This is Corrosion
 

This is Corrosion on Facebook
10/13/2008 - BUZZ

Buzz are an amazing band from Northern France, with heavy influences from the fertile underground music scene in Belgium. As you'll read in the interview, they have been proved to have an uncompromising, independent, DIY attitude over decades in a kind of punk rock spirit. With this spirit, we find the agreeable addition of elegant electronic constructions. The interview is a must read for anyone who shares a spirit of rebellion toward the banal and the boring. Buzz describes Buzz best in this excerpt from the interview:

But honestly I don't know what type of music BUZZ actually play, it verges on many currents but is none at all at the same time : Electro ? Electropop ? Dark-electro ? EBM ? New Wave ? Coldwave ? Post-Punk ? Synthpop ? Electroclash ? Don't know, don't care !... I've got no time for that. I've started calling it Cyberclash, not because I'm fond of wrestling, mind you !... and I only found that meaning of the term after coming up with it, but because it's a kind of clash of styles past and present with a contemporary-hence the "cyber"-approach.

You perform live, you produce a lot of cool music, often. Do you ever sleep?

Well... in 2008 BUZZ played two concerts in Portugal, two in Northern France where we're from, another in Geneva, one in Brussels with 32 Crash and two in Sweden : it's not that many but they were well chosen. I did a couple of remixes for Darkmen, Void Kampf and Implant, who're into tough EBM, and will soon do the same for Guerre Froide, among others. But first and foremost I also released "Minimal & électronique" in April.

The fourth BUZZ album in two years, "BUZZ Blitz Klub", to be released soon, is entirely composed of so-far-unreleased remixes, 18 of them, by The Neon Judgement, Implant, Renegade Soundwave, SA42, David Carretta, Millimetric, Void Kampf, David Harrow (aka James Hardway) and many others, including Mach Fox from Minneapolis...

I've also completed and presented a dissertation on Renaissance English religious poetry at La Sorbonne in Paris, and am now working on its publishing. It requires just about the same energy as an album I can tell you and it's quite as exciting, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. And I've also started giving talks on the subject... Brighton University (UK), Montpellier Univ. (F)... And I've also got an exciting job; no comments on that... this is my Dr Jekyll side, and a I also happen to have a happy private life...

So, as you may have guessed by now I don't sleep that much, no... but at the same time I went through a ten-day coma in 1996 after a nasty accident and had plenty of rest then. When I recovered I decided I definitely felt like doing something with my life... and I'm a rather happy person these days !

I only relaunched BUZZ in 2006. It had originally been my solo project between 1984 and 1989 which I had stopped out of disgust and discouragement when the French indie label Danceteria dropped me after releasing four 12" which had sold like hot buns but nevertheless refused to let me complete and release the album...

The advantage was that I didn't have to ask anybody else's authorisation, having composed all the tracks. Neither was I obliged to reform the original highly flexible line-up of collaborators who all stopped playing music ages ago.

The sound has evolved of course since I hadn 't been locked in a time-capsule all these years but the original spirit is still there, that DIY approach, the singing in French, the sheer cynicism of the lyrics et al... Funnily enough I had about fifteen songs in the 80's... and have written more than eighty since 2006. This is no revival, no way ; I've never looked backwards...

Electro is a word that a lot of artists use but sometimes the music does not seem like what I call electro. And, it has been a very disappointing search for this type of music. Your music is true to the spirit of what I call electro. It has that special something, a special vibe. How did you stay true to that sound over the years?

I've never been told what to do by a machine and I never used arpeggiators and that kind of devices... ever... Although I think they sound brilliant in other people's songs they are sometimes too easy and predictable. Everything I release was actually played by hand; I don't press a key to have it done by the computer... It's some sort of craftsmanship I guess, but that comes from the days when technology was quite primitive, you didn't record on computers then and a clap-trap was about the size of a laptop now. There was no midi either. I got trained that way and that's what gives my work that kind of hybrid feel, i.e. having the original 80's spirit blended with a more modern sound and approach, no cymbals and no toms either, let's leave that to Phil Collins !

Plus, I love Front 242 but I didn't want to sound like Front 242 n°25 and I'd much rather leave others to it. Every festival you go to these days is filled with clones prancing on stage... nice haircuts though... but very little guts and no originality, no backbone... This is really depressing. Give me the Young Gods or NIN any time instead...

Sound-wise I've always been disappointed with studios and people raving about "sound" who would spend six months on THE hi-hat sound. I like to keep it minimal and therefore more efficient because I'm only too well aware of my limitations and am not interested in big productions which dilute your energy under layers of effects and make you sound soapy...

