Warhaus Interview: “Surround yourself with people you trust”

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warhaus interview

We Fucked A Flame Into Being is out now via Play It Again, Sam.

After writing off and on for 6 years, Balthazar frontman Maarten Devoldere finally found the time to finish the debut album for his new solo effort, Warhaus. Coupled with the sultry voice of Sylvie Kreusch, Warhaus lays out a dark tinged, noir-esque mix of post-punk and jazz filled with grooves that make you dance along. We Fucked A Flame Into Being grabs you by the hand and pulls you down a dim-lit alley to show you where the real fun is.

We reached out to Maarten to chat about jazz chords, his first cassette, and finding focus on a boat.

O: You’ve been working on We Fucked A Flame Into Being for about 6 years now, but you wrote and recorded the majority of it on the boat from which you got your name, Warhaus. Was this something you had been planning on doing from the beginning?

Maarten Devoldere: No, it was a spontaneous idea to be able to finish the whole thing. I was playing festivals with Balthazar that summer and when I got home I went partying too much with friends. The boat was a good way to find some focus. Not much distraction on the waters outside of Ghent as you can imagine.

O: Do you want a boat of your own now?

MD: No, not really. I don’t like the responsibility of owning stuff. It makes me feel mature. I give myself 10 more summers before growing up and buying a car or something.

O: You recruited Sylvie Kreusch of the band Soldier’s Heart to sing on a large portion of the album. What’s your relationship with her like, and how was working with her on the album?

MD: She’s living in the apartment underneath me. I heard her singing in the shower the first week after she moved in. She didn’t really write along, now and then when I needed a female voice I went knocking on her door and asked if she could come sing for a minute. Sometimes she dances for me after I comb her hair. I know which fruit she likes in her yogurt. I guess we get along even now we’re business associates.

O: Towards the end of the documentary ‘I’M NOT HIM’ by Wouter Bouvijn, you have a cast on your arm. What happened?

MD: I tried to park the boat and got my arm stuck between the boat and the real world. It’s an old tugboat so it’s made out of steel and super heavy. Traveling alone in a boat is quite uncommon I think. You need more than two hands to get it attached to the land. I did more stupid things with the boat, but those times I was lucky it was so heavy and unbreakable I guess.

O: You can hear influences from the likes of Rowland S. Howard and Leonard Cohen, but what are some other things or musicians that helped influence this album that isn’t quite as apparent?

MD: I don’t know Rowland S. Howard. Is he good? I’ll check it out. I know Leonard Cohen, he’s good. I think you get influenced by everything you hear one way or the other. I think there are too many influences to mention. When I was 8 my neighbour gave me a cassette of Roxette. It was my first cassette which I cherished. I guess it must have found a way to my record. Roxette has got to be in there somewhere…

O: Are you enjoying the somewhat “fresh start’ of touring as Warhaus, as opposed to the already established Balthazar?

MD: Yes, it’s exciting. I have to actually learn how to play ideas I have. I’m not used to that in Balthazar ha ha. It takes me 4 weeks to learn a new chord on guitar. I calculated it’s gonna take me 23 years to learn all the jazz chords. I have time though, I’m planning to live long. I stay away from drugs and yoga.

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O: Which song off the new album do you enjoy playing live the most?

MD: We already play lots of new songs. I tend to love the latest song I wrote the most. I try to love the last girlfriend the most as well. Life goes on, you know?

Anyway, from the record, I’d say ‘I’m Not Him’. It’s open for improvisation, we keep the outro going until the thrill is almost gone. Then we stop. Finding that moment is probably the hardest part about playing music.

O: You worked with a lot of other musicians when recording this album, did they play any part in the creative process?

MD: Sure. Not in the songwriting, but in terms of arrangements and vibe. I’m very grateful to them. There are a million ways to record the same song, even to play the same piano part. If you want something exactly like you have it in your mind you’re gonna end up in the madhouse. You need to surround yourself with people you trust.

O: You’ve said before that you will write music basically anywhere, are there any particular places that you enjoy writing more than others?

MD: I love to write while jogging, I record the ideas with my iPhone. The ideas sound very out of breath. I like some drama from time to time.

O: Are you thinking ahead to the next Warhaus album yet, or just taking the time to enjoy the release?

MD: I wrote some new songs, but I’m not planning on releasing them very soon. First, I’ll get together with my Balthazar friends to work on the next album with the band.

If you like this Warhaus interview, you might enjoy our interview with Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses)

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