Singer-songwriter and producer Benjamin Schoos is a Belgian phenomenon. Creator of Freaksville Records (with its ever-expanding roster of cult artists) and online radio station Radio Rectangle, he’s a prolific musical catalyst. Unlike the majority of his contemporaries, who sing and record in English to court a more international audience, he chooses to perform in his native French tongue. It’s a gamble that has paid off, tapping into the British fascination with Gallic allure, and leading to comparisons with Serge Gainsbourg, rave reviews in the glossies and almost non-stop airplay on BBC Radio 6.
A series of shrewd collaborations with Letitia Sadier, Mark Gardener and Telex have only cemented his reputation further. He’s also one of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet. I hooked up with him at his Freaksville office in Brussels to quiz him on his musical influences.
BM: What was the first record you ever bought?
BS: A 7″ single, as a kid – ‘Banana Split’ by Lio; and I still love it! The song (written by Jacques Duvall and Jay Alanski, and produced by Telex) was a massive hit in Belgium. I was also attracted by Lio, a gorgeous brunette. I had no idea what the lyrics were going on about, but the theme of abominable snowmen appealed to my young mind (BM: Schoos went on to work extensively with both lyricist Jacques Duvall and the lovely Lio, re-activating her on/off pop hiatus with an edgy punk album some thirty years later…Duvall explained that the song flirted with blow-jobs…he probably invented the terms “double-entendre” and “risqué”). The first CD I bought was ‘Notorious’ by Duran Duran, produced by Nile Rodgers. I remember being fascinated by the moody back & white sleeve.
BM: The track that influenced you to start making music?
BS: I started out in music as a drummer, and I remember wanting to reach the level of Pavement’s drummer, and after that I stopped training and studying! I just loved how Gary Young played, he did mad drum breaks and that kind of falling apart sound really inspired me. So ‘Summer Babe’ by Pavement was a big trigger in me wanting to make music.
BM: The record in your parents’ collection that attracted your attention.
BS: ‘Atom Heart Mother’ by Pink Floyd. The sleeve with the cow drew me in, and then the album took me to places I’d never been before, it was symphonic yet rock at the same time. My Dad actually saw it performed live at the Palais de Congrés in Liège. When he spoke about this incredible experience it just made it even more fascinating and mystical.
BM: The first record you ever covered.
BS: ‘Supersonic’ by Oasis, when I was in my high school band. I was on the kit and adored the sound of their first drummer. Not technically the best but a big hitter and a big sound! Give me gin & tonic!
BM: The song you’d like to cover but can’t, or won’t.
BS: ‘Le Freak’ by Chic. A cover band could never get this sound right, and I’ve never heard one do it justice. It’s the sound of a groovy band on the very top of their game.
BM: Your Saturday night tune?
BS: It changes every week but currently I like ‘La Couleur Originelle’ by Whyte Horses, a Manchester band who could be from Bordeaux. Perfect for a Saturday night.
BM: And your Sunday morning record?
BS: For a Sunday morning it’s always been the cult classic ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys.
BM: The track most likely to get you on the dancefloor?
BS: ‘French Kiss’ by Lil’ Louis. Very sexy, very French!
BM: Do you have a karaoke tune?
BS: ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ by Plastic Bertrand is always a good laugh on karaoke.
BM: Is there a record we might be surprised that you like?
BS: Well, I surprised myself that I like dub reggae, it was a style of music I was never exposed to in the past. But I really dig Lee Scratch Perry and The Mighty Upsetter.
BM: Your favourite track made by your friends?
BS: That would be ‘Ma Place’ by Sophie Galet. It’s a beautiful song and she has such an fragile emotive style.
BM: And by the band that should have been bigger?
BS: Moose! I’m a big fan and I saw them live several times during the nineties. Bring back Moose! What became of them?
BM: Is there a set of lyrics that really inspire you?
BM: What will you have played at your funeral?
Check out Benjamin Shoos Soundtrack of his life in full (well, pretty much) here, and why not hit follow on our Spotify and keep up to date with all our playlists.