Monday, 26 April 2010

Lion's Pride Interview

One of the best (and longest) interviews I’ve ever read!!! It was originally published in the English edition of „Skinhead magazine”. „Gracias” to Poli for sharing it with us!!!

1. Gunther, please, tell us a Little bit about the begginings of the band, the end of división 99 and the start of lion`s Pride.

Lion's Pride was formed in May 2000 rising out of the ashes of Division 99. The moment a steady line-up was achieved the band decided to continue working under the name of Lion's Pride.

2. You are member of Ancient Rites too, a band of pagan metal, How are you doing to be in both bands?

Playing in several bands is time consuming. I also recorded albums with Danse Macabre (Goth Rock) and recorded several albums with Iron Clad (Heavy/Folk Metal). When looking at my personal musical background it is not that strange I ended up playing this combination of styles. As a young kid, back in the 70’s, one of the first vinyls I bought were “Never Mind the Bollocks” by Sex Pistols and “If you want Blood” by AC/DC. Somehow the root for my musical interests where planted there. When Oi! was born of course I immediately appreciated that style because many of the ‘77 Punk bands were selling out or moving on to other styles. I also discovered bands such as Motörhead. In a way one can say playing in both A.R. and L.P. is like speaking two different dialects but the “same” language of guitar orientated music. I enjoy working in both bands, both were founded by me and enable me to express myself musically and lyrically without limitations.

3. In Lion's Pride, there are more old glories of musical scene in Belgium, tell us about this?

True, the bandmembers are veterans in the scene and have been active in various bands (and still are) ranging from Oi! to Punk to Metal bands, too many to mention in fact. My first live performing band I already formed in 1979/1980 and was named Addix (‘77 style Punkrock). Later on I played with No Survivors (Oi!), Capital Scum (Hardcore) etc. As for other current and former members, they played in bands such as Agathocles (Grindcore), Excess of Cruelty (Death Metal), Gracefallen (Melodic Death Metal), several Oi! Or Punkbands etc…

4. How is the scene in Flanders nowadays?

There are several interesting bands. I think Lion’s Pride must be one of the most boycotted groups because of the negative media attention we received on Belgian national TV, in big newspapers etc, media spreading lies. It is considered politically incorrect to reveal any sympathy for Flanders. Ironically enough our lyrics are not forbidden by law but the fact we write about injustice in this land in a reasonable way seems to make us a bigger danger in their eyes. Because we do open people’s eyes with sensible arguments while avoiding clichés. If we would write one dimensional hate lyrics the authorities probably would bother less because these only appeal to a certain “incrowd”. Most of our gigs are forbidden, cancelled or boycotted. Even at Oi! Festivals promoters do not dare to book us, afraid of their reputation and future gigs, they book patriot Oi! bands from abroad but a band singing about the own Flemish history seems too much to handle. It is ok to write about mindless violence, football or for foreign bands to write patriot lyrics etc but if one mentions Flemish heritage in Belgium things get difficult and state security is on one’s back. Belgium consists of several linguistic/cultural communities put together. If one learns about the history of Belgium one can see that our Flemish culture and language always has been oppressed, cultivating a pride for this culture is considered a danger. One can compare the Flemish situation with the situation of the Basks in Spain or the Irish in U.K., a cultural group absorbed in a nation which does not feel like your own. Difference is Flemish patriots do not use any forms of terrorism and in Belgium only Flemish patriots stand up for Flemish rights, in most other countries a much bigger part of the population has patriot sentiments (regardless political preferences). So here patriots are considered and portrayed as dangerous radicals in the media and by the authorities. It is a complex situation which is difficult to explain to people abroad who can’t comprehend how unjust it feels to have to speak a foreign language on the own soil and in the own capital town while the own land is taken away. In a way we stand alone with Lion’s Pride. Our albums sell well but most promoters are afraid to be connected with us, as if we are a secret forbidden fruit to consume when no one’s watching :).

5. In other interviews, you've said that during your youth you were really disappointed with those people who preached the revolution but feeded with capitalism, we are interested in knowing more about this theme?

