Thoughts…

Great idea to collect and compile these recollections. This period meant a great deal to me personally and left a lasting impression. The D.I.Y. HC/punk scene gave me a patch where it was OK to just be myself and rendered me self-confidence.

Bart Jansen, ‘Deconsume’

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Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures or flyers anymore. In late 1996 I was so fed up with HC that I sold most of my records (400-500), gave about five huge boxes full of zines to recycling and burned letters from all contacts I had. Years later I regretted this, bought some old records again and even some newer stuff. But yeah, most stuff is gone forever.

I used to visit the Vort’n Vis at least twice a year from 1991 to 1995 (probably also spring 1996). I knew Bruno VdV from his zine and exchanging letters with him; he told me about the VV.

The VV impressed me a lot. A complete house dedicated to underground music and culture, self-organized, all in the centre of Ieper. So it was visible to Ieper residents, as well as tourists. I remember the strange looks from visitors of a pub (or was it a restaurant?) opposite of the VV when they spotted all the punks, crusties,… chatting outside of the VV. But a few years later they seemed to have accepted the “strange” folks. J)

The VV was a place where straight-edgers and crusties got along mostly pretty well. Often it was also quite an international place with people from Holland, France, sometimes Germany, and the UK visiting. It was a really friendly place to hang out, listen to music, chatting, drinking Rodenbach beer.

Over the years I got to know some regulars and also people more involved with the venue, like Jan Claus, Peter Van… (can’t remember the name [Van Thuyne]), and more. Usually, I stayed at the VV for the night. They even let me crash there when I arrived on a Friday evening for a gig on a Saturday. On those occasions I was the only one sleeping there. So there was a lot of trust they put into people. I hope that trust was never misused.

There were also some surprising encounters as well. One year the Portuguese crust band ‘Subcaos’ was touring with Luxembourg’s ‘No More’. I was on the road with them for three days or so (Bruno VdV organized it). There were also a few other people accompanying ‘Subcaos’. One year later I met one of those guys again at the VV. A nice surprise, chatting, beer. J…) So there were more people returning regularly or at least occasionally to the VV. I guess, that contributed to the positive atmosphere of the place.

I can only say positive things about the VV.

Cartsen Pötter, Frankfurt, Germany

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The times with ‘Private Jesus Detector’ were, without a doubt, some of the greatest of my youth; and the Vort’n Vis played a central role in that! “The guys from Brugge”, as we were called, “Ze zien ier ook weere!” [There here again aswell!], you heard more than once… To us, Ieper was a bit like a second home, we even rehearsed there for a while… Don’t remember much but still…: a lot of sweat, cheap instruments and the candy-shop on the corner…pop up in my head. And 20 BeF [half a euro] for a can of beer…those were the days!

Jurgen ‘Spatje’ Fiems, ‘Private Jesus Detector’

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I think I spent half of my youth at the V.V., either practicing music (with ‘S.O.F.’, ‘Gnuft v.z.w’, ‘Sloth’, ‘Neuthrone’, ‘Carcer Molochi’, ‘K.U.N.T.’ and then some more) or watching shows and drinking beer. Mostly because of the beer, I hardly remember any details but I was 16 and surprised and impressed by practically every band I saw.

The birth of the straight-edge came with a lot of fights and arguing or am I the only one perceiving it this way? I guess they finally got what they wanted, smoking banned from bars all over the continent! Funny to remember how Kurt (XXX) [‘Shortsight’s bassplayer] made us taste the jenever [strong alcoholic liquor, something like gin] he made. The ‘big fight with the Swiss’ during a fest was really just us not understanding anything about the international punk/squat/travel-scene in those days, we were too concerned with the door-money to understand their ways of creating solidarity. On the other hand of course our ‘trust’ got misused many times; liars pigs and thieves, smoke and mirrors… But we all managed to get along pretty well, crusts and XXX and punks and metals alike, most ‘problems’ between people were usually just lack of experience and small-town mentality.

