Catching the Man: Patrick Codenys of Front 242
On Saturday, April 21, the legendary electronic body music pioneers and former Wax Trax! label artists Front 242 will return to Utah and perform at Metro Music Hall. SLUG was able to “catch” Front 242 member Patrick Codenys (on keyboards, programming and samplers) to correspond about a few of the topics that have been on all of our minds in regard to this influential band.
SLUG: What was the catalyst that made you want to create music?
Patrick Codenys: The association of different factors by the end of the ’70s: The industrial and dark music emergence (Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division); the emergence of affordable synthesizers and computers for new research fields on sounds and music … and finally, the meeting of complementary partners (242 team).
SLUG: As a pioneer of electronic body music, were you afraid that there would be criticism of the lack of traditional instruments in your act? How did you feel your music was received during Front 242’s beginnings?
Codenys: No, to the contrary. None of us are musicians and were never interested in mastering an instrument—which is limited in sound. Everybody [had listened] to the same instruments for decades (guitar, bass drums, even classical), and here we had the opportunity to introduce the whole world of sounds, first with recorders, then samplers mixed with new sound designs on synth. A much richer world and opening to a brighter creative process—enough for us to skip any criticism. Indeed, it was not easy to impose that view to the traditional music market. Our hardcore fans did really help at the time, as we had great audiences.
SLUG: What was the chain of events that led you getting signed to the famous Wax Trax! label?
Codenys: Jim [Nash] and Dannie [Flesher], Wax Trax! bosses, were often traveling to Europe to buy underground music and they “flashed” on our EP Take One. We quickly became friends, as they were real music lovers—not only business people.
SLUG: What memory stands out the most from your first tour of the United States?
Codenys: We toured as support of Ministry, and conditions were tough, but the crowds were enthusiast and the kept us strong. In 1984, sound systems and venues were not ready for electronic music, and we had lots technical issues to set our concerts. But the general feeling was great, as it was our first time in the U.S., and we felt we were going to conquer the world. ; )
SLUG: What new wave track would you find it entertaining to cover?
Codenys: Tears for Fears – “Shout”
SLUG: Will we see any more releases from your side project, Male or Female (MorF)? Why or why not?
Codenys: That project was very interesting, but only existed by the encounter of three personalities at a precise time. It was kind of a one-shot. I am not sure that we could produce one more album together, as we took different directions in music. To me, it remains a creative and quality project to be proud of …
SLUG: What are your current side projects?
Codenys: I just released an album with [Front 242 singer] Jean-Luc De Meyer. The band is called UnderViewer and the music is based on pre–Front 242 recordings. As for the future, I am working on a new album—not Front 242.
SLUG: It seems there is quite a retro perspective on music through re-releasing tracks. Was “Pulse” the last album that had new material on it other than remixes? Why has there been such a long time span since?
Codenys: I think there is a momentum to create an album together. In the last years, we’ve never found that timing. Several demos were presented, but we never could find the magic to collaborate again. Live shows seem to be the new platform where we can experiment [with] some of our creativity together—sound, lights, video, movement, physical relation with the crowd.
SLUG: Given today’s increased music accessibility through the internet, do you feel that it is easier to release single tracks or full albums? Why?
Codenys: It has [its] pro and con: more accessibility, but also too many bands, projects, Soundcloud, etc. … It is difficult to find what you would really be interested in without going through algorithms, Likes, marketing, etc. … We need substance: individuals and bands with talent but also with a cultural background, a concept, a personal style (no recycling) and eventually a philosophy. This is hard to find and define on the internet …
SLUG: What do you find most intriguing about today’s advances in instrument technology?
Codenys: That most instruments are made to “please” customers rather than stimulating the artist. What is essential is the idea, emotion and excitement—the senses we have as humans. The instrument should only be a tool to reach our dreams. Today, technology proposes so many options that we forget about our own body faculties. We are overwhelmed—a good way to handle this is to decide to start your music with a very limited technology and favor your emotion/idea first.
SLUG: Do you have anything special planned for your fans in Salt Lake City?
Codenys: The “special” will come from the communion with our fans … understanding each other through our common language: music.
As Codenys mentioned, the common language is music, and sometimes we forget that. It is what binds the underground community together here in Salt Lake and all over the globe. It fills our souls with passion and allows our minds to escape from the daily grind. It promotes creativity and union yet allows us to release our angers at the same time. It takes all of us.
Buy your pre-sale Front 242 tickets now via Ticketfly—you will save a few bucks, and this show is expected to be sold out for these phenomenal musicians. There is also a meet-and-greet option for those that would like to talk to the band personally. Arrive early on April 21 to get great parking and be ready when doors open at 7 p.m., as Ogden’s very own Contaminated Intelligence will be kicking things off at the Metro Music Hall. You do not want to miss this event.