Kürzlich war Balthazar Frontmann Maarten Devoldere mit seinem Soloprojekt Warhaus in der Brotfabrik in Frankfurt zu Gast. Die Gelegenheit haben wir genutzt und mit dem Sänger und Songwriter darüber gesprochen, warum es Warhaus überhaupt gibt, wie er mit drei Musikern auf der Bühne eine ganze Bigband simuliert und worum es beim Musikmachen eigentlich geht.
How are you doing? Just started the tour a few days ago, right? What’s it like?
Maarten Devoldere: No, actually it’s been a while. I think we already did like 10 shows or something. And it’s good. It’s very exciting, because it’s a new project. Feels like we’re in progress with the live band. Each day we try out new things and that makes it really interesting. I like that, it feels very creative.
On your record “We Fucked A Flame Into Being”, the sound of the band is very big and almost orchestral sometimes. So how come that the live band is just three or four people?
I think that are mostly practical reasons. If you tour with a small band, then you’re just more flexibel than if you have a big band. And of course it just costs too much. I can’t afford lots of musicians. Yes, indeed, the album sound is quite big. So I just like that we have to be very creative with how we can recreate this with just three musicians. We loop a lot of this, while playing and sample things to make it sound bigger.
Do you work with a backing track for this?
At my feet I have a few pedals and with them I can start samples. So for example, when there are strings, I can just start and stop them whenever I want. So it’s not really a backing track, but we trigger a lot of samples. We try to do as much as possible ourselves on stage. Sometimes there are loops that I really loop and it gets bigger and bigger. Like the trumpet sound: I have just a single trumpet, but on the record it’s like a big band, so we modify it with lots of effects. We just got to use a lot of technology to make it work. But it’s fun, because you come up with solutions that give you your own sound as a band.
Another example: I have a bass and a guitar in one, with one bass string and three guitar strings. Because there are only three of us, I thought, that I need to be able to play bass and guitar. And that really influences the way how we sound.
In a lot of interviews, you said that easy improvising is something you really wanted to achieve.
Yes, the thing is, this album has like a jazzy touch, but we can’t play jazz. I’m not a very good musician, anyway. But do you know the Connan Mockasin song “Faking Jazz Together”? We kind of like that vibe. Like: “Ok, we can’t play jazz, but we gonna fake it. We gonna make it sound like jazz.
And you achieve this by holding the songs very open structurally, so you can always decide which part to begin when?
Yes, that’s what I’m doing with the sample thing at my feet. I just give hints to the band, when we will play which part. So it never is exactly the same.
You also once said that you like the idea of adding some new verses to the songs while on the road. How does this work out?
That was actually more of a dream. So it’s still mainly the lyrics of the album. But I still think that it would be great if you could do that one time. I mean, Leonard Cohen, he wrote like 70 verses for “Halleluja” and then he chose like 6 for his version. And then John Gill wanted to cover it and he asked Cohen for the lyrics. And Cohen sent him like 40 verses or something. So Gill used other verses than Cohen. I just like the idea of having too much verses and play with that.
So you started working on “We Fucked A Flame Into Being” 6 years ago. Why have you only released it now?
Simply because there was not time before. I’ve been touring non-stop with Balthazar the last years. So I didn’t have the time to release it earlier. Or, I could have released an album, but I wouldn’t have been able to tour with it or promote it. So I waited until there was the time to do the whole tour. And this year we take a little break with Balthazar.
Jinte and Simon (from Balthazar) are also doing solo projects?
Yes, we’re all stepping out of the comfort zone. It’s cool. I really love the variation. I think if you’re in one project for too long you are going to start repeating yourself.
You told the story about reading the title “We Fucked A Flame Into Being” and thinking “Oh, someone should make an album for this” a lot of times. How much do you think did the title influenced the songwriting of Warhaus?
I think as a songwriter, I found that I wrote something between very romantic and kind of corny and brutal. So probably, when I read that line, I just thought: “Man, that’s romantic and brutal at the same time.” I think, I like this line, because it matched my music. But in the end it’s just a title. A suggestion of something.
But it’s fitting perfectly.
Well, you never know, because maybe, if I would have another title, people would still say: “Oh, that’s perfectly fitting.” You always start to link the title with the music, so after a while you can’t tare it apart anymore.
Usually, a solo project is way more personal than the record of a band. So how is dealing with critics different with Warhaus than with Balthazar?
It doesn’t affect me too much, actually. I made a record that I’m very proud of and I can completely understand that there are people that don’t like it. So I like it and I know why I like it. But that’s the same with Balthazar. We just make records that we like and that’s the biggest achievement. And we would never release something, if we wouldn’t like what we made. That’s always the first goal. People always ask: “What do you want to achieve in your carrier? Do you want to play in a big arena?” But I think, the first goal is to make albums that you’re proud of. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I guess it’s true.