Interview with Gunther Theys
- Greetings Andreas! What´s up in Belgium? Haven´t got a clue! For one month I am in Germany now working with A.R. on the new album. Our producer is on internet so this is almost our only link with the outside world: The guy responsible for the A.R. page and e-mail address keeps on sending us the received mail. At night I check out the received messages so here we are. -
2) Well, needless to say that since you´re recording your new album these days some questions will refer to this subject, so…First of all, do you know the title and the foreseen date of release for the new cd?
- Title of the cd is “FATHERLAND”. The album shall be released in june. -
3) What about the songs? How many songs did you have already composed when entering the studio, and in which direction do they go? Do you already know titles/concepts. Are there any improvements, arrangements or concepts worth to be known by our readers?
- Of course we had our material ready when entering the studio but lots of it has been rearranged. Both our producers are very talented musicians (who work on a completely different musical field than we do), they really are demanding. Every single note has been double checked. It was truely hard work, but absolutely well worth it. I am convinced it is a way of working which is quite unusual for musicians in our style. There was a good studio budget available which results in almost unlimited studio time. A lot of time is spent on details. As is known we have a new line up, the new musicians are very talented and dedicated to their instruments, obviously this reflects on the songwriting as well. Sound and production are the best we ever had. We always try to improve with each release (without rejecting the previous A.R. material) and I believe we have succeeded again. A lot more variety is offered. The concept is still typical A.R., a dedication to ancient/medieval history and the Darkside. Only all is presented in a more professional, mature way. I like the fact we actually have medieval parts in the songs itself sometimes while in the past these touches were only present in the intro´s/outro´s and intermezzo´s. The songs are more compact. Some song titles are „Fatherland”, „Dying in a moment of Splendour”, „Rise and Fall (Anno Satana)”, „Aris” to mention a few. -
4) About the recording itself, how is it going? Could you tell us the time you´ll be in the studio? Are you satisfied with MASCOT´s budget for this record?
- As I said earlier it was really hard work, frustrating sometimes even, but it pushed us to higher musical levels, Since there was no time pressure in studio I believe we have no reason to complain about the budget. I guess we´ll be spending one more week in studio for production. -
5) Besides playing at A.R. you also have a side project called DANSE MACABRE with Greek B.M. godfather Magus Wampyr Daoloth, Sotiris from SEPTIC FLESH and MORTIIS ex-EMPEROR. Are there updating news? What is the situation right now in the band, and how do you manage to write the songs considering you´re from 3 different countries?
- The first DANSE MACABRE tracks were recorded in Athens with Sotiris and Magus a few years ago but they never saw the daylight because the label we recorded it for ceased to excist. For a while the project was put on ice but I knew the saga would be continued. MASCOT were interested in releasing a full lenghth album so when guitarist Jan „Örkki” Yrlund from Finland (ex- PRESTIGE/TWO WITCHES/LACRIMOSA) joined ANCIENT RITES I asked if he also wished to continue the work with DANSE MACABRE, he agreed and soon we entered a studio in Holland to complete the album. Several guest musicians appeared during the recordings. The DANSE MACABRE album will be released on the 13th of april. I found it an interesting idea to collaborate on an album with musicians who never even met each other. The album is entitled „TOTENTANZ” and really turned out fine, far away from our main metal bands but the essence (Darkness) is the same. D.M. is our channel to express different musical instincts, another kind of darkness. It is no problem we live in other countries it fits perfectly to the transEuropean character of DANSE MACABRE. Also in ANCIENT RITES nowadays there are musicians from different countries who have to travel many hours every week just for rehearsals (one guitarist lives in the North of Holland, the Finnish guitarist lives in Amsterdam. Our session keyboardplayer is of Greek/ Austrian origin. This dedication a band needs. Mortiis is not involved with DANSE MACABRE. With him we are working on another project which is put on ice for a while. His contribution is ready but for the moment stocked in Greece.
6) By the way se speak on MWD, what do you think of NECROMANTIA´s ep „ANCIENT PRIDE”? Moreover, what do you think of those bands which mix folk music with an ultra-nationalist thought?
