Nations On Fire (Confrontation #1)

In the early 90s ‘Mr Intolerance’ Bernd Borhmann (Ludwigshafen, Germany; at that time vocalist of ‘Abolition’) did Confrontation zine with the help of his (then) partner Corey Von Villiez (‘Abolition’ bassist). They also ran the label Equality recs, and set up shows in their area.

From an ‘Abolition’ interview: >>At the end of ‘88, I started to do a bi-monthly fanzine with friends (named Amok) and from that moment, I got more interested in politics. I did 15 issues of Amok. After a while, I was more or less the only one to put effort in it, which is why I started a new zine – Confrontation – in September 1991.<<

Corey was also in ‘Stack’ (together with Bernd) until she started to study. Bernd later founded a new DIY record-label (Scorched Earth Policy; together with Marc Hartmann of ‘Man Vs. Humanity’).

I actually never read any issues (my understanding of the German language back in those days being not satisfactory to get the slang and the nuances)… This here was provided by Robert Matusiak of Refuse recs (who used it to promote the re-release of ‘Nations On Fire’ Strike The Match LP). No idea what else was in this first issue… Nr. 2 apparently came with a ‘Profax’ 7″ and had stuff about ‘Profax’, ‘Hammmerhead’, the Mannheimer Frauenhaus, etc.

The interview with ‘Nations On Fire’ (guitarist Ed/Ward & vocalist David, but not bassist Jeroen & drummer Jaak) was done during their tour with ‘Born Against in 1992… For a nuanced vision on the band read also what Jeroen had to say a few years later…

Brob

This issue also has ‘Born Against’ and ‘Yuppicide’ interviews…

Robert Matusiak

[Translation below (with a little help from Bernd Backhaus & Gratiën V.)]

‘Nations On Fire’ come from Belgium and play powerful HardCore with committed lyrics. Live, during their tour with ‘Born Against’ early March [1992], they heated things up pretty well. I must say that I like them better than on vinyl, although their record is also really good, even if for my taste the singing is something one needs to get used to. But what the hell: they have their shit together and are nice, that’s what counts. The interview was done before their show in Nagold. Present were Edward and David. Questions by Corey, Bernd and Gonzo.

Bernd: Let’s start with the old-fashioned band-introduction?

David: I’m David, the singer, and I am also active in a French band called ‘Scraps’.

Edward: I’m Edward, singing and playing guitar in ‘Nations On Fire’, and I’m also in another Belgian band called ‘Love, Truth And Honesty’ [Brob: a band that to my knowledge never played live or released anything…].

David: Then there’s Jeroen on bass and Jaak on drums. The drummer played on a tour of ‘Disorder’ because they needed a drummer and he knew the songs quite well. They then practiced one day and then he did the whole tour with them. [Brob: In 1987, Jaak was in the band ‘C.P.D.’; him and their singer had to leave Belgium for political reasons and lived with ‘Disorder’ in Oslo for a while…]

Bernd: Since you were all still working in other bands before, or still are: What were the reasons to start ‘Nations On Fire’?

Edward: I was in ‘Rise Above’, which was a pure SxE band. No stupid band, but we basically only sung about the typical topics. It was OK but somewhere I got to a point where I told myself that in fact I also have quite a lot of other opinions about relationships with other people or people in the scene. I then decided to write a few lyrics about these feelings. These were then rather political issues, problems in the world, problems in society and how we can solve them. That’s why, while I was still in ‘Rise Above’, I developed a concept in my mind. This band should then be three things: 1. Positive – lyrically, in the sense of constructively, 2. Political – in the sense that a lot of political things should be addressed and 3. Powerfull – I just wanted to move on and therefore quit ‘Rise Above’ and started with ‘N.O.F.’ [Brob: I’m sure the other people in ‘Rise Above’ have another story to tell…]

Bernd: You think that these things weren’t possible in ‘Rise Above’?

Edward: Well, ‘Rise Above’ were simply an SxE band…

Bernd: Does that mean that one can’t sing about political things in an SxE band?

Edward: You can, but you just have to keep in mind that if I had done the things of ‘N.O.F.’ with the people of ‘R.A.’, it wouldn’t have felt right. The people in ‘R.A.’ were my friends but they didn’t have the same feelings, if you get what I mean. We didn’t talk about political things a lot. We never got to the point where we were discussing or just talking about these things. I simply wanted to do ‘N.O.F.’ with people with whom I’m on the same political level. I knew David from his band ‘Scraps’ and always thought of him as the best singer I knew. We’re on the same level in many things, sociologically or politically, so I asked him. The same thing with Jeroen, whom I saw playing, and I liked him. We also have some identical views. The same goes for Jaak; so I think it’s the perfect line-up for what I want to achieve. At the beginning of ‘N.O.F.’, a girl named Hazel [Françoise Lepers] also played second guitar, but after the England tour, she quit because we asked her to.

