Another zine from Ann Hendriks’ collection. The name, België Is Grijs (“Belgium is grey”), reflects the gloomy 80s… Probably a one-off, done by Eddy Mispoulier from Overpelt (Limburg), with the help of some friends. Besides articles on vivisection & anarchism (it was announced as a “political” zine), cartoons, poetry & columns, he interviews a band from his community…
‘Astrant’ (or ‘A-strant’) was the precursor of ‘Dawn Of Liberty’. The latter played a bunch of Smurfpunx-gigs (4). The first on 86-12-19, when they had just changed their name… Around that time I also did an interview with their singer Stefan Joosten. ‘D.O.L.’ was Stefan (vocals) / ‘2 (va)’ (or ‘Tweeva’) Luc Deckers (bass), ‘Frits’ Danny Brebels (guitar), Danny Vandevelde (guitar) & Stijn Persoons (drums: later ‘Kosjer D’, etc.).
‘Astrant’ never released any recordings under that name but they appeared on 2 compilation-tapes: 24 Love Songs II (Smurf Punk tapes) & Weekend For Maniacs (ControCultura tapes). The band started in 1982-83 with Stijn (also editor of Boel fanzine, ‘Tweeva’, ‘Bibip’ (‘Tweeva’s brother, Eric Deckers (R.I.P.), on guitar) and ‘Agfae’ (or ‘Afai’, synthesiser; R.I.P.). Later ‘Anaco’ (Stefan Joosten) joined.
‘Bibip’ played guitar in ‘Astrant’ for a brief moment; later he focussed on experimental music. Eric Gielkens became the new guitarist: great musician, lifted the band to a clearly higher level; his dad was in the army, had contacts with U.S. marines who got him acquainted with ‘Circle Jerks’. He was well informed about hardcore when we got to know him, a gift from heaven. But: he wanted to quit, after a while he was no longer interested in hardcore, listened to experimental music a lot and started jamming with other musicians.
‘Afai’ (‘Afgae’ in the interview) played synthesizer in the beginning, but we soon discovered that this didn’t really fit our music. It was part of the atmosphere of Northern Limburg (a suicide area in the mid ’80s): ‘De Brassers’ and other [cold-wave] bands also did something in that vein (to my great annoyance; I thought it was a dumb instrument meant to conquer the ‘charts’).
In the 90s Eddy M. (who did the zine – in our community we all encouraged one and other to do fanzines) ran a pub called Mazzel, where a lot of punk-gigs (e.g. Steve Ignorant) took place…
The origins of the band date from around the end of ‘82, beginning ‘83 with the this line-up: Stijn (drums), ‘Tweeva’ (bass), ‘Bibip’ (guitar), ‘Agfae’ (synthesizer). They didn’t have a singer yet. The music was neighboruhood music, i.e. depressive, experimental, calm, and that was it. Then ‘Agfae’ got to know ‘Anaco’…
That was at school?
Yeah, that was at school. He told me that he was playing in a band. That did interest me and I went over to their rehearsal once. There I grabbed the mic but the music didn’t affect me at all. It was really music to fall asleep to.
But there were also other people that came to watch and they said “Get Jan Peters (Boel fanzine)” and then someone else, I can’t remember. They also said that we were quite similar to ‘The Ex’. Yeah, according to those other people, we were quite like ‘The Ex’. So I joined and took on the vocals, I hoped the music would start to appeal me and I started writing lyrics myself.
‘Anaco’ was very shy.
Haha, I wrote lyrics that were very much directed against the state, against the brainwashing, about the usual punk subjects. The music started to go well: it got faster, more rhythmic, and short and powerful. Yes, it did go well. After the second performance – which we will talk about later – Eric joined and ‘Bibip’ left. Then we started to play melodic hardcore. Now we already have 10 songs, which is really crazy. Our first performance was in November ’83 in. We had to go to a meeting on a Sunday with the guys who set it up. They were interested in us and we were interested in the gig. We go to that pub. A kind of youth-club, very cozy, really fine; just that floor: you couldn’t pogo and so, haha. And that’s how we got on stage, quite scared. We started fast and firm. Everything went smoothly. Almost no mistakes, ‘Anaco’ did his very best. But still he was ridiculed by stupid guys, dickheads. A person named ‘Port’ encouraged us and provided a good atmosphere. It was quite busy, very good. But there were some stupid people around. ‘Axie’ (Lastig fanzine) then also started jumping around and a window got smashed, that was far out; ‘Port’ dived from the stage into the crowd. He really took care of the atmosphere. Thanks to that guy.
