2021 is a special year to me! Thirty years of journalism, which gave me the opportunity to review thousands of albums and interview a countless number of bands. I got the idea to celebrate this special event by interviewing people from the scene who all have a special meaning to me. I of course- and in the first place think about artists, but without fans artists would never become what they are. It’s not that different for magazines and journalists; without readers there would be no magazine, without visitors there would be no online magazine. An artist, an organizer of live events and festivals, a radio broadcasting, a journalist… we would be nothing without fans and followers. That’s why I got the idea to celebrate music lovers by interviewing one of them. It’s a way to pay homage to all those music lovers who often spend a lot of money and time to support all what we’re doing. Jürgen Vanvlasselaer is a guy I personally met years ago now. I know him as a true passionate music lover. This interview is an opportunity to sincerely thank him –and all other music lovers in the world.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: Can you first of all introduce yourself and how important is music in your life?
Jürgen: I am a 50 year old Belgian and (co-) run a few Facebookpages such as Belgium Electro, EBM Addiction, World Of EBM and I try to help out with BMA: Belgische Muziek / Musique Belge, a Facebookpage that was created to support the Belgian music scene due the Corona virus.
Music is a very important part of my life. It’s the only art form that can move me deeply, can give me goosebumps, can make me cry, can get me in a good mood etc. There is always music playing in our house, whether it’s the radio or a CD or record.
Q: I think you’re interested in very different music styles –and not only underground music, but, which genres are really catching your attention? Who do you consider as your favorite artists?
Jürgen: True, my collection goes very wide. Going from ABBA to Front 242, from Boney M to Siglo XX, from Depeche Mode to Iron Maiden. A great track is a great track, whatever genre it is. There is no such thing as bad music btw, there is music that you like and music that you don’t like. But if I have to pick my favorite genre, I’ll go for EBM and its related genres like Dark-Electro, Synth-Pop etc. To choose a favorite artist is very difficult, one day it’s A Split-Second, the other day Dead Can Dance and the day after Fields Of The Nephilim; it really depends on what mood I am in.
But if I really have to pick one, I’ll go for Front 242. A fantastic band with an amazing discography with “Commando Remix” as the best Electronic track ever made. The whole concept of Front 242 was just spot on. A great lead singer, Richard 23 with his energetic drumming, the music, the visuals, their outfits… everything was right.
Q: You in the past have been involved with music magazines so how do you look back at this experience? And how important do you consider music magazines for music lovers?
Jürgen:I used to write for Dark Entries and Peek-A-Boo magazine. I started writing cause I was curious about my favorite bands their history, side-projects, anecdotes etc… In the beginning interviewing the old school way with a tape recorder and writing it out the day after. I remember interviewing The Weathermen in a pub in Brussels and Parade Ground on the phone! All very cool and much fun to do, but it took a lot of work afterwards. After the Dark Entries period I wrote a few years for Peek-A-Boo. In those days it was already evolved to do interviews through email. Also fun to do and less work, but interviewing is more fun if you can speak directly to the artist, cause you can interfere directly on their answers, which is more difficult if you have to email back and forth.
I have always been a fan of music magazines, something else that I collect btw (Belgian music magazines that is). I remember buying my first Side-Line magazine, somewhere in the 90s, I think it was number 9 or so and a whole new world opened for me. Interviews and reviews with bands that I liked, so many bands that were unknown to me. In those days I only knew the German Zillo magazine, but that was in German and barely available in Belgium. So I was glad that I discovered Side-Line, an English written magazine, which was easier to understand for me than German. I learned and discovered a lot of bands by reading Side-Line, so thank you for that!
Q: How do you usually discover new bands and what are your newest discoveries?
Jürgen: I post nearly daily tracks on ‘my’ pages, so Youtube is a great tool to discover bands. A lot of my friends on Facebook are also into music, so I learn a lot through their posts or by reading online music magazines such as Side-Line, Dark Entries, Peek-A boo etc. Sometimes people send me tracks or bands ask to post their newest track etc.
There are still so many great bands to discover. One of the latest bands that I really like is Ultra Sunn, a Synth-Wave duo from Brussels. They just released a fantastic 12” on a Spanish label. Or the Swedish duo Cryo, what a superb band with a unique sound.
Q: I know you remain a ‘die-hard’ fan of physical releases while more and more labels and artists are releasing their work on streaming platforms. What do you’ve against streaming platforms and especially considering you’re missing some great productions?
Jürgen: We had this discussion already a few times, but I am an old-school collector. I need to hold, touch and smell a record, a tape, a CD. That is so much cooler than a download link. A sleeve with fantastic artwork, an inner sleeve with pics, a text sheet, a foldout sleeve etc… that makes the whole listening experience so much better. I am very grateful to the labels that are still releasing physical stuff, so a loud shout out to them! And it’s no secret that bands earn much more selling a physical release than what they earn though Spotify for instance.
It’s not that I am against streaming platforms, for me they just are a great tool to discover music, I just prefer physical releases. On the other side, we just bought a new car and it had no CD player, unbelievable, so now I have to download stuff (the legal way of course), in my case onto an old ipod.
Q: You already mentioned several Facebook groups you’re running. Tell us a bit more about these groups and what does social media mean to you? Any favorite pages?
Jürgen: I co-run Belgium Electro, a page dedicated to Belgian music, EBM Addiction and World Of EBM, 2 pages dedicated to EBM and its related genres and I am a member of the BMA: Belgische Muziek / Musique Belge team, a Facebook page that was created to support the Belgian music scene as an answer to the Corona crisis. We try to give Belgian bands a platform to post their music, their latest release etc. All very fun to do, I really enjoy doing this. And it’s nice to see bands react on certain posts or that listeners say that they’ve bought a certain track or album cause they loved the track that I’ve posted.
