Maarten Devoldere, the leader of the bands Balthazar and Warhaus, talks to us about what gets him out of his “Monobloc” chair: meditation, takeaway meals and Leonardo da Vinci.
What is the chair of your life?
“Spontaneously, I would say the chair in my hotel room in Palermo, where I spent three weeks writing the songs for my break-up album, ‘Ha Ha Heartbreak’. For the first time, I had been dumped and I was single. Seriously: it’s my plastic garden chair, the ‘Monobloc’, a standard model. She’s so ugly she’s a cult! Since there were some at my parents’ house, it’s a souvenir. When I work at home in Ghent, I take a cigarette break in the garden sitting on this chair: that’s when I have my best ideas.”
What is your dream chair?
“I am not a collector. Last year I bought a house in Ghent and I’m looking for nice furniture, but not pretentious designer stuff. Even if I had money, I wouldn’t spend it on design, but on eating. I often go to restaurants or order take-out: half an hour when I’m not cooking is half an hour for my music!”
- Leader of Balthazar and Warhaus, whose third album, “Ha Ha Heartbreak”, will be released on November 11.
Who would be seated at the dinner of your dreams?
“I would like Louis XIV, in silk stockings, to be seated on my plastic chair. I would invite him just for this image. Otherwise, I would invite my heroes: David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. But do I really want to meet them? I would probably be too intimidated to say a single word and profusely apologize for my poor cooking skills. I’m not sure I want to invite Cohen either: recently I watched the documentary ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’, about Cohen and his muse and I thought ‘what a bad guy’, even though I recognized myself in his behavior.”
Do you sit easily?
“Before, I had trouble. I was addicted to stimuli. I always wanted to do stuff: music, sport, party or excess. I couldn’t stand emptiness, whereas today I’m looking for it. Sitting on the sofa for an entire evening without doing anything is the hardest thing for me, but I practice it, because it gives me incredible peace.”
“Historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari taught us that attention is our most precious asset. As I get older, I try to manage it more consciously. That’s why I’ve been meditating for four years. At first, it was like in Silicon Valley: I saw meditation as a regenerating micro nap, which allowed me to be able to continue working or partying even more actively. And then I realized that if I continued to lead this lifestyle for ten years, I was going to descend into alcohol, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, like the Beat Poets. I had too many addictions: I absolutely had to make a new start and become an adult.”
Biography of a chair
The chair “Monoblock” is the best-selling chair in the world. Produced in series, it is made of a single piece of plastic, hence its name.
the original model rolled off the assembly line in 1972, but it’s unclear who designed it. This chair has been produced in a thousand and one versions by manufacturers all over the world.
This banal design icon also fascinates museums, including the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, which devoted an exhibition to him in 2017.
Of the contemporary designers reinterpreted the cliché of the garden chair: Maarten Baas made a bentwood version, Sam Durant in porcelain, Martino Gamper in rattan.
After eight years of research, Hauke Wendler has produced a documentary on the Monobloc in 2021. A work which accompanies it has just been published this year.
Who would you award a chair to?
“To Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. I don’t understand much of what he writes, but I recognize myself in his idea of the muse. Artists who need a muse are men who do not embrace their own anima, the feminine energy that inhabits the man, which causes them to project their anima onto the women around them. In his theories, Jung explains many things through the subconscious, which is the engine of creativity. As an artist, the dark side of the human being fascinates me. Before, I was attracted by the destructive aspect, but it’s over: I try to manage my psyche in a more constructive way.
What chair would you like to sit on for a day?
“That of Leonardo da Vinci. When I went to the Louvre, I was amazed by the queue in front of the Mona Lisa. I would like to know if he was aware that he was painting a masterpiece that would be adored or if this portrait was for him ‘just another day at the office’, a footnote of page in all of his work.”
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Chair(wo)man | Musician Maarten Devoldere: “The dark side of the human being fascinates me”
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