At Long Last, Front 242 Returns to Numbers

Front 242 at Chicago's Metro during Wax Trax's Retrospectacle Weekend, 2011
Front 242 at Chicago's Metro during Wax Trax's Retrospectacle Weekend, 2011

This coming Saturday, Houston concert organizers The New Beat and Past Present Productions will bring electronic-music legends Front 242 to play a concert at Numbers, the Belgian band's first show in Houston since 1993 and a rare chance for fans to see the Electronic Body Music pioneers perform live. Recently, the Press caught up with keyboardist Patrick Codenys, who graciously answered a few questions about the band and his feelings about returning to play in Houston.

Houston Press: It has been since 1989 that Front 242 has been to Numbers for a show, and since 1993 that 242 came to Houston with Lollapalooza. How do you feel about your epic return? We know all of Houston's electronic-music fans are really excited.
Patrick Codenys: I regret that we couldn't come back sooner. I know that Front 242 has always had a strong fan base in Texas, especially in Houston. Believe me, the band is looking forward to reconnect.

What can you tell us about what you remember of Numbers?
I remember the "old" Numbers had a small stage (I don't know if this has changed) and a very hot audience. I remember this club being a pioneer in promoting electronic and industrial music. I believe we played twice at Numbers in the past.

After talking with the promoters, this show has been several years in the making and everyone is glad it's finally here. So far, how has it been working with the Houston promoters, Robert Ehlinger and John Housman?
Robert and John are very enthusiastic people and they are true music lovers, which made it hard to refuse their invitation to come to Houston. We met in Chicago on our last tour, and it was not difficult for them to convince us!

The Houston date sold out pre-sale tickets already, and excitement is high since it has been so long since Front 242 has been to town. Does that breathe some extra excitement into the band for this event?
Yes, this will bring our hardcore fans, and new fans who have never seen the band, but curious people also. We need to deliver our very best on every show...a "sold-out" show adds to the pressure. I still feel sorry about an early episode of a Houston promoter announcing Front 242 without a signed contract. We owe something to the fans who bought a ticket back then.

After seeing this kind of reaction from Houston, any chance of coming back for another show?
We are talking about it...let us focus on this concert first.

Front 242 just finished up a small South American tour. How did that go?
It went very well. We tour regularly in Europe and when we can go abroad, people are really excited to see the band.

The band's live shows are legendary.
The band's live shows are legendary.

Any new releases in the works? Will any music or merchandise be available for purchase at the concert?
This is a typical question for the band. We have released some of our old material on vinyl recently. As a matter of fact, we realized that new "studio" work was not really appealing anymore, neither financially nor as artistic platform. It represents a lot of time and energy for little effect. People are not always aware of new releases, and there is too much music on the Web.

Therefore we decided that our field of creativity would be based upon "live performances." it has a direct relation with our real audience — versus downloads on hard drives. We constantly re-work our songs with new sounds [and] structures to bring some interesting modern versions. Some classic tracks do remain close to the original, though.

This is also your first visit to Texas since the 1998 ReBoot Tour, and Texas itself has always played a major role in the electronic music scene over the years. How has Texas played a role in your touring career?

I believe it is an example of a kind of universality of our music. A lot of people are surprised we are popular in Texas...what, Texas!? But to us, it meant we could reach all kinds of audiences, not only the traditional elite cities like NYC, Berlin or Paris, but also Buenos Aires, Stockholm or...Houston! Texas is not only "country" music but has always been very intelligent about the electronic and industrial scene...we should be thankful to people's open mind.

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Are there any things the band enjoys doing when you're in Texas or Houston that you don't get to experience in other places?
Excellent food, good-looking girls, some good and some bizarre meetings...but never a boring time.

Over the many years Front 242 has been around, the band has had an enormous effect on electronic music of many different types. Is that a pretty good feeling? Are there any current bands that members of Front 242 are fans of?
It depends; we have different tastes and enjoy all types of music. On my part, it goes from industrial music like NIN to electro — Depeche Mode or Gesaffelstein, but also synth-pop, movie sound tracks, etc...

As musical equipment progresses and evolves, does that affect the band's writing or performances?
The '80’s brought particular innovations in electronic music like the integration of sampling, sequencing, heavy dance beats, etc. Electronic/industrial bands were exploring all kinds of new directions, it was a very prolific period of time, although controlling the machines was difficult. Today, writing music is easier and machines are user friendly. Nevertheless, Front 242 wants to keep the spirit and reflexes as we have from the beginning. An idea, a defined concept and a specific frame of work remains essential to be able to keep our artistic integrity, no matter the technology.

What should Houston expect from Front 242 at this show?
We are not in the "Re-Boot album" style anymore; we have returned to a more analog electronic sound. Heavy, fat bass lines and sounds closer to our first three albums. Also, each song has visuals — clips — and the 242 members onstage keep their legendary energy.

Front 242 performs Saturday, September 19 at Numbers with special guests The Hunger and JG and the Robots. Presale tickets are sold out, but a limited number will be available at the door; doors open at 8 p.m.

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