Below is a transcription of a 1981 interview with Nausea in the Dutch fanzine “Vinyl” (originally posted here) titled “Nausea: Us & Now.”
Don’t forget our reissue of the Killing Time 7″can be ordered here!
NAUSEA is one of the many groups in Brussels making new sounding music. Giorgio, Jean-Francois, Paolo and Johnny are less than 20 years of age. Last year they drew a lot of attention by simultaneously releasing a single (Vocal Expression/Killing Time) and contributing to a compilation of Belgian groups realised by the magazine Riff. Their song ‘No Conversation’ was being praised by the press as being very promising. And with a reason, because the small amount of vinyl they have released shows in a very clear way their musical power that rests on a remarkable combination of romantic sensitivity and a biting ability to observe.
JL: Just a list of what you’ve achieved already: namely an honourable place between reasonably well known Belgian bands on the Riff lp, a single that well at least on the alternative radio stations, is being played over and over, and optimistic reactions from press and public. Since 1980 however it is frighteningly silent around Nausea. An explanation?
N: There are all kinds of reasons, but the most important one is that we are all students still, and that means it’s logical that we are being held back from music because of exams and other trouble. We are going to contribute to a cassette by 'Sandwich’ that will also be released in England. We are also contributing a few songs to an Italian cassette.
On a third cassette by 'FM Bruxel’, there will be 4 pieces by us. On top of that we recorded a second single with Alain Pierre (the man who produced the LP by Joseph K recently). The original idea was to release a maxi, but that would have cost us too much time, and that we don’t have.
JL: Will the two singles be very different from eachother?
N: Well, the most important new element is that we’ll use real drums instead of just a rhythmbox. At least on one side, the other side will be more electronic. Thus you have two facets of Nausea: Lively and mechanical.
JL: You haven’t been playing live much either.
N: Yes, that is true. We are actually a bit scared of that. Until now, none of our concerts really succeeded. During 'The First Belgian Rhythm Box Contest’ for example, the patterns from our rhythmbox were not in sync with what we played out of our instruments. Because of the bad monitoring on stage we had no feedback, and since the rhythmbox has no ears, it just trotted on. 'Vocal Expression’ and 'Killing Time’ are to our eyes very intimate songs, and on stage we are just not able to create that atmosphere. Now Johnny has joined we are going to try again, because he is ALIVE and able to match the rhythmic and melodic patterns that the other members produce.
JLn the Riff-compilation Nausea is placed amongst young Belgians who make more traditional music, with a New Wave influenced beat of course. On the other side the first single was released on Sandwich that has a reasonably experimental 'imago’ and promotes mainly electronic groups. The public has no clear view on the group that way, in some places Nausea is labelled cold wave, which is an enormous mistake.
N: Regardless, it is not the case that we ourselves consciously chose a place between the groups on that Riff lp. Equally looking to or referencing them is not the case, neither with the Sandwich groups by the way. That is not to say that the public doesn’t create such categories: every group is being labelled rather rapidly.
JL: Are you shocked when Nausea is being called experimental?
N: Yes we are: everything that is experimental is like nothing. Experiment means reflection, conscious modelling, intellectually cannibalized expression. Almost all our songs are made in 15 mins, very impulsive, very spontaneous. We are not looking for anything, it just arrives. We don’t want to work in a certain style, and when that means being labelled cold-wave that hurts. That is restrictive. Our music is more rich than that, because it is personal. By the way all the clichés that have been put on Nausea till now will dissapear by the release of our next single, cos that one is totally different.
JL:In the press-folder of Nausea are a few interesting second thoughts on music as a form of expression. So the group maintains amongst other claims: 'All that we have to say is embodied in our music’.
Is music such an expressive force?
