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Patrick Delabie

This one was the first interview I did after completing issue #1. It was meant for issue #2 but it’s been a while now so I’ll just post it on here. Anyway, Patrick Delabie. Let’s see. Just check your record collection, there’s bound to be some stuff in there recorded by him at his Studio 195. I’ve had the pleasure to work with him twice and when I started working on the second issue (January/February 2009) I thought it was time to ask him some questions…

Hey Patrick. How are you doing? What are you up to at the moment?

Fine, thank you. At the moment I’m preparing the mix for BELIEVO`s debut album.

Cool. Any other cool projects coming up?

Otis, Wounded kite, The Moe Greene Specials, True Colors and Lugosi.

Pretty diverse! Anyway, let’s get this going. With most interviews I like to go way back in time. What did you want to be when you were just a small child? Already had the dream of becoming a producer?

I never had any clue what kind of job or what I wanted to be. At an early age I became fascinated with music. I remember hearing Wings on the radio with the song JET and interrupted my game of hide and seek to listen to the beautiful sounds coming out of the radio. Still a good track. Check it out.

Some years later I became infected with the punk virus. I listened to the Saints, Clash, Pistols and Stranglers at the age of 12/13. Because of my brother, who’s 6 years older and was buying these records in 1977-1978.

“You kids only listen to MP3 shit on your way to Mc Donalds so why bother talking about quality.”

Always good to have an older brother. I have a younger sister so I had to look it all up on my own. Anyway, is your brother still into punk?

No Pim, you should influence her with some good music.

Haha I know, I tried, believe me! But I failed miserably… But what about your brother?

Well sort of, last months we saw the Sex Pistols together (in London and Lokeren), The Stranglers and UK Subs. Aint that punk? He also listens to sympho rock, my sin is Americana / country stuff like Fred Eaglesmith whom I saw about 30 times last 5 years. (check it out!)

That’s not a sin man. Pretty good stuff. Sympho rock isn’t though haha. Anyway, in the 80ies you started playing in bands, but to be honest I don’t know much about those bands (aside from the names). Tell us a bit about them.

I picked up the guitar when I was 14 and started writing songs after one month I guess. Scoundrels was my first band, we played from 1980 till 1990 and played all the places we could playing Holland and Belgium, few in Germany. But it’s easy to romanticize those days, some times it was revolutionary indeed, a lot of time it wasn’t. After that I played with a band called The Betty Ford Clinic, a punk/avant-pop-psych/thrash band.

A punk/avant-pop-psych/trash band? Nice haha. You say it’s easy to romanticize those days, feel free to do so. What’s your best memory of that time?

My best memory is more the feeling that we achieved something every gig and got our story told. I was young and thought I could change the world, now I’m older and I`m glad I haven’t changed myself haha.

Nice. I take it you did write lyrics for those bands? If so, what did you write about? Party tracks or serious stuff? What inspired you?

No just serious stuff, I’m inspired by Crass, dead Kennedys. Political punk and smart ass punk rock like Descendents. But I’m not pretentious and like stupid stuff too!

Stupid stuff… Like?

The Dickies, Ramones. Lyric wise more stupid I mean, One of my bands The Betty Ford Clinic was pretty studpid as well. Or The Dead boys and The Saints: real cool punk `n roll. Or The Germs, nihilistic ripping edgy stuff. . By the way my all time fave punk album is Husker Du`s : Zen Arcade.

I understood, just wanted some references. Anyway, why that album? What does it make special to you (I’m not trying to say it isn’t good haha, just trying to get you to say why you love it)?

Zen Arcade is the perfect mix of originality, energy, over the top playing and melody…

Anyway, we just talked about romanticizing… What do you think is the difference between that period and these times?

It’s a completely different world, music wise and promotion wise. Internet changed it all. Change is good.

Amen to that. In 1998 you did quit your day-job to do the studio full-time. What kinda job did you have?

Just what I could find around, just hard laboring at a tree nursery, nothing important really, just paying the bills.

A tree nursery, now that’s something I would have never guessed. At that point was it a risk to stop with your job and start recording full-time, or were you getting booked a lot already? Did you just jump into the deep end or… ?

