It's been a strange year, probably one of the most interesting ones in my life.
After a major professional set-back and some medical issues in the beginning of the year, I decided that it was time to do things my way, or better, our way. Even more than the ten years before, my wife has been the single most person who deserves my gratitude in 2015. She has been there 24/7, even though she too has had her own bunch of set-backs and problems. Or course, the favor was always returned and now it seems like we have bitten through some tough decisions regarding our future together.
When you look at the details, which I won't bother you with, you could say that 2015 was a bad year for both of us. Yet, I think we managed quite well to avoid being taken to a mental hospital. On the other hand, that would have been an inspiring time, one that surely can help us get those books written. Because yes, we are both writers now, or at least, we're on our way to become authors. The outlines are ready, the story is known and the details are starting to appear. So, probably, you can read our books in 2016 and beyond.
Of course, I am already a bit of a writer. In 2015 I spent more time working on Merchants Of Air than anything else. Not only did I write loads and loads of reviews, but I also added 'A Small Neat Journal' to Merchants Of Air. We did some great work on that too, if I might add. Some of those columns are hilarious, like the one about vibrator reviews for instance, or the harsh truth of 'I Am Not An Atheist'. I love writing these things, even if it's not me who does so.
You don't have to understand, you'll know when you know...
Funny thing is, two years ago, when we moved into this apartment, I told my wife that from then on I would tell neighbors that I'm a writer. I remember that very clearly and I also remember actually meaning it. It came through. Almost nobody in this neighborhood knows what my real job is, which is awesome because I too don't want to know about that job anymore. My current job is writer, reviewer, shirt designer, photographer, interviewer, web master and principle owner of Merchants Of Air, period.
That being said, did you check our our shirt designs yet? You should and we would definitely appreciate it. THISISNOTABANDSHIRT is our own collection, one that started years ago when I founded the website freenoise.eu, which is no longer active. This year I decided to take the designs to the next level and actually to turn it into a brand. When I felt confident about it, I deleted most of the outside ads and replaced them with t-shirts. So yes, THISISNOTABANDSHIRT is our way to avoid useless and irritating advertising and to support our website.
And that website fucking boomed.
Along with the steady growth, we also started receiving more and more albums to review. Halfway through the year, I decided to put a little disclaimer on the website, saying that it was now officially impossible to review everything that comes in. There's still loads of albums to be reviewed but it's just not achievable. Of course, because of time/money/effort spent by people who send us CD's, we will always review physical copies but the rest remains subject to preference, sympathy and mood. So all the bands we didn't check out yet: we're sorry for either the huge delay or for the fact that your album is left behind. It's not personal.
That being said, it's been awhile since there have been reviews for electronic dance music. That's what I mean by 'preference'. I don't hate EDM, I just don't know that much about it and for some reason it's hard to find EDM-reviewers. The 'sympathy' aspect is also important. Sometimes I get charmed by a nice email or message and decide to check out the album solely because of that, even if it's not the genre I usually listen to. There is no genre I usally listen to, to be honest.
The delay in reviews is not only due to the fact that we're overloaded in albums but also to some personal issues with our other writers. Again, I'm not going to bother you with details, but Björn faced some shit too, causing him to write less than he would have wanted. Wouter, Cloves and Joerik also haven't been very active because of personal things but I still regard all of them as staff. I don't push people to write because, again, it's a hobby.
Our staff will probably become larger in 2016. I've been talking to some people about joining in and it looks like at least three people are interested. Besides, there's one member I haven't talked about yet and that is Eline, my wife. She already made her debut and I'm sure some more reviews will come. We're also open for other people to become Merchants. But we're as picky as we are open-minded. I think writers should fit in with the general positive nature of Merchants Of Air.
"What's the perfect profile for a Merchants Of Air writer", you might ask. Well, about the same profile as most of my friends have: The gentle misfit. Those friends, to be honest, don't know that much about underground music or writing so I won't bother them with that question but if you are a gentle misfit with a massive heart for music and a positive approach, feel free to contact us. We'll see if we can work together. We probably can.
