Het Schandaal (‘The Scandal’) was – by then – a fanzine edited by ‘Stel’ (Steven R.), the bassist of ‘Subversion’ (from Hasselt). He also distributed records/zines and sometimes contributed to MaximumRock’n’Roll. Later he also wrote for the metal/thrashcore fanzine ‘Metallised’. Nowadays he plays bass for ‘Starspawn’ & ‘Unk!’, and does a radio-show/podcast at Radio Scorpio in Leuven (punk, HC, metal).
This (last) issue contains interviews with ‘English Dogs’, ‘Deviated Instinct’, ‘X-Creta’, ‘Disrupters’, ‘Ceresit’, ‘Raw Power’, ‘Varukers’, etc. The one I reprint here is done by our mate Felix De Witte (who used to organise concerts in the Leuven venue Q104). Felix became a media-correspondent in Latin-America, worked for an NGO who defends the rights of children in Africa, Latin-America & Asia, and now for an developmental NGO.
I’ve seen ‘Conflict’ in concert only once (at the Paradox in Antwerp, 84-06-01) and that was impressive! When they came back to play at the 1000 Appeltjes (86-12-03) there was quite some controversy about the band and I didn’t go. Felix was able to have a decent chat with them after their gig in Venlo (The Netherlands). Their album The Ungovernable Force was just out and the line-up was Colin Jerwood (vocals), Kevin Webb (guitar; later ‘Visions Of Change’), Paul ‘Oddy’ Hoddy (bass; ex ‘Broken Bones’) and ‘Paco’ Francisco Carreno (drums; later vocals for ‘Inner Terrestrials’).
After their brilliant new album – The Ungovernable Force – got out, we were, more than ever looking, forward to ‘Conflict’s European tour. And yes, their performances in Antwerp on December 3rd and December 6th  in Venlo were simply outstanding. After the concert in Venlo, Paco (drums), Kevin (guitar) and Oddy (bass) were willing to have a chat with me (Felix). In the meantime Colin was trying to find back his voice, which he had lost during the show (no surprise, as he keeps on shouting). Here are the questions and answers, neatly in a row…
F: First question: In which countries do you play on this tour?
O: Well, until now we played in the Netherlands and Belgium, and the coming days we travel through Germany.
F: And how many gigs do you have in total?
O: About 13 or so all together, one in Belgium, 6 in the Netherlands and 6 in Germany, or something like that.
F: Why did you choose these countries to play? I notice that most English bands play in these 3 countries and nowhere else (all the better for us, by the way).
O: Well one of the reasons is that there are good anarchist centres in the Netherlands. We already played in all those anarchist squats in Amsterdam, Groningen and so on. And we thought it was fun; there’s a good crowd there. An anarchist audience, the audience where we like to play for, because we more or less talk about anarchy in our lyrics.
F: And is it the same in Germany?
O: Yes , we have a lot of success in Germany. There is also a good kind of anarchy but not as strong as in Holland
F: In Italy there are also some good anarchist centres . But not many English bands play there, why is that?
P: I’ve heared of it, yes. But it’s very hard to get a hold of gigs there, people have told us. Either you play in squats, where you don’t get paid and lose about 60000 BeF [1500 Euro] in a week. Because we know people who are toured there for two weeks to go, played 3 or 4 nights and had to return home already. That’s what we heared, we don’t know whether it’s true. We can only say what they told us. Or either you play for these people that pay your expenses, or maybe not. Or you can play for the Mafia. You get half of the proceeds but it’s a rip-off. 1 or 2 years ago we were offered a tour in Italy. And 3 days before we had to leave, we looked over things and we said: “What’s going on: none of the venues are fixed yet. Fuck, we can’t take off just like that. We have no money to just to go on holidays. The van costs us 2000 BeF [50 Euro] a day and food for 10 people will cost a lot more, and gasoline to get from one gig to another, finding a place to sleep costs more money; and all the rest.”. So you should get paid. Not to go out and buy new clothes, but to live, to keep going. And as we were told, you don’t get that in Italy. But we do not know. If we get paid, we would play anywhere.