N: When we wrote that we meant that during a concert for example it is unnecessary to announce a song and explain it. That way you would say the same thing twice, because the music should speak for itself. By the way why should you explain the meaning of every song? the public must be able to respond their own way. Each interpretation of our music is equally valuable, even if it is different from our intention. We give a stimulus and the public responds. The public is also artistic, listening is creating. When reactions by the public on Nausea are broadly different, that only means our music offers rich possibilities (potential). You can compare it to what Bourroughs does: his text is total chaos, unclear not 'told’ not descriptive. His only goal is to get reactions, impressions, and a book by Burroughs is not read just like that, you live it. We make music with the same intent.
JL: You claim to make music completely impulsive and uncontrolled. In how far can one/you set aside the musical reference-structure and make something completely new?
N: Of course there are certain limitations to the power music, it has to be an expressive medium. Music is a language and has like every language a grammar. When you step out of that too radically you don’t make music but sound. Music is organisation, culture; sound is chaos, nature. Every form of art is the organisation by natural elements, and that organisation process has its way according to certain rules. By uncontrolled we mean we don’t stop and look at what we are doing. Our music bubbles up automatically, but the end result fits in the musical idiom. Thanks for that. Nausea actually is a very acceptable group, our music is not that original or authentic that it is shocking. There is an effect of wonder at the most. That is the ideal: the golden balance between given aspects and new finds.
JL: The Scio-critic of Lucien Goldmann and others has proven significally that literature every time reflects the period and the culture in which it is written. For music this is just the same. No form of art is independent of social and political context.
N: Totally agreed, but with a little nuance: it’s not that our music is a reflection of society as a objective given fact, but as (a reflection of society as) a subjective experience. In fifty years our music won’t be sought out for artefacts of the city of Brussels, but on the lives of the Nausea members in that city.
N: Our music is an image of reality, filtered by our personal experience of it. Especially when living in the big city you can’t get around reflecting in your music what you see happening around you. You make an account possibly have an influence on the public.
A text like the one in 'No Conversation’ can make the public think. Music is not just entertainment and amusement, you put in a lot of you in it, and if that broadens the horizon of the fans, that is double satisfactory.
Of course Nausea won’t change the world, Nausea is a fragment of the big puzzle, when the public picks up a piece here and there and tries to put them together, you get a more whole view on the world. Of that view, Nausea is a small element. It would be pretentious to want to show everything, proclaim a universal truth.
JL: The press-files are completely built around the theme: drugs, with the needed irony of course. So it says records are barbiturates and concerts are sleep-inducing drugs. On the end of the files there’s a list of psychological factors that explains drug-use. They seem to be applicable to music as well. In what way is music an attempt to imitate the life style of certain idols?
N: Undeniably that factor will be there, but it certainly doesn’t arrive in the first place. We didn’t choose our music because there is a stone-hard image woven around it, we simply have something to say and music is the most direct way to express it. However writing a text can be fantastic too.
JL: Is being a musician not also a way to break away from certain social standards, values, a certain education?
N: Of course you mean that we try with our music to cripple the older generation, but that is totally not the case. It’s not a case of generations or of a gap between classical and popular music. We listen to very diverse things, and when our parents would be enthusiasts about what we do, it won’t dissapointing to us. It’s just hard to imagine.
What IS there, is the will to break away from the norm, from the average, the masses. The individual is very important, and being yourself without living like anyone else is the only gaurantee for a life with any value. Following rules and laws blindly turns you into a fossil. Identity and change are to us very important terms that is why Nausea equals WE & NOW, with an equally big emphasis on both elements. We are four unique individuals and we don’t want to dissapear into anonymity. We discover new things about ourselves all the time, and so tomorrow our ideas might be completely different. From the moment on when you think you know it all and found it all your life doesn’t make sense anymore.
JL: Aren’t you afraid to grow completely apart from society, and be encased in the music scene?
N: Not at all, we are real city people and we very much like that city environment. Living in the countryside with a dog and a pipe would be really terrifying to us. By making music, and expressing what we feel in Brussels, we are even more bound to our environment. It is so that expression sharpens the consciousness. In general it is assumed that at first you have to sense something before you can express it, but it is more rather the other way around. Something you cannot put into language, you cannot understand and sense. That´s why language is so important. Thats why Nausea is so special. Because we clarify things to ourselves and to others.