in the Category: music

Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe & Laurens Mariën

Making a name for himself through online alter egos since he was a teenager, director and performer Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe has always walked a multidisciplinary road. While touring his theatre show NACHTEN / Ballet De La Nuit and preparing his next production, A Revue, he is simultaneously releasing music. He collaborates closely with Laurens Mariën, aka Alien Observer (Soldier’s Heart, Dolly Bing Bing) for both his performance work and musical ventures. In January, they play AB together during The Sound Of The Belgian Underground.

Interview by Simon Baetens
Photos by Tiny Geeroms, shot in Brussels

You work in both theatre and performance. How do these practices relate to one another?

The live sets I do with Laurens started as a theatrical take on ‘music’ and were originally shown as a performance piece. Due to the difference in budgets between the music industry and the performance circuit, we often put on a stripped version without scenography and lighting design. ‘Theatre’ and ‘music’ are, therefore, sadly inevitably separated for the moment. Nevertheless, the theatricality and the oparetic flair are as eminent as a cheeky hard-on. Laurens is a constant force in both professions. I write the lyrics and come up with the melodies; he makes the actual music as well as the sound design of NACHTEN / Ballet De La Nuit and my next piece, A Revue

Would you call your music ‘underground’?

I struggle with the term ‘underground’ quite a bit, because I think our music is rather superficial. We flirt with the friction between lowbrow and highbrow art and experiment with pop attitudes – for example, in the song ‘Do You Smell the Poop, Poop, Poop?’. But we don’t shy away from drama either, like with the track ‘Boy I Love You So Much’. We let all these different moods interact with my contratenor voice. We’re not tied to any musical convention, which enables us to dig below the surface of our own music. 

We are not tied to any musical convention

Your image is essential to your work. How conscious is this part of the process? 

I am indeed very conscious of my image, but I try to be very sincere about it. Some say I suffer from megalomania or a taste for decadence. I don’t deny this, but I counteract it at the same time: I’ve ditched the extravagant plume coat I used to wear. It was a skin I put on, it doesn’t gel with how I position myself in the arts at the present time. I want to be and see a real human being who’s simply good at something and is therefore able to move an audience. Still, I think it’s just as essential to create new bodies, critters and atmospheres. If I am then deemed eccentric, this is only an illustration of that desire. I think of this quote by Daan Struyven on a daily basis: ‘If you try to be an icon, then the icon becomes you. If you try to be a model, it will catwalk over you.’

The Sound Of The Belgian Underground with Benjamin Abel Meirhaeghe & Laurens Mariën
26 Jan - Ancienne Belgique, Brussels
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