Last month I had the pleasure to speak to Tom Barman, dEUS frontman, about end of hiatus for the Belgian band, their plans for the future, the 20th anniversary tour of their album ‘The Ideal Crash’ and the side projects.
I’ve read a fascinating interview from 2012 published in the guardian. Sam Richards (the interviewer) stated, that many bands tend to slow down entering their 3rd decade, while in 2011 and 2012 you’ve put out two albums just 8 months apart and won an award. After that you’ve slowed down. Do you think he jinxed it?
Tom: (laugter) No I do not think so, because actually, I didn’t slow down at all or just did slow down with dEUS. I actually started another band called Taxi Wars, with which we are going on tour in November. It’s more a jazz outfit but in a funky kind of way. And we’ve just finished our third album, it’s coming out in September and we’re going on tour and we’re definitely going to come to London, which we already did a couple of times. After 2012 I’ve started writing my second movie, did a program for Dutch TV and the aforementioned new project. So all in all I never did [slow down]. To me it didn’t feel like a break at all. But on the dEUS front it’s been pretty quiet. So we’re going to break the silence with the new album, which we will start working on after the tour. So no one jinxed it. I think it was the only way out, a hiatus. It’s interesting, how working together for so long could be explosive. Especially if you know our history. Now the creative hunger is there again and that’s all what you would want. I think it’s just a way to go ahead.
So, you’ve decided, now it’s the right time to come back.
We were looking very much forward to this tour and that’s going to drive us forward for the next album. It’s been a while, but we’re ready to record. We’re definitely ready. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of ideas. I have no idea what it’s going to sound like or what style it’s going to be. It’s going to be completely different than whatever we did, but so I can’t talk about, that because I’ve no idea. I can only say, we just feel like doing it.
Lots of bands change their style and experiment, which changes a trajectory of their career.
We’ve done that with almost every album. I mean, there is a recurring atmosphere about our last two albums. “Keeping close” was very dramatic, very heartfelt. And then the last one, “Following sea” again kind of like eclectic and different. I feel, you need to change. We’ve had a great new guitar player for the last three years. So that already helps. And he’s a completely different character. So that’s going to lead us into some kind of a direction. We’ll just follow the guitar player.
That was my next question, because You and Klaas are the only original dEUS members left. Do you think letting people go brings a benefit of new energy?
I didn’t really have a choice now did I. So you know, we made one album and two people left, I won’t discuss the reasons why. They were kind of ridiculous, you know. I mean, everyone of us was young and up their egos. I didn’t have a choice, but if I did, I don’t think I would stop them from leaving. We would have completely exploded if we would have stayed together, we would have killed each other on the first tour. We’ve made pretty good albums after that first, because of it exploded straight away. There are two sides of the coin. I wouldn’t personally trust bands that stay together for 30 years in the same line of public trust. You know there’s something fishy there, right? I don’t want to elaborate too much on that, but if I could put this in a Smiley, this would be suspicious looking Smiley. So there you go. It’s been a weird trajectory, but it’s alright, you know, it’s been our path and the tickets for the tour are almost sold out, so that’s very heartwarming. People didn’t forget about us.
Are you looking for an instant chemistry with the people you want to play with?
Oh yes. It’s got to be right on many fronts, every new kid on the block has a special role to fulfill. I remember my role was to calm everything down. You know, we just needed to calm down. So that was my role in the beginning. But every time we needed somebody, who’d be able to shake things up. Every kid is chosen for that particular role. As vague as it may sound, instinctively you’re not going to choose first safe option, which we haven’t.
It’s not your first gig in Poland, isn’t it. You’ve played here few times already. I know, it’s been a while, but do you remember how it went?
Yes, I remember. We were four hours late. Our drummer got stopped at the airport, I think it was a passport problem would you believe it. It wasn’t anything too wild, just a forgotten passport. We got stopped at the border and we couldn’t move. We were in constant contact with the Polish organizer and agent and they were so kind to keep the people entertained. When we arrived they were like well ready. That was the first time in Warsaw. And I loved it. I also have memory of the second time in Warsaw, because that’s kind of a morbid memory, a tragedy in my friends circle, which I found out of on the streets of Warsaw the night before the show.
Oh I’m so sorry.
