Front 242 - Biography



Calling their sound Electronic Body Music (EBM), Front 242 pioneered the genre driven by rhythmic beats, samples, and distorted vocals. With the release of their best-known song, “Headhunter,” in 1988 Front By Front, their status became legendary.

 

Daniel "B" Bressanutti was a founding member of Polyphonic Size who left the band in 1981 and released a record as Prothese the same year. In October, he joined Dick Bergan in Aarschot, Belgium and formed Front 242. Their first single, "Principles" b/w "Body to Body," released by New Dance, reflected the strong influence of industrial acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. In 1982, Jean-Luc De Meyer and Patrick Codenys, both formerly of Under Viewer, joined the line-up. Their first full-length, Geography (1982 Himalya), was preceded by the cold, electro-pop single, "U-Men." They began playing live, aided by drummer Geoff Bellingham, before replacing him with Richard "23" Jonckheere the following year. The same year, Bergen quit the band to pursue graphic design although he continued his association with the band as manager.

 

In 1984, Front 242 released their sophomore release, No Comment (1984 Red Rhino Europe). More percussion-driven and minimal than their debut, it was at this point that they coined the term "Electronic Body Music" or EBM to describe their sound - one that subsequently was adopted by a legion of electro-industrial acts that followed. That year they signed with the American label Wax Trax! and toured with their new labelmates Ministry, who at the time owed more to the synthpop of the Pet Shop Boys than the industrial sound they would later popularize. The following year, 23 met Luc van Acker at a club in Belgium and the two joined Ministry's leader, Alain Jourgensen, to form Revolting Cocks, who went on (after turning into an Industrial supergroup) to gain considerable popularity. In 1987, Front 242 released Official Version (1987 Red Rhino Europe) and reached their largest audience yet, in part due to a tour with Depeche Mode. The following year, they released their biggest hit, "Headhunter" and afterward jumped ship to Epic, who reissued their previous albums with updated artwork and bonus tracks.  Follow-up single, "Tragedy (For You)," was another hit and received considerable airplay on MTV.  

 

In 1991, Front 242 released their first major label release, Tyranny >For You< (1991 Epic). Though the critical consensus was that it was a step down from their previous releases, it was their highest charting album, reaching #95. The following year, De Meyer started a side project, Cobalt 60, with programmer Dominique Lallement and Frederic Sebastian of Kriegbereit. Meanwhile, Front 242 gained further exposure when the video for "Rhythm of Time" was featured in Single White Female and "Moldavia" was included in the soundtrack to K2, a film about the world's second highest mountain. A solo Bressanutti composed a half-hour piece called Art and Strategy (as The Art Corporation) for an installation which had a limited release of 1,000 CDs.  The following year, Richard 23 quit the band and was replaced on Lollapalooza with Jean-Marc and Pierre Pauly of Parade Ground. 1993 signaled a significant change in the band's sound. 06:21:03:11 Up Evil (1993 Epic) was their poppiest effort. 05:22:09:12 OFF (1993 Epic) was more characteristically abrasive, but also relied on guest vocalists Kirstin "99" Kowalski and Eran Westwood from New York City's Spill, with De Meyer only appearing on a single, remixed track. After a lengthy tour, many assumed Front 242 were no more. Their final releases were Live Code 5413356 424225 (1994 Play It Again Sam Records), a recording made from a VPRO Radio 3 at MC Vredenburg Utrecht Holland, and a remix album, [email protected]@ge (1995 Never Records).

 

At that point, many assumed Front 242 were no more. The key members had gone on to focus on various outside projects. Bressanutti released The Art Corporation as The Art Corporation in 1995. De Meyer went on to perform with Bio-Tek and then Cyber-Tec Project with Cubanate's Marc Heal, Ged Denton and Jonathan Sharp. After Sharp's departure and the Cyber-Tec label's collapse, the remaining members continued as C-Tec. De Meyer also sang with Birmingham 6 on their 1996 album Error of Judgment. De Meyer's Cobalt 60 also released their debut, Elemental. Meanwhile, Richard 23 recorded with Holy Gang. In 1997 and released re-workings of older songs on Re:Boot Live (1998 Metropolis) and Headhunter 2000 (1998 Metropolis) the following year. With no new material on either, the members continued to focus on outside work. In 1999, Richard 23 formed LaTchak with programmer Jean-Pierre "Steve Rare" Everaerts. In 2001, Patrick Codenys forms Gaiden with Steve Stoll. In 2002, Bresanutti and Codenys released new material, a DVD/CD two-disc set, Speed Tribe, a collaboration with experimental documentary filmmakers Rod Chong and Sharon Matarazzo. A few months later, as Male or Female (or Morf), Bresanutti and Codenys joined vocalist Elko Blijweer and released several albums on Alfa Matrix and toured the US.

 

The long hiatus for Front 242 ended in 2003, with the release of Pulse (2003 Metropolis), which was seemingly designed to be a return to their roots. It proved to be a one-off and Jean-Luc De Meyer afterward began recording with Len Lemeire and Jan D'Hooghe as 32 Crash in 2007.  Front 242 did reconvene to play life in 2008 for several concerts, after which De Meyer formed Modern Cubism with Jean-Marc Melot. Front 242's live performances from the Worldwide Vintage Tour were made available as a free download, First Moments. Moments (2008 Alpha Matrix) subsequently offered more re-workings of old material.

Steve Earle and the Dukes
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