Once upon a time, five lads living in Brussels were looking for a sharp knife to use for their traditional Saturday afternoon barbecue. Going past a store, their pupils widened before a blade more offensive than the rest: a ginsu. 'The more it cuts, the sharper it gets.' The story of this famous knife brand goes fairly well with the Belgian troublemakers who took its name for their stage name: 19,95 for a Ghinsu boxset?
The first album by Ghinzu, Electronic Jacuzzi, arrives and no disc label is interested. Just what is needed to spur on John Stargasm and his partners-in-crime. Instead of giving up, they founded the label Dragoon and started a mammoth tour between 2000 and 2002, a bit like how Ghinsu salesman travel from door to door. Electronic Jacuzzi have now become a big name in both the French and Belgian rock scene.
How do you choose the ingredients to make a rock group recognised throughout Europe? A question which has no meaning for Ghinzu, who master the art of not taking anything seriously. 'Ghinzu isn't about technique. We're all self-taught, we play on instinct,' their singer, John Stargasm, confesses on 25 June, just a few hours before going on stage at the Solidays. Maybe a few of grandma's tips to pique our interest? 'You like music, you have a piano and then you start composing with your friends. It's a hobby at first which then starts to become something more important in your life.'
Nothing new has been leaked in this introduction: a group of friends who meet up and play from time to time, without any musical training, what's more normal? Except when they end up being on tour throughout Europe. There is still a tip to all this: Ghinzu love to be on stage. It's not that they hate the studio: 'Both are great,' insists Jean Montevideo - on the synthesiser and guitar - but they feel right at home on stage. 'The stage has always been natural to us. Backstage, we come across colleagues who throw up because of the stress. . . (laughs) but it's okay for us.' A bit too calm? In 2005, when a blackout ruined their set on Eurokéenes in Belfort, the group spent a whole fifteen minutes hitting the drums and dancing on top of the speakers.
Relaxed even when being interviewed. Our interview took place during a picnic, dressed in hats and sunglasses, with replies which didn't exactly answer the questions. 'What are your musical influences in Belgium?". "Well, we love Tata Yoyo and Yvette Hurner has influenced us a lot too...' retorts Jean Montevideo, without letting a single once of his mockery show. Belgian humour...
Belgium? Touching and pathetic
A type of humour that they nearly ended up losing due to the political problems which Belgium are currently facing... if they realise that the home-made side of Ghinzu is part of a certain 'laissez-faire' attitude typically Belgian: 'It's the side of Belgium which is both touching and pathetic: we don't have a large disc industry therefore there isn't a lot of pressure put on it to work. It's because of this that we work in a very wild and rough manner.' Very rough, with their first album produced by themselves; their second album, Blow, was produced in 2003 by the independent label Bang!, which houses other famous Belgian rock bands such as Zita Swoon and Girls in Hawaii. Then sturdy for their latest album to date, Mirror Mirror, released in 2009 on the independent label PIAS in Belgium and Universal in France. No denying where they came from, just more liberty: 'We have always produced our own things because the disc labels didn't like us,' laughs John. 'Then we were taken on board by a disc label and everything's changed since then. Just thinking about the fact that our album has been released abroad...'
The door-to-door method has finished. But not the live method. Especially when they're not having much luck on the radio. 'Between artists, there is an almost de facto feeling of solidarity. There isn't so much of a fracture between Flemish and francophone musicians,' analyses John. Serious for once when talking about the effect the political problems have on Belgian artists. 'On the other hand, certain Flemish radio stations have refused to spread the word about our album,' implies John Montevideo.
Worried about the indentity crisis? These rockers who aren't worried about anything? 'We find it a shame,' admits John. 'There is less solidarity. A sort of mania has been introduced by the political class and they've managed to create a real obstacle for us. It's really stupid because Belgium is at the crossroads of so many different countries and has to look to the outside world in order to exist!' We see ourselves dreaming about Belgian politicians listening to Ghinzu playing live at the Solidays, as sharp as ever in their explosive rock-noise, everything swayed by a tune straight out of John's mind and vehemently played on his piano.
'Do you read me?' He'd shout to the Belgian separatists. Bart de Wever and Elio di Rupo would certainly say yes...
Images: main and John Stargasm live: ©ROD le-hiboo.com/ courtesy of Ghinzu; picnic table ©Purificacion Lucena ; Blow album cover/ videos: Ginsu ad 2000 : ginsuguy/ Youtube; cut Eurockéennes 2005: did1800/ Youtube; 'Do you read me' shukin/ Youtube