The two issues (1978) of this Brussels punk fanzine were contributed by Dirk Michiels (Punk Etc). I’d never heard of it before though I was into punk since halfway the 70s. People know that the focus of my websites is hardcore punk of the 80s/90s (the period where I was really active)… Before, in the late 70s I lived in a small province-town without the means (financially and transport-wise) to know about the scenes in the bigger cities (Brussels, Antwerp, Liège). So now I’m still learning about things happening there…
In the first issue editor Miguel Ramis interviewed his brother’s band ‘X-Pulsion’. This seems to be the only content (7 pages). The second one (14 pages) has interviews with Brussels punk bands ‘Mad Virgins‘ and ‘Streets‘; plus some movie- & concert-reviews).
What you have is a shortened version of the first issue. It was twelve pages long. It was also used as promo material for the 2nd version of ‘X-Pulsion’, in September 1978. This line-up, which lasted until May 1979, opened for ‘The Clash’ at the Ancienne Belgique [venue].
Ever since I was in primary school, I wanted to do newspapers. I was also a big comic-book reader. In secundary school I wanted to do a fanzine dedicated to comics, toegether with with a mate. In the end, he chickened out and the project came to a halt. There was a musician in my class: Claude Ongena alias Klaus Klang who played (among other things) drums. My brother [Pedro Ramis a.k.a. Peter Schläger] was the singer of a band that was forming (they were looking for a drummer and a bassist): ‘X-Pulsion’. Claude’s brother [Alain Ongena alias Kurt Klang] was a guitarist and bassist. I introduced them and they got together.
Since it was easy for me to interview them, I did my first issue about ‘X-Pulsion’, adding content that I had in my boxes before. That first one went quickly because ‘X-Pulsion’ was quite popular in Brussels: I had to do a second printrun.
After that I did an issue on ‘Mad Virgins’, other mates from Brussels. I planned two more issues but I gave that up because I had been recruited as a journalist (unpayed) for the monthly le mensuel En Attendant [“in the meantime”], doing the section Une Fois [“once”] dedicated to new bands from the Belgian scene (punk, but not just that). After a few months, I went on to work for different newspapers: Ecoute [“listen”], Plaisirs [“pleasures”] (On Arts & Music), and then the weekly’s Tintin and after that Spirou.
That’s where my career as a ‘rock-journalist’ ended (temporarily), and later I became a scriptwriter, illustrator, graphic designer, a lot in advertising-films. What I got out of this ‘fanzine’-experience was, first of all, layouts and graphics. If you look at the two issues, I was already using ‘pro’ layout techniques, such as the use of enlargements and photocopying reductions to process texts, that I was typing on a small portable typewriter.
For the record: I returned to journalistic writing; I work for two Parisian magazines. I created two before (2006-2007): Sept Autour Du Monde [“seven around the world”] & Le Temps Du Voyage [“time to travel”]. One was about ecology and sustainable development for adolescents, the other on tourism. These projets were born in a publishing-house where I worked as art-director. Nowadays I returned completely to writing (including crime-novels and children’s books).
I was in the same class as Stéphane Maes who did Bobel Simplex, so I was asked to do an interview with ‘Split Enz’ when they played in Brussels, simply because my English was better than his… I remember the interview being done backstage and the atmosphere being pretty awkward because I didn’t know much about the band. As far as I remember, it was my only excursion into zine-land.
