Roger Trigaux: An Appreciation

On March 10th, 2021 the avant music world was dealt a terrible blow when composer/guitarist Roger Trigaux passed on. My first exposure to Roger was through the Belgian “chamber rock” band Univers Zero. Roger played guitar on their first two releases, 1313 (1977) and Heresie (1979)While his guitar contribution was somewhat understated on these releases, he also played piano, organ and harmonium, with the latter instrument providing what I believe to be a defining aspect of the bands early sound. He also shared the writing credits with drummer Daniel Denis. These early Univers Zero records are (rightly) considered essential masterpieces within avant rock circles and, in my opinion provided an amazing soundtrack for your darkest nightmares.

In 1980, having left Univers Zero, Roger formed the band Present. What may come to mind after hearing their first two records, Triskaidekaphobie (1980) and Le Poison Que Rend Fou (1985), was that Present was an “electric” Univers Zero. I don’t believe this is a valid point. The early Univers Zero was all about texture and mood over complexity. I never considered them a “rock” band per se but rather an acoustic ensemble writing music in perhaps a soundtrack fashion.  Present, on the other hand reveled in math-like complexity, compositional pyrotechnics, wild and unhinged intensity and were straight out, balls to the wall searing!!! 

Here is their early signature piece, Promenade Au Fond D’un Canal played by a more recent version of the band.

I recently spun their first two records (having not heard them in at least a decade) and was once again amazed at not only Trigaux’s compositional and arranging skills but the physical dexterity and instrumental prowess of all the band members. The fact that every time I saw them live (with a rotating cast of musicians) throughout their roughly 35-year existence, and they were able to pull this music off was an accomplishment of the highest order. Roger was an excellent and unique guitarist, being able to play precision like unison lines with the piano as well as dive into an extended noise improv making his guitar sound like a wounded animal, building in intensity the longer it went on until the cathartic, soul releasing climax. For a great example of Trigaux’s guitar’ing skills, see the great Live! album from 1996 where they were a stripped-down version of 2 guitars, bass, and drums.  Roger just tears it apart!

I had a personal experience with the band in 1998 when they were doing a cross country tour for their album Certitudes.  I organized the show in Chicago and the band stayed at my house. This tour was grueling, having been done on a next to zero budget and their stop in Chicago was near the end of it. Despite all the road fatigue, poor transportation, and even worse accommodations…not only did they provide the small but devoted audience an absolutely stellar show but were some of the nicest people to have as house guests. Everyone had a sense of humor and a positive outlook despite the harsh conditions. Roger especially provided lots of laughs and good cheer.  It was the first of many shows I presented and I will never forget the genuine, sincere appreciation they all exuded. It was two days I’ll never forget. This tour was chronicled by the Cuneiform release A Great Inhumane Adventure, and indeed it was.

Roger Trigaux was a true iconoclast, always forging his own musical path, and we were all the better for it. He will be sorely missed. Saying thank you for what you have given us does not feel like enough…rest in peace Roger.

Mike Eisenberg