OMSQ: heavy narrative soundscapes from Brussels

OMSQ share their introspective vision of heavy music on their latest double LP “Thrust/Parry”, while their live performances were described as “an instrumental terror”

Hi. Tell us something about the OMSQ project.
We first met in 2008, talking about our own projects that were going on at that time. We immediately realised that we had to make music together because we shared the same interests, especially in music (from Bowie to Napalm Death), but also in literature, movies, and other forms of artistic expression. It has taken some time to put all our ideas together and our first EP was finally released in 2012, followed by another split EP with The Progerians in 2013 and, last but not least, a full-length double LP in 2014. We have then toured in Belgium and UK. We don’t know exactly how to describe our music. All we can say is that it’s supposed to be heavy and narrative. And it’s instrumental. We also spend a lot of time working on the visual aspects. The listener is then invited to do his part of the job and try to find his own interpretation, the imaginary story that could have led to our tracks. Others have described our music with a lot of different labels: psychedelic, stoner, noise, sludge, space rock, doom, post-metal, whatever. Honestly we have no idea what those labels refer to. But if you aggregate the sound of bands with the same labels, it gives you a fair image of our own sound.

Tell us something about your last album.
It’s the result of many years of work, reflecting a lot of emotions we have been going through. Since the early days of the band, we knew that we were going to record a double LP, we knew what we wanted it to sound like and we knew how it would look like visually speaking. We wanted to record much more than what we usually play on stage. The studio was a unique opportunity to experiment new things, like playing an old Hammond organ, building some tracks based on field recordings, adding acoustic instruments, etc. It explains why some important parts of the records will never be played live. The final result is a decent soundtrack picturing the identity of OMSQ as a band at that particular time. It’s quite a long journey that takes you from brutal fuzzy rock to more abstract and cerebral soundscapes inspired by theorists of noise music.

How is being a band from Brussels? Tell us something about Belgian musical movement?
It’s a small world. Most of the bands, promoters, labels and radio DJs know each other. But there aren’t enough places for live gigs. If you compare the situation of Brussels and London, you will understand that we are just not playing in the same league. But there are a lot of interesting bands out there.

Are you connected with other bands or musical movements in Belgium or outside your country?
We have a lot of connexions with independent bands in Belgium who were friends or became friends after playing together. We could think of The Progerians, Sunken, Missiles of October, Swingers, von Stroheim, Baby Fire, and many more. They’re all furious stage performers.
We also have a lot of links with bands in UK because we have toured quite a lot over there and have met amazing musicians and promoters, mainly on the heavy independent scene. Hey Colossus, Djevara, Sumer, Nomad, Avenge Thee and Naime, Structures, Wizard Fight, PSOTY, etc. We also have a good relationship with Gnod in Manchester and… more surprisingly with White Hills in Brooklyn. They needed a place where they could rehearse in Belgium before their last European Tour. We offered them to use our rehearsal room. That’s how we met. They are really nice people. Hopefully they’ll invite us to play in Brooklyn one day.

What’s the best live act in your area? Tell us something about it.
Magasin4 in Brussels. They book great international bands and always add local bands as a supporting act. It’s your only chance to see Godflesh or Eyehategod in Brussels. Thanks to Magasin4 we have played with People of The North and will play in June with Black Bombaim. We definitely need more people like them. The Bunker is also another leading venue on the Brussels underground scene.

Which artists have influenced your style & sound, if any?
Hard to say. In terms of style, probably most of them. We don’t stick to one particular style. When it comes to writing new music, there is as much to learn in The Melvins as in Neu!, Wire, Yob, Public Enemy, the early American folk music scene or even Prokofiev. But in fact, we spend more time in the rehearsal room talking about our readings or movies than talking about music. That’s essentially where our influences come from. We have a story in mind and we write a soundtrack to illustrate it.
In terms of sound, Hey Colossus is quite close to musical perfection. Horseback, a band from North Carolina, also has a very intriguing sound. Same with Ice Dragon. The latest Liturgy record is also a punch in the face, with a lot of new experimentations. We also worship all those who were able to question the way we listen to music: F/I, This Heat, Swans, Caspar Brotzmann Massaker, Blind Idiot God, etc.

What’s the best live music show you’ve seen recently?
Raketkanon, a band from Ghent in Belgium. They play like The Jesus Lizard did in the late 90s. Crazy people doing crazy stuff on stage.

Tell us something about your best and your worst memory on the road.
Best memory: Birmingham, in UK. The audience went crazy after the gig. We have seen people older than our own parents attending the gig in the first row. It was quite unexpected. That’s the kind of city where you want to play more and more. People over there are curious. If they hear about a band from abroad playing at a local pub, they’ll go and check it out, buy the records and chat with the musicians. That’s how it should be everywhere. Worst memory: Sheffield, in UK as well. No promotion at all, both local bands that were supposed to support us cancelled in the afternoon before the gig. We played in an empty room. Shit happens.

Did you plan to have a tour in the next future? Tell us something about it.
We have planned a few live dates in Belgium in May and June, with Sunken, Gnod, and Black Bombaim. Then we’ll book a new UK Tour after the summer, probably in November. We try to keep it to 10, maximum 15 gigs a year. Less is more. It is too easy to get bored, especially if you play on the same stage 3 times a year. Less gigs means more intensity. That’s very important to us. And to be perfectly honest, we lack inventive venues and promoters in Belgium. We are also very selective. You will never see us sharing the stage with bands that don’t mean something to us. We don’t want to fill the gaps on a wobbly bill.

What do you think of Do you think it could be a good tool to facilitate the process of booking and organizing shows? Do you have any suggestions?
Independent bands need tools to build their own network. At our level, touring is nothing but a question of having a strong network.