I changed to a school located in the centre of Brussels. That’s how I met Miguel – who was in my class – and also the guys of ‘Mad Virgins’ (who went to another school in the same area). We would meet at the McDonald’s at Place de la La Bourse [“stock exchange square”] (that had opened at that time). B-Side [recordstore of ‘Klaus Milian’ – Etienne Verwilghen – who also did the label Romantik recs] was in the same neighbourhood, so we drifted there to pass the time during lunch-breaks from school. Through Miguel I got in touch with his brother Pedro (‘Peter Schläger’), who was looking for a drummer. We started rehearsing [Oct ’77] in my parents’ basement with Jerry & Michel Duyck on bass. The latter was kind of a old hippie; he showed up once but then vanished, so I got my brother who played guitar to pick up the bass to help us out, and that’s how he got involved in ‘X-Pulsion’. That’s my memory of it…
Claude Ongena (‘X-Pulsion’ drummer)
In my opinion, the interview with ‘X-Pulsion’ illustrates the malaise/discomfort felt by the proponents of the first punk-wave about the alreaedy increasing commercialism. A lot of Bxl punks however seemed to turn to more electronic/industrial forms of musical expression and to give in to the music-industry. The socalled New Wave… HardCore punk was still to come (a few years later)…
‘X-Pulsion’ was Pedro Ramis ‘Peter Schläger’ (vocals; brother of Miguel who did Etc zine), ‘Klaus Klang’ Claude Ongena (drums), Jean-Pierre Poirier – Jerry WX a.k.a. Jerry Wanker (guitar; ex ‘Chainsaw’; R.I.P.), ‘Kurt Klang’ Alain Ongena (bass; replaced Michel ‘Suntears’ Duyck (R.I.P.)). Brothers Claude & Alain (‘Dum-Dum’) had played in a band named ‘Afterglow’ before. In a later stage Jerry & Pedro decided to go on without the Klang bros. Bob Seytor (‘Chainsaw’ drummer & ‘Streets’ singer) joined on drums. Jean Poltinant (bass) & Francis Lozet (guitar) are mentioned on the Bloody Belgium 7”-compilation (Born Bad recs). In the Summer of ‘78 Jerry WX (who adored Brian Eno, David Bowie & ‘Kraftwerk’) founded ‘Digital Dance’. He also did 3 issues of an arty zine entitled Design; where he writes “I wanna be me, not a puppet”… In a recorded interview (Grimbergen, 78-04-30), Jerry WX & Klaus Klang state: “Tout le monde peut se prétendre punk, c’est devenu un cliché.” (Anyone can call themselves a punk, it’s become a cliché.)…
“Divide and conquer”, the eternal principle…
There’s a lot of talk about punk bands these days but people talk about them, for them, without them! When interviewing them, they’re all gathered in front of a small recorder, in a café, and, as is normal for these young people, they’re joking. It may be fun but it’s not very useful. So I decided to do things differently; I interviewed the members of this band separately and we talked freely one-on-one. Perhaps, I hope, this helped to get to the bottom of things. So here is the ‘X-Pulsion’ interview in parts.
In January, in issue no. 1 of En Attendant [Brussels music-mag], there was an impressive list of Belgian new-wave bands published, what happened to them all?
As usual, most of the Belgian bands, three quarters, have split up or had other line-ups of musicians; bands such as ‘The Passengers’, who’re just starting to play, have had three or four line-ups already, the same goes for ‘Thrills’, ‘Spermicide’, a band that keeps on (re)starting, already had five or six versions.
Don’t you think that there’s gradually a divide forming between the pioneer bands like ‘The Kids’, ‘Streets’ or ‘X-Pulsion’ and the amateur beginners?
That’s not so important; the problem is that not many bands have faith, they do it for fun, they don’t really take it seriously. I think that those who’re really into being together, in each small band, will form bands, which will perhaps split up as well, until they also become a coherent bunch; when that happens, they will be the New Wave!
I read in a newspaper: “Producer/manager is looking for a group of 15-16 year olds who can’t play music to form a punk band.”.
Yes, but Belgium has always been a country of penny-pinching producers who just want to make money out of anyone and then give things up after a while; ‘The Kids’ have a very bad manager in this respect, because he’s just a typical shark who finds himself a band with little commercial capacity, and even if it was a good band, he wouldn’t even try to get a decent sound, he’ld give them a ‘Bay City Rollers’ pop-sound and wouldn’t even realise that he has a band with potential. He’s gotten so used to seeing Belgian bands as little phoney things that he’s trying to turn them into the ‘Bee Gees’. I don’t know where they got stuck in their musical evolution but all they care about is a number with as many zeros as possible behind it, then they move on.
