It happened. Soulwax released ‘From Deewee’ - their first album in twelve years (if we leave the Belgica-soundtrack aside, which was a collection of imaginary bands). However, it’s not that the Dewaele brothers haven’t been up to much during those twelve years.
There’s so much to tell about the escapades of Stephen & David Dewaele. Since we can’t mention them all, we chose an alternative approach. We listed seven concepts and projects that defined these two exceptional musical characters and their extraordinary career. In no particular order, completed with reactions by some friends, fans and specialists. And yes, it’s an excuse that we’re making.
This is where it all begun. Soulwax started out as a rock band which was formed mid-nineties, inspired by their love for stoner rock bands like Kyuss and Monsters of Reality. Roughly speaking, you could say Soulwax made three ‘traditional’ albums: ‘Leave the Story Untold’, ‘Much Against Everyone’s Advice’ and ‘Any Minute Now'. With each album, you could observe their growing interest in electronica and experiment, resulting in ‘Any Minute Now’ being clash between electronica and rock. They made albums, did their promo duties and toured the shit out of themselves. Things couldn’t have been more simple. We think.
2manydjs is the Dewaele brothers' DJ moniker, which eventually began as a pastime during their extensive touring after releasing ‘Much Against Everyone’s Advice’. The brothers would apply a method which we would later know as mash-up, which means creating a new track, out of 2 existing songs. This pastime led to a very successful radio show (Hang the DJ on Studio Brussel) and one of the most iconic Belgian records ever (As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2).
Kenny Gates (CEO [PIAS] Group) is still very fond of the album: “The success we have achieved with ‘As Heard on Radio Soulwax’ is of a very rare level- both commercially and in terms of impact on the DJ culture in general. The importance of this project is hard to overestimate, and that influence is still present.”
Nite Versions came out in 2005, and was the last album released as Soulwax before ‘From Deewee’. After receiving disappointing reviews on ‘Any Minute Now’, the band decided to strip the entire album and remix all tracks. The result was a genre defining stomper which influenced electronica acts worldwide. Their conceptual approach of the album also was an opportunity to make their live shows more dance orientated, which also led to the Radio Soulwax nights.
Thang (Belgian DJ and Soulwax friend) emphasizes that Soulwax their obstinacy is an important factor throughout their career: “They just love doing things the hard way and they won’t take into account any hypes or industry trends. They’ve always had an aspect of eternal youth and being rebellious."
Most of the Remixes
Even long before Nite Versions, Soulwax have established themselves as devoted remixers. Their rework reputation caused them to remix indie bands like Tame Impala, LCD Soundsystem and Gorrilaz, as well as pop stars like The Rolling Stones, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and more.
In 2007, they released a compilation album. No greatest hits, but a collection of all the remixes they made until then, titled ‘Most of the Remixes’…, which are only the first 4 words of an album title counting 103 words in total.
This album was an excellent excuse to develop a new live show consisting of only remixes, inspired by the Nite Versions setup. The result? A pulverising performance which established Soulwax as one of the most exciting live acts around.
In everything they do, Stephen & David apply a singular vision, a clear creative goal that they never depart from
Kenny Gates: “In everything they do, Stephen & David apply a singular vision, a clear creative goal that they never depart from. Sometimes this causes extra stress, or this leads to extended deadlines, but the result is always great. They’re always passionate and that’s very motivating for a music company like [PIAS]”. It’s exactly this work ethic that makes Soulwax come up with remarkable concepts.
After they compiled the soundtrack for Felix Van Groeningen his first motion picture - Steve & Sky - the guys from Ghent teamed up again for ‘Belgica’, Van Groeningen’s latest film. However, this time Stephen & David their involvement was of an unseen level. The duo composed an entire new soundtrack for the film, existing of 15 imaginary bands, each having a different genre and playing a role in the film itself. Of course, the film contained another exclusive 12 tracks which are unreleased to this day. Classic Soulwax.
Radio Soulwax can be interpreted in two ways.
Firstly, you have the Radio Soulwax nights curated by Stephen & David. On these nights, they would perform as Nite Versions & 2manydjs and they would invite befriended artists in the likes of Erol Alkan, Digitalism, Tiga and many, many more.
Secondly, Radio Soulwax is a megalomaniac project that has taken several forms. Most recently it has appeared as an app and digital radio station, hosting 24 individual hour-long mixes, with custom (animated) visuals.
Mich Leemans (promoter Ancienne Belgique and band member paper hats): “The Radio Soulwax app is another example of how the band keeps reinventing itself. They just do what they feel like, while implementing a very DIY. Projects like these prove they are the hardest working men in the business."
The latest chapter in Dewaele history is DEEWEE, which is a lot of things: a building, a studio, a label, a record collection and a publishing house. Every DEEWEE release is written, recorded or mixed in their studio by David and Stephen Dewaele.
And, of course, Soulwax wouldn’t be Soulwax if they didn’t take the concept on the road. The brothers got the band back together for their ‘Transient Program for Drums and Machinery’-tour in the summer of 2016. A mind-blowing setup which consisted of seven musicians (including three drummers) operating the better half of the Dewaele studio on stage.
Thang: “The new DEEWEE concept is pure genius. When I saw them at Pukkelpop, I was flabbergasted. Every detail was so immensely in check, it became scary. I never saw anyone produce such a wall of sound in a live environment. “
Their comeback record ‘FROM DEWEE’ is a logical consequence of their recent live gigs. It was recorded in one day and in one take with the same musicians and setup. A typical Soulwax spin on the classic album concept.
Mich Leemans: “These last 8 months have been so impressive. How they run DEEWEE as a label reminds me of Factory Records. The run-up to the album has again demonstrated they can write clever pop songs with that typical Soulwax-twist.”
The run-up to the album has again demonstrated they can write clever pop songs with that typical Soulwax-twist
There’s definitely more to the Soulwax universe. We didn’t even mention other original projects like the movie (Part of The Weekend Never Dies), the soundsystem they created together with James Murphy (Despacio) and the dozens of other musical alter egos (Die Verboten, Samantha Fu, Waffles,…).
We can only wonder what the next step will be for Soulwax.
Thang: “I would like to see a collaboration with Kraftwerk and Trent Reznor, using an enormous modular setup. Or a full-on rock gig, no synths allowed!“
Kenny Gates: “Who knows what’s next? Maybe they can come and play at our [PIAS] offices? Or do a massive stadium world tour.”
Chances are, David & Stephen are already working on the next episode. But, for now, let’s just enjoy ‘FROM DEEWEE’, which is a brilliant record. It’s definitely good enough for what you’re paying. (wink-wink)