|Genres||EBM, post-industrial, electronic, techno|
|Labels||Another Side, Red Rhino Europe, Animalized, Wax Trax!, Epic, XIII Bis Records, Alfa Matrix|
|Cobalt 60, C-Tec, Revolting Cocks|
Jean-Luc De Meyer|
Front 242 is a Belgian electronic music group that came into prominence during the 1980s. Pioneering the style they called electronic body music, they were a profound influence on the electronic and industrial music genres.
Front 242 were formed in 1981 in Aarschot, near Leuven, Belgium, by Daniel Bressanutti and Dirk Bergen, who wanted to create music and graphic design using emerging electronic tools. The first single, "Principles", was released in 1981. The front part of the name comes from the idea of an organized popular uprising; the number "242" was chosen because it's "just sort of a design work". Patrick Codenys and Jean-Luc De Meyer had separately formed a group called Under Viewer at around the same time, and the two duos joined together in 1982. Bressanutti, Codenys and De Meyer took turns on vocals at first, until they settled on De Meyer as the lead vocalist (early recordings with Bressanutti on vocals were subsequently released in 2004). De Meyer came to write most of the lyrics and Valerie Jane Steele also wrote several tracks including "Don't Crash".
Their next single, "U-Men", was released in 1982, followed by the band's first album Geography that same year. In 1983, Dirk Bergen left the band to pursue graphic design, and Richard Jonckheere, referred to as Richard 23, joined as vocalist.
Front 242 became a popular musical group in Belgium. Their next album, No Comment, released in 1984, was the first to introduce the term electronic body music in association with their sound. Front 242 signed with the Wax Trax! label in 1984, and started their first tour in the United States with Ministry. This tour led to the creation of Revolting Cocks by Richard 23, Luc Van Acker, Alain Jourgensen of Ministry and others.
In 1988, Front by Front was released, and in December of that same year, "Headhunter" (with a video by Anton Corbijn), became the band's first club hit, reaching number 13 on the US Billboard Dance/Club Play Songs chart.
Tyranny (For You), released in 1991, became the band's highest charting album, reaching #95 on the Billboard 200.Tyranny (For You) was the first album they released under contract with a major corporate label, Sony/Epic, after the widespread popularity of Front by Front. Sony/Epic also acquired the rights to the band's back catalog from Wax Trax! and issued re-released versions of the albums with new cover art and bonus tracks taken from singles and EPs.
A broader public was exposed to Front 242's music in 1992 in the film Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. In the film, obsessed roommate Leigh ties Fonda to a chair but leaves her with the television remote control. In order to attract attention, Fonda tunes in to a music video channel and turns up the volume. The video playing at the time is Front 242's "Rhythm Of Time", from the album Tyranny (For You). Also in 1992, the television commercials for the film K2 were set to the Front 242 song "Moldavia", from the same album.
In 1992, Bressanutti returned to combining graphic arts with music, taking his lithographs on tour to three U.S. galleries. Bressanutti also composed a solo half-hour atmospheric recording called Art and Strategy (or The Art Corporation) to play during viewings of the lithographs, and released it in a limited edition of 1,000 CDs.
Front 242's style shifted abruptly with each of their next two albums, released in rapid succession in 1993 on Epic's sub-label RRE (originally planned as a double-CD): 06:21:03:11 UP EVIL and 05:22:09:12 OFF (the numbers correspond to letters, spelling "FUCK UP EVIL" and "EVIL OFF"). The band describes the two albums as "based on the duality of good and evil." However, strains were emerging, with the band members apparently having different artistic views. Despite these tensions, they performed on the main stage of the 1993 Lollapalooza tour.
Neither of these albums had significant input from Richard 23, and 05:22:09:12 OFF only included their lead vocalist, Jean-Luc De Meyer, on a remixed track originally from Up Evil. On the other hand, a variety of new contributors were listed as members of Front 242 on these albums: Jean-Marc Pauly and Pierre Pauly (of the Belgian electronic group Parade Ground) on Up Evil, and 99 Kowalski and Eran Westwood on Off.
99 Kowalski is the stage name of Kristin Kowalski, making a tradition out of Richard 23's idea of number-as-name. Kowalski and Westwood were originally members of a New York City band called Spill who Bressanutti and Codenys had brought to Belgium to produce their debut album. After the recording sessions fell apart, they contributed to Front 242 on the Off release.
After the release of 06:21:03:11 Up Evil and 05:22:09:12 Off, there was no new material from Front 242 under any lineup. Instead, the band released a stream of live recordings and remixes. However, this period also saw a proliferation of side projects, an inordinate number of which involved De Meyer.
Earlier, Richard 23 played in the Revolting Cocks, and De Meyer had a side project doing vocals for Bigod 20 for their single, "The Bog" in 1990. In 1995, De Meyer met Marc Heal of Cubanate at a Front Line Assembly concert, and the two of them collaborated along with Ged Denton and Jonathan Sharp, to record as Cyber-Tec Project for the new (and short-lived) Cyber-Tec record label.
After the departure of Sharp and the demise of the Cyber-Tec label, the remaining group continued working under the name C-Tec. De Meyer also took over as vocalist for Birmingham 6 for their 1996 album Error of Judgment. 1996 also saw the debut album Elemental from Cobalt 60, which De Meyer formed with Dominique Lallement and Frederic Sebastien of Reims, France, members of Kriegbereit. This was the start of a number of releases from Cobalt 60, which also did the soundtrack for the video game Wing Commander V. Meanwhile, Richard 23 recorded with the groups Holy Gang, and later, LaTchak.
