16 december 2012

Carl de Keyzer's Life as a Fan

interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clark

 

Afgelopen woensdag won France Dubois de Samsung NX Masters of Photography-wedstrijd, zodat haar foto’s (zie boven) nog tot 26 december aan de muren van L’ancienne nonciature in Brussel hangen – naast die van de tweekoppige jury Carl de Keyzer en Jimmy Kets. De jonge fotografe kreeg van Samsung ook een hoop camera’s, maar daar hebt u natuurlijk niets aan. Al kun je er altijd nog zelf één proberen scoren door op jouw favoriet uit de selectie van De Keyzer en Kets te stemmen - en wel hier!


Dat alles deed er mij aan denken dat ik voor de zomer een interview met Carl de Keyzer heb gedaan voor A&Gazette #3 (naar aanleiding van de Storm Thorgerson-tentoonstelling). We spraken toen over zijn nieuwe tentoonstelling en gelijknamige boek Moments Before the Flood, over zijn favoriete fotografen, filmmakers, muzikanten, over zijn legendarische Gentse fotogalerij XYZ én over zijn plannen om – I kid you not – een ambientplaat te maken. Tast (hieronder) toe!

 

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CARL DE KEYZER: “One day I’ll make a record. Sorry about that.”

Last summer, Magnum photographer Carl de Keyzer presented his new series Moments Before the Flood in Ostend – an impressive foray into places that may one day disappear when sea levels start to rise. In other words: an excellent occasion to talk to the Belgian photographer about the groupie who lives inside of him.

 
Words: Ben Van Alboom
Portrait: Wouter Van Vaerenbergh

It was your typical Belgian Sunday morning in May when we met up with Carl de Keyzer in Ostend to talk about the artists he loves. Strong winds? Check. Rain? Of course. Frost? The jury is still out on that but quite likely. Luckily, walking into the enormous exhibition space that houses Moments Before the Flood while noticing a – all part of the show – massive boat wreck outside totally made up for the weather.

As a matter of fact: the exhibition is so imposing that it would be just rude not to at least ask where you got the idea for it?
Carl: “Some six years ago, the performing arts centre Concertgebouw in Bruges asked me to shoot some images for its upcoming season’s catalogue. They also set forward two restrictions: stick to the theme – ‘water’ – and don’t picture people. I ended up traveling up and down the Belgian coast right around the same time those reports started to surface about how sea levels would unavoidably rise and consume large parts of the world. Then it just hit me – standing on a beach in Blankenberge – how that would make for a great series. In the end, over the course of sixteen months, I photographed thousands of beaches, castles, fire towers and rocks all over Europe – imagining I would be the very last person to stand there and see them; right before the flood would erase them from memory.”

Which explains the menacing unruliness of the pictures. Is that a characteristic, which is also present in the work of your all-time favorite photographer?
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “Hardly. My all-time favorite photographer is Garry Winogrand. For me, as a young photographer, he was the first who was able to convey exactly what he was feeling in his work – and yes, I like photography that puts the photographer’s emotions and thoughts across. I want to see how a photographer feels about a certain person or situation. Does he like someone or really hate him? I want to get a sense of that through his work. Maybe that sounds easy but trust me: it isn’t. Especially not in the case of Winogrand, who had a knack for complex situations. He often created order from chaos without turning real-life situations into abstract case studies. With Winogrand, you always knew what a picture was about and how he felt about it. I definitely learned a lot from him.”

Any living photographer who inspires you?
Carl: “Quite a few actually. Take Alec Soth per example. There’s a certain minimalism to his work for which I truly admire him – the art of making the most powerful image with the least possible information. Compared to Alec, I’m much more like a painter: always adding drama to a situation.”

Is either Winogrand or Soth the author of your favorite photo book?
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “No. That would be William Klein, whose brilliant Moscow I don’t own myself – unfortunately (first edition prints of the book easily sell for over €1,000 on eBay; go fetch)! I’ve always been a huge admirer of the way Klein was able to immerse himself in the crowd and, amidst the chaos, take a picture at the exact right moment. He wasn’t like Henri Cartier-Bresson or other famous Magnum photographers who might have waited an hour to avoid the chaos so they could be certain to take the perfect picture. He just went for it – fully aware of the fact that it would be impossible for him to control every single aspect of the photo he was about to take. I have to admit though that I’ve lived in Russia for three years and I must have visited Moscow about twenty-five times in my life. So as far as the subject matter of the book is concerned, I’m a little biased.”