I noticed a different sound (guitars) in your live videos. It sounds great. Do you change your approach when you play live?

Partly so, in fact the live numbers and vids give you an idea of "the shape of sound to come". In the Summer of 2007 I simplified most of the compositions. To have them sound more direct, simpler I chose to apply roughly the same sounds to every possible song. That took a while but I finally found a good harmony of frequences between a tough yet dancey bass, wicked drums and a synth sound that I wanted to sound like some kind of "cyber-guitar" since I've never been able to learn how to play guitar. These days people come up after gigs and ask me what that "thing" is and whether it's a real guitar sampled or a synth... and Dragan's guitar comes on top. The only real sonic difference from one song to another is the tempo and an additional synth on top for the extra gimmicky line and the vocal samples... They're enough to create another climate instead of having one different sound-kit for every song, which would make it sound very different each time, either lower or higher pitched, and would drive the sound-engineer mad... I like this unity... I've started applying that formula for the recordings of the next record "Vaudou Électrique" and it works... be it on an emotional slow song like "Parce que je n'ai pas d'âme" and a fast one such as "Des cités en ruines" ... I guess that's because I used to love the Ramones having the same identifiable sound on every song and album. Actually I quite gave up listening to them when they went for the pretentious Phil Spector approach...

In that regard, I don't necessarily want to please people by copying existing sounds and song-styles; I'd much rather have them appreciate something newish... as you did... That's not everyone's cup of tea of course since some music-listeners like being reassured and stick to their little labelings and categories. But honestly I don't know what type of music BUZZ actually play, it verges on many currents but is none at all at the same time : Electro ? Electropop ? Dark-electro ? EBM ? New Wave ? Coldwave ? Post-Punk ? Synthpop ? Electroclash ? Don't know, don't care !... I've got no time for that. I've started calling it Cyberclash, not because I'm fond of wrestling, mind you !... and I only found that meaning of the term after coming up with it, but because it's a kind of clash of styles past and present with a contemporary-hence the "cyber"-approach. I guess it's a combination of all these styles I mentioned, as well as others, but at least my potential influences don't show-or so I hope !

Just when I came to realise didn't want to sound like yet another vintage 80's revival act and my past and present songs deserved better, Dragan called me one day and offered to collaborate on guitar. He doen't intervene composition-wise and, thank God, has never try to squeeze any solo in ! His style is great and modern, half-way between samples and guitar-driven rock or punk... His side-projects, called Dragan and X-Mouth Syndrome are well worth checking too on myspace... He's quite an hyperactive little fellow as well...

He's been adding his maverick post-industrial guitar playing to our live versions for the last ten months or so, thus bringing some extra energy to the live sets, turning them into even tenser little events. He will duly feature on our forthcoming fifth CD "Vaudou électrique" that should be released in the wake of "BUZZ Blitz Klub" in mid 2009... I'm premixing it these days... lotsa work...

Is there a band that you feel does a really great job at translating electronic music to a live performance?

... The Young Gods definitely... they are the most talented musicians I've been given to see live... Talented in the sense that they work on sound, frequencies, energy and emotions... they've been around for twenty years now and every album they release is a work of art... I also enjoyed very much seeing Renegade Soundwave live, as much as on record, way back in 1996... Danny on computer + Gary on vox + a former chap from Vic Goddard's Subway Sect on guitar and they kicked hell with their killer sound... Over the years I've come to realise most drummers bore me stiff... I don't enjoy having someone sweating and grunting in my back, always trying to fit in that extra purely irrelevant little jazzy ditty... Quite keen on percussions though...

More recently I saw The Neon Judgement live again and they went down a storm. I regret never having seen Cabaret Voltaire or New Order. On the other hand, BUZZ mk 1-i.e. from 1983 to 1989-played with Anne Clark, Minimal Compact, A Split Second, The Neon Judgement and various others so we felt quite lucky... DAF I never saw unfortunately, but Nitzer Ebb was brilliant live... saw them around 1988 supporting Depêche Mode. Recently I was also given to see Fixmer & MacCarthy and that was something too !

You spend a lot of time crafting your lyrics. What inspires you to write words to the music?

