Signal Aout 42 is a Belgian electronic/EBM project formed in the early 80s by Jacky Meurisse and his schoolmates. In the early days their live performances integrated audio and visual elements in a DIY style. However, SA42 became a more serious project after releasing their first album Pro Patria in 1989. Soon they were recognized as one of the most prominent EBM acts. I finally got the opportunity to interview Jacky after their last show at BimFest 2016.
1. Signal Aout 42 have always been a bit controversial, especially if we talk about the name and the obvious flirtation with the WWII German propaganda. What got you interested into that period of history, how has it inspired you? How did your love of history affect your work in general?
Jacky: First of all, thank you for your interest in Signal Aout 42 (SA42). I am very interested in history indeed, especially in military history. This may be due to the fact that I am Belgian and my country, Belgium, has always been a big battlefield; we can’t walk 2 kilometres without stumbling upon remains of battles that were fought there over centuries. I am also very impressed and surprised by the fact that people are so easily manipulated by propaganda, religion, etc.
When these two points of interests are combined, it turns out only natural that the name of the German propaganda magazine of the Second World War, “Signal”, has strongly inspired us for the name of our band. Since one of the members of the band had a copy of the magazine Signal from August 1942, we thought that the name would perfectly match the identity of the our project. However, don’t worry, SA42 is completely apolitical. The name has actually been somewhat of a burden to the band, since there were many people who incorrectly made the connection with the extreme right. But, also, I must confess that that provocation is also part of my character. Do not forget that I belong to the punk generation. :)))
2. “Pleasure and Crime” single was released in 1986, the same year as “Girls of Vlaanderen”. How do you feel today about your first singles that, in a way, became EBM anthems?
Jacky: Even today, I am still amazed about the success of those titles. I guess they came out at the right time and in the right place. Personally I am convinced that the use of the Bassline Roland TB303 gave the SA42 titles a new colour that seduced the discotheques of that era… I am not particularly proud of those titles because they are in my opinion too amateurish, but, whatever they are, they are also part of my discography and they have been the starting of my entire career.
3. What was the scene like back then in Belgium? It seems that it was a flourishing ground for many electronic music projects. What is so special about the Belgian EBM/New Beat/electronic music scene?
Jacky: Yes, you are right, Belgium was very productive in electronic music in the eighties.
I think that the very fact that Belgium is located between England (country of punk, new wave and pop), Germany (country of the minimalist and binary electro) and France with disco had to create the best possible circumstances for a mixture of genres to become a new genre of electro music. When you add a Belgian kind of “surrealist” spirit into all this, you were bound to end up with something interesting…
Jacky: My big sources of inspiration were the genres that I have mentioned: punk, new wave, and German electro.
Personally, the bands that influenced me the most were Fad Gadget, Human League, Heaven 17, Joy Division and New Order from the UK scene and Kraftwerk and DAF from the German scene. And there was Jean-Michel Jarre for the French side.
5. After your third album, you decided to put SA42 on hold for over a decade. What were you doing in the meantime? How did you decide to go back to SA42 work again?
Jacky: Yes, in 1995 when I was at the height of my success, I decided for personal reasons to stop making music and to start a career in a completely different field.
At that time I had a lot of commercial success with my side projects, for instance, there were Pleasure Games with “le Dormeur”, Le Park with “Litchies”, DJPC with “Insomniac”… and all of these projects were on the European top charts (Top50)!!!
But after these successes there came this too commercial orientation that the record company imposed upon me, and it so completely disgusted me with the music world. I didn’t want to sell my soul to the devil, so I decided to stop!
6. Your comeback album Transformation was released in 2007 on Out of Line. How did that come about?
Jacky: To me, making music is indispensable means of expression, it is stronger than me, I can’t control this drive! Therefore, it was only natural that I start composing again.
In 2007 I finished the new album Transformation. I thought it was good and that it would be a shame not to release it. So, I decided to contact Out of Line in Berlin and they gave me a positive answer. 🙂
My choice of Out of Line was a little bit based on the emotional factor because, you know, SA42 was the very first record that they had released. The Out Of Line 001 was the compilation SA42 Immortal Collection!!!
And when we look at what the label has become (the biggest in this musical style) I believe that I’m proud that I was their first product.
7. The sound of Transformation is the new millennium sound. The album is rich and mature, but you kept the electronic body music course. How do you feel about this comeback material? Has your inspiration remained the same over the years? How was it working on new SA42 material after so long?
Jacky: I admit, I am rather proud of Transformation because it’s more mature than the previous albums.
However, there’s one small regret: the sound could have been better.
Additionally, this was, to me, an album of a “renaissance”, especially since everyone, fans and critics alike, unanimously received it well. Also, I found out that even after a hiatus of 10 years, the fans were still waiting for me.
