Sunday nigth 2014-01-26 at 22 o’locco Pas de Deux will reform and perform at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels as closing cat of “The Sound of the Belgian Underground 2014”, a festival with mostly young & new acts, e.g. Hantrax and Miaux. Links below.
To celebrate the occasion there’s lots of interviews in Belgian media today & earlier this month. Here’s an interview we did with Walter Verdin in 2001: taken 2001-04-18, e-mailed 2001-05-04 as part of [uzine 01.07]. The 2001-06-28 erratum of [uzine 01.09] has been processed in the text below.
Walter Verdin is one of Belgium’s finest artists, especially as a videast (see also his website – cf. the URL below), but ironically Verdin is still best-known for his appearance at the Eurovision Songfestival with Pas de Deux, who represented Belgium in München anno 1983. Backed by the big band of Freddy Sunder (another Belgian legend), a trio consisting of Walter Verdin, Dett Peyskens and Hilde Van Roy (now a journalist for VRT-tv, who interviews royalty a.o. people) danced their way onto the stage to give a maximalist ((the big band’s belting “baaa-waaa baaa-waaa ba-bààà”)), almost dadaist performance ((the lyrics “Rendez-vous / Maar de maat is vol / En m’n kop is toe” were delivered by two brilliantly coiffured women dancing metronomically)) that would earn Belgium little or no points. Thus, it was a performance that was up to a par with Telex’s minimalist meta-pun on the songfestival in 1980 (Den Haag), which had already ranked Belgium among the most surreal countries Eurosongwise and other… Later on the band would split (with the Parsley record label going broke at about the same time).
The following interview was conducted around April 18th & mailed out May 4th 2001. Readers who have access to the free weekly newspaper “Brussel Deze Week” might also want to read Michaël Bellon’s elaborate interview with Mr. Verdin in 2001’s June 20th issue (no.793, p.7), in which it is revealed that Verdin even designed record sleeves, e.g. for the Neon Judgement.
– U: Pas de Deux used electronic instruments and had a nonconformist attitude vis-à-vis the showbiz aspect of the Eurovision Song Festival. Would you agree that you showed an approach to the whole Eurovision contest that was both avant-garde and fun? Was it just an artistic statement, or was there even some sort of meta-criticism involved (cf. what Telex did earlier)? How did it happen that you wanted to participate in the first place?
+ WV: First: I think that the use of electronic instruments is not necessarily linked with a non-conformist attitude. I am not really in a good position to say that our music was avant-garde at that time. It was fun because we were making the music that we wanted to make and we could do it in front of a really big audience… And yes we had to take into account all the Eurovision Song Contest rules. So it is a little bit normal that our song for this event was different from the other songs that we had on our concert list. It was e.g. in Flemish and very short and with a complete big band. This was, by the way, also a great challenge and a pleasant experience: my music and arrangements played by an orchestra under the conduction of Freddy Sunder, who together with my brother Joris – helped me with the scores. It can seem to be a song about the contest, but in essence it was not: we just didn’t want to change our ways of working for the contest, and this way of working appeared to be against the normal expectations of the public of the contest… Initially we were just asked to participate in the Flemish pre-selections because one of the nine candidates canceled his participation. So we thought that these two tv-programmes were a good publicity for our new group.
– U: Did you ever watch the Eurovision contest again? What do you find lacking in it most – if anything? Apart from Telex and Pas de Deux, I don’t recall anything remotely tongue in cheek in the Eurovision contest. Or did I miss out on other great acts?
+ WV: I was really a fan of the contest on television since I was a child. After our participation, I didn’t like it anymore except for the “and these are the results”-part of the program. From all the songs of the contest after 1983, I prefer Amina: “C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison”, for France [entry for Rome, 1991].
– U: Pas de Deux “happened” in the “crisis era” eighties, before ideologies started to crumble and the new wealth came, and also before MTV and house, before commercial tv and samplers, etc. How do you look back on the changes in society and the (popular) arts?
+ WV: All the shit happened with Reagan and Thatcher and since then _Western_ history is on a very wrong track…
– U: Most of all, you are dedicated to video art and dance. How did that go about? How do you look back on the technical evolutions in video, for instance? Will the “commodification” of video gear and of the internet be leading to great things?
