As if you weren't already about to be spoiled by a fat bundle of Rage, Yeasayer and Aphex at this year's T, Belgium's finest indie rock innovators are due to swan in to show off their new LP on the Saturday. Tom Barman tells Dave Kerr why it's so damn funky
Given this last minute opportunity to interview Tom Barman at the fag end of an 11 day long European interview schedule, it’s probably not too pessimistic to imagine some jaded, jet lagged, burnt out shadow of the Belgian troubadour on the other end of the phone; no doubt dying to retreat home to the sanctuary of his chocolate-laden motherland than be drawn into another agonising stare at his navel. Of course, that's the worst case scenario, but it’s a surprise to find Barman in an affable form that never once wanes in the next half-hour as he sets dEUS’s sights on absolute EU ubiquity until autumn’s end. “We’re gonna be everywhere man, from Dublin to Moscow,” he booms, barely a baw hair deep into his impending carbon footprint.
Antwerp’s favourite sons have just followed up 2005’s brooding slow-burner Pocket Revolution with the jagged edge of Vantage Point, an album which both lyrically and musically feels like the disaffected summation of many years worth of blood, sweat and tears. “With Belgium being this small country that nobody knows a lot about, there were moments when I thought that was a disadvantage and I felt the pressure to work twice as hard, “ confesses Barman. “But in the last five or six years I’ve really seen the advantages of being squeezed in between those ‘big ego’ countries like England, France, Germany and Holland. There’s a good outlook there, we’re people who like to adapt and absorb easily and I think that’s been the key throughout dEUS’s career.”
Video: dEUS - 7 Days, 7 Weeks
I ask Barman what he’d absorbed before the band holed themselves up in the studio on this particular occasion and he fires back with a mantra to rule them all. “I remember Prince being an influence for this album,” he says. “Parade was kind of a blueprint in the way that it’s such a short and compact album where every song counts, and it’s very wide-ranging: from ballads to rockers to pop songs. I don’t mean this pretentiously - we don’t wanna compare ourselves with Prince, because the man is a genius – but I’ve always said ‘Guys, let’s make our Parade.’”
Vantage Point sees the dark electro of Barman’s work with techno maestro CJ Bolland finally spilling over into dEUS’s funkified stew while Depeche Mode collaborator Dave McKracken helms production. The urgency of the sessions still reverberates in Barman now as he recalls the intense conditions that ushered in key collaborations with Elbow’s Guy Garvey and The Knife’s Karin Adersson.
“I wasn’t happy with my vocal... it didn’t carry and it needed some more drama. Basically, Guy said ‘Yeah Tom, I can do it on Monday.’ I said ‘Guy, man, we’re finishing the record on Friday, we need it sooner.’ I didn’t hear from him and I though ‘Fuck it, it’s not happening’ and then he called me on the Thursday night and said ‘I’m here in the studio with Massive Attack, they’ve given me their studio for three hours tomorrow morning.’ So he sang it on the Friday morning, sent it to me at noon, we put it on in the afternoon and the record was done. Karin came down to Brussels and did her part in 20 minutes. When she sang I saw centuries pass, it was like she was standing at the front of a boat with her fist clenched.”
Video: dEUS - Slow
Having had a rocky past in the HR department, dEUS’s own collective fist waves triumphantly in the air as Barman talks up the solidarity amongst the current incarnation and looks forward to a productive future with it. “This is the best momentum we’ve had for years,” he audibly gasps. “It’s the first album we’ve made with the same line-up as the previous one and we’re already thinking of the next. It’s a welcome change from a very unstable past to say the least. It’s enough to say that every line-up of dEUS was like a fucking nightmare, but this feels really good... we’re going to be making records in greater doses for years to come.”
dEUS play the Radio One/NME Stage at T in the Park on Sat, 12 Julhttp://www.deus.be