B1980, stage name of Bert Libeert, should be already a bit familiar for our readers as he participated in our mix series a couple of weeks ago. He is a Belgian producer, member of electro rock band Goose, who has released four highly recommended EPs of EBM-influenced Techno. But B1980 is not just a studio project, as he is becoming famous thanks to his live sets, something that we would hope to see soon. Remember: B, like in EBM.
—Before you were called just B. When did you change your moniker? Was it to be more visible in the internet?
—I changed it into “B1980” with the Zone release early 2020. Visually I still prefer just the letter B. The main reason was for people to find my music on the internet. Instead of changing the name, I added my year of birth which is also a period that influenced my music today.
—You also play in Goose, a band that was first called Loamy Soil and made covers of AC/DC. Was it a good as experience as a drummer? When did the band changed their style?
—Having a rock background still influences in the way I make music. I love music with attitude and rawness. I also love electronic music that is organic, which has a human feel to it. I don’t like the clean sound of many computer-based productions. With Goose we never actually decided to change of style, it just evolved in a natural way trying to reinvent ourselves time and time again.
—How has playing with Goose influenced your actual career? The band released a new EP a few months ago, right?
—Goose is the band I play in since I was young. We are four friends who constantly challenge each other. We like lots of similar artists, but we are also very different in many ways. These differences between us makes making music with Goose a unique process. This process always teaches me to push boundaries, to look for something new.
—Ambush (2016) was your first work, a bit more electro than what you are doing at the moment. Instead with Black Atlas (2018), you found your own style. What made you move in that direction?
—I always felt I wanted to go darker and more atmospheric at the same time. I was discovering more and more artists that I really like to be inspired by. It’s natural for an artist to evolve, the same way a person evolves. You learn new stuff and with each experience you get to know yourself better. This way it becomes clearer how to express yourself (in daily life or in making music). This way, the more I make music, the more I collaborate, the more I evolve in the direction of a sound that I can call my own.
—About your music, journalists have written: “The meditative vibes and the dark baselines with low-pitched drums define what he stands for. His music contains raw and spontaneous EBM-techno from another dimension.” But how would define your style?
—The reason I make the music I do as B is to transform dark energy into positive energy. I think everybody has dark places inside themselves. Sometimes it’s hard to go there or to confront yourself with those feelings/thoughts. For me is making dark music a way of releasing this negative energy. I transform it into something positive by making it groovy and danceable. I hope other people can relate to this and my music.
—Which techno artists have influenced you?
—I am very inspired by the Belgian history of electronics. Bands like Front 242 and Telex will keep inspiring me. As a kid I loved Confetti’s, a very commercial New Beat band, their first track ’The Sound Of C” released in 1988 still moves me. Later artists like Terence Fixmer and The Hacker showed me a different approach of this music, clubbier and techno minded. But overall I’m inspired by any kind of good electronic music.
—You made a list of tracks that have been a huge inspiration to you and put The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” as number one. We are great fans of Daniel Miller’s work. What inspired you in this record?
—I like every aspect of this track. The groove is slow and fast at the same time. The way he sings is great. It also doesn’t contain that many elements, but every sound is super important. It grooves like hell and at the same time you can hear it’s a bit sloppy and played by a human. There is not much sequencing going on, and I think all electronic artists can learn from that. When you play a synth line or a drum groove by hand, it’s immediately unique and viby. I already tried to rework this track several times, but never could beat the original… Making a remix from a track that is already perfect is the hardest thing.
—And when did you get interested in EBM?
—Somehow I always knew it existed, but it was later when I first heard the album Muscle Machine by Terence Fixmer I realised there was more about the genre than the old school 80’s vibe. After that I wanted to know more about it and discovered a whole new world of old school artists and new artists influenced by the genre.
—How is the EBM revival scene in Belgium, the place where the most important bands of the scene were born? In Spain there are a lot of labels that release new and very interesting material.
—To be honest when it comes to EBM and EBM-influenced techno that I like there are not that many artists that I know of in Belgium at the moment. I made a remix for an EBM-influenced artist called Radical G which will be released soon (vocals by The Horrorist). He has been around for a while and is still going. But the EBM/techno scene the way I like it needs some work in Belgium! I keep looking at Holland, France and Berlin/Germany to see what’s going on.