Corey: Why do you sing in English and not in your native language?

David: I think the reason for this is that it’s the language that most people, where we come from, do understand. I’m French and the other three are from Belgium, so we communicate in English. I can’t speak any Flemish and besides Edward the others also don’t understand a lot of French. I think that if you want to bring your views to a wider audience, then it’s simply better in English. We’re also on the road a lot, e.g. in the U.K., France or now in Germany. So if we were to write the lyrics in Flemish, hardly anyone would read them. Even if you could arrange a translation, I find it better in English, because the people can sing along, etc.

Edward: The scene, if you can call it that, where we do our thing – pretty much around the town of Ieper and the venue the Vort’n Vis, where we also recorded our live 7” – is quite close to the French border and the coast, direction England. There are many visitors from French-speaking Belgium, many French, people from Germany and sometimes from England. If you were to sing only in Flemish, you would only reach a certain percentage of the audience. But if you do it in good English, explaining things slowly [in a simple way, with words between the songs], then everyone can understand what it’s about.

Corey: What do you think of introducing a world-language?

David: Many people in the French anarchist scene are talking Esperanto and also try to develop it further. But if you look at it in reality, many people aren’t willing to learn Esperanto at all because English is much easier. Sure, it’s cultural and social imperialism if you have to speak English, but if you want to communicate… I see the English language as a code that you can use to communicate anywhere in the world. In this context, I don’t care too much about the background, culture or ‘imperialism’ which they [the English-speaking] might represent. OK, it’s a world-language and I don’t want to express myself too strongly in favour of Esperanto either. Even though I think it’s a good idea, it’s too much of a challenge, and it’s easier to exchange ideas than to fight for an international language. The idea is good but not our thing.

Bernd: Briefly back. The ‘Scraps’ also have political lyrics, where do you see the differences to ‘N.O.F.’? Is it just the different music-styles or is there more?

David: I was very interested in working with ‘N.O.F.’ because I like the people very much. We know each other from shows, we always talked. I see ‘N.O.F.’ as a band that has a lot of potential and is also capable of bringing ideas to a different audience than ‘Scraps’ do. I also want to have the opportunity to talk to other people and I also want to be with people who have the same attitude as me, SxE e.g. That’s not a ‘Scraps’ thing. Then I was also very much impressed by the energy that these people had and what we could do together. Like touring, recording, talking with each other, developping ideas and put out a strong message. The project to be positive, political and powerful was also a good idea. That’s why I actually joined ‘N.O.F.’ in the end.

Bernd: You should’ve also played in our area with ‘Scraps’ on your recent tour, unfortunately the show fell through; I also know only one ‘Scraps’ LP. Are there any major differences, perhaps regarding audiences?

David: Well (laughs), a few people lately have said that ‘N.O.F.’ has a tendency to sound a bit like ‘Scraps’ and the ‘Scraps’ sound a bit like ‘N.O.F.’. But what I like about ‘N.O.F.’ is that we have two singers. Edward also sings and so sometimes you have rather rough and aggressive vocals and then the more melodic. The music of ‘N.O.F.’ is also quite simple, you can easily memorise the songs, also sing along, etc. ‘Scraps’, on the other hand, were a concept, they were hard and radical. And by virtue of the many R’n’R, 77-punk bands and Oi! bands, our goal was to shock people, combined with strong political views. In the beginning the ‘Scraps’ for a long time had a following of punks, where later also SxE joined and also others. When we play in Belgium, it’s the same audience the two bands play for. And now that we’re on the road with ‘Born Against’, it’s also hard to figure out what kind of audience we’re pulling. ‘Born Against’ may attract a very different kind of people.

Edward: A few years ago when ‘N.O.F.’ didn’t exist yet, I thought it was a bit odd/unique: When ‘Scraps’ played, there were always a lot of chaos-punks, but when they played in Belgium, there were always four people upfront: the people of ‘Rise Above’. We were the only SxE people who liked ‘Scraps’, but when they play in Belgium nowadays the punks are still there but also a lot of SxE people. People now simply stick together, stand together. With ‘N.O.F.’ it’s the same. I believe we have contributed to the fact that people also listen to other bands that are somewhat different, like ‘Scraps’ e.g.

Bernd: How was it possible for you to tour in England, even though you hadn’t released anything yet?

