Arno

Born : 21/5 /1949 in Ostende (Belgium)
Country : Belgium
Language : French / English
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson / Rock

The one who sings "Let's get stoned/Music is the dope" and who has been compared to the musical/alcoholic upper crust like Gainsbourg and Tom Waits is, before anything else, one of the most moving performers of the European musical scene. His voice, his humour, his rock 'n' roll attitude make him an unparalleled artist. And in the era of icy-techno remixes, his covers of Brel and Adamo remain musical gems.

The one who sings "Let's get stoned/Music is the dope" and who has been compared to the musical/alcoholic upper crust like Gainsbourg and Tom Waits is, before anything else, one of the most moving performers of the European musical scene. His voice, his humour, his rock 'n' roll attitude make him an unparalleled artist. And in the era of icy-techno remixes, his covers of Brel and Adamo remain musical gems.

It was in Ostende in the Flemish part of Belgium that Arno Hintjens was born on May 21, 1949. His mother was into the latest things and liked Greco and rock'n'roll. As for his father, an aviator and mechanic in the aeronautic industry, he was someone who liked politics and American literature.

In the 1960's, Arno travelled to Asia and made the ritual visit to Kathmandu. We also caught a glimpse of him singing in St. Tropez, on the Greek islands, or in Amsterdam. Undeniably turned onto music, he sang for the first time on stage during a summer music festival in Ostende in 1969. Following this he began his career in bands, among them Freckle Face between '72 and '75. He played the harmonica. After a unique album which they produced themselves, Arno left the group for another, Tjens Couter. It was in fact a duo with Paul Decouter. Like Freckle Face their repertoire was mostly rhythm 'n'blues and in any case, very Anglo-Saxon.

TC Matic

Around 1977, Arno and Decouter formed TC Bland with Ferre Baelen and Rudy Cloet. The group had a certain fame and toured around Europe a lot. But in '80, joined by Serge Feys on keyboards this group became TC Matic, one of the most innovative European rock groups of the period. Quickly Decouter was replaced by Jean-Marie Aerts, who would remain one of Arno's travelling buddies. Europeans, they were indeed that. Their tours took them regularly across Scandinavia, England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. During the summer of 1981, their first namesake album was released. Then, on EMI records, they recorded several albums, among them "L'Apache" in 1982. Some of their songs like "Elle adore le noir" or "Putain Putain" are still considered today as pillar compositions of that time.

In 1985, they were the opening act for the Simple Minds during their European tour. But '85 also marked the end of TC Matic who would forever cease to exist in '86.

Arno set out on a solo career with his first namesake album as early as '86. Recorded on a bet with the musicians from TC Matic and entirely composed by Arno, the album was primarily in English. One French song came out of the lot "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" whose only words are… "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" repeated a good forty times.

Solo

During the years spent with different groups, Arno made himself a solid name in the music scene. His talent as an artist is widely recognised. As for his wild personality full of ups and downs, it puts him among the most noticed of the rock scene. In his new solo life, Arno didn't have much difficulty asserting his talent on the music scene.

In 1988 he released a second album "Charlatan" which was still primarily in English. We found however "Le Bon Dieu" a sublime cover of the most famous Belgian singers Jacques Brel. Two years later, set up in Paris, he released "Ratata". From this record written almost entirely with Jean-Marie Aerts, we recall "Lonesome Zorro" and its heady melody maintained by its chorist Beverly Brown. On June 26, 1990, Arno went on the Parisian stage at the Cigale.

In '91, Arno works on his companion Marie-Laure Beraud's album. At the same time on his solo route he didn't look down upon the idea of doing some group work. So, in 1991, he found himself with Charles et les Lulus for an eponymous album. Surrounded by Roland Van Campenhout and Adriano Cominotto, he redid some blues classics by Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Rufus Thomas. From the blues he went straight to Nashville to record a new album in 1993 "Idiots Savants". After Brel, Arno borrowed "Les Filles du bord de mer" from another famous Belgian singer Adamo. This new cover confirmed his undeniable talent to give new life to old songs. This latest remains one of his flagship songs.

On February 16th, 1994 Arno stopped off at l'Elysee Montmartre in Paris.

A la Française

After Charles et les Lulus, came a new group digression with Arno et les Subrovnicks in '94. Joined by old friends Adriano Cominotto (ex-Lulu), Rudy Cloet (ex-TC Matic) and Geoffrey Burton and Francois Garny, Arno recorded the album "Water" in the South West of France.

