RED ZEBRA is part of the Belgian music history. Set up in the late ’70 they rapidly became a successful formation often linked to Punk- and New/Cold-Wave music. Singer and front man Peter Slabbynck doesn’t really care about genres, but the early success song “I Can’t Live In A Living Room” remains forty years later an absolute Punk- and New-Wave hymn. The band last year released the noticeable compilation “Songs And Stripes (1980 – 2020)” on Wool-E Discs, which is the perfect album to rediscover the magic of this formation. I talked about a few things with Peter Slabbynck.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: RED ZEBRA has been set up in 1978! How do you imagine your life without this alter-ego? And what has been the impact of RED ZEBRA on your life and the person you are today?
Peter: Before RED ZEBRA, there was THE BUNGALOWS. But I changed the name at the end of ’79. With the new name people took us more serious. But Punk changed my life; it said to me: ‘don’t wait, do it yourself’! It was perfect for a redhead kid with a big mouth, not afraid to sing and make a fool of himself on stage. So living without RED ZEBRA is difficult to imagine for me. But of course, all of this happened due to the song “I Can’t Live In A Living Room”.
Q: RED ZEBRA has been always linked with Punk and Cold-Wave music, but what remains today? And how did you see yourself evolving throughout the years?
Peter: I don’t like all those categories. What is Punk, what is New-Wave, what is Cold-Wave, what is RED ZEBRA? Sometimes we sounded this way, sometimes another way. I guess today we are mostly a Rock band with Punk and New-Wave roots. But apparently we do have some kind of own sound. That’s also due to my voice and certainly my lyrics and the topics I sing about. That makes me glad.
Q: You often said that the “Bastogne” remains your favorite work. I read that there’re plans to re-release the work this year as a kind of 40-years anniversary, right? What makes “Bastogne” that special and maybe different from other RED ZEBRA productions?
Peter: It’s without a doubt the best record we ever made. Due to many things. The songs first of all, with important role for Chery Derycke, the bass player at that time. It’s like he plays guitar on the bass. And the production by Jean-Marie Aerts of TC MATIC, was great. Everything was just right. Unfortunately Chery left the band short afterwards. So we couldn’t repeat the same level. That makes the album “Maquis” an album with ups and downs. There are indeed plans to re-release “Bastogne” this year for its 40 years anniversary.
Q: You last year released the compilation-album “Songs And Stripes (1980 – 2020)”. I would like to ask you for some comments about a few songs:
-“I Can’t Live In A Living Room” – the B-side, which became your biggest hit ever!
Peter: This song started to lead a life on it’s own. Not our best song, but I can live with the success of it.
-“The Art Of Conversation” – definitely one of your best songs ever?
Peter: One of my personal favorites an strangely enough the lyrics are still very actual, even more than ever.
-“Bastogne” – a great instrumental with a significant title?
Peter: I loved to learn about history at school. I convinced my parents to visit places as Ypres, Verdun, the beaches in Normandy, Bastogne… So that’s why I came up with this title for the song and the album.
-“John Wayne” – if you’d written this song today, would you eventually call it Donald Trump?
Peter: Maybe, but I don’t wanna honor Trump with a song. No way. But the story of Wayne is so unbelievable. He played in those war movies but never was a soldier himself. Quite funny. Or not.
-“My Boss, The Robot” – a new song?
Peter: It’s a song of EX-RZ, the Electronic version of RED ZEBRA I did for a few years with guitarist Frits Standaert, who’s now one the guitarists of RED ZEBRA. Some of my lyrics become true. So maybe it’s a robot writing this answer…
-“Always” – the song I’m missing and which according to me remained underrated?
Peter: Not so sure if this is a good song or not. Nice that you like it, but we never play it live.
Q: The music business -including ‘underground’ genres, has gone through important changes; advanced technology, streaming platforms versus decline physical releases, social media etc… RED ZEBRA always had a very critical perception about our Western World so what do these subjects and evolutions evoke to you?
Peter: What’s underground? If you want your songs to be heard, what most bands or artists want, can you be underground then? I’m only underground when I take the tube, I guess. And concerning the so-called Western World, it gives me plenty of subjects to think or write about. So thank you Western World.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the search for a new drummer and the EBM-side project PESCH? What are the further plans and how do you imagine further life without the ongoing pandemic..?
Peter: A lot of guys want to become the new drummer of RED ZEBRA. That’s good news. So we selected 8 drummers. The bad news? Because of Covid-19 we’re not allowed to do auditions. So RED ZEBRA is taking a nap, that’s why I started PESCH.
It was already a longtime my ambition to start an EBM band an do this with Chesko of DER KLINKE. But 2 is a bit lonely so we adopted Sam Claeys, who’s part of RED ZEBRA and DER KLINKE. It’s really great fun. For the moment it’s my main project. We are releasing a maxi with four songs in April, called “Melba”. Those silly jokes are part of PESCH. And for the rest, no idea what the future brings. But no future? I don’t think so.