Winning the Benelux Reggae Contest undoubtedly has put many things in motion for Iron Ites. Aren't things moving a bit too fast now, though?
Emile Claeys (bass): "The good thing that has come from winning this contest is that more and more people are getting to know us. I do have to admit that there is added pressure that comes with winning a competition like the Benelux Reggae Contest; we just try not to let it bother us and keep on doing our thing."
The band members of Iron Ites come from different parts of the country and are or were all playing with various other projects (Mighty Pirates, Zionyouth, Bottle Of Moonshine, Soul Jamaica, Wahwahsda ...). What was lacking in the Belgian reggae scene that made you guys decide to form a new band?
Emile Claeys: "I don't think anything was lacking as such; it all evolved quite organically. A good musician keeps evolving and since the Belgian reggae scene is rather small, you get to know other musicians rather quickly. Sometimes, like in our case, that results in new bands being created."
Even a seasoned backing band like Asham has a hard time surviving in Belgium. Realistically, are there any long-term prospects for a Belgian ten piece reggae band?
Benoitte Kiangana Mupatshi (vocals): "(laughs) Maybe not in Belgium, but we're not bound to this country are we?"
Nele Van den Berg (vocals): "We're all in this, heart and soul, and even though Iron Ites is a passion for most of us, we're not really that bothered thinking about the future of the band. We're just a bunch of people who love to make music together and whatever comes from that we'll welcome with open arms."
Emile Claeys: "All the members of Iron Ites combine the band with a day job and playing music together is our way to shake off the stress of daily life."
By winning the Benelux Reggae Contest you're now faced with a pretty busy summer schedule. Is it difficult to combine that with your jobs?
Benoitte Kiangana Mupatshi: "It takes a bit of creativity, but it's not undoable."
Emile Claeys: "As you stated earlier we come from different parts of the country, so even organizing a simple rehearsal session takes some planning. I guess we've already gotten used to it."
Most of the members of Iron Ites are seasoned musicians. When working with semi-professionals like that are regular rehearsals still necessary?
Benoitte Kiangana Mupatshi: "I think it's still called for, yes. At the moment we get together once a week and to me even that doesn't seem quite enough. That being said, I think the fact everyone keeps putting in the effort to be present at those rehearsal sessions week after week deserves some appreciation. We rehearse in Arendonk which is a bit out of the way for me (Benoitte lives in Antwerp, red.), but nonetheless, every time I set foot in our little rehearsal studio, it feels like coming home."
One of the prizes that were part of the Benelux Reggae Contest award package is the aid of Dutch Not Easy At All Productions in the recording of your debut album. Where are you at in that process and what role will Not Easy At All Productions play?
Emile Claeys: "We'll start recording soon, but Not Easy At All Productions role is limited to doing the final mix of the album."
Benoitte Kiangana Mupatshi: "Studio time, the most important part of the recording process, was not included in our prize package, so we still have to figure out how we're going to finance things, because cheap recording isn't!"
Nele Van den Berg: "In any case it will be something to worry about after summer."
Zjef Wynen (trompet): "It also gives our new songs the chance to grow. That's not unimportant because when you finally get into the studio, things have to be exactly right."
Is there a main songwriter in Iron Ites or are you guys a democracy with everyone chipping in?
Benoitte Kiangana Mupatshi: "The music side of our songs is usually a joint effort, although I have to admit some, like Emile and our drummer Martijn (Van den Broek, red.), are better at it than others. Jah Stoney (Harold Garnitschnig, red.) our keyboard player has proven to be a natural at composing, so the music for our next songs will probably be his. The lyrics are mostly mine and Emile's."
Emile Claeys: "We try our best to give our songs a personal touch and we only broach subjects that are important to us. We want to try to make our fans reflect on subjects they might otherwise neglect."
That means Iron Ites stands for music with a message. Does the Rastafarian philosophy play a role in there as well?
Emile Claeys: "I think you will definitely be able to find links with Rastafarianism in our songs; things like unity and togetherness for example, the whole "one love" ideal so to speak, are important to us, but we don't pretend to be Rastafarians."