KRAAK FEST 2024 HIGHLIGHTS: Venediktos Tempelboom

When Ghent-based Benoît Monsieurs, aka Venediktos Tempelboom, starts playing his 12-string guitar, reclusive roamers line up to ride the whimsical sound waves he produces, spontaneously joining him in his meditative body rocking and headbanging. Imbuing his surroundings with a transcendental quality, the Tempelboom always manages to transform the bleak, melancholy landscapes of East Flanders into vast majestic terrains that approximate what the Romantics meant by the sublime ~ terror and awe unite!

Tell us about your musical parcours. How and when did you start playing the 12-string guitar?

I started playing electric guitar when I was young and there were not a lot of musicians to play with, so the solo playing has always been the main thing for me. In Ghent I had good times playing with a band called Gloeilamp which was a loud one chord cathartic experience and expressive noise. I also wanted to create some music that was a little easier on the ears so I started a band called Bestaansreden. Spoken word stories accompanied with compositions I made. Gert-jan Termote, the vocalist, screamed so hard and I was playing very loud again. Here I realized that acoustic guitars can get you to the same level of intensity is playing noise rock. This was the time I learned a bit of fingerpicking in the style of John Fahey and Robbie Basho. The 12-string came at this time and basically never went back from there. I went solo again as Venediktos Tempelboom and explored the subtle sound possibilities of the instrument and different fingerstyle techniques. A friend of mine told me once if you want to learn a technique you got to do until you can do it and read your newspaper at the same time. So I did this. When I found a sound of my own, the compositions started to come pretty naturally when I made up some tunings. And in the end, amped it up again but still compose mostly purely acoustic with ever changing tunings.

The vibe your music gives is clearly influenced by the oft-mentioned American primitive guitarists, but there's also an unmistakable Flemishness reminiscent of the Funeral Folk wave that swept these lands many years ago. Can you tell us about some of your past and current inspirations - musical or otherwise - which have influenced you and your sound?

I go to a lot of concerts and take inspiration from anything. Sonic Youth and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are the two bands that are somehow always in my mind when making music. There's not really a resemblance but i guess it is the out-there tunings. The American primitivism is the obvious starting point to what I do but I tend to flow towards anything that is hypnotic or psychological fuckery. The Funeral Folk label, KRAAK and Sylvester Anfang II, Ignatz and everybody around this scene influenced me profoundly and is always part of the atmosphere of my guitaresque adventures. Standard In-Fi and La Nòvia and many other French underground labels are also putting out the best stuff for years. The idiosyncratic, naive and hermetic feeling all this stuff evokes triggers my attention because it's never clear how all this music came about. I would say VT's music is a little bit “cleaner and controlled” though it is still made analog and unwillingly lo-fi. Apart from all the sounds there are just the things of basic life that set my mood, tonality and tempo in the early stages of making a composition (it generally takes 1 hour or months). There is always a reference to the baroque, which I actually don't listen to but I do like good reverb and churchy sounds. Medieval madness and mysticism fit the vibe of the my harpsichord sounding 12-strings. I like all kinds of folk and traditional (acoustic) music forms and still write most of the music completely acoustic. I am not a good songwriter so I try to tell stories with lyricism and trancey drones.
Other art forms apart from music that influence me are calligraphy and painting. Old writings are very technical gestures of the hands and fingers and I feel a resemblance in the fingerstyle techniques I try to get in my hands. Now I have started notating my music because I cannot remember everything I make and also give it a calligraphic touch. They are “phonetic” translations of the compositions and are not precise, so it leaves freedom for the music to evolve. There is an alternative system going on but it will probably never make complete sense. In painting, I recently get a lot from Matthieu Ronsse and Dieter Durinck's work (and music). Their images sometimes have these weird expressions and evoke a feeling of freedom. These kinds of things make me take my guitar and start exploring sonic possibilities and other approaches to the guitar.

On De Neus Van God, you talked about your YouTube channel (@BenwaMeneers), where you upload recordings of your own shows and those of others. Can you share your favorite video(s) on the channel?

I hope this interview gets printed only so you have to type in the whole URL to see them.






You also have an extensive set of curated YouTube playlists on your channel. Is there a particular one you’re most proud of and would like to promote to your non-subscribers?

The Acoustic Silence playlist is still my favorite and ever ongoing one. Since I am an unschooled musician, YouTube has been my teacher without someone telling me what a book says. You read the YouTube pages that you want and skip the rest. I have taught the YouTube algorithm to send me to vague and wonderful stuff I can enjoy and keep my musical mind on edge. The Tonal Escapations playlist is a sort of dream list of the bands or styles I would like to program myself if I could. A bit like the KRUT label. In this one there is also a line of hypnotism, saturated sounds that tickle my brain to absolute joy. All this music exists for us all and in this digital age we should all archive a bit more.

Do you plan to release any new (electronic) music under your other moniker Valium Adiktos Templestoned? Are there any other projects and musical genres you're currently exploring, solo or in group configurations?

I play around with my electronics a bit more these days. At some point I will do another release. There is a new upload on my YouTube channel of me playing a Casiotone with a drumcomputer. There are cassettes filling up with recordings so eventually some of this will find its way to the outside world. Some tapeloop action is gonna be part of this. De Regering van Treffelijke Zaken has some more music to release, shows to play and, in my need of exploring wider acoustic possibilities, some of my peer acoustic players and I are in the first phase of forming a new orchestra called Schreeuweksters. Fingerpicking, drones, percussion sweet melodies and out-of-tune dancing. This will be an intense sonic trip at “den primitieven driehoek” in Antwerp and will probably include some lasers. We'll see what happens.

Benoit Monsieurs and all his passions and alters live on Instagram, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and, of course, YouTube. A new KRAAK release may see the light of day this year!

Catch Venediktos Tempelboom live at KRAAK Festival 2024 March 2 at Het Bos, Antwerp. Tickets this way!