Edward: I have a friend In England, named Jason Fox, whom I knew from corresponding. We had just started ‘N.O.F.’ for 3 weeks when I wrote him and told him about the direction the band would take; and that we had already a few songs (ready). I asked him if he could organise a tour in England for us and to my surprise he immediately called back and said that he might be able to get us six shows. That was two months before the tour should have started. At the next rehearsal, I then told the others and it was simply the greatest thing for us. Until then we just had a demo out and were about to go on tour already. This was very stimulating and gave us the first push. It meant a lot of hard work and rehearsing, we had to work concentrated. In those two months we became so much better. This is also a principle of ‘N.O.F.’. We always make sure there are new projects that we can work on for the future. That way things don’t become boring and people don’t want to quit. There’s always a goal that we have in mind. Now the LP is out since just one week and we’re already looking for new things, and how the next release will look like. That’s also essential for this band. Everyone has to contribute a lot of energy and commit one’s self; since we also live quite far apart to get to rehearsals. So far it has worked realy well. So we toured England and there were of course always only 30 or 40 people there, but it was always quite good and we had a nice time. We also lost a lot of money though.

Corey: What do you think of consumerism in HardCore. People are so sluggish on that point… Like e.g. at the show last night in Homburg. There were so many metal-kids, which is fine, I’m not saying that’s bad, but all they did was that everyone dived 30 times and beyond. And when Sam of ‘Born Against’ said something, it seemed to me as if they had been listening but somehow I also thought it didn’t connect. Perhaps they didn’t understand either. They were just there to consume.

Edward: What is your point of view in this regard exactly?

Corey: There’s not a big difference with fast-food. Easy entertainment.

Edward: But what do you want to do. If you play in front of a crowd of 200 people, then it’s not possible to go up to everyone and talk with him for a long time. It depends on whether they are there because of the entertainment, the music or the lyrics. It’s just a local audience, so you can’t do much. Sure, everyone sees 20 metal-kids stagediving but after the song a lot more people clapped. So I also think that there were a lot of people who just listened. Sure, consuming is everywhere.

David: I think a show is an event to which people can come and have fun. I think that’s OK. We’re a political band but that doesn’t mean that we have to go on stage with books and read something to them. Often we only say what the song is about or what ideas we have. Sometimes we don’t do it because we don’t feel like it. It’s usually that the people dig certain bands, follow trends and fashions. I was very much influenced by ‘Crass’ and they sold 1000s of records, but nobody has started a revolution because of that. It was also more likely that most people only bought the records because the band was just in. You can’t do much about that, especially at shows. You can perhaps open their eyes to a few new ideas that they may later think about. When they see us live, like us, they can perhaps buy our record, read the lyrics, write us or read our interviews. That’s much more important than the show, because the show is more to give them a good time, to support the band or let go of their energy. Afterwards we talk to the people or do interviews. That’s OK, because when I go to a show, I really don’t care… Sure, I wouldn’t support a band that I think is stupid. I’m there because of the energy or because I wanna dance.

Corey: Don’t you sometimes think you’re wasting your time here, that you could use it more effectively elsewhere? That frustrates me sometimes. I like the music, it’s a part of it, so not just the lyrics, both equally, but you’re up on the stage, say something about sexism, everyone claps, but somehow nothing changes. Perhaps you should use your time better working for an organisation.

Edward: I think you have to compromise. When you’re in a band and spread your ideas for some time, you learn that you shouldn’t have too big expectations. If your expectations are high, you’ll always feel down and out. It’s not that simple to be influential. But in the end one has to make a compromise regarding the issue. If I think that I have certain ideas and opinions that I want to spread, and nothing more, then I wouldn’t play in a band. Then I could go onto the streets, distribute flyers or join a party to achieve something. But one must compromise. When you, besides the fact that you’re interested in political stuff, also fell for the music, then you play in a band. That was the best option for us.

David: I think being in two bands is an important thing in my life, but that’s not all I do. I’m also involved with other things, in political groups or anti-racist groups, or write articles in French journals, or translate articles from German into French, do a radio-broadcast that a lot of people listen to. The fact that I’m in these bands is important to me but not what will change the society. If you want to change society, you have to work on a social level. Meet people there where they live, where they are faced with violence, drugs, fascism and other things. That’s why I find it important that you also collaborate on a social and political level if you want to have an influence on people. I still want to say something regarding the point of change. When we, ‘Scraps’, arrived in the city we were living there, a few years ago, we were the only vegetarians. Everyone laughed at us: “You fucking hippies!” and everyone was drunk at the show. If you look at the influence we have now, then the norm is vegetarian and not to drink alcohol – even if this covers a very local level. With sexism and racism it’s the same thing. It’s all on a local level but it’s something you can feel and that really exists. Nowadays we’re organising buses, for example, for the people who want to come and see us in Belgium. In the past we could never have done that because our followers were always very drunk. And at the last show that we organised so that people could witness ‘NoMeansNo’, there was only one drunk. This is the influence that you can have as a band on an environment of perhaps 200 or 300 people. But if every band would have that kind of influence on such a crowd, there would be much more.

