‘Walt! Come on!’ Last year, former Daft Punk manager Busy P went head to head with Disney after coming across the track list of R3CONFIGUR3D, the remix album for the duo’s brilliant Tron: Legacy soundtrack. ‘I am sad to discover Disney’s A&R is buying his electronic music in airports stores. Luckily I found this exciting Tron: Legacy remix from our Belgium cousins GOOSE.’ Needless to say, that remix rapidly went viral.
Recently also described by The Guardian as an ‘onstage powerhouse, successfully bridging the gap between electronic music and rock’, GOOSE has continued to make big waves – six years after the release of its much-hyped debut album Bring It On on Skint Records. Their second album Synrise (!K7) not only saw the band working with Peaches (on the highly addictive title track), they also enlisted legendary Pink Floyd designer Storm Thorgerson to create the artwork.
Today, more confident than ever, GOOSE is set to release its third album in the fall. Still according to The Guardian, ‘the excellent first single Real has them hitting their guitar strings harder than ever before’ and they’ve got a powerful performance video by acclaimed Dazed & Confused photographer Pierre Debusschere to prove it. In the coming months more videos will follow, further establishing GOOSE as a formidable live force (and quite possible the strongest entity to come out of Belgium since Jean- Claude Van Damme in Kickboxer).
Remind us though: how did it all start?
Dave: ‘Bert and Mickael have known each other since kindergarten. I joined them in 1996 and it wasn’t long before we started playing in local bars – mostly fifties, sixties and seventies type rock & roll. It was only when Tom joined in the year 2000 that GOOSE really took off in a different, much more distinct direction.’
Mickael: ‘The problem in those early days was that we were all listening to different types of music and I guess we all wanted to persevere – somehow. When Bert and Dave were listening to seventies rock, I was caught up in Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Later on, I became a huge Nirvana fan, but Bert and Dave didn’t think they were cool enough because their songs didn’t have enough solos. (laughs) So we ended up playing a bit of everything.’
Dave: ‘Which also had at least one major advantage: we constantly exposed each other to new music. I never would have heard of Les Rythmes Digitales – one of our biggest influences – if it weren’t for Mickael.’
Tom: ‘Around the time I joined GOOSE, there were actually a number bands who seemed to seamlessly mix guitars and electronic music – like Depeche Mode in the ‘80s. We felt we needed to move in that direction, if only because for the very first time there was this new and exciting sound we could all agree upon.’
Dave: ‘I had also just bought a synthesizer and Mickael, who used to only sing on stage, started messing around with it. Soon after, that synthesizer became an integral part of GOOSE.’
It also wasn’t long before GOOSE played electronic music festivals – a major departure from the rock venues you used to play.
Mickael: ‘Yes and no. Even when we were just a rock band, we were aware of the fact that people go to a concert to dance and have a good time. That’s also what every other band we looked up to did: AC/DC, The Beatles, they always showed people a good time by putting up an amazing show. So whatever music we were playing at the time, we always felt we needed to take our audience on a journey and really interact with them. I guess that’s why electronic music promoters – who are in the business of making people move – quickly noticed us.’
Dave: ‘Recording our first album, we also wanted it to be full of songs that would get a party started. So when we’d play them live, people would really respond to them – regardless of whether they knew them or not. Because that’s what a good dance tune does: it makes people move. A good deejay will have people on their feet until early in the morning, playing both known and unknown tracks. It’s never just about playing certified club hits, it’s about creating an amazing atmosphere with really good songs.’
Tom: ‘There’s nothing more boring and frustrating than a rock concert where you can feel the entire audience waiting for that one hit single. And then if you’re really lucky,you’ll also see half of them respond to the second single. (laughs) We didn’t want that to happen to us.’
Though despite having the same vibe, there used to be a real difference between how your songs sounded live and on record. With the new album, the recorded songs sound much more live.
Mickael: ‘Recording an album and playing live also used to be two very different things for us. We were either in the studio recording songs or on the road performing them. For some reason, it simply wasn’t possible for us to write songs while on tour or to go out and play when we were in the studio. Yet, with the first two albums, you would have never found us recording tracks in the studio together. We would all record our separate parts, fool around with them, record some more, twist some more buttons, … Contrary to playing live, it wasn’t a very collective affair.’
Dave: ‘Recording our third album was different. For the first time, we really came together as musicians in the studio. We had come to realize that our live shows had become the backbone of GOOSE – proof of how we had continued to grow as a band. So we wanted to record an album that was a testament to that live sound – one that wouldn’t rely heavily on software and machinery.’
Mickael: ‘Bottom line: an electronic instrument is nothing more than a machine attached to a recording device. You can gently caress its buttons or pound on them really hard, the result will be the same. The machine dictates – to a large extent – the sound and feel of what you set out to do. Like with Synrise, we wanted to make an electronic album with a distinct human feel – playing all synthesizers ourselves and creating every electronic sound from scratch. But we quickly noticed our equipment didn’t allow us to do what we aspired to. The recording process turned out to be much more technical than originally intended.’
Bert: ‘For the third album, we wanted none of that. So instead of creating songs in the studio and building them layer-by-layer, we rehearsed them extensively beforehand and then used the studio to record them – all four of us together; one take. We never did that in the past, but it felt really good.’