In this perspective, a producer like Klaus Milian [Etienne Verwilghen; Romatik recs] is useful…
Yeah, ‘X-Pulsion’ could have been signed to Phonogram [major label], through this manager of ‘The Kids’ but with him we would’ve recorded an LP in 3 hours, with people who’re not used to recording bands other than pop or folk, who have a minimum of finesse; so they barely take the time to get the balance right (arbitrarily, by the way, without us being able to give our opinion), to rehearse a little bit, to record the songs and get it over with. I’m not Tom Jones, or Elvis, who learn a song in 15 minutes, I need a lot of vocal work, I would be like Bowie who takes a day to record a song. So, with the manager of ‘The Kids’, we would’ve had an album distributed in France, England, The Netherlands and Belgium, but without any promotion. With Romantik recs, there are much less means (a single, 1.000 copies) but if it starts to work, he would try to get us on a bill in England, to do advertisements in Melody Maker, in New Musical Express…to try to make it work.
What about the future? Have you had any offers for recordings?
I don’t know yet, but for the ‘Chainsaw’ and [transsexual singer/actice] Marie-France EPs, the producer of Bomp recs [US label that put out Iggy Pop’s early releases] wrote to Klaus Milian to buy the rights for the US and he’s going to propose him ‘Streets’, ‘Mad Virgins’ and ‘X-Pulsion’.
Is there a Belgian new-wave scene in the making?
Until now, the difficulty for Belgian bands was that there were no scenes to perform on, no circuit of venues, nowhere to play. In England, there are circuits, pubs where a new band is sure to be able to play. Now, thanks to the New Wave, thanks to a few Belgian bands (‘Streets’, ‘Passengers’, ‘Fame’, ‘Mad Virgins’, ‘The Kids’ & ‘X-Pulsion’), contracts are starting to be signed and offers are starting to be made.
That’s also because of the success of new-wave, isn’t it?
It has nothing to do with the person owning the disco or club.
Won’t you have to go abroad because after all the Belgian audience is still very limited?
Of course, also because the Belgian audience is getting a bit tired of us, and then sooner or later we have to play in the countryside.
What French music dou you like?
I like ‘Streets’, Marie-France, [Serge] Gainsbourgh, [Jacques] Dutronc,… When you listen to Dutronc’s records, you realise that all his rhythms have been taken from ‘Asphalt Jungle’ [punk band from Paris], but a shark like Bowie, being English and addressing an English audience (who don’t know Dutronc), has always taken his rhythms from left and right, not in a blatant way, but he has taken them anyway; thus, Jean Genie is totally taken from Dutronc’s La Fille Du Père Noël. In any case, Patrick Eudeline [vocalist of ‘Asphalt Jungle’] has never been original; it’s You Inspire Me Shit, 2nd verse, where I attack his way of writing. He; who, in his articles on Iggy Pop for example, has always used qualifying terms, images used long before him by French and American journalists (I’m thinking of Y.-P. Adrien, who did a study on Iggy in Rock And Folk, and where almost all sentences were used afterwards in different articles by Eudeline.).
Does singing in French is an obstacle for you?
No, for example, ‘Streets’ played as the opening-act for Ian Dury & ‘The Blockheads’, Ian Dury’s band; they felt like they should come and sing in England.
Despite the language(-barrier)?
Despite the language; there’s a bit of snobbery involved anyway, and the way he sings in French sounds good to the English, it’s not too boring.
What’s your way of working and what are the themes inspiring your songs?
In the beginning it were stories with a set pattern; for example in Be All You Can Be, I had imagined combining a faggot, a transvestite, a snuff-film actor and a junkie; so I tell the story of a kid who’s a faggot and a junkie, one day he has a flash (he never felt good about himself) and he decides to become a woman, since he likes to be tortured and scare people, he becomes a snuff-film actor; the moral of the story is: be whatever you wanna be, in whatever way you want to, if you really want to, and keep that way of life. Then I wrote some more in-depth lyrics where I tried to use the Raymond Roussel [French surrealist author] system (i.e. the use of similar sounding words in a sentence, but the modification of the word changes the meaning each time while remaining coherent). Now it’s the spit in the face, the spleen that leads the total rage, the reaction of the individual (e.g. You Inspire Me Shit, which deals with fashion-followers, those who mindlessly follow what they’re told is extraordinary.).