A song generally originates from a drum-line and a bassline as well as a slogan that will later expand into a full text... Writing in French isn't that easy since it can easily sound either vulgar or very pompous but at least it has gained some recognition over the last few years and it's even become quite trendy now. I love the English language, as well as many others, and I wrote my lyrics in English in the mid 90's for various other projects that never released anything. But I felt since the very beginning that writing in French would be some kind of a challenge, especially on top of that sort of arrangements. It was sometimes very negatively received in the 80's but it seems to have evolved a lot, and now seems to appeal to a much wider audience whether they do understand French or not, just like my heart would melt when I first heard "The Girl from Ipanema" sung in Portuguese, not understanding the lyrics but knowing there was something there and wanting to investigate... Understand me, there's nothing wrong with singing in English if you come from an English-speaking country but it has always been a very easy solution for foreigners... The French in particular go "Houlala, I can't possibly write lyrics in my own language so I'm gonna use English" and they make a mess of it accent and syntax-wise...

English has become so international that everyone feels he masters the language-eat your heart out Manu Chao !-and has a right to dribble.

For that reason I especially appreciated Malaria or DAF who were among the first European bands to sing in their native language. Litfiba did likewise in Italy and I could also mention El Aviador Dro who did, and still do so, in Spanish.

Using French for your lyrics implies you must compensate for the lack of rhythm in that language, as opposed to English, handle extra-long words and concentrate on metaphors and double-entendres : say less to mean more...

I'm not interested in writing love songs and the like, I don't wanna preach people about political issues either... I've written songs about a couple of key twentieth century figures such as J.F.K. , Marinetti, Picasso-a total imposter I haven't got the slightest sympathy for I must add-, Jacques Tati or Maïakowski... others deal with the joys of dancing and listening to good music in clubs, "Je suis avec toi" is about two recently departed friends... others deal with 9-11 and the London bombings ; "Parce que je n'ai pas d'âme" is about and against animal experiments in laboraties and bloodsports. There's another on Tchernobyl, "Les aiguilles dans le rouge". "Des cités en ruines" is about the Balkans, "Berlin" was about the Berlin Wall, the Cold War and reminiscences of WWII... and I've recently written one on the Holocaust and every single word was weighed, you can trust my word.

I always proceed by using metaphors, hints and allusions. It tackles a subject but never rants openly about it... which makes it all the more potent when you grasp what it is about. In that regard "Belles comme des Bouddhas" would clumsily translate as something akin "Beautiful as Buddhas"; it is about 9-11 but merely mentions the Buddhas of Bamyan destroyed by the Talibans, the children of Beslan in Russia, taken hostage and slaughtered by a gang of Chechen rebels and the towers of Manhattan... past, present and future destroyed by the same fanatics... and the three words-Bamyan, Beslan, Manhattan-rhyme which makes it all the more sinister... I insist on the fact that all three were (or looked) "serene before the sirens"... the alliteration works better in French of course... Then the song ends with the line "dressées dans le ciel de Manhattan" combined with "blessées dans le ciel de Manhattan"... yet another alliteration with "dressées" ("standing/erect") and "blessées" ("wounded")... saying less to say more so as to trigger a series of mental images in the listener's mind...

Then when you sing in French I guess the shadow of Serge Gainsbourg always looms over. In the past the aficionados often considered that singing in French was disgraceful since "le rock'n'roll" had to be sung in English... I can understand and relate to the concept of "rock" to a certain extent-just as NIN do for example-but the "'n'roll" part is everything I hate in music... guitar and drum solos, pointed boots and all that sad macho carnival...

Could you please describe one of the best parties that you have ever been too and why it was one of the best?

"One of the best parties I ever went to" ?... I've been to smashing parties over the years and some mad ones too... I can remember a couple of extremely boring ones as well now that I come to think of it... and the most unexpected ones were often the best ones too... One of the last I went to was in a club in Zambujeira do Mar in Portugal and it was improvised with my friends of Hate Machine and Banister. There were more than a couple in Belgium or in Madrid's Ya'sta Club where the music was the ideal soundtrack you rarely get to hear played in French clubs and venues... Another was after our Stockholm concert last September... We had a very warm welcome there and will long remember it... The venue closed rather early so we ended up in Tina-the organizer-'s flat and talked and talked till we could watch the sun rising over the city, then we had a traditional Swedish breakfast and talked some more and had to rush back to the airport to catch our plane back home... So much for the "sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll" cliché, we're lightyears from that...

What do you do to relax?

I guess sleeping once in a while helps me do that... Learning new languages is another way... I have fair notions of Russian, English, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish and I've recently started Swedish to be able to speak a bit of the language when we played there last month... it is yet another amazing language... but ain't they all ?... and it helps you understand other people better... Next on the list are Flemish, and German... I'd love to do Hebrew too but that must take a whole lifetime...