No not a big jump, I just had to choose to fill my time with music or work. The change came gradually.

“I got kicked out of the army after refusing to take up a gun”

So when you started recording at your own studio, bands paying you to record their stuff… How where those first recording sessions? How did it make you feel?

Sweaty, without ANY experience or schooling I started recording bands of friends. Doing recordings is like playing an instrument. It’s good to do it a lot and then some more…

I can imagine. Are you a perfectionist recording wise? Or are you more like, let’s press record and see what happens? Are you always satisfied when a band leaves the studio?

I hate perfectionists, especially in music. Boring stuff. I hate that mathcore metal and clean wimpsy synth shit. I like a raw edge, it doesn’t have to be loud or noisy , but it has to sound manmade, organic. So yes, I sound check and press record and lets hear if there some magic in the room. I’m never completely satisfied when a band leaves the studio… most of the time I’m pretty satisfied, that’s OK for me. I often need months before I can make a good judgement.

Did you have to change your view on this throughout the years? I mean, I can understand when bands have a budget and can’t stay any longer etc. You can’t work magic you know, you have to draw a line somewhere.

NO. More time and more money DO NOT make better songs and thus better recordings.

If your band got the skills you need, and the songs are great you get a fantastic recording. Don’t expect that good recording make a bad song into a classic.

Without a doubt. Looking back from when you started recording to now, are there any changes going on in the recording industry? I know a lot of the mastering gets louder and louder, dynamics getting lost. What’s your opinion and that and are there more things like that going on?

Loud mastering sucks, but all the kids want it. I often get tired listening to too prepped up music. But who cares anyway, you kids only listen to MP3 shit on your way to Mc Donalds so why bother talking about quality. Forget it. You don’t miss it when you never had it.

While I do have a record player I indeed listen to MP3’s way more. Hmm.. You recorded so many bands throughout the years. You must have some good stories, care to share some?

No, too many funny stories would not make it believable! Spinal Tap at 195.

Aaah come on. Share one story, you don’t have to mention names. There has to be some good stuff, even believable ones haha.

One band came up with their favorite CD and said “We want you to make us sound like this”, my answer usually was: “I wish you played like this and handed me a suitcase full of money”.

Haha that’s a classic. What’s the record (or records) you’re the most proud about? And don’t tell me you like em all, because we all have our favorites haha.

I like them all, but your bands recording was the best Pim !! No serious I don’t care for namedropping for my or any bands ego. I do my very best on every recording. That’s the only advertisement I do.

Almost a political answer Patrick haha. Do you care about politics?

That’s not political, not in those days Pim. Political was squatting and setting farmyard animals free. Not joining the army. Becoming vegetarian. OK well. Advertisements suck. I hate it. I only watch state television because of that, programs that do not get interrupted for something I don’t need.

You were active like that?

Want a confession ? No thanks, these days its totally wrong to say you have, or had left wing feelings or friends. I got kicked out of the army after refusing taking up a gun.

Shouldn’t be wrong. There’s a difference between left winged and being active like setting animals free though, to me at least. Anyway, I’m more interested in your army experience. You were part of the generation that was still forced to join the army? How long before you got kicked out? And maybe more interesting, how did it make you feel?

Sure, I had to go in the army, I was there only for four weeks. Getting out 13 months before time just gave me wings I guess haha.

It felt really good, it gave me that “’if I can do this, nothing could stop me now” feeling.

I’m not totally against doing military service as a public service because nowadays where we only have volunteers, I think there’s a less good mix of people in the force. What I want to say politely : “It’s ignorant young folks joining that aren’t capable of anything else than to kick some Muslim ass you know.”

“I’m too old to be anybody’s fan”

Back to the studio. I can’t imagine it to be honest, the easy-going person you are, but were there any times went it simply didn’t work? You know, working with the band just didn’t click?

Indeed, but only two or three out of 500 times something did not work. One time a band went for perfection to the max. I got very itchy. Some bands don’t have an honest view about their own and my skills and I think extra time in a studio can’t make up for that. So basically everything works out fine in the end, though not always to the expectation of every bandmember. If you sound like Flipper and want to sound like Queen……

Now who would want to sound like Queen? I can’t imagine any sane person would. But how did you deal with that? You told em? Or did you just do your best to do what they asked?

