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The Ex

In January, we had the opportunity to spend a little time with these Dutch guys during their residency at the Instants Chavirés, a crazy music venue hidden near Paris. It’s in the area of Montreuil, smack in the middle of a row of houses where nature has reclaimed the concrete. How would The Ex react to the uncommon concept of an improvised show? Especially these guys, who started their career in Amsterdam squats at the beginning of the DIY movement, played ten times in every single European and international venue, mixed their rock with the freest jazz, and then rooted it in the heart of Ethiopia…? The Ex is a symbol for musical freedom in its most rigorous form. Hard-line independence.

They started playing smoothly, on the corner of a street, between the venue and the offices of the Instants, just like travelers. Katherina, the drummer, lead the whole thing with her repetitive poundings in a style typical of East Africa. She talked the band into going to these countries: she was the one who started singing in Ethiopian during their shows. Next to her, the two Siamese guitar players are on the lookout. They’re the bridge between the early beginnings of rock and its current form. They are ready to burst out at any minute. Their hair’s grey, but they laugh like high school kids who have just been told class is cancelled.

Then we went inside, into the squat-like atmosphere. In order to save money (and because it’s part of their spirit), the Instants have made rooms available 30 meters from the venue. Musicians can live there one or two days: there’s a kitchen and a terrace, and on the ground floor there’s a room that just begs for entertainment. That’s where they put the drums and plugged the guitars, this time to play a punk song. G.W. Sok, The Ex’s former singer, joined us. Taciturn as usual, he stayed in a corner of the room until he assaulted the electric loop already mistreated by their guest, Wolter Wierbos’s, saxophone. His added assault was with a megaphone.

Ok, to be honest, at this very moment we had troubles with the sound… But our soundmixing guy saved it all. And when Sok started yelling political slogans, we thought about installing barriers in Montreuil.

We moved the drums again, and there came a new mutation. The third track of the session would be Ethiopian. Afework Negussie came in, along with his soothing way of looking and laughing all the time. We already knew what was going to happen would be beautiful. He slowly started his marenqo, and little by little, started to sing over this rough and nervous sound. Katherina stared at him, G.W. Sok as a witness, still and quiet. The song rises to its climax, rambles beautifully, then slowly fades. It could have lasted 25 minutes… After that, Afework was still smiling, and we were happy to shoot The Ex, happy those good ol’ fascinating veterans lugged us around their worldwide sounds.

Translated by Nora