Interview with Daniel Malempré of Kosmose, M.A.L., Subject, and Human Flesh
“All bathed all the time in the echo, gave birth to a new concept, “electronic music performed with only a guitar”!!!”
Forty years later the mythic album is at last available! The story of a magnetic tape that contained a trade secret. After Daniel Malempré sent the original recordings to two famous record companies, only to later suspect that a famous guitarist working for one of the companies would copy his concept? Now it doesn’t matter as the recordings are available for us to enjoy.
To begin with, when and where were you born and was music a big part of life in Malempré household?
I was born in Charleroi, Belgium on January 8, 1953. My grandfather was a musician and my older brother played guitar in a band at school. We were listening, on an old tube radio, the programs broadcast by radio Caroline. We discovered the Beatles and the Stones!
At what age did you begin playing music and what were the first instruments that you played?
Like all the little brothers, I wanted to copy my brother. He taught me guitar chords. I was nine! I also went to the music academy to learn music theory and piano. But my DNA was more rock than classical, the guitar became my favorite instrument.
What were your first musical involvements?
In high school in 1970, I met Francis Pourcel, an excellent bassist. With some musicians in the Charleroi area, we formed ‘SIC’, a blues band. We played covers of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. We also composed some pieces. We were rehearsing in Francis’ attic. But as a more experimental music lover, a little later, we formed ‘Kosmose’ with Alain Neffe (keyboards and flute). At this time, I started recordings of cosmic guitar.
Concert in 1970
What influenced you?
When I was a teenager, I loved the Beatles and the Stones very much. And of course all the guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Peter Green … But very quickly, when I discovered Pink Floyd and their psychedelic music, King Crimson and their progressive music, I wanted to experiment with other musical horizons. Obviously, I was influenced by the German groups, Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Neu, Kraftwerk …
What are some of the strongest memories from recording ‘M.A.L.’ that was finally issued on Sub Rosa label?
These recordings date mostly from the time when I played with the group ‘Kosmose’. We rehearsed twice a week. The group improvised all the time. At home, in my little student room, I also wanted to compose songs, to work on them until I was satisfied with the result. But I had low means: a Sony TC630 tape recorder, a second hand guitar and a wah-wah pedal. All bought with the money earned by doing student jobs. It is by exploring all the possibilities of these three tools that I managed to create cosmic music on guitar!
How did you develop the technique that is featured on the album?
On the recorder TC630, there are three heads: erase, record and play. We recorded on the right track, then, we recorded the left tracks. Thanks to the SOS, the playhead returns the signal read on the track on the right, and we played at the same time. So we get on the left track, the recording of the right track mixed with a new instrument. So two melodic lines. Then we can return this left track on the right track by including a third melody line. Naturally, the original track will be erased! In short, the mix is done as it is and then we developed the piece! When we played, we added echo, but everything that was recorded was final. That said, we get with this system, a song recorded in MONO. If you listen in stereo, the right and left tracks are shifted, more or less depending on the speed of 4.75 9.5 or 19 cm / sec. As I wanted to compose cosmic music, I tried to design my songs in stereo using the offset as a rhythm. Since I only had a guitar and a wah-wah pedal, I decided that any ‘normal’ guitar sound would be recorded in 9.5 cm / sec. If I wanted a serious sound, I played the guitar in 19 cm / sec, so in 9.5 the sound was transformed and began to sound like a synth sound. Conversely, any guitar sound recorded in 4.75 cm / sec and passed in 9.5 cm / sec resembled a cosmic mandolin sound. All bathed all the time in the echo, gave birth to a new concept, “electronic music performed with only a guitar”!!!
I heard that you sent the material to Ohr Records, but they never replied.
The big label studios used multitrack recorders, mixers, compressors … very expensive equipment! If I could record in such a studio, I never thought of using a simple public recorder to create songs. So, to copy my idea, it was imperative to use the same kind of material!
