5/18/2010

Arno's - Leuven's CBGB's (of sorts)




First 'promo'-shot, outside Arno's
(May 1980 - it wasn't called 'Arno's' yet)
L-R : Alex - JP - Joseph - Jean




Addressing the 'crowd'








Alex strumming the EKO







Jean and short-term synth player Manu





original fan Jenny (JP's sister)






'I am lived, I am abused
I am accused of being dead'





Jean (left) with Arno







snob graphix' design for the official opening night poster
(sept 19th 1980)




P.S. 'Arno's' didn't last much longer than the Decay; these days, the building houses some city of Leuven offices.


                                                      
       ah yes, still there : the buildings, the cobbles, the phonebooth, the police-station just 'round the corner ...





5/17/2010

Releases

'Eight Ways To Start A Day' CD (Sacred Bones 2009)



'Eight Ways To Start A Day' LP (Sacred Bones 2009)



soundtrack DVD + CD feature 'Business Business/Fragile Object' from the 'Wars On 45' ep




includes 'Brave New World'




includes 'Brave New World' / 'End Of the Corridor' single and 'Wars on 45' ep

---

And the two original period-releases :




'Wars On 45' ep (Sexy Robot SR003) 1982

(recorded & mixed oct. 24th and nov. 14th 1981)









'Brave New World' c/w 'End Of The Corridor' single (Sexy Robot SR001) 1981

(recorded & mixed jan. 23rd 1981)




useful links :

http://www.myspace.com/sacredbonesrecords

http://www.myspace.com/theculturaldecay

http://www.myspace.com/theculturaldecaylive









'I Never Loved You' - Live Brussels 1982




Merchandise

(no-one's ever bought any, but it makes this site look really professional)


Band bio (from the 'Eight Ways' release)

Cult Band


» By definition, a cult band is a band
with a (very) small but (very) loyal following. With
the audience at several concerts barely outnumbering
the band and usually including the same faces,
The Cultural Decay certainly was exactly that . Still
is, I suppose, as (much to our surprise) these last
couple of years have seen a renewed interest in this
long defunct combo with just a single, a 12” EP and
a grand total of fifteen local gigs to its name. Since
this Sacred Bones release is an attempt to present a
more complete picture, let’s start with a little history.



No Room to Swing a Guitar



» When I joined the band in May 1980, they had just played their first
gig. I missed that one, but knew drummer JP as
we had briefly played together as a duo called “The
Snobs” towards the end of ’79 (only one gig as well).
Right away, I felt this was going to be different; here
was this guy Alex writing little songs based on one
or two chords with somewhat bizarre lyrics, often
only a couple of lines, treating serious subjects with
a twisted sense of humour to which I could immediately
relate. The one that “clinched the deal,” as far
as I was concerned, was called “Spanish Boredom.”
A weird cross between “Spanish Stroll,” “Egyptian
Reggae” and “Submission,” it featured a very
simple, irresistible three-note riff (which sounded
Chinese rather than Spanish, by the way) and words
that went like this:



Sitting in the sun with a dozen dreams
Sitting in my sun with a dozen dreams
It’s not what it seems
It’s not what it seems
Spanish boredom
Sitting in the sun while the Russians march in
Sitting in my sun while the Russians march in
It’s not what it seems
It’s the end of my dreams
Spanish boredom




Confused? So was I, but it “struck a chord” so to
speak. Unfortunately, no recording of this early concert
favourite seems to have survived. Anyway, things
“clicked” straight away and we were soon writing
new songs at every rehearsal.
These took place in a tiny basement with an arched
ceiling so low you could only properly stand up in
the middle. So small in fact, Alex had to position
himself “next door” as we used to say (the other side
of a dividing wall) to avoid massive feedback from
his microphone. This did not mean the playing lost
any of its enthusiasm though, as several terrorised
neighbours would regularly testify. Still, getting out
of that hole to play a gig from time to time was a
welcome relief, even if we played some of the tiniest
stages imaginable and some “venues” the size of a
small kitchen. Things started to look a bit brighter
in September that same year when we moved to a
rehearsal room above ARNO’s, Leuven’s only punkcaf√©.
Many a fine band played a memorable gig
there (AA, O-Veux, Revenge 88, Ze Barbies, Luc Van
Acker, etc). For a while this tiny place really meant
something to quite a few people. We were soon considered
the resident house band and were therefore
able to at least preach to the converted once or twice
(a practical alternative to paying the rent too).



