Fireworks Magazine Online 68 - Interview with 23 Acez

23 Acez

23 Acez are a Modern Rock quartet from Belgium that have just released their sophomore album, 'Redemption Waves' (reviewed in issue 67). Dave Bott put some questions to band founder Benny Willaert to find out more about the band, the creation process behind the new CD and also about the music scene in Belgium.

23-Acez Interview

There is a good chance 23 Acez will be a new name to many people, so can you start by giving a brief history of the band?

23 Acez started out as a solo-project. I wanted to write songs and record them together with producer Pete Mush (Quantum Fantay), someone I've known for a while and who had the right "tools" to get the job done. For the drums I asked an ex-band-member in Black Snow, Felix Serwir and for some guitar solos I recruited Tom Tas and Dario Frodo (Ostrogoth). The first album "Crossroads" came out independently in June 2012 and did better than we'd expected. We didn't do any concerts, because at that point 23 Acez wasn't a "real" band. Since the creating process was so much fun, I couldn't do anything else than record another one. In came Jonathan Braeckman on drums and I got a phone call from a bass player called Mundez who really liked the new stuff and wanted to play on the second album. It also helped that he was a friend of Pete Mush. At that point I'd done some pre-production on four songs and we thought it would be great if we could play these new songs live. We started rehearsing for a couple of months and in December 2013 we did our first gig together.

Belgium may be regarded by many as an unlikely place to be associated with Rock music so just what is the scene like in that country at the moment?

Well it's an odd combination. We have some Indie-bands and especially some Dance acts, such as Stromae, who are doing really well. The only Belgian Rock band I can think of who are doing some cool gigs abroad is Triggerfinger. There isn't a big Rock scene in Belgium. For some venues Rock music sounds too hard and for others it isn't hard enough. On the other hand, Belgium has some high quality Extreme Metal bands who are very popular. With 23 Acez we have an American sound which basically means we're always in the "in-between zone". The big radio stations in Belgium mainly play Indie and Dance music. If you want to hear some mainstream Rock or Metal you'd probably listen to the radio late at night....or you buy their albums!

23 Acez cover a number of musical styles, so what are the band's influences and do you think these influences are apparent in the new songs on 'Redemption Waves'?

Everyone in the band loves Rock and Metal. Jonathan loves Prog, Tom old-school Metal and Mundez likes a bit of everything. Tom and Mundez used to play together in a Reggae band, but it wasn't an option to integrate that into 23 Acez. I mainly like the American Rock bands, especially Alter Bridge. In 23 Acez we love to write a song around a riff and combine it with a chorus that sticks to your ears. We try to be a bit more experimental in our song structures; I guess that's where the "Proggy" elements come in. Some people have told us we also have an 80s Pop-vibe, I don't really know where that came from but I reckon it has got something to do with the fact some of us grew up in the 80s  and 90s. We'd like to keep that part of our music restricted, if you know what I mean.

What is the usual process for song creation and how long did the new songs take to put together?

Generally I write the song structures and then I record them with a click track. After that the other members try to connect with the song and in the rehearsal space we put it all together and make changes where necessary. Usually I wait for the vocal melodies until we've got a song structure, but sometimes a song writes itself and those are the moments we love playing music for. For 'Redemption Waves' the songs came together really quickly. 'Alone' was a surprise, because at the beginning some of us didn't think it would work but when the rhythm part was added it all blended together. When we play 'Alone' live people really seem to pick it up because it's got this groove that makes your head bang.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music

How does 'Redemption Waves' compare to your debut album 'Crossroads' and do you think you have progressed both musically and in your writing since that release?

On the first album only Pete and I were in the studio, so there wasn't a lot of feedback from other people. We just did our thing and hoped that people would like it. With the second one we had more experience of recording and every member had their say about the songs. Right now we're already writing new songs for the next album. The more songs you write, the better they get or at least the more choice you have to make a great compilation. I'd love to have twenty songs for the next record and put the best ten or eleven on it. Music is an addiction...but a healthy one.

All the new songs have strong hooks. They are all immediate and infectious. Is the hook the most important factor in constructing a memorable song?

I think it's important that a song has a hook because that's what keeps you going back to the play button, whether it's that vocal line, guitar melody or rhythm part. It's always a challenge to put a hook in a song without the feeling it sounds too forced or unnecessary.

The bio accompanying 'Redemption Waves' states that lyrically the theme of the album is about the search for solving problems on an emotional and personal level. Without being too much of a Dr Phil, do you expect that many people will relate to these lyrical themes?

Lyrics are very important to me. It's the part of writing that takes the longest. I like to take topics that people can relate to, such as relationships, the responsibility of being a parent, growing up, society nowadays, the news. In general I don't like explaining lyrics because sometimes you have an image about a lyric that doesn't reflect the listener's image.

What are your hopes for 'Redemption Waves' and will you be touring to give the material greater exposure?

We hope it gets picked up by a lot of people from all over the world. We'd love to do a tour but everything depends on how well it is received and of course whether they invite us to clubs or festivals we can play on. We'd love to make another record. I think that's the main goal for every musician... creating and playing! If you like Melodic Rock that isn't too predictable, then I think you'll love 'Redemption Waves'. When we get the show on the road and play in your area, don't be afraid to stop by. After the show we can have a cold one. Cheers!!

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