Once I was at a Punk gig and was lectured by a so called anti capitalist anarchist. He told me I was a sheep of society, blinded by Flemish patriotism and how he as a revolutionary was real working class, against the system. When our discussion ended he stepped in a nice fancy car and I, who do not own a car, walked home on foot. I have a minimum wage, I cannot even afford one. Not that I care. And I am a social assistant working with blind people. So…Who was the real capitalist here? In my life I have met so many self declared die hard idealists who tell the world how to behave, so many dogmas and pseudo intellectual declarations but once they get their diploma at university they still wave their red flag in theory but cash in big bucks. You see, I do not have a problem with people’s opinions, as long as they are not hypocritical about it. In the 60’s the world was flooded with flower power and hippies flirting with Mao and the red book, even known pop stars and actors played the game. “We believe in the workers revolution! Communism is the answer!” they stated, but they owned villas with swimming pools living the American capitalist dream. “Yes we are fucking political!!!” an American mainstream rock band whose name I shall not mention, declares in interviews, they wear Che Guevara shirts and raise a communist fist. Then they ask a fortune to play a gig. I always say “practice what you preach or be silent”. Bourgeoisie Anarchists J. But these hypocrites can be found on every political side, people who try to impress and prove how extreme they are and who act like a moral thought police as if they have the sole key to the complete truth. Often I am confronted with kids who just discovered the scene or politics and who think they have the right to lecture a veteran who is walking this planet for several decades and who already was a part of this scene when they were still wetting their diapers as babies. Very tiring, my friend. People who shout the loudest usually do not remain long as life goes on, they soon disappear. And these can be found in every scene and on every political side. I guess it is a negative side of human nature in general. Small Man, Big Mouth.

6. What King of music do you listen to and influence Lion`s Pride?

We try to avoid any influences, authenticity is the goal. Our music is hard to define for it contains elements of Oi!, Rock’n Roll, Punk, Hardcore, Metal, Folk. Personally I listen to many styles of music depending on the mood I’m in. But I don’t relate to MTV stuff. “Nu Metal” or “Emo” I feel no affection for. I am not into r&b, funk, dance, soul, and gospel either. But I am rather open minded and don’t only listen to the music styles I practice. Old school Punk makes me feel 16 again though and I never get tired of Skinhead Rock.

7. Top 13 of favourite albums?

Impossible to answer, I collect music since my childhood, imagine all the records and cd’s I have, from Beethoven to Noise, how to chose?

8. Clearly Lion`s Pride, (either for the name or for the symbology) is referred to Flanders, old and rebel European nation, whose biggest characteristic is the insurrection against different empires. Is Lion`s Pride related to the separatism of Flanders?

The name indeed also refers to the medieval Flemish banner but its heraldic symbolism is quite typical for medieval Europe in general and also a metaphor for courage and pride. Flanders today is a part of Belgium which was created in 1830 by a French speaking royalty and nobility and is a mixture of different cultural communities. In that process the linguistic and cultural rights of Flanders were not respected and the clash over Flemish territory continues to this very day. We believe a peaceful separation to be the fairest solution. So each cultural group can have its own independence. My dream is an independent Flemish Republic. I do not feel any hatred towards the other communities but I think linguistic borders are natural borders and we have been treated like 2nd class citizens for far too long in this artificial country. Only since a few decades we were allowed to open Flemish universities on Flemish soil, courts and law were all in French, to reach a better position in politics or economics one had to deny the own language. Our roots systematically oppressed. Ironically we are the strongest economical power of the country. Our blood in wars, our money to save the country’s economy but no respect in return. Belgium in my opinion does not work, it is a political creation. The brainwashed masses often do not understand the situation. As we speak a government can’t be formed as French speaking politicians want to include more Flemish soil to the French speaking Belgian territory. Brussels is the capital of the country and also of my province, situated in Flanders but it is changed into a French speaking bastion. How many countries have a capital where the spoken language is not their own? Imagine going to your capital and you have to speak another language. Do not misunderstand me, I have nothing against Francophone culture or French speaking Belgians, of course not, but I think we have a right to “be” who we really are, each folk should be able to have its own identity and nation. Our band is boycotted and state security is on our tail because we voice this opinion but the whole situation I feel as an injustice. Life would be a lot easier for me in this country if I played it safe and write about love & peace or beer and football. But I use my work as a way to express my thoughts and feelings. People do not have to agree with me but that is how I work. I wouldn’t be able to write stuff I don’t feel from the heart. The price I must pay is being shot at from many sides because we find ourselves in a rather isolated, difficult position here. Ironically, I would support French patriots too, or French speaking Belgians proud of their Walloon roots. I sympathise with all Europeans, but fight for an own independent place of Flanders in it all. We do have friends in Wallonia who support our cause because they understand it is about self respect. For instance, English bands can write about their land without prosecution, it is more common to feel English in England. Irish or Scottish patriots can count on worldwide sympathy because of Hollywood movies such as “Braveheart” etc but here we don’t even have an own land. The call for Flemish independence makes us dangerous to the eyes of the authorities. Many people of our own betrayed our identity too and sold out for a nice position at the top or simply are without any pride or interest. Abroad many people do not even know we people of Flanders exist; most think Belgium is a French speaking land, a message spread by the Belgian minded authorities and condoned by Flemish politicians and media who participate in this system. Abroad one does not understand the struggle, inside Belgium many hate us for what they think we stand for while we have a nuanced view on things, we don’t hate the other communities. But love our own. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is difficult to operate as a patriot rock band without an official country:). Think about it.