The four core members of Front 242 regrouped in 1998 to compose radically reworked versions of many of their songs, which they then performed on their first tour in five years, appropriately called the Re:Boot tour. They acknowledged the influence of The Prodigy and their Fat of the Land album in crafting the new, more techno style of Re:Boot.
The new tour material was the subject of Front 242's new recording contract in the U.S. with Metropolis Records. Front 242 also indicated at this time that they were recording new material. However, they had little activity after 1998, making occasional appearances in Europe and Mexico, while Codenys recorded under the name Gaiden with Steve Stoll in 2001.
2002 saw the beginning of a wave of new material from Bresanutti and Codenys, and then from Front 242. In August 2002 a DVD/CD two-disc set called Speed Tribe was released by Dance.com. The DVD was a collaboration with experimental documentary filmmakers Rod Chong and Sharon Matarazzo, who filmed the 2001 24 Hour Le Mans. In the video, the racecars, clouds, rain and spectators form an impressionistic visual backdrop for the music.
Several months later, the first release from Male or Female, also known as Morf, a new project for Bresanutti and Codenys along with vocalist Elko Blijweert. In 2002 and 2003, Morf released an album, an E.P., a double album, and a DVD/CD two-disc combo, on the Belgian record label Alfa Matrix, and went on tour through the U.S.
Then, 2002 and 2003 also saw the release of the new material from Front 242 in a decade: the EP Still & Raw and the album Pulse, released on XIIIBis Records in Europe and Metropolis in the U.S. These represented another iteration of Front 242's explicitly stated goal of reinventing itself. The style of the two new releases is more mellow than some of their past work, using more "glitchy" and "bleepy" sounds. As well, it uses the manipulated voice as a musical instrument. The new releases have a much more emotional style from De Meyer, which was presaged in his later recordings with C-Tec and particularly Cobalt 60 on its album Twelve.
Front 242 promised a new U.S. tour to perform new material from these releases. They have made occasional appearances in Latin America and Europe, even being rejoined by Dirk Bergen for a reunion concert in Aarschot (De Klinker club) in 2004 under the original lineup of Bresanutti, Bergen, Codenys and De Meyer. This performance was kept secret until two days before the show but when the scene magazine Side-Line and the band's label Alfa Matrix launched the news, tickets were quickly sold out.
The band has now also set itself to re-release its entire back catalogue both as a normal CD and as a limited edition consisting of a 2-CD set holding previously unreleased material. For this the band is working together with the Belgian label Alfa Matrix that already took care of releasing the albums of the Front 242 side-project Male Or Female. The first re-release is their debut album Geography, this time newly remastered personally by Bresanutti to surprisingly powerful effect and including 3 extra tracks (two hidden ones) on the normal CD format.
Meanwhile, their enthusiasm for side projects has continued, as Patrick Codenys started appearing with a new group called Red Sniper, Bresanutti started recording with a new group called Troissoeur, and Codenys and Richard 23 formed a quasi-DJ project called Coder23 which toured in late 2004 and early 2005 as the opening act for VNV Nation. De Meyer contributed vocals on two studio tracks for the Glis album Nemesis in 2005. The lyrical content of the two songs ("The Irreparable" and "La Béatrice") were based on the poems of Charles Baudelaire.
Front 242 toured through twenty venues in North America in November 2005, their first tour as a full band since 2000. The band performed at the Roskilde Festival in 2006. The band's sold out two-day performance at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels has been recorded for a future release via Alfa Matrix.
In December 2006, Front 242 announced from their MySpace page that they were writing music for a video game called Cipher Complex and provided a link to a teaser trailer with a short sample of one of their scores.
In 2007, De Meyer announced a new project: 32CRASH via the Alfa Matrix label. The band is preparing for an album release in October 2007 after the release of the EP Humanity.
In August 2008, Front 242 played live at the Infest Festival in Bradford, England.
In October 2008, Front 242 performed for the first time in Finland, at the Alternative Party 2008 media arts festival.
On June 1, 2008, the Alfa Matrix label announced that Front 242 would make an ultimate statement towards abusive audio compression by releasing the free two-track download, First Moment. By June 15 the same year, the tracks were made available for free on Alfa Matrix's site in medium and high bit-rate MP3s, WAV, FLAC, and M4A formats. Contrary to what fans and some media speculated, the two-track download was not new studio material. Instead, First Moments consisted of two previously unreleased live tracks, "U-Men" and "Im Rhythmus Bleiben", in rather stunning sound quality. It is rumored that over 20,000 people downloaded the tracks within hours of being made available. The label later confirmed that over 25,000 people downloaded the free tracks.
On June 4, 2008, Alfa Matrix announced the release of Moments... The album was a live recording encompassing the best of Front 242's compositions. The album was shipped in several formats including limited CD box sets, vinyl in different colors including 300-copy limited editions, and as a one-disc CD release.
|Title||Peak||Peak date||No. of weeks|
|Tyranny For You||95||February 23, 1991||13|
|06:21:03:11 Up Evil||166||June 12, 1993||1|
|Year||Title||UK||US Dance||US Modern Rock|
|1990||"Tragedy for You"||-||11||18|
|1991||"Rhythm of Time"||-||11||-|