Still in '94 Arno got started in cinema soundtracks with "Personne ne m'aime" by Frenchwoman Marion Vernoux. The cinema milieu wasn't unknown to him because in '78 in Belgium he wrote the music for the film "Le Concert d'un homme seul".

After a 20-year career primarily in English, Arno released his first album fully recorded in French in 1995. Thirteen tracks co-written with Jean-Marie Aerts or Adriano Cominotto. We find the cover of Brel's "le Bon Dieu" as well as two new songs "Elle pense à lui" by Charlélie Couture and particularly "Comme à Ostende" written by Léo Ferré and Jean-Roger Caussimon. Arno reached the top of the charts with "Les Yeux de ma mere". The album favoured the mix of genres, from tango to jazz to blues to which Arno's voice always gives a special texture.

December 13th, Arno played the Bataclan in Paris before starting off his tour around France and Switzerland and before he took off for the United States where he sang in New York and Austin, Texas.

The following year we found Arno in the cinema world but this time as an actor. He played the homosexual swimming instructor in "Camping Cosmos" by Belgian director Jan Bucquoy who also directed "La vie sexuelle des Belges" which attracted a lot of attention. Back on stage in October '96 with an evening at the Olympia on the 7th. A live album was released the following year, "Arno (en concert à la Française)" which took the best moments from his tours. An album in English was also released in '97 "Give me the gift" but it was only destined for the American market. Finally in '97, French actor Michel Piccoli gave him a role in "Alors Voilà". Arno also wrote the soundtrack.

Definitely Rock

After Charles et les Lulus, Arno went to Charles and the White Trash Blues in 1998. Within this new occasional group, where we find guitarist Geoffrey Burton he gives us an album between blues and rock and whose covers, now part of his repertoire, go from the Kinks to Nina Simone. In '99 it's again with a cover song that we find him. But this time it's as a guest on the album by American Beverly Jo Scott, who lives in Belgium. Together they did an entertaining track which is a synthesis of "la Fille du Père Noël" by Dutronc and "Jean Genie" by Bowie.

Arno returned to the music news in August '99 with a new album entitled "A Poil Commercial". Recorded in Arno's habitual blues-rock vein, "A Poil Commercial" brought the singer's husky "whisky-and-cigarettes" vocals even further to the fore.

The singer followed on with a tour spread over the year 2000 and including 170 concerts. And, after a last concert in Prague, the Parisian Cité de la Musique gave him carte blanche to put on a show of his own choice. Alone on stage with his usual band, he gave a very warm and tasteful 'bal rock', which was grandly applauded by a public of loving fans. A month later a compilation summarising his 30-year career was released.

Arno stormed back into the music news on 26 February 2002 with an album full of tender rock ballads entitled "Arno Charles Ernest" (the singer's real name). The 15 tracks on the album, recorded in a more acoustic vein than usual, included a duet with Jane Birkin ("Elisa") and a cover of the Rolling Stones classic "Mother's Little Helper". Shortly after the album release Arno kicked off a new tour with a concert at the Olympia in Paris on 8 March 2002.

2004: "French Bazaar" 

Arno, the insatiable wordsmith, was back at the forefront of the music scene in May 2004 with a second album written entirely in French. The album, entitled "French Bazaar", was the 26th of his career. Shot through with the lucidity and acerbic wit with which Arno has made his name, "French Bazaar" proves that the Flemish singer – who has just turned 55 – is still full of life and vitality. And anyone that doubts that should go along to one of his sell-out concerts and watch his impressive live performance!

"French Bazaar" would go on to win Arno a coveted "Victoire de la Musique" award in 2005 in the ‘Best Pop-Rock Album of the Year’ category.

On 23 September 2004, Arno embarked upon a marathon tour, dubbed the "Arno Solo Tour", keeping up his hectic one-man schedule until 23 May 2006. This mega-tour, which kept the singer on the road for almost a year and a half, took him around the world and back with concerts staged all the way from Montreal, Quebec, New York, Washington and Moscow to Beirut, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. He allowed himself a couple of breaks here and there, however, to work on various musical collaborations including a tribute album to Nino Ferrer. ("On dirait Nino", released on 18 April 2005, featured Arno’s cover version of Ferrer’s classic "Mirza").

The Flemish singer re-emerged on the recording front on 22 August 2005, with "Live in Brussels", sixteen live tracks recorded at the Ancienne Belgique, a legendary music venue in the Belgian capital in March 2005. The album gave fans a taste of Arno’s incredible stage presence and the magnitude of his songs live in concert. Meanwhile, the singer continued his stage performances with great gusto, pushing on with his world tour.