9. You have showed yourself like a lover of the history, traditions, culture and really patriotic, and you have said that this doesn't mean to hate anyone, just to honour your roots. Tell us about the view you have of the world you are involved in?

I always have been deeply interested in the history of the world and travelled a lot. It is inspiring to travel and learn. So I am able to respect civilizations and traditions which are not mine. However I also like to preserve my own. But today we live in a complex world, the world has become smaller, a melting pot of cultures all with their own (often opposite) agendas living on the same soil, and conflicts between world powers and religions which are rooted in the Middle East are now fought in the shape of terrorism on European soil as well. Who can tell ally from foe nowadays? Wars are of a different, more sneaky kind. Through mass migration and colonisation cultures with opposite views or morals are living together and clash. In that process I also see the European culture/identity and my own world how it used to be fade, flooded, also because of the attitude of our own society and folk that does not care about identity and ancestry. A selfish egocentric world based on personal gain and mass consumption. All turns into a dangerous melting pot, a time bomb. In an ideal world there would be no poverty and each folk would be able to prosper in the homeland without interference of outsiders, there would be no religious fanaticism and so on. But we all know reality is different, I am not optimistic about the European future, things seem to escalate. Of course I cannot comment on the situation on your continent for the history of the Americas developed entirely different therefore I can imagine many of your readers will find it difficult to understand what I am trying to say. One must live a situation to feel it and everyone is a child of his own environment, background and situation, all this determines what one is, will become or hopes for. The dreams of an Native American living in the Amazon forest differ from the dreams of a Brazilian city person living in Rio de Janeiro, yet both live in the same country. Both are entitled to their dreams but the life styles are opposite and so are the end goals and interests. An Islamic immigrant from the mountains of Afghanistan holds on to the law of the Koran and how his people back home conceived it, when he moves to the West he will dislike Western society where religion and law are separated and women are more free, he will try to uphold his own rules which will clash with the traditions of his new environment. That is how life is generally, what is good for one person might be bad for the other. Clash of interests.

10. Something that calls us the atentión is your view "Pan-european" and your speech respecting to the defense of the cultural patrimony of Europe as a level of diversity as a continent. We can perceive this in songs like "Europe, united in diversity", "Protect and Survive" and "Patriot!". Tell us about this song and, please, explain us your view referred to the concept of a united but diverse Europe?

