Two years after the release of their debut Report From The Dark, the Belgian outfit 2nd Civilization present us their second album Let’s Play. Another fine piece of music that they will bring live on stage on the 22nd of november in the B52 Club in Eernegem. We had a chat with the ever so friendly Koen Dooms.
Hi Koen. It’s been more than two years since we spoke. Your debut album was just released then. How were the reactions on it?
Hi Jürgen. Yeah, it’s hard to believe time goes by so fast! Report From The Dark received very good critics and considering that this was actually a remake album from older songs, we did get new fans worldwide. All thanks to the power of the social media which back in the days didn’t exist..
How do you look back on it? Still happy with it or would you change some things if you could?
I just came back from a short holiday and finally took the time there to have a listen to the album again. I think it was almost 2 years ago I did. It was a good reality check, especially since we will play some of those songs on our concerts. In general I can say I’m still happy we made this album but being 2 years further, I’m also not afraid to be a bit more critical and a few things could have been differently done. To name one, I believe my vocals on D69 could have been better, but it was also the first time in 20 years I had to sing again and this was the first one we recorded. It sounds to me now like I’m singing it as the “Italian Stallion” on steroids. But apart from some other smaller things I think we wouldn’t change that much.
As far as I know you didn’t perform live to promote that album. How come?
I can give you a short answer: We were not ready! We were so much focused on the album that by the time EK Product released it we had no idea on how to perform it live. Maybe that sounds strange in an age where a lot can be done with a simple laptop, but we wanted to find a way to do as much as possible live, even use the laptop as a live instrument. We started in a program called “Ableton Live” but soon realized that was not the best tool for our songs and by the time we started to find the right setup the “momentum” was gone. Apart from that we were also questioning ourselves; do we really want to play like 12 songs that were actually from the eighties? So instead of reworking the old songs again in a live format, we simply decided to skip it and focus on a brand new album instead. This time with the goal to be ready with a live set as well by the time it got released.
Your 2nd album Let’s Play has just been released.Tell us all about it.
We are very excited with the new album. Not only does it contain 12 brand new tracks, but we are also glad we could include less obvious tracks like Brussels or Heartbeat. Of course we included more than a few dance floor killer tracks as well, even a song that Eric Van Wonterghem described as a good song for the “ladies” on the dance floor, referring to the track Games. So I believe we found a good balance between some of the harder EBM style of songwriting and the bit softer dark wave approach. We also learned a lot from the first album, how to mix things better, using better vocal treatments, adding more punch to the beats. Also we used a lot of analog and some weird synths for this album, avoiding as much as possible the use of presets. Meaning, it also took us a year to complete the album.
My favourite track is without a doubt the openingtrack Walk It Off . It will fill some dancefloors for sure.
I agree, although I like to believe that The Crash might be a very good contender. We were at a New Wave party in Moorsel where DJ Nick Mertens, a guy who really believes in us, tested it the first time on a full dance floor. Talking about taking some gamble here, but we were happily surprised that people just kept on dancing. At that point we realized we were on the right track with the album.
One of the tracks is a tribute to American horror moviedirector John Carpenter (Halloween – The Thing – The Fog – Christine etc..).
John Carpenter is one of my all-time heroes. Not only did I watch all of his movies, I also have some of his soundtracks. Knowing that he made the music himself on all of his movies, playing on old school analog synthesizers, makes him even more like a God to me. I remember that he said once that he had no money to hire serious composers and using analog synths himself was just cheap as well. Knowing that some of those synths would cost 10 times more today than back then makes it even more surreal. The John Carpenter track also starts with a piano sequence I recorded in a loop, like that piano riddle on the Halloween Theme soundtrack. And apart from that we were using of course mostly analog synths in this track as well.
You also used more electronics and less guitars on the new album. Why?
Funny to read that some reviewers still hear a guitar here and there on the album because actually there are none. Some guitarish sounds are sometimes synths with distortion on it or a short guitar sample. It was a deliberate choice to abandon the guitars on this album, although that doesn’t mean we won’t use them anymore. On stage you will see some guitar work. For this album we really wanted to make it a synth driven album, also this time with a lot of analog gear in it to get that extra warmth. The guitars would only have been a “fill up” at this point.
This album was also released on EK Product (Space Race Records to be exact). An obvious choice?
Not so obvious as one might think. The 3 year contract we signed gave EK Product /SRR the right to release 1 album and an option for a second one. This gave the label the right to reject the album as well. Gladly enough they remained very enthusiastic and gave a final go beginning this year, so we could proceed with the mastering process. I believe they are doing their best for their artists.They also have signed some very good bands. I bought the album from labelmate Tourdeforce and it’s in my car CD player for over a week now. I hope the label can continue its growth and be around for many years.
The album was mastered by Eric Van Wonterghem (Monolith – Absolute Body Control – Sonar etc.). How important was he in the process?
I knew Eric by name from the many bands he’s involved in and rather by coincidence I found out he’s also running a mastering studio. For me it was also important to have the album mastered by somebody who knows the scene. The fact that he’s also a Belgian was an extra value because it’s just a bit easier to discuss things in your own language and without being too damn serious all the time either. He was even so friendly to testmaster Walk it Off for free. When we got the song back it was bang on it. We are very happy with the end result and big budget studios wouldn’t have done it better in my opinion. And last but not least when we were searching for a good T-shirt maker he also mentioned the service he works for without pushing it to us. We had no doubt it would also be a top notch work so we didn’t regret it.
Not only a new album, but finally also some gigs this time. How much are you looking forward to this and what may we expect?
