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HM Portal Italy, 03 March 2003
Text © Xyphias / HM Portal
Hi Gunther, first of all my personal appreciation for the new live album, a real great one. I think this is the right time to look back at your past years and talk about your experience: what´s changed, what´s yet to experience, what´s still exciting?
Thank you for your words of appreciation, my friend. On top of the budget our label were offering us we invested a lot of our own money in the live as we did not want our live album to sound or look cheap and done in a rush. Our views usually differ with those of labels and what they refuse to invest we do ourselves from our own pockets. It is not a fair situation but we have been dealing with this battle with labels ever since we started. So from this point of view not much changed since we started. We still are alone in our fight against the ugly aspects of this music industry (of which we are a part of) in order to offer quality. Of course a label wants to save money and then you have a band like Rites who try to reach the sky in matters of quality. When the labels, promoters etc do not wish to push it further we put our own money into it, money we know we will never get back but at least we know we have offered something special to the fans. What changed is my belief in this whole music business. Most labels are run by sharks and those few who are completely honest remain small and do not get anywhere. At least our label is willing to offer booklets with many pages and a good distribution, which is important. There are worse labels although I usually end up in conflict with record companies. You see: the goals of an artist or label seem the same but in reality often differ. What's still exciting? Playing in front of enthousiastic crowds. Travelling across the world. And every day is a new experience one doesn't stop learning from the cradle to the grave. A pity that a person has to die after having gained wisdom...
As usual you didn´t saved ink to write notes on the booklet, I would call it a little book about the band, your experience and as usual your opinions and point of view. Are you still so interested in confrontating ideas and enriching your knowledge after all those years? What´s changed since the net entered your life?
It is true I like to share emotions, inspiration, background information etc with those fans who are interested in more aspects than just the music. No one is obliged to read my liner notes. But I hope when they go through the trouble they find more in our work. As life goes on I realise how little I know. But what I experienced I like to share with similar souls. Since the net entered my life I am constantly behind my PC when I'm not at my job, working with any of my bands or on the road. Time flies and when having a wide interest like I do I am constantly on the search for knowledge, what a brilliant medium the net is. The whole world and a lot of knowledge captured on your desk. Of course there are negative too, painful eyes, sleepless nights, less of a social life (my friends have to drag me away from my PC's) and everyone's interests are revealed and can be investigated by "Big Brother". But I wouldn't like to miss internet. Let's face it, slowly I have turned into a computer nerd haha
Ancient Rites lyrics are nowadays far above the media for being rich of historical and cultural notes. How important is to feel part of a tradition and a culture and how many times this led to misunderstanding and rumors about the band´s attitude?
My passion for history, culture and tradition have caused a lot of accusations, boycotts and threats. Nowhere I have claimed superiority over other people or have I expressed a wish of dominating other tribes. BUT I dared to express my lack of sympathy towards religious fundamentalism, also Islam Fundamentalism. Within the Western world it is quite save to criticize Christianity but when dealing with foreign religions many call it racism. As a matter of fact I happen to know a few people who are living in Iran, Jordan and Syria. Ask them how much they love the religious dogma's which are imposed upon them by their leaders. They have to listen to AR as if they were partisan activities! In Egypt Metal heads were on trial and had to deny Metal and swear loyalty to the Koran in court! And then I have to listen to the paranoid accusations of all these liberal hippie types who never left their own country, who believe this world is one big Woodstock "love, peace & drugs" festival. I suggest they go light another joint imported from Afghanistan which financed the Taliban weapons which were used to oppress Afghan women and Afghan men who were not blinded by religious fanatism. Yes, I love my own culture but I respect any other culture AS LONG AS THEY RESPECT MINE. If that is negative my apologies but I cannot embrace those who despise me. I am not Christ dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Very noble of that man but if tomorrow fundamentalists march the streets of Flanders which actually is already happening (one discovered secret training camps in the forests of Brussels where Islamists are playing "Jihad") than I feel I have the right to not like that at all. I believe in freedom of choice but do they?