What are your influences?
Paradoxically, comics have a considerable influence on my writing-style, the same as well-written Rock’n’Roll lyrics. That is to say where there’s a certain conciseness in the comics. Especially Hergé [Tintin comics] who is precise down to the last comma, in a few very simple sentences he expresses everything he wanted to say. From a personal point of view, I don’t want to be complicated at all, perhaps what I want to express is complicated but the way of saying it will be very simple. That’s the thing I would remember from comics: simplicity, conciseness, perfectionism.
Do you think that modern media are as important as they are made out to be?
They’re very important but young people read less and less, and are more and more dumbed down because they don’t use them intelligently enough. The good thing is that they’ve taught us to be concise with slogans and clichés, and that’s where the genius of the ‘Sex Pistols’ lies: they thought of using the lettering of anonymous letters; everybody knew about that but nobody ever thought of using it, it’s so commonplace. There’s a lot of things that go unnoticed that are great in their simplicity.
Is your goal simply to continue performing or do you have other ambitions (especially literary ones)?
I don’t know at all. (Above all I’m a dirty hypocrite…)
The interview is over but Peter goes on; I’m told he’s preparing a book about Iggy Pop; so, you see that he’ld like to write about other things too!!!
Brussels, March 7th, 1978
Klaus & Kurt Klang.
They reacted in a more standard way, deliberately less intellectual. It must be said that we were in a student-café, so …
Brussels, March 9th, 1978
Is there a Belgian new-wave scene in the making?
Kurt: That is to say, imaginative bands can create a circuit of scenes for themselves; apart from that, there’s nothing at all. It’s all personal research.
Anyway, you’ll have to leave Belgium sooner or later.
Kurt: If we can get out of Brussels, that’ll be good.
Klaus: We’ll have to, because there’s France (They don’t get anything in France.) and it’s about time we went there so they would understand things. We would like to go to Paris and the other big cities.
Do you think that the young bands will push the ‘pioneers’ like ‘Streets’ or ‘X-Pulsion’ aside?
Klaus: We’ll probably all be pushed around.
Kurt: It doesn’t really matter if they push us around: the more there are, the better. I mean, the more there are, the less competition there will be. It sounds silly but that’s the way it is; because the more there are, the more people will be interested, the more bands will form, the more venues there will be, the more ways there will be to break through, the more people will be interested, etc.
Isn’t amateurism the main flaw of these young bands?
Kurt: There’s no way to start otherwise, you can’t start as a semi-professional immediately.
Klaus: The amateur spirit is not the worst thing, because starting right away and trying to make money isn’t ideal either. The best way of doing things is to be an amateur financially and a professional in terms of your work; you have to reconcile the two. It’s difficult, because you can’t rehearse 3 or 4 times a week and not make any money.
How do you see the future of the band?
Klaus: I think that in the Belgian context we’re building up a following but we have to try to evolve, not to get stuck in a rut and above all to escape the sharks.
What do you think of the young French music-scene?
Kurt: There’s something good about Higelin, Juvet, Berger and France Gall.
Klaus: What’s disgusting is that they want to pass off people as the young French music-scene (e.g. Souchon) but these are just recuperated. Besides, I don’t know what’s wrong with them at the moment but they’re getting into trouble with disco.
What do you think of the direction Peter and Jerry have taken with songs?
Kurt: That tendency, it’s over.
Klaus: It’s one way of writing, though personally… But what they write now is quite different; Schmucks, You Inspire Me Shit are more like swear-songs.
You haven’t wanted to give your lyrics any political or social orientation yet?
Kurt: Politics? That doesn’t exist in Belgium.
Klaus: If we had to give them some kind of orientation, it wouldn’t be in favour of a political party but rather for towards a more intelligent, more evolved way of life.