—In State of Nature (2020), there is also some influences of acid. When you compose your tracks, do you let yourself go or do you have a special style in mind that you want to use?
—Each new EP or track is a result of what I feel like doing at the moment that I am making it. I never have a plan or an idea of what it should sound like. I make a couple small setups in the studio with gear that inspires me at that moment and see what comes out. I also try instruments that are not used a lot in electronic music and see if I can combine them with the electronic side of the music. For lots of atmospheric drone sounds I use guitars with an Ebow, humming vocals or real string instruments. This way I try to come up with unique sounds that are impossible to get out of a machine.
—Your last work is Warrior Two, how would you explain your evolution till this work?
—The time I was making tracks for this EP I had the intention of making something raw with attitude. The Russian Polivoks synth was a big inspiration for this EP. It has a dirty sound and our copy in particular is in bad shape, which makes it very unpredictable in a good way! Every time I put the machine through the speakers, I’m not sure what will come out. I love working with unpredictable factors. I recently bought the POLIVOKS PRO. This is a really good replica of the original. It’s smaller and more stable, so I can take it on the road for my live sets.
—You collaborated in a song for Robin Pront’s short film Lockdown. Did you make it just for the movie?
—Yes, a good friend of mine works in the soundtrack industry (Sonhouse) and gave me this opportunity. It was an honor to work with Robin Pront for a short film with Matthias Schoenaerts and Veerle Baetens. Projects like this are very interesting because it forces you out of your comfort zone.
—In the past you also mixed Whispering Sons’ first album. How was working with them? I guess they must be quite big in Belgium right now?
—A couple of years before their first album I made a remix for one of their first releases called “Performance.” They loved it and contacted me to mix their first full album. For me that was an honor as they are one of my favourite Belgian bands. They are the nicest people and really know what they want. Please check them out!
—You have remixed one song by Amenra singer’s project CHVE and another by Syndrome, another side project of a member of the famous sludge metal band. Two artists quite far from your style. What did you try to achieve with your remixes?
—At first sight it’s a different style, and sound wise it is. But somehow, we have more similarities than differences. Our music often comes from the same place, a darker place inside yourself. The power of the Amenra sound translates into the power of EBM techno: their low-pitched guitars at a slow tempo versus the dark electronic bass lines and the low-pitched drums. The meditative and transcendental vibes they have with their solo project (CHVE and SYNDROME) are very emotional and soft. I also always try to combine the roughness with a softness to create a tension. Of course each track is different, but the DNA stays the same.
—Is Safari Records your own label or the label of Goose?
—With Goose we started our own label Safari records. This way we have the freedom to release whatever we want whenever we want, sometimes in collaboration with another record label.
—You are also the host of B-Night, “A series of parties held at unusual spots.” I guess this activity has been sadly stopped lately but what can you please tell us of these parties?
—I love breaking boundaries when it comes to throwing a party. I love collaborating with friends to make something unique happen. We have done pool parties, galleries and other unusual spots. My favourite one was when I played live in front of my favourite fairground attraction.
—What’s your live gear?
—My center piece and master clock is the MPC1000, it functions as a drum machine and also sends midi and midiclock to my other machines which at the moment are: TR-909, MFB 522, Polivoks Pro (analogue monosynth), Korg MS-10, MFB Dominion Club. A spring reverb and an analogue delay are the effect sends I use on my small analogue mixer. Every now and then I change gear to keep it exciting for myself. In the studio, I really love the ARP Odyssey, Polivoks and the MS-20 for bass lines. For drums I often use the Linn, TR-606 and the Boss DR606 (my first drum machine). I also make lots of drum samples with a real drum kit.
—How are your live sets? how would you convince someone to come and see you live?
—A live setup sounds very different from a dj set. It’s more organic, pure, raw and energetic. The sounds go straight from the machines into the speakers without any digital conversion. In a live environment, I make my tracks more danceable depending on the vibe in the room. I prepare some sequences and drum patterns from existing tracks, but a lot is improvised and jammed which makes it very exciting for me and the room.
—What plans do you have for the future?
—I am finishing some new EPs and working on an album. Besides that I am also planning some collaborations with artists, I look up to. Lots more where that came from J.