Edward: I completely agree with David. It simply depends on how you set the standards. I think what we did in Belgium, any other band can do. To be vegetarian is now simply normal, which I think is good. There are a few people who say that this puts pressure on other people but everyone has the opportunity to decide freely, no one has to do it.

Corey: Don’t you think it’s much easier to convince people to become vegetarian than to influence them regarding sexism. It’s something you can grasp, it’s easy to understand: these animals are living beings like you and me, you shouldn’t eat them. That’s black and white, but sexism e.g. is for many people something they don’t understand because they don’t know what you’re talking about. They may say “Yes, OK, sexism.” but don’t know what relates with it.

Edward: The problem is that sexism is absolutly not readily defined. There are ways to describe many things more easily then sexism, e.g. discrimination. There are so many things. When you consider all the things you’re doing during the day or say during a conversation, or in a relationship, then there’s so many things to be analysed and looked at from the perspective of sexism. It is not that easy.

David: Even our language is pretty sexist. There are many sexist words that people use to describe something. And if you think about it, then you can change that too. Here in Germany you have the possibility to differentiate or summarise, like e.g. ‘DemonstrantInnen’ [Brob: one word for both fe/male] (demonstrators) with a big I, but in France you can’t.

Corey: Do you think that’s important?

David: Yes, because I think that many things in this world are based on language. It represents a culture, social and political things. In France e.g. most diseases have a feminine term and qualities a masculine one. That shows already a lot about the language and what it’s about in this society.

Bernd: Why did you go to the U.S to have your record mixed? Usually metal-bands are keen on going over there, for example to get a good production from Scott Burns [produced many records for famous death-metal bands] (laughs).

David: It’s much more simple, Edward will tell you (laughs).

Edward: I think you got a lot of prejudices towards us when you think we’re a metal-band going to the States to produce records (laughs).

Bernd: How could I see you as a metal-band: you got short hair (laughs).

Edward: Then you would be the metal-head (laughs). At the time when the LP was mixed, I lived in California. The people who’d mixed the LP sent me a tape to see if I would be satisfied, but it was just bad. There were no band-members present when it was mixed, and these people also had no experiences with mixing. Besides that, two people in the band had been involved in a car-accident. At that time I lived in L.A. and simply asked to send me the mastertape because I wanted to take it to someone else. His name is Donald [Donnell] Cameron and he was on a lot of punk-records that I like. I called him and I immediately found him to be the nicest guy in the world. He works at he Westbeach Recording Studio, a studio in which most South Californian bands recorded their records. I talked to him, played him the bad tape and asked him if he was interested in remixing it and making it better. He agreed and we did it. I also did most of my vocal parts again aswell. Somehow I was much better at singing than over here, perhaps because I had practiced more. In 11 and a half hours everything was over and I was very happy with it. You can’t imagine how much effort and energy we’ve put into the album, all the things we’ve put into the recordings, and then the mix was bad. If you had heard the record then, you would have burst out with laughter, because it sounded comical. And I don’t want to sell an album that sounds ridiculous. It was also very cheap because he liked the band.

Bernd: I just asked because the info on the record is just so sec: produced by Blablabla.

Edward: Yes, but this is something X-Mist does to send it to distributors. Because the distributors are sometimes so… You can’t go to a distribution and say “This is an honest band!”. If you say that to a distribution, they would laugh at you: “Give me a copy or fuck off!”. But if you write that it sounds like ‘No For An Answer’ and was produced by this and that in L.A., then they’ll take 100 records.

Bernd: But…

Edward: I didn’t do that, it’s just the policy of the record-labels.

David: And every record-label does that for every band; it’s not a big deal. They just want to sell their records, so they use this kind of tricks to sell their records. It’s just promotion. I talked about this with Armin [Hofmann; of X-Mist recs] today and he told me he does this for every band; a few funny words to describe the band and the music.

Edward: Perhaps he did it because many people know the studio there. ‘Bad Religion’ also record there e.g. and it’s a good studio. When the distributors read or hear this, they know that it’s a quality recording and they won’t buy a bad record.

David: Also at a low price.

Edward: Yeah, and the CD has two LPs on it and is cheaper than a normal CD.

Corey: What is the ideal government for you (laughs)?

David: When I speak for myself, then I must say that I am against any kind of government; I would rather call myself an anarchist. I work towards a collective and equal society. On the other hand, you can’t have the chance to express yourself as an individual. If you don’t have some kind of government, you won’t be able to express yourself either culturally, socially or otherwise. History has shown that governments were wrong. There are, as a counter-example, two anarchist experiences: one in Russia and one in Spain, and it has worked. Even in a period where there was war, it worked very, very well. The whole thing only collapsed because the anarchists who had organised themselves there were beaten by communists, czarists and fascists. That’s why they didn’t succeed in keeping the whole thing alive. But that’s just my opinion, I’m against any kind of government.

