Wouter Van Belle - Wow & Flutter out on double vinyl & cd

Wouter Van Belle - bio Part 1

Sound on sound recording
In 1968, at the age of 4, the organ in A Whiter Shade of Pale caught Wouter's attention. But his father told him he would have to learn the piano first. 2 years later he got his own AM-radio. He learned his theory through formal music education, but preferred to study the piano on his own. At the age of 10 Wouter got his first recording device: a Philips tape-recorder with the unique function of sound on sound recording! Together with his siblings Wouter used to overdub the vocals on instrumental b-sides of vinyl singles using the ping-pong technique.
By the age of 16, Wouter owned a few Beyer Dynamic microphones and 2 keyboards: a Höhner pianet-T and the polyphonic Casiotone Vl2. During his studies, he started building his own studio in Mechelen and borrowed money to buy an Akai S900 sampler,  a Tascam A3340 4-track recorder and the Steinberg PRO24 software. A friend lent him his first mixing console. Among his first paid jobs were making jingles for a local radio station. He played piano with local bands such as Casiopea, Dealwood, and Black Widow. At 18 he joined the soul/R&B cover band The Boxcars. Wouter got to play songs from Otis Redding and Little Feat with the late Jokke Kerkhofs on drums, Luk de Graaff on bass, Lange Polle (currently playing with Triggerfinger) on guitar and Henri Ijlen on sax. With The Boxcars Wouter toured Belgium and played the Marktrock Festival in 1985.

1988-1990 the early years as a studio technician and a mixer 
At the end of his compulsory army service in 1988, Wouter did a three month stint working in the KVS theatre, doing the front of house mix for Alice directed by Jean-Pierre De Decker. He had the option to stay on, but chose instead Studio Impuls in Herent, where he had already recorded with producer Jean Blaute for Alice. Impuls featured two 16-track tape recorders synchronized with midi. For Wouter it was studio on weekdays, and live-mixing The Radios in the weekends. Wouter recorded and/or mixed Clouseau (debut album), De Kreuners (Ik wil je), Soulsister (recording the bass line of the international hit The way to your heart) Wim Mertens, Waso. While recording these pop and rock bands, Wouter also started to make a name for himself as a mixer of Belgian New Beat dance music, an underground club genre on the verge of its mainstream breakthrough, which was also to become a major influence on Euro House music. Wouter's (re)mixes included Rocco Granata's Marina and the Confetti's' album C China. 

His productive and successful stay at Impuls ended abruptly when one of the clients wanted to hire him as a producer: the studio owner wouldn't accept it. Immediately Wouter gets picked up by Wilfried van Baele from Galaxy Studio's, where he continued to do dance (re)mixes, e.g.  B.B. Jerome's Shock Rock (500.000 ex). Around that time he also remixed Telex' Moscow Discow and Twist à St-Tropez at Dan Lacksman's Synsound with Serge Ramaekers. In 1988 Wouter composed and produced the 12" dance track  Dreams- The Rhythm Of My Dreams; it sold well in Germany and ended up on several compilations. But dance proved to be just one of the genres in which Wouter was able to reach broad audiences.

The early 90s: take off as a producer 
In 1990 Wouter rented a house with a studio in Mechelen. He bought his own Tascam MSR16 16-track recorder, and again borrowed a mixing console, the Soundcraft 1600 which will become a life long companion. With this setup Wouter developed his own sound: the Soundcraft mixing console sounded great but suffered from limited dynamics and needed to be fed a powerful signal. Wouter achieved this through his miking, EQ and compression: he calls it a slightly overexposed sound or 'power-tone'. Powertone - the name he gave his company.

The studio instantly became a favorite for demo recordings with bands as the The Radios, Soulsister and Hugo Matthysen. The latter tipped Wouter about a name in the finale of Humo’s Rock Rally: Gorky. Wouter proposes them to record a single with him: Anja. He then pitched the result to Virgin Belgium's newly installed A&R department, with success.

Two hit singles later -Stone Cold Woman by the B-Tunes and Gorky's Anja- Wouter invested in a 24-track Otari MTR100, which he synced with his 16-track. Other essentials featured Focus Rite pre-amps and EQ's, and a Neumann U87 mic. Permanent instruments in Wouter's studio are a Hammond A100 organ with Leslie and a Yamaha upright. This is the setup with which Wouter will record several classic 90s Belpop songs and albums:  Noordkaap - Een Heel Klein Beetje Oorlog, Gorky -  Gorky, Wigbert - Ticket In De Nachtkastla. With the latter album Wouter hit his first number 1 as a producer, Wigbert's classic "Ebbenhouten Blues".

The typical elements of Wouter Van Belle's intense, hands-on production style were present from the start: he doctors song structure and arrangement, assesses the band's musicians and where necessary calls for replacements for the recording sessions, he plays additional keyboard parts, he does most of the recording and mixing, and when budget permits he travels abroad for the mastering. In 1994 Wouter worked for the first time on an 8-track Protools Disc recording system, for Noordkaap's Gigant. As a musician he put his mark on Gorky's all time classic Mia - he arranged and played the piano part.
During these years, Wouter stayed active in the dance scene, both as a mixer and also as a producer, e.g. together with Vito Lucente (Junior Jack) on Benny B. Their singles "Vous Étes fous!" and "Qu'est-ce qu'on fait maintenant?" peaked respectively at #3 and #2 in France in 1990, with 1.2 million albums sold.

Continue reading:

Part 2
1993-99 international breakthrough with Axelle Red

Part 3
1998-2002 Dead Man Ray
1998 Becoming independent with a 'Welgemeende (fuck you)

Part 4
2005 Wow & Flutter, the double solo debut
2011 Dutch success with Racoon

© powertone