There are many great music related pages on Facebook, but as I am a big fan of Belgian music, I’ll go for Belgium Electro. We have such a great history when it comes to (Electronic) music and I am glad and proud that I can share that to the world on that page.
Q: Social media seem to be an easy way to get in touch with artists and labels, but are there always accessible? What are your experiences?
Jürgen: I always try to buy directly from the band or the label and so far no complaints about that. They’re always grateful and pleased that somebody wants to buy their music. Also for doing interviews it’s the perfect tool. For bigger bands, the And One’s and the Project Pitchfork’s of the world, you have to know your way, and that is always through (annoying) managers. I remember that I wanted to do an interview with a German band and I had to send all my questions to their manager and he even admitted that he answered all the questions himself! But overall I only had good experiences with that.
Q: What do you think about artists and ‘star attitude’? I mean artists would be nothing without their fans, but are they always thankful in their attitude?
Jürgen: In our scene most of the artists and bands are very accessible. So I’ve met in the meantime already quite a few artists and they were all really nice people. People like Dirk Ivens, Claus Kruse, Dirk Da Davo, Marc Ickx, Jean-Marc Lederman, Toon Palermo (Siglo XX), the guys from The Arch and so many more are all very down to earth and all fun to talk to. I am also a sucker for their stories, things that happened to them on their tours or their experiences with other artists etc etc… always fun to listen to. I can’t even recall a bad experience with an artist to be honest. But I’ve heard stories from music promotors and other bands that certain bands can be a pain in the ass in the backstage area. I just think it’s sad when a band acts like that. Act normal, the world doesn’t revolve around you.
Q: You also like live shows so do you’ve any idea how much shows you’ve seen in your life and which shows/bands remain the best ones?
Jürgen: Funny you ask this, cause I recently started adding all my attended gigs on setlist.fm, a website where people can add gigs and setlists. So far I’ve attended 957 gigs and still counting! I’ve seen many great gigs from The Klinik, The Neon Judgement, Sturm Café, Plastic Noise Experience, Calva Y Nada, A Split-Second, Empathy Test, VNV Nation, Funker Vogt, Skinny Puppy to name, but a few. But my favorite gig of all time must be the show of Front 242 in Brussels during the “Tyranny”-tour in 1991. It was my first 242 gig, but what a blast, what power they created on stage, so overwhelming. Since then I’ve never seen a gig that was so powerful. They just blew everybody away. Just listen to their latest live release ‘91’, released on Alfa Matrix a few months ago and you’ll know what I mean cause that was recorded on that tour.
Q: What do you expect from a great live show?
Jürgen: I want to see a band that enjoys themselves, a band that interacts with the audience and give themselves a hundred percent. I’ve seen Zeromancer once in Antwerp, and there were only 50 people or so. Well they played like they were playing for a 100.000 fans, that’s what I want to see. Nothing more annoying then an artist who is acting like an asshole on stage or bands that just play their gig, cash in and leave. Sadly enough that happens from time to time.
Q: I know this is the kind of question that has been already asked at social media, but do you’ve artists, which in a way, have changed your life? Eventually some songs?
Jürgen: Yes. Certain bands or music overall played an important part in my life. Some helped me through difficult moments, some are connected with great memories that I will cherish forever. The Project Pitchfork gig in 2017 in De Casino in Sint-Niklaas for instance will always be special to me cause that was the first gig I went to with my girlfriend. The same goes for certain songs. There are songs that when I hear them I always think immediately of my children or a certain period in my life.
Q: You’re a collector of CD’s, vinyl, cassettes, but is there any specific work you’re desperately searching for? And which work of your collection would you never sell?
Jürgen: There are a few that are still missing in the collection, like the “Is There An Exit”-7” of Absolute Body Control or the split 12” of The Klinik / De Fabriek, the first 2 albums of Snowy Red etc…
I check discogs from time to time and if the price is OK, I’ll buy them, but €400 for that 7” of Absolute Body Control is a bit above my budget to be honest. The thing is, that I had them all in the past with a whole bunch of other rarities, but I had to sell them a long time ago cause I needed the money. In the meantime I luckily bought most of them back and with the intention not to sell them again this time.
Q: Is there a specific experience you would like to share with us? Something that comes directly into mind and, which you’ll never forget?
Jürgen: It’s always fun to meet a band or artist, it’s always nice to have a wee chat with people that indirectly mean a lot to you through their music. But an experience that I will never forget just happened recently. I turned 50 in December 2020 and my girlfriend had the wonderful idea to write a little message to a whole bunch of bands that I like with the question if they were willing to send a birthday card. She offered to pay for the stamps or any costs they had to make. The response was overwhelming. I received signed postcards, signed band pictures, CDs, records, tapes, video messages, bands who sang happy birthday, download links, posters etc etc. It was really unbelievable. I think only 2 bands asked for shipping, but that was for a tape that had to come from the US and a DVD that had to come from Germany, which is even very understandable of course, but that’s it. I was really stunned. It’s unbelievable what a generous scene we have.
Q: Any particular wish/dream you would ever like to realize as fan/music lover?
Jürgen: The only thing I wish for at the moment is that we hopefully can go to gigs and festivals again with no restrictions. Cause I really missed that. The whole going-to-a-gig-experience. Meeting your friends, have a chat here and there, enjoying the gig with your girlfriend, buying the new album or a t-shirt at the merchandise, have a little talk with the artist himself etc etc… it’s just one of the most fun things to do.