Music Interviews

Interview: Soulwax



Part Of The Weekend Never Dies – that’s the current Soulwax maxim.

It’s also the title of their DVD, a film that charts their Radio Soulwax tour through their own eyes and the eyes of their contemporaries and friends. So when musicOMH corners the Belgian duo in their Mayfair hotel room, it’s probably a relief for them to note the lack of a camera.

The brothers Dewaele are both pretty relaxed, that’s for sure – despite the end of a long day’s interviewing, they’re thinking about a secret gig the next day, with self deprecating humour. As Stephen notes, “We’ve heard that it’s a really small place, so it’ll be interesting to see if anybody shows up!”

Would that make it the smallest gig they’ve ever done? “No”, he says immediately. “We played once in somebody’s back yard – it was a contest winner. We parked the tour bus and found their house, so that you couldn’t see their house any more! We did a gig there and it was really cool, playing just to him and his friends. It was quite full on actually, and we had a meal, his mum was there, it was really good! I kind of liked that.”

Turning to Part of the Weekend, I ask if there was a particular aim for the DVD. After consideration, David responds. “No, it was something just went along with to begin with, because it wasn’t something we initiated – it was the record company who asked us if we could do anything. When we were asked if we wanted to do it we said “Yes, but only if we can pick the people making it”, and so we found Saam Farahmand. But I think half way through we figured that we had some ideas and wanted creative input, and from there on we started to collaborate. It was odd at first because it was about yourself. But then who better to understand how things happened officially than the people it’s about?!”

Did that mean the brothers were oblivious to the filming by the end? David shakes his head. “No, I think we were always quite aware of it.” His brother agrees. “It was hard sometimes because we knew when there was filming going on, but on the other hand there was a lot of respect, so when it was something really personal he would always go away. Things like when Dave was asleep, for instance!” “He knew when not to film”, says David. “But by the end there were a few instances where I knew he was there but I didn’t know he was filming!” Stephen continues. “It was a little hard for him because he had this motorised thing where he used the camera and he had this huge stand. Sometimes when we would be playing live I’d see him struggling round the stage with this thing and it would almost be falling and you’d be, like, “Someone needs to help him out.” I think he did an amazing job considering the material he had and the kit he was carrying. Respect to him.”

I’m curious to know if the pair watched any other tour DVDs while they were making their own. David initially denies this. “No. I think consciously we didn’t do that. But there was one thing, before we started filming we liked the idea of Stop Making Sense, because when I’d seen that I really wanted to see Talking Heads, I felt kind of energised! And when we had finished, a lot of people we showed it to, when they had seen it they were like “I want to go out now”. I think it’s a true reflection of what kind of a hectic thing it is when we’re doing Radio Soulwax, but we didn’t have meetings where we said “I think that angle’s ninety degrees wrong” or things like that. Actually during the tour we did watch the Sigur Ros one, but I remember turning it off half way and saying “I don’t want to see this now because it’s going to influence how we think about ours. Although it’s completely different, it’s also like band plays, talks about it, travels round…”

The Soulwax DVD includes a variety of talking heads, chosen by Farahmand. Stephen points, out, however, “I think he chose the people because they know who we are and what we do – not just because they’re friends, like in the case of Justice or Tiga, but they can tell something about us and what we do, that we are like a sausage or something like that.”

“When they had seen it they were like “I want to go out now”
– Soulwax’s David Dewaele on their friends’ reaction to DVD Part of the Weekend Never Ends

This is the first of several mischievous throwaway comments from Stephen, who brings his cheeky humour to the fore on occasion. While being serious, however, the band agree on the merits of electronic music as it stands at the moment – something of a rise from the doldrums over the last few years. David nods. “Yes, and what I think with these films it’s something that’s visually exciting as well, because everything else in my life that I’ve seen is either really bland and cheesy, like muscles and cars or girls in bikinis, or it’s something very boring, just electronic. And I think a good thing the film does is show you visually the excitement of some of these gigs, the sort of excitement you associate with something else, like bands or hip hop, and when you see that kind of reaction and it’s for the kind of stuff that we do, I think that was quite important to have that in the film.”

