It all started when 2 crazy guys met back in the eighties....
10/04/2013, Jurgen VANVLASSELAER
On the 13th of april, the legendary Belgian electroheads of FUZE BOX MACHINE will enter the stage again in Mons, Belgium. With a new compilation album in the pipeline, we thought it was the perfect moment to have a little talk with the 3 masterminds behind this project; Manu, Bernard and Stéphane.
Welcome guys. How did it all start with FUZE BOX MACHINE?
Bernard: FUZE BOX MACHINE was born in 1988. Manu and I were big fans of Skinny Puppy, à;Grumh…, The Klinik, Borghesia, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb. We both had synthesizers (Roland D10, Korg Delta, Ensoniq Mirage, etc), so we decided to create our own band based on these typical influences.
Manu: It all started when 2 crazy guys met back in the end of the eighties. We had the same musical acquaintances and at a certain point we decided to meet in a room with our gear to “try out something”. The imagination and creativity of Bernard and my nerdy musical behavior did the rest.
Were there other projects before FUZE BOX MACHINE?
Bernard: Yes, we played in a band called Psycho Analogy. Manu and I were behind keyboards and a friend was the lead singer who also played guitar. It sounded like something between The Klinik and Clan of Xymox. In 1988, our singer started his studies at university and decided to leave the band. A few weeks later, Manu and I created FUZE BOX MACHINE.
Manu: As Bernard pointed out, there was Psycho Analogy. This brings loads of memories! Trisomie 21 had been a major inspirational source for this project. Manu V (yes, another Manu) was the lead singer and also played the electric guitar on some of the tunes.
Bernard, after the 2nd tape Futuratrauma (1991) you left and were ‘replaced’ by Stéphane.Why did you leave? How did Stéphane came in the picture?
Bernard: I can’t remember how he came in, but I remember that Stéphane joined us in 1992. I left the band at the end of 1992 after 4 years, because my first job as a young worker was in Germany. I had to stay there for weeks and I missed several opportunities to play live with FUZE BOX MACHINE. At that time, we had no mobile phone, no Internet, and it was pretty hard to keep in touch musically speaking. I was really frustrated and I decided to leave the band and let the full lead voice to Stéphane.
Manu: I cannot speak for Bernard, of course. I remember that we were entering our professional lifes. Bernard departed to Germany to work over there and consequently left the band. I thought there was a future for FUZE BOX MACHINE, though. Since we had met Séba Dolimont and Benoit Blanchart already (Side-Line magazine, Alfa-Matrix), I asked them if they could find a replacement for Bernard in order to continue the project. This is how Stéphane got involved.
Stéphane: I was a member of the Side-Line music magazine and we were organizing a noticeable festival in Brussels in 1991. We invited Project Pitchfork as headliner to perform their first show outside Germany, and other bands like No Comment, Noirphesia, Lescure 13 and a few others. FUZE BOX MACHINE was invited as well. Since Bernard couldn’t make it and FUZE BOX MACHINE wanted to take the opportunity of playing at an important event, Manu & Bernard got in touch with me via Séba Dolimont. The idea was to replace Bernard for one gig. I remember I only had one month to get ready. After that show, Manu & Bernard asked me to join FUZE BOX MACHINE as 2nd singer and so I finally became a member of the band.
With Stéphane you made another tape, Plastic Surgery (1992), and a full CD, Forbidden Games (1995). I always thought the tapes were better than the CD, because the tapes sounded less clean. It was a bit the same with the debut albums of Lescure 13, Aiboforcen and Ionic Vision, fantastic tape releases and a debut album that never reached the same high level.
Will those tapes ever be released as a CD?
Manu: It is strange that you preferred the demo tapes. From a sound engineering standpoint, they were nowhere near studio quality due to the lack of proper gear in the “FUZE BOX MACHINE studio” (remember, no DAWs, no Virtual Instruments and the like at that time…). Musically speaking, I always thought that the album CD was punchier and less boring! I guess it is a matter of taste… In addition, we discovered the “dreamland of the nerdy musician” when we entered the recording studio. All those instruments and effect racks were inspiring, technically. I believe this lead to a more methodic approach to the music, rather then bringing an extra touch of creativity. To answer your question, I do not think there is a chance to get those tapes released on an album CD. At least not in their original “mastering” edition.
Stéphane: I think that’s just a point of view, but I remember other early FUZE BOX MACHINE ‘lovers’ said the same. I think the album Forbidden Games was quite different while holding on to the ‘old’ elements of FUZE BOX MACHINE like EBM-orientated, strong melody lines… but the album also moved into new ideas. FUZE BOX MACHINE was one of the first electro-underground bands to use a techno-minded kick on some of the songs, which, back then, was absolutely undone. At the other side, it injected extra power in the songs and don’t forget the album was also composed with Cathodic Funeral (Benoît Blanchart) from Aiboforcen, which means an extra input and other ideas as well.
After that debut album and a few gigs, FUZE BOX MACHINE slowly disappeared from the musicmap. What happened?
