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Interview: Parade Ground

by François Zappa

According to numerology two means duality, partnership y harmony. So, Parade Ground is a perfect example of this: the duality of voice and synths, the partnership between brothers, the harmony found in the middle of chaos and peace. Formed in 1981 the duo has created some of EBM and cold wave definite works and they keep publising good records as Sanctuary from 2016. Jean-Marc and Pierre, brothers and Belgians, answer our questions in a unique way, chaotic and poetic at the same time, like the music of their band. They are headlining the Ombra Festival that is taking place in Barcelona this weekend!!!

—You played as MHZ before Parade Ground, any recording of this? How was the music of your first band? 

—JM: It has been bootlegged many times. Recordings of 8,9 songs. I used to compose on my guitar with a bass guitarist. Pierre was the drummer at the time. It was new wave, I suppose.

—P: We played in numerous bands before creating P.G. We only got demos of that time. We were like we are now, we’ve always been angry revolted young men. With two aspects of the music, guitars and synths. Lips have cut their veins open.

—Which were your influences when you started Parade Ground?

—JM: Obviously, the influence of the English scene provoked a real revolution and was very inspiring in Europe for all creation: musically, art, painting, dance, photos, styling, architecture, theater, writing, etc. Late 70s there was an atmosphere of revolution, of intellectual riot… We saw bands like Wire, Fad Gadget, Siouxie, PIL, there… Everything was abounding and disinhibiting, the sensation of biting oneself…

—P: I have always been more interested in the sounds, the cries and the noises rather by a finished and done shape.

—Is it difficult to be in a band with your own brother?

—JM: On the contrary, it’s much easier! He’s like another myself.

—P: No, as he is my best friend too! We have the same musical and creative roots. We played together before being able to speak. We love melodies and emotions, we love the freedom of creation of a voice. Jean-Marc is the last crooner. We were not transparent through pain.

—How have dadaism and art influenced your music? 

—JM: There was a long period during which we used to watch old films from before the Second World War, although they’re almost forgotten today. I actually write songs as movies’ script, step by step.

—P: Any form of art does influence us , all the revolutionary movements like futurism, dada, surrealism, creators like Duchamp, Man Ray, Dalí, Broodthaers, Josef Beuys, writers like: Céline, Antonin Artaud, Tzara, Breton, Burroughs, French cinema: Carné, René Clair, Duvivier. We always tried to transpose their creativity, their energy and emotions into our music.

—How did you meet Patrick Codenys and Daniel B. from Front 242? You have been collaborating a lot together, right? They produced some of your records and you wrote vocals for two Front 242 records.

—JM: We have met Patrick after one of our concerts in a small club in Brussels. He was looking for young talent for the New Dance label (Front 242’s label at the time). We quickly became friends. We spent all of our time making songs together. Those were incredibly creative and feverish sessions. Patrick has rapidly introduced us to Daniel with whom we became very close friends.

—P: We met Daniel at the music shop where he used to work at the time… We used to spend long hours practicing and discovering all the new gears from the shop. We took all the risks. Our life was without consent.

—JM: They asked us to work on their records Up evil and Off, it’s rare to participate so closely in the creation of another band. We found the vocals melodies and lyrics. It has been a hard work of six months. It’s always difficult to fiddle in somebody else’s belly.

—With your EP Man in a trance, your music starts moving towards EBM. Was it the right style for your ideas?

—P: We don’t like etiquette, we do Parade Ground music, a sort of self-vivisection, permanent self-dissection. I don’t think anyone can quote any other band that play in the same style as we do.

—JM: That was mainly due to Daniel B.’s influence as a producer. To us, only the melodies really mattered at the time but I think it was a brilliant idea from Daniel to initiate us to EBM. That was a time when we used to program our synthesizers live between each song during the concerts. That’s what you call pioneering!

—In 1987 you collaborated with Colin Newman, although he looked like the less interested in electronic music inside Wire, how did it happen?

