VANDE VOORDE INTERVIEW. Part 1: 1960-1981
RM = Roger-Marc
: Did you spend your whole chilhood in Germany or just a few years?
RM : 50/50
I used to travel a lot. My father was in the army.
I mean, he was working for the army. He used to be a postman in Charleroi.
We were four children at home and things became difficult for him, so
he decided to get a new job and work as a postman in the army, in Germany.
I used to live in Charleroi until I got fired of the Athenee. In Belgium,
we say Athenee, which means highschool. And so I had to go to a military
boarding school. But it was a co-educational school, so it was a real
paradise! It was not far from Cologne, so not so far from Kraftwerk too.
D : Did you see them live on stage?
RM : Not on stage, but I saw them on TV, ZDF TV. Autobahn
For me it was a real shock.
D : Is it how you got into electronic music ? were you already
playing in a band in those days?
RM : I was playing in a band called MELODY. We used to do Rolling
Stones covers, Ramones stuff... Then we started to write our own material...
; But, was it a german highschool?
RM : French-speaking. A kind of highschool for all the belgian
with sons of ambassadors, guys from Zaïre,
Gabon. A kind of french highschool.
D : So... could we say that the international side of Polyphonic
Size was already there : singing in several different languages, mixing
different kind of cultures
RM : Definitely. Anyway, in Belgium you got to speak several languages
: French, Flemish, English
D : But, I thought your very first band was called BERK.
RM : yes... I was 13 years old, my grandbrother and I had this
band with a friend from the Athenee. We were playing Beatles or Bob Dylan
D : Then you went back to Brussels, in 1978 ?
RM : That's it. To go to university.
D : Just in the middle of the punk explosion?
RM : Definitely! There was a bunch of people called the B CLIQUE,
with a B for Belgium. Rock journalists, guys like that. And Jerry, who
followed us in the band then. In those years I had a punk band called
the COOKIES. I mean punk like Police, more pop than punk.
: and what about the OBLIK MOUVEMENT ?
RM : It was, say... the second wave just after the punk explosion.
And it was the beginning of Polyphonic Size, with Devo and Kraftwerk influences.
Something more cold and electronic.
D : but, did you create that mouvement ?
RM : I did
D : who else was part of it ?
RM : just a bunch of mates and a couple of bands. Jerry, Daniel
B, Michel Lambot
People who will later make Front 242, Play it Again
Pseudocode was more or less around too. Daniel, Michel, Jerry
Jerry is dead now. Too bad...
D : Jerry, who was he?
RM : he was a real great guitarist. He founded X Pulsion, and Revenge,
which was produced by JJ Burnel too, and Digital Dance. He was really
somebody in the Brussels punk scene. Everybody knew him.. He's gone now,
His punk nickname was Jerry W X. Jerry Wanker. He used to go
on tour with us, taking care of the PA.
D : Let's go back to the OBLIK MOUVEMENT, did you write any kind
RM : Well, no
oh, yes ! We had a certain way of tagging Oblik
in the trendy bars, and recently I found a book I wrote about Oblik
But there were no texts, just plastic, photos, collages
And on the
back side of the book I found all the notes I wrote down during the 1st
LP session, track by track! And then I found some photocopies were I used
to note all the connections, cables, knobs, just like an electric diagram
Because in those days, it was really hard to remake it in the studio!
: Beside Daniel from Front 242, did you know other bands, like Les
Tueurs de la Lune de Miel ?
RM : not that much
Actually, there was a kind of opposition
between Cramned discs and Sandwich records. I remember one day, Michel
and I went to Cramned discs, and just as we were standing at the front
door, we turned back (laughs).
D : Why ?
RM : I don't know! (laughs). Maybe because they were more
arty, more fashion. We came from the punk scene. It was a rather stupid
opposition, but the main thing is that it pushed many people to create
bands and start something.
: Let's talk about the first EP. It's both sung in english and french.
In France, in those days, people were arguing whether it was better to
sing in french or in english. Was it the same in Brusselles ?
RM : It was. Our very first single didn't get any review because
they say it wasn't rock neither variété française,
but we never ask ourselves these kind of questions. The Beatles, The Rolling
Stones, the Stranglers, punk music were part of our culture and we didn't
see any reason why rock should be sung in english only.
D : Was there already a european concept in the band?
RM : Definitely, because, as I told you, we all had to speak several
languages, and Belgium has always been pro-european. And we had the chance
to work with DOMINIQUE BUXIN, who had a certain kind of magic...
D : Did you meet him in Germany?
RM : Yeah, I met him during the Melody days. He was 2 years older
than me and a real Serge Gainsbourg fan, of course. He used to be in a
band called Kolossal. with a K. Wait... I think I remember how things
really started out. When I began the Oblik Mouvement, there was a friend
of mine called Toto, who used to know Dominique Buxin as well. We both
sent each other tapes, et voila.D
: There's something written on the cover : Engineered by Swalens
JP. Who was he?
RM : It's a thiiiiiiiieeeefff!!!!!
D : Is it the guy who ran away to Corsica with the master tapes?
