INTERVIEWS

Raketkanon - Interview and Photo Report From Devilstone 2017

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words: Elena Mara Reed, photos: Anton Coene, 2017-08-10

Raketkanon – Ghent’s craziest band – is a quartet that blends noise rock with punk attitude. Here at Devilstone festival, the band had proved its notorious reputation to the fullest. The drummer [Pieter] went on stage naked. The singer [Pieter-Paul] jumped off the stage to rave with the crowd. Add thundering, weighty guitar groans and drones intertwining with luscious synth and... we are sold! After their colossal gig at Devilstone, I caught up with Pieter-Paul Devos [vocals] and Jef Verbeeck [guitar] to chat about writing, creativity and (no) directions.

 

Your music is described as unhinged. I’d just say it’s crazy. Where does the inspiration come from?

Jef: We don’t think too much about it. There is no premeditation. It’s just what happens when we play together.

Pieter-Paul: I don’t think you have to ask yourself that question. If you feel it, it is all what matters. Our music is a translation of the way we live.

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

'We don’t have a problem of mocking ourselves. It’s not like we are a metal band. It’s fun to make a stupid dance to heavy music.'

 

You have made some brilliant videos. For example, Florent, which was directed by you and Farmboy. Can you tell us more about the creation of these videos? Is anyone of you working in film industry?

Pieter-Paul: It’s just something we like to do. It’s always fun to make a video. With Florent, what happened was that we saw some ugly 70s videos, like Cliff Richard’s. Videos where people are taking themselves too seriously… That was a background to make our own kitsch video.

Jef: None of us have studied or worked in film. But Pieter-Paul has a very strong feel and interest for it. We see videos as an art form in itself. Also, we always make them on a really low budget. We are lucky to have so many creative friends who help us.

Pieter-Paul: Without these people our ideas would not see the light… Also, we don’t have a problem of mocking ourselves. It’s not like we are a metal band [laughing]. It’s fun to make a stupid dance to heavy music.

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

'The music comes from the band but the show comes from the interaction between the band and the crowd. It’s a communication. It’s a feedback loop of energies.'

 

Talking about dancing... Pieter-Paul, you have jumped off the stage yesterday to dance with the crowd.

Pieter-Paul: I felt like a new-born foal yesterday. The stage was so slippery! But yeah, I managed to jump off the stage without breaking any bones. I do it all the time. Even if there is no crowd [laughing]. We stage dive without crowds.

Jef: Yesterday we were a bit limited physically by the length of our cables. The stage was quite deep, so there was a big distance between us and the audience. Because of the rain we couldn’t put everything more upfront. We love to be really close to people, - smell the breath and feel the heat of the crowd.

Pieter-Paul: Recently we were talking about which direction live music could take in future. Now we have bands touring and people coming to gigs. But maybe in 20 – 30 years people will be at home watching livestream. Maybe we will be playing in an empty venue that would be broadcast. I am just fantasizing, but it would suck to play an empty venue. The music comes from the band but the show comes from the interaction between the band and the crowd. It’s a communication. It’s a feedback loop of energies.

Jef: We could see the Devilstone crowd enjoying. Actually, this was one of the few shows of Raketkanon because we are writing new material at the moment. This show was sort of in between the process.

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

'He asked me if I wanted him to spray the audience [with a fire extinguisher] during the show. Sarcastically, I said "yeah, that’s exactly what you should do". So he did it!'

 

And your drummer Pieter went on stage naked…

Jef: It was the first time he did it! The unexpected can happen with our band. For example, in Dour festival, Belgium, we once had bit too much time before the show. Out of boredom, we decided to decorate the stage with almost anything we found in the backstage…

Pieter-Paul: We were playing with all sort of things on stage, plants, pictures and a fire extinguisher. During a song I was walking with a fire extinguisher and I’d just thought what happened if there was a fire?! So I gave it to the security guy. But in Belgium we speak Dutch and French. And we were in the French part… I was in a rush of the show and speaking Dutch. I didn’t realise the security guy wouldn’t understand me. But he misunderstood me. He asked me if I wanted him to spray the audience during the show. Sarcastically, I said ‘yeah, that’s exactly what you should do’. So he did it! The extinguisher wasn’t the foam one, it was powder. There was no more oxygen left in the entire tent. Police came… It was a big mess.

Jef: In the end I hope they understood what happened.

Pieter-Paul: There were no bad intentions. It was an unfortunate event.

Jef: Stuff like that can happen anytime. It’s not like a drummer being naked [laughing].

 

 photo: Anton Coene

 

Sure, I hear those stories all the time! Pieter-Paul, could you tell more about the voice effects that you use?

Pieter-Paul: It’s all just guitar pedals. I have one pedal that I put my XLR (mic) in and it loops all the guitar pedals. There is a delay pedal, chorus pedal, pitch pedal, reverb… And I sing through it. I twiddle the knobs. That’s about it.

 

And lyrics?

Pieter-Paul: The lyrics are secret [laughing]. I really value good lyrics and I write a lot of lyrics for [Kapitan] Korsakov. But for Raketkanon I think it suits music better if there is no correct lyrics. In the same way that you can interpret music, you can interpret the lyrics. Giving a definite meaning could limit your imagination.

Jef: It’s more about conveying a certain energy, vibe or feeling.

Pieter-Paul: People sing along to our songs. And there is no wrong way of doing that. Anyone singing anything – that’s the lyrics! There is no real answer apart from your own interpretation. But I don’t mean to undervalue the worth of good lyrics…

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

There are some electronic elements in your music. Are you guys into electronic music?

Pieter-Paul: Me not, but I don’t think there should be any limits to taste.

Jef: Me and Pieter [drummer], we are… and what Lode does with a synthesizer gives a certain vibe, which in the context of our music it is pretty unique. But it makes total sense to us.

Pieter-Paul: It’s logical. I really like what Lode does. But actually, I don’t even think about this aspect of our band as electronic. That’s the bass.

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

When it comes to writing music, which one of you is a leader, if there is one?

Jef: There is a balance in the band. Skeletons of the songs mostly start with Pieter and I. But these rough ideas can go anywhere when everybody gets involved. Everyone adds elements and has an opinion. Everybody is also involved with everyone else’s parts.

Pieter-Paul: All four of us are very opinionated on everything.

Jef: Quite often writing a song is a slow process but it’s worth it.

Pieter-Paul: I think it’s a strength.

Jef: Once we start directing each other, all of the sudden there is this new thing no one could have expected from the start. It’s the combination of all the little ideas. We spend a lot of time finding out what is best for us before we actually record.

 

photo: Anton Coene

 

'We never think of songs as marking a direction. If anything, a direction is a philosophy. And in that way it might change or evolve with changes in life.'

 

The song in the split with Amenra sounds heavier than your other works. Is this the direction you will be taking in future?

Jef: We had more songs than ended up in our last album, recorded in Steve Albini’s studio, Chicago. We felt that song didn’t fit in the album. But it’s not a direction we are taking since we don’t really have one. We write songs and only after a while we start seeing what’s happening.

Pieter: We never think of songs as marking a direction. If anything, a direction is a philosophy. And in that way it might change or evolve with changes in life.

Jef: What we don’t like is to repeat ourselves. We won’t write another RKTKN#1 or RKTKN#2 album, because we have already done it. We get inspired by new ideas and then write songs. Something new happens and it all grows organically.

 

What’s next for Raketkanon?

Jef: It’s all about writing a new album. But we are unsure when it comes out.

Pieter-Paul: and I am touring with Kapitan Korsakov this summer.