- I appreciate NECROMANTIA´s work because of it´s originality. Too many bands nowadays are copying each other in our scene and even get away with it! At least NECROMANTIA is one of the exceptions. Concerning Folk and Nationalism: it is a bit natural when one plays traditional music one relates to his/her ancestors. I too feel pride when thinking of my ancestors the Celtic/Germanic tribes or medieval Flanders. I don´t think feeling a certain pride for the own culture has to lead towards hating another culture. For instance my culture differs a lot from the Hellenic one but this doesn´t prevent me from appreciating and praising that one as well. I love to travel and learn about a people´s history/culture. Everyone´s a child of his/her people and I see it as a positive thing to cultivate this but it shouldn´t be taken too far. Of course one relates to certain cultures more than to others. For instance I think it´s a pity what is going on in the middle east where moslem fundamentalists/terrorists are slaughtering everyone they believe unfit for their cause. So they murder tourists, however I find it even more strange they even slaughter villages of their own, where islamic people live! Syria or Egypt have such a rich history, brilliant civilizations thousands of years ago, a pity that nowadays these countries (to mention only two) are guided by religion that much! It really prevents development. For this I feel no sympathy because it is taken to the extreme. When I travelled to North Africa, a few years ago, I already felt the animosity towards me. Obviously I didn´t fit to what they have in mind. -
7) Apart from DANSE MACABRE, you also performed as guest musician THOU ART LORD´s album „EOSFOROS”. How was it? You also shared a split 7″ with THOU ART LORD which was released through MOLON LAVE RECORDS…How successful was it? By the way, do you know why MOLON LAVE RECORDS dissapeared?
- I spent a lot of time in Athens and on one occassion I was there together with Mika of IMPALED NAZARENE. I know almost everyone involved in the Hellenic scene (from rock to grind bands) so the people in THOU ART LORD asked us both if we would appear as a guest on their album. It went really fine, in studio the vocals of Mika and me were done in two takes. Now THOU ART LORD are searching for a label, they asked if I could do something for them. So I contaced our label, hope they will sign them because they are worth it. It´s not up to me in the end. George of MOLON LAVE really was a great guy. We drank a lot together, so actually I miss the guy a bit whenever I´m in Athens. He used to run this underground Metal shop in the center of Athens where we organised drinking/eating parties during the opening hours! Total madness. Once he was so drunk he started to destroy his TV in the shop and threw around his fax machine and in the end he attacked his desk with a hammer. That party really escalated, police came and everything. I remember once he bought tons of confetti and silly hats and organised an over the top carnaval party in august, at three o´clock in the afternoon in his shop. There were only three people invited and everyone who entered the shop could party along. We recorded this split ep for him because he helped to organise our very first concert in Athens and really took good care of us. We still were a quite unknown band (with only one demo and one ep released) and he took the risk to bring us to Greece were actually about 400/450 people showed up. MOLON LAVE was a very underground orientated label so we decided to push him as well a bit and agreed to record a track for him on a non profit basis. It were the days when underground values still mattered, long before Black Metal became a manifactured/trend guided by commercial principles. George decided to end with MOLON LAVE and his shop because for almost ten years he tried to get things going, he really did a lot for the Greek underground, but he didn´t see any progress. His distribution didn´t improve because bigger companies controlled the market and he felt kind of stuck in his little shop day in day out without seeing his work rewarded. He was a Slovenian immigrant who hadn´t seen his home for ten years. One day he told me he would leave everything behind and move to the States after visiting his relatives in Slovenia. We said good bye and hoped to meet again. The last thing I heard from him was a post card from Slovenia saying „HELL-O, You son of a bitch, greetings from home”, later he moved to the USA and we never heard from each other again. He tried to start a label in the States I believe but it didn`t work out in a country where the underground is even more spread. A pity. Absolutely fun guy it was, a bit crazy but the best friend one could imagine, at least to me. Always in for a joke (or two)…
8) Before releasing the above mentioned split 7″ your first work as A.R. was 1991´s demo „DARK RITUAL”. However, in your bio it is said that A.R. members are in the underground since early 80´s. Is it true? What did you do between 1982 and 1991? Did you play in any other bands?
