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For years I used to play with several different musicians ... we were occasional members of a group with no name ... we used to play improvisations, the musical pieces were from 10 minutes to one hour long. From this the "spirit" of Human Flesh was born ... but the concept really began in 1981, when I bought a second-hand 8-track recorder. I began to conceive of a system using the machine as the focus (centre) of the group. I could invite musicians to play with me on some tracks, then ask other people to add instruments / voices months or years later ... So these people could play together without even knowing each other ... it has seemed to work rather well, and I have decided to continue this way. But being as I am the only constant member of Human Flesh, I'm the one to decide who to add, and on which track. However, it is (still) a kind of improvisation: the musicians listen to the music once or twice while I take the sound of their instrument and add some effects (the effects are always added while recording, and never at the final mix), and we begin to record their musical part. Sometimes the result is not technically perfect, but the track possesses freshness and spontaneity. It is very important for me. The hardest thing is to find the final arrangement and to mix the track. I always wait at least one year before I mix a song. (Until I have forgotten what it sounds like). Mixing is also a kind of improvisation for me, it must be rather quickly done. I think it is also a very important part of the creation ... some tracks remain for years and years on the 8 track tape before I find something/someone to finish them. Some will never be finished.
I also work with people living on the other side of the earth, with people I will probably never have the chance to meet. Sometimes we do texts in French or English, and ask others to translate it into their language and to record it on a cassette. Then I record their voice onto the 8 track and I build a musical piece on this basis. The result often pleases me, I want to continue this way.
Well ... it is rather difficult to describe it. We use acoustic and electronic instruments in a personal blend. The vocals are very important, but I use them (most of the time) like instruments. I also use the inner music of some languages. I have already used English, French, Armenian, Japanese, Italian, German, Arabian, Flemish, invented language or language in reverse, and I hope to use many others in the future. Also, I must say that Human Flesh's music is most of the time dark, melancholic, sometimes desperate ... It is rarely aggressive. The main thing we express is emotion, but we never use brutal harsh noises. We are making sound "photographs", not "comics".
Like everybody else, I was interested / influenced by noise, trash sound, very rough and aggressive music. During this period. I used to listen for hours to amplified frequencies found on my short wave radio ... I put the original sound on one channel, and its dephased echo on (through a sound-on-sound tape recorder) on the other channel. It was really amazing. I also used to record street noises and amplify them on my p.a. ... I also played live with electronics instruments and a flute ... the sound was very aggressive and very loud. Slides were projected onto a giant screen during the performance ... but all this was from 1974 to 1978 ...
When T.G. came along, I was not impressed at all, because I had experienced this style for years (I strongly believe I was not the only one). What now remains of "industrial music" is rather poor and boring. Human Flesh refuses to be considered as a part of the industrial scene.
I understand that a child or an adolescent has a desire to shock. I can respect that desire as part of "normal" human behaviour. Some shocks are good ones, some images make you think and perhaps lead you to a solution. But I really hate to see adults acting like that. Adults who try to shock audiences are only acting like animals, they behave like clowns. In fact, it is a kind of sick fashion. I have never been interested in the circus, it does not make me laugh. It just makes me sleep.
Fashion is fascism. It is a real deprivation of freedom. We don't follow any fashion, that's why our old cassettes are still selling very well.
Dope is also a kind of fashion. I hate it. Dope is the main freedom deprivation. It led several generations to death. The hippie movement whose beginnings were very interesting, was quickly damaged by drugs.
I always try to be very self-conscious, I try to feel everything that happens around me. No chemical substance can really improve your senses. It is just an illusion.
I have no interest in today's politics. Our leaders are so rotten ... the only thing they want is power and money, they don't really care. So-called democracies are no longer countries where ordinary people feel free.
The only idealists are extremists. I understand that violence is the only way for them to express their point of view, but I hate blind violence. I cannot accept the sacrifice of innocent victims. Things are getting worse and worse.
I know that our style of music will never bring us a lot of money (all the Insane groups are in that situation). We're outside that fashion crap (one-arm drummers, bathroom singers, musicians-robots). In fact, I am really happy when I get any benefit. All the money comes from Nadine and myself. We need money to buy cassettes, to pay for cover sleeves, matrixes, wax ... and to buy postal stamps. We sell 95% of our production outside Belgium. I suppose that the situation is the same for other small alternative groups / labels.
Interview copyright © Alain Neffe