Why in the world would I want to write about horrible events and publish ads to promote our shirt designs on the same page? I honestly can't live with that. It completely contradicts my beliefs and opinions. I realized we are now a media outlet (a very small one indeed, but still) and I want to be one who doesn't focus on spreading fear. That's exactly why I support the 'International Day Of Reversed Media Silence' (click here to see the event on facebook), organized by Rik Stalknecht. I urge you to do the same and I will not be sad if we receive zero visitors that day. In fact, that would be a bit of a success for our sit-down comedian.
Globally, 2015 was a horrible year, filled with terror, hypocrisy, fear-mongering and other inhuman
activities. And then there was also Isis, or Daesh. I had to pass two soldiers, three police officiers and two security guards to get to see Om. I have never felt so in danger than on that day, not because of a possible terrorist attack but simply because there were men with guns, willing to shoot everyone wearing a beard. That's bloody dangerous in the stoner rock scene.
Apart from the political and social aspect, Belgium did quite great this year. Our football team became number one in the world, probably not for long but who gives a fuck, and I've become an AA Gent fan. Wouter took me to see AA Gent - Club Brugge and the Buffalo's won with 4-1. Yet, what was most impressive to me, was the atmosphere in the stadium and how friendly the people around me were. Of course, saying that I'm from Limburg but now live in Antwerp and I wanted to see decent first-class football, made them laugh so hard they almost peed their pants (Buffalo's will understand). It was an awesome experience, that's for sure.
There's something else we Belgians were good at, metal. Damn, we are such great metalheads. Bliksem and Sons Of Lioth ended up in my top-10 because of the sheer quality of their releases. Bathsheba simply ruled, both on vinyl and on stage. We've actually became friends. After I called her one of the best front women in doom metal history, I remember Michelle (vocals) posting "that means a lot coming from someone who knows that much
about music". I smiled and cried at the same time.
James Welburn certainly is one of the gentle misfits I had the pleasure to meet this year. We had such a good chat at Incubate. I loved sitting the park across the Paradox venue, enjoying the sun an talking absolute
nonsense with him, Tomas (Barchan) and Wim (Silken Tofu). I also loved meeting Rene from Dead Neanderthals a few times after the Incubate festival and it's always fun to chat with Mike from Consouling Sounds. Oh, and Björn, our writer, looks damn awesome in a suit. I still regret not having taken a picture of the both of us together, dressed for a fancy company get-together.
There is one more thing I have to mention of course and one more person to thank. Kevin at Sombre Soniks agreed to make Misantronics a resident in the awesome stable of artists he has. He released my 'Eristic Dialectics' album and more work is planned for 2016. It gave Misantronics a reason to be active again and I'm so damn happy that I found a strong label. In fact, remember that thing about EDM I wrote earlier. Yes, there is a downtempo dance-album coming out in 2016 by my side project Osho and the Gurdjieffs. I'm quite excited about that one.
But 2015 also was a bit of a fantasy and that's the sad thing about this lengthy column. In 2015 I had plenty of time to work on Merchants Of Air due to earlier mentioned reasons but 2016 might be different. The harsh reality remains the fact that I will probably never be able to live from this website. A new job awaits me, hopefully and not-hopefully, it has to. I would be the happiest man on earth if calling Merchants Of Air my number one occupation would be realistic but it is not.
This gentle misfit soon has to find another desk to waste his life behind, hopefully one that comes with a fragment of the respect, recognition and appreciation I received from the bands, the pr-agencies, the labels and the readers. I can honestly say that I have never felt as good about working on any real job than I feel about Merchants Of Air. In fact (and I can say that now because they won't read this column all the way through), there's a lot of people at that certain helpdesk that can fuck off. There, I said it, let's be positive again.
If you feel like I deserve a little Christmas present, go over to either our shop or the THISISNOTABANDSHIRT page and buy yourself a little something. Don't forget to send us a picture of you in that shirt or with that sticker over your bassist's mouth. We'll certainly publish it since we too appreciate the support. Obviously, we will continue the support for the underground music scene in 2016 and obviously we will continue to do that in our own distinct way.
Whatever you celebrate this month, please accept our sincere regards and allow me to wish you all the best for 2016.