Interview with Maarten Devoldere (Warhaus/Balthazar):
Don’t mess with the gods of inspiration

In Interviewsby indiespect

Maarten Devoldere is known as one of the two singers from the Belgian band Balthazar. Currently he is on tour with his solo project Warhaus. For an exclusive show in Switzerland he played at the Salzhaus in Winterthur on the 18th April 2018. Before the concert he took the time to talk about his muse, the work on a solo project and his main band Balthazar.

Indiespect: Last year you released your second Warhaus record. Did you sometimes have ideas that you thought would better fit to Balthazar during the writing process? Or are you able to split both projects completely?

Maarten Devoldere: Well, there are some differences obviously. But I believe there are a lot of songs that you could use for both projects. If you write a song you can arrange it in many different ways. If I have the song I can make it more sound like Warhaus or Balthazar. But I don’t really think in concepts very much. I believe in making songs in a certain year in your life. Right now I’m writing for Balthazar because we’re going to release a new record. So for me 2018 is the year I just write Balthazar songs.

Indiespect: After the first record you said that you won’t release another one and to work on the next Balthazar record instead. Now you did it anyway.

Devoldere: Yes, against anybody’s advise, actually. I started touring with the first record and I was having so much fun. There is a new creative energy that gets released because you have this new project and new musicians which you play with. A new show you’re making. Before I knew it I had written a new album. It went very spontaneous and smooth. I wrote and recorded it within half a year which is quite fast. On the first album I worked for six years. So, all of a sudden I had the songs and the Balthazar record was going to be postponed half a year. Then I called the manager and said Can I just release another one in between? And then we made it work. The label didn’t like the idea. Because they thought it’s gonna be to much Maarten Devoldere.

Maarten Devoldere alias Warhaus.

Indiespect: Did you know that Jinte is going to play at the same venue with J. Bernardt in less than two weeks?

Devoldere: Yes. I actually saw the swimming pool cover on the poster.

Indiespect: But you’re not spying out venues for the return of Balthazar?

Devoldere: The thing is that we have the same periods in which we can tour. Because we have a common schedule with Balthazar. We have the same agent as well. There are some venues on this European tour that we both play.

Indiespect: On the Warhaus records you have quite a lot of horn parts. I know that you play the trumpet by yourself sometimes. Do you have new musicians only for that project or do you work with the ones from Balthazar sometimes?

Devoldere: Well, I have one. The drummer is the one from Balthazar. And it’s a coincidence but today my regular bass player wasn’t available. So, today I have a stand-in bass player which is the one from Balthazar.

Indiespect: When you played a concert in Lucerne in November 2017 you didn’t bring your vocal partner Sylvie Kreusch with you. Is it usually like that or was she just not around for that specific show?

Devoldere: She doesn’t tour with us a lot, actually. Only a couple of shows. She has just released her first solo single and she’s working on her solo album right now. I consider her a bit like a muse and I want to keep the magic of that relationship intact. I think if we would be on tour for 120 shows a year it would start to feel like a business relationship. I didn’t want to mess with the gods of inspiration (laughs).

Indiespect: The relationship between the both of you is quite mysterious. In some articles you read that she’s your girlfriend and in other that she just used to live in the apartment beneath yours. Is she your girlfriend?

Devoldere: She’s my wife. She’s my sister. She’s my girlfriend. She’s my muse. She’s my boss. She’s my slave. She’s lots of things.

Indiespect: Alright! But you don’t have another female singer on tour with you?

Devoldere: No. But I’ve got a whole group who could sing very high (laugh). I can imagine that some people are gonna think it’s a shame. But it’s some kind of compromise I made. And I want to stick to it. But for example for festivals it’s more common that she goes along. In Switzerland we did the Zurich Openair and Montreux Jazz Festival in summer and she was there.

Warhaus

Maarten Devoldere and his muse Sylvie Kreusch.

Indiespect: You played an intimate showcase in Zurich as well. In summer 2016 you did a small concert for the Music Apartment. And I remember that even the audience was soaked in sweat within a minute. How are you able to play under those circumstances?