All is about preservation of the own cultural patrimony. One can take this to a universal level too. Only, in this politically correct modern Europe heritage became a taboo, when it’s European, that is. An English friend of mine told me how her young children are taken by their English teachers on school trips to synagogues, mosks etc. They learn to recite verses from the Koran, create prayer mats etc but they never visit ancient pagan locations or English cathedrals. Now, of course it is interesting to learn about the world, knowledge is important, but in this process these kids are not taught about their own heritage. They forget who they are, where they came from. The teachers replied they received orders from the authorities to do so, to create a tolerant society. The politically correct often state that roots are of no importance, only humanity is, no borders, no diversity. All very fine but why is there so little tolerance towards the own heritage, and why is the very own history neglected? And why are OTHER cultures pushed down one’s throats if it is of no significance as the pc dictators claim it to be? It’s all or nothing in my book. I appreciate the differences in cultures, especially between European nations, I think they should be preserved and mutual respect has to be. Only, I have this feeling everywhere in Europe the own history is flushed down the toilet all in the name of political correctness. When I travel to Austria I want to learn about the local culture, when I travel to Scotland I want to “feel” Scotland etc. I’m not interested in grey looking cities that all look the same, where everyone eats the same junk food and where all folklore is lost. This should be protected in order to survive as a people. But I realize my views are utopist, I am born in times when the old worlds are changing drastically and as I feel my soul is old I do not fit in well to this modern society.

11. The members of Lion`s Pride use pagan symbology (Thor Hammer), and the band have been related to neo pagan, odinist, asatrú and neoceltic groups too, and to be part of pagan celebrations and ceremonies. Gunther, do you consider yourself a pagan? What is your opinion about the Judaism, Christianism, and Islam and the impact they have had in other cultures?

I am not a religious person. But I sympathize with and am interested in our Heathen Traditions and symbolism. It is a part of the ancient heritage and the rituals were closely connected with our environment and nature. And although I’m not a Christian I have to acknowledge that, despite the harm the import of Christianity caused, a great deal of our European history and patrimony was influenced by this religion, in architecture, literature etc. In times when analphabetism ruled the European continent history was recorded (not always very neutral that is true) by monks who knew how to write and read. It is a double edged sword isn’t it? I do not relate to Judaism, Christianity and Islam because these religions initially were designed for completely different societies in the Middle East. It is a miracle that these world religions managed to spread worldwide and submitted entire civilizations, often by force. Religious people say that their religion is universal; unfortunately many claim their god is the only real one. Here in the North of Europe religion has lost a lot of its power, Catholic churches are empty but through import Islam is gaining ground here and the immigrant families, young and old, hold on to their traditions and religion, which is a powerful tool for their means. During the Middle Ages Europe was very Christian, because of the common religion European leaders forgot their differences to halt Islamic invasions, they took it even further: entire nations went on crusades. This medieval mentality has vanished in Europe because religion does not have the same impact anymore. In the Islamic world things are different: young men still fight Holy Wars. Many are as fanatic as our people were centuries ago; this is an interesting but dangerous phenomenon. I can understand there are people who want to hold on to something, religion probably offers hope for those who need it and long for a God. But it’s also an important political weapon which can create a lot of damage in the hands of clever people, a powerful tool to control the masses and to unite them for a cause.

12. The 11th of July in 1302, the rebels from Flanders defeat the French army, in the "Battle of the Golden Spurs", and Lion's Pride dedicates a song to this episode oh history. Tell us something about this song and the interest you have in history and literature?

On the 11th of july 1302 the French King sent an army to confront the Flemish who decided to no longer pay tribute to the French Kingdom. Not a very impressive army the Flemish were. With no intention to conquer anyone or anything, to defend was the issue, to withstand the armies of the foreign king who saw Flanders as a part of his empire and who was interested in the wealth of 14th century Flanders. After all Bruges was one of the most important cities in Northern Europe at that time. The majority of the Flemish militia were commoners and artisans with only a minority of noble man and knights in their ranks. Surely no match for the invading opponents consisting of glorious knights and well organised troops. Life is unpredictable, the invaders lost. The Golden spurs of the fallen enemy Knights were gathered as trophies. Hendrik Conscience wrote a romanticised epic entitled “The Lion of Flanders” which contributed to a national feeling. In reality it was not so much a fight between nations, it was the age of cities and as in all wars anytime, anywhere there were collaborators, mainly nobles, who fought at the side of the opponents. I do not point fingers at anyone here, nobles from Brabant for instance could be found on both sides. Everyone had their own reasons to join a particular camp, probably those fighting on the other side believed they were loyal to a greater kingdom, some even blood related as many members of nobility were. It was a complex situation with political and economical interests but fact remains that the lustre of this particular victory reflected on the whole of Flanders. It was not a clash between two monarchs, the most prominent leader of Flanders was already imprisoned in the land of the aggressor. An interesting detail: it was quite unique that an army consisting mostly of foot-soldiers defeated an entire cavalry. And historical figures such as Willem van Gulik, Willem van Saeftinge or Robrecht van Betune were as equally heroic in battle as the romantic characters from Conscience’s epic. I always had a strong interest in history, ever since my childhood. I seldom condemn or judge historical events as I always try to investigate with an open mind, hearing two sides of the “story”. However, I like to share our own history (which is less known) with the rest of the world. We don’t have Hollywood to tell the rich history of our people to the masses.

