Hello, it’s kind of funny, Athus is always mentioned when Dole is introduced. I guess you’re the sole band coming from Athus?
Well Athus was obvious: a former industrial city on the border of France and Luxembourg… in Belgium, there’s no place farther from Brussels than Athus. In 1980, you could still feel the scars of the closed steel industries. But we used to refer to Athus as opposed to any big city because most of us lived in villages around Arlon and we felt quite isolated and had little access to concerts, record stores, etc. Before the Euro, borders really meant something there. In the end, we turned this situation into a positive thing: would we have lasted that long in a big city where band line ups can be changed so easily?
Let’s go back in time. You were the first band that were signed to PIAS. How did that all happen, especially as back then in no time PIAS became the most important new wave label.
We had the chance to record a demo at some RTL studio in Luxembourg thanks to a friend who worked there as sound engineer. Then we started sending or bringing cassettes to record labels, whether majors or independent. Most of us were studying in Tournai, Louvain-la-Neuve or Gembloux at the time and our keyboard player Eric was studying journalism so he tried to get band interviews, because he and Remy were hosting radio shows on a pirate FM radio in Arlon. So we already knew the Casablanca store run by Michel Lambot, Factory Benelux / Crepuscule, with Michel Duval and Annick Honoré and other independent labels. Michel’s brother was our manager at the time. He didn’t spare his time and energy to find us a recording contract. PIAS showed some interest, and they agreed to issue four tracks we recorded for free with the RTL guy we mentioned earlier. PIAS at the time was a very small distribution outlet. There was no PIAS office. We used to meet them at Kenny Gates’ parents house.
Dole is a band that came up with a very original sound. How would you describe it yourself?
Well that’s not an easy question because we’re so involved… The first recordings didn’t reflect the sound of the band, although we were one third electro / one third electric / one third human: drum machine and synths, bass and guitar, voice and sax. We wanted to sound more rock than electro because there were little examples of electronic bands which were not too poppy at the time… We switched later from the drum machine to a drummer, so we went closer to a mainstream sound. For us, the Dole sound was best rendered by the work of Adrian Borland with engineer Luc Tytgat at Pyramid Studio. Now, how to describe it? Let’s say a mix of pop and rock, melodies and riffs, energy and emotions. New wave is a hard to define melting pot isn’t it? Do we still fit in there? Hard to say …
Dole was popular in Wallonia and Brussels, but in Flanders it was very difficult. Is there an explanation for it?
Well we always wanted to play in Flanders like anywhere else. On top of that some of us speak Flemish, Michel especially. Was there a general feeling in Flanders regarding the French speaking musicians? We could’nt tell. We worked with Luc Van Acker for Haircut and he played with us once. We played once in Antwerp and it went well. But when we asked Jean-Marie Aerts to produce our album, his answer wasn’t positive and we understood that he had been through a bad experience with a Walloon band. That’s only an anecdote which has little value elsewhere. Maybe if we didn’t disband in 1987, there would have been opportunities to play in Flanders because from 1986 we had an agreement with a booking agency.. Nowadays it seems easier: we will play the B52 club in September!
I really think The Speed Of Hope is a genuine masterpiece. I guess by the moment it came out, you realized you have come up with 8 classic new wave songs, not?
Thank you for your appreciation. It’s great that out album has stood the test of time, which we didn’t really think about in the 80’s. We knew that we had good songs, songs that moving and emotional, have a good melody or a good drive.. and that’s our strength. If they weren’t good songs, we woudn’t still play them around today. Dole didn’t compose that many songs: less than 30 in total, because we were very demanding of ourselves.
The question everybody has: why has Dole recorded just one album?
It took us 6 years to achieve that goal: the first album… and then it was licensed to Nettwerk in Canada and to Polydor in France, and all of a sudden, there were requests for a second album which we couldn’t make in just a few months. There were changes in the line up as well, and at the end of 1986, a lot of tensions appeared inside the band, between those who were still students and those who had started working, between those who wanted more time for the band and those who couldn’t give more of their time, between those who lived around Athus and those who lived in Brussels, and also about musical tastes. 1986 – 1987 was a strange time in terms of musical directions as well. New wave was long gone, and grunge wasn’t there yet…
Your album was produced by Adrian Borland. How did that happen?
We were looking for a producer and PIAS came out with some names including Craig Leon. Craig wasn’t available at that time so he suggested to contact Adrian whom he had worked with. He thought Adrian would be a good producer, which proved right!