Let’s take some time to talk about Kosmose. Can you elaborate the formation of the band. When did you get together and who were the members?
I played guitar in the original formation of Kosmose with Francis Pourcel on bass and Alain Neffe on flute and keyboards. We tried to include a drummer in the band, but everyone who tried to play with us soon left the band. We were playing too experimental music for them! But in 1975, I had to leave the group to do my military service!
Daniel Malempré with Kosmose 1973
Was there a certain concept behind it?
For me it was mainly the pleasure of playing with my friends and experiencing new musical horizons. Everyone influenced others and the long improvisations took us on unknown ways.
Did you play any shows?
Yes, with Kosmose, alone under the name of M.A.L., and with Human Flesh.
What was the concept behind it and what influenced you to record this album?
For My Sixteen Little Planets, Alain Neffe spoke about these recordings to Guy Marc Hinant of Sub Rosa, and the label suggested me to release the record. The label Vinyl On Demand had already released two pieces dating from that time on the LP The M.A.L. Tapes.
I did not want to listen to all my old tapes to find songs. But Alain insisted and he helped me to realize a superb project.
For Kosmose’s albums, Sub Rosa wanted to make our band known about our experimental music in Charleroi, while the other bands played blues!
You had a very democratic approach in the band. How did the sessions looked like?
As I said before, we improvised some music together, there was no leader. When one of us found a good theme, the others went back to help him develop his idea. It was very democratic. Sometimes the sessions were great, and sometimes bad!
Kosmose in 1973
What can you tell me about material that Sub Rosa issued in 2015; Kosmic Music From The Black Country?
Me, not much, I play on one piece. The other recordings date from the period when I left the band! By the new record of Kosmose which has been just released on Sub Rosa (first time out Charleroi, 1975), is the concert recorded live with me!
How about Some Little Trips To Our Fluorescent Land?
Same answer as for the previous question! I play on a single piece!
First Time Out is a live recording.
It was a concert organized by a youth center where all the musicians of the region liked to meet. We played in an old chapel that served as a sports hall at Saint Joseph School in Charleroi. We improvised as usual, influenced by the slide shows and the light show of Freddy Pourcel, the brother of Francis. We just had some guidelines for the songs (acoustic moments, box rhymes, echoes …)
Kosmose in 2015
In the 1980s you got back together with Alain Neffe and started a project called Pol Silentblock. You released quite a lot of material. What was that like? What can you tell us about the project and what release are you most proud of?
We helped Pol Silentblock for his CD Où Est Ma Gomme?. Nothing more. At the time we were working in studio on a lot of projects.
How about Subject? EE Tapes issued Subject / Human Dance – The (Almost) Insanely Happy EP back in 2011, with three tracks by Subject and three tracks by Human Dance. Both projects by Alain Neffe.
EE Tapes wanted to release this project. I was happy because I play on five pieces out of six.
Subject in 1982
Did I missed any of your musical involvements?
I played with Kosmose, Subject, Human Flesh. I also played on Pseudo Code and Bene Gesserit (guitar and bass) records. And of course my solo adventures as M.A.L..
Human Flesh (April 1983) © Riches Claires
Is there any unreleased material?
Yes, we are working on many new projects!
What currently occupies your life? Any future projects we should expect?
Alain and I are working on a new songs and have many projects! Me, I just finished LP project with new pieces of M.A.L..
Daniel Malempré in 1999
Looking back, what would you say about the Belgian alternative scene? You had quite a lot of incredible bands like Aksak Maboul, Univers Zero, … Did you enjoy any of the mentioned artists?
Indeed, we had good groups in Belgium. The current scene is not what I prefer!
Let’s end this interview with some of your favorite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
There are many. I’ve been collecting records for fifty years! I recommend EPICA band records, I also like symphonic metal!
Headline photo: M.A.L. Photo © Riches Claires
– Klemen Breznikar
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