13. Tell us about the song "Revolution Sells" and your critique to the bourgeois anarchists?

In expensive boutiques one can find red shirts with hammers and sickles or Che Guevara prints. In expensive tobacco stores one can buy Zippo lighters with Che’s portrait, there are companies selling “Revolutionary Streetwear”: expensive clothes with communist or anarchist symbols, terrorist masks etc offered as a “cool” product so the kids can “play” the anarchist. Thousands of people buy these commercialised products and think they make a difference while it’s all the same old commercial capitalist business. Then there are the rich upper class and middle class kids who protest against capitalism while their future is secured by daddy’s big $$$. And then all these Rock and Movie stars voicing the Revolution while they snort cocaine laying in their swimming pools. The hypocrisy of the commercialised Revolution, which sells a lot in Capitalist lands to people who never experienced poverty or who never lived under a Communist regime, annoys me. Reminds me of white kids from rich white families posing like gangsta rappers from the Bronx. Or all these kids wearing Dreadlocks as a fashion without knowing anything about Rastafari culture/religion thinking it’s cool and only has to do with Reggae and smoking pot. All so artificial. Of course every youth subculture is commercialised one way or another, but it especially looks hypocritical when it happens in scenes that claim to be anti-capitalist.

14. Friendship, loyalty , Brotherhood?

A song dedicated to an old friend of mine named Philip with whom I founded Ancient Rites and who died at a young age.

15. Lion`s Pride was preparing a new album, but the studio was destructed because of a fire. Have you stopped the new album or it is just late?

Not only did we lose our rehearsal studio in the fire but our drummer’s equipment went down in flames as well. We have not given up on the idea of a new album but of course the incident delayed the process. We must find a new rehearsal room, a drum kit we can borrow as our drummer does not have the cash to replace his kit etc. A few years ago we also were about to enter studio when suddenly our guitarist decided to leave the band, now this fire ruined our plans. Let’s hope the third time we decide to record our new album things will go well. Another bad news is that one of our current guitarists told us he will leave the band to settle for a more quiet life as he got married and became a father. He also said to have no energy left to deal with all the boycotts and problems Lion’s Pride has to face. I work and think differently: the more I feel people are trying to grind us down, the harder I fight back. I will not give up my work and struggle for anybody. Only when I, myself, decide the time is right for me to step back and stop playing I will do so. But no living soul will influence my decision or change my ways. Enemy or friend. We hope to enter studio in a few months.

16. Who is dedicated the song "Polically Correct Brigade" to?

To Big Brother and its thought police who in a hypocritical dogmatic manner practice Intolerance in the name of Tolerance and Democracy. Those who advocate and cultivate self hate and undermine what was built by their very own ancestors over thousands of years.