F: You’ve already played in America?
P: Indeed, once.
F: And how many gigs?
P: We were there for 8 days. The first day we flew in, aarived in the evening and went to sleep. The next day checked things out, made some contacts with people, gave away some records here and there… The next day there was a concert in San Francisco. The next day we to Los Angeles for a performance. The next day Long Beach. The day after Valencia, also in Los Angeles. And the next day we went home. So we didn’t have much time for to see or do things.
F: Is the audience bigger than in Europe?
F: Are you also popular in America?
P: Yes. But in America there are many punks who just want to go out for the night. They come home from work, put on their leather jacket, spike their hair and go to the concert to jump around. Punk means nothing to them. But there’s also a lot of people who really know what they are talking about. They are well organized and do direct actions. It’s with them you should try to get int contact with .
F: So there are clearly two groups? Because some say that there a lot of fashion-punks walking around in America.
P: There are indeed few. But you’ll find such people everywhere. Also in the Netherlands. And I’m sure that there are some in Belgium, Germany, England,… There are a lot of them in England. You meet them in the pubs on Saturday-night, and they spike their hair and wear torn trousers. And then you happen to see them when they return from their work, in their posh costume, with their hair down. They look so decent and they try to hide it for you. But it’s like that everywhere. And that is why many people can say: “Punk is a fashion.”, because unfortunately many people do indeed see a punk as a fashion.
F: Would you want to go on tour in America again?
P: Yes, I would like to. Because since we’ve been there, the people listen to what we have to say. And they also have already done a lot. And that’s the main thing.
O: Especially in Califomia.
F: You recorded a live album, entitled Only Stupid Bastards Help EMI, in America. But in Belgium no one seems to know which band you want to tackle with that.
P: ‘New Model Army’. One day they want to play in small venues for little money and be an anarchist band. And the next they’re playing for a lot of money for big promoters, in large venues, and sign to EMI. That is a slap in the face. It’s just a waste of time. But we do not to put that in the spotlight too much. Because when we say: “Only stupid bastards help EMI” we do not mean that we do not want ‘New Model Army’ doing that. It is intended in a general manner: to everyone who helps EMI. Because EMI are assholes. The money they earn on bands goes straight to Thorn-EMI, a division of the company that tests weapons of war.
O: ‘New Model Army’ was first to protest againts the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina and the next week they signs to EMI.
P: And Thorn-EMI is funding the design and production of new bombs used in the Falklands War.
O: It’s extremely hypocrite.
F: Some people believe that punk becomes comnercial is, like other types of music. Do you agree with that?
P: It is less comercial now compared to before. The people who are still in the scene, know what they are talking about, I think. Except for some countries, where punk only recently arose and where everyone wants to look like a punk. But that’s how it also was in England in 1976 and ‘77. Everyone looked punk. The dirtier you were, the more safety-pins you had, the more punk you were. And the media jumped on it and the people were afraid. Now it is not like that anymore, I think. Often the people who claim that punk becomes commercial are those in their suits who go to work five days a week, and once they get home they get thier leather jacket out of the closet. And they come to your gigs and stand in the back. And after the show they come up to you and ask: why are you doing this and why do you do that. And when you’re done talking to them, they say OK and the next day they go back to work as normal. You could just as well have not spoken a word to them.
F: What do you think of straight-edge? Have you already heared of it?
P: Do not smoke, do not drink, do nothing; or something like that. If people want to be straight-edge they can, fine by me. But then they might as well not breathe. Because there is more pollution in cars’ exhaust-fumes that drive by than in 20 cigarettes. That is completely ridiculous to begin with. I have the impression that many people in England who are straight-edge are people who are interested in the American scene. Because it is fashionable to be straight-edge; then you are true. There are a lot more straight-edgers than you might think.
F: What do you think of punk-metal bands?
P: I wouldn’t know.
F: Like ‘English Dogs’.
P: ‘English Dogs’ are shit.
