every Thursday at a club called The White Cat in Ghent. Lander, the drummer – he’s a good friend of mine and we go way back. He used to come by. It was a cool venue but Thursdays were kind of cold, so we tried to make them move, get more people in. The owner, at one point, started talking to Lander and asked him if he wanted to organise some kind of jam every first Thursday of the month.

We started playing, first with lots of different musicians, but at a certain time, we got to a steady crew, the people you see on stage now. That’s the people who we did the jams with. In the beginning, it was more of an improvisation thing. We did a lot of hip hop shit as well. The idea was taking classic hip hop tracks, then Lander or Dries would write the music, then everybody knew the theme, then we started improvising on that.

So it would be fair to say jazz and hip hop were your major influences?

Especially in the beginning. Now it’s even wider, as all the people in the band have different backgrounds musically. Some are more into electronics, like Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin, that kind of stuff. Some are into rock, pop kinds of things. Me, I’m really into hip hop. So it’s a whole mixture of different styles. The drummer is still very hip hop and funk minded, so you will always recognise a hip hop groove in there.

How have you found Bandcamp as a tool?

It’s definitely a good tool for bands that still need to make their name with small budgets. There’s a funny story as well. The cover of our record is by a young Belgian artist [Rinus Van de Velde] who’s doing really well. He’s got exhibitions around the world. We couldn’t afford to buy one of his [pieces] now, he’s really blown up. But the funny thing about it is he was one of the few people on Bandcamp who actually paid for our first release. We were looking at the Bandcamp and we said, ‘That’s that painter, right?’

Coincidentally, he’s a friend of our manager, so we all got together and he was really down to make a cover. Well, he wanted to, but we only had a month before the release and he’s really busy, so we just picked one of his works to use. So you never know. Bandcamp could get you anywhere.

It doesn’t cost anything promotion-wise, just spread the link and people pick up on it. We do get a lot of feedback that way. People want to book us without hearing anything but the Bandcamp or YouTube. For every band nowadays, it’s the way to come out of your garage where you’re rehearsing or your bedroom where you’re producing. I really love it ‘cause you kind of cut out the whole industry. It’s between the musician and the people who are really listening. There’s a whole machine in between and your music has to get through it to get to the people. But Bandcamp, Soundcloud and all that stuff just cuts it out. That’s the real cool thing about it.



How’s the music scene in Ghent?

We can’t complain about that because The White Cat is a strictly funk-soul-jazz kind of thing. When you say that, you expect old people sitting there, but it’s a really young club. They play everything, from the new disco edits to funk, but there’s still always the link between the old and the new. There’s definitely a scene for that over there. But I can’t imagine it’s bigger than over here. I came out of the hotel – it’s my first time in Manchester – there were so many record stores.

How did you end up working with Daddy Kev [of LA’s pioneering Low End Theory club] to master the album?

We’re all fans of his work, the people he worked with and the sound he got. We were looking for people to master the album, and his name definitely came up, but at first we thought we wouldn’t have the budget to pay him. We asked different people to do it, and actually he was the same price as some Belgian people we know. So we said, ‘Let’s do Daddy Kev,’ and we were very happy with the results.

You gotta imagine, the process we did for the last record was a real long one. We started playing five years ago. At first we did more covers, but then we tried to get more of our own work in there. Every track on the record had three to four years to evolve and change. Then we had to record the whole album, then work in the studio on all the tracks. That means before the mastering, we were listening to those songs for three or four years. Sometimes it’s hard to still hear what’s there. It’s good to have a fresh ear listening to that stuff. Otherwise, as we say in Dutch, you can’t see the forest through the trees.

We’re really heavily influenced by people like Hudson Mohawke and Flying Lotus, all those producers really, which is funny because we’re a live band. But the thing is, we see it like this. At first you had bands in the 60s and 70s. Then, in the 80s and 90s, people started sampling those bands. After a while, most of the music that came out was sample based or producer based. And now we’re going to be returning to that, now we’ve got a whole scene of producers. They took samples from the live bands – we’re gonna take samples and ideas from them and play them in a live band. It’s a circle that goes round. Later, they can sample our records. So that’s how we love to think about it.

Are you recording again soon?

We had a project in Belgium where a big concert house asked us to do three weeks of rehearsing, making a new hour show. The goal was to make it more theatrical, for an audience that’s sitting down. We made a lot of new songs for that show, but we’re probably going to let those songs have their own life for a while. We do have a recording session in April though. But the first record came out a year and a few months after we recorded it, so we’ll see how soon things happen. It takes some time.

The plan is to have a new album, probably at the beginning of 2017. But in between there will be tracks like the recent one. You gotta make noise, otherwise they forget you.

A full version of this interview will appear on the website.

Jamie Groovement