—JM: A true friend and a true artist , too. He started to be interested in electro during the recording sessions and created some projects like Immersion at the time. We got along very quickly and even became great friends. Colin liked our music and got very involved in the making of the records, playing guitars and singing on all the numbers.

—P: It was fun to meet him knowing that our first concert abroad was Wire in London. We must have been 15, 16 years old. Through him, we have met many musicians and bands of the late 70ies and 80ies.

—In 1988 you released your first album, Cut up, less EBM tan the previous singles, and more cold wave. Do you think that the change of producer had any relation with this change or you wanted to do something different?

—JM: Cut up is a collection of songs with Pierre playing bass guitar. It is purely melodic. We didn’t care that much about the style of music then. It is pure Parade Ground, produced by Pierre and me.

—P: We always had two aspects in our music. Cut up was mostly produced by ourselves and “Strange World” was part of it. The melodies are more important than the style or the instruments we used to create. Jean-Marc voice is Ariane’s wire, for all of our creation and 80% of Parade Ground.

—What did you do during the 15 years you did not play music? I read that Jean Marc has been writing stories for kids and Pierre has devoted himself to plastic art.

—JM: I took to writing as one takes to drinking. I only drank words, ate words and lived for words, every day. For Pierre, it was the same. He developed a disease called modern art and got very sick of it. He met Philippe Soupault in Paris and Marcel Mariën in Brussels and created a lot of unique pieces that you cannot qualify… Like short stories.

—P: We have lived together in a religious order as monks for two years, we were creating in a small place of the church near the bells… So were our psychiatric experiments, those were intense years, a gift as the defenestration of the soul, a blade that penetrates the brain, like this time where an old lady, an inmate, gave me the breast the whole night through.

—In 2007 your released The 15th floor, an album unreleased in 1989. Why wasn’t it released at the time? This work was released for the first time in CD this year by VUZ Records.

—JM: Because we had quarreled with our label who wanted us to sign a contract full of subtle traps. We were really happy when our friend Dirk Ivens (Klinik, Dive, Absolute Body Control) proposed we release those songs.

—P: Because we were on trial with our label from that time. They are crooks. They had problems with almost every band from the label. With all the clichés of the kind: a little chair to be in an asking position under their desk, underrating the sales, and so.

—A similar story with A room with a View from 2012, it was released as a tape with 8 songs with material recorded in 1998. Why was it released only on cassette? Do you have more “lost albums?”

—P: A Room with a View is a bit different: it was unreleased tracks. And it was released on CD in 2015 , finally. We always worked a lot. A lot of lost albums yes but also new tracks, we have 20 tracks all set and ready to be released, some of them are included in our actual set. It will all be released as a live album in the month to come.

—JM: A Russian label, “Other Voices Records” and VUZ Records from Germany came knocking at our door, we still had many songs in store.

—Do you have any favorite cold wave or EBM band?

—P: Yes, Parade Ground, it’s an amazing band that we particularly like.


—Pierre, what happens with your project, MARIA?

—P: MARIA is an open sore… It’s an almost secret and live-only project. It’s based on samples and dub like rap bands do. It’s disco decay style. My only aim: ’KILL ME! ’

—Your music is sometimes played in clubs (it was more played in the 80s). Do you think is easy to dance to angry music?

—JM: A musician from New York, Sean (Martial Canterel) told me, “the first song I ever danced to was “Strange World” in Brooklyn.” Now there’s a motion picture called “State Like Sleep” in which one can hear “Strange World.” I suppose our music can be used for various purposes and, really, that’s all right, angry or not. But it is angry music, that’s true.

—P: We don’t like easy things. Easiness is prostituting oneself. We knew perfectly that we never be recognized. We will never achieve that. Have we created anything already? Were we born? The past is what remains in a mirror. Through this we don’t belong to music anymore.

—Your “reunion album,” from 2007 is called Rosary, does religion play a part in your music?

—JM: I’m a Roman Catholic. Don’t tell anybody!

—P: Rosary is a barking bone. To me, Rosary is perfect. It’s perfection. It is a receptacle of thirty years of tension and emotion. We forgot to be reborn. Our life is without confession. We never talk about religion, you maybe feel the spirituality in our music , maybe not.

