Metal Urbain
metal urbain Q&A In the '70s, French trio Metal Urbain were proto-industrial rockers; the music they made with drum machines, synths, and guitar precluded later acts like Einstuerzende Neubauten and Big Black.

I talked to Eric Debris--Metal Urbain's founding furious French songwriter and inventor of Franco Robocore--from a crackling landline at my house in NoPo to a terrible cell phone connection inside a club in Austin during SXSW.

What's it like to be dropped into the heart of Bush country?

It's really good actually. When we played (in the US) the last time, the audience was really responsive. People liked what we were doing, and we like to play to a receptive audience. But tonight will be the first date of the new tour, so we'll see.

What have you all been up to?

For the last few years we've been involved in the music business. So we've been pretty busy--but nothing like what it's been since we re-released our recordings in the US, France, and Japan and decided to reunite as Metal Urbain.

What spawned this reunion?

We decided to get back together first because of the re-releasing of the anthology. Also, because we had been asked to perform in the States, and we had only played in France and England. So we reformed to be able to play where we had not been able back in '77 and '78.

Your tweaked drum sequencer is a big part of your signature sound. Have you updated your equipment or are you using something close to the original?

No, we did update the equipment. Basically the old drum machine is still back in the '80s--we lost it after a gig. But we tried to keep close to the original sound. We play with larger amps than at the time. The drum machine is more up-to-date. If a song isn't exactly the same, it's just a fuller sound. But we're trying to keep it in the spirit of what we were doing back in '77/'78.

Musically, Metal Urbain was, at its inception, well ahead of its time. Have you received any feedback or correspondence from the bands that followed?

I did meet Steve Albini once in Europe, and we've been talking to different people who have been influenced by us and stay in touch with some of them. I love the idea of people being influenced by our work.

Can we expect to see some new recordings from this reunion?

Yeah, we do play some material now that we didn't play at the time, because it's some stuff we wrote at the very end of Metal Urbain in '78/'79. We are definitely going to write some new stuff. If we're happy with it we plan on recording a new album this year or next. That's the idea. But we haven't started yet. LANCE CHESS Metal Urbain plays Tuesday, March 30th at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny.