OMSQ never do anything half-arsed. Whether you’re talking about their doomy genre-mashing instrumentals, the passion poured into their live shows, or this interview, it’s more than obvious that OMSQ give a shit – and make a point of doing so. Here, the Belgian forward-thinkers talk art, inspiration, futurism, and much more…
There’s so much emotional depth and intensity present on Thrust/Parry that I have to ask: What’s your creative process like? Do you have any particular habits / rituals when it comes to creativity? How does an OMSQ track progress from idea to reality?
Al WNTR (guitar, bass): We don’t use traditional songwriting with an intro, a verse, a chorus, an outro, etc. We don’t even consider our tracks as “songs”. Usually a band member would come with a succession of riffs and tell the others the story he wants to tell.
It could be about his personal life, a story he has imagined, a book we’ve read, etc. It’s indeed always something quite intense and emotional. From this point, we work all together and build up the soundtrack that would best suit the story we have in mind.
What the story really tells is only important to us. It’s what we have in our minds when we play live. But we don’t feel any need to share the details of our stories with the audience. We’d rather let everyone build their own story, based on what the music could inspire them.
For instance, if you take a track like Noordzee on our album, you could decently wonder, “What the fuck is this jazzy interlude doing there?” But you have to remember that in the context of the story in our minds, it totally makes sense. In fact, it HAD to be there and it HAD to sound that way. Now it’s up to listeners to try to let their imagination do its part of the work and figure out why there should be such a tune after the storm of the 3 previous tracks.
I guess there could be thousands of explanations and they’re all fine. There isn’t one truth behind our tracks. All listeners have their own truth. That’s the purpose of our music. I guess our working process is quite close to that of musicians who write movie soundtracks. The only exception is that in our case, the movie isn’t provided.
K54 (guitar, keyboards): All band members are involved, at every stage of the creative process. Anyone can bring new ideas. We’re not limited to our own instruments. We often swap instruments on stage and on the record.
For instance, Bertrand is the drummer but some keyboard ideas came from him. It’s also important to add that we jam a lot, as a sort of warm-up session before each rehearsal. For us, making music is also having fun between friends. Besides what we’ve put on the records, there are also tons of improvised music that have never been recorded. They’ll probably end up in new sessions in the future. Who knows? But improvising plays a central role in our writing process.
Which individuals (outside the band) have influenced you creatively in the past?
Ludo S. (bass, baritone guitar): As far as I’m concerned, music has always been a lifebuoy to keep me up when I was in troubled waters. Music is where I scatter all my frustrations, fears, saturations, limitations, breakdowns and strengths.
Anyone who’s responsible for my state of mind plays their role in the music I do, how I do it and what I put in it. There are also people who express their sensitivity in a way that makes me thrill. I can’t list them all but I’m thinking mainly about playwright Sarah Kane. Our track named 4:48 is a sort of tribute to her work and life although we didn’t quote her anywhere. We didn’t think it would be necessary. The score speaks for itself.
It would be too long and probably useless to list all the musicians who inspire me. I discover new bands every day, also because I’m a sound engineer. My job is a great opportunity to listen to bands I’d had never thought of and which take me to new directions. This is also where I find the inspiration.
K54: A number of bands have deeply changed the way I conceive music. I’m thinking of Swans, Fugazi, Blind Idiot God, Calla, Crass, Shellac or The Notwist.
There are hundreds of musical activists who influenced the way I make music as they questioned their art, just as in minimal or conceptual painting. Their influence goes far beyond syntax, harmonies and rhythms. What strikes me is their total need to play something that resembles its author.
To be honest, I only play what I play. I’m totally unable to play a score written by someone else; I do not have that talent. But I want each of our tracks to be a part of myself. That’s what justifies our music and gives it the sense we need. I think our music doesn’t belong to any particular genre. I’d rather see it as a medium to express what’s inside us.
Al WNTR: Our curiosity is what keeps us moving as a band. We’re all interested in people who could break the codes and standards of their own discipline.
We often spend hours chatting about that instead of rehearsing. It’s part of the band’s life. We talk a lot. About movies, books, philosophy, psychology, etc. And when we talk about music, it’s not about music itself, but more about some music humanities.
I mean, from David Bowie to Napalm Death, there are so many examples of musicians who did it their own way. And I’m not even talking about the heavy doom-oriented scene. Take Neu!’s first record, Wire’s 154, Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden, the folk anthologies collected by Alan Lomax and Harry Smith, etc. These are endless sources of debates and inspirations.
