Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Jason Forrest, the jovial messiah of sweaty, bloody laptop music that meets its mashability, its natural or unnatural consortium with all things recorded and under the sun/blue glow of a computer screen, arrived in our midst last year just a week after a record set to be released on his Cock Rock Disco label had arrived in the mail. As with most items that arrive in the mail, they get addressed in due time, but there's rarely any hurry. With bills, you've got a month, with magazines, you've got a month of browsing and with promotional records, those lucky enough to check that line of work as a rock journalist on all forms, you've got a couple of months before you need to get serious about your attention. Forrest, over in his native United States from his new home in Germany, couldn't contain himself. He said that we had to listen to that About record. It's pop music and he couldn't stop listening to it. He moves fast and he talks fast, allowing his emotions to overtake him when they've heated themselves to the appropriate temperature. He was dead right.
The sounds that Rutger Hoedemaekers slaved over and ultimately made Bongo out of are not casual. They're not formal either, if that's what you're thinking. They take all of the static elements of tried and true electronic music and amp them up with the ideas and thoughts of a real live human being, set on manipulating them into some new line of thinking that either man nor machine, but the kind of beast that has a forearm made out of half flesh and half bullet-proof stainless steel. It doesn't get much better than that. The sounds that Hoedemaekers grows way over there in Amsterdam are not made in bedrooms. Rather, it's kind of difficult to imagine that they are, even if nothing could be truer. They sound to be made in a room choking with the humidity of skins rubbing or moving and yet punctuated with the stiff breeze from a frozen over lake that will punch you in the shoulder, kind of maim you for a second. It's what lets you know that it refuses to be casual. He sings about not wanting to spray guts on every wall and then goes right ahead and does it anyway, turning a deaf ear to his personal suggestion. Almost every song on Bongo emotes a notion that nights owned by alcohol can still fuel brainy discretions that prove without a shadow of a doubt that dance music can embody the lost spirit of true punk rock. It shows that it doesn't necessary have to go through the motions and plod along as if its heartbeat was mumbling, as if it was a soulless endeavor. Not that all dance music, electronic music is soulless. Dance music isn't always electronic music or vice versa, but there is something that's rather droll about a song that just shakes ass without having to put any effort into it. Some can say that this is a good thing, a song so inherently rooted in the natural, rhythmic tendencies of the body, but if it's too rooted, what it becomes is the formulaic repetition that we get laboratory rats to make.
Hoedemaekers and his partner in crime - Marg van Eenbergen, a legend in The Netherlands and a former member of Seedling, frequently wear all white outfits in his videos and on stage. Hoedemaekers douses his beats with lighter fluid when are backs are turned and then strikes a match to torch them up to their orangest. It's more punk rock and laptop, without a doubt. His eyes and his fair, pampered skin - that of a banker or auditor - are as deceptive as a head fake. He brings the power to bludgeon with his full force. He throws the sort of attitude that Hella takes with their gnarly instrumentals and yet there's more than enough for the top 40 connoisseur to sink their rotten teeth into. There is a gentle polish of distortion to everything that comes your way out of Bongo, like the men who put ketchup on everything they eat. He asks a hypothetical question about what would anyone think if he was made of Coltrane (I picture dry ice, something that burns you if you touch) and there's no reason to believe that if Hoedemaekers was made of Coltrane we'd treat as he is before us. He's cool. He's punk rock and he kind of makes you want to politely fuck something up - without hurting anybody or anything. An impossible idea, sure, but a burning feeling inside that bubbles up when
*The Daytrotter Interview:*
*It's still an honor for me to think that your first ever performance on U.S. soil was here with us. How did that feel for you guys? Wouldn't you have rather played The Metro (in Chicago) or the Bowery (in New York) first? Did you like how everything worked out?*
Rutger Hoedemaekers: Between an empty Metro and a friendly Ilinois/Iowa studio, I'd definitely have to go with the last option, yes! You guys took such good care of us, and I'd never done a recorded session before, so that made it pretty special. I'm also very happy with the outcome, which only adds to the giant myth that is Daytrotter. Rock Island is my Bethlehem these days.
*Rutger, I believe, if I remember correctly, you told me that it takes you a while to put together an album. Why is that? Because it has to be perfect?*
RH: Perfect, yes, but it also takes me a while because of the way I work; I cut up recordings into very small samples, which I then reconstruct into new melodies and chords. Also, a combination of styles cannot feel awkward to the person listening, so I force myself to listen to every part in the song for at least a thousand times, fiddling around with every detail.
*How did you and Marg meet? She's rather like a legend there, isn't she?*
RH: Hahaha... well, she's a legend to me at least! We met at a TV show where she was playing with her former band Seedling. I did a remix for them and we kept in touch. It made sense asking her to help me take my record to the stage, which at first was interesting, but has become a lot of fun since. We try very hard to show off the fun we have.
*How did you get started with making this strange brand of electronica? Do you have any help when you're creating?*
RH: Not really, I'm an autodidact. My parents bought a computer when I was 12, and I've been playing around with samples ever since. I started making music to computer games, later got into dance floor techno, then ambient, minimalism, spent a year at a conservatory (mostly locked up in its electronic studios) and finally met some people involved with indie guitar bands. I guess About is nothing more than the sum of all of those elements.
*What's it like having Jason Forrest as a friend and supporter? What's a typical night with him like? Do you get as spastic as Jason live?*
RH: Jason has become a very good friend. We think alike as far as performing is concerned. I guess we both believe a rock show should be something fun not only for the audience, but also for the band. We want to express the concept of party, but with a little intelligent thinking included. Not everything fun has to be stupid, not everything art has to be pretentious, something like that. And yes, About gets just as spastic as Mr. Forrest, and we would have it no other way!
*Have you ever sprayed guts, or anything for that matter, on a wall?*
RH: This morning, actually! I've come down with a nasty fever over the last couple of days...
*What have you been doing since you returned home from the tour here? Have you been playing much?*
RH: Yeah, we've been going around Europe in November and December, playing shows in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland, as well as a bunch of shows in Holland. I've also been writing some more songs for the new album, and I'm working with Voicst (friends from Amsterdam) on their new album right now. Straight after SXSW I'll be going into the studio with them to record it.
*Do you know anyone made of Coltrane? What would this entail?*
RH: No, I don't. I was fantasizing about having Glass or Coltrane as a dad, which might not be so cool as it sounds.
*What are the beers of choice over there in your hometown/home country?*
RH: The beers of choice are plenty, but I'd have to say Brand or Alfa, both from the south of the country.
*What's something you learned today that you didn't know yesterday?*
RH: Being ill sucks when you have a ton of things to do before leaving for the U.S. for two months.
*Can and will you get into every kind of music? Is there anything that you just avoid?*
RH: Dunno if I can, but I will try always. Can't think of anything I would want to avoid. Everything can be adapted to become something good.
*Are you a good dancer? What was your first slow dance like?*
RH: Nerve wrecking. I was a really shy kid. Because of my love for minimalism and techno, I learned how to dance on instinct and emotion, and that's really the only method of dancing I know.
*What do you do by day over there?*
RH: These days there's only music. I quit my job a month ago to work with Voicst on their album, and when that's done I'll be finishing my own record.
*What's surprising about you?*
RH: I thought I was an open book?
*Are you looking forward to SXSW?*
RH: Yes I am, a lot! Last year when we played CMJ it was a lot of fun, and this time we'll get to see a different part of the country. Also, the people that have invited us to play shows this time have been really enthusiastic, so I can't wait. I just have to get better, don't want to be throwing up all over Texas.