17. What do you think about:

- Globalization
I would prefer Flanderization in Flanders ;-)
- Van Eyck
One of the great medieval Flemish painters. Van Eyck belonged to a school of style named “Flemish Primitives”.
- The poem of Jhon McCrae "In Flanders fields"
“In Flanders Fields” is a dramatic poem written by this English officer describing the madness of the trench war in Flanders of World War I. A talented eye witness who did not survive the war but who left a legacy, an inspiring testimony through his work”.
17 Enero Frans Willems
Jan Frans Willems is one of the godfathers of the Flemish cultural movement, in times when literature in Flemish language was considered taboo in Belgium. He was responsible for the translation of several medieval works of literature into modern Flemish.
- Identity
Identity is an individual matter, a mixture of and one’s character and personal achievements but also someone’s background and roots contribute to one’s identity in my opinion.
- Celtic music
Interesting music, like all Folklore music is, for it captures the soul of a people/tribe in a traditional way, strongly rooted in history.
- Rash
I am working class and don’t relate to capitalism but when looking at the former U.S.S.R. or China I don’t wish to experience Communism put to practice. I have many friends who lived under Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and they were not too thrilled about the systemJ. Anarchy is too unstructured for my taste, a principle based on self discipline, a quality which most people don’t possess anyway. Most systems look promising in theory, on paper, but fail in daily life. Hence I don’t feel attracted to anarchist or communist movements.
- Oi! Music
I started listening Punk in 1977. When the ‘76/’77 wave was over, many Punk bands split up or changed style and went into a more commercial direction. Nothing against musical evolution but some bands started to sound too “polished”. Therefore I was glad when bands such as Cockney Rejects, Blitz, 4 Skins etc came along like a fresh, raw breeze. Oi! offered an alternative, a sound from the streets, closer to the original intention of what Punk was all about in my opinion. I also appreciated the harsh sound of new generation punk bands such as G.B.H., Exploited, English Dogs, Riistetyt etc. During the early 80’s I spent some time in London where I met Charlie Harper of U.K. Subs, bassplayer Paul Slack was playing his farewell gig and at that time my own Punk band Addix and my Oi! band No Survivors had broken up. I was invited to do an audition to join the Subs and although I was grateful because I liked the band very much I never went because I saw no future for me abroad at that time being only 17 without a job.

18. Gunther, please, recommend us a good book, a good beer from your country and some dishes typical from Flanders.

I admire the books of Ernest Claes, a writer of my region who died in the 1960’s. He was able to capture the soul and essence of Flanders and its people how it used to be: the sorrow, the humor, the struggle, the innocence, the good and bad aspects, religion, class struggles, rural life, traditions but always with a nostalgic, very human approach and understanding, a sincere love for his people and environment. “Whitey” is one of the few books translated in English and describes the village of his youth; it contains autobiographic material shaped into a great novel and is a mixture of humor and drama, like life often is. We have hundreds of different beers, it is a huge part of our culture. A movie I recommend to capture the atmosphere of Flanders is the English film “In Bruges”, a gangster film noir with black humour and drama which is set in this picturesque medieval Flemish city. The dvd contains bonus material and some of the actors praise our beer, certain beers are one of the strongest in the world, rich in variety and taste. I like Gildenbier (medieval Guild beer which was brewed in my hometown), Leffe (blond, brown or amber), Duvel, Satan, Keizer Karel, Duchess of Bourgogne, Kasteelbier, Geuze (can only be made in the region of Brussels because of its process and local “microbes”, like wine the beer still “grows” in the barrel) but also normal pilsner beers like Stella artois, Jupiler or Vedette. Certain pubs have over 300 types of beers on the menu. Typical dishes are Fries with Mussels, Flemish Carbonades, Brussels Sprouts or Witloof (worldwide known as Belgian Endive).

19. Dish, football team, liquour, historical person and your favorite three songs?

I like going out to restaurants trying all kinds of international dishes. I like grilled meat and love seafood. I don’t care much for football although a youth friend of mine played for RSC Anderlecht, FC Malines and the Belgian National Team. Family of mine plays in Football club Diest and since a long time they are winning again. I feel sympathy for FC Bruges because the always fly the Flemish banners. My father was a rather good football player who played for clubs in Antwerp. But I did not inherit his talentJ. My favourite team does not exist: a National Team of Flanders. My fave liquors must be Scottish Whiskey and Vodka, I also like wine. There are far too many interesting persons and great songs to name one or three.

20. Your biggest dream and your worst nightmare?

Eternal Life and youth would be my biggest yet impossible dream. Worst nightmare would be a slow death of suffocation stuck under the rumble of a collapsed building after an earthquake or waking up being buried alive in a coffin.

21. Thanks you for the interview and say what you want?

Thank you for this interesting interview, my friend. I have a feeling I could not express well enough the complex nature of the struggle for Flanders for outsiders to really understand, I often re-wrote and deleted parts. It is easy to be misunderstood when not knowing the background and how to tell the history of a nation that does not exist to the outside world in a few lines? I hope I haven’t bored your readers and that our French fans see all in perspective, it is not about hate what I said but a genuine passion for the own culture, tradition and history. I thank you all for your time and hope to see some of you on tour somewhere. All the best.

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