- A.R. was created early ´89. The demo was released in 1990. The foundation for the band was in 1987/88 when PHILIP (our first guitarist who died in a car accident) and I were playing with several musicians to have the band started but it always went wrong because the people who joined weren´t really dedicated or interested in our style. One mustn´t forget B.M. was totally „uncool” back then, it were the Hardcore/Bay Area days. A band in leather with inverted crosses and Satanic lyrics didn´t really draw any crowd. It is true I started my music career in 1980. Played in several bands but they never went anywhere apart from a few gigs. In ´84 I tried to form a band called NECROPHILIA (not a very original name I know) and played with several musicians but the line up almost never got completed and the constant line up changes didn´t improve the situation either. No one was interested in a Belgian underground B.M. band and we were too young and without car so we couldn´t search for musicians in other cities. It was a very isolated feeling. Between 1980 and 1984 I played in extreme underground bands, it were very misanthropic lyrics combined with a sound that could be compared to early DISCHARGE, primitive and brutal. I still like that kind of stuff. The A.R. members lived in other cities and tried to do their thing but faced the same problems. It is strange we often visited the same concerts but we never met because we simply didn´t know each other, I remember hanging out with SODOM back then, also WALTER was there but we were not introduced. Today there are musicians in A.R. from different countries even. Guitarist Erik (ex- INQUISITOR) lives in the North of Holland, guitarist Jan „Örkki” Yrlund (ex- PRESTIGE, LACRIMOSA, TWO WITCHES) is from finland who moved to Amsterdam and our session keyboard player is from Greek/Austrian origin and lives in Holland. All of us have to travel hours every week for rehearsals but it is possible because of the true dedication and having a car. It was impossible to achieve this without own transport or a reputation in the scene. Now A.R. is known so it is more easy to attract musicians from anywhere. -
9) You also seem to be a good friend of IMPALED NAZARENE´s screamer Mika Lutinen. Can you speak of your relationship with him? Is it true that you were his wedding´s godfather? I could never thought that a cyber-satanic-sado- masochist sick as mika to marry…Was it a wedding by the Church of Satan or what? Some gossip please…
- You seem to be extremely well informed! Are you a member of State Security or a private detective? Indeed I was his wedding´s godfather. He didn´t marry in any church but at the city hall. Afterwards there was a party with only five people (including the married couple). Mika is a sick guy but we get along really great. He simply doesn´t care about what people think of him, he has many enemies because of this but that´s ok. Actually he was in Germany in studio with us two days ago to appear as a guest vocalist on the remake of our ancient demo track „Fallen Angel”. He said that his appearance would cost us many fans. Mika ordered that demo back in ´90/´91 and was totally into this so we thought it would be an interesting idea to ask him for this song. -
10) I got astonished when I read that you used to work as a painter and a clothes designer. Could you explain this? Bearing that in mind, I wonder if you yourself design A.R. ´s merchandise items/T-shirts/gadgets…Do you still do it or can you now earn your living off your music?
- I used to earn good money because of this but now A.R. needs all my attention. My financial position is not as good as it was because of my choice for the band but sacrifices need to be done. I made the „DARK RITUAL” cover and designed the lay out for the „EVIL PREVAILS” ep. Also my art work was used for the first A.R. T-shirt. Today I still do the lay out for T-shirts but I prefer to use other people´s artwork, specially artwork which is created centuries ago because it fits to the character of our work. Authenticity is what we are after, most modern artists are not able to catch the same dark (fear even) atmosphere as the medieval masters did. These medieval painters actually LIVED those times and were influenced by superstition, fear (for cruel diseases, civil wars, plunderings, very short life expectation etc) so they could better put their world into a painting. Earning our living off our music? The music industry is organised this way that first promoters and labels and distributors get the money. On our previous Europe tour only our roadies and merchandise people got payed! Sometimes we win money, sometimes we lose money. It´s a risk to play in a band like ours. We are professionals but our style isn´t popular enough to earn a good living. „Sad but true” to use the words of a band that actually earns millions ah ah! -
11) By the way, could you sell us the sales figures of every work you´ve released since the beginning up to now? About the new cd, how many copies will be pressed?