Let’s talk cinema!
Carl: “Yes, please! I’m a big movie buff. I used to live next to Studio Skoop in Ghent, and there were times in my life you could find me there every single night. Nowadays, I only visit cinemas when they’re playing something I have to see on the big screen. All other movies I can watch on Blu-ray in my home cinema theatre – up in the attic. Although I did check out Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows on the big screen recently. Can’t say I was very impressed: lame story, weak performances, just a terrible movie.”

Which director has yet to disappoint you?
Carl: “I used to be into Fellini, Visconti, Pasolini, … These days, I’d have to say David Lynch – probably not the most original answer but I just find his surreal realism truly fascinating.”

Talking about surrealism: any chance there’s a Storm Thorgerson album cover in your record collection?
Carl: “Of course! I’m a huge music lover and vinyl collector so obviously I own quite a few of his designs. I started working in my dad’s record story when I was eight and Beatlemania was in full swing. Then I switched to hard rock – listening to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple – before becoming addicted to Pink Floyd, Yes, Todd Rundgren and other prog rock artists. Later on, as an art student, I only listened to jazz – obviously. I had this thing for ECM (legendary German jazz label) and bought pretty much everything they put out. Only trouble was they had some six hundred releases per year. (laughs) I still have about a thousand ECM records so that actually turned out to be quite a good investment.”

What about classical music?
Carl: “That came up next – alongside opera. I even listened to nothing but classical music and opera for a couple of years, before being saved by my iPod’s shuffle. Today, I’m mostly into electronic music: Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, Apparat. I also have my own music studio – including some fifty synthesizers; almost as many as Soulwax. One of the things on my bucket list is to make an album before I’m 65. I’m pretty sure it’ll be really bad, although I like to think I’m getting better at it every day. Every time there’s a kid in my studio twisting knobs, I learn a few new things. So let’s just wait what happens: maybe it won’t be a complete disaster after all.”

Definitely not a complete disaster was the photo gallery you and Dirk Braeckman used to run in Ghent: the legendary XYZ.
interview, carl de keyzer, moments before the flood, jimmy kets, Samsung NX Masters of Photography, france dubois, lannoo, garry winogrand, alec soth, william klein, moscow, magnum, storm thorgerson, tim burton, soulwax, xyz, dirk braeckman, larry clarkCarl: “No, but to be brutally honest: it wasn’t a big hit either. Yes, we exhibited the work of Garry Winogrand, Ed Van der Elsken, Martin Parr, Larry Clark, but I think we sold about five pictures in seven years time – at dumping prices! You could get a Larry Clark print from us for one hundred euro and nobody wanted it! True, that was a lot of money in the eighties but you would be able to get $30,000 for it today. But it was just too soon. It was only around 1990 that art collectors started to show genuine interest in photography. We shut XYZ down in 1989. Fortunately, we never did it for the money. It was basically the only way to see the work of all these great photographers in Belgium. There were no photo museums; you had maybe one or two other photo galleries in the rest of the country. Bottom line: if we didn’t do it, nobody did.”

For the record: glad you did!

The book of Carl de Keyzer’s exhibition Moments Before the Flood is published by Lannoo. Buy it here.

22 juli 2012

GOOSE vs. Storm Thorgerson

goose,interview,storm thorgerson,synrise,fort napoleon,picture disc,soulwax,oostende ostend

 

With A&Gallery's Storm Thorgerson exhibition in Ostend still underway - it runs until September 1 - I thought I'd post the interview I did with GOOSE about working with Storm on the cover for Synrise. The interview originally appeared in the third A&Gazette - still available in select locations throughout the country or here.

 

“It’s GOOSE, not Ducks.”

Meet the only Belgian band that has a shot at ever getting mentioned in some cool coffee table book called The Greatest Album Covers of All Time in the Universe. You know, the type of book you buy when you've run out of ideas on what to get your colleague at work for his birthday (or you stumble into Colette and everything else is too expensive but you feel you just HAVE to buy something). Anyway, never mind Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Genesis and The Winkies, here’s GOOSE!

In case you’ve been living on a different planet or still consider electronic music to be the work of the devil: in 2010 Belgian band GOOSE hired Storm Thorgerson to design the cover of its sophomore album Synrise. That same year, the boys took home the MIA (Music Industry Award) for Best Artwork. Now, to coincide with Storm’s exhibition in Ostend, they just released a special picture disc featuring the award-winning artwork (and an unreleased remix from Soulwax).