Dave: ‘It’s definitely something we’ve been wanting to do for a very long time but we never felt ready for it. Until now. So yes, it definitely felt liberating to be able to do that but it also felt comforting to know we could pull it off. In all honesty: this was the easiest and most relaxed recording session in the history of GOOSE. Normally, we’d encounter a few ups and downs. We would have days when everything seems to go our way and days when we can’t even get the coffee machine to work. This time, we had the songs, we knew how to play them, recording the album was a piece of cake. For us, as a band, this is a major step forward.’
Bert: ‘Another major step forward was allowing someone else in and trusting him to make decisions for us. We brought Paul Stacey (known for working with Oasis and The Black Crowes) on board as an engineer – to help record the album. But he basically ended up producing it with us and giving us more confidence and insight along the way. Per example: we constantly wanted to do more takes because we genuinely felt we could make the songs better. But Paul was like: “Look, guys, I’m sure you could play this song better but you nailed it with the second take. It sounds great so let us move on.” That too was very liberating.’
Why did it take so long for you to trust someone else with your songs?
Tom: ‘It wasn’t just a matter of trust. We never went looking for a producer because we didn’t think we needed one. So when Paul came along, it was only after a while – after having worked with him and appreciating his opinion – that we slowly started to see the benefits of having a producer on board.’
Dave: ‘What’s funny is that the man we actually didn’t even seek out to be our engineer ended up being our producer. See, we wanted Dave Sardy (known for working with Oasis, OK GO and Wolfmother) to mix the album because we thought he would do an awesome job – really giving our electronic instruments a rock & roll edge. But Dave suggested we’d talk to Paul Stacey, who he’d just finished recording Noel Gallagher’s solo album with. He said we wouldn’t find a better man for the job, and he was right.’
Tom: ‘There’s no way we would have otherwise ever come across Paul though. Even if we had taken a look at his resume on Wikipedia, we would have instantly ruled him out. How do you go from working with The Black Crowes to working with GOOSE?’
Mickael: ‘Then you realize all that doesn’t matter. It’s about skills, and passion, and being open-minded. We took some things from him; he took some things from us; we ended up working together like a real rock band.’ Having been a fan of sixties and seventies rock, did working with the producer of The Black Crowes feel like coming full circle?
Dave: ‘Yes, but it seems we made a really big circle.’ (laughs)
Mickael: ‘Computers have given us so much – you could honestly say they even turned us into a real band – but it was time to see how much further we could grow as a proper live band.’
Dave: ‘If only because we can. I don’t mean to sound pretentious but a lot of electronic musicians simply aren’t able to play live. Soulwax is able to do so, LCD Soundsystem was able to do so, and then there are probably five other electronic acts that can pull it off. Most others are really talented producers who’ve asked a drummer and a synth player to go on tour with them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but you never get the impression you’re watching a real live band.’
Bert: ‘We actually started out as a real live band but then we got stuck in this digital comfort zone – with everyone sitting behind a computer pushing buttons and discussing the new album. This time around, we just played it live – simple as that. Even Mickael’s voice has never sounded more – well – real than on the new album.’
Famous fashion photographer Pierre Debusschere’s video for Real, the first song from the new album, also suggests a much less stylized, much more rock & roll approach to promoting the album.
Dave: ‘Very much so. Working with the legendary designer Storm Thorgerson on the cover for Synrise or working with the guys from Swedish production company PUNX on the video for the album’s title song, it was amazing but also very time-consuming. For the new album, we want things to be much more direct, simpler, faster. We want to work with people we can toss around ideas with and then swiftly execute them, without having to make compromises.’
Mickael: ‘Over the years, we’ve met so many interesting people and artists that we found ourselves in a unique position. It wasn’t so much about who we could work with – plenty of talented names to choose from – it was about who would be crazy enough to do so. Realizing that – with Pierre per example – we didn’t just want one video, we wanted eight videos. Luckily, despite his enormously busy schedule, Pierre said yes and so far we’ve already recorded four videos – all featuring GOOSE as a live band.’
Tom: ‘That was really important to us – to perform live in those videos. There are a million music videos out there with bands pretending to perform live. Yes, we’ve also been there. No, it’s not easier. You might think it’s easier because all you have to do is pretend but as a musician it feels much more natural to have an instrument produce sounds than to use it as decoration.’
Mickael: ‘The great thing is that we’ll end up with three slightly different versions of each song: the one on the album, the one in the video and the one we’ll actually perform on stage in front of an audience. They all sound a bit rougher than the previous one.’
Say you had to pick two versions: which one would you leave out?
Mickael: ‘That’s like asking which kid we would give up for adoption!’ (laughs)
Tom: ‘I regularly read concert reviews in which the journalist talks about how much he likes the album and how disappointed he was about the live performance. That would be our ultimate nightmare. I’d rather have people tell me how they don’t like the album but absolutely love the performance …’
Dave: ‘… because you can’t have a great concert without great songs so if people end up liking the performance but not the album, that would mean the producer fucked up – not us! (laughs) Only kidding, Paul.’