I drifted away when I moved to Gent to squat myself, haven’t been there a lot in the last 15 years; but lately I keep meeting people from that period again, always a good laugh and a heart under the belt, and we all know that’s what we need.

Well it all surely shaped me into who I am now, still squatting, playing music (check out ‘Gura’ and ‘Me Noasn’), trying to organise gigs now and then; walk on steady through the grey, day after day after day after day.

David ‘Spans Hrac’ Stubbe, ‘Silly Old Fart’/’Neuthrone’/etc.

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Looking back I remember it to be a great time with lots of fun and an idealistic, energetic spark to change the world. It was great to know to belong to a kind of big family that you can trust and find places to sleep everywhere in the world.

But when I dig deeper, with the life-experience I have nowadays I also have to admit, that many people in the scene that would consider themselves as open-minded and alternative were in fact quite narrow-minded and ‘exclusive’. When I see people that are still -after 15 years- preaching the same dogmas over and over again, to the same tiny group of people or still being full of rage, sorry or other bad feelings about society, I really see no development. If you wanna change the world, at first you gotta change yourself. There were/are too many ‘labels’ in HC/Punk. People try to identify with what they listen to, what they eat, what there political opinions are or how they relate to animals. I don’t say that those things are irrelevant but they don’t see that they are far more then all those labels.

Manuel Harand; Smart Cookies Collective, Wien

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Recollections… that’s for my ‘memoirs’. If my brain allows me and my body isn’t worn-out by then… Vort’n Vis. Nice little pub, quite a bit of mould. Quite a bit of political correctness, not uncommon at that time. Ultimately it did stimulate my interest in ‘underground’ trends and culture intensely. I especially remember the social contact and friendships, that – in hindsight – proved more important to me than the musical recollections. I believe that, as a young kid, I was overwhelmed by the network of people – before the internet even existed – who actually discussed, philosophized and were politically active. Nothing has changed, in fact, and I still do that, I’m travelling from ‘bubble’ to ‘bubble’ our from one ‘cocoon’ to another, in Asia and the U.S., and the last years also in the Middle East. From sofa to sofa, staying with punks from Beirut, hip-hoppers in Palestine, ‘post-rockers’ in Malaysia and performance-artists in Indonesia. Voices that are not heard – not even in the underground press, as if they didn’t exist…. [For those interested Joris has a whole list.]

Joris De Buysser, Conspiracy recs

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I’m glad to write something for this blog, it proves I’m a fucking dinosaur!!! I think nostalgia is a double-edged sword, it means even if I’ve been sucked into the whole punk ‘good ol’ days whirlpool that’s fueling books/gigs/reuninons, etc., I’ve kept a sufficient amount of critical/cynical view that makes me ask if those were the days or if we’re all becoming as boring as a bunch of diehard hippies.

Hardcore-punk was and still is really important to me, sometimes I ask myself why, it probably has to do with the fact it has had such a strong impact on my teenage and later adult personality. ‘Burning Defeat’ had a particular link with Belgium, I personally always had a soft spot for the land of waffles. This love affair begun when Diego, our singer and Fulvio (from ‘Permanent Scar’) organized ‘Nations On Fire’s gig in our our hometown. It was the Strike The Match tour; that’s when I met Edward for the first time, I’ve spent the whole day with him and did interview since at the time I was doing a fanzine. OK, later he’s become mr. GoodLife recs and many of you have lot of rumors and heard lot’s of stories about him, and the business punk thing…and blah blah blah… OK, I will probably sound a politically apathetic individual, believe what you want to believe but he’s always been really friendly with me and I don’t give that much about the stories, I tend to relate to someone on an individual basis… Who am I to judge?… I mean, I’ve always been a freak, some of my old friends did the worst things sometimes… I know in the Profane Existence agenda that’s not good…just let me know if I’ve to look for a lawyer to protect me in front of the political-punk grand jury!

Later I became a good friend of mighty Bruno Genet (… “Oh no Bruno!!…Too much is not enough!!”), he’s always worth a visit to Belgium and thanks to him I’ve met many other great Belgians like Kathy/Genet, Stefan/Empower, Bjorn/‘Rise And Fall’, Raf/‘Churn’, Mondy/‘Spineless’, the ‘Kindred’/‘Enemy Of The Sun’ guys and so on.

For a European hardcore band of the 90s, playing at the Vort’n Vis was the equivalent of a Muslim visiting Mecca: once in your life you had to do it. The chance came when they organized the second Ieperfest and since I had already been there with some friends, I was so excited. Believe it or not, as every good punk story, right in the middle of our set the cops stopped the show. Hey, doesn’t it all sound ‘Black Flag’-esque to the bone?! The funny thing is that it didn’t happen with ‘Congress’, ‘Hiatus’ or ‘Doom’, it happened with us and at the time we probably were one of the softest and more melodic bands you could find in a festival like that, we had introspective lyrics that didn’t exactly fit in the anarchist ‘Crass’-like category, but the cops couldn’t care less, we were just too loud for them.

I loved the Vort’n Vis, I’ve taken part in many Ieperfest editions both as a musician and also as a spectator, but the early days for me were the best. I’m sorry for being so unoriginal but I remember we were all packed at the first floor of the building with our sleeping-bags, it was a small but already international crowd… There were many distros and fanzines, digital download was still a bit out of hand, we were all so absorbed into the whole hardcore-punk blossoming process we could breath it all was evolving somehow.

I remember in my late teen years I happened to read Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey and thanks to that many bells started to ring in my head. Well, the Vort’n Vis (like many other squats/social centers/places) smelled of “freedom” (…and…piss…for crusty punk’s sake!!…ah,ah…). For me it was a “temporary autonomous zone” too. For many kids with a bourgeois background like me it was a good chance to see the world was at the same time bigger and smaller than the place we were coming from. Considering the 4 members of ‘Burning Defeat’ were all coming from small towns with small-town mentality, somehow this whole period helped us to shape our minds. The activists’ slogan you could read everywhere before the whole Euro-zone operation was: “think globally, act locally”: that small place in Ieper embodied vividly the idea that “hardcore was more than music”. Later hardcore, punk and probably music in general became so different from what many of us were used to back then. I don’t say it all changed for the worse, let’s say it simply changed.

“You can’t be what you were, so you better start being just what you are” (‘Fugazi’)… I still listen to a lot of that fast/heavy and chaotic shit but ages ago I started thinking that Derek Bailey or ‘Pan Sonic’ (just to write a couple of names) had something more revolutionary or simply much more to say than many crust-youth-crew-punk bands full of clichés. It’s simple: everything is subject to change, so I can’t get why we pretend hardcore-punk to be different from other human things… Panta Rei…everything flows!

Probably I’m mixing up things but I seem to remember I was together with Greg from ‘Concrete’ inside the Vort’n Vis pub and we were looking at the graffiti downstairs and there was this big funny anti-catholic/satanic devil with this latin sentence: Vox Populi Nocturni Vocant (People’s voice calls for the devil) and I think somewhere one could also read Sescenti Sexaginta Sex” (latin for six six six). If my mind doesn’t fail me, the title of ‘Concrete’s second 7” comes from there…or at least that’s what I like to remember… But “the past is always changing” you know.

Andrea ‘ics’ Ferraris, ‘Burning Defeat’ & ‘One Fine Day’

