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Interview : Rocker for all lifetime

Whiplash Magazine Czech Republic, April 2003
Text © Radek Bubenícek / Whiplash Magazine

I have done several hundreds of interviews during the existence of Whiplash magazine. Some of them were attractive, made in friendly atmosphere for many minutes, the others were – on the contrary – boring and lasting e.g. just 10 minutes. I had had a record in length of telephone interview 55 minutes (with mighty Canadians Anvil) – until April 2003. That time I did a chat with very friendly and talkative guy Gunther Theys – the frontman of band Ancient Rites from Belgium. We were chatting with Gunther for almost 67 minutes! Sure I couldn´t write everything we talked about ´cause it would take 2 pages but I hope you´ll get known the most interesting fragments of our chatting.
Let me remind you that Ancient Rites belong to long time existing (since 1989) and also to the most famous Belgian bands ever. The band released a live LP And The Hordes Stood As One this year. That was also the reason why Gunther called me. Before we got to music we had talked about Belgian towns I had the opportunity to visit several years ago...

I know about you, Gunther, that you have been a die-hard rock/metal fan since your childhood. What did the underground metal scene attract you with?
Well, that´s very simple – my parents are to blame, haha. Seriously – I came from a rock family. Both my parents have listened to rock music. My dad had also a trade with various music records and he was even more famous than me inside the rock scene recently, haha... Everything started when I was 5 and heard the song Submarine by The Beatles. This popular song directed me to rock, punk and later to metal music. What I have always admired of the underground scene is the sincerity, enthusiasm and last but not least the originality which are the typical attributes for many UG bands. But it doesn´t mean I would have refused other musical styles, I like to listen to all kinds of good music.

You are known as the friendly musician who likes to be in touch with your fans and you are even in correspondence with many of them. How many people do you write with?
Uhh, it counts at about several hundreds. Wait a minute... I´ll check my mail... I have got 134 new and 311 mails I haven´t read so far. I am a very busy man, because besides Ancient Rites I play with 4 bands. I do all the promo acitivities for Ancient Rites – interviews, merchandise, websites, concerts, correspondence etc. And what more – I have got also my "normal" day job – I take care of blind people which is for me a very stimulating work. "Thanks" to all these activities I have a permanent lack of sleep – I sleep little and I am a very bad sleeper because my brain is still working... It causes also my health problems – low blood pressure etc.

The Belgian metal scene is not very well-known for the majority of Czech metalheads. Can you try to bring us more "light into this tunnel"?
(laughter) Well, what shall I say... There has never been a proper metal scene here in Belgium. Please don´t understand it the way that there wouldn´t exist a few good bands here, but we are a really small country and due to this fact we are not economicaly interesting for big major labels. I would like to be wrong but I guess there is quite a similar situation in the Czech Republic, isn´t it? (yes, unfortunatelly you are right – author´s note) Oh yeah, the world is ruled with many unjustified and superfluous prejudices. And I have to add that Belgians ´ mentality is a little bit strange – there are a lot of lies, slander, libel, gossip etc. here - even though the local scene is so small...

You wrote the biography of Ancient Rites where you admitted that you didn´t have quite easy beginnings... Especially in countries like England, Germany and others...
Yes, that is true. Some media and individuals attacked us... Especially in England. There are certain British magazines which have been leading with strange manners - they have the strategy to praise only chosen British bands and - on the contrary - they like to apply the unjustified aversion to other groups. The same unpleasant experience met also us – we were reproached almost everything – from our clothes, music, lyrics, even our nationality etc...

And there was even the case when Belgian state police visited you at home...
Yes, and believe me, that was really a very unpleasant experience. Briefly said – it was about some stupid boys who I sent our T-shirts several months before so they wore these T-shirts at the time when they did some damage in one of the local churches. The policemen caught even this clue which led them finally to my house. Before the policemen started to investigate me they found out everything about me, my family etc. Of course finally they found out I have nothing in common with that case – I would never do such a stupid thing in my life! Although I don´t hide my disagreement with Christianity I have a strong respect for the ancient architecture including churches – I love monuments. Sure such negative experience makes you stronger but on the other hand it takes you some ideals which you had about people and society. I think I have become more careful in my contact with people. But I always say what I mean. I haven´t changed in this direction at all even if it has brought me several unpleasant experiences so far.

You are keen on history besides the music. Have you got any historical period that you – from various reasons – prefer before the others?
Well, I would rather say that I love history as a whole. There are such a lot of fascinating things in history we can hardly absorb any in our lifetime. It´s tough to prefer something then. But still I have certain indulgence for the Summerian, Antique and Oldlatin period (Gunther started telling me about Roman frescos for 10 minutes – author´s note). I know pretty well that the Czech Republic has also very interesting and emotional history.

Gunther – can you imagine your life without music? I guess you can make your living as a journalist... You evidently enjoy writting...
You´re right. To work as a journalist – that´s something I can really imagine as my possible job, guess it would even please me (laughter). I have listened to plenty of bands but that´s what I mentioned before. I think journalism is undoubtelly quite attractive, colourful but for sure also a time demanding job. However I can´t imagine my life without music nowadays. This would mean a terrible loss for me. Horror to think of it...

There has been war in Iraq for second week at the time we do this interview. I wonder what is your personal opinion on this war conflict?
Well, Saddam is a tyrant, dictator and there is no doubts he has to be overthrown. On the other hand George Bush is a foolish cowboy who is merely able to repeat his Defence Minister´s phrases. I would say Bush is nothing but a puppet – but the more dangerous he can be, then. I mean the American and British troops won´t have an easy situation in this conflict. I am sorry about the civilians who will suffer the most. That´s what is the most dejected thing.

I know you visited our country in the past. What is your relation to the Czech Republic?
My friend, my relation to your country is very friendly and warm... Not only for your great beers (Gunther named me immediately several Czech beers such Pilsener Urqell, Krusovice, Budvar – author´s note), beautiful women but also due to your amazing monuments. I spent a few days in Prague and I saw all possible cultural and historical sights of this city. I also visited the concert of the Czech philharmonic orchestra – that was an unforgettable experience!!! And for sure I know several great Czech metal bands such Root, Master´s Hammer, Pandemia, Krabathor, Hypnos and Tisic let od raje!

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