Published on October 14th, 1993 | by Gerry Galipault0
Front 242 puts up a brave front
Daniel B., founder of the Belgian industrial dance quartet Front 242, would just as soon strike the word Lollapalooza from his vocabulary.
The band’s appearance in the traveling alternative-music circus earlier this year was, in B.’s words, “a very bad experience.”
“We had a lot of exposure,” B. said recently from the foursome’s rural studio-villa, “but maybe not the exposure we really wanted.
“It’s like coming in somewhere where everybody’s wearing, I don’t know, jackets or very strict clothes and you come in naked. It’s the same expression.”
Front 242, B. admits, was out of place among the funk, thrash and grunge of Rage Against the Machine, Babes in Toyland, Fishbone, Dinosaur Jr., Alice In Chains, Primus and Arrested Development.
“If it did anything, it did more bad things to the image of Front 242 than good things,” he said. “We didn’t show ourselves at our maximum strengths with each show.”
It was the band’s decision to join the festival, B. said, and they’ll have to live with it. Still, he sees “a backlash from Lollapalooza,” not from fans but within the music industry.
“It’s much tougher than before to get people moving because there is, like, a negative feel about the band after Lollapalooza,” he said, referring to 242’s U.S. tour from mid-November to December. “I’m speaking more of the business side. … We are in the music business, which is the dirtiest or one of the dirtiest businesses in the world. It’s hard.”
And while other Lollapalooza headliners enjoyed increased album sales, Front 242’s “06:21:03:11 Up Evil” (on Epic) – the first of two 242 albums this year – charted for only a few weeks in June and disappeared.
For now, B. and bandmates Patrick Codenys (keyboards), Jean-Luc De Meyer (vocals) and Richard JK (live performer) are relying on devoted fans of their “electronic body music” to change the course. Their reactions to the band’s second ’93 disc, “05:22:09:12 Off,” out on Nov. 2, could be crucial.
While “Up Evil” was trademark Front 242 – pulsating beats, growling vocals and symphonic keyboard lines – “Off” is a more experimental beast. The band surrounds its tracks with recurring themes and melodies and explores different styles, such as dance, ambient and pop. What might catch fans off-guard is the appearance of female vocals on all but one of the tracks.
” ‘Off’ is a lot of the things ‘Up Evil’ isn’t,” B. said. “There is aggression enough, and sometimes maybe even more aggression, but it’s not in the songs or the way everything is mixed. It’s more the way the impression it gives than the noise it makes.”
Front 242 used members of the New York band Spill for much of “Off,” particularly female singer 99 Kowalski.
Despite the Lollapalooza setback, Front 242 is still widely regarded as the forefathers of the industrial dance sound, now spearheaded by Nine Inch Nails and Ministry.
B. said he formed the band in 1982, in part, because of frustration with the music scene.
“With the years passing,” he said with a laugh, “now we are just one of those things that we were fighting against. There must be new bands now reacting to the kind of music we do.”
BWF (before we forget): There is no mystery behind the numerical code in the album titles. “Each number stands for a letter in the alphabet,” B. said. “05:22:09:12 Off” reads “Evil Off” and “06:21:03:11 Up Evil” translates into – well, you can figure it out for yourself. … The albums were released separately strictly for marketing reasons, B. said, “because nobody believed we could sell a double album, because no one can.” … The Front 242 album discography – “Geography” (1982), “No Comment” (1985), “Official Version” (1987), “Front By Front” (1988), “Tyranny For You” (1991), “06:21:03:11 Up Evil” (1993), “05:22:09:12 Off” (1993); “Mixage Mutage” (Play It Again Sam/Never, 1997).