10 February 2006 saw the release of a special Arno tribute album, wittily entitled "Putain putain une tribu pour Arno". The album featured contributions from Cali, Les Têtes Raides, Rodolphe Burger and Daguerre, all imitating the Belgian’s famously stuttering delivery. A few weeks later, on 12 March 2006, Arno released a new DVD, "Live in Brussels".

Meanwhile, Arno continued to enjoy a successful parallel career as an actor. At the Cannes Film Festival, on 22 May 2006, "Komma", a Belgian film by Martine Doven, starring Arno as the male lead, was shown at International Critics Week.

Continuing his film career, Arno went on to star in another feature film in 2006, appearing in "Ex-Drummer", made by the Flemish director Koen Mortier. Arno also contributed to the film's soundtrack. In the spring of 2007, he put in another stint in front of the camera, appearing in "J'ai toujours voulu être un gangster", a French film directed by Samuel Benchetrit. Despite his hectic on-set schedule, Arno did not forget his primary commitment in life – the Ostend rocker still found time to put in work on his new album, "Jus de Box", released on 22 January 2007.

2007: "Jus de Box"

Album no. 32 bore its punning title, "Jus de Box", because claimed Arno, "that's exactly what it sounds like. Every track on the album is different from the last." The fourteen tracks on "Jus de Box" were a multi-lingual melting-pot, Arno singing in everything from French and Flemish to English and his native Ostend dialect. Musically speaking, the songs were equally eclectic, the Ostend rocker experimenting with everything from rock and blues to heavy metal and disco. "Jus de Box" also included a surprise rap duo with Faf la Rage, a rapper from Marseilles. Interestingly enough, the song entitled "I'm Not Into Hop" was not recorded on Arno's own initiative. It was commissioned by his record label, Universal. The entire collaboration took place over the Internet and the two singers never actually met during the recording – or since!

While Arno's earlier albums had featured numerous covers (including reworkings of songs by the likes of Adamo, Jacques Brel, Léo Ferré, Serge Gainsbourg and The Rolling Stones), "Jus de Box" was an entirely self-made work with each song given its own particular theme and style. Highlights included "Miss Amérique", a hardhitting number about the cynicism of politicians and Americans' attitudes and "Mourir à Plusieurs", a song about environmental issues and the downside of modern technology. Arno is due to take his eclectic juke-box on the road in the spring of 2007, kicking off a tour in April.

In March 2008, Arno stars in the French film, “J'ai toujours rêvé d'être un gangster”, by Samuel Benchetrit., in which he hilariously plays himself (totally improvised) alongside Alain Bashung. A few weeks later, he records in a duo (“Ersatz”), with the “Nouvelle Star” TV show discovery, Julien Doré, on his first album.

2008: "Covers Cocktail"

On 28 April, Arno is back working on personal projects with the release of "Covers Cocktail", an album comprised of 100% cover versions: more proof of how much he likes to pay tribute to others. ABBA’s “Knowing me, Knowing you”, “See-Line Woman” by Nina Simone, Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”, the Gainsbourg-Birkin duet “Elisa”, an unrecognisable version of “Drive my Car” by the Beatles, “Mirza” by Nino Ferrer, “Je suis sous” by Claude Nougaro, and more, making twenty tracks in total served up Arno-style: husky voice and musical daring guaranteed! 

From April, the Flemish singer will be playing in Luxembourg, Belgium and France, mainly in festivals, to present his new creation.

2010: "Brussld"

The francophone bluesman was back with a new album “Brussld” on 29 March 2010. The disk conveys all the verve of the cosmopolitan Brussels that has been home to the artist for 35 years. Lyrics are in Flemish, French, English and Arabic, and sing praise to women and parties, mixed-race couples and Bob Marley, whom Arno reworks in “Chopin” mode.

Arno took his festive, feverish disk on tour in the spring of 2010, stopping at the Casino de Paris on 1 June, London on 18 June and Paris again on 8 November.
In 2011, his deep voice could be heard on two tracks on Brigitte Fontaine’s album “L'un n'empêche pas l'autre” – “Supermarket” and “Inadaptée”, and he continued with his “Brussld” tour.

June 2011

© RFI Musique
Any reproduction of this website - either whole or partial - is strictly prohibited without the agreement of the authors.

 
 
Close