Hello, welcome back to Ieperfest. You've played here with Culture before.
Today it's with your solo project Damien Done and the first day of your first European tour, are you excited to perform here?
Very much, i'm excited. This whole thing is a very different experience from Culture. We don't have a following. It's not the kind of band where people will be rushing to the stage to sing along and pile up on each other. It's interesting. Because i've never done like this before.
It's a different sound compared to the 'regular' Ieperfest lineup.
It's definitely a change for the festival, having something this mellow. Although live i think we are a
little heavier and louder than most people realise. The live version of Damien Done that is. It's definitely a change for us. The shows we have played have not been with metal or hardcore bands.
Last week your latest album, Charm Offensive, received an European release on Hypertension Records. The album has been released in US since a few months. How has the response been to the album up untill now?
In the States it's been pretty good and actually in Europe there has been some good reviews about, some good press around it. It's hard to really know. These days when all your doing is digital and vinyl you don't know how digital sales have been untill months and months down the road. And vinyl, the only people that will by them are vinyl collectors. You only press 300 or 500 of something sometimes and even if you sell them all it doesn't tell you about how many people like your stuff. So who knows, the real test will be the shows. To see if any one comes out, if they do, if they know the music.
For the European version you've made a deluxe version of the vinyl. Screenprinted by l'7e Oeuil, what led you to pick L'7e Oeuil for this collaboration?
That was entirely Hypertension Records their ideas. They worked with him on some Amenra artwork. They proposed the idea and i looked at his stuff and thought it was a great fit. Didn't give any direction, i wanted it to be whatever he wanted to.
There's also a bonus track when you buy the special vinyl edition. A cover of Killing Joke's Primitive, why that particular song?
Before the LP came out in the States we did a 7” with Curious Thing, which was one of the singles of the album. The B-side was this cover song, i love Killing Joke. And i really like that song. I've already did some demo versions on my own and i thought it had some potential. Re-recorded it, put it on the B-side and then Hypertension wanted to have something else to offer for the digital. It was supposes to be exclusive for the Mind Over Matter 7” in the States. But Austin that runs the label is a really cool guy and he appreciated what Hypertension wanted to do.
In previous projects you've always performed vocal duties, but with Damien Done you've done it all DIY style. From writing the lyrics to performing all instruments on the album. And now for the live performances you've assembled a full band of friends to accompany you. How different is it to play your songs with other band members?
It's a relief. The alternative is playing by myself to backing tracks. Me and laptop on a stage. You know, that might happen from time to time. But for the most part this band is the line-up. It feels good, we have some good chemistry. They've really been awesome about helping out and being down for anything at anytime. This is the band, this is the ideal situation. On the recording i didn't record everything but i did write everything. Programmed the drums, the piano. I did guitars and vocals. Programmed the bass lines but then the guy who produced it redid the bass lines and added extra guitars. It's very different writing the music rather than just the lyrics and vocals. It became much more of a live band. The recording is either very minimal and stripped down in which case the live version much fuller and heavier. Or the recordings are like really full and glossy and slick. In which case we just make them loud, live rocksongs. It's a good balance, it really works.
Charme Offensive features some amazing artwork, the guy with a balaclava riding on the public transport holding a bouquet of roses in his hands clearly has a message. What was the underlying thought to this?
A lot of the songs on the album have to do with secrecy. There are a lot of stories about people keeping sides from themselves hidden from the people that they love or work with. Sometimes they are up to no good, because they are just pieces of shit. Other times the are good people who find themselves in situations where they don't know where to navigate. There's a theme of elements of oneselves being hidden. The guy having the mask, even the other releases, the face is always obscure. I think that is just a common theme that sort of runs through the music. The songs are either about the sides of people we're not seeing or the side of people we're seeing they rather have us not seeing.
I've read that one of your earlier songs was even used in a Belgian porn movie. How did this come by?
A bunch of them. Most of the songs on the Stay Black record. Muriel is a friend of mine, she runs La Fille D'O. She was doing this kind of really interesting, i don't know if she'd approve of the term, alt porn kind of thing. She wanted to use my music in it. It went surprisingly well, the whole soundtrack was really good. There were a lot of other artists too.
End of 2017 a video for the song New Cleavage appeared on Youtube, Edward from Goodlife was involved and Dwid Hellion of Integrity directed the video. Looked like a fun shoot in Kortrijk drinking Duvel while girls are dancing around?
Edward coördinated it, the record was originally supposed to be on Goodlife. Back in 2003 or whenever it was. He had me come over to do the video. Dwid had just moved to Ghent. It was a great day of shooting. Nothing to complain about. Everybody on the La Fille D'O team is incredible too.
You've released your previous albums, EP over the last years but most of these songs have been in the making since 2004 as you've shelved the record for a long time. What led to the prolonged release?
There were a few problems. When it was about to come out Edward decided he wanted it to be a full length. So he wanted me to add songs. But there was no recording budget to add songs. That kind of killed the enthouisasm. I started recording, that was good because it drove to start figuring out how to record at home. But that early stuff was not ready to be on the same record as the songs i had recorded in the studio. I couldn't see them all on the same release. It kind of just killed moral. Then i would be ready, he wouldn't be.When he was, then i wasn't. Finally at a certaint point when we were both ready it didn't make sense on Goodlife. The label had changed, it had been too long since my other bands had done things. So Demons Run Amok stepped in in 2016 and put out the Stay Black record and the 7” to go with it.
Next to your music career you also work as an industrial designer and you have your own t-shirt line named Wear Dinner, where you design humorous mock up shirts. Looks like you're a very busy man, how do you combine all this?
Not very well sometimes. On top of that being a husband and a father. I've always needed a lot of projects. When i wasn't in two or three bands, this is what happens when i'm not in two or three bands at the same time. I'm in one but i'm also going to do T-shirts and so on.
Any last words or thanks you want to share with our readers?
Really looking forward to today and looking forward to the next shows. We have no idea what to expect. It's kind of exciting to be starting over as like a small band. I'm really happy that some people have been supportive already. Buying the record, amazing we even sold some T-shirts today. We never took it for granted with the other bands. We always appreciated people being fans but we knew they were fans. We knew what we were going into. This is just an adventure.