The first gig in more than 20 years will be the 22 of November at Club B52 in Eernegem. On January 10th 2015 we will perform in Aalst, the city where it all started for us. That will be in Café Feedback. Since it was that long time ago we are very eager to try out the new and some of the old songs on a public. I believe we made a strong set and people better move their legs! Although there is also room for a few calmer songs, but we’ll keep them more in the beginning of the set. We are also testing out some unusual instruments. I even have a unique prototype of a noise generator and I already figured out where I can use it. Also we believe a lot in visuals, so I hope we can get a projector and screen. If we have one, all videos we made will be triggered live. I hope nothing will go wrong technically, but that’s part of the challenge. We will do our best to put down a kick ass performance!
What about the line up, will it just be the 3 of you?
Even less. For now 2nd Civilization is a duo. Live as well as on future albums. Trick took a few steps back due to his own solo project which starts to work out nicely. He is my cousin so I keep in touch and if he feels he has a new track that suits better for 2nd Civilization we will be more than happy to collaborate again. He was also doing a lot of the art work and running the website, so it’s always possible we might turn to him if we need good ideas on those parts as well. It does mean however that some of the tracks he used to sing won’t be included in the liveset. But we have enough material for me to do all the lead vocals. So it’s just Vidi and me live but that doesn’t mean it will be less of a show.
You used to play covers from DAF, Front 242 , Kraftwerk etc.. can we expect some during the upcoming gigs?
A friend asked me a week ago if we will play The Model from Kraftwerk. I was a bit surprised and said euh no.. Actually for me those covers were the very first try outs when I was 16 years old and it was never the plan to keep on doing them. But that doesn’t mean we look down on covers, so yes there will be a cover in the liveset, but one people would probably never expect! And maybe I should try a rework on The Model again, although a track like Der Mussolini aims more to the dance legs.
What about your sideprojects Mindscan and Forgotten Heroes. Are they still around or dead and buried?
Forgotten Heroes was a project for my more industrial related stuff and I released 1 track for a compilation album a while ago. I was actually thinking of releasing a new track under that name for the upcoming compilation theme album WAR I, but the final track wasn’t “industrial” enough to release it under that name so I decided to use it for 2nd Civilization. So for the time being I leave it as a “sleeping” project. Mindscan was the name I used in the nineties and I released some stuff with it, all instrumental tracks. I buried the project in 2002 but a year ago I decided to revamp it under a new name Final Orbit. It will be the project where I can live myself out in more instrumental, minimal elektro, spacy kind of tracks, a bit the old Delerium style like on their Spheres albums. I’m actually working on 6 songs for the moment and my ambition is to release a full album with it by the end of next year. My good Facebook-friend Anton (Stavropoulos) from Droid Sector Decay is also running a label and showed interest to release it. It’s good to know he likes it, but when the time is their I will look at my options.
I know the new album has just been released, but are you already working on new material?
Lately I’m more busy with my Final Orbit project and the art of video making. Nevertheless, under the 2nd Civilization name a new track will be released on the compilation album mentioned before WAR I. We also have a finished remix in the pipeline with an artistic video for the band THYX. Both are still scheduled for release this year. Furthermore Vidi has been really busy working on new tracks. I think he has 4 or 5 almost ready and waiting for me to do the vocals. It’s actually a good thing he takes over a bit more the music composing side for now, so I have some room for my own project. Tracks like Walk it Off and Bug Spray are from his hand by the way, so if that style appeals to the public they can expect more like that. Personally Trick and me were more composing the softer tracks like Heartbeat and Brussels, although The Crash is from my hand as well, so when I’m really in the mood of making a solid track I poor myself some whisky and start jamming till the middle of the night until I come up with something worth working out.
What are the futureplans for 2nd Civilization? What do you hope to achieve with Let’s Play?
We will see how the audience will react on our live performances. Furthermore we hope by doing these 2 gigs, we’ll catch some other promoters’ attention because we want to play live, and that’s why we chose the album title Let’s Play. I feel with this album something is starting to move and if some of the bit bigger promoters are also willing to book a good live band, they know where to find us now and of course we don’t mind playing worldwide. As far as new albums concern, we were thinking of releasing an album with some remixes on it from guys from the scene, Steve(Deconinck) from VV303 to name one, already delivered good work for us. Maybe we’ll combine it with a rework on a few tracks like D69 together with a couple of new songs.
We are not sure yet but the plan is to continue, and maybe we will try out some new styles as well because I believe as a band you have to evolve. Vidi was making some minimal elektro tracks lately and with the right twist it still sounds 2nd Civilization stuff. To be honest I don’t know the future about EBM so we are already trying not to stick to that style only. It seems to me the genre sometimes has a problem re-inventing itself. There are many Front 242 clones out there. Some are good, some are, let me say it politely “not” so good. Although the established bands can still surprise me, like the new Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy albums. They really went back to their roots and for those bands it just feels right. But for some it doesn’t work that well anymore. I’m curious how Die Form will perform live on BIMFEST, because I bought their latest album and it also felt a bit like a copy of their older works, but unfortunately, to me this time it doesn’t work that well. A few weeks ago I went to a minimal wave act and I was surprised to see many alternative people in their twenties, the younger generation you hardly see on EBM concerts, euh.. not that we are that old by the way, but yeah, just differ ent.It was also a relieve to see that band actually playing live with a lot of modular synth gear on stage, something I see as a real challenge. I really liked it, and maybe that’s the way to go to keep the always over satisfied public interested. Maybe we will try a combined style and call it Dark Minimal Elektro Wave. So who knows, just stay tuned and “Let’s Play” !!
Thank you very much for your answers Koen. All the best with Let’s Play and see you at one of your gigs!