Devoldere: Yesterday we played in Milano. It was fucking warm. I kept my coat on for half of the set. Normally, I’m like: Fuck it, I’m gonna keep it. It’s like something in the contract (laughs). But yesterday I couldn’t stand it. But I like it when it’s sweaty. When there’s sweat dripping in your eyes then it becomes real in a way. You need to suffer and to die a little bit when you’re performing. It’s like an orgasm – la petite mort.

Indiespect: Talking about special circumstances. When you played at the Southside Festival 2016 in Germany with Balthazar, you were one of the few bands that were able to play. Right after your gig the whole festival got cancelled due to a heavy thunderstorm. Were you still there at that time?

Devoldere: Oh yes. That night we played a show and we were sleeping there. I remember the whole backstage was flooding. Then the next day we had to go to Hurricane and it was cancelled. So we just had to go home.

Indiespect: Do you think that the solo projects of you and Jinte did also influence the way you write for Balthazar?

Devoldere: You gain a lot of experience through that. But like I said in the beginning. For me it’s more the stages in life. I think the next Balthazar record is gonna sound like Jinte and me at the age of 31. You evolve with every project. There’s a lot of Balthazar in our solo projects and the other way around. I really don’t separate those projects.

Warhaus

Warhaus live at the Salzhaus Winterthur.

Indiespect: Recently you posted on Facebook that your founding member Patricia Vanneste will not be with you anymore. Will the sound change through that or are you planning to bring the violin back to the band?

Devoldere: We don’t know yet, actually. When we make a record we never think about how we do it live. There are probably going to be some violins on it. When the album is finished we start thinking how we want to do it live. Are we just going to do it with the four of us or are we going to look for someone else. We don’t know yet, so I can’t really say much about that.

Indiespect: So, you’re not the band that wants to capture the live energy in the studio?

Devoldere: No, no. We’re not that authentic (laughs). We just wanna do the best possible record that we can. If we have an idea we’re not gonna skip it just because we can’t do it live. When you play live you have to come up with solutions to make the things work that you made in the studio. I kind of like that. Otherwise would do the same in the studio and live. And that’s too boring.

Indiespect: You get new energy out of that as well, maybe…

Devoldere: Yes. With Warhaus I have a bass player now. At the beginning we didn’t. Because I couldn’t afford for so many musicians. So, I had a bass string on my guitar. And I played bass and guitar at the same time. That’s something I had to come up with to recreate the sound of the album. I really like that. It’s what creates your sound and gives a certain identity to your music.

Warhaus

Three out of four. Almost the whole band of Balthazar stood on the stage in Winterthur.

Indiespect: The sound of Balthazar is quite unique and hard to compare. You started the band when you were 17. What lead you to that style?

Devoldere: Yes, we started when we were 17. And we released the first record when we were 22 or 23. I think the good thing is that we waited for so long. The time before that we did all different styles. We were a terrible band. So, I think it was a smart move to wait very long until we released the first record. Back then we knew that we want to release our first record if we had a clear concept.

Indiespect: Did you have different influences back then?

Devoldere: Obviously. In the beginning we were very into more contemporary music like LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz and stuff like that. Then for the second album me and Jinte got very more interested in classic singer-songwriter musicians like Reed and Bob Dylan or Bowie and Serge Gainsbourg. I think you can hear that on the second album. It’s more vintage. Especially when you’re young your influences change a lot. But now I still love Bob Dylan. After a while your influences are not going to change 180°. You just try to develop your own creative world and go deeper into the thing you’re good at. That is what I try to do with Warhaus for example.

Warhaus

Indiespect: Did you and Jinte have the chance to see each other perform with your solo projects? And if yes, how did that feel?

Devoldere: That’s great, actually. I was super impressed. I’m still super impressed when I see him play. We’ve been playing in a band for thirteen years. It’s such a long time. And you get spoiled in the fact that you work with somebody who has got a lot of talent. You take it for granted. Now, if you separate your ways and each one has his own project it reminds you like Oh, I’m a lucky bastard to share a band with him. So, that was really cool, yes. Seeing him play I had way more urge to make a new Balthazar record. It could have turned out that it really sucked or that I really sucked with Warhaus. Than he wouldn’t wanna work with me anymore. But, luckily we both like each others stuff.

Indiespect: There is only one question left. Do you already have a release date for the new Balthazar record?

Devoldere: I think it’s gonna be November this year or February next year.

Indiespect: Great. We’re looking forward to that. Thanks a lot for your time!