Gehenna (Apocalypse Now #1)

I have some artwork/drafts of  Raf Peeters (Gooreind, north of Antwerp) that was to meant for a zine. Can’t remember why I never got to see the actual publication… It was announced as follows: “For all you a-political dicks, who are in it for the music: here’s a zine with no music and a lot of politics.”… I believe there was only one issue (the cover read ‘Rain’, ‘Rubbish Heap’ & ‘Culture’; also ‘Gehenna’ & ‘Seein’Red’ were featured). His mate ‘Spat’ (Buttcancer ditribution) – who also made some drawings – was mentioned aswell.

Nowadays Raf works as an artist/painter

Brob

The first and only issue I did was in 1998: interviews with ‘Rain’, ‘Gehenna’, ‘Culture’, ‘Seein’Red’, an article about cocacola, some short stories. I got inspired by the movie (Apocalypse Now) so there was a lot of apocalyptic artwork. Went to school with Dennis Tyfus; it was at a time when Belgium went through a  period of collective fear and psychosis because of the ‘Dutroux-crisis’. My motivation? The same as other people in that ‘scene’ I guess: commitment, a feeling that something is thoroughly skewed in this society. ‘Spat’ didn’t really do that much actually…

I still consider HC/punk as an environment with a lot of great people and a good breeding-pond for real change (I’m thinking about the books on anarchism I bought from you). I still love the music (but also listen to hiphop).

After A.N. I made one more zine (Word Made Flesh) with just graphic experiments: it had a print-run of 2 (!). Now (late 2019) I’m working on a documentary series on how everything in this society is one big lie: some history of how we ended up in this situation, how widespread it is, …). I’m investigating how I can use that necessary rage as a healthy motor/ energy, without letting it exhaust me.

Some thoughts on HC/punk…

I wouldn’t say that HC determined my path but it was a logical phase for someone that wants “to change society”. Early on I got in touch with organisations such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, etc. but I noticed that these finance themselves and apart from a few cool slogans/merchandising they don’t really change much. I noticed that most of my peers seemed to be nihilistic – because of their purely materialistic lifestyle and their glorification of superficiality. The HC/punk-scene was one of the few places where people were concerned with social problems, not involved self-destructive escapism and where there was a potential for real change; because they didn’t rely on politics and seemed to take things in their own hands.

Nowadays, of course I have a bunch of critical concerns about the whole thing and it seems – despite the inspiration it was for many people – a project that was doomed to fail.

The main point is that it’s a subculture without any ambition and hence is stuck in ‘preaching for the converted’; a frustration that of course lived internally. In my view, the whole ‘anti-establishment’ thing of the 60s also went completely astray by regarding everyone above 30 as the enemy and, hence, not evolving beyond a youth-culture raving about oriental concepts and the umpteenth example of controled opposition. People wanted to form a counterweight against the duty to consume but eventually it remained a marketplace with exhibited goods, a game of production and consumption, of thinking up nice slogans and selling merchandise. Perhaps there was even more homogeneity, herd-behaviour and trend-sensitivity than in mainstream culture because it was mainly carried by youngsters still puzzling together their  identity. In HC/punk they were offered a bite-sized package of themes, fashion, image,… Because it’s such a small and young world, where nothing is economically viable, most eventually give up. The same as with the generation of the 60s, most begin to abnegate their ideals when growing older and adapt in the end.

HC/punk has no theoretical basis at all. In a social movement there should at least be some kind of assembly of what targets to aim for and discuss what goal was achieved; and for lack of result: what it is due to. Internal discussion among people that prioritize the philosophical and those that keep busy with the commercial aspect. When the establishment would act as non-committed and people would unavoidably ‘grow out’ of it after their 30, power would be out of the question. Their organisation is as tight as a tense bow, power gets passed on from one generation to the next, and because they plan 50 years ahead and anticipate on resistance, every resistance-movement runs hopelessly behind the facts. To me, some idealists in the HC-scene are too amateurish or stay thinking in circles, forget that there’s other laws in the music-biz… (Vegetarianism, a phenomenon that occured in the 60s: the fact that there’s vegetarian products in every supermarket, is not the result of collective awareness but of social engineering that was fixed in advance.)

In essence American HC/punk is a controled opposition-movement. As it was with the hippie-icons of the late 60s: it’s about key figures, stemming from military families (‘Minor Threat’ in Washington, etc.) that make the anti-establishment-manifestos. People with sincere intentions get diverted, their energy gets lost and (like with the modern ‘whisteblowers’) steam is released so that the machine keeps running.

The aggression of [straight-edge] HC is in contrast with the positive attitude towards life. Hate and violence are glorified (e.g. ‘Earth Crisis’) There’s attention for lyrics with a message but it’s very one-sided to define yourself by not doing something. It’s a movement of mainly young males, with concerts where particularly male, aggressive behaviour scares off women and older people. There’s a contagious macho-pose with militant, seditious energy that makes you want to stand on the barricades, but it all remains within the confines of the organised event.

The ‘do it yourself’ philosophy’ is a positive thing, it’s a preambule to the youtube-generation that gets presented a deceptive illusionary freedom: you can start doing everything yourself, make music yourself with one click, put it online, etc. But in the end, when it has become the pillar of the entire human culture and society, freedom of speech gets abolished and it becomes apparent that is was all about filtering the truth, definitely not spreading it…

Raf Peeters

‘Gehenna’ was a HC/metal band (“blending death, black and thrash metal”), originating from San Diego (California) and Reno (Nevada). The band described their musical style “negative hardcore; an extreme brand of hardcore with raw black metal influences”. On their 1997 tour (they also played at the Vort’n Vis, 97-10-12), the band consisted of Jensen Ward (drums; later ‘Iron Lung’), ‘Reno’ Dean Christopher ‘DC’ (guitar), Mike ‘Apocalypse’ Cheese (vocals), Mike Rho(a)des a.k.a. ‘Mickey Featherstone’ (bass) and original guitarist Justin Holbo.

Seems like Raf thought this was the ‘right’ band for his apocalyptic zine… An interview with the provocative Mike Cheese…

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