—Rosary is also a more experimental (in the good sense) album, was this intended?

—P: We wanted to come back with a completely unexpected album, completely different from our “hits” from the 80ies… People have been intrigued, shocked, of course… They recognized the rage, the singularity, the intensity, the provocation… One must never understand or be understood… Being understood is prostituting oneself.

—JM: Rosary is our best record ever. It is true like the palm of a hand. True as a baby’s first raindrop. We love it.

—If there is a God, do you think he likes EBM?

—JM: I reckon he must be more into sacred music. Maybe he loves Parade Ground , who knows.

—P: This is the difference between what’s spiritual and music… that is rigid on a record… To us, it is a corpse. The numbers, once they are recorded are dead to us… Just like paintings , all this old rubbish to throw into the fire straight away… Records in their little box , their coffin… All of it doesn’t interest us at all…

—Your last record called Sanctuary was released in 2016. In which way is a continuation of Rosary? Is the name of the album another reference to religion?

—JM: Of course. But it’s also an allusion to all those songs that remained in a drawer for long before they were released.

—P: Yes, Sanctuary is the continuity of Rosary, we had almost 35 tracks to release; Sanctuary is the sun of Rosary it shades a new light on it.

—How is your current gig going?

—JM: Our current gig is boosted by the feeling we have that we will never be recognized. We really try and give everything for every gig as if we were to die every second of it!

—P: The most important thing to us is being on stage. That’s where it all happens. You must lay your skin on the table, you’ve got to pay for it. The danger grows with the use, cruelty never ends. We are vomit… We still have so much to empty , to bite , a dissymmetry of the thought. The aesthetic of nausea.

—What made you create a band like Parade Ground and not like BROS? —JM: We’re sincere in everything we do. Bros probably were quite a smelly question of money, a big marketing plan and being lowly ambitious. ”When will I… Will… Have my picture in the papers? When will I be famous. The funniest thing about it is that they, somehow, remained famous for one song. They probably were sincere about becoming famous.

—P: We never accepted to be used as a product. To be a puppet in the hand of producers. I guess it’s a matter of integrity. We are creative people and not just mask and appearance. We’re still there alive and kicking without the help of anyone. We have an incredible hunger for creating, expressing things with an absolute revolt, an interior savagery.

—If you had to give a young person some reasons for listening to Parade Ground, which ones would you give?

—JM: Listen to something real that can put you off balance in all you believed in so far, the musicians have suffered, their sufferings are their music.

—P: One doesn’t ask a corpse what it is doing in its coffin. We always do things as if it were for the last time , to the extremity. Everything is might and terror. There is always a venomous necessity in every artistic act. One must always instill venom, the sourness in all you do. Space changes form, it’s the choreography of chaos. “The young persons” are all artists now, they all are making music. They don’t need us to be the stars of themselves.

—How have you lived these Covid times?

Times are always hard for us with psychiatry and anguish. What covid times? Never heard of that… Decidedly, you don’t ask a horse what it is doing in a snow ball.

Las year it was the 40th anniversary of the creation of the band. Due to the pandemic, the tour has been postponed to 2021. What more can we expect to celebrate such a important date?

Always a lot of things to achieve… The re-issue of our first album Cut Up… On vinyl this time. But the most important is the book, an autobiography with full of anecdotes, secrets, meetings, all of our dear souvenirs… Our angels… Our corpses … With : cd’s , unreleased tracks, rehearsals, pictures, posters, and liner-notes from bands, promoters, journalists, fans, added. Years are coming to life down.

What can we expect of your concert at Ombra Fest?

—Each one of our concerts has been lived out as if it were the last one. And it will maybe be the case (who knows?) . With this morbid rage, the impression of vomiting on the audience, to cauterize it. The stage is the art of disappearing. Tear off one’s body, raw and naked: we want a total exuvia, untie the mental monkey. One must put one’s skin on the table. One must pay. We’re going to dance with Ombra. We’re going to dance with our corpses. Ombra will dance with Ombra.

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