P: Don’t hesitate to put that in your fanzine if you want. I think they’re shit and utterly boring.
F: There are more and more bands that used to play punk and now are more into metal.
O: Yes. Personally I like some punk-metal bands. But that is totally personal. ‘English Dogs’ for example have exaggerated by going all commercial. But they kept their punk-image. They kept spiking their hair in order to maintain their punk-followers in addition to their many metal-fans. At least they try. In order to make more money.
F: In Belgium there are many punks who also like metal. They say: “I don’t like their ideas but I think they’re good.”.
P: That’s the way it is everywhere.
K: An important reason is that in England there are hardly any good punk-bands. And metal is the most powerful music that has emerged in recent years. And that’s why many people like it. It has a lot of energy, as punk has.
O: The way they take the stage, like ‘Metallica’. They wear torn pants and have no make-up on or such nonsense.
K: And people think: punk will never change the world nyway, so we can as well listen to metal.
P: It’s always the same song. At the beginning the bands say: we will change the world, and then suddenly they say: we’ll change the world as soon as we have our Rolls-Royce.
F: I think your new album The Ungovernable Force is musically quite different than before. Do you agree?
P: Yes. It’s changed because we, as musicians, learned to play our instruments better so we can put more into the music. But I think the meaning is still there, and now even stronger. One does not have to play hardcore to pass on a certain message You can play any music to do that.
K: We don’t want to be seen as just another trash-band. Some people in England that go to gigs, might listen when they hear something that is better played. I’m not saying we should do like some shit bands who want to get in the charts, with meaningful lyrics but pop-muisc. I don’t think that works. We’re just trying to expand our music a little.
P: Passing on the message, because that is the intention; continue to pass on the message.
F: The lyrics on the new LP are indeed still similar.
K: I think it’s better. There are a lot more facts in them.
F: You also have some slower songs now.
K: That’s because some people say to me: you’re a dumb punk-band. We did it to prove that we can also do something else. Like Custom Rock on our new album. We can also play a fashionable pop-song.
O: If ‘U2’ can do it, we can too. We are called a trash-band, but we can do that too. It’s real easy. Why are they getting so big and popular if as a small punk-band like us can do it too.
P: We just want to prove that a regular punk-band doesn’t need not be a lousy.
K: And it also works in another way. I have a bunch of friends who really like our lyrics. They are very good friends of mine and they’re also very active. But they definitely do not like the music. All those friends would never go to a concert with me. But now they say: “Hey, you guys have changed.”. In London there are a lot of people now that you wouldn’t have expected to come.
F: And do you plan making more songs like this?
K: I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. We always take things as they come.
P: It mainly depends on our mood. The lyrics should fit the mood of a particular song. The piano-song on the new album contains the same meaning but in a softer way. While Day Before is more aggressive, really angry.
K: The piano-song had to be a sad song.
F: But live you only play the faster songs?
K: On the record I also didn’t play the piano-song I can just mess about a bit on piano. I wrote the melody of the song at 7 a.m. in the morning, really tired. But I couldn’t continue playing it, so I took someone else to do it on the record. But what is said in the song … The band knew nothing about it, some wanted it on the record and others did not.
F : Don’t you think many punks will not like that song?
K: I don’t care what people think.
P : That’s another reason why we put it on the record. Why should we always have to make you happy?
K: At our shows in England there are many people who don’t know what they’re talking about. They look like punks, with their ripped trousers and their leather. But the next day they go to work dressed normally. That’s one of the reasons why we started playing calmer.
F: Rumour goes that you’ve changed from pacifists to people who believe that direct action and violence might be useful to achieve the goal.
P: Definitely. The change has come about suddenly. It happened when the skinheads in London were very strong. They went to all the gigs and beat everyone up. There were for example 10 skinheads at a concert and they began to fight. Then the other 500 would all retreat. And they kept doing it, and they won over and over again. So we one day we thought: “Fuck, what’s happening here? Turn around and get back at them.”. Because the only thing they seem to understand is violence. The only thing that can stop them is that they receive harder punches than that they’re giving themselves.
