When the eighties near, Arno Hintjens of the group Tjens
Couter decides to give his R&B-music a more modern sound. He teams up
with Jean-Marie Aerts (who had been playing with Johan
Verminnen, Big Bill, Bert
de Coninck and Raymond van het Groenewoud in
the seventies) and changes the name of the group Tjens Couter to T.C. Matic. The
groupname supposedly is also the name of a Yugoslav writer.
Although Tjens Couter had been a well-known group, TC Matic got off on a difficult
start. They were looking for a record company and only Marcel Vanthilt (see Arbeid
Adelt!) who was looking for bands to fill a record for the ASLK (a Belgian
Bank) showed some interest in their demo-tape. With the 75.000 fr sponsor money
from the bank they headed of to London and recorded five songs. "Bazooka
was released on the compilation album "Get Sprouts", the other four
were released as a double single, without a record company.
Still no-one was interested, so Paul Evrard, former manager for Raymond van
het Groenewoud, founded his own record company Parsley. The single "O la
la la" was released and the group was on it's way. "O la la la"
becomes an evergreen (still to this day, a party in Belgium isn't complete without
it) and sells over 15.000 copies, an enormous amount for a Belgian single at the
The debut album "T.C.Matic" that follows soon afterwards gets equally
well received. Marc Mijlemans wrote in Humo : "The debut album of T.C.Matic
is filled with interesting, intriguing and at times even impressive music. Factory
funk, this is. Brutal city noises from a hard world somewhere in between A Certain
Ratio and Simple Minds .. Export-ready Flemish Rock, 'cause most of the songs
can easily survive the comparison with new things coming from England. ... Never
has a group from Belgium showed so much soul as T.C.Matic on this existential
cry from the rhythmic jungle. I love T.C.Matic, but I wonder if that means I also
have to love the voice of Arno Hintjens. Yes? Well, OK then."
They also prove to be a very impressive band on stage : in 1981 they go on
tour together with Lavvi Ebbel (Tourmalaise) and
get to play on the famous Torhout-Werchter festival. Their stage act soon becomes
a living legend. From Oxygène in 1983 : "On stage, T.C.Matic really makes
the impression of having fallen into the barrel of magic potion when they were
little. A noise level that tenfold the power of the songs and then there's Arno,
the showman, a class of its own, a Presence, a strong magnet, hip-movements that
would make Elvis blush. .. Last month, they were supposed to go on a
tour together with P.I.L. John Lydon was right : T.C.Matic would've been so much
better than his own group."
Belgium soon becomes too small. They try to make a break to abroad with "L'apache"
their second album. From Humo : "Wherever you went along Flemish roads
during the past year, you met T.C.Matic. With their white-hot western soul they
made tracks around the country that still haven't been erased but - and there
always this sickening but inevitable "but" - you can't get higher in
Belgium than a place at Torhout-Werchter and a very well received debut album.
Et maintenant ? There's no way back, no road ahead. There only the possibility
of a big leap, hoping to land somewhere where a people live, a lot of people.
"L'Apache" is that leap. It is a very well executed leap, and if they
don't make a soft landing with this one, that can mean only one thing : that the
thesis of the VMO (an extreme right and racist action group) that "all foreigners
are stupid and too lazy to listen" is correct. With "A different smell
from the same perfume" (Luna Twist), "Er sterft een beer in de Taïga"
(Kreuners) and "Promises" (Allez Allez), "L'apache" is the
fourth album of international standards to come out of Belgium this year. And
it's probably the best. Better in any case, better balanced than they were on
their already impressive debut".
The passage across the boundaries becomes a fact (they tour all around Europe
and play Pinkpop, Roskilde, France, Germany ...) but never becomes a huge success.
Only in Scandinavia the group develops a following, much to the delight of Arno
: "the ladies over there are wild! They go after the men just like the
men in Rome go after the women." Even a third and fourth album can't
change that. Herman Schueremans (the organizer of Torhout/Werchter) in an interview
with Het Laatste Nieuws in 1984 : "the Belgian branch of EMI has 100
percent faith in the group. They invest a lot in them. Unfortunately, they don't
seem to get that message through to the international headquarters. When TC.Matic
began in Belgium they said "there will be no audience for that kind of music".
The group has made that audience. Then came Holland. The first time they shouted
"stupid Belgian", but the next time they were silenced by the music.
In Scandinavia the same thing happens. The weird thing is that this group can
really move things around, but that the record company does so little with it."
So, continues to battle with the world : "Choco" of 1983 and"Yé
Yé" of 1985 (the only T.C.Matic record not produced by Jean-Marie Aerts)
still show a group that's growing. On occasions, the elements that would be much
more obvious in Arno's later music (accordion, barroom music, waltz ...) and other
influences (world music) creep in. But the story remains the same : although they
survive a two years longer than the majority of the Belgian bands, even this group
ultimately has to face the fact that without a major breakthrough abroad, the
Benelux is too small to continue to evolve and make a living.
After a huge tour with the Simple Minds in 1986 that turns out to be a waste
of effort, the group gives up. The creativity was gone. Belgium's finest band
was no more.
Still, the musical saga that went from Freckle Face to Tjens Couter and to
T.C.Matic isn't finished: there's still Arno's solo career
- Arno Hintjens (vocals)
- Jean-Marie Aerts (guitar)
- Serge Feys (synthesizer)
- Ferre Baelen / Michael Peet (bass)
- Rudy Cloet (drums)
Buy CD's of this band at
- T.C.Matic (Parsley/Statik - 1981)
- L'Apache (EMI - 1982)
- Choco (EMI - 1983)
- Yé Yé (EMI - 1985) Compilations :
- The best of T.C.Matic (Ça vient, change pas demain) (EMI - 1987)
- Compil Complèt (EMI, 2000)
Singles and 12'':
- Modern Noise / White Rhythm / Take it easy / Femme Femme (TC Matic 1980)
- O la la la / Still on the loose (Parsley 1980)
- Willie / I'm not like that (Parsley 1981)
- Le java / Mummy (EMI 1982)
- Middle Class and Blue Eyes / Touch me (EMI 1983)
- If you wanna dance, dance / Attack Anna (EMI 1983)
- Ugh ugh / Ugh ugh (instr.) (EMI 1984)
- Putain Putain / Living on my instinct (EMI, 1984)
- Elle adore le noir / Act like a dog (EMI 1985)
- Who's that girl / Let Me Out (EMI 1986)
- Chi Boem / Pauvre con (EMI 1986)
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