Gonzo: That isn’t very clear/pronounced in ‘Nations On Fire’ though; can people find that in ‘Scraps’ or is that just your personal policy?

David: Well, not all members of ‘N.O.F.’ are anarchists, so why should we pretend to be an anarchist band?

Gonzo: Well, there are bands where the others let the singer do what he wants and the others just play the instruments. That would explain the policy of the band. Do you tell yourself: “The others don’t adhere to my point of view, so I won’t write such kind of lyrics.”?

Edward: I wonder how you get the idea that we’re like any other band?

Bernd: Maybe because you’re just people? (Edward laughs)

Gonzo: I don’t want to accuse you, it was just a question. How do you do it with the songs, how do you make a statement? That was all I wanted to know.

Edward: The thing is that we have a lot of opinions and we want to make a few other records, so we don’t pack everything on one record. If we put everything we believe in on one record, then we would have nothing more for the next. But the thing is… Most things in ‘N.O.F.’ arise from cooporation. Basically, most of the things in the lyrics come from me but when we talk about politics, then… Let me say something else to the question first. Most people in ‘N.O.F.’ believe in basis-oriented anarchism but if we are a bit realistic then I think that one of the few governments that ever worked, was in Nicaragua when the Sandinista govemment was in power. This was quite similar to the things and anarchist movements in Spain in the 1930s. It’s realistic because it has shown that it works. And as far as these political views are concerned, we all fairly agree. Therefore, I don’t think that there’s any big problems or big-minded views there. We’re all, I will not say left, but more on the anarchist side. Certainly, something like this is difficult to achieve in this society because you’re dependent on everyone else.

Bernd: I think he wanted to know if you have to show a lyric you’ve written to everyone else, to check if it’s OK or not.

David: Basically, Edward wrote all the lyrics for ‘N.O.F.’. I talked with him to find out whether there was something that we don’t agree on. Sometimes we added some extra things but rarely had different views.

Edward: The only discussions we’ve ever had – and that proves that the people in the band have the same views – were about how a few things were said. We sat together and talked about things. I wrote the song Bug In My Eye, which deals with the situation of the Palestinians. David said that this and that could be done somewhat different, but basically it remained the same song. He made the song a bit better because he knew some things better than I did. But there were never any songs of which we said that we couldn’t sing them. With this band we are both musically and lyrically all on one line; we really clicked, so to speak.

David: And we don’t want to behave as an anarcho-, SxE- or whatever band. We prefer to be called a HardCore or underground band.

Gonzo: You just mentioned underground band. What does that concept mean to you? Do you think that the underground or HardCore scene, in its current state, is OK or that there are a lot of things worth changing.

David: I’m actually quite satisfied, the most important thing for me is that the scene doesn’t begin to stagnate. That new bands constantly pop up, new ideas are being forwarded. Each band can have an influence on their local scene. I can’t talk about the HardCore scene in general terms because it’s simply different if you are e.g. in France, Germany or the USA. Basically, I like the fact that it’s still related to something else. Sure, there are things in France that I would like to see changed but I can’t talk about things I would like to change in Germany, because I am not so familiar with it. Sure, we are driving around here a lot but I can’t say what needs to be changed. This is what people here have to do.

Edward: We can perhaps make suggestions but you have to change it for yourselves, we can’t come over here and do it for you.

David: And the best answer we can possibly give to this consumerism is to tour with bands that also represent our ideas. Now e.g. with ‘Born Against’ or with bands who really have something to say, rather than touring with stupid bands.

Gonzo: How did things come about with the both of you?

Edward: When I was in the U.S., ‘Born Against’ got the offer to tour in Germany. ‘Born Against’ and I had mutual friends and they had a lot of questions because they wanted to do it right. They didn’t wanna work with a touring-agency that would take their money out of their pockets or with other fucked-up people. I was the only European that they knew and could answer their questions. So I helped as much as possible. A bit later they called us and asked if we wanted to tour with them. That’s how it happened. Of course I was pleased and they are really the best band you can imagine [to go on tour with].

Bernd: Actually, you should have been touring with ‘Yuppicide’.

Edward: Yes, that’s true. When Steffen [Roose; Navigator tours] called us and asked if we wanted to tour more, he told us that ‘Yuppicide’ and ‘Rorschach’ would also tour and so we thought to go with ‘Rorschach’ as they come from the same scene as ‘Born Against’. Not because they’re from New Jersey or whatever, but because of their attitude. And at the moment we would like that better than anything else.