Yet you guys weren’t even born when Storm was already having record executives for breakfast, lunch and dinner. How did you decide upon working with him?
Mickael Karkousse: “I should probably say something like ‘he’s been on our list for years’ but the truth is that we were in the studio mixing the album and I just happened to walk by when Dave (Martijn) was checking out Storm’s website on his laptop – basically killing time. I had no idea who he was but I was immediately blown away by his work. Having said that, if I’d walked by five minutes later we might have sent Anton Corbijn an email. It all happened very spontaneously – there was no Big Plan.”

So that’s how you got Storm’s attention: you sent him an email?
Mickael: “Yeah. It was on his website. (laughs) Of course you don’t really expect to get an answer from a guy like that so an hour later we had kind of already forgotten about it. Imagine our surprise when he replied that same day! The funny thing was that he in turn didn’t expect to receive an email from us – the band. It was only when we spoke on the phone for ten minutes that he realized I wasn’t GOOSE’s manager or label boss. All of a sudden he sounded a lot more friendly. (laughs) I guess he’s been through record company hell a few times too many in his life and finds it more pleasant to talk to bands directly. Or maybe musicians just get intimidated quicker and say ‘yes’ to pretty much every crazy idea that pops up in his head – contrary to managers who probably start panicking about the budget from the moment he utters one word.”

So did you say ‘yes’ to the first crazy idea that popped up in Storm’s mind?
Mickael: “Well, no. But we knew we had to give him creative control and to not worry about the budget or what he would eventually come up with. Working with someone like Storm, you just go with it. We also felt it was the right time to do something – well – sizeable. We were used to making music in our own little studio but for Synrise we got to work in a really expensive one and all the while it felt like we were living in the ‘90s – that magical time in record company history when the sky wasn’t even the limit. We wanted the album cover to reflect that.”

You were looking for large-scale theatricality?
Mickael: “Well, what I like about his work is that he takes you on a journey. With every album cover you get to experience something different, something mysterious. Storm always leaves you with more questions than answers and that’s really what I have come to expect from great artwork. Plus: that’s precisely how we looked at Synrise. We knew it wasn’t the easiest album to get into and we wanted the artwork to convey that sense of mystique.”

Did you meet up with Storm to discuss all this?
Mickael: “We sent him a rough mix of the album, after which he asked us to come to London and have dinner with him. It was the weirdest dinner ever. It was more like ‘an interrogation with food’. He wanted to know everything about us: where we grew up, how we met, what inspires us, who does what in the band. At one point he even asked us if we considered an album cover to be a forest or just a tree. To this day, I have no idea what he meant by that."

I would have said tree. I think. Anyway, when did the pyramid come into play?
Mickael: “He quickly sent a couple of ideas our way. Some he already had lying around, others came out of our meeting – like the one with the pyramid. We’d told him the songs on the album were the result of long jam sessions, which got him thinking of jazz musicians and being in the groove. So basically the ‘landing strip’ – Dave told Storm how much he loves landing strips – represents the groove of a vinyl record and the pyramid up in the sky is actually a record player needle. We loved the idea right away but surprisingly enough it wasn’t Storm’s favourite. He liked the one with a duck in it. He thought it was hilarious: GOOSE doing something with a duck. It actually took quite some convincing to talk him out of it.” (laughs)

There’s this rumour that Storm lets people pay what they want for a cover design. Is that true?
Mickael: “Really? I guess we weren’t that lucky. How it worked was: the restaurant where we had the meeting has a number of his album covers hanging on the wall. He tells you how much each of them cost to make and then you – in order to give him an indication of your budget – pick one that’s within your range. À la carte!”

goose, interview, storm thorgerson, synrise, fort napoleon, picture disc, soulwax, oostende ostendThe album Synrise was released in 2010, the title song struck gold in 2011, why wait until now to release a picture disc with Storm’s instant legendary artwork?
Mickael: “Because it never seemed like the right time to do it. With every new album, a million ideas are put on the table but you only have time to realize a couple. Making a picture disc was one of those things put on hold – just like painting Storm’s artwork on a piano. We’re still waiting for an occasion to do the thing with the piano but the Storm exhibition in Ostend gave us the perfect excuse to do the picture disc.”

Including the much sought after Soulwax remix of Synrise.
Mickael: “Finally! For years, we’ve talked to them about doing a remix for us but there was never any – probably their worst enemy – time. Then they finally came up with this brilliant remix for Synrise, but the EP had already hit shops so we didn’t know what to do with it – until now.”

In the meantime you guys are back on the road – getting everyone excited for the new album, which will be out after the summer. Do you already have a cover for it?
Mickael: “Working on it. We’ve asked Pierre Debusschere (one of Belgium’s most talented fashion photographers) to make a live clip for every track on the new album. Chances are the cover will – in some way – reference those performances and further underline in what way playing live has become part of GOOSE’s DNA. Also the new album sounds much more like a GOOSE gig – rougher and tougher!”