Thank you. We played a very good but a very emotional show. I remember it quite well. That must have been ten or eleven years ago. No, it’s got to be earlier than that. It’s going to be 2006. I also remember the show in Gdańsk. This time the story is lighter and funnier. I’ve bought a really nice long shirt, which looked like a dress on me. It was stretched down to my shoes, it looked fucking cool, so I decided to wear it that night. I appeared on stage, ready to rock, but the monitors in front of me were so high, you couldn’t see it. I remember standing on the wages just to make sure that everybody saw it. So ridiculous!
Let’s focus on lyrics for a moment. In the interview from 2012 you’ve mentioned you were tired of singing about yourself. Not all songs on Following Sea are personal, some are your reaction to the news and what was happening in the world. Should we expect new songs following the same pattern, also touching on the subject of politics?
I’ve made different albums, wrote the lyrics from different angles. I don’t think, anybody’s waiting for a guy in leather trousers with an earring to sing about politics and telling people what to do or what to say. So I never really like political or even topical song writing and that’s not going to be my thing. That’s not what I meant. What I meant is, I need to have myself as a subject, but it doesn’t have to be literal. I’m just that kind of a songwriter. I’m not the one that’s going to invent stories, like Johnny Cash or Cage did. At one point you think “okay, that’s getting more personal”. I think you have to experiment with all sorts of idioms, because it’s interesting and it’s fun. Then you get into another phase, you meet somebody, have strong feelings and you want to talk about them again. So I think that’s not gonna be a very personal album, lyrically, because I just did one like that for Taxi. I think I’m going to go pretty abstract and wild with the new album and I look forward to that, but it always will have personal angle. I can’t do it differently. I need to know what I’m singing about even on a very abstract level. Otherwise I just feel like a ventriloquist. I need to have a connection to my heart or to my brain or whatever, it has to have a personal angle. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
Yeah of course. Is there a slight chance you could tell me, how long we have to wait to see some new material?
First of all, I’m terrible with deadlines. I always ignore them. You should never trust me when I talk about dates. It’s always wishful thinking. I mean, all I can say is, we will start with a vengeance and utter abandon after this tour which is like September. So that’s all I can say. Another thing is, I’m going to make the soundtrack with dEUS for my new movie. The writing is almost done. So there’ll be plenty and it’s gonna go in all directions and I think it’s going to be exciting.
I mean you have a very dedicated fan base. And I think they will wait for whatever is coming. They were waiting this long and they can wait a bit more.
That’s good, it’s heartwarming to hear. I just hope they know that we never really stopped working. We were constantly recording and gathering ideas.
Looking at the reality of the music industry and the record sales and all the uncertainty about the future, did you ever had any doubts about coming back as dEUS?
Well that’s not something, that’s really going to stop me. Never. It’s just one of those things. You try to get lucky. You know life is still about putting bread on the table. But apart from that, this decline in record sales has been going on for 10 years now. We have a management who make sure that we get our Spotify and YouTube money, if there is any to get and share and make sure that the deals are good. But apart from that, I’m so happy I’m not a beginner, starting a band. It must be so hard for them. Don’t forget that we started in the 90’s which was the golden era of a combination of money behind you and quality music in the charts. We can only think with a lot of nostalgia to those days. Right now there’s very little money and the music is not very good, is it.
That’s a nice way to put it.
I mean it’s nice that they get dressed up and put a show, but we don’t tend to think too much about it, do we? It’s a completely different way of consuming music. I’ve got to be honest with myself, I can consume music differently in the sense that it doesn’t mean much to me, to listen to new bands. Music doesn’t mean as much, as it did when I was 20. And that’s just a reality of life. And of course, I still listen to music and of course I still love it.
Coming back to the interview from 2012 – you’ve mentioned Balthazar being one of your favourite bands at the moment and that they’re going to have a great future. Are you still listening to their music?
(Laughs). Yeah, I’ve heard the singles. I think that there’s a new direction there, which I was anticipating, because I thought they were rebooting themselves a little bit. I saw them live and they were very good. I follow them as much as I can and go and see them live. I mean I do listen to new music, nothing comes to my mind right now, but I’m on Spotify. I try to follow new interesting bands. Whenever I read something or hear something, I try check it out.