The Key is the Word: The Word Is Not Always the Same Message
The Cultural Studies slithered from the underbelly of Brussels, formed by Oskar Pompa and the Stereo Vampire, both immigrants. Oskar grew up under a Communist regime. the Vampire, on the other hand was raised in the land that is, in its very essence, the poster child of Capitalism. The Vampire comes from down a sort of middle of nowhere’s road, between New Orleans and Chicago, with Memphis on this blues and jazz highway, up the anus of the Mississippi. It saw the likes of Mark Twain, Chuck Berry and hosted the Dred Scott trial, an abomination, which denied humanity to millions. Oskar came from a Slovakian city built around a mysterious castle. He grew up with Communism running through his veins. His father was a lawyer, and had the same living quarters and salary as their, neighbour, Johnny the Bricklayer.
Brussels is where these two divergent paths, between East and West began to converge on a freaky and twisted pathway. Bruxelles la Belle, a bewildering place, built with an infusion of concrete, metal, and brick, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, an architectural wonder on one side, and a deranged mental patient, straight out of the Loony Bin, on the other. Artificially lit tunnels, surrounding the city where traffic comes to a stand still. Possessing a lawless southern European feel, yet geographically set in the often-mundane ambiance of northern Europe. In sum, an artistically inspirational joint… It is the dissemination point of EU policy, which is, contradictorily, rarely implemented within this half-gentrified urban landscape. Even walking down the street can be a hazardous compound of dog excrement, shattered car windows, and broken pavements with treacherous cobblestones creeping up around every bend. Yet a wonderland, and despite its chaos, it is where the duo, would proudly call home. Ethnically and culturally diverse communities, a mecca for people who are fed up with life in their own politically oppressed countries, or those putrid places overrun by national pride or a repressive and militant police force. Oh, oh, oh, no, no, no, dear audience, in Brussels freedom and pandemonium reigns.
When did the The Cultural Studies duo first meet? They met at a wedding reception, which was a somewhat informal affair. There was a distinct stench lingering in the air… The toilet had overflowed in the bathroom at the reception party, and two gents volunteered to do the dirty work, so to say. That was, let’s call it, the first encounter that would later become, The Cultural Studies project.
Oskar and the Vampire started working on the music and lyrics for first time, on a misty Saturday afternoon at a Brussels bar at the foot of Porte de Hal, a medieval fortress-like structure, which is one of the last remnants of the medieval wall that surrounded the city of Brussels. The bar was called Potemkine, ironically named after the rebellion that took place upon that named Russian warship at the turn of the century.
While sucking down several Westmalle Tripel, the Stereo Vampire redefined the lyrics for several songs that Oskar had originally written. The project really got off the ground at Micro Marché in Brussels on 31 January 2014. At that point, nobody really knew what he or she were getting themselves into… Oskar has always been the project’s chaos ringleader and managed to rope his mates into it. The infamous John Savage, a cartoonist, gone to ground following a copyright spat with the world’s biggest comedian; Kevin, the technical writer and author of Tête Pressée; Dave, the architect, invaluable in the Belgian replica of the Pruitt Igoe project and bongo player; Dr. Tiago, lion tamer, flutist, and writer of Exporting Paradise; Tomáš, the photographer, writer of A Handbook for Dog Walkers, and penguin trainer; “the dancers” Camille and Louise; O&L trapeze artists and critics offering inestimable advice; Jana, Alice In Wonderland, a graphic designer; and last but not least, D&D, who were instrumental in solidifying the duo’s sound. Yes indeed, it seemed that even the guy from the night shop was somehow implicated in this debacle. Luckily, there were no Pafoons in the vicinity, and everything went as cool as ice, baby.
The project took a leap forward when Oskar found an underground studio, invisible to the naked eye, hidden in the shadows of a Brussels ilôt beyond the confines, yet still in the looming shadow of the Prison de Saint Gilles. Spector Studio. Dark alleys surrounded the area, with half-lit streets, overrun by a gang of bloodthirsty ravens raiding the skies, giving the impression of mystery and allure.
D&D, two old-school producers and musical geniuses, were not too sure of the seriousness, nor the general intentions of the “wrecking crew.” What were they up to in there, in that closed studio? Did they have sinister intentions of burning the joint to the ground, and in effect destroying their livelihood as artists, producers, and publishers? Was there any potential to this clan with their apparent substance abuse issues?
The Cultural Studies became increasingly serious with the Pianofabriek gig, whereby Oskar and the Vampire were accompanied and mentored by D&D, as two dedicated inventors of electricity and music, who managed to push the band in the right direction.
The Cultural Studies first album is entitled Recycled Press (2016) produced, recorded and mixed by D&D at Spector Studio in Brussels on the music label Sub-Continental in association with OP. Their debut single, “The Automaton” looks at how the banking system is at the forefront of our lives and we are left paying the tax. The album became a concept album, hitting on the news of today in “Recycled Press” and corruption and manipulation, and the tabletization of society in “Bastardification.” Other themes touch on racial inequality, police violence, and the general way in which these issues are portrayed to the public mind.
Their debut single, “The Automaton”, from their first album Recycled Press, featured on BBC Radio 6 Music on the Tom Robinson Show, on BBC Mixtape and on Chunky’s Choice Cuts. Tom Robinson acclaimed “The Automaton”: “had me at 23 seconds and is my favourite tune of the week by a country mile. If you also love this record as much I do – you may share my curiosity about the band. Curiosity at how something as fully-formed and perfect as this can suddenly arrive on our radar out of nowhere – from completely unknown artists we’ve never heard of before.” Paul Scott-Bates, writing on Louder Than War, called the first album Recycled Press a “punchy and occasionally raw sounding album combined with dancey, electro beats it offers an alternative slant on modern day pop”.
Their New Album, Human Killed in Accident (2019) peers into a world linking current issues with deranged thoughts with a cool music vibe. B.A.C.K.L.A.S.H., an Emmett Till-style lynching, police brutality, a gang of state-approved assassins on the beat. Justice is dead, along with God, in this dismal, desolate, rotting, corrosive America. Enter a dark corridor of terror, fell the industrial vibe, gritty at times, disturbing images, psychiatric filicide and the Pharma industry’s products sold to the highest bidder, while others perish in the toxic gas. Puppet Resurrection hits on a world where the press is being targeted as the problem, not the solution. Corrupt racist privileged parasitic swine benefiting from human misery, makeshift movements and half-baked state-run attempts at humanity. Fake news or populism, censorship or reality? Head on collision with Silenced Press, mangling your body and vital organs. Feel the dub-groove in Spiral, let the brass take you by the hand and enter the world of Spiral. The cool vibes continue in Under Pressure’s Silence. Dance until dawn stroking your plastic monkey with Plastic Fashion. Signs of authoritarianism high, you leave only one way… Silence the Press. Put on your white suit, grab a cigar, kick back and enjoy the ride.
Oskar can be portrayed as a hyper-creative-over-enthusiastic-creature, whose own madness begins to materialize after 6pm, in the winter months, and after 9pm, in the summer. Word has it that, perhaps, it’s related to the sunset. He is the mastermind behind the main programming along with bass, guitar, and keyboards, while this crooner-hooligan wails into the mic. D&D step in with drums and percussion, keyboards, guitar, and other creative elements. The Stereo Vampire pumps out the lyrics that grease the motor of this killing machine.
The music will move and soothe you with its upbeat grooves and unadulterated in-your-face “electro-prose.”