 

The GOOSE x Storm Thorgerson x Soulwax picture disc is available at the Storm Thorgerson exhibition at Fort Napoleon in Ostend.

 

14 juni 2012

Ten Best London Record Stores

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkelsWhile British director Stephen Frears managed to turn it into an enjoyable film with John Cusack and Jack Black, he made one debatable alteration: Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity (about a record store owner with a passion for making lists) didn’t take place in Chicago but in London. Incidentally, that’s exactly where I ended up recently – accompanying a small group of journalists who got to do an interview with Storm Thorgerson about his summer exhibition in Ostend (and finding just enough time to go record shopping, make a list of my own and try out pretty much every Hipstamatic lens & film).

 

 

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels1. ROUGH TRADE

Lens: Jimmy Film: DreamCanvas

Not the record company, although the shop and the label do share a bit of the same history. Rough Trade set up shop in 1976; quickly turning into a punk haven and a record label that put out albums by Cabaret Voltaire and Stiff Little Fingers. Shop and label split in 1982 – the latter going on to release classic albums from The Smiths and more recently Antony and the Johnsons; the former continuing to sell records. In 2007, when pretty much every big record store was calling it quits, Rough Trade opened a huge depot just off Brick Lane where it started selling new releases (and coffee) – but only the good stuff! Also pretty cool: every other album of the month comes with a Rough Trade exclusive bonus record and the list of in-store gigs is endless.

Rough Trade East, ‘Dray Walk’, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane
Rough Trade West, 130 Talbot Road


Song playing when I walked in: Chromatics – Into the Black
Best album cover according to staff: Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels2. HONEST JON’S


Lens: Watts Film: DC

This small Notting Hill store has been dealing in soul, jazz, reggae, blues, gospel and both African and Asian sounds since 1974 – attracting mainly black DJs and white hipsters. In 2002, one of those hipsters (who lived in the neighborhood and came in all the time to buy weird shit from strange countries) talked the owners of Honest Jon’s Records into starting a label of the same name. Ever since, the imprint has released pretty much everything from chopped-up electronic music to contemporary gypsy tunes – including new stuff from Vladislav Delay, Trembling Bells ft. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Pinch & Shackleton and numerous side projects from Damon Albarn, the white hipster in question.

Honest Jon’s Records, 278 Portobello Road

 

Song playing when I walked in: Bo Diddley - Gunslinger
Best album cover according to staff: Various – Open Strings: Early Virtuoso Recordings from The Middle East, and New Responses


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels3. PHONICA


Lens: Salvador84 Film: Ina's 1935

“My DJ boyfriend used to drag me to this store and I completely lost my nerves as they let you listen to all the tracks as long as you like. Oh my God, the long hours I waited!” Lesson No. 1: Don’t date DJs. They look cool but they’re actually quite nerdy and boring. Lesson No. 2: If you do decide to date DJs, ignore what that girl on Yelp said and have them take you to Phonica. While they get caught up in the top new electronic vinyl releases, you get to hang in a space age chair or check out a selection of cool new CD compilations for ‘normal’ people.

Phonica Records, 51 Poland Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: NKC - Fading Floor
Best album cover according to staff: Dobie - Nothing to Fear


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels4. INTOXICA!


Lens: Matty ALN Film: Blanko Freedom13

Precisely what an old and dusty record store should look like: old, dusty and a tad weird. Having said that, a place selling vintage exotica might as well have bamboo furniture and tribal masks hanging on the wall. Other stuff you’ll find in this vinyl kingdom: funk, soul, blues, jazz, reggae, Bollywood soundtracks, spoken word and an extremely rare 1967 pop-up book from Andy Warhol with exclusive photographs of The Velvet Underground for – bargain price, really – £600.

Intoxica, 231 Portobello Road

 

Song playing when I walked in: The Congos - God's Kingdom Dub
Best album cover according to staff: London Cowboys - On Stage


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels5. JB'S


Lens: Lucas AB2 Film: Dylan

Back in the day, this tiny shop just off Oxford Street used to be a famous soul asylum called Contempo Records. Today, the guy running the place mostly sells ‘60s & ‘70s rock, funk, progressive, punk, new wave, folk and Seria Jazz Nr. 1, a rare jazz recording from Jancsi Körossy selling for just £120. There’s also a section dedicated to ‘Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd’ – and absolutely no mention of ‘David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd’, which I thought was quite funny. Oh, and if you come back at night, you’ll find the coolest bar in town next door. Appropriately called The Bar, it’s where all the night owls and other funky animals flock together till early in the morning.

