THE BIRTH OF CHANNEL ZERO
Channel Zero was a purely Belgian bred band, of which the members all came from Brussels, the only city where Flemings and Walloons drink a pint together.
On March 1, 1990, two existing Belgian groups melted together. The trio: Patrice Hubloux (guitar), Tino Olivier de Martino (bass) and drummer Phil Baheux left Sixty Nine, and Franky De Smet Van Damme (singer) and guitar player Xavier Carion stopped playing with Bacteria.
Xavier, Tino, Patrice and Phil were french speaking, only Franky spoke Dutch. Such mixed band composition had a positive effect on creativity, said Franky. Because the ideas of the five varied significantly, in the beginning they often argued about the musical path they would follow.
After six months they had finished four songs: "Inspiration To Violence", "Save Me", "Tales Of Worship" and "Run With The Torch", which were put on a demo by producer Andre Gielen.
The logo of Channel Zero was designed by Ronny "Arjunah" Ponnen. The logo was there before the bands name. It was finally found in the Public Enemy song: "She Watch Channel Zero?"
In January 1991 the very good sounding four song tape under the name "Channel Zero" came in circulation, there were 1.000 copies sold through mail order.
The German label Shark became interested in the group by reading the excellent feedback that the demo was given in various music magazines. In October 1991, Channel Zero decided to sign up with Shark.
November of that year they stayed for two weeks in the RA. SH Gelsenkirschen studio with producer Ulrich Posselt, and ten songs (including the four demo tracks) in their pocket. Because their demo-producer Andre Gielen had made a good sound they absolutely wanted him as co-producer. He could make Ulli exactly clear which sound Channel Zero wanted. The end result was on-Belgian good. The first Channel Zero album was born and the group could do what they prefered doing, to perform live.
The only thing that could go wrong was Franky's military service that he had to fulfil. Fortunately, he was rejected because of his long hair and he could do his civilian service, so he could continue to play with the band in the weekends.
March 1993: Channel Zero completed the recording of their new album Stigmatized in the T & T Studio of Gelsenkirschen.
Only four months later the album was finished, because Wolfgang Stach (Pantera, Virgin Steele) seemed to be a less suitable producer for Channel Zero than originally thought.
When Vinnie Paul (drummer from Pantera) heard the rough mix of "Stigmatized", he immediately contacted the group to be allowed to do the remix.
Franky DSVD went to Vinnie's studio in Nashville, Tennessee, to work on the basic sound of the songs for the mixing. Taking into account the wishes that the other group members had passed in a letter to Franky.
The first album name was "Stigmatized for life" but was shortened to “Stigmatized” because it was easier to remember.
The album finally came out at August 16, 1993.
Meanwhile, one of the few staff changes occurred in Channel Zero. Hubloux Patrice was replaced by Peter Iterbeke. He finally didn't fit in with the group and they decided to continue as a quartet.
Channel Zero was mainly known for their live performances. The spectators always left the room full of admiration, and the organisers of the gigs absolutely wanted to book the band again.
In the autumn of 1994 the third Channel Zero album Unsafe was born. It was the first album that appeared at the Belgian label Play It Again Sam.
According to Xavier, the two albums that were released by Shark were an artistic disaster : "We could not choose our producer, so we sounded like any other German shitband."
At Shark, Channel Zero was indeed only one of the many heavy bands. Pias saw the group as a priority, they gave them some options they previously didn’t have.
Richard 23 of Front 242 had asked Xavier Carion to play the guitar parts on the "Holy Corridor" project. The same Richard 23 was responsible for all the samples on "Unsafe" of Channel Zero.
Billy Milano further contributed his bit to the album. He sang on the song "Bad To The Bone". Franky knew Billy from the tour they did together with MOD and The Spudmonsters. Because he just did a four-day promotion tour through Europe, they thought it was a good idea to ask Billy to sing along with this song. The text was written during the car ride from Amsterdam to the recording studio in Verviers.
In textual terms "Unsafe" differed somewhat from the previous two albums of Channel Zero. In one way or another the lyrics all dealed situations or aspects of life that you can regard as unsafe, hence the title of the album.
The mix of "Unsafe" was made by Michael Barbiero, one of the big names in the rock circuit. The production once again took place in the studio of André Gielen in Verviers.
The new album gave a new boost to Channel Zero's live reputation. And Teddy Hillaert (currently booking agent at Live Nation) became the first real manager of the band. Which was especially important for singer Franky DSVD.
Because of the new album they were openingact at Pukkelpop and played at July 1 and 2 1995 in the spotlight of the double festival Torhout/Werchter as replacement for the band Live. It appeared that Ice-T was high up with the Belgian company. There was even said that a collaboration between Body Count and Channel Zero could be possible in the future.