Why Go the Easy Way



» Those early Decay concerts
were pretty chaotic, by the way, as most songs did
not have a real structure and would be shortened or
lengthened according to our mood, whilst new ideas
would crop up all the time. Alex especially used to
baffle the rest of the group by suddenly veering off
into unknown territory, often getting looks saying
“what the hell’s he playing now? Do we know this
one?” All the more risky, of course, as nobody in the
band could be accused of being a real musician—
always trying to play stuff just a notch above our
abilities seemed to be the real essence of the band.
Needless to say, this, more than once, resulted in an
unrecognizable and frankly unlistenable mess with
the awesome foursome desperately trying to keep up
at least some semblance of purpose and direction
(…all the while still trying to look cooler than the
competition, of course). Sometimes we miraculously
managed to pull it off anyway and it sounded great.
But, when we didn’t, we were bloody awful. As somebody
once put it, our gigs sounded like rehearsals
and our rehearsals like gigs. He wasn’t wrong. Or
was he? We hardly ever used to “rehearse” songs
as such during rehearsals; playing several long jams
instead, starting from a new idea –either a chord sequence,
a particular rhythm or even a couple of often
improvised words.1 We certainly were lucky to have
the most amazing drummer who—even live—always
managed to keep things together, no matter how
much everybody else experimented - or screwed up.
This became even more of a feat with the addition
of a fifth member (the day before recording the first
single, incidentally).



What’d You Mean, Tune a Synth?



Synth-player Manu (or “Romeo” as he preferred to
be called) was only in the band for a few months,
but did leave a lasting impression to say the least.
Although he couldn’t play a note (or tune his synthesizer,
for that matter) and did not contribute
anything substantial to the songs, his self-confident
stage presence was a form of entertainment in its
own right. Playing a single random note for a whole
song—or even concert!—with an apparent conviction
and concentration unmatched by any classical
musician, he would usually be the only one in the
house who managed to keep a straight face. It too
contributed to the general mayhem.



A Guitar…But Not As We Know It



» Capturing this kind of stuff in a studio-environment was always
going to be a challenge, obviously, and the recording
of the first single was a bit of a disappointing
experience. The choice of a cheap studio with no
experience whatsoever in anything even remotely
“rock” (let alone “punk”) didn’t help in any case, as
the extremely clean and laidback versions of both
“Brave New World” and “End Of The Corridor” illustrate.
But there was another reason for this: we were
used to playing cheap copies of real instruments
(Jean’s battered second hand Fender bass being the
only exception) that were impossible to keep in tune
but did have a unique sound and feel. Alex’s “EKO”2
especially could have made a substantial difference,
but the engineer’s first words (“You’re not going to
play that, are you? Here, try a guitar”) did kind of
dispel that idea and had us both playing the studio’s
Stratocasters—nice to play a real guitar for a change,
but something wasn’t quite there anymore.
The self-distributed single (released on our own
Sexy Robot Records)3 was relatively well received
by a couple of local radio stations, however, and the
1000 copies sold easily enough. Not that the 2 or 3
press reviews had anything to do with this; “pretty
boring stuff” and “would all protest singers please
shut up now until at least 1984,” were some of the
more polite phrases I can recall. Anyway, we quickly
got bored with “Brave New World” ourselves and
stopped playing it live, whereas “Corridor” would
always remain in the set albeit in ever-changing versions.
(I seem to remember a one-off mock-version
of “BNW” during rehearsal though, with the chorus
changed to “Shave Your Girl”)



Look At the Size of that Mixing Desk!