O: Violence overcomes violence.
P: Indeed. And admit it: if we all wanna reach our ultimate goal, if our society needs to change, then a lot of violence will be necessary before we achieve peace. So to sum it up: you need a certain amount of force to create peace. Because the police will not say: “OK, go live in communes, don’t pay taxes any longer, that’s just what we want, keep your house, don’t pay rent anymore, the water is free.”. They won’t not say that. They’ll come and beat you up. And if you retreat, you are lost. If you can strike back, you’ve won.
F: But some say: if you use violence, you’re just as bad as the skins.
P: Let them say that if they want to. But I do not agree at all. If they are so naive and narrow-minded to think that, then let them that believe it.
F: But still: when you had started out your ideal was not to use violence, no?
P: Yes, because we strongly believed in ‘Crass’ in the beginning. Colin followed ‘Crass’ everywhere. We believed in their punk-ideals: anarchy and peace, pacifism. Until you go out on your own and see that at 7 out of 8 gigs skinheads are coming to destry things. And after a while you’re fed up. What is the purpose of ending up in hospital after each gig? Then you might as well not play.
F: I’ve heared there are fewer problems with skins now? That there are less of them in England?
P: Yes. And how d’you think this came about? Because they were getting beaten the shit out of them.
O: They’re not coming to our gigs anymore. During our UK tour we just had a few problems. But it wasn’t bad.
P: Because when they come to our shows to fight, as we say in one of our songs: “If it ‘s a fight you want, you’ve got it!”, then they’ll get what they’re looking for.
F: Some argue that punks are just interested in music nowadays. Do you agree with that?
P: The people who’re still in the scene are those who read the lyrics. The ones that are gone are the people who were just interested in the music.
F: Are you taking part in certain actions, demonstrations?
P: Well, if we have time, we like to join in, and try to help in one way or another, even if it’s just organizing.
F: And what actions?
P: Animal Liberation, Stop The City, all kinds of demonstrations. All kinds of direct action. We don’t like people looking up to us. We try to say: throw out all the leaders. And yet people are waiting for us to do things. They stand there and say “We’re not going, unless you go first.” And what we are trying to say is: “We do not need to be there, you can do it on your own.” And people start doing that, which is good. Otherwise, if you want to start something new and people stand there waiting for you to say something, then you play government. You rule the people.
O: We are not dictators.
P: We don’t tell people what they should do, we only suggest what they should do if they are dissatisfied.
K: All our songs are not about things that we all believe. We’re all different people.
P: Because, for example, I’m not a vegetarian.
K: But he does play with us.
P: But I support the views of others. And they’re respecting mine.
K: As with our new song Metalmania. I really like metal.
P: You see, the band ‘Conflict’ is like the word conflict: we all have opinions that are conflicting. But if you want to try to change something, you have to respect each others view, it’s give and take.
K: It’s the same in society.
F: In your songs you sing that left and right are equally bad. But some people say: “Those cruise-missiles definitely have to go, so with the next elections we will vote for Labour, even though we hate them – Labour has promised to send them back.”.
K: Which party has admitted thse missiles into England? Labour! So I don’t trust them anymore.
P: One of the reasons why I don’t vote, is that I wouldn’t like to have that on my conscience.
K: I think the same way. My partner will have a baby in February. In England the dole is so low because of the conservative government, that I will have to ensure that the baby has an official father, in order to get more money. Should Labour come to power, I’ld get a lot more money, they would raise the dole. Where I live, the standard of living is very low, there are many unemployed people. And they still believe: keep the red flag flying high, “Labour will save us.” But I don’t believe it. Neil Kinnock (Labour chairman) is a stupid asshole. I really do not know anymore. Sometimes I wonder what I would think of an anarchist society, but I still listen to our lyrics and I believe in them. But I wonder if anarchy will succeed. I’m asking myself. But I still believe in what we sing, and I’m still an anarchist, for the simple reason that every time I think of a political party, I hate the bastards, whoever they are.