Manu: Well, after Forbidden Games, I finished my bachelor degree in computer science followed by a master in computer science. All of this during my day work as an application developer. Also, my wife gave birth to our first child in 96. Actually my now 17 year old daughter will be performing a self-made choreography on one of the songs during the gig. All of these events of life lead to shrinking the room for music creation as you can imagine! In addition, unconsciously I kind of figured out that we had reached a goal and that it was time to “retire”. My inspiration was very low at that time, as I remember. Pretty much like tennis players who want to get out of the scene after an achievement, I decided this was the right time to freeze the project. And pretty much like tennis players, we now decided to get back :-)
Stéphane: We were all getting older:-) Manu had a quite busy private and professional life, so he’d less time to compose new songs and getting involved in FUZE BOX MACHINE. I put a lot of time and energy in FUZE BOX MACHINE so I decided to move on without Manu… without asking him! That was wrong and I sincerely apologize for that, but in the end FUZE BOX MACHINE also became my band and a part of my life. We got a lot of invitations to perform outside Belgium. We really did much more gigs then you think, but most of them were outside Belgium. I remember playing with guest musicians and some gigs with my friends of Ionic Vision (Sven and Kurt/previous Ionic Vision member) and also together with Mark Lingart.
Later on, I started working on new material with Ivan Costermans and Luc Simons (Mental Conquest). We had a few songs finished, which according to me were real great tracks although not in the spirit of the ‘old’ FUZE BOX MACHINE; it was quite EBM-trance minded. Nothing really happened with these songs because of lack of time and a lack of motivation. Getting involved in a band takes a lot of energy and time and I think I probably was too passionate compared to the others. I finally decided to stop with FUZE BOX MACHINE in 1999.
I had the pleasure to see a few FUZE BOX MACHINE gigs and they were always fantastic I have to say. Lots of power and energy on stage. What do you recall from the gigs you played in those days?
Bernard: We were young and passionate. The eighties period and the New Wave style were still in our minds. That was easier to have an audience then nowadays with the crisis.
Manu: Awesome moments! I must say that I discovered an underground world of crazy people, in a good sense, of course. The hours we traveled, “worked”, rehearsed and had fun were countless! I believe that the most exciting thing I draw from this is when people started dancing in front of us when listening to music we created from scratch. This is priceless! I also remember the panic when the Ensoniq Mirage Sampler display read “disk error” when loading the samples off the floppy disk for the next tune during the gig! :-)
Stéphane : I can’t compare to the early live shows of FUZE BOX MACHINE, but I think that when you’re making EBM, you’ve to bring energy on stage and that for sure was one of my personal strengths. The time I’ve been involved was a mix of danceable music, provocation, sex and humor.
And now more than 20 years later you decided to do a one-off gig again. What was the trigger that made you decide this?
Bernard: Manu invited me to his birthday two years ago. At the end of the party, speaking about all those good souvenirs with FUZE BOX MACHINE, I mentioned the idea to reform the band for a gig and maybe a compilation CD. A few weeks later I invited Manu to my 40th birthday that took place in the Dark Cats Café in Mons and we played two FUZE BOX MACHINE tracks. That was a great moment because we didn’t play together since 1992… That was most likely the trigger.
Manu: I met Bernard again after 10 years, during my birthday party. He mentioned that he was still in the EBM scene with Jean-Marc Melot (Mono Electronic Density). Jean-Marc and I were good friends in the 90s. As a matter of fact, I had bought the Ensoniq from him! I wrongfully thought this style of music slowly disappeared during the years and he told me that this was not the case. As a matter of fact, he mentioned that the underground electronic music scene was quite active nowadays. I then suggested reactivating FUZE BOX MACHINE and Bernard followed the idea in the form of a one-shot gig. The idea was quite appealing and we decided to go ahead after a short appearance on stage in Mons during a private gig for Bernard’s birthday.
What can we expect in Mons? I read that there will be a few guests on stage.
Bernard: You can expect 14 of our best songs from the period 1988-1992 coming from our two first demo tapes. You are right about the guests. We’re pleased to have Grandchaos to open the party. And on stage with us, we’ll have NTRSN, J3 from à;Grumh... and Parade Ground to play one of their best songs. We are really proud to have them by our sides the 13/04/13.
Manu: Top models, champagne and limo cars from the train station to the gig venue:-). Seriously, we have reworked the very first tunes from 1988 to 1992. Grandchaos is going to open the gig. In addition, NTRSN, Parade Ground and J3 from à;Grumh... will be playing along with us on stage. This is so great!
Stéphane won’t be present at the gig. How come?
Manu: We contacted Stéphane, who declined the invitation to perform with us for personal reasons. He told us that he may be coming as a spectator, though! I sure hope he will!
Stéphane: I’ve to thank Manu who asked me if I was interested, but I refused. FUZE BOX MACHINE still means a lot to me, but it belongs to the past. I had the idea to reactivate FUZE BOX MACHINE a few years ago , just to make a song together with Nebula-H and also because a lot of people asked me about FUZE BOX MACHINE. But in the end I thought it was better to leave FUZE BOX MACHINE silent. Speaking for myself I’m not that fond of ‘reactivating’ old bands and ‘come-backs’, but the main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing and I really hope Manu & Bernard will have a good time on stage. I both remember them as nice guys!
