Ignatz’ experimental folk-blues

The refreshing simplicity of Ignatz’s timeless music, one which takes its roots in blues and folk, is rivaled only by the piercing honesty with which it is delivered, most of his compositions underpinned by an intrinsic DIY sensibility that distinguishes them from today’s overproduced nonsense. Having just released his latest album ‘The Drain’ on Kraak Records in June, we speak to the now Landen-based, Hasselt-born singer-songwriter about solitude’s influence on his work and how winning third place in a drawing contest gave him his start in music.

Generally speaking how would you describe your music?

I guess it’s blues. Mostly folk-blues but with effects added. It’s very open, more psychedelic experimental interpretation.

So it’s like blues interpretation?

Yeah, it’s very open and loose. By that I mean in the way I approach it.

Where were you born, and where are you based today?

I grew up in Hasselt, near the Phillips research development centre, where they invented the cassette tape and the CD. I stayed in Hasselt until I was 18, then moved to Ghent then to Brussels and now I live in Landen.

How has moving to Landon influenced your music?

It changed a lot because I fell back on my own tastes rather than those of the people around me in Brussels. So this newfound solitude kind of reinforced my music I’d say. It also means I have more time and space now, which makes it that much more relaxed to play.

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Do you find the solitude inspiring?

Probably yes. I mean no matter where you live you’ll somehow get influenced by the people and places around you, but yes living in Landen has changed my music in that way.

How did you first start making music?

When I was a child I didn’t really care about music. I was mostly into drawing. There was this contest for drawing and as first prize you could win a trip to New York, as second prize you’d win a ghetto blaster and third a flute. I won the flute. So the next day I started playing the flute. Then, when I was 13 or 14 I started playing the guitar, mainly by seeing Sonic Youth and stuff like that. I kept playing the guitar and started home recording.

Can you pinpoint a moment responsible for getting into music making?

At the time, I was into skateboarding. There was this program on Dutch television that did an entire series about American underground music, before Nirvana got really huge. And they had Sonic Youth on it, toying around on their guitars in their studios, a bit like you would with skateboards, and to me that was very cool. They where just making noise and I thought to myself: “wait a second, I can do that.”

How would you describe your local scene?

In Landen I don’t know anybody but I consider my local scene as Kraak and all the people that gravitate around Les Ateliers Claus in Brussels.

Ok, and how would you describe that scene then?

It’s very ‘dada’, very non-conformist. It’s free with a lot of humour, there’s a lot of emphasis on just having fun, drinking, hanging out but also pushing the boundaries of possibilities. It’s not anarchistic but you can do whatever you want. The experimental side might come across as pretentious but it’s not, there is no academic approach to it at all.

What do you find the most challenging when you record music?

Well it depends, you fall back on certain mechanisms from time to time, especially when recording, like certain effects I use or certain ways I put the mic. You have to change it up from time to time otherwise everything sounds similar. You also have to be in the right mood and that’s not always easy, to find a balance between playing right and spontaneity. Recording the vocals is almost always the most difficult part for me.

Do you write your own lyrics, what’s the process?

I don’t really write lyrics. I just make something up and throw some effects on it. I’ve never really written lyrics. I sing in English but as a non-native speaker. I don’t know if writing lyrics works. When I try to sing a lyric that is written, it’s very difficult for me – it feels more natural to just sing anything.

Where would you say you feel the most confortable, in the studio or on stage?

I never really feel 100% relaxed on stage, it’s like you’re under the microscope and everybody is watching you. Once I start playing it’s ok but still it makes me nervous. I’ve done some concerts by now so it’s gotten better. But I still don’t talk to the audience or stuff.

Let’s talk about your latest album, ‘The Drain’.

I recorded it at Les Ateliers Claus. It’s the first studio record I made and Christophe Albertijn recorded it. I had all these songs ready so we simply set up and then worked throughout the day to record 25 songs. Then we chose some for the album. I tried to record it at home but I didn’t really like the way it sounded. I wanted it to become more simple, without effects, just the acoustic guitar. It’s very difficult to get a proper recording out of a home. It always sounds really cheezy.

‘The Drain’ is out now on Kraak Records.
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All photography (c) Thomas Ost