Last month we re-issued a compilation of songs from 80s Belgian band SIC. This month we asked them some questions and here is what they had to say:
Dark Entries: What part of Belgium are you from? What was it like growing up there and what music did you listen to as a teenager?
We are from Charleroi, south of Brussels, in the francophone part of Belgium. Charleroi was an industrial city with many factories and coal mines and this is where we used to live, in the middle of smoke and noise from these industries. There were many bands, mainly rock, blues and jazz. They all knew each other and they would go see each other in concert. Some musicians used to play in several of these bands. Francis used to play with Kosmose – along with Guy-Marc Hinant and Alain Neffe – a band that improvised music inspired by Krautrock. In the late seventies, Francis co-founded a house of migrant musicians from Morocco, Turkey and Congo-Zaire, called Interculture. Many musicians would get together in a place called Coup de Fusil, a concert place where SIC played live. But SIC, a new-wave style band felt lonely in Charleroi. There used to be a good small music shop in Charleroi, but the owner was not too connected to what was up and coming. To listen to new wave music, see live bands and buy their vinyls, we had to go to Brussels.
How did you decide to form the band and choose the name “SIC”?
I met Francis Pourcel in 1977. He was looking for a singer for his punk band, SIC with Alain Neffe and Mario Berchicci. The band had already had its name. The name “SIC” was chosen because it is both an English and French adverb, allowing more exposure of the band. It was a loud punk band with Stooges’s influences. The punk band broke-up in 1979. In the late seventies, new sounds arrived with affordable synthetizers like the Korg MS-20. It was very fun to explore it and make new music with it. We were very curious of these new sounds and Francis wanted to write real songs to incorporate the melodies and motifs within the minimalist wave.
How did you decide who would sing lead vocals and play each instrument?
In 1979, we started a trio: Mario Berchicci was playing drums, Francis was playing guitar and I played keyboards and I sang. It was very fun for me to explore sounds and possibilities with a rhythmic base. We made 7′ Voltage Control with this line-up and equipment, but it ended up never being distributed. The rhythm boxes brought new possibilities and new rhythms that we couldn’t play ourselves. Francis and I continued to explore these new possibilities on our own and the result was Cover Girls Smile/Between. We played for the first time as a duo in a school-hall. Francis switched on the rhythm box, I sang and played bass, Francis played guitar with keyboard background. It was complicated and no longer funny. This is why we formed a real band, with at first three members, then five.
Do you remember the set up and equipment for recording your earliest songs?
With the Korg M-S20 we had to explore the diverses combinations of sounds. The most difficult was to reproduce the same sound. We also had a Roland String organ RS-09 and a rhythm box Korg KR 55 that helped us with recordings. Francis played on a Gibson L6-S and a Rickenbaker bass.
5. Did the evolution of the synthesizer have an effect on your sound? Le
The Korg MS-20 had certainly given a particular sound to our two first 7′. The same happened with the rhythm boxes, that added an eighties sound. Later on, in 1983, we played with a Yamaha DX-7, another famous synthesizer.
The bass playing on all the songs is chord based and “watery” and reminds me of Krautrock and Jazz. What was the bassists influences?
On our two first 7′, Francis played bass. He wrote his bass lines to escape usual practice. In Kosmose, Francis played a music inspired by Krautrock, which certainly influenced his playing. He was also interested by disco bass line. Starting with our third 7′, Wilhelm Dunker was our bassist. He was also playing with jazz groups and his idol was Jaco Pastorius, which could be heard in his music.
What were some inspirations for your lyrics over the years?
The majority of lyrics are autobiographical. Others tell what happened all around. Free Radio Stations talk about the spread of free radio stations in Belgium and in Europe. They were all over. Towards the end of the seventies, many people bought materials needed to broadcast from home. It was crazy! Radio Free Europe was an international station that broadcasted on behalf of the Eastern European countries, which whom we could not communicate freely.