It was a very nice surprise and it really made me want to continue the adventure.
8. What are you lyrics mostly about? Has something changed during the time in that sense?
Jacky: I believe that I have always held the same thoughts, the same opinions, the same convictions, since the time I started.
As I have mentioned, I am interested into and impressed by military history and by manipulation of the masses… but I also hate hypocrites who lie to themselves!
I’m sure that everyone has a dark side. Personally I don’t deny this fact, I also have a dark side and I’m lucky that I can “satisfy” this bad part of me by making music. That’s actually the theme of the Transformation album where I tried, with more or less success, to tell a story of a madman who kidnaps his victim to turn her into a slave and kill her in the end.
But don’t worry, this is not an unsatisfied craving that I’m trying to live through through a story and that could have become reality if I hadn’t recorded this album. I’m not so bad… But don’t forget that I’ve also mentioned my provocative character. 🙂
Also, my first “song” Pleasure and Crime dealt a little with the same subject… So, obviously, I don’t really evolve. 🙂
Seriously, I think that each of us has some part inside ourselves that is dark. Not accepting this part leads to feelings of frustration, jealousy… and to accept it is a way to direct it and transform it into energy, that’s what I had done with the Transformation album… transform my dark side into musical energy. And now that that part of me has been released, I feel a lot better. 🙂
9. Since Transformation we got to hear two more albums, Vae Victis and Inspiration. Does that mean SA42 is back to full speed again? Can we expect a new album any time soon?
Jacky: I don’t plan, I compose when I have inspiration.
Every time it’s my last album, my last concert… And then, in the end, no, there is something that follows it after all…When will it end? So long as I enjoy it, I guess, never…
I can already tell you that a new album is in the works, I hope to finish it for the end of 2017…
10. I was lucky to have seen you perform live couple of times. Your live performance nowadays relies more on the sound and less on the visual aspect. Was that a logical progression and a part of getting more mature as an artist? How do you feel about your live shows today as opposed to the ones in 80s?
Jacky: When I came back in 2007, I didn’t think I was going to perform live again… I was 42, I thought that the stage was for the youngest. But there was a lot of demand and it made me change my mind and do it again.
The first concert that I gave then was at the Wave Gotic Treffen in the Agra Hall in front of 5000 people! You cannot imagine the pressure… and then, just like magic… I saw the full venue dancing to my titles!!! For me, it was ecstasy.
Then there was one live performance after the other, over the world, and each time there was the magic.
I take real pleasure in sharing my music with fans, the public is always there for me and ready to take it in.
Now I’m 52, I think it’s better that I give concerts based on sound and music rather than on performance. There comes certain age when you have to be careful in order not to become pathetic… When you are certain age, the visual performance is not for everyone… Heh, double salto, that’s not longer it for me. 🙂
11. Your current sound appeals to the old school EBM fans and to some new generations of listeners. Since your comeback, do you feel you gathered the old fans and found some new ones as well?
Jacky: I cannot explain my success… In the end I’ll start thinking that I’m not so bad a musician… 🙂
12. On your last show in Belgium, besides Olivier on percussions, Tcheleskov Ivanovich of Grandchaos made his appearance on synth. You have collaborated with him previously. Can you tell us something more about that collaboration?
Jacky: When I came back in 2007, I needed someone to support me on stage, I was introduced to Tcheleskov Ivanovitch of GrandChaos. Tché seemed to be the right choice because we had the same musical culture, we were the same age… Olivier T was also a member of GrandChaos and joined us on stage.
As the time went by, the three of us became good friends.
In 2014 Tché asked me if I would like to make a project with him. I said to myself: why not… That’s how we created Grand ((o)) Signal… effectively, the contraction of GrandChaos and Signal Aout 42.
Grand ((o)) Signal is a more recreational project, released on the French label Unknown Pleasures.
13. What are you currently working on?
Jacky: GrandSignal was released last summer and it received a warm welcome by the reviewers, the reviews have been very good, and now all we have to do is wait for the reaction of the public.
It was similar with my project: «Jacky Meurisse Project» which was released on a Spanish label, I-TRAXX.
At the moment I’m composing again for SA42. 😉
Jacky: As I have said, I don’t plan, each event could be the last one.
I receive a lot of requests for concerts, but I often decline the invitations because I want to be sure that I play in good conditions and in front of a good audience!
I have never played in small and poorly equipped venues in front of a frivolous public, and I don’t want start it now after so many good experiences.
Also, I want each SA42 live performance to be exclusive, both for the public and for me. These events have to remain occasional and exceptional.
So, only the future will tell whether SA42 will be back on stage after the New Gold Dream festival.
Thanks again for taking interest in SA42 I wish everyone all the best. 😉