Wouter Van Belle - bio Part 3
1998-2002 Dead Man Ray
In 1998 Wouter joined Dead Man Ray as a producer and -for the first time in 15 years - as a band member. Wouter also mixed all albums, except for Cago. Dead Man Ray was a high octane mix of artistic talent and diverging characters and backgrounds. It lasted for 3 albums and several tours with some electric live performances. The band featured singer Daan Stuyven before his solo-career took off, ex-dEUS Rudy Trouvé on bass, guitar player Elko Blijweerdt and drummer Herman Houbrechts. They ended up recording their third album in Chicago with Steve Albini, but being part of a high maintenance cult band took its toll, and members went their own way while the band was put on 'non-active'.
1998 Becoming independent with a 'Welgemeende (fuck you)'
"After 10 years as a producer, you should be able to say: ‘Fuck you’". Wouter not only remembered these words of senior producer Roland Verlooven, but by now also felt them for himself: producing will eat the producer in time, and one should be able to buy the freedom to choose one's productions. It's the freedom to say 'no' to some, but also the power to say 'yes' to others, when it comes to releasing and promoting artists, for which Wouter had been depending on the Majors all these years. Earlier Wouter had joined the A&R department of Warner Music for 2 years, where he had signed Zita Swoon and An Pierlé, and produced the debut album of Novastar with Marc Bonne. Novastar's debut album enjoyed major success in both Holland and Belgium. But it was time for Wouter to become fully independent.
Almost 10 years after starting his own publishing company Powertone, Wouter founded the Petrol Music label for which he was to be the A&R. He would soon be joined by Werner Dewachter as label manager. The label headed off with another successful solo-debut produced by Wouter. Rapper/singer Flip Kowlier's (t’Hof van Commerce) 'Ocharme Ik' would immediately generate for Petrol Music the necessary financial reserves to invest. As it happened, the album featured the hit single 'Welgemeende (fuck you)' - which translates more or less as 'Fuck you, and I really mean it'. It also featured another classic to be, "Min Moaten".
The Vanbelle-Petrol-Kowlier combination consolidated itself with the follow-up album In de Fik, selling over 40,000 copies in Flanders, just like the debut album. Both were co-productions with Peter Obbels. Petrol Music broadened its foothold releasing the song Sadness from the then unknown band Stash, breaking several records with its longevity as a chart topper.
Following a tip from Rudy Trouvé, Wouter ended up a concert of an unknown band called Yevgueni, playing to a full house of students. He liked what he heard: an instantly recognizable voice, good lyrics, a solid band and melodies that stuck. He signed them to Petrol and produced their debut album, taking the risk of inflating the budget by adding sessions with the London Chamber Orchestra. The risk was that Yevgueni's music was generally considered unfashionable: they make 'kleinkunst' -song based folkmusic- which is still pretty much a niche-genre, considered obsolete by prime-time radio. But Wouter had grown up with singers such as Boudewijn de Groot and Jules Decorte, and their arrangements by the Belgian Bert Paige, and so he wanted to take the risk to invest in Yevgueni's debut Kannibaal. Time proved him right. Appearing 4 years after their debut, Yevgueni's third album We Zijn Hier Nu Toch would become a surprise chart topper.
Petrol Music continued its successes with the Stash full album Blue Lanes, Yevgueni's second album -Aan De Arbeid- and Flip Kowlier's third collaboration with Wouter, the reggae album Otoradio. It features yet another classic song, Mo Ba Nin with a notable Hammond solo by Wouter.
While expanding into the music business, Wouter felt like sizing down his personal studio in 1999, to living room size in a small house in Haacht. In 2002 Wouter switched to 32 bit with ProTools HD, while still combining digital recording with analog devices such as the 8-track Studer.
2005 Wow & Flutter, the double solo debut
2011 Dutch success with Racoon