INTERVIEWS

Syndrome talks about politics, fashion shows, Amenra and life

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words: Elena Mara Reed, photo: Maartin Kinet, 2016-09-29

We caught up with Mathieu Vandekerckhove - Syndrome, a creative backbone and guitar of Amenra, to talk about his solo project Syndrome, Amenra, politics, fashion shows and, of course, life.

When I am playing, I am like in a black hole. People get into trance

E: Readers are probably more familiar with Amenra than Syndrome. Could you tell us a bit more about Syndrome?

M: Syndrome is my solo project. It is more focussed on ambient, noisy stuff, acoustic stuff. It is personal. I started Syndrome in 2006-2007. I was living with a friend who had a huge computer so I decided to try a different approach. The first demo was more computer based, which made it more difficult to perform live. And I didn't like to play samples from the computer. It didn't feel natural. So in the end I skipped the laptop. Now the setup is simpler: a guitar, effect pedals and a looppedal. For me Syndrome has the same tension but is less aggressive than Amenra. The meaning is the same. With Syndrome I try to build it up. I start minimalistic, with simple drum beats, adding layers on top to get to the climax. I try to get people on a journey. Give them goosebumps. It is fairly repetitive. When I am playing, I am like in a black hole. People get into trance. It is like a journey. Express myself. Meditation. Transforming the negative energy into positive. Searching... Spiritual... Finding your soul.

 

 

 

When my brother wasn’t home, I would play his guitar. When he found out about it, he would beat me, so I had to play behind his back

E: A standard question: your musical influences.

M: When I was 13-14 year old, my brother played in a hardcore band. He took me with him to straightedge hardcore gigs. When he wasn’t home, I would play the guitar. When he found out about it, he would beat me, so I had to play behind his back [laughing]. There were local metal, hardcore, emo bands. I really liked Congress and Blindfold. We had a big hardcore scene down here. H8000 Crew. I met Colin and Mondy (Amenra's first bass player, now playing in Vvovnds) when I was 17. I joined Spineless, the band before Amenra. At that time I was also Straight Edge. Mondy, Colin and me we were on the same wavelength of musical taste. The other Spineless members were more into metalcore. so we split up. Then Bjorn joined us on drums and we started Amenra in 1999. For the moment I listen a lot to YOB, Earth, David Bowie, Pink Floyd.

For us Amenra, we are open-minded. If my mum likes my music, she is not punk, but if she likes it, she likes it

E: Talking about Amenra. Amenra tracks were played in London Fashion Show, which honestly blew my mind.

M: We didn’t know they are going to use our music. Yeah, that was a bit funny. It is weird, but a lot people from fashion really like us. A famous photographer Willy Vanderperre made a video clip for us. He is famous for working with Raf Simons. He is from the same area where we live in Belgium and has the same vibe of thinking like us. For us Amenra, we are open-minded. If my mum likes my music, she is not punk, but if she likes it, she likes it. We can’t say you cannot like it. In Clermont-Ferrand, France we played in a festival of the city. It was the first time we made a tour with Amenra. We played on the stairs of the library. The audience was full of young and old people, very diverse. After the show, all the people started coming to us, one woman was crying. It was weird. But also inspiring.  You don’t expect that from older people. But that is one of the reasons we don’t want to focus on a certain group of people. If someone likes our music, and we are on the same wavelength, we can work together and create. We also worked with Berlinde de bruyckere for the Amenra/Madensuyu split and also with Michael Borremans for the split Amenra/Raketkanon. For the Syndrome album “Now And forever” I asked a good friend painter Matthieu Ronsse to do the layout of the album.

During 17 years of Amenra we've been through a lot. We have fought and still fight for what we believe in. We started from nothing to get to where we are now

E:  You have played in the UK many times with Amenra and Syndrome. How does it feel?

M: The last time I have played with Syndrome was in Doom Over London festival and in the Forum, Beyond the Redshift festival curated by Cult of Luna, also in London. It was a fucking huge stage, a lot of people. And the last time James organized a gig for Amenra in a club Heaven; that was a really good show! 

The shows in London are always amazing.  But in the beginning playing in the UK it was a bit difficult. We had to sleep in the van or on the floor. Not a decent meal and begging for water on stage. It was hard but it was worth it. Now everything is getting much better. And it's always good to come back to the UK. Seeing and hanging out with friends. With Amenra we exist 17 years now. During 17 years we've been through a lot. We have fought and still fight for what we believe in. We started from nothing to get to where we are now. We keep our feet on the ground. Because we know where we came from. Brotherhood, love and dedication... It is our life.

My religion is freedom

E: Talking about fighting battles… considering what is happening now in Syria as well as Europe, do you think it is time for alternative bands to be more critical, political and outspoken?

M: It is a difficult question. In a way we are political. You have to be a good person in life. This is what we are trying to do. Being decent persons, respecting others despite their gender or race or religion. Open minded. If you use religion in a bad way, then it's evil. A lot of religions are the cause of wars. And now in 2016 we still have to deal with this sadness. My religion is freedom, belief that we can do what we want without hurting other people. Being yourself. 

I’d like to play a lot shows and try to be a good human being and a good dad

E: Sounds awesome. Let us finish with another typical question. What are the future plans?

M: Syndrome album “Forever And A Day” will be released on Consouling Sounds in September. Then Amenra album in mid 2017, an acoustic and heavy album. I’d like to play a lot shows and try to be a good human being and a good dad. Then I think it will be okay.

 

*a part of this text was published in Terrorizer