Bernard is still making music with Combat Voice, I can imagine that making music in 1991 is very different than making music in 2013? What era do you prefer?
Bernard: Ah! Very good question! I like both periods. I like 2013 because creating music became easier with the digital era, you can reach a professional level faster than in the 80’s or 90’s (technically speaking) and also because we’re older which means more experienced. But on the other hand, back in 1991, it was big fun to play at 18 years old in front of an audience with all my passion and energy.
Manu: I must say a bit of both. In the past, we were filling the technology gap with our imagination and creativity. Owning a studio as capable as nowadays’ DAWs on a laptop computer cost 100-200K€! So either you were a professional and rich, or you had to find solutions to the technical challenges, which lead to discover techniques and some sort of craftsman approach to music art. With no surprise, FUZE BOX MACHINE in the 90s had taken the latter option! The paradoxical downside of this was the limited depth in the sound and melody research because of the lack of spare time, after having sorted out the technical difficulties and the lack of proper studio gear. Nowadays, I carry my personal home studio on my laptop. I have a suite of virtual synthesizers that do a great job at simulating the good old analog synths, providing the warmth of the analog sounds. The good thing is that I don’t have to spend too much money on them and I don’t have to dedicate a huge room in my home to host them (it keeps the wife happy:-)). I can also decide to pre-master my tunes with my studio headphones next to a swimming pool during my vacations. Isn’t life beautiful? The downside of it is that pretty much like the news today, I feel overwhelmed by the massive amount of sounds, virtual instruments and appliances that you can purchase. Sound creation is falling by the wayside due to the ease of sound browsing across a huge library of pre-made samples and sounds patches. I guess I am trying to amalgamate the best of both world when it comes to sound and music creation to get a good compromise.
Stéphane had a few other projects after FUZE BOX MACHINE and was in those days already very busy with Side-Line Magazine. What keeps you busy these days Stéphane?
Stéphane: Music is still an important item and part of my life, but I have to face the mirror:-). I’m 45 years old now and there’re other issues in my life now. Aside of that, I also have serious problems with my back. So live shows –even with Nebula-H, are quite risky. Nebula-H is in stand-by for years now, but there’re a few new plans in the pipeline… I can’t tell you more right now as it will all depends of important details. Side-Line remains my biggest passion; just listening to music and discovering new bands. I’m doing this for 21 years now and it still fascinates me… even if the scene no longer is what it was! I’m really disappointed about the attitude of some people, but that’s another story.
What about you Manu?
Manu: My family, my house and my work :-). My desire to create music is too strong, however. I discovered trance music at the end of the 90s and I am now involved in trance and eurodance projects as well.
There is also a compilation album in the pipeline. Can you tell us something about that? Will it be the original versions or will it be all reworked recordings?
Manu: The original versions were actually lost. What I mean is that all the original studio material, with the exception of some samples are unreadable. The floppy disks did not resist the almost 20 years of existence (and the water flood in my basement, for that matter). I therefore started from scratch, using new technologies (DAWs and virtual gears) to remake the songs. I tried to keep the original atmosphere of the “good old days” while bringing more modern sound schemes in the picture. I hope you will like it!
Will the door be closed for good after the gig and the compilation? Or do you have more plans with FUZE BOX MACHINE?
Bernard: We don’t have any other plans after that gig but the door won’t be closed for good. Who knows…?
Manu: Having FUZE BOX MACHINE back on stage with a compilation album is actually quite a great thing. I have no specific hopes after this event. Above all, Bernard and I would like to enjoy this moment and make it a great time for all our fans as well! If something comes out after this, I am ready to embrace further challenges, though!
A Final word?
Bernard : 2013 is the 25 years anniversary of Fuze Box Machine and I’m really glad to play the 13/04/13, it’s very symbolic to me. I’m also really pleased that Peek-A-Boo shows interest for a band that didn’t play for more than 15 years now. Thus, thank you very much Jürgen for this interesting interview! And I would like also to thank our fantastic guests for the 13/04/13: Grandchaos, NTRSN, J3 and Parade Ground for their friendship and support!
Manu: Well, I must admit I was surprised that although we “gained” 25 years since the birth of FUZE BOX MACHINE, Bernard and I keep the same momentum when it comes to music creation. We are just more realistic and less naïve than we were those days. I am particularly grateful that Parade Ground, Grandchaos, NTRSN and J3 from à;Grumh… will be celebrating this quarter century anniversary along with us! I would also like to thank Richard from Combat Voice for the mastering of the compilation. His help was pivotal to the making of the compilation album. Thank you so much for this interview, Jürgen!
Stéphane: Good luck to Bernard and Manu!
And thank 'you' guys for the very interesting answers. I wish you all the best with all your projects and let’s hope this gig and the upcoming compilation is the start for another 25 years of FUZE BOX MACHINE!
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