I saw Ancient Rites playing in front of thirty kids like they were playing in a stadium, can we say that the direct contact with your hordes is one of the most gratificating aspects of your activity?
Oh I remember that tour very well. Of course we put heart and soul into our shows no matter how many people show up. These few people who were present deserve an equal treatment than the thousands we performed for on festivals like Dynamo, Graspop etc. Our label told us (afterwards) they did not believe in that tour at all and promotion/timing was bad which resulted in shows with a low turn up. It was a pity because usually when playing Italia many people turn up to support the band. I remember shows in Roma, Biella, Milano, Torino in front of big, enthusiastic crowds. The tour you witnessed was quite hard for us, the heating system in our tour bus had broken down and we were often facing degrees minus 20! Of course we all got sick. For one reason or another the bus never got fixed (probably bus or tour company wanted to save money on our backs!) and at one point one of our support bands even went home. We continued with one supporting band but even ended up in a snow storm in Milano, the gig was cancelled and even one of the local promoters had an accident with the car. We had built the stage and suddenly this snow storm was raging over the city. Luck was not with us on that tour. A car of some of our fans slided into some kind of trench and we helped to lift up their car. It was chaos. We had rushed from our show in Holland to be on time in Milano but the gig never happened! At least we were on post! Driving all the way with our nightliner just to eat dinner in Milano! It was the most expensive pizza in rock history J. Slowly electricity went down on the bus too, windows were broken which contributed to the extreme cold inside that froze our drinking water etc. We were on a slow sinking Titanic! But we had no saving boats haha! One has to be fanatic or crazy to continue under these circumstances, guess we are both!
The live is brilliant, having a good clear sound even if manteining the live feeling. Which were the live albums you had in mind while projecting this one? Which the elements you wanted to focalize?
Very few live albums capture the right feeling. Actually we did not have any other live album in mind when we were recording ours. We did have albums in mind how we DID NOT want to sound! Haha! Today many crappy lives are being released recorded through P.A. Our producers came over from Germany, had rented a mobile studio and were dealing with matters in a professional way.We had rented a good P.A. and light system for the DVD recordings, had professionals coming over and rented a camera team and equipment and had our video producer over from Finland to supervise it all from a control room which was built in the backstage. During the '70's/80's a live album was considered as important as any other. Unleashed in the East of Judas Priest, If you want Blood of AC/DC, Live in Hammersmith by Motörhead, Made in Japan by Purple, The Eagle has Landed by Saxon etc were albums that really mattered! Surely, we did not have the same budget available as these artists but wanted our live CD/DVD to be professional and able to stand the test of time. Not "a quick something in between" to fill a gap between two studio albums. I think we succeeded. Also I am pleased the interaction between band and audience which is typical for an Ancinet Rites gig is captured on the Live. Quite unusual to hear audiences chant on albums of extreme Metal bands.
Another cool aspect of the album is the tracklist, trying not to represent only the last album but touching even your early hymns. Is there something in your musical past you are not proud of or you would like to change?
No. Wouldn't like to change anything. I believe in everything we ever did or I wouldn't have bothered in the first place. Of course our early releases sound less professional but that is a part of their charm too. One has to see it as a part of a certain era. I know I stand alone in this, our drummer does not like our old releases (the EP's) specially when it comes to the drum sound but that's a matter of opinion. Being a Motörhead fan I even like the On Parole album while it doesn't sound that heavy as their later releases. I find it interesting to hear a band evolve. Personally I still love our EP's. Our former label wished to release those for the die hard fan on our first compilation but I was the only one who agreed on that. Being a democratic band we have to respect each others views so only a demo track was included on our first compilation. Concerning this matter I had total freedom as it was recorded with another line up that is why From Beyond the Grave was included on The First Decade. No, I do not wish to re-write history. Guess I am more of a fan than a musician.