Bernd: How did you get to sign to a German label – you live in Belgium and France?

Edward: We released our demo as 7” on a French label, then we put out our live 7” ourselves and started to distribute them. Most of reactions were very good, apart from one or two bad reviews. When that happened, we became more known and the record-companies picked up our name. Then I ten talked to the guy of Lost & Found, whom I knew because I often got records from him. He was interested in doing something with us and then I heard that X-Mist was interested too. We then considered it and it seemed like X-Mist were very interested in doing various things with us. E.g. also help us with this tour; which is great. They drive us around in a van; they’re the best people. That’s how we got in contact with them; and then they also like our music.

Bernd: And what about the deal with Strive recs [Rülzheim, Germany]?

David: Strive recs is done by a friend of Armin and he’s more or less looking for new bands.

Edward: X-Mist has a lot of side-labels like e.g. S.I.S. [Seven Inch Series; X-Mist recs sub-label, released limited edition 7”s in the early 1990s] and Strive is just another side-label with someone else, but basically it’s X-Mist; and yesterday we met the guy of Strive for the first time. I think it’s just a person who does some of the work; but we haven’t heard much from him yet, but he’s nice. You should print this.

Bernd: Let’s see (laughs). Onto something else: You’re playing a show with ‘Agnostic Front’. Can it be that there are differences in attitudes? Do you belive you have problems playing with them?

David: Personally I have problems with it because I think they suck. That is because I saw them play on an Antifa concert organised by friends of mine, during an Antifa week in Berlin. And I hated that band because they’re stupid. They behaved macho, they looked like soldiers and their singer, a roadie, was a real asshole. Perhaps … ‘Born Against’ also play that show together with us, so there are two anti-nationalist bands and a patriotic band there. If we just take a stand there, and go and tell people that they should boycot the band, they might not listen to us, but when we play with them and talk about nationalism, white pride and white power a lot, all these things they support, then we may have a confrontation with them. We can show people that there are people who are against it.

Edward: I believe that the fact that that night two bands, which are totally the opposite, are playing, will already be a confrontation, even if we say nothing. It’s not sure yet whether we will play there, because if the entrance-price is too high we won’t even play. It’s not like we want to play with them at all costs. I think it’s OK to play with such a band once because otherwise you always preach to the converted. Most of the people who go to an ‘Agnostic Front’ concert – I’ve been at a concert of them, so it’s not like I’m a holy boy – don’t think about the bad consequences of patriotism or anything, before they have entred. If you go on stage and bring your views to people who normally don’t hear anything about things like that, you can offer them some new ideas. They see our views on flag-burning or nationalism and have to deal with it. They must think about it. If our LP and the album of ‘Born Against’ are sold there, on which the American flag is questioned, then that can already have an influence. The thing is that we will encourage people to think about it. And if people think it’s bad, then that’s OK, then they shouldn’t come. But the fact that we can do something there is good.

David: I know a few bands in England who have done something like that before: ‘Angelic Upstarts’ e.g. have played a show with ‘Screwdriver’ and other Oi!/skin bands because they’re in a different direction of this movement within this scene. Perhaps we can show the people at the concert that there’s also an anti-violent and anti-nationalist movement in HardCore. That’s perhaps the best thing we can do.

Bernd: I don’t want to justify the actions of ‘A.F.’, definitely not, but don’t you think that what they doesn’t have anything to do with nationalism in a sense? I think they stand for the ideals behind the American flag – freedom, justice and peace – and I believe they aren’t willing to support the exploitative American system, besides the fact that they’re on In Effect [sub-label of Relativity, a major label of the Sony Music Entertainment Inc. group].

Edward: So what is your question?

Bernd: Do you think they’re in the same way nationalist as (to use a catchphrase) e.g. Jesse Helms [homophobic, sexist & racist Republican politician].

Edward: That’s not the case. What counts are the records they put out and the lyrics they have, and the covers on the records. They help other people become nationalists. What they preach is bad; I don’t know these people, perhaps they’re quite nice. But they sing things that make people do stupid things. So we have to fight the evil things that originate from that, if you get what I mean. Did that answer your question?

Bernd: …Yes.

David: No (laughs).

Bernd: I actually wanted to know if you think that they stand for what some really fascist and racist people represent. As far as I know they just stand behind the things that the flag actually should represent: liberty and justice. I don’t believe that they support something like racial separation or the like.

Edward: The thing is that for us [as Europeans] it’s difficult to judge because it’s obvious that in N.Y. there are different ways how people treat each other. You’ve probably heard the story that the people of ‘Nausea’, ‘Y.O.T.’ [‘Youth Of Today’] and ‘Y.D.L.’ [‘Youth Defense League’; NY Oi! band] have been living together in a house. This would never be possible here but over there it seems like people who have different views still support each other. Was that an answer? (laughs) But here we have to show people that it’s not a good thing. You should be more critical when a band is releasing something. It’s not simply something to swallow because it’s a big band from N.Y.

