Melding big riffs, discordant rhythms and romance, Raketkanon are probably not the sound you'd expect to come out of Belgium. I chat to, guitarist, Jef Verbeeck to see what makes them tick.
Belgium, the name of the country evokes images of moustachioed detectives, The EU, and Tintin. What doesn't pop into your head is a hyper-kinetic band pushing the boundaries of what rock music is in the 21st century. That, however, is exactly what Raketkanon are and coming out of the Northern city of Ghent they're here to blast your ears with a groove that is loud, occasionally brutal, but also a little bit sexy.
I may be stating the obvious, but rock music has long history of exciting bands popping up in places that the media isn't necessarily focusing on. Think The Melvins coming out of Washington State (pre-Nirvana) in the US, or Refused coming from the frozen North of Umeå in Sweden. Both bands roared out of where was considered geographic obscurity and made the world pay attention. A similar outsider sensibility permeates the music of Raketkanon.
Me trying to describe the band's music would be difficult, if not completely pointless. But the feel of the band is obvious from the get go. The bands own brand of sturm und drang deals in emotions, albeit the heavy kind. In each mind crushing riff, in every pummelling beat, in every howled (occasionally wordless) vocal is pure catharsis. Forgive me for using a cliché, but they paint portraits with their music, and those portraits are warts and all.
I spoke to Guitarist Jef Verbeeck to get the band's story, after I show off a bit of my cultural ignorance that is...
"Let's start from the top, your name means Rocket Cannon in Dutch, but you're from Belgium, what's with that?"
Jef Verbeeck: Dutch is one of the three official languages in Belgium...
"Belgian bands don't get heard of in the UK very often, can you tell us a little bit what the scene's like there?"
JV: There's a lot of music going on in Belgium. Antwerp, Hasselt, Ghent (where we are from) and a lot more cities have quite some cool local things going on. We have some amazing bands here. Also some shit ones of course. If you're looking for good Belgian bands, check out Onmens, Stadt, Toman, Kapitan Korsakov, The Germans, Madensuyu, Hypochristmutreefuzz...
"I can't really imagine any scene where Raketkanon are an easy fit, can you tell us how the four of you came together to make this indescribable (in a good way) music?"
JV: We just let our hearts speak. Without wanting to sound like it all happens completely effortlessly - because, make no mistake, we work hard on what we do - we just do what we feel like doing. And even though we all have strong opinions on whatever and the process of creating doesn't always go as smoothly as one would like, with enough inspiration and will to create, everything always seems to fall in place sooner or later.
"You've got some disparate influences, I can hear everything from the Melvins to bands like Devo in there, is it safe to say you were trying to make music that had a certain feeling rather than something that fit into a certain sub-genre?"
JV: There should only be two genres: real and fake. Real music is all about feeling. Whatever words other people use to describe some band has nothing to do with the music. All you need is in the music. The rest is just distraction.
"Does the music press' fairly constant attempt to pigeonhole music annoy you guys in the band?"
JV: It's just not about that at all. While you're busy trying to define it in terms that have been used tens of thousands of times over, the music has already passed and ricocheted (is that a word?) off your heart.
It's also really boring do that. And it's an ignorant limit to your imagination. In between all genres are gaps of possibilities that are way broader than all journalist-approved/invented genres.
"Are there any specific bands out there you don't mind aligning yourself with? Perhaps a band with a similar ethos rather than a similar sound?"
JV: Baby Godzilla: every time they go on stage they give all they have, not caring about their limbs, absolutely going for it. And they are the sweetest guys.
"You've just released your 2nd album (RKTKN #2) which was produced by the legend that is Steve Albini, tell me a little about what that was like?"
JV: Pretty great from start to finish really. We really wanted to use our time as efficiently as possible, and Steve is a great guy to do that with. He's no time waster and he knows exactly what he needs for a certain sound or feel. He totally knows what he's doing, gets what we are doing, and makes it all work. He's a craftsman and has a very similar musical ethics to ours I think.
"How would you say this album different from your debut?"
JV: The first one was recorded digitally, track over track, partly arranged in the studio. The second one was recorded on tape, all instruments and vocals live (with the exception of a few guitar and synth overdubs) and we all knew the songs and our parts inside out before we went into the studio. The first one was recorded in a week, the second one in a little less.
"You're heading on tour at the moment, how would you describe the Raketkanon live experience?"
Chaos, insane dancing without caring what you look like, and just feeling the music. It's raw, but it's real. Anything goes, as long as there's no negativity. We really like physically active and responsive crowds. If everybody takes care of each other and if you have your buddy's back, that's all cool.
But do take care of each other. And leave those stupid windmill moves at home.
"And finally what are your plans for the rest of 2015?"
JV: We're really into the vibe of touring right now, and we'll probably be doing a lot of that for the coming months. The past few weeks, we've played in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Switzerland, and in the next couple of weeks, we're doing a UK tour and we're also playing Greece and the Netherlands again.
RKTKN #2 is out now on Juno Records
For more info go to www.raketkanon.com