O: Some people have a different vision of anarchy. They have their own kind of anarchy.
F: I know some people who used to strongly believe in anachy but now seem disappointed, who no longer believe that anarchy will ever succeed. I think anarchy is something that will never be reached, but that we should strive for; we have to try and it get to it as close as possible.
K: I had a discussion with someone who used a really bad argument. He said: “What will change tomorrow, what will ever change in your life?” But through our kids the people might become conscient and learn something. I also used to disagree. But now I think the same. Perhaps because I will have a baby. 4 or 5 years ago, everyone I knew was a convinced anarchist. We all spiked our hair, we were all punks. But now I have friends of 16 years, who were never punk, but stronly believe in anarchy. Because the police is hassling children in the streets and things like that, they have the same ideas as us. Because a few years ago they were just hippies and punks. Our movement has started with ‘Crass’ and it was a limited group then. But it’s better now, because there are a lot more people involved.
P: And there are many more needed. Nothing will change as long as we remain a minority. A minority can never win anything. Because it’s like with the skins that come to gigs looking for trouble. Initially they win. But then, when everyone has had enough, they lose. And as long as you do not have 51% of people who believe that there something’s wrong and that something needs to change, then nothing will change.
F: I’ve noticed that your lyrics are very optimistic. You don’t sing: things must change, but you sing things will change.
K: That is indeed my opinion. I think we should try that hard so things change. There are many things that need to be changed urgently. And if we don’t move, we will be blown away.
P: As I said earlier, we don’t tell people what to think and do, we only make suggestions. We say: if you believe that it will change, if you can believe for yourself it will change, then things will change. But it won’t change because we say it will change and if you go home afterwards and forget everything. Then everything will remain the same. People must learn to think for themselves. That is what has to change in the first place.
Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuut!!! (Outside the driver of the van, who needs to take ‘Conflict’ to Alkmaar where they play the next day, is getting impatient.)
O: (Shouts from the window): Another minute or so.
P: If there’s something you definitely want to know, then ask quickly.
F: Yes. Several people have criticized you because their letters remain unanswered when they write you.
K: Well, for starters, Oddy and I live far from London, we’re not there to help with the mail. Paco and Colin live in Eltham, where the letters arrive. They get an average of 750 letters a week. Remember: we are already on tour from October to late December in England and Europe. So when they come home, Colin and Paco, and maybe a friend who helps …
P: … There will be 5000 letters.
K: Really. A colossal heap of letters, a full bag. And while answering these, trying to catch up, more will drop into our mailbox. So every time we recording or touring, more letters come in.
F: Some people are angry because they sent money for T-shirts or records.
K: I don’t know if you heared but the police in England searched all of our mail, because we had contacts with the Animal Liberation Front. They opened tons of parcels and didn’t put everything back its place. And now we get letters: “Where are our T-shirts?”. Often we don’t even know which ones they were after. It’s all confusing now, you know? People get the wrong T-shirts in their mail.
Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut!!! (Things are getting on the driver’s nerves – his honking awakens half of Venlo.)
K: We have to go.
F: OK. Thanks for the answers. I had a lot more questions but that will be for another time.
P: If you want a more extensive interview – dare I say it: write us.
F: That’s why I prefer talking to you now, because if I have to wait for an answer to my letter …
K: OK. Keep strong.
F: Thank you.
Indeed, I wanted to ask ‘Conflict’ some more anoying questions. Like why they often don’t show up when they have to play somewhere, and if it is true that they’re asking so much for a concert (24000 BeF [600 Euro] in Antwerp, it seems). A lot of people also say that ‘Conflict’ are arrogant because they want free food in a restaurant, because the venue needs to be completely empty during the soundcheck, and so on. Personally, I think that they’re very sympathetic and friendly guys, not just because they granted this interview, but also when you’re chatting with them. But everyone should decide for themselves what she/he thinks of them. One thing is certain: their music and their lyrics and their ideas are great; they were able to convince me of that once again on this tour.
(Translation: Brob * thanx to Bernd Backhaus for OCR help)