Emerging out of Amsterdam's vibrant squat scene in 1979, The Ex – a name chosen for the ease and speed with which it could be spray-painted onto a wall – have for four decades been an entirely self-sustaining musical entity, charting a course through the global underground with a spirit of freedom and radical exploration.
Originally released in 1982, History Is What's Happening features one of the most harrowing title/cover art combinations in recent memory. What at first glance looks like a firing squad is, upon closer inspection, a concentration camp orchestra.
On their second album, The Ex advance into a distinctly more post-punk style: textural guitar shards and tumbling motorik drumming with Bas Masbeck's thunderous bass shouldering much of the melodic load. Railing against political duplicity and the illusory nature of "freedom" in an age of manufactured consent, G.W. Sok offers some of punk's most bracing and memorable agitprop lyrics. These twenty songs are a quick-moving and caustic trip, a DIY studio rendition of the band's explosive live set from this era.
History Is What's Happening remains an important signpost in the history of both Ex-evolution and the cataclysmic '80s. With their sophomore LP, the group would put Holland on the underground music map. Indeed, many now-lifelong fans around the world were just beginning to take notice and get down with the mighty Ex.
This first-time vinyl reissue comes with 23" x 16" poster and 24-page booklet.
• TERRIE HESSELS - guitar
• ARNOLD DE BOER - vocals, guitar
• ANDY MOOR - guitar
• KATHERINA BORNEFELD - drums, vocals
The adventurous, innovative Dutch band The Ex exists 40 years this year and is still going strong. New projects, new songs and new adventures.
The Ex have defied categorisation ever since they started playing in 1979. Born out of the punk explosion, when anything and everything was possible, the band have still managed to retain both curiosity and passion for their music. Using guitars, bass, drums and voice as their starting point, The Ex have continued to musically explore undiscovered areas right up to the present day.
Already the early 1980s saw collaborations with jazz musicians and an Iraqi-Kurdish band. In the 90s the group found a myriad of partners from varied musical and non-musical backgrounds like Kamagurka, Tom Cora, Sonic Youth, Han Bennink, Jan Mulder and Shellac. In 2002 The Ex set up a lively musical exchange with Ethiopia, organised many projects over there and invited several Ethiopian musicians to Europe. Most striking was the collboration with the legendary saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria, which eventually led to two CD recordings and more than a hundred concerts.
The band also started organising the ‘Ex Festivals’, where they invited their favourite musicians. A mix of jazz improvisers, musicians from all over the world and local treasures they came across on tour. The last few years saw collaborations with Brass Unbound (Wolter Wierbos, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark and Roy Paci), Circus Debre Berhan and Fendika, both from Ethiopia, and many, many more.
After all these years, more than 28 albums and around 2000 concerts the band continues to work as they did in when they began, completely independent of record companies, managers or roadies. Because of this ‘do it yourself’ work ethic The Ex is still a great example for other forward-thinking bands and musicians.
“Staying a bird, staying independent, free if you will, for three decades, that takes skill and something else, something more like heart.” – Music journalist John Corbett on The Ex.