Electronic body music pioneers bring their tour to Club Soda

Belgian electronic band Front 242 will play Montreal’s Club Soda next Saturday. Fans can expect a live show filled with audio and visual effects and with a set list composed of new versions of vintage songs.

In town to promote their album, Pulse, and live DVD, Catch the Men, Front 242 are excited to be back in a country more electronically oriented than its southern neighbour.

Keyboardist Patrick Codenys said that this is partly because “the USA has more of a strong rock background so people in every club expect a rock band while in some areas of Canada, like in Montreal or Toronto, there is room for electronic acts. People like going to clubs for DJs and then make the link in a concert with DJs, so that’s where bands like Front 242 come in.”

“I noticed in Canada that people are more curious and open to this type of music, although we have our crowds in the US,” he said. As such, he said the Canadian vibe seems less extreme in their musical tastes.

In contrast, Codenys says Belgium is “a country that has no background, with a young people who do not have a pride of having rock or even a strong history.” For example, in Brussels, most art isn’t translated, so movies, and theatrical pieces. are presented in their original versions. People feel more like a community in Europe, so they “assimilate other cultures in a quick way, while North American countries seem to be more closed to themselves,” he said.

As a result, “when it comes to music,” Codenys said, “You have to assimilate all that and make sure what you propose to the people is something that will be accepted by all cultures. You have to reach something universal. That’s a challenge and it’s also a great opportunity, a bonus in Europe.”

This mixing of cultures parallels Front 242’s live shows, where they attempt to stimulate several senses simultaneously. Along with a sampling musician at the mixing board, “we have a drummer and keyboard guy, and we have two entertainers ,like dancers and singers. It’s very important to have something dynamic and energetic on stage because a lot of people complain that electronic music is kind of boring,” he said. With Front 242, being physical is imperative for the crowd to reciprocally share in the emotion of music.

This is also the essence of Front 242’s genre, electronic body music, which the band invented, “because we had enough of people trying to categorize us in fields that were not ours,” said Codenys.

When Front 242 started making electronic music in the 1980s no musical reference existed, so “we tried to do a sort of music going to our own root,” he said. “The fact that synthesizers were new and cheaper at the time allowed us to try to create a brand new aesthetic, a new way of creating music.”

Electronic body music came to be “because we’re all guys, it’s not macho but very male, [and] it’s a tough way of doing music [that] sometimes [includes] attractive elements like melodies and song formats but also a lot of research.”

Since then, they have been trying to push “the boundaries of music in general, not sticking with the same recipe of guitar, bass guitar, drums,” Codenys said. “I don’t know if we succeeded but I do know we started from the early 1980s and it was very difficult at the time,” Codenys said.

Considering the popularity of electronic music today and its spawning of a culture all its own, it looks like Front 242 succeeded very well indeed – and they will no doubt demonstrate this success next weekend.

Front 242 play Club Soda on Saturday November 19th. Tickets are $27.50 and the show starts at 9:30 p.m.

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