Who were your musical contemporaries at the time in Belgium or around the world
In Belgium, there were so many exciting and creative bands at the time, how could I mention all of them? Jo Lemaire+Flouze, Allez-Allez, Arbeit Adelt, The Names, Front 242, TC Matic, and later our friends à; Grumh…and of course there was XTC, David Bowie, Joy Divison, the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Human League, Kraftwerk, Pere Ubu, Devo, Siouxee and the Banshees, Eurythmics, the Feelies, Peter Gabriel and others.
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So much creative and diverse music came out of Belgium in the 1980s, what do you think caused this rich and talented culture?
I’ll attempt to explain. Belgium is a geographical and cultural crossroad in Europe. Its capital, Brussels is very easy to be reached from all parts of Europe. Trends would reach Brussels very fast. In alternative rock, the imported vinyls were selling very well. In the 70s and 80s, Germany produced a significant quantity of new music, including european jazz, rock related genres, electronics, minimalists, disco and dance music. Some of these German groups, such as Can, DAF and Kraftwerk succeeded to have a long lasting influence for the musicians from the 80s. Generally speaking, many Belgian artists were looking to find out what was created abroad to come up with new creations. This is my feeling.
I first heard your song “Between” on youtube and Micheline’s vocals got stuck in my head for days! How did you create your unique “sound”?
Wow! Thanks! My voice was loved and hated at the same time. I didn’t really like it at that time.
Many of the songs from your first three singles have been played in dance clubs around the world. Did you write music to make people dance?
Not really. We explored the possibilities from the rhythm box to create something different. We found the habanera rhythm for Cover Girls Smile. The result was pretty cool, even though we didn’t like the sound of latin music.
Can you describe your most memorable/favorite live gig?
I remember the first gig in Charleroi for the release of Cover Girls Smile/Between with Wilhelm Dunker playing the bass. It took place at the Coup de Fusil in Charleroi. It was in October 1980, during the last week of concerts, before the closure of the place. It was a series of concerts that gathered friends and many musicians. A vinyl compilation was released at that time. Starting with this concert, Etienne Tordoir, a journalist-photographer student began an extraordinary work to promote our 7′ . This 7’was sold in London and in Italy. Cover Girls Smile was played at the John Peel’s BBC broadcast and received many reviews. In Brussels, Cover Girls Smile was released on a cassette compilation by Stefan Barbery with other Belgian bands. Back in time, the cassette was the alternative support for music.
How do you feel about the renewed interest in your music and newer bands that look to SIC for inspiration?
It was a surprise! We’re happy about it, of course! We feel great to have played and created in a such turbulent and creative period between 1977 and 1983.
SIC broke up in 1983, correct? What happened next? What are your future plans
The 7′ Free Radios Stations/Absence haven’t had any success. We continued with another line-up and played live 5 or 6 times. In 1983, SIC’s composition was: Christian Hance on drums, Claude Martin, Christian Martin on guitars and keyboards, Henri Krutzen on saxophone, Wilhelm Dunker on bass, and myself. During our last live concert, we invited african percussionists to play with us on scene. It was fantastic, but out of control! SIC broke up in 1983. After that, Francis continued to experience with Interculture ‘s arab, Turkish and Congo musicians. It was a sort of World-Music. We continued to write minimalist songs in French, we met musicians and played just for fun. One night in the eighties, when we were in a Titicaca Connection Evening’s Philippe Genion (à; Grumh), Philippe introduced us to Arbeit Adelt band and I got up on scene to improvise with them. I don’t remember if the result was good because I’ve never heard it, but it was a great moment and I loved to do that! Today, Francis and I don’t create music, but many of musicians with whom we played continue to create or produce music or bands. Have we got plans? To make music, meet musicians and get on scene is very exciting and we’d love that, but it’s not really possible for us at this time.
In any case, we have cool memories. And I just want to mention that it is difficult to name people without forgetting a few of them. Thank you, Josh!
“Thought Noises” is out now on Dark Entries Records, available in our SHOP: