Richard Jonckheere aka Richard 23 is one of the members of the industrial Belgium band Front 242, which he joined back in 1983. Richard was also one of the founding members of the band Revolting Cocks. Richard’s side projects include Holy Gang, La Tchak and Coder 23. Coder 23 is a side project with Front 242 band member Patrick Codenys. Richard also performed background vocals on Ministry track “The Nature of Love”. Dark Beauty is excited to bring his story to our readers…
Interview Meikee Magnetic and Kate Knuvelder
What prompted your decision to rejoin The Revolting Cocks for the six date US tour?
I always thought I would never sing any of those BSL songs again like I did at the Wax Trax Retrospectacle in Chicago 5 years ago. When I joined the tribe on stage for “No Devotion” I really believed it would never happen again and it was fine with me. To be honest I accepted to do that only because Julia Nash insisted saying that if Jim and Dannie (WT owners) would have been there, they would have loved it. I agreed and once on stage I could feel their presence. It was a very special moment for me. Once again, this “reunion” is not my idea at all. Jason Novak was looking for a headliner for the Cold Wave festival he’s promoting this year. He pointed out it was the 30th anniversary of “Big Sexy Land” and that it would be great to have the original line-up (Luc and myself) playing the full album. Based on the 2011 experience, and as BSL would not be enough to play for a long show, he came up with the idea of having some of the original members of the 2nd and 3rd album of the Revolting Cocks (Chris and Paul) playing some of those songs as well. The line-up was completed with Dan Brill on drums (like in 2011) and Jason as Maestro. We thought it would be a lot of work, time and energy for only one show so we all agreed to eventually find more dates. Jason is really the one behind everything and without him nothing of this would have been possible.
Will there be any dates set for The Cocks to perform in Europe?
We’ll see how it goes with the first dates, but we are open to the idea. We already had some offers.
How do you feel about being reunited with the band after so many years?
For now I’m in Brussels rehearsing my parts of the job and meet with Luc Van Acker for some rehearsing together. We will all meet in Chicago a few days before for rehearsals as a band. That’s where the magic happen. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play with such great people and artists. I don’t know if people will enjoy it, but I can say we have something very strong to deliver.
What prompted the departure from The Cocks back in 1986?
Mainly a dispute with Al Jourgensen. We had different artistic opinions about the 12 inch “You Often Forget” (the less to say) to a point I even asked not to be credited on the record. It was too late as the record was already under pressing. I don’t want to go into details here, it’s an old story, but I really felt I had to keep on concentrating with Front 242 and run away from a nasty situation. I know I did the right choice.
Front 242 worked with Dutch Producer Anton Corbijn on your videos for “Headhunter” (1988) and “Tragedy <For You>” (1991). What was it like to work with him?
I met Anton after an Echo and the Bunnymen show in Brussels where he was shooting the band. His name was on our directors list for a while for the “Headhunter” clip but we believed he would never be interested or eventually be too expensive. He liked our idea of having a video trailer for the entire album, a bit like for a movie, and not only for the single. So we did both! As we had no clue how things were working in the making of a video clip, we gave him total freedom and control over it. The result was so great with “Headhunter” we decided to work with him again on the same base for the next clip. It was really easy and simple to work with him. He would come with a few ideas on paper, we would talk about it and then simply shoot it. The great thing with this type of director is that he’s a former photographer and has an amazing eye. So the story of the clip became quickly less important than the image. We felt close to that concept as we always believed the music and the sound of the words were more important that the story telling.
You just recently released some unreleased tracks from 1999/2000 from your side project La Tchak. What made you decide to release these tracks and can we expect to hear more from La Tchak?
LaTchak (in one word) On demand… really. I have tons of people asking me to listen to those tracks for years. They were done for an album that was never released. I really love the time I spent with JP Everlast doing this and it was, in my opinion, some sonic quality. Of course it’s old stuff and far from all the things I’ve done, but I enjoyed it fully and I’m happy today of some reactions of listeners. There’s no chance of having something new there unless Jason calls me again (joke).
Is there any chance of any new music or tours with Front 242 or any of your side projects in the near future?