- I don´t know how many demo´s we actiually sold. The first printing (a few hundred) sold out throughout time. The first printing of „EVIL PREVAILS” (about 600) sold out fast, so we printed another 600 who sold out as well. WILD RAGS RECORDS released the same sessions in the USA with different cover/pictures and printed them on 1000 copies I believe, they sold out years ago too according to Richard C. Mauricio of WARMASTER released the „EVIL PREVAILS” sessions as a split lp in Colombia (600 or 700 copies? I don´t remember) and they became a collector´s item for already several years now. The split ep with THOU ART LORD was printed several times (don´t know how many George printed) but they are sold out as well. Even in his very own store they couldn´t be found anymore for a longer time. Concerning our full length albums? Don´t have a clue! As you surely know (since you seem to be extremely well informed!) AFTER DARK RECORDS released our debut „THE DIABOLIC SERENADES” but ripped everyone in the scene, including us and each other off. The first 1000 sold out fast. I believe they printed 1000 more who sold out as well. Because of their dishonest behaviour they owed money to OSMOSE who took over „THE DIABOLIC SERENADES” and started to print and distribute the album. Don´t know how many they sold. In Poland MORBID NOIZZ took over the record as well (all business transfers we had nothing to do with) and I don´t know how many they printed and sold. Today MASCOT is printing and distributing the album, I HAVE NO CLUE ANYMORE. Fact is we invested our money in this album, WE payed for the studio, artwork, pictures, mastertape but we never got anything back except a first payment. Concerning „BLASFEMIA ETERNAL” (everyone writes „BLASPHEMIA” but we on intention used the Spanish grammatica which no one, except the Spanish speaking, seems to understand) I only know we sold about 5000 copies within one week in Belgium and Holland. Our label informed us it keeps on selling but I have no details. MASCOT prints without limits, I know for sure there already have been two printings of „BLASFEMIA ETERNAL” because on the first version (much to my regret) the lay out person made mistakes in my French lyrics! At least now the album is available with no mistakes which indicates the album is already printed twice. -
12) Now kind of a game as a break in the middle of this long and indepth interview: I provide you with different words/names and you´ve got to bring a short comment on every one, ok? Here I go:
- Interesting. I´m into games like this.
VENOM: Fantastic. When they released „WELCOME TO HELL” back in ´81 I knew this was the kind of „music” I wished to play. „BLACK METAL” is one of my „all time faves”. I think their reunion is only because of the money which can be understood but a pity nevertheless.
SATANISM: So many different ways are possible of celebrating Satanism. I relate to certain philosophical aspects like the cultivation of the own inner powers and all (positive and negative) aspects of one´s personality. Personally however I am without any god, my approach is not of a religious kind but philosophical.
NIETZSCHE: Great personality. I relate to many of his statements. Full concentration is needed when reading his works which is always nice, it pushes a person to higher intellectual levels, no matter if one agrees or not.
KWIK: How do you know this? It is one of the biggest newspapers in Belgium which can be compared to gutter press like the English „SUN”. We were headline story two weeks in a row when hell broke lose everywhere and the Satanic Terrorism thing started. In Norway the killings started (and KWIK heard about the fact we know the involved people) and also in Belgium church burnings and grave desecrations started which were organised by our following. State Security was on our back and everyone in the country knew we were the first and only band in the Belgian scene, the center of it all so to speak. Declared public enemy number one in the country. Of course they made things look a bit worse to increase the shock effect.
VARG VIKERNES: Creates interesting music. He used to spread A.R. flyers while Eurony- mous sold the „EVIL PREVAILS” ep in his HELVETE shop. I think the murder on Euronymous was an unnecessarry thing, after all they used to work together. Was it about leadership? jealousy? Money? Mutual Threats? We´ll never know and it is not our business anyway. But when people belonging to the same cult start killing each other something definitely is wrong. I am always into diplomatic solutions and never losing control, outbursts I dissaprove. There are situations when it is impossible (when one´s life is endangered) but normally I settle for diplomatic solutions.
COMMUNISM: As in all political systems there are good and bad aspects. In practise systems have this tendency to fail in the end.
FASCISM: As in all political systems there are good and bad aspects. In practise systems have this tendency to fail in the end.
IRON MAIDEN: Together with MOTÖRHEAD (my fave HM act: „ACE OF SPADES” is the essence of Metal and Rock´n Roll), JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH the top of Heavy Metal. I really loved the first two MAIDEN records and also „Numder of the Beast” (with Dickinson). Respect them a lot. Never liked the joke METALLICA used to do during their „RIDE THE LIGHTNING” tour, they always played a part of „Run to the Hills” out of tune to insult MAIDEN. At least MAIDEN remained METAL throughout their career and METALLICA USED to be great.
MANOWAR: I like „BATTLE HYMNS” and „INTO GLORY RIDE” but I never really related to the image/attitude of the band. Like the pictures with stuffed falcons or some of their lyrics. It sometimes seems a bit too naive and over the top. But I appreciate their technical skills.