Bernd: You made an statement on stage about Europe 1992, where you have a song about. You said if everyone would stick together, then people could do something about it. I have some problems with that because I think that there’s not much one can do anymore about the unification of Europe; it’ already as good as clear. Even if 100.000 people would demonstrate now. I just wanted to know now what you wanted to do about it?

David: Basically it’s correct that the unification of Europe will take place. However, what can be done against it in the different countries concerned, is to fight against the fact that they want to inter-connect police-forces and form a common secret-police. All politically active people would be entered in a computer that is accessible to every nation, etc. When that comes about, it doesn’t mean supporting a common Europe for the people who live in the individual countries, but it’s a capitalist thing. So what we have to fight against is what they want to make out of this united Europe and not the union itself. Fighting against the united Europe is as important to us as it is to fight against the country we come from and the government we have. One must just keep in mind that a united Europe will bring us a lot of problems, especially when you look at the issue with the immigrants and how people deal with them, and also at people who are active in the political scene.

Edward: The main thing at the moment is – I know it’s already too late to stop the whole process – to spread some knowledge, because a lot of people haven’t heard about it yet. One does not hear that much in the media about all the disadvantages and bad things that will be the result.

Bernd: Why also…

Edward: But that should be the case.

Bernd: Sure, but it’s not in the interest of the persons involved.

Edward: The media are there to inform, but it doesn’t matter. If we can spread something and people pick it up or listen, then maybe someone will be thoughtful. We see it the way that the whole thing is going downhill pretty fast, it gets worse. We will soon become a European power-block, the next thing will be a European military bloc against the United States. I believe that this is very much in the interests of all the arms-manufacturers. This is the direction it will probably take the next 5-10 years, because investments have to be made to keep the country running. In order to keep each country running, large investments have to be made and this is obviously the way. We, and hopefully many other people, can address these things and encourage people to talk about them. Perhaps people will start to think about it and there will be protests in the media. When people talk about it, it may well be that certain things are stopped or ameliorated, instead of sitting there waiting, shutting their mouths and pretending as if nothing’s happening.

Bernd: I was just confused about it because I didn’t know what you meant.

Edward: If you read through the lyrics to Experts Agree, you’ll notice that there’s also some humor in it.

Bernd: Sure, with the offices, etc.

Edward: With the sarcasm we wanted to present the subject slightly differently.

Bernd: Don’t you sometimes feel a bit schizophrenic when on stage the band sings a song against war, while the people dive and slam and have fun?

David: Just because we are dealing with serious and political issues or are active in different political groups, doesn’t mean we have to be boring. Or pessimistic and not entertaining. I know many people in the Basque country who really live in a war, and they also go party every evening. They dance and meet up with people. Even if these are very serious and political issues that deal with war, rape or whatever, it’s not supposed to make people cry. If you want to motivate people, you have to give them something to grab onto.

Bernd: Sure, but you’re getting of into another extreme again. I’m not talking about people getting out their handkerchiefs. That would be another extreme to what I wanted to address. But sometimes it makes me think a bit.

David: We organise a lot of demonstrations against fascism and racism in France. And our concept is to be very energetic and humorous. The bands play on trucks, on different self-made instruments, people dance in the street, etc. Even if you go do demonstration against something like that, it should remain attractive to the people. There were so many demonstrations against the war, where people simply had their banners/signs in their hands and walked through the streets. This doesn’t attract people, because it’s just boring in the long run. And a HardCore show should be motivating and inspiring for people, so that they get new energy. We don’t want people to come to our shows as if they were political lectures, and then say “Yeah, what those people say there is great!”. If we wanted to, we would do lectures. With the music, people can dance, I think it’s important when people can do that. After a week during which they worked or whatever, they can live it up a Saturday or Sunday.

Edward: If they like the band, then they can buy the records and read the lyrics.

Bernd: More and more people are coming out lately and say stagediving and slamdancing should stop because it is too dangerous. What do you think about that?