+ WV: Most of all, I am dedicated to rhythm in all its forms. Rhythm in what you see, hear, feel, taste… The ‘discipline’ doesn’t matter. The problem with the technical evolution in general is that it goes too fast for (1) the organisation of a real democratic world and (2) the feelings / emotions of the people that are now living on earth. “Great things” only happen now in sub-cultural environments. And there are not many left…
– U: Are there choreographers you’d have wanted or still want to work with? (E.g. Twyla Tharp, Michael Clark, …?)
+ WV: No. Performers, dancers, musicians: yes.
– U: Which are your favourite video artists or movie directors – then and now? For instance, was Godard an influence in video?
+ WV: Dziga Vertov, Oscar Schlemmer, Hans Richter, Andy Warhol, Ben Vautier, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, Brian Eno, Bill Viola, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “La Maman Et La Putain”, “Murder Call”, “Angel Heart”, “North By Northwest”, “Le Charme Discret De La Bourgeoisie”, “Bay Willow” (CNN Moneyline), “Picnic At Hanging Rock”, all the tv-appearances of Serge Gainsbourg, “Professione Reporter”, “The Big Sleep”, “Straw Dogs”, “Three Women”, Willem De Kooning (but that’s a painter)… I think video was rather an influence in Godard. I like Godard’s talkings (especially about tv and video). His movies do not move me too much…
– U: Can the mainstream cinema still move you? Are you familiar with directors such as Anderson, Aronofsky, Dumont, Gallo, Kassovitz, Kitano, Ozon, Solondz?
+ WV: Yes. No.
– U: Would you agree that the quality of the images we are confronted with in movies and magazines or on flyers or sleeves, has vastly improved, be it glossy or be it “trash”? Do you like what you see? Will there ever be a saturation of visual correctness?
+ WV: What the hell is ‘visual correctness’? Is this something like ‘political correctness’? An image is an image, a reproduction of a (real) thing in a different form, with a defined point of view. Dolly is not an image! But an image is also a real thing, which can be reproduced too. (Walter B, help me!) The quality of an image is subjective. The technical quality can grow without increasing the image-quality and vice versa. There is a limit in what we can see with our eyes, not in what we can see with our brain, our imagination. Can I have another beer, please?
– U: What are you working on nowadays? (Might we expect a harmoniums record?)
+ WV: The harmonium player, that’s my brother Joris… I am now preparing for a new video-music/installation/performance combining video, music and live action. A female solo performer (auditions in the beginning of May in Brussels) will manipulate video and sound samples with the movement of her body. It is the third part of a trilogy that I make on the theme of “STORM: Bermuda System”. The first part was a video and dance performance (“Storm”), the 2nd part was a video-concert (“Miranda Project”), which is now available for touring. In “Miranda Project” the musicians are: Steven Debruyn (El Fish), Geert Waegeman (Cro Magnon), Bert Bernaerts (Jaune Toujours), Ad Cominotto (Arno…), Jan Cordemans (…). In the meantime I am working on a cd of our video-concert “X<Afrika”, which is also still available. I work together with Frank Michiels (percussion) and a lot of guests: Kianzo (percussion group from Ivory Coast), El Hadji N’Diayé Rose and his father, the famous Doudou N’Diayé Rose, who played with e.g. Peter Gabriel, the Rolling Stones, James Brown… We are still looking for a distribution company… And in August there will be the premiere in Berlin of a short dance-video that I make in cooperation with Meg Stuart and Benoît Lachambre. Next year I will make a new video-concert: “The Lizard Man”.
– U: What music are you currently enjoying / grooving to / happy with? On a Saturday night? On a Sunday morning?
+ WV: A Saturday night or a Sunday morning are not very special to me… I will always enjoy good funk, disco, trip-hop, jazz, classic, ambient, lounge,… but there’s nothing like the sound of sea-waves! (And I have a big problem at the moment: I don’t like salsa.)
– U: Which is the answer we forgot the question for?
+ WV: Yes!
-U: Thank you ever so much!
Note: the directors of those fine films quoted by WV are Sidney Lumet, Jean Eustache, X, Alan Parker, Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Peter Weir, Michelangelo Antonioni, Howard Hawks, Sam Peckinpah and Robert Altman. Yo check ‘um out! (X: couldn’t find a director for “Murder Call” – sorry.)