How was it to work with him as Adrian was not the easiest of all guys.
Frankly, we had a wonderful time and Adrian was charming. He came to a rehearsal venue in Affligem to listen to the songs live and agreed with our selection. It was him who suggested to add The Dream when he heard the live version which sounded much better than the ‘Small town’ recording. That was a great idea!
We stayed at Pyramid Studios in Beersel for 7 nights. First Adrian asked to put us in separate rooms, and to record the whole in order to keep the energy of our live shows. Then we re-recorded lots of parts. Adrian even did some backing vocals! We still have his handwritten notes for the recording!
After the album, Dole disappeared. What was the reason?
As already explained, there were lots of tensions inside the band. But there was also an external element. We had a licensing deal with Polydor in France, with Philippe Desindes who just had turned The Cure into superstars there. For him, Dole was the next big thing, in term of potential. So he offered us a lot of media coverage, tours, money for recordings (we played at the Transmusicales in Rennes and had a photo session with Rock’n’Folk) etc. We even played in a movie and composed music on the occasion. But the guy left Polydor, and we stayed there but his successor didn’t really do anything for us. So everything stopped … and so did Dole in December 1987.
And then later there was Spirit Of Dole. What’s the difference between Dole and Spirit Of Dole?
There was a first reunion which lasted one year or so in 2008. After that, Michel and Remy worked for 2 years on the Red Sofa project, and recorded an album with the M83 drummer and other studio musicians, produced by Stephen Kraemer. The album was never released. You have to understand that, in the South of the Luxembourg province, everybody knows Dole.. It’s a kind of legend really. So younger musicians with experience contacted us to play some covers at the Donkey Rock festival. which was a great moment. It was supposed to be a one-off, but so many meople asked us to keep on doing it that it became Spirit of Dole, playing new wave covers (Bauhaus, the Sound, the Smiths, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, the Cure …) and some Dole songs. But it was confusing for the people so we decided to use the name Dole again in 2017. Now, we play our songs plus some covers when we want. We are also adding some Red Sofa songs that fit into our style. These are our songs in every sense.
Any possibility you’ll release something new?
Yes that’s our plan for 2019. Last July (2017), we played an open air concert in a ruined castle near Virton, which was recorded and filmed. We plan to release a live LP of that event at the beginning of 2019, and then there will be new songs! Not to mention our Red Sofa songs which no one has heard so far.
You played with so many legendary bands. What is the most beautiful memory?
The concert with Minimal Compact at the Halles de Schaebeek was fantastic! We also played at a big festival in Marrakech! And in 1996 Adrian Borland came to Arlon to take part in a tribute event to Dole. He asked Remy to sing Rumroad with him! Unforgettable!
This year you play at W-Fest, what can we expect this year on stage?
There will be a mix of energy and emotion, of songs new and old,including Slumberland, The Dream and Rum Road (no covers!). We have 50 minutes to convince the audience that Dole has a voice on its own, and the promoters that they have made the good choice. We also hope that this show will bring us under the spotlight for other promoters. We would like to play more outside of our comfort zone.
Any acts you want to see yourself at W-Festival?
We used to know and appreciate almost every band on the line up so it is very difficult to choose. On the Sunday only, Shriekback is a must. We also would like to see at least the end of the Red Zebra show (we invited them in Arlon last year with their New Dark Age / The Sound cover band). We also played earlier this year with Trisomie 21.
What do you prefer on a festival : ice cream, beer or French fries?
It’s been really a long time we’ve been to festivals. In Belgium, festival beer and fries are a must, aren’t they !
What is your favourite record of all time and please state why.
Remy : Impossible to tell, I’ve already made lists and lists and there are hundreds. Let’s go for London Calling, the perfect mix of rock and melodies by a band which stands by far above any suspiscion. But I couldn’t live without classical music either. Bach’s « Agnus Dei » by Alfred Deller is music for eternity. I also love the Flemish baroque musicians like Herreweghe, Jacobs, and the Kuijken family.
With who would you want to be alone in an elevator for 8 hours and what would you do then?
The other 4 Dole men, It would be great fun for sure !
The last words are yours…
Well first of all, thank you very much for the interview! Dole has a unique voice since 1980, and the legend goes on. W-Festival is going to be a great new chapter of our history for sure!
Foto: (c) Patrick Gries + Sophie Hornard
Interview by Didier Becu - Luminous Dash