Spot Festival

Arsenal: “Give me a good story, and I’m yours!”

“Dance Dance Dance” is not a concert with a film backdrop, or a film with a live soundtrack. It’s a fully integrated fusion between music and film, a multidimensional experience – at least according to Belgian artists Arsenal, who at SPOT Festival will be featuring Danish electronica diva Lydmor.

By Henrik Friis

– Personally, I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s not a band with added visuals, and it’s not a film with a band performing the soundtrack. It’s a total integration of both art forms – music and film. And it keeps changing.

The words belong to Hendrik Willemyns, from one of Belgium’s biggest bands Arsenal, in anticipation of SPOT Festival 2015, where the film concert “Dance Dance Dance” is part of both the official opening event on Thursday 30th of April in Rytmisk Sal in Musikhuset, and as part of the regular SPOT Festival programme Friday May 1st.
– It’s a film and a concert at the same time. The film was shot in Japan, with a Japanese director and Japanese actors. In short, it revolves around a musician leaving his little Japanese village, and his dreams of becoming famous in Tokyo – and about the price he has to pay for making bad decisions in his search for success.
– The film is shown on a see-through screen, the musicians stepping in and out of focus as the story unfolds – and with the partially transparent screen, and several backdrops of the Tokyo city-scape, you are in for a multidimensional and many-layered experience, Willemyns explains.

Both musician and director
Hendrik Willemyns is himself both a musician AND a director of films; for 15 years, he has been building a successful career alongside John Roan, as electronica-duo Arsenal.
Working as a musician, however, he missed his film- and TV-work, and started incorporating it into his artistic work – with special focus on the documentary as a genre. At first, with documentaries on the foreign guests who feature prominently on Arsenal’s albums. Later with films about books, but films meant to add value to the books, not mirror the plot. In short, Willemyns likes to explore the borderlands between genres in order to create a stronger artistic impression – in the case of “Dance Dance Dance” between the genres of music and film.
– The extra dimension is important, he relayed during a visit at the SPOT HQ as part of the preparation for the coming event.
– In Arsenal, we’ve been very reluctant to incorporate visuals into our music, because we’ve seen so many bad examples, where visuals are only used as a cheap effect. Especially in electronic music; visuals which are impressive – for about ten minutes, then you’re bored. Because that’s it. Because there’s no story. You’ve worn out the audience with the wow-effect. Wow, you have five screens. Wow, you have 20 screens. Wow, you have 100 screens. And so forth. But if nothing happens with them, if there’s no point to them, then what’s the point? I’m a sucker for a good story. Give me a good story, and I’m yours. And we give the audience a good story, promises Willemyns.

Lydmor being flown in
Throughout Arsenal’s career, the group has been working with international musicians – from Africa, North & South America, and Europe. They’ve mixed ethnic African with American hardcore, and so forth. The same goes for Willemyns’ film production, as attested by the Japanese aspect of Dance Dance Dance, and graphical assistance from both Madrid and Berlin.
And Danish electronica artist Lydmor is also part of the project. Arsenal discovered her on the Polish blog Good Because Danish in 2013, and she subsequently featured on their latest album, and has toured with the group twice – but not with Dance Dance Dance. So when Lydmor is flown in from LA to perform with Arsenal at SPOT, it’s the first time she’ll experience the film concert.
– We believe in international cooperation, says Hendrik Willemyns. – Working with international artists adds a new layer to our world and our artistic expression. And we need it. A group like Radiohead has Thom Yorke, to create the image of a creepy person in a love-deficit. He’s done that for years, from different angles and built an excellent career, which you can only admire, on it. But we import stories from everywhere, and create our own world from them. It’s a different approach, but from our perspective it’s vital and invigorating, and keeps us interested.
Apart from Hendrik Willemyns and John Roan, Arsenal will bring a team of live-musicians with them to Aarhus.