life into EBM
Commando. A name known far and wide
in the world of Electronic Body Music.
For a long time, 37-year old Belgian
Johan van Roy has brought his own
brand of electronic misanthropy to
the ears of countless fans.
The latest album "Axis of Evil"
was released in October 2003 and a
new single for "Cause of Death:
Suicide" is on its way. Two "Axis
of Evil" tours are complete but
several important festivals lie ahead:
SAMA, WGT, Zillo, Castle Party, M'era
Luna and InFest.
There is no stopping this project's
ascension. Suicide Commando has come
of age and beckons us into a new age
When I first bought a release by Johan
van Roy the year was 1994 and his
first CD “Critical Stage”
had just been released by a fledgling
label called OffBeat. The effect was
immediate and resounding. I had heard
his work on several compilations but
the full impact of an entire disc’s
worth of such aural cruelty was powerful.
Very powerful, indeed.
As time has gone by, this artist has
built up a following that is the envy
of many. The loyalty he commands is
the result of years and years of hard
work. It all goes way back to 1986
when van Roy began experimenting at
making his own brand of EBM. Drawing
influences from such acts as Front
242, A Split Second and, perhaps most
enduringly, that “other”
band from Belgium: The Klinik.
Using only a bare minimum of equipment,
Johan releases his first works strictly
on cassette. He begins playing live
shows a while later and thus is the
groundwork laid for the enduring success
that he is now reaping after much
time spent toiling in obscurity.
from the darkness
But if we go back to 2000, there was
a very dark cloud on the horizon for
the fans: Johan had begun talking
of ending his journey under the banner
of Suicide Commando. His reasons were
varied but it was enough to alarm
a lot of people who had only recently
begun to enjoy his work.
– I just felt a little empty
and tired after finishing the “Mindstrip”
album, so all I needed was a break,
37-year old van Roy can now look back
at that period with some distance.
– I never intended to stop with
Suicide Commando, simply because I
can’t imagine a life without
my music and Suicide Commando. Music
is way too important for me.
With this question answered in his
own mind, he presses on and in 2003,
Dependent Records released his new
opus: “Axis of Evil”.
A highly evolved and compelling album.
It is perhaps the most politically
minded work he has yet done.
Having seen other bands embroiled
in the morass that is the world of
political statement, I ask him if
he worries about a backlash from some
of his fan base because of what he’s
saying this time around.
– No, not really. I just thought
the whole concept behind “axis
of evil” and the US policy against
terrorism was way too important to
ignore. Not that my music or lyrics
will change anything.
I (a US citizen) press him a bit further
as it is the duplicity of the Bush
administration he seems to be hinting
– The arrogance from the US
towards the rest of the world. The
Iraq war, answering violence with
violence, answering war with war,
killing thousands of innocent people
in Iraq, putting his own soldiers
at risk, even claiming lies to justify
his actions… In the end, what
makes US president G. Bush a better
person than those terrorists; or people
like Hussein? I think he’s as
evil and violent as them!
With all the intricate production
on “Axis of Evil”, I wager
that it will be a while until we see
a new Suicide Commando, as it seems
that van Roy is taking more time with
his songs these days.
– I always do! After each album
I try to take a break, do some other
stuff instead like remixes. I think
it’s very important to have
a bit of a distance to your music
before you start working on new material,
van Roy, who also works for a logistics
– For me it’s like starting
to write a new book, I don’t
want to copy myself over and over
again and just make an “Axis
of Evil” part two or something.
The “Axis of Evil” chapter
is now closed, on to the next one…
please smile for the Release readers.
compromises and modern vibes
Indeed, “Axis of Evil”
contains some techno-influences to
the song structures and it seems that
this influence has been slowly seeping
into the project’s sound. Whether
or not it is a conscious choice is
something, which I’ve always
Many critics out there accuse
Suicide Commando of merely re-treading
the same tired EBM path. They say
that EBM is dead and buried. I’ve
had my doubts recently about the genre…
– Yes; up to a certain point,
it is… With “Axis of Evil”
I wanted to make a pure EBM album,
without any compromises, proving that
EBM is not dead. But I wanted more,
I wanted to make an up-to-date version
including today’s modern sounds
and styles like techno, making it
all sound a bit more modern and danceable.
This was an obvious choice as I didn’t
want to repeat myself over and over
again, I didn’t want to make
a copy of the good old EBM stuff,
that would have been too easy and
cheap. I wanted to insert new elements
and new sounds, van Roy says.
Taking EBM in a new direction is what
Suicide Commando set out to do in
2003 and I’m pleased to report
that this is exactly what has happened.
Whether or not other bands will follow
his lead remains to be seen. Long
may the banner fly.
Read our review
of Suicide Commando's "Axis of
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