» Everyone agreed the next recording would need a very different
approach if we were to make any kind of real
impact, and so, spurred on by the nothing less than
manic enthusiasm of friend/producer/early fan and
occasional live soundman Luc Van Acker, money
was borrowed from family, friends, girlfriends and
a local record shop and two days were booked in a
proper studio with a real engineer. Technically and
sound-wise, the resulting “Wars on 45” 12" EP remains
the Decay’s finest hour (well, 15 minutes to
be precise); this was exactly the sound we wanted.
We did use our own instruments too this time,
although the self-disintegrating “EKO” had by then
been buried—presumably in its faithful tartan carrier
bag. Engineer Christian Ramon and producer
Luc Van Acker proved an ideal team and instinctively
knew what we were after. Luc (who would
have played everything given the chance) was to
contribute backing vocals too, as well as some very
wild piano-playing…only to be surpassed in the
“complete abandon” department by Frank “Sexy”
Jamart on saxophone. Those who know Luc and/or
his music will appreciate the enormity of that particular
achievement. Anyway, I think it’s fair to say their
contribution saved “Song of Joy” from being just a
riff. More than pleased with the result this time, we
were eagerly looking forward to more bookings and
maybe even a future LP project.



All Messed Up and Nowhere to Go



» Neither really happened; the new record sold slower than the
first single, while press and promoters continued to
basically ignore us. Still, the band benefitted from
the studio-experience and new songs displayed
more structure and variation than before while
the live sound became much tighter. It’s a shame
we were only able to prove it now and then. In the
end, frustration—more than anything else—killed
the band. More and more things went wrong or
just didn’t happen (several concerts, a live cassette
project, a possible Disques Du Crépuscule record
deal, etc), causing little things to turn into big issues.
Despite this, we were still really enjoying ourselves
in rehearsal and on stage, which wasn’t obvious to
everybody back then. Because you see, there was
this at the time very popular habit of throwing just
about every independent band into the doom/depressing/
cold-wave corner (amongst a multitude of
bands we felt we had nothing whatsoever in common
with)…and their records in the corresponding bin in
the shops, of course. That must have put quite a
few people off, I imagine. Depressing? These songs?
They always bring a smile to my face."






(Joseph V. january 2009)





[1] The “End Of The Corridor” demo included here being a perfect
example: this is a recording of the very first time we played this
one, the original jam which slowly develops into that song. As
you’ll notice, the tape ran out after about nine minutes, but I’m
sure we went on for at least another ten—as you do.
[2] A couple of months later this legendary guitar literally came
apart during rehearsal: suddenly a song—and not a particularly
wild one at that—ended on a very weird chord (even by our
standards) as the neck separated from the guitar body—the end
of a unique instrument…
[3] A fake label really, later to “release” fine efforts by AA and OVeux as well.
AA’s classic “Essential Entertainment EP” is due
for re-release on the brand new Soft Spot Music label, incidentally,
so get it or regret it!
[4] Star of the mythical “Night Fever” single as interim-singer with
Struggler, his utterly deranged contribution to “Song Of Joy” was
to reveal a hitherto undiscovered saxophone prowess.

Sexy Robot Records





The fake 'Sexy Robot' label started by The Cultural Decay also released :


-AA :The unsung heroes of DIY. One rehearsal, one record was the premise. Their EXCELLENT 'Essential Entertainment'- ep was re-released almost simultaneously with the 'Eight Ways' lp/cd by another NY based label callled Soft Spot Records. Possibility of a live-release in the not too distant future.





(SR002)


-O-Veux : Illegitimate sons of DEVO, Cpt.Beefheart and The Residents. A very VERY bizarre combo which released an empty single-cover, then a cover containing a couple of inches of a cut-up rehearsaltape (so that every copy of that 'single' was different - although, of course, unplayable!), and finally a real vinyl (the 'Akinai'- ep)! The singer using a very long mike-lead (those were the days before all that wireless crap, kids), used to join the audience and face the stage because, as he put it, 'I always wanted to watch my own band play'.




(SR004)

Graphics, recording, release and distribution were up to the bands (and didn't they do well).
Cultural Decay graphics by 'Snob graphix', which was fake as well, of course.


And then there's the one that never was (cover-design of a never released live-tape):




'Womb' and 'Exit Calls' from this tape appear on the 'Eight Ways To Start A Day' compilation.