RM : That's him ! Actually, he owned the studio and worked as
sound engineer as well. I don't know what happened, maybe he didn't
get paid, but he ran away with the tapes
. His full name was Jean-Pierre
D : But, did you keep a copy of the tapes?
RM : Well, I'm afraid the 2 first singles tapes must be lost
forever, because the guy ran away with them. And the only other person
who could have a copy is Michel Lambot, to do the masters, print the
records, etceteri etcetera... But he is so messy, he moved so many times,
got so many flood in his places, that he certainly has no idea where
his own copies might be (laughs). But I'm quite sure I've got
the Nagasaki tapes at home.
D : The Algorythmic reference is 251079. Was it the date of the
RM : Probably.
D : The SPACE REJECTION lyrics are quite obscure. Sounds like
you sing :
"I don't want to be your driver, you're fucking as a superman "
RM : no no no I think it is "happy superman", or maybe
"surfing man" ? I don't know (laughs).
RM : PLAGE PRIVEE has a political side quite rare in Polyphonic
Size lyrics (although it it can be found in Action Man too). Le Bourgmestre,
Brussels... Were you talking about any special event?
D : Sure. It was about rock festivals in Brussels, on Brouckère
square. One of the Bourgmestres did cancel the festival, and there were
some fights, riots...
D : I really like the pink/black & white concrete collage
on the cover. One question : What is this building on the picture?
RM : It was the Belgian finances department. (laughs), still
in construction. And behind is the tunnel to get in there.
: There were only 800 copies made. 1500 of Algorythmic and 800 of
Pragmatic Songs. Because we sold so badly the very first one (200 only!),
Michel Lambot said : popopop, we will just print half quantities, 800! (laughs).
D : What about this strange title, Ommatidia ? What is it?
RM : It came from Ozymandias, JJ Burnel's Freddie Laker single
B side. I think it must be a bacterium name, something like that. (actually
a Shelley's poem). It was the beginning of the Burnel times.
D : And Logique polygonale ? These odd mathematics references,
like Algorythmic ?
RM : Well... in those days, I was still studying psychology, so
I was doing lots of statistics ! (laughs).
MON AMOUR / HIROSHIMA 1945
: Did you meet JJ BURNEL in Brussels ?
RM : In Cologne, 1978.
R : so early ?
RM : Yes. I remember, it was just the day before we passed our
baccalauréat (high school diploma). I couldn't believe it.
Forget it, I said, let's go see the Stranglers! . A friend of mine used
to know the place quite well, so he told me where the backstages were.
We began to bawl : « Jean-Jaaaacques, we came specially from France
» You bet ! Our school was just 10 km away ! (laughs).
So JJ let us get in
To tell the truth, we had 5 girls with us, and
it probably helped quite a lot ! It was the first time I met him. One
year later, I sent him the Algo EP. He had just released the Euroman Cometh
album, with the rhythms boxes and all that stuff, and it was really something
D : And he suggested to produce the next one, Nagasaki ?
RM : Yes.
D : But, what about the money ?
RM : Well, it wasn't easy. Michel Lambot had to ask the banks,
take money from his own records store (Casablanca Moon)
when it was time to get into the studio, JJ said « no business man
». And Michel said « what what what, what's the hell is that
? I pay for all this and I can't even come along ? » So he came
too and everything was alright.
D : I asked a japanese friend of mine what the picture sleeve means
and he said : " nothing, those ideograms just don't exist "
RM : I know, I did them (laughs).
: It was recorded in the very same studio where Patrick Hernandez
made "Born To Be Alive".
D : What about Mothers little Helper, did you send it to
the Rolling Stones ?
RM : I gave it to Keith Richard himself. Actually, one of the
Stranglers roadies was working for the Stones on this tour, so JJ asked
him if he could fix things up. Otherwise, forget it, you just can't
meet them. So I saw him backstage in Brussels.
D : and what did he say ? Did he like the record ?
RM : I don't know. But in those days you could write things on
the vinyl and I wrote : « fuck the Stones » ! (laughs).
D : Girlscout, like several other Polyphonic Size songs, Irrigation
for instance, sounds very erotic.
RM : Yes, that's because Bubu (Dominique Buxin) was really hot
! But his wife was watching him (laughs).
D : What means "On the way to Medora" Where is Medora
? I couldn't find this place in any atlas.
RM : Nowhere, we probably invented it.
MON AMOUR / KYOTO
: Akiko is credited on vocals. Who is she ?
RM : A very well known Japanese rock journalist. Actually, we
both exchanged our flats between us (Martine and me) and Akiko. She
came to Europe to write some articles. We spent 2 months in Japan and
met many people : YMO, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Lizards (a band produced by
JJ), the Plastics
We came back home with tons of records. It was
SIZE (illegal records, USA)
: Who's the girl on the cover ?
RM : I don't know, but I'd like to meet her ! (laughs).
D : is RDA RFA about your chilhood in Germany ? It reminds me
one time when I took the train between Berlin and Copenhagen, in the
DDR days : old compartments, people in the stations....
RM : Yes.... It's about the time when I used to take the train from
Cologne to Brussels. I guess I did it hundred times