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Being involved in hardcore/punk was great because I learned and shared a lot about DIY and politics, I had fun with people trying to do things differently and better than the norm. But it’s only years later that I realize how much all this was a man’s world. I don’t think girls had an equal role in ‘the scene’. I felt more like being invited by boys who were good enough to accept women in their male club. Of course, for many people and organisations, it was important to have anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic attitudes and places. And yes, there were not only white hetero cis males. But how many all-girl bands? How many queers out of the closet? How many people of colour? There were other girls but most were like me, the only girl in a group of ‘scenesters’ isolated from the other girls. For example, during a Vort’n Vis festival I went to, there were rumours about a girl who was there. Everyone (that is, the boys) were talking with self-satisfied smiles about her being a porn-actress. Smiles and words that meant: “She doesn’t belong in our club but it’s fun, let’s consider this as enterntainment. We’re quite horny seeing her but we won’t admit it. Look at her clothes and make-up, punk-hardcore girls and our girlfriends are not like her.”. I didn’t know her at all and it’s only years later that I got to know the great things she did in the porn-industry and her feminist views on sexuality. So here is my regret: I wish I had the opportunity to talk to her then, about how we feel here and the things we do in life instead of staying inside the male-club hearing boys sharing there unlimited knowledge on labels, bands, band-members, years of record-releases, number of blue-coloured vinyl limited edition copies. I really wish I had talked more to the few girls I met. We coud have done great things together, built a feminist network, stopped being here only as an instrumental proof that our hardcore/punk world wasn’t sexist ever. This is of course not only about Vort’n Vis, but I never had the opportunity to write about this so here it is for the people who read this blog. I’d like to talk with women/lesbians who were part of the punk/hardcore world in the 90s, if you’re interested, please write here: sevoxo[at]gmail[dot]com.

By the way, I was in contact with a French girl called Sabine. We never met but we wrote letters and sent zines to each other, but I lost all the letters :-( I need to talk to her! Please help :-)

Séverine Rambaud; ‘Alcatraz’

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Your blogs are impressive! I re-visited the cellars of my memory and I wish I still had our letters, photos, clippings, etc. at my disposal but I can’t find anything back. In 20 years I moved house 7 times… So I became a proponent of ‘less is more’ principle and threw (too) much away. Here’s my reconstruction:

I got acquainted – via Bruno Vandevyvere at school in Ghent – with the hardcore/punk-scene during the fall of 1989. To be honest, at that time I was rather ‘fresh’: grew up in a warm but over-protected nest; ignorant and naive. Bruno borrowed me tapes and I thought they were the max (although in retrospect I would’ve had liked to have the lyrics aswell; these probably would’ve helped me remember better and I would at least be able to give you the names of the bands). The ideology seemed to fit me like a glove: I wanted to get out of the compelling stays, revolt and question everything. Improve the world and start with yourself. Back home, there was little appreciation. They though that I frequented the wrong friends and that I would end up in the gutter… If I wanted to go to a gig then I had to do it secretly. Even in Ghent the social control bothered me (I was an intern) and consequently I only went to my first concert on May 1st 1990 in Poperinge [Brob: 90-05-01 was at the Vort’n Vis in Ieper]. That was great, pleasurable atmosphere, nice people and fantastic music. Unfortunately I don’t remember any names, not of the people performing, nor the folk I conversated with. Sorry!

Around that time I took home a lot of type-work for Bruno and I recall a lot of letters being written (funny I how I remember the tric with the glue on the stamps now). At that time, I also made some attempts to make a decent cover for Pyrobolum [zine edited by Bruno V. & Dieter R.].

After that came a disastrous study-period where I couldn’t concentrate and a series of awful exams. July 1990 I’d been at a gig in the Vort’n Vis but got ‘busted’ (I spare you the details). My explanation, argumentation, my defence didn’t help. There were too many prejudices I couldn’t get out of my parents head. That ended ‘my’ HC/punk-period, nipped in the proverbial bud. They kept a close eye on me until after the second session of exams (which wasn’t a success of course) and the verdict was that I had to quit school and start working. I only had been able to enjoy less than a year of my (limited) freedom and student-life; and it still hurts. In hindsight I can understand: I’d lost my bursary and back home there were 4 of us who had to get equal chances.

But still, it’s because of this – even if it was brief – period that I intended for myself never to judge without having gotten to know something or someone. Many tend to stick labels and pigeonhole people, without ever having heard the mor made the effort to get to know each other better. Apart from that, many still judge and condemn on appearances (or the number of diplomas). Disgusting!

Ilse Soenen

 

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