Dim Carcosa was surely one of my faves and the highest point in your discography, now you released the live album, is there a sort of turning point behind the corner? What are you planning for next album?
We do not make plans like that. All comes out natural. Each A.R. album sounds different and yet none of it is planned that way. Indeed, often live albums end an era. As I am and have been quite busy with the recordings of my other bands (Danse Macabre, Lion's Pride, Iron Clad) I was not focussed on the next A.R. album but now we will be concentrating on that matter. I trust it will not disappoint the A.R. Troopers! It is our goal to evolve without selling out.
You are living the metal scene since many years, what´s your opinion about actual developments and contaminations? Which are the bands, if any, you would like to suggest to our readers?
Concerning Metal I have a rather conservative reflex and I catch myself mostly listening to traditional Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and first generation Black Metal. But I have this similar reflex when it comes to other styles of music as well. I seek for the pioneers of a genre, always. For instance Gothic Metal does not interest me that much, old Gothic Rock/Wave does, and Metal does of course but I prefer to listen these styles separately. I know it sounds strange out of the mouth of a person like me who is open minded and is involved in so many different musical projects. Let's say when I wish to hear Black Metal I rather play my old Bathory or Venom records, when I'm in the mood for Goth or Wave I play Joy Division or Bauhaus, same for traditional Metal, I will be delighted to hear an Ostrogoth or Iron Maiden but some of the new retro inspired artists do not touch my soul that much. To know about the latest BM records ask drummer Walter, to find out about new Gothic Rock/Metal bands consult guitarist Jan but I am hardly the person to voice an opinion. Inside the tour bus I hear these new releases and some of it is really ok but I do not feel that same emotion as I did when I first heard We are the Roadcrew of Motörhead, Into The Arena of MSG or Satans Curse by Possessed as a kid. Arcturus, Thy Repentance and the debut of Ulver I really liked but overall I am not really an expert on new releases... At least I avoid being influenced by colleagues this way. When a person is 16 he can be much more influenced/impressed by a record. A song that recently blew me away was Sailor Man of Turbo Negro because of its straight forward Rock'n Roll Street approach combining Metal, Punk, Rock with a cool voice blasting out ironic, black humorous, offensive and misanthropic lyrics. I don't know if it is something for your readers, I guess not as it is not dark or technical but somehow I felt like 16 again when I heard that song. Only few artists manage to do so lately. I would never dress or write lyrics like a Turbo Negro but still I am a fan. Silly costumes (vocalists looks like a low budget King Diamond or a deranged Lemmy on acid surrounded by lunatics in denim or sailor costumes). I find them peculiar and so over the top that I like it. So fucking Rock'n Roll haha! But one needs a sense of humour to appreciate them. They often pose like violent gays but they are not gay at all! Haha crazy fuckers! A pity they broke up. A Metal tip to your readers? Buy the recently re-released Full Moons Eyes of Ostrogoth. A classic early 80's Metal release that never made it to the big public. This Belgian band was truly underestimated! Recently I partied with them on a plane, they had done a reunion show in the South of Europe and I was returning from a guest appearance abroad. That mini album captured the essence of traditional Heavy Metal before the term NWOBHM or classic Metal was invented! When I hear these songs I MUST headbang!
What´s about some crazy story you can tell us about the tour, some cool fact or crazy shit?
During that desastrous tour we were sitting all together in our broken bus, our drinking water was frozen, through a broken window cold wind was blowing in. It was - 18 °C. Jan who is hailing from Finland said "You know people have already died in their sleep in Finland by temperatures like these". A bit later our only source of warmth (a hair dryer!) broke down. A bit later also electricity broke down.We went to sleep, laughed and said "Maybe we see each other tomorrow, IF we survive this"... It took me two antibiotics cures to get better when I made it home!
Final salutes to Italian Hordes...
Thank you for the Years of Support. Hail to Thee All! Respect! May we soon meet again under better circumstances than last time! Ciao!
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