Before entering the studio, we discovered L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noise), a manifesto written by Italian futurist painter Luigi Russolo. It’s a quite short text in which he explains why modern music has reached a dead end. He describes the inner limits of sound-based music and claims for new forms of music based on noise, like everyday noises you could hear in the street or in a factory. He then manufactured his own instruments, which were supposed to recreate the acoustic atmosphere of a modern city. The only live performance he gave ended up in a riot. Well, that’s definitely an interesting reflexion for a band like us. And when you realise that Russolo wrote his book in 1913, way before jazz, blues or rock even emerged, you know that this man was way ahead of his time.
For musicians like us, when you experience such a deep reading before entering the studio, no doubt it will have an impact on the final result.
K54: As an instrumental band, we also have to find an alternative narration. In traditional bands, the singer keeps the narrative role. If you take away the singing from a Dozer track, you will immediately realise that most guitars were looped.
Among our narrative tricks, using samples is a simple method to build bridges between the different parts of the record. Sometimes, it can also help understand the meaning of the track. That’s why we often refer to our own reading or movie experiences. It’s a natural reference: these movie directors and authors have shaped our creativity. And they’re all thanked in the album credits.
What bores you?
Al WNTR: We don’t have time to get bored. There are so many things to discover out there that we’ll never waste time on something that doesn’t strike us.
Exception though: spending hours fixing our gear before a gig. That´s an awful waste of time. Sometimes I wish I’d play a flute or a triangle. Carrying tons of amps, boxes and pedals is a real pain in the ass.
Will you be touring the new album? Any special plans for the live show that you can tell us about?
Al WNTR: We just came back from UK, where we played 7 gigs in 8 days. We started with a release party in Camden, and then we played in places such as Leeds, Birmingham, Hastings, Bournemouth and some others. We really had a great time.
The idea was to share our music with new people. We have had ridiculously enthusiastic feedback from the audience, as well as from most of the bands we shared the bill with. I must say playing in the UK is something very special. People came spontaneously to us after each show to chat about the gig, the current heavy scene, etc.
Most of them said they were very surprised by our sound, because we don’t stick to one specific genre of music. We’re not pure doom, nor pure post-metal, nor pure stoner, nor pure psychedelic. We sound like some crossover between many different styles. Apparently, this sort of hybrid approach to live performance hit a lot of attendees. On the other hand, we have also met a bunch of interesting bands. We’ll all stay in touch for future shows.
Then, in October, we will hold a second release party, in Brussels this time. It will happen on a boat, on the Brussels Canal. It’s going to be something very special, with guests, DJs, etc. After that one, the end of the year will be near. I don’t know if we’ll do any other gig this year again.
As far as I’m concerned, I must admit that our gigs are so intense that they literally leave me empty, both physically and mentally. After 7 gigs in 8 days, I need to take some rest and spend more time with my family. I need this to be able to keep moving forward with the band. It’s been a busy year with the studio and the tour.
Ludo S.: Yes, our shows are pretty intense, and I usually need about 1 hour to become functional again. So after the release party in Brussels, we will recharge our batteries. But I can also say that we are planning on booking some shows for 2015 in cities like Ghent or Antwerp…in Belgium where we haven’t been yet, as well as a few shows in the Netherlands, France, Germany…to export our music some more to new countries.
Beyond your album / tour, what does the future hold for OMSQ?
Al WNTR: The near future will be spent on promoting the record and raising the band’s awareness on blogs, radio shows, independent magazines, and also among promoters and bookers. Then we’ll try to book a few gigs, in Belgium and abroad. Maybe some festivals next summer. But not too many. We don’t intend to play every weekend. We want to keep each gig as intense as possible. If we do too many gigs, the risk is to lose some intensity and live fury.
Besides live gigs, we’ll work on new projects. I don’t know exactly what it will be. But I’d like to push further the collaboration with different artists, and not only with other musicians. There are so many creative people out there who share the same values as ours. I mean photographers, designers, painters, movie directors, etc. We have met a lot of them in Belgium and the UK, and there are plenty of projects that could arise from such collaborations.
Ludo S.: We are still busy promoting the album, going to radio shows, and we will probably start working on new tracks, slowly, which will be fun. Like Al said, we tend to focus on fewer shows but of better intensity, in better contexts. It’s best for us, for the band, for the audience. So we’ll take it easy.
Anyway, the idea of coming back to the UK next year is already somewhere in our minds. Sooner or later we will work on that. OMSQ is an ever-evolving organism. Let’s see where it goes.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ludo S.: If you’re playing in a band, just tour. Do it yourself, but tour. This is the best thing that can happen to you.
Al WNTR: Keep supporting the independent and local music scene. Keep attending local gigs, keep buying good records, keep reading independent blogs, keep downloading music and sharing it with anyone who could possibly be interested.
Keep chatting with the musicians after the gigs. Keep contacting them spontaneously. That’s what keeps us alive. We don’t earn a single penny by making music and we probably never will. The only reason why we do it is to share it with others. And there are hundreds of people like us out there. So keep supporting this.
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