Around the same year that disco was literally demolished in Chicago's Comiskey Park,  electronic music was taking new form in Belgium with the formation of Absolute Body Control. There was a significant difference between the automated beats and synthetic bass lines used in Donna Summer dance clubs hits and ABC's unpolished slightly detuned melodies. Influenced by the early New York and British art punk movement, Dirk Ivens created this project years before he eventually joined The Klinik and formed Dive making him an EBM household name. On Saturday October 22nd he returns to Los Angeles with Eric Van Wonterghem to play SUBSTANCE as Absolute Body Control. 

How different was the Belgian electronic music scene in the early 80’s compared to Germany or the UK? 

Dirk Ivens: In Belgium you had very nice electronic bands and most of them like ourselves, A Grumh, Parade Ground, Snowy Red, Front 242 and The Neon Judgement all had in common that we were influenced by SUICIDE and WIRE. Big influences! We all had different electronic gear(analogue) therefore we had to invent our own sounds but that's also the reason why we all sounded different. Later on the electronic field moved more to the dance scene and Belgium has a very good name for this and even came up

with the New Beat.

Was there ever a time when you felt that you could push Absolute Body Control to a big indie label like Mute or even a major label?

Dirk Ivens: We contacted only once an indie label and that was Antler Records who started to sign and release bands. We got a letter back that it didn't fit in their release schedule. So we released everything on tape by ourselves. Some years ago we put out the ABC cd boxset including all those tapes and we included the Antler record just for fun. Maybe we weren't just good enough for that time, who knows?

With other projects so different from each other (Klinik, Sonar, Dive) Do you or Eric ever share common ideas or elements in each of your other projects? 

Dirk Ivens: When we are together we don't need many words to communicate, we know each other already for decades and it's always very clear when we start with an idea for which project it will be because they all sounds different, very different. ABC more poppy, minimal, SONAR industrial beats, no voice and so on...

What was the specific inspiration for your first single “Is There An Exit?” I feel a lot of darkness there opposite the Martin Rev-esq synthline. It gives a perspective of being buried alive literally and figuratively. 

Dirk Ivens: Recorded with almost no gear, very simple. I remember that the people in the studio didn't know very well what to think of it. We played with a moog prodigy and a Wasp plus a rhythm machine. Very minimal but i loved that sound. The lyrics, oh my God, it's been so long ago. I always thought that the song from Peter Frampton had that line " i want you ...show me the way ...." , maybe it came from there haha.

It took some years to bring this project back to active status. How does making and performing feel now compared to when you were first starting?  Was it difficult to pick up again after such a long time? 

Dirk Ivens: No. Even more easy because after all that time and our experience with our other projects we became more professional so to speak regarding knowing our instruments and recording. These days it's a lot cheaper and every musician has his home studio.

Your stage performance combines music with strong visual elements, how important is the visual aspect of your performance? 

Dirk Ivens: We see it as a whole package. We like to give the people the best we can do but there's not always an opportunity for screen videos so the music is the most important aspect!

Was that show in Brooklyn back in 2008 your first US performance as Absolute Body Control? How is your reception in North America different from Europe?

Dirk Ivens: Yes. The Williamsburg Music Hall and the day after in Los Angeles. Two really great shows. Hard to believe it's already more than 6 years ago. The world became so small these days that everybody knows everybody. Also with music. The response was so nice, we always wanted to go back. And no, there's no difference anymore, they all come to enjoy the music.

Were you able to pick up from where you left off with the songwriting, or are there different motivations for the newer material? Shattered Illusion feels like an album that could have come out 30 years ago but with a fresh sound.

Dirk Ivens: That's true. Like i said, the only way that has changed was the way of recording. For the rest we can think very 80’s haha. The same persons, ideas, voice ...

With the price of synths being so expensive in the late 70’s and early 80s, making synth music was probably minimal for practical reasons. What do you think about the revival of this sound and the analog gear today while there are so many options for making music (a lot of them being affordable)?

Dirk Ivens: I always say that it doesn't matter how expensive or cheap instruments are , the music must comes out of the head and if that isn't there then the result will be like that. Personally I like the old synths because i need to feel and see what i'm doing but Eric is very technical with programs so i think for Absolute Body Control it's a mix of the two these days.

This interview was originally published by the new defunct Wire-Trap Magazine in February 2016 and amended in 2022.