If some music comes on like a caress, the music that Goose make is more like a slap in the face with a velvet glove. Taking a blowtorch to the boundaries between rock and dance music, the Belgian four-piece make records like Cadillac make cars – a tough and sleek, perfect fusion of man and machine. On their debut album ‘Bring It On’, Goose create dance music with ferocious metal teeth. Buzzsaw synthesisers,
sternum-shaking drums and electric shock riffs combine to make something that is aggressive as it is com- pulsively danceable. Songs like singles ‘Black Gloves’ and ‘British Mode’ show a state-of-the-art rock band making music like a DJ plays a set, with breakdowns, building tensions and ecstatic release.
Live, Goose have already ripped up dance clubs from Ghent,Belgium’s legendary Culture Club, to London’s Canvas, but the traditional band circuit is theirs for the taking too. ‘Last night,’ says singer and keyboard player Mickael Karkousse, ‘there was a guy who said ‘I came in the venue,I saw the synthesizers and I was thinking Kraftwerk’. But then when he heard the music he heard a rock band. Dave Martijn, (guitar and keyboards) treats his keyboards the way he used to play guitar. It’s a massive sound – it’s powerful.’ It’s also a sound that’s completely in tune with 2006, where indie kids wave glowsticks and clubbers dance to power chords, where producers and DJs like Justice, Paul Epworth, Simian Mobile Disco and Goose’s fellow Belgians Soulwax can unite musical factions with electronic music you can mosh to and guitar records with a groove. Fans of Daft Punk and AC/DC alike, It’s a moment in music that’s perfect for Goose.
The band, whose other two members are bassist and keyboard player Tom Coghe and drummer Bert Libeert, comes from the textile city of Kortrijk. Bert, Dave and Mickael have played together since 1996 when they were at school, and in 2002, having recruited Tom, Goose was born, named after Tom Cruise’s sidekick in ‘Top Gun’,a film that,says Dave, was ‘part of our youth’. The band recorded their first single ‘Audience’ with Placebo producer Teo Miller (now a bonus track on ‘Bring It On’).The follow-up, ‘Good Times’, spent ten weeks in the Belgian charts. But something wasn’t quite right. ‘We were a lot more rocky then,’ says Mickael, ‘but everybody was fighting and wanting to do other stuff’. He and Bert started
getting into electronic music – ‘we went on a little trip’ – experimenting with the new sounds they could make on the software package Protools. ‘What we did, the other guys liked so then we said ‘let’s go in that direction’. Nothing in particular influenced us, just the energy that electronic music has. Because we’re young we like to party and we like to dance and it’s especially nice to enjoy yourself onstage when you’re playing. Before it was more like an act.’
‘It didn’t feel natural,’ adds Dave. ‘Now doing a breakdown live, where the drums stop, is fun. It’s also still totally live – there’s no sequencer. Sometimes you feel like playing faster or slower and you can’t do that if you have to play along with a tape.’ In fact, the Goose gig experience combines the heady rush of dance music with the attack and bite of rock, while visually the band manage to be both rock stars and part of the audience, raving irresistibly along with the rest of the room. ‘We have fun and the audience has fun,’ sums up Mickael simply. ‘I don’t try to act like a singer, I just try to be natural.’
Goose were careful not to jump into bed with the first label that offered them the chance to make an album and spent most of the first half of this decade perfecting their sound, holding out for the right people to work with. Their profile was raised immeasurably when in 2004 Coca Cola used ‘Audience’ in TV adverts across Europe;a live show at music industry conference Popkomm increased the buzz. However, it wasn’t until February of 2005 that the right label came along. Dave had gone on tour, playing guitar with Soulwax, where he met Damien Harris from Skint. ‘I met him in Brighton and gave him a demo and I guess he liked it,’ explains Dave simply. ‘It all happened quite naturally.’
Now, the plan is to get off the dole, to play as much as possible in both rock and dance venues, and to provide a hands-in-the-air good time for every crowd they encounter. ‘When we see bands we’re a bit sick of standing there, nodding our head,’ says Mickael. ‘I think people need more excitement during gigs. At festivals, when you get a rock band who are a one hit wonder they’re good for those five minutes but then they go back to the ordinary songs and it’s just masturbation for them. But when you’re in the dance tent and a big beat comes in everybody dances and everybody participates – like sex!’ Ah, sex. Titles like ‘Black Gloves’ and ‘Bring It On’ more than suggest a darkly kinky side to Goose, which the band do nothing to dispel, though Mickael adds that his lyrics are more like film stills than narrative,
‘Abstract, like a mood board’. In fact, it may be this side of Goose that puts them in a specifically Belgian pop cultural tradition, from the Belgian New Beat of the late Eighties (dark dance music with pervy lyrics by groups called things like The Erotic Dissidents) to Raf Simons, the hugely influential menswear designer inspired by the more sinister side of youth culture. The 15-year-old Mickael even modelled for Simons. ‘That’s how I discovered Kraftwerk and Ecstasy – the band. He had a show in Moulin Rouge in Paris and I was standing on a podium. They played ‘Radioactivity’ and ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ and I never forgot that.’
Goose is the product of entire lives steeped in popular culture – the whole band are massive film buffs, for instance – yet ultimately the music is utterly instinctive, emotional and thrilling. The four members of Goose are as much of a gang as any ramshackle punk band. ‘We work on the band every day and in the weekends we call each other and go out – it’s almost a bit embarrassing,’ says Michael. Now the music is coming for you, body and soul. Are you ready to get Goosed?