After the concert we stuck around waiting for reactions and these were generally quite good. We did regret it that there was a stupid audience, I won’t say anything more about it. Then there was the second performance. We had been keeping quiet for a while. Nothing was arranged, nothing rehearsed, everyone on his own. Then we got to a pub and we were told we were allowed to play. We had just one day to rehearse and still find a rehearsal-room. But we got things done and it was awesome. Yeah, it was crazy, a lot of mistakes. The mayor was there too and the priest, haha. ‘Anaco’ did very well during the concert; with shouts between the song. It was very good.
So the lyrics deal with the usual punk subjects.
They were quite simple because we played for a decent audience: a lot of people just came to have a look what we did. There aren’t a lot of punks in the area; a pity.
Yeah, really a pity… Everybody has the right to write a lyric.
That’s right, but in general ‘Anaco’ writes them himself, and Eric the new guitarist. Most deal with anti-hierarchy, anti-state. But Eric writes more lyrics that deal with feelings, The Day After [movie on the nuclear threat during the Cold War] e.g. He simply writes what he feels and ‘Anaco’ about what is wrong in society.
We’re influenced by bands such as ‘The System’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Subhumans’. From time to time we also play a solid, powerful song. But we sometimes also play a calm and quiet song. We just like a lot of noise.
In punk today, the distinction between hardcore and punk is made. Hardcore refers to music and helps to get the band of the ground. And I find that very positive: the scenes from abroad. I fully support hardcore. You know: I work on a fanzine (Boel) myself. A zine that covers a lot of bands.
I agree with Stijn: punk is a good collective. People help each other, people attend concerts, the atmosphere is good, writing letters, sending tapes and fanzines; really good. But it’s a pity that only a few people are really involved. It might be all very good with all that collectivism but I’m against when people want to make hardcore the norm. I appreciate hardcore a lot and I like listening to it but don’t make it the norm. It’s going very well now: more people are getting involved and they’re trying to be united as well as possible.
Stijn: I’m a vegetarian because I think that factory farming is over the top, but I’m not against other people eating meat. I’m not that radical.
‘Tweeva’: I’m also a vegetarian, but a radical one.
‘Anaco’ & Eric: We’re not vegetarians. I like eating meat. But it’s not because I like to eat that I don’t want to be a vegetarian. I like to eat hare and they get shot anyhow, to express it sadistically. But it’s just the law of nature. I do agree with Stijn about the bio-industry.
‘Anaco’: What do I think about anarchism? I look back a lot, into the history of anarchism. I try to get to know it as well as possible. I think it’s important to know how it used to be. Anarchism was a strong labour-movement, in the past anarchism had more followers than marxism; which I really like. And there were anarchist congresses, there was a good atmosphere, really revolutionary. Now it’s all getting weaker, because people don’t hear much about it anymore. Punk will never have an influence anyway. Punk is anarchist-inspired but is really becoming a strong anarchist movement.
Stijn: Global anarchism will never work out, not even on the level of communities.
‘Anaco’: Why not?
Stijn: You won’t get the tradition of the bourgeoisie. That’s just te reality. I don’t believe in it anyway. The best thing you can achieve is transfer your ideals to your friends, to realise things later on and that you stay true to yourself.
‘Anaco’: I think anarchism is the ideal, with an emphasis on anarcho-communism. Because I really demand proletarian autonomy, especially in this situation; just look at the mine-strikes in England, the Philippines, I see it happening there and also in Belgium. There’s an outright dictatorship formed by the capitalists here. I’m really against that. So I’m in favour of anarcho-communism and syndicalism. I’m really not turned of by these terms because I see it as a political ideal.
Stijn: I’m also in favour of anarcho-communism, but in terms of friendship and equality. The practices are sometimes good but I’m really against attacks on people, you can’t achieve anything with that. According to me terrorism doesn’t yield anything but it can be a kind of warning or directed against people, because if you look at if from the point of view of democracy: that simply doesn’t exist here, there’s a sham democracy here. Certain terrorist groups may revolt against that and try to wake people up, but terrorism won’t really break through. The C.C.C. [Cellules Communistes Combattantes; Belgian extreme-left group that committed attacks halfway the 80s] e.g: I completely disapprove of them being mentioned as being rightist. They are just communists, I’m convinced. I also find it ridiculous when they say “We are fighting for the people.”: they don’t do that at all. I also find it stupid that they want to achieve their ideals through murders.
Outside the band we run Clandestiene Produkties: tapes, fanzines.
‘Anaco’: I put out [the zine] Lastig together with ‘Axie’ and ‘Bibip’.
Stijn: I cooperate in [the zine] Boel that deals with a lot of music and sensible lyrics, good articles. In the band we’re individualists. Some of us are too serious and the opinions are very diverse. I think we should organise more gigs and have fun. But we’re still the best of friends. Our plans for the future are, erm … We’ll be on a compilation-tape and in a few fanzines. And we may be publishing a D.I.Y. tape. We wanna make our rehearsal-room into a kind of studio; and that’s just about everything.
For more info: Eric / Leopoldlaan 13 / Overpelt