New tracks by Front 242 I really don’t know, not a plan for now. We have some dates in Europe for the next year and possibilities of a US tour in 2017 exist. I’m currently working on some projects which I cannot say much today. Daniel just released a new Nothing But Noise album. Patrick and Jean Luc have their old project Underviewer (material from before 242 completely re-recorded and produced and some new material) coming out next month.
You ran as a candidate for the Belgium general elections on behalf of the Ecolo party in the district Brussels-Halle Vilvoorde back in 2007. What made you decide to run for the general elections?
I always voted green since the ECOLO party exist in Belgium cause their ideology and their program has always been the closest to my personal beliefs. I had my membership card since 1994 (when I first ran for local election with them). On Eastern 2007, South of Spain was very cold, under grey sky and rain when in Belgium it was over 32° C. It was supposed to be the other way round! That was for me another strong signal (among others) from mother nature. I called my old time friend Evelyne Huytebroeck (ecologist minister of environment in Brussels government back then) to say I wanted to help the party for the next federal election.
You finished 15th with 1936 (or 2.03%) of the votes. Were you happy with the final results?
I don’t want to start a course on the Belgium voting system, but you have to understand that even if you run for the federal election (national election), only the people of the region you live in can vote for you, in my case the Brussels region. The ECOLO party is far from being in the top 3 in Belgium, I declared my running quite late and I was a total unknown for most of the voters. Regarding all this, I think I did very good especially knowing Evelyne, as a minister in function, would “only” have around 3000 personal votes. The final score of ECOLO that year was really good after having lost the previous election in 2003. So yes, I was very happy with my personal score and my contribution.
Would you consider running for the general elections again in the near future?
To be so close to the democratic system, to be involved in all the process of an election, to sit with elected politicians and having my word to say on how to run the campaign and meet face to face with famous politicians from other parties was a wonderful experience. I was working hard every day (and night) on the field to get voters to know me and the program of the party I was running for and of course, because of being member of Front 242 I was able to get attention from the media others wouldn’t have. I really felt I was doing the right thing. When the election was over and when the elected members of the party started working on trying to enter the coalition to form the new government (they didn’t succeed on that), I realize I wasn’t of any use in the process. Of course my initial intention was never to be elected, but I was hoping I would have opportunities to keep on working with the team on some subject I thought I could help on. I felt they were more into their own playground and would not really pay attention to me as, in their eyes, my ‘job” was over. That left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don’t know if I would run again, but for now it’s a total no.
One of the things you enjoy doing in your personal time is diving. When and how did you got started?
In 2011 I followed Patrick, who’s a long time diver, after a depression. He offered for me to join him in Thailand and start diving courses. Once under water I knew this was going to help me finding myself again.
Do you feel that diving helps with your creativity?
I haven’t done much music since I started diving, but today I think this would help me see things differently in the process of creation. It has already changed some of my behaviors and the way of seeing things in life. I know that life under water is an inspiration for most divers, whatever they do in life. Probably something like yoga does for others. The fact that you have to adapt yourself completely to another environment (the way you move, the way you breathe, the way you feel your body and the way you see things) and the discipline you need underwater to avoid risks and to respect life around you, helps you to do the same on the surface.
Where do you enjoy diving the most and is there anywhere you have not been and would like to dive at?
I mostly dive in South East Asia where I started, but was lucky enough to dive other great places like Mexico and Egypt for example. My list of next diving spots is endless but one spot is really appealing to me: the Mexican Cenotes. I only need to pass my “cave speciality” to do so. It’s next on my diving courses list of course. Meeting with the Great White in South Africa is also something I would love to experience.
Who and what inspires you?
The world has so much to offer, it could be anything really. A sound, an image, a conversation or the culture of others can be inspiring. That’s why I always believed that travelling is so important. People should travel more and the world would be a better place. When you know that less than 30% of American citizens have a passport (that’s excluding the green card owners) you understand some of the tunnel visions a large amount of Americans have. People from abroad can be so inspiring. Send this message to Trump! David Lynch can be an inspiration as much as Yusra Mardini (the young swimmer who escaped Syria and was at the 2016 Olympic Games). Mohammed Ali or books from Amélie Nothomb can equally be an inspiration to me. When you have an open mind and have all your senses working, everything around you can make you feel alive and therefore inspire you.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
The unexpected beauty of the other side.