After T/W Channel Zero could open in the Paradiso of Amsterdam for Biohazard. They also played at the invitation of Dave Mustaine two French nights as special guest for Megadeath.
In September Channel Zero went to Australia for three weeks for a club tour of nine concerts Down Under.
They also went along on a European tour, opening for Body Count.
Channel Zero was chosen by the English magazine Metal Hammer to provide a concert in the Brixton Academy. That went so well that they wanted to do an English club tour with them for Life of Agony. Unfortunately because organizational reasons the whole structure was cancelled .
One of the strangest performances of Channel Zero (1996) was the one in prison in Antwerp. Something Franky later described as Jailhouse Rock.
Initially, the recordings for the fourth album would happen in New York. The company finally landed in the Netherlands.
The American producer Jason Corsaro was chosen (Soundgarden among others, Metallica, Guns' n Roses).
Late ’96, Channel Zero left to the famous Power Station Studios in New York. Because they had been in a lot of recording studios over the years they found it suspicious that this was the first studio in which you could speak through the glass between the control room and recording space with each other. Afterwards they would learn that the studio was not finished, he was still under construction.
Jason C. was not averse to a line of coke more or less, making his assessment of the recording not really fine.
After three days of misery Channel Zero left the American studios. They wanted to avoid the absolute risk not to be 100% satisfied with the outcome of their fourth album.
Out of sheer frustration three songs smoothly flowed out of the pen in America : Fool's Parade, Misery" and "Multi Flower Nursery".
The group returned with their heads down. On the way back, Franky bought an Aardschok magazine in which he noted to his surprise that Attie Bauw (their first choice as producer, which unfortunately wasn't on the list of candidates Pias had proposed to them) was a Dutchman and not an American as the group had always had thought.
The group ended for five weeks in the Dutch Wisseloord Studio with Attie behind the buttons.
The single "Fool's Parade" was a harbinger before the full album Black Fuel was released. After fourteen days the song had sold more than a thousand copies, in a country with not a single buying public.
There were two months between the single release and the actual Black Fuel album.
Unlike the previous albums Channel Zero had recorded the twelve songs simultaneously instead of layer upon layer. Attie found their strength sat in the live performance and had to be put that way on the record.
The cover photo came from an unsuccessful scan. It was the head of one's father, who's eyes you could see, something you normally do not see on a radiograph.
From "Black Fuel" a clip was made on a drilling platform at sea. Jan Bultheel was the producer, he just had canned the video for "Free Tyson Free" by Holy Gang.
Black Fuel was dedicated to Patrice Hubloux who co-founded Channel Zero in 1992 and was killed in an accident doing his job.
This album seemed to assure that Channel Zero could pass the borders more than ever before. Only the future would tell whether the year 1997 would bring the big breakthrough for the best metal band that Belgium had ever known.
At last it seemed to happen, 1997 would be the year of Channel Zero. The fourth album Black Fuel received unanimous great reviews (1) (2). The group, for the first time, was 100% satisfied with the album, performances invariably degenerated into a wild party and as icing on the cake Body Count asked them to join his tour.
Great was the surprise late August when the message was sent that Channel Zero threw in the towel. The group stopped at its peak, and this wasn't an impulsive action.
After the cd recordings the expectations to score abroad were high. The response to the album and the concerts were very thrilling. It was a nasty surprise that the sale of the album was poor. The group felt they were at a point that they were no longer advancing.
Even the euphoria for Channel Zero by Dave Mustaine and Ice-T was not to benefit. Ice-T still wanted them to join him in the U.S. part of the Body Count tour, but without division of Black Fuel on the U.S. market and financial support from the record company, this event couldn't be effectuated.
The missed U.S. chance, and the disappointing sales of Black Fuel finally tied Channel Zero.
The pressure to succeed with the fourth cd had become so great that even Franky experienced it as a relief to stop the band.
The fact that all group members were already busy with something else than Channel Zero could prove that the band was at its end.
Channel Zero ended in beauty, the proof was the successful farewell tour live-cd which was recorded at Marktrock Leuven in August 1997.
After this last set of concerts the curtain finally fell on Channel Zero.
In March 2009 Sam Sixtus founded a Facebook page on which one could log on to try to enforce a reunion concert of Channel Zero. The facebook page had quickly gained a large following. In June 2009 Channel Zero announced the surprising message that they effectively would do a single reunion concert in the AB in Brussels.
It was to await what the reaction would be now. After twelve years of absence from the stage Channel Zero was going to play again. What happened was a real rush for tickets. Channel Zero eventually sold six times the big Ab hall in less than two hours time ! Immediately a new record in the thirtieth anniversary of the Ancienne Belgique.
So, in January 2010 Channel Zero is finaly back to kick ass! Xavier Carion who suffers from hearing problems is replaced by Mikey Doling (ex-Soulfly) on guitar.