David: It depends on how it goes and where. Two days ago we played in Bad Dürkheim e.g. and many people stagedived, the atmosphere was good and the people were also getting into it, throwing paper and balloons around. It was a real party. There was no violence in the air whatsoever. The kids just had their fun. Sometimes it also gets out of hand but then we try to keep it under control by telling people to stop or whatever. I think that stagediving, as well as pogo or slamdancing, is a big contradiction of HardCore. We make very aggressive music that makes people go crazy; and on the other hand we have a rather pacifist message. That’s precisely the opposite: what you achieve and what happens. That’s always the question for me: how can you control the violence in HardCore. As far as I can judge and as far as I have seen, I still believe that HardCore concerts are among the safest places where you can meet and feel safe, even as a woman. Maybe I’m wrong but, for example, many women go to discos or bars, which I consider to be worse, even if the people don’t dance so hard, but there’s much more aggression in the air and the people are beating each other’s heads in, which I consider to be worse. Maybe I’m too idealistic about the HardCore scene but that’s how I see it. Even if there are these discussions around stagediving or pogo “Yes or No! ”.

Edward: What I can only say about that is that every night we play a song in which we tell people they can dance but they shouldn’t hurt themselves.

Bernd: X-Mist distributes their records through EFA, so you can buy them everywhere, even from people who make not just 4 DM [2 Euro] extra on an LP, but perhaps the double and more. Is that a kind of compromise for you; don’t you care or do you think it’s OK that the records can be bought everywhere?

Edward: I think it’s good that our records are also sold in normal recordshops; let me tell you why. If you couldn’t buy ‘Dead Kennedys’ LPs in normal recordshops, I might have never been interested in punk or HardCore. That’s why I think they should be in the recordshops. On the other hand, we recommend people on our record that they should have a bit of closer look at the HardCore scene. We have given the address of MMR [Maximum Rock’n’Roll] e.g. and when the people then get more interested in HardCore, then they can write to order the zine and get addresses from distributors who all sell their records cheap. Even if our record is sold in some big stores, we still have the connection with the underground scene. I think it’s a great thing. And when people finally get into the scene, they also find out that there are a lot of independent distributors where they can buy their things cheaply.

Bernd: I’m asking this because e.g. I know that ‘Born Against’ doesn’t sell their records through big distributors, also not in larger shops in N.Y.

Edward: Even ‘Born Against’ don’t have complete control. So their records are also sold through Frontline for 18 DM [9 Euro – though DIY distro it was 7,50 Euro max], although they don’t want their records to be sold there. Even if you pretend to be totally independent and underground, there are still bastards selling your records. Can this be said? (laughs)

Bernd: I have no more questions; do you want to say something else?

Edward: If people think their records are too expensive in their local recordstore, they should write to X-Mist and order the things from the mailorder-list to get them cheaper. And if people really care so much that things are cheap, then they shouldn’t buy their things in the store anyway, but only from independent distributors. Obviously there are people who don’t care.

Bernd: Do you think that it’s really worth the effort to discuss about a 2 DM price-difference? If someone wants something more for his stuff then he is a sell-out even if it is only 1 or 1,50 DM?

David: Maybe something different in this regard. How often was it that you saw people at the entrance begging for a few marks because they can’t pay the entrance-fee because it’s 5 or 6 DM. Then you give them the money and later you see them standing at the bar all night. You’ll always find people complaining about everything. But they have the power to say no. If it’s too expensive or they think that we’re too politically extreme, then they can say no and not buy our records. If they support our things then, that’s is OK for us, we don’t want to make everyone happy to sell a stack of records.

Edward: Even though our LP is distributed by EFA, which as far as I know is still independent, we still don’t have a UCP-code [barcode] on our LP. That was a thing which the distribution asked us and we said no. It was also OK of X-Mist that they left us that freedom. Maybe it will also affect our sales, I don’t know.

‘N.O.F.’ organises a two-day concert in Ieper the first weekend of September [92-09-05 & 92-09-06] where ‘Doom’, ‘Spermbirds’, ‘Acid Rain Dance’, ‘Youth Brigade’, ‘SofaHead’, ‘Abolition’ will play. You can contact Bruno, Ieperseweg 58, 8970 Poperinge, Belgium, or Edward Verhaeghe, Burg 12, 8820 Torhout, Belgium.

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One Response to Nations On Fire (Confrontation #1)

  1. Jaak DC says:

    For the record: after a reunion show (1998, 1999, …?), Edward told me he voted ‘Volksunie’; so did Hans (‘Liar’ amongst other bands) who played bass for ‘N.O.F. at that moment.
    For people outside Belgium: Volksunie was a right-wing political party, set up in 1954 mainly by World War 2 collaborators. They took a radical stand against French-speaking people in Belgium. It’s now called N-VA, they’re the biggest political party in Belgium and their main goal still is to split up the nation.
    Don’t know if it was Edward who wrote the lyrics for the Flag Song – “put down that flag, put it away, whatever it says, no matter what the color”. If he did, he was surely making a joke.
    He was smart enough though to make a ‘N.O.F.’-shirt without a statement, just saying “my beliefs are stronger than ever”. No antifa, no anarchism; he’s a right-wing Flemish nationalist.

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