"Skunk, cos they're not welcome and they always hang around my studio, and just like when you see a snail, you shout “oh fuck, there's a skunk!” If you mess with them, they spray you and then it takes a good five days to get the bloody smell off – you have to take vinegar baths or something. "
Incendiary interview Vic du Monte
Once you stray a little way out of the city centre, you find that Den Haag has a lot of surprising nooks and crannies, localities that boast very distinct characters. One such area is boxed round a rather Bohemian old technical school (now used as a hippyish arts community). Standing benignly next to a main thoroughfare, this building's ponderous, public spirited aura informed the character of the streets around it. It boasts a nice bar inside too. The reason that I can record these impressions so faithfully is that I had a considerable amount of time waiting for Vic du Monte and his band to show, as they were lost deep in Den Haag's labyrinthine traffic system.
A call eventually came through to the increasingly exasperated press officer to say that the band's van had eventually negotiated the roads as far as their hotel. We decide to cut our losses and meet them there. Still. Nice building. Must go there again if I can find it...
When everyone was sat comfortably, I pressed the record button.
IN: The new album seems a lot darker and more primal in tone than Prey for the City, and I want to know why that is.
VdM: When we were writing the songs there were a lot of things happening around us – a lot of nasty things actually. It was a reflection of what we were going through personally. Having said that lots of the songs have two meanings, you know there is a lighter side in there, and we certainly weren't looking to do a heavy rock album, that's for sure. There were also a lot of stylistic changes on the record, and that's to do with bringing the band in and having a more cohesive, interdependent band whilst we were recording the demos of the songs.
IN: What's it like to make such an earthy record?
VdM: I think it is to do with the feeling that the whole band around you feels that this is right and that leads to a confidence that transmits onto the actual record. We got together, wrote the songs, and, as a unit said "this is how we're gonna do it". It was like a big "ritual" for want of a better word, and it worked. It was exciting.
It was a big change from the first album which was pretty much my own record, and this time I allowed the ideas from the other guys just to come through. While we were recording this album I was living in Chris's garage (Chris keyboards) which somehow kinda informed me sonically... it was living headquarters and recording headquarters...
CHRIS (keyboards): It was kinda scary, because we all got used to it.
VdM: Yeah, I brought all my own toys (laughs)
IN: There is an outsider/lonely guy image that crops up again and again in your records. Is there any reason for that?
VdM: It was the echo of my time in the music industry. But there again this rings true for all the other guys who have had run-ins in crap bands and with crap records companies, all that stuff... and when we all came together, I guess we would have that angle informing our work, maybe subconsciously.
IN: You use the name Vic du Monte. The band play behind this moniker – what are you trying to hide, or (to put more of a positive spin on it) why is it important to use the name Vic du Monte as a form of expression?
VdM: It's another psyche maybe... It does make it easier when you adopt one, makes it easier for the bad too; as it gives you a form of comfort and you can really let loose on stage every night. And you know, on tour it is kinda good to adopt a persona that has been fucked about... I was always on the side of things anyway...
CHRIS: And these experiences can be channelled easily into the songs, once you have an alias it helps the writing I suppose. And as the people we were writing about literally weren't welcome...
IN: To change tack, and you must excuse this frivolity as being a British thing, what would you as a band say your favourite biscuit is?
(There is a profound and worrying silence)
VdM: You mean there are different kinds of biscuit?
IN: There are many...
CHRIS: Hobnobs for me. They've got a lot of healthy things in them, ooh and you get chocolate ones as well. I like them and I don't often get them in the US.
VdM: Gawd... erm waffles, yeah, and Rivita. I eat a lot of them.
(A return of the profound and worrying silence)
IN: Right, back on track. Persona Non Grata is full of energy, very restless stuff and it seems that you don't want to hone the record excessively in the studios.
CHRIS: I think if you haven't captured it in those vital early moments even if a particular song does have the capacity to hold a great deal of nuances and inflections, then going on an on over the song isn't going to help. We certainly made a conscious effort not to mess around with it too much, to see what we were about you know...
VdM: Instead of nit-picking.
IN: You do approach it as if you are creating a print or something, i.e. if it's not right, start again.
VdM: Well, if you start fiddling with it too much then you start murdering its personality. You can deliver a certain chord or phrasing or whatever, and whether it's deliberate or not, you should leave alone what you have in effect found.
IN: To change tack once again, (and as a last question) what is your favourite rodent? And why?
VdM: Can I have a beaver? (laughs) I just said that cos someone whispered it to me!
CHRIS: Skunk, cos they're not welcome and they always hang around my studio, and just like when you see a snail, you shout "oh fuck, there's a skunk!" If you mess with them, they spray you and then it takes a good five days to get the bloody smell off – you have to take vinegar baths or something. When you see them, run a bloody mile.
IN: I thought they were rather cute...
VdM: Are you kidding? Don't go near them.
After this, talk turned to traffic jams (inevitable given the day the band had) and food (again inevitable since they hadn't eaten yet).
Incendiary came away having increased their store of general knowledge on three counts; that Den Haag is a very diverse place, that you can record a great LP in a garage, and to beware of skunks.
Words: Richard Foster.