A bit of reading always helps me relax too... thanx to T.C. Boyle, Jonathan Coe, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster, Michael Collins, David Peace, Toby Litt, early Hanif Kureishi, J.D. Salinger, Flannery O'Connor, Blanaid McKinney, Mac Liam Wilson and so on and so forth... I read a lot in English... some Portuguese stuff too but I've just only started the language, a bit of Pessoa now and again... Most contemporary French writers are useless... pseudo-intellectual posers, Duras and that lot, the old Roland Barthes syndrome has plagued French literature since the sixties.

But I could re-read Louis-Ferdinand Céline any day...

I generally listen to music... and more music...

And... er... I walk the dog too... And since you ask, no, no sports... just like Winston Churchill !

European bands seem to be very far advanced in producing electronic music. Are there some American bands that you find interesting?

There must be plenty I do not know so they're most welcome to contact us via myspace for instance... The problem I'd experienced before and have noticed again over the last two years is that when you play music you don't have much time to listen to other people's... We were on a CD-sampler for Gothic Magazine recently next to German band Oomph and really enjoyed their stuff... I also enjoy browsing on myspace where you can enjoy discovering brilliant unsigned acts from all over the world.

I really enjoyed discovering Mach Fox, but I haven't really been listening to many new American bands recently, the odd NIN of course but not intensively... I like a lot Veronica Vasicka's project 2VM... brilliant minimal dancey atmospheres and brilliant voice too...

All those Sonic Youth and Green Day clones really leave me indifferent... I still like Ministry and I was very keen on Limbomaniacs, Heads Up or White Zombie among others in the 90's, liked Alice in Chains too... saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers live and never listened to them ever after... But I still have the greatest of respects for Iggy Pop of course, Lou Reed's earlier stuff, Frank Sinatra as well as Chet Baker... And I feel it's a real pity Patti Smith has turned into such an old moaning witch... her gigs now sound like campfire scout gatherings... She had it for a while, around 1977 but once a hippie always a hippie I'm afraid... As I put it on our myspace page it's "Woodstock über alles"... Punk was the real thing...

Could you please describe a typical Buzz studio session, how the writing and production proceeds?

It's a home studio session rather... I chain myself to the computer and won't leave it till that number's done with... That involves some coffeee drinking but no eating whatsoever and no drugs at all... I never take any in fact... I guess music acts as some fuel and I don't need any other substance... Generally takes about six to eight hours to come to grips with a new song... and the final touches come along over the next few days. It starts with some sort of slogan or leitmotiv and then the song grows around it. I try to stick to a rather short format most of the time, around 3'30 whenever possible even if it's not exactly what you'd call a perfect happy-go-lucky pop tune !

I noticed that a lot of French artists are producing music that I like. Is there something special and exciting happening in the French scene?

I've always felt very lucky to live near Belgium where it all happens music-wise... it's always been so... La Muerte, Front 242, The Neon Judgement, T.C. Matic, Dirk Ivens, Siglo XX... Most of our contacts and references are there... France had always been rather backward music-wise until recently... There seems to be a very interesting new generation of sound-engineers, composers, projects, bands, magazines and producers who have managed to disconnect themselves totally from "la variété" or "rock'n'roll" clichés... But the mainstream is just as dire as ever... I remember watching The Cure live in 1979 on Belgian telly on a Saturday afternoon when the next day the most famous French music show would rave about Bruce Springsteen and Garland Jeffreys... it was simply appalling and it hasn't changed much but there are lots of independent artists in the postpunk, darkelectro genre who just mind their own business off the beaten tracks and keep doing things... Nowadays the French music-scene is plagued by the "politically correct" and invaded by rap, hip-hop, r'n'b or "variété" acts. The gig-circuit is more into post Sonic Youth pseudo-arty stuff or third generation punk-ska... yuk !

So BUZZ obviously doen't fit in...

Is there something special that you have learned, with all of your experience, that you would like to share with other musical artists?

I have learnt more about what not to do than about what to do... I do not believe in the band format, I much more believe in collaborations revolving around a solo project...

Go and play as far away from where you live and where people know you... Test your music on total strangers, they'll let you know what it's worth spontaneously, in this regard playing Portugal and Sweden was very encouraging... Down here people start slagging you off as soon as you get some recognition...

Playing music is not about having fun and pulling girls, it's more like a passion. It's a very demanding mistress, an addiction more like... You can't switch it on and off...