But if young people became more aware, if they acted a bit more, real politics could perhaps be reborn.
Klaus: The main concern of our music is to make young people move, so that they realise that they have the strength within themselves to change something. When we see how far we’ve come, it’s urgent, we definitely have to realise that there’s a way to get everything a young person needs for cheap, it’s time that they can get it without going through adults.
Kurt: It’s like the yéyé [60s pop-music] era, where everybody had their guitar and their records; it was a total upheaval of values; that’s what’s happening again today.
A guy like ‘Plastic Bertrand’ is dangerous in that respect, isn’t he?
Kurt: He’s not part of the New Wave at all!
Klaus: That’s exactly the danger; in the end, what happens is that 1978 will be the year of punk-for-everyone, offered on a platter, that you buy in the supermarkets. That’s not what was needed; what was necessary was for young people to realise that there’s things to do, but that they have to go and find it themselves and, when we play a concert, we want people to come and try to get into the music themselves. We don’t want to present ourselves in an easy way. I believe Pedro understands things very well: he’s not the most accesible person, he throws himself into the audience, he insults them and tells them to move. It’s up to them to move, not so much to us: we do it to make them take notice, they have to change their attitude and rock is directly against passivity. (Getting high is too easy: you sit in an armchair, listen to a record and get high, all by yourself, and you do nothing, and you get flatulent, and you watch football on Sunday.)
So that’s finally the explanation for the aggressiveness on stage!
Klaus: I think thats what New Wave is all about, it’s aiming for a respons. I like it when a guy hates us, at least he’s reacting.
At the time of this interview, after these long chats (all shortened, of course) and after having attended several concerts completely (i.e. before, during and after), I could see a certain unease within ‘X-Pulsion’. Torn between their delusions and their new-found insight. (both about the audience as well as their new occupation, the press, etc.). Unstable because they are evolving. (I would say they’re going through their musical adolescence crisis). They’re looking for understanding after having sought liberation (of which success is the synonym). What will they ask us next? What path will they follow? “Be a little less frustrated.”, “I want to meet someone real.”, “React, I prefer someone who hates us.”, …?
For once, understand them, be intelligent…
Summary of an exsitence (or almost)
1-X-77: Jerry WX, Michel ‘Suntears’ [bass], Klaus Klang and Peter Schläger get together for the first time; looking for a name, they decide to call themselves ‘The Panzers’
2-X-77: Be All You Can Be (Schläger-WX) / Sperm Eater (Schläger-WX)
12-X -77: White Powder (Schläger-WX) / I Feel Down (Schläger-WX)
14-X-77: First concert (private or almost)
19-X-77: They choose the name ‘X-Pulsion’ permanently / No Solution (WX) / Castration (Schläger-WX)
28-X-77: Michel S. disappears (?), no activity until 2-XI
2-XI-77: Kurt Klang replaces Michel / Gimme Envy (Schläger-WX)
23-XI-77 Jerry and Peter try to merge with (the members of ‘Fame’
15-XII-77: Failure and return to ‘X-Pulsion’
17-XII-77: Boys Of Good Race (WX)
5-I-78: Schmucks (Schläger-Wx) / Subhuman (Schläger-WX)
12-I-78: Recording of 2 tracks for an LP with [Alain] Ragheno [concert-promotor / manager of ‘The Kids’] at the Start studio [Buizingen; owned by Sylvain Tack], but due to the atrocious mixing and the lack of technical care, only 3 hours for an almost final demo, ‘X-Pulsion’ refuses to sign with Phonogram.
18-I-78: You Talk Too Much (WX) / You Inspire Me Shit (Schläger-WX)
21-I-78: Recording of the EP in the Jannin studio [Brussels] for Romantik recs
25-I-78: Recording of 3 tracks for Follies [music-show on national TV] at RTB studio 4
4-II-78: 2nd version of Castration
22-II-78: No Romance (Schläger-WX)
22-III-78: B-Side (WX)
25-III-78: Remember Me (WX)
[12-III-78 support-act for ‘The Adverts’ @ Vieux Saint-Job, Uccle]