LACRIMOSA: Ah ah! Our guitarist Jan used to play in this band. He´s in the next room may be I should call him? Life can be strange. When we toured Europe last time we were filmed by German television. Later on I received a video tape of this music program and also LACRIMOSA was featured. There I saw Jan for the first time on the „COPYCAT” video clip and I truely liked it. Also the RUNNING WILD drummer was involved. A few weeks later an advertisement in Dutch AARDSCHOK magazine was placed by a guitarist who searched for a band. The advertisement did not say anything about the past of this musician. Our guitarist phoned the guy and he came to our rehearsal to try things out. Afterwards we found out it was the same guy who played on the video I was watching some time before. Also he used to play in one of the first and most known Finnish Speed Metal bands PRESTIGE. That´s typical Jan: modest all the way, an attitude I like a lot.
ISRAEL: From a political point of view they are not always correct, sometimes they have an occupation policy. But I respect their well organised secret services and the fact that a small country like Israel can survive surrounded by enemies. I am not a supporter of SADAM either but I also respect his dream to restore the Babylonian Empire. I can respect without having to approve everything if you know what I mean…There are always two sides to every coin and I have this tendency to go into things a bit too deep so I usually end up without really chosing a side.
PAGANISM: Makes more sense to me than imported religion. I took part in a traditional Germanic/Celtic Pagan feast some time ago to celebrate the season`s change. I like the fact that this huge circle of people (of all ages) hold on to traditions of our ancestors, as if the son of god never arrived if you catch my drift. Why turning to a god from the middle east? A celebration of the own traditions and nature is more natural.
FLEMISH-WALONS Belgium is divided by language borders. In such a small country three groups of people are living each in their own region. I belong to Flanders (Flemish/Dutch speaking) which is the majority, than you have the Walons (French speaking) and a minority of German speaking. We have seperate governments and often it causes problems. Belgium is created by the French speaking upper class and they used to oppress our language/community. Today the Flemish community is the strongest (above all in economy) and a Flemish independant Republic is what certain parties have in mind. The French speaking politicians do not like the idea because of economical reasons. A seperation would have a negative effect on their economy (because money of Flanders is now also used to help their community). I dislike the lack of respect towards our Flemish language and that they turned Brussels (which is situated in Flanders) into a French speaking place, now they wish to take this same policy to the villages/cities surrounding Brussels. I have many friends in the French speaking community as well, but I try to speak their language it never is the other way around. I see Flanders as my country, not Belgium although I have nothing against the French community. On the other side of our country the same is happening between the French and German speaking community. The communities put graffitti on top of the road signs which are written in the other language or destroy the weapon shields of each other´s community where the language borders are situated. It is a schizo situation. Only positive aspect is I know how to speak the three languages.
CHRISTIANITY: An imported religion from the middle east. Here in the North of Europe Christianity is losing it´s strength. The majority of the people who still go to church are quite old.
ISLAM: A different story. Fundamentalism is increasing and imported to Europe by immigrants. Recently the Moslem community in my city were responsible for the closing of the only Metal pub there was in my region. The pub was situated where they live and they dissaproved of the „unholy, decadent character” of the place. Our mayor who wants to be over the top „politically correct” thought it was a sign of good will to the Moslem immigrants to close the place down. It is a pity that the Islam religion has this amount of influence on the cultures of the middle east. This way intellectual development will never be achieved. It is a danger.JESUS CHRIST: One of the countless profets there were throughout the history of mankind. I think he must have had a perfect management or the right public relations to have that much influence on humanity, even to this very day. Hope ANCIENT RITES will find the same manager.
13) Right, back to „normality”. In an interview for Spanish Metal mag METALI- K.O. you said that BURZUM attacked NECROMANTIA and that ROTTING CHRIST and IMMORTAL can´t stand each other. I had no idea about this, so, could you explain?
This was many years ago. Well I remember Magus (NECROMANTIA) told me while I was in Athens he received a threat or something from Varg. Ex- ROTTING CHRIST bassplayer Mutilator once said that during the ROTTING CHRIST/IMMORTAL tour there was some tension between the bands. But it was a funny thing I remember, I believe on the tour bus one of the ROTTING CHRIST members was that drunk that he puked on the bag of an IMMORTAL member and it had a bad impact on the atmosphere, ah! ah! No big deal really. Besides concerning this BURZUM versus NECROMANTIA thing: I believe ANCIENT RITES was one of the very few non Norwegian bands Varg DIDN´T threat so… May be I mentioned this in the interview after a question concerning the relation between B.M. bands. It were different times and a certain kind of paranoia was going on in the scene back then. But we never interfered with those situations. I know most people in the scene personally, also IMMORTAL and ROTTING CHRIST and they are great guys. Probably it wasn´t even worth mentioning. -
The interview goes on here.