What music do you listen to outside of the electronic genre?

Quite a lot of vintage Bossa Nova, Vinicius de Moraes, Jobim and the like or Portuguese Fado, Flamenco, Franco Battiato's works, spoken word, Late Medieval Renaissance music, mostly Italian and English, Dub, a bit of Purcell-especially the Alfred Deller recordings-and Satie, T-Rex, Pep Llopis, Antonio Breschi, no Mozart thank you, after Bach and until Satie 18th and 19th century classical music bores me stiff, the greatest cultural hoax of all times, or how a minor phenomenon was turned into a massive hype... so bloody pompous and perverted...

I also love The Cult and early Punk and so-called "New Wave" and Post-Punk stuff such as The Gang of Four, the early Stranglers, early Television, The Comateens, The Ramones... I much prefer New Order to Joy Division... and I hate Country and Western, Roots Reggae, Rap and Hip-Hop except the early stuff such as Rammellzee, Grandmaster Flash and a couple of others...

Then it's David Sylvian, Adrian Borland and the Sound... But it's mainly electro-oriented stuff when I come to think of it... I was really hooked on Renegade Soundwave, and then Max and The Lavender Pill Mob. I've never been fond of The Beatles, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Barclay James Harvest and all that hippie dirge... My musical apprenticeship started with British Glam Rock I guess... T-Rex, Gary Glitter, (early) David Essex, the Sweet , Roderick Falconer, Lou Reed and Slade, then Kraftwerk a little later and The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Clash, before the latter played stadiums and totally lost the plot that is... then The Human League, John Foxx, Gary Numan and Cabaret Voltaire...

What artists inspire you in the visual arts?

Well... not Pablo Picasso for sure, who pilfered everything he could lay his hands on, from African art to the Italian Futurists... And stating "Andy Wahrol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat" is not gonna sound very original but it's true... then you can add the Italian Futurists and Bacon, or Ron Mueck after first seeing his sculptures by chance at Saatchi's in London... but I wouldn't say I'v been "inspired" by them... I like photography too... mostly black and white, being a "minimal" sort of person ! And movie-wise I've been watching quite a lot of English films and series past and present such as "Shameless", "Little Britain", "The Office" "The Young Ones", "Bottom", "Fawlty Towers"... Terry Gilliam and The Monty Python are my all-time favourites. I find Jean-Luc Godard embarrassingly bad. I loved watching "Magnolia", "Lost in Translation", some Jarmusch and "Marie Antoinette" (especially the soundtrack of course...), the "City of God" series shot in Brazil... Italian and Russian films from the sixties and seventies too...

What is your vision of the future of Buzz?

More releases, I've got about 85 new songs... and lots of projects... More concerts abroad... I don't really care about signing to a label but a distribution would take some pressure off my back and allow me to spend some more time on the music but finding someone you can trust and is not gonna rip you off isn't that easy......

What is your story of the history of Buzz?

"Much underrated"... (laughs) ! But I stuck to my guns and haven't been proven wrong so far... Spent way too much time beating around the bush with tossers in the early days... Should have kicked them out much sooner to avoid losing time and wasting energy...

When can we expect The Neon Judgement mix of Buzz?

It should be on the next CD "BUZZ Blitz Klub"... I'm awaiting it these days... Dirk will no doubt do something powerful out of the files I sent him... I really felt honoured when he accepted to do it... It's like a dream come true, the same applies to the remixes done by Danny Briottet (RSW), David Harrow, Implant, SA42 or Bertrand, the Young Gods' sound engineer for the last twenty years and all the talented musicians who offered to remix BUZZ these last three years... This is one of the most rewarding part of the adventure... seeing how far they can take one of your songs and turn it into something different but yet again in accordance with the spirit the original number... I've also done a couple of remixes for Implant, Mach Fox-whose music amounts to something not unlike "T-Rex meets Zodiac Mindwarp" as I told him when I first got in touch with him on myspace-the coldwave cult group Guerre Froide who happen to live around here, as well as EBM acts Darkmen, Void Kampf, French trip-hop act Angel Factory, electro-poppers Curry & Coco and various others...

Thank you for your time but one final question: Is there of philosophy of Buzz?

This is a tricky one, Dan... Stick to your guns, no compromise... do it yourself ! I guess I got that from the early Punk days...

Never trust a hippie either, they're only long-haired nazis, aren't they ?...


* Photos courtesy of Janicks.


-Dan Morgan