That time we… Profiled the country’s burgeoning punk-rock-noise scene (Part 2)

Born in the mosh pits of 90s era grunge, It It Anita perfectly embodies the very contradictions that currently make Liege’s one of the most exciting breeding ground for Belgian noise-rock. The 30-somethings are little punks at heart, but they’re damn serious about it.

Check out It It Anita’s recent throwaway project that took us on their New York City wanderings. 
0102_ThePainsOfBeingYoungAtHeart_It It Anita_01 copy

Francois: I’m a drummer, I’m 33 and father to two-month-old Emmanuelle. Apart from music I have a job with a Canadian firm.

Michael: I’m 35 and father to two little girls, and for the moment I essentially earn a living from artistic/musical activities. I participated in a project called Malibu Stacy and we toured a fair bit and sold a fair amount of CDs, so I made some money from royalties. That’s how I got by before, now it’s getting a bit hard.

NL: What do you mean you toured a fair bit? Were you able to survive on it?

Michael: Yes. I have artists status, and I have to justify my artistic practise. At the time we toured a fair bit: in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the States a few times to record. We had a few tunes that made the rounds on the radio and gigs that paid well. There were years when I was writing and recording so it wasn’t as good but we made up for it the following years when we toured.

Christophe: I’m Christophe and I am the youngest of the group. I’m 26. I don’t have kids like the others. I’m an engineer by trade and I work in an engineering company. It’s a kind of electronics shop and I sell products. You need to be as much of a geek as the ones who programme these products in order to be able to sell them so they hire an engineer.

Michael : A little clarification for your readers: I am an accountant by training and I listen to metal.

NL before NY. We played at Eurosonic (Groningen, NL) before taking off to America. We had our luggages and bags in the van and a driver took us from Groningen to Brussels Airport in the middle the night.

NL: Christophe what do you do in the group?

Christophe: I play bass and complain a lot too.

NL: There’s always one…

Christophe: I do the floor pedals (??) also, music equipment. And I am a polyglot like Francois.

NL: In terms of your working process, who does what?

Michael: In the beginning it was me and Damien. We both played guitar and we were making a track of 20 minutes long. Then we tried to find a drummer and a bassist.

NL: Did you know each other already?

Michael: I knew François vaguely from various music projects, and also because he was in university at the same time as my girlfriend. She’s 22.

Christophe: I played in another group with Damien called “Terrils”. He asked me if I could drop by at rehearsals and that’s how it started.

Lovely sheets at Water Music Studio. Flowers need water you know.

Lovely sheets at Water Music Studio. Flowers need water you know.

NL: Ok cool. On a philosophical note: would you say you are in the process of finding your path?

Francois: I believe indeed that something is taking shape. When you make music with people you’ve never played with before, it takes a while before you get to know them, musically also. We are currently in the finishing stages – of finding not just our style, but also our direction.

Christophe: I also have the impression that there is something emerging in the sense that the track was really at the draft stages before me and Francois arrived in the group, and we quickly found our feet. We’ve only been playing together since March, so that’s only six months, and two months later we were in the studio so we quickly established ourselves. We made connections easily, actually. It comes from the fact that we know, at the end of the day, that we all want to make the most of our time, and it’s going well.

NL: Apart from that you are all fathers so that takes loads of time apart from your jobs, except for Mike, I imagine you have lots on your plate, artistically speaking. As you said – you have to make the most of your time while you are together thanks to your day jobs. Mike and Damien – who were in groups before – did you always have this level of professionalism, this need to make the most of what little time you have?

Francois: The more time we spend together the more the project gets established and takes shape. It’s more rigorous, we might seem like the kind of guys who are drinking beer, and while that happens, also, we have a rigorous work ethic that we didn’t before. It’s not very glamorous, but without it the group wouldn’t go anywhere. But it’s gigs that make a band fizz. When you spend time together in a van or on stage that’s when the spirit of the group is created.

Damien: I don’t know if it’s a question of ‘rentability’ but the fact that we have these 15 years of experience allows us to know what we want, and we are more sure, I think. We know where we are going. We don’t give a shit but we know what we want to achieve. There’s no pressure.

Just in front of the Trump Tower. No comment.

NL: How do you think that affects your attitude towards the group, the fact that it’s not your bread and butter. You’re more chilled because of that.

Christophe: We have no pressure because we don’t need to achieve anything because we are not that age anymore, we don’t care. And so it’s refreshing compared to playing when I was in school. It’s cool.

NL: You exist in an ecosystem of many little groups, can you talk to me about the advantages of being part of this scene that’s in the process of emerging?

Michael: I think when you get involved in the rock scene in Liège, it’s hard to avoid it because you always want to make music with others and you make friends with lots of cool people in the scene. It’s the advantage of Liège where lots of things are happening.

Damien: I had a group with François Gustin who is now in “Girls in Hawaii,” we were called “Ducati Lovers” with Benoit Damoiseau who is now the drummer in “Pale Grey.” As you said it’s an ecosystem, we all know each other. Projects start and projects stop all the time, and others go further.

NL: You are the first group we have interviewed who are coming from this perspective. Generally the others say it’s shit. Surely it’s because you are older and it’s obvious you have jobs on the side and if you get an album and a few gigs out of this, then great, but if not it’s not the end of the world.

Francois: For me, yes, definitely. It’s always been my hobby, and I love it for the reasons I was just talking about; the human element. When you’re there with your mates you don’t think of anything else.

Christophe: It’s great that it remains a hobby, I know a fantastic jazz drummer who is sick of drumming because he does three or four concerts per day that he doesn’t necessarily like, and it’s his job so he has to live from that, he has kids and a house to pay for. For us it’s just our hobby, and we’re always excited to go practice.

Damien: It’s a double-edged sword because, yes of course I’d love to go on tour, but I couldn’t live for six months without seeing my kids.

Francois: I’d quit my job sooner than I’d quit music, definitely.

SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA CAN KILL!

It It Anita rides the metro in New York City, during a trip for the recording of their second album (2016).

NL: Where do you practice?

Damien: In Liège, in a former warehouse that belonged to a company that went bankrupt and the guy made a dozen spaces where lots of groups come and play. There are more or less three groups per space. Pale Grey played there but now they’ve moved, Piano Club, My Little Cheap Dictaphone, Terrils…

NL: The microcosm…

Francois: There are lots of groups, there must be like 30 groups, times 4 people per group, that makes a good hundred people practicing there.

Damien: There are opportunities there. If Terrils hadn’t rehearsed there, I wouldn’t be in It it Anita.

Francois: Even though we hate the owner and would like to stick a microphone deeply in his ass (!) But you meet people all the time and you weave connections with them and if you’re looking for a drummer you ask and often these people are looking for work because maybe they’re on the dole…

NL: Where’s the name come from?

Damien: It’s from when I was at a concert at an opening of an architectural exhibition in Charleroi and for the opening in the room above there was a concert with 20 drummers and 20 guitars, it was heavy, I was a bit hypnotised by the music and that week we were searching for a name for the group and from afar I saw something written on a piece of luggage that wasn’t It It Anita at all but I was on another planet so that’s what I saw. Straight away I wrote Mike a message saying “That’s it, I found a name,” and he responded, “Ok,” and then we made stickers. But it doesn’t mean anything.

NL: And you don’t know why you’re called that but you made stickers…?

Damien: We used to be called Jeudi Matin because we practiced on Thursday mornings…

We found the Café BXL near Times Square. Even if the place is run by french people, we felt like home.