This of course translates to light shows, have become a lot more important. David continues. “It does, and I remember things like Simple Minds and New Gold Dream. There’s such a boom of live music at the moment, and every band is reforming – but when it comes to electronic music, in essence it’s boring, you know, because there’s nothing to look at, and that’s why light shows are so important.” “And we know,” says Stephen, “that because we’re actually playing live we don’t have to be so reliant on that”

A major part of the DVD is a night filmed at Fabric, memories of which get Stephen in particular fired up. “We did a weekend at Fabric, and the club is special to us because when we had an idea of doing Nite Versions live in 2005, we weren’t really sure if it was going to work, and we did the very first time at Fabric, just twenty-five minutes, and from the minute we went on stage we saw how physically it was working, and how it was combining so many things we’d had in our lives already, like DJing and live music, and the aesthetic of it and the way it worked, we were like “Wow, it’s sort of strange that we never thought of this before!” Fabric was instrumental for that. There was a concept of Radio Soulwax getting bigger and bigger, and we kept getting offered bigger venues and instead of doing a bigger venue we had a whole weekend where we took over every room at Fabric, and that’s also coincidentally where we recorded the audio for the live show. It was a special show for us.”

He considers this further. “Oddly enough all of our friends who live in London don’t like it! But whenever we’ve done it it’s been really special, and we’ve been told that we attract more girls than normal acts who play at Fabric. I think maybe we’re lucky because we attract more girls.” Ha pauses, and his brother laughs at the hole he’s dug for himself, refusing to bail him out. “I don’t think we attract more girls than guys though!” David laughs again. “No, you do!”. He protests. “I’m just saying what people at Fabric said, I didn’t come up with it!”

“From the minute we went on stage we saw how physically it was working, and how it was combining so many things we’d had in our lives already”
– Soulwax on a light bulb moment experienced on their first live night at Fabric.

Reflecting on the finished product, are the pair happy the essence of the live show has been caught? “Yeah”, says David, “We’re really happy that we’ve done it, and I’m actually really happy that it shows a certain period in time, with all of us touring together and playing together as bands and working together, we’re really happy with that. Are we happy with the way that we look? No. Are we happy with the things that we say? No, but that’s inevitable – I don’t think you like to look at yourself unless you’re very, very vain, and really love it.” He looks sideways at Stephen and laughs.

Did they feel it was quite a daring thing to do, bareing their souls for camera? Stephen shrugs. “To be fair it’s not like you see us getting into fights, or anything like that, but on the other hand you wouldn’t have been able to film that, because we wouldn’t have allowed them to, but also it was never the incentive. I don’t think it’s that daring, the way we’ve done it is pretty safe.” David continues. “I think with blogs and the internet and MySpace and newspapers there’s so much information we don’t need to know about bands, and we didn’t want to make that mistake with the DVD, we didn’t want to be like “hey, Steph likes cappuccinos” and all that.”

A bit of mystery then? “Exactly, that’s why we wanted other people talking about us as well, like when they say that we attract more girls…” Stephen is affronted. “I didn’t say that, I didn’t say we attract more girls!”

Brotherly squabbling aside, what are their plans for the rest of the year? “We’ll keep promoting the DVD and playing live,” says David, “then we’re going to Australia and Japan. In between we’re going to work on Tiga‘s record, we’re producing that, and we’ve just done our MGMT mix (Kids) and the Chemical Brothers one (Hey Boy Hey Girl). We also produced the album from Belgian band Das Pop, and then after November we’re just going to record. We have no idea what we’re going to do. Maybe just a record of soft Italian stuff, we’ve never talked about what we’re going to do.”

How did they approach the MGMT mix? “From the left!” offers Stephen, eyes glinting. “We actually do, you know”, says David. “We liked the track as it was, but when we’ve played it out it needs to be a bit faster, so we sped it up a bit and made it a bit more DJ friendly. We love the song as it is though.”

Our 20 minutes are up – and that’s the boys done for the day, so they can consider night time options. It may be the middle of the week, but their energy suggests part of the weekend is still there with them.

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More on Soulwax
Soulwax – Essential
Soulwax @ Electrowerkz, London
Interview: Soulwax
Soulwax – Nite Versions
Soulwax + Brassy @ Charlotte, Leicester