JB's Records, 36 Hanway Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come
Best album cover according to staff: U-Roy - Dread In a Babylon


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels6. FLASHBACK


Lens: Lucifer VI Film: Blanko

Truth be told: Flashback doesn’t seem to really specialize in anything – other than darn good music. However, they do have an impressive collection of vintage 7” singles and you’ll also find a large selection of second-hand vinyl at affordable prices. Top selling artists include The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Radiohead, The Smiths, Björk and Frank Zappa. Collectors can also browse through first edition rarities such as Shirley Collins’ album Sweet England, which is selling at £800. Mind you, that’s still a lot cheaper than last year’s priciest sale: the hyper obscure 12” Slay That Dragon from heavy metal band Holocaust. It was sold for £1,300.

Flashback Islington, 50 Essex Road
Flashback Crouch End, 144 Crouch Hill

 

Song playing when I walked in: The Pelicans - Ain't Gonna Do It
Best album cover according to staff: Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels7. SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE


Lens: John S Film: Blanko

If it’s got soul and it’s any good, expect to find it here: reggae, dub, disco, funk, jazz, hip-hop and UK bass, this place is a true gem for contemporary music lovers who use to pay attention during history class. Sounds of the Universe also sells a nice selection of music books and magazines in the basement, and make sure you check out new releases on the shop’s own label Soul Jazz Records, which seems to be on an endless quest for rare ska, roots, jazz, bossa nova and Afro sounds.

Sounds of the Universe, 7 Broadwick Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: Dream 2 Silence - Liquid
Best album cover according to staff: Hieroglyphic Being - Shikaakwa


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels8. BM SOHO


Lens: Adler 9009 Film: Blanko

Formerly called Black Market, this small two-floor vinyl store has been supplying DJs with the latest house, techno, minimal, UK funky, electro, drum & bass, dubstep, disco and re-edits since forever (i.e. 1990, which is the same as ‘forever’ in terms of club culture). It still carries an extraordinary amount of new releases and the ‘black’ vinyl wall is simply arresting.

BM Soho, 25 D'Arblay Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: Glenn Underground - The Wilderness
Best album cover according to staff: Karizma - Collection 1999 - 2011


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels9. SISTER RAY


Lens: Americana Film: Blanko

If you so desperately need to plunder musical history to come up with a name for your store, you might as well steal from the best: Sister Ray takes its name from the seventeen minute The Velvet Underground track. Unsurprisingly, several albums from the legendary New York band can be found in the store but also expect staff to get excited about “a huge jazz vinyl collection in near mint condition that just came in”, about the fact that “that 1967 original Blossom Toes album over there is worth £400” or about the latest electronic music that’s been playing – “it’s one of those days” – all afternoon.

Sister Ray, 34-35 Berwick Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: Doldrums - Egypt
Best album cover according to staff: The Clash - The Clash


london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels10. RECKLESS


Lens: Tejas Film: DreamCanvas

If you take a good look at the cover of the Oasis album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? you can actually see this place in it (back when it was called differently but already a record store). Granted, Sister Ray is actually more visible in the picture but contrary to Reckless Records (that has the album cover up in its window), they don’t seem to make a big deal out of it. Anyway, lots of second-hand vinyl here (including a £700 first pressing of Nick Drake’s album Five Leaves Left) and a passionate store owner who claims he sells about six to seven The Velvet Underground re-issues a day and advises you to hold on to your CD collection: “One day, those ancient discs will be as hot as vinyl is right now.’

Reckless Records, 30 Berwick Street

 

Song playing when I walked in: Ornette Coleman - Ramblin'
Best album cover according to staff: The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico


Feel like record shopping in London? Go to eurostar.com to book yourself a seat on one of up to ten trains a day traveling from Brussels to London. Return tickets start at €88 and don’t forget to also purchase a Visitor Oyster Card online (or on the train). It’s a real money/time saver.

12 juni 2012

A&Gazette #3

Ja, het is waar: ik heb de afgelopen twee weken belachelijk weinig gepost. To my defense: ik had een (goed) excuus! Morgen rolt de derde A&Gazette van de persen, en ze is niet alleen dikker dan de vorige twee (36 pagina's in plaats van 24), ze is ook - wetenschappelijk bewezen - 34,17% interessanter. Naast uiteraard een interview met Storm Thorgerson, staat er dit keer zowaar zelfs politiek en buitenlands nieuws in!

a&gazette,storm thorgerson