Fall Out Boy sounds like Queen.

Right… Good answer to my question haha. I’m just not a big Queen fan, not a Fall Out Boy fan either, but I do think that one song “Sugar, we’re going down” is extremely catchy. So what’s the thing nobody knows about Patrick Delabie, the thing you managed to keep secret about yourself until now?

Good question, very good question. Keep asking. I’m pretty open, my musical tastes broadened with the years. I think there’s good punk rock and bad punk rock, same with country music. There is only ONE thing nobody knows: I got a secret!!!

I take it you’re not going to tell us then haha. As for the country thing, that’s something I already knew, I mean your solo CD even has those country influences. I think it’s a good thing to have diverse taste in music. Don’t restrict yourself to one thing. What’s your current playlist? (Aside from the stuff you’re recording that is)

I listen to country / Americana, not too loud music with great stories behind it. But that could have been different when I didn`t massacre my ears weekly with 40+ hours of rock`n roll. Music from the heart not from the head, that’s what matters.

So true. And when you listen to those records, can you still purely listen to the music or do you hear the way it is recorded first and foremost? I know I have that with design, I can’t look normally at a poster anymore for instance…

Well, my ears have developed, and I hear more easily when its fake recordings or off. But that`s not a judgement. When I listen to music I want to get goose bumps or jump around. What I don’t want is SAFETY.

True, it’s not all judgemental with me either, I just see the way it’s put together and stuff like that. Guess it’s the same. Something else… Recording and playing music is a huge party of your life, but what do you aside from that? Any other ‘hobbies’?

No, not really.

So what band are you in at the moment? Aside from the solo stuff, I think I read something about a new band?

No time to be in bands anymore, having a studio takes up too much time and I need some time to rest my ears . I do some projects with friends and play different instruments. Basically we practice a song just once or twice, and record it once (or twice, max). Good fun. Keeps it fresh. Tips for musicians: The first idea is always the best idea.

Most of the time it is indeed. Not always though. Like musicians have influences I guess you have yours as well? What kinda people influenced your recording style?

I like to think no one influenced me, maybe Steve Albini a bit. A little bit. I’m too old to be anybody’s fan.

Personally I think everyone is influenced by everything. Not in a fan way, you know, we just pick up stuff here and there and blend into our own thing. Anyway, how do you look at the future, made any plans?

Not really, keep doing this but with better bands.

“Tip for musicians: The first idea is always the best idea”

Better bands? If you could pick any bands, who would you like to record? Did you hear anything lately that you thought “I wish I recorded this”?

Finally make a good Foo Fighters album. But that would more sound like their first one probably.

Haha I totally agree. I always put on the first album as well. But I love a song like “Everlong” too. Did you ever hear the demos he recorded while in Nirvana? The “Late! – Pocketwatch” tape?

No haven’t heard any demos. I mean they got great songs but the guitars sound like keys/ violins. I think the reason is the producers get payed a lot of money, expectations are high, they want a millions selling band. They could be. But its like when sometimes you try too hard you don’t succeed in getting it right. You might go too far.

Overdoing it. Well, that demo sounds pretty rough, so check it out if you have the chance. How about the studio? Any stuff you would love to add to it?

Gonna get me a Neumann u87 soon.

The classic Neumann. Nice one. While we’re talking gear. What kinda setup did you start recording with?

ADAT -8 track and a small desk , just enough mics and one lexicon reverb.

Any tips for starting “recorders” out there?

I`m very happy with my Alesis HD 24 , it’s a real incredible cheap work horse with great quality.

That’s it I guess. I’m kinda out of questions. Anything else you would like to add, you want to get back at, or something you want to ask yourself haha?

Yeah I ask myself how many years I get to spend between puberty and mid-life.

I’ll answer too: “I think you’re never going to leave that period.”

You’re going to stay young until you die haha. Thanks for the interview Patrick!

I`m too old to die young , thanks anyway Pim

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