HI! HOW ARE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU? WHO ARE YOU? Hello Karsten. I’m sick as a dog. Therefore I’m at home. And because of the medicine and fever I don’t know or remember who I am. Haha, I’m only teasing, mate. Well the first two answers unfortunately are correct but thank Odin I still remember who I am. You’re talking to Gunther, vocalist of the band. How are things in Germany? IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE „DIM CARCOSA“. WHAT ACTIVITIES HAVE YOU BEEN INTO? DID YOU DO SONGWRITING ALL THE WAY THROUGH? EVER LOST FAITH IN MUSIC AND/ OR INDUSTRY? The Line up changes and label change situations caused delays. First the newly recruited members had to work their way in to become a tight outfit performing the live set and only after that was achieved we could concentrate on writing new material. A.R. never chose the easy way: we also have thrown away many tracks until we felt a worthy full length album was ready to be recorded. The quality was our only concern, no matter how long it took. We must “live” with these songs for years; therefore it is better not to settle for less. A CD is eternal, no matter if only 5 persons hear it but still one should be able to look back at the end of the day and say “I did my best.” True, we lost a lot of time this way but the fact we never were a hyped band who are obliged to deliver quick $$$ offered us this luxury position, and not to forget our loyal underground following who don’t mind trends. We have remained active on the road with ANCIENT RITES all this time and I recorded albums with my other bands LION’S PRIDE and IRON CLAD and played all over Europe with LES VILLAINS and LION’S PRIDE. Faith in the music industry I lost ages ago, losing faith in music itself? Never. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE DOWNFALL OF HAMMERHEART AFFECTED YOUR CAREER IN A NEGATIVE WAY? DID YOU GET OUT OF THIS WITHOUT PROBLEMS? I think it affected the band in a way that our DVD, in which we invested a lot of our own band money, never was distributed to the shops and that our live album “And the Hordes stood as One” did not receive promotion which gave the wrong impression to many people ANCIENT RITES was not around anymore. Only people in the underground were aware we still were as active as before. Our contract with HHR had ended anyway so legally we were free to search for another company. HOW DID YOU GET IN TOUCH WITH FRENCH SEASON OF MIST AND ARE YOU CONTENT WITH THEIR PROMOTIONAL EFFORTS SO FAR? The contact was established between our former management and the label. SOM is a professional label on the rise and the promo department does a splendid job. I find it positive that the label seems to pick up pioneering bands such as ROTTING CHRIST, MAYHEM, ARCTURUS, HIRAX, ANCIENT RITES. The distribution is very good as well; a lack of distribution was a problem we often had to deal with in the past. BART DID RETURN TO YOUR LINE UP AFTER A LONG TIME. HAVE YOU ALWAYS STAYED IN CONTACT? HOW DID THE REUNION TAKE PLACE? When Bart decided many years ago to leave the music industry behind we parted as friends but contact was lost. During those years we ran into each other twice: once he attended an A.R. gig and coincidentally I saw him at the movies. Each time it was a pleasure seeing each other. When guitarist Jan Yrlund was fired Walter and I, who always remained nostalgic about the old days with Bart, decided to check if he would be interested to re-join. We phoned him up and invited him for a drink. We talked about the old days and then asked if he felt like returning. Much to our surprise he did. His personal situation had changed since the time he left as he no longer worked for his own family company. This had been one of the main obstacles in the past: A.R. were often on the road without earning a penny while he could not pay the bills being into an independent company without any salary guarantee. With Bart re-joining the good old A.R. spirit returned. 3 GUITAR PLAYERS IN ONE BAND. WAS IT DIFFICULT TO SYNCHRONISE THEM WHILE PRODUCING „RVBICON“? Three guitarists enable us to experiment and a guitar trio does not only add to the overall power but also more interesting song structures or melodies are possible: while two guitarists perform twin leads a third can put a heavy rhythm layer underneath, the power is never lost yet more things are happening. It offers a certain kind of musical freedom. But you are correct; it takes discipline and tight interaction to avoid a blurry wall of sound, especially in live situations. HOW DOES SONGWRITING TAKE PLACE WITHIN ANCIENT RITES ANYWAY? DID YOU WRITE ALL THE TRACKS FOR THE NEW ALBUM ON YOUR OWN? FIRST MUSIC OR FIRST LYRICS? DO YOU ADD SYNTHETIC SOUNDS WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE IS DONE? Ideas are recorded by musicians separately at home; whole songs are presented by the author to the band on CD. Then changes take place until everyone is pleased with the result. There never is time for jamming or fooling around on our instruments, every rehearsal means a trip (to some even an international one) and experiments need to happen at home. When we schedule rehearsals they are really well planned and to the point, working hard to get it all tight. Sometimes music is composed first on other occasions lyrics are the inspiration to the music, it depends. The writing process is a group achievement. In studio there is room for extra orchestration and vocal choirs. RVBICON REFERS TO CAESARS MARCH 53 BEFORE CHRIST. WHY DID YOU CHOSE THIS SPECIAL TITLE? DOES IT HAVE ANY MEANING TO YOU PERSONALLY, MAYBE NOT BEING AFRAID CROSSING (MUSICAL) BORDERS? The title indeed has a double meaning as you correctly hinted: a historical one referring to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon and a philosophical meaning, crossing a point of no return. Our career has been a constant crossing of the Rubicon in a metaphorical way of speaking. It sums an attitude I appreciate in life: regardless if all odds are against you, no matter if one stands alone; a person should follow his path of choice. WHY DID YOU INTEGRATE GERMAN LYRICS WITHIN THE TITLE SONG? DO YOU LIKE THE (HARSH) SOUND OF THIS LANGUAGE? Flemish/ Dutch and German are connected linguistically, both are of the Germanic family tree. In my area many words in dialect are identical to German. For example: officially we say “Ik” in Flemish/ Dutch language, in my dialect we say “Ich”, like the official German word. I feel rather comfortable with the German language and I think it offers variety sound wise amongst the majority of English lyrics. True, the harsh German sound makes the “Rubicon” chorus stand out in a powerful way and connects to a Nietschzian tradition of praising willpower. Besides, it always has been a tradition for ANCIENT RITES to experiment with different languages to achieve a certain kind of authenticity. We have used Flemish/ Dutch, German, English, Latin, Greek, Italian, Finnish, Spanish and French so far, especially when quoting certain poets in their mother tongue or referring to events in history. EVER THOUGHT OF DOING A VIDEO FOR A RVBICON TRACK? Every song could be very well translated into a video. Especially “Thermopylae” creates visions in my mind. I see the typical landscape, the involved parties at Thermopylae (both Hellenic and Persian side). I studied several books on the topic, books dealing with the details of the battle, the strategies that were used, fighting formations like the Falanx, the geographical location, the historically correct way of dressing of all participators. When hearing the dramatic epic intro I see the Spartans and their allies waiting on their carefully strategically chosen location in the pass, calmly looking death into its eyes while the huge Persian invasion force are approaching. When the song starts the battle takes place. Towards the end one can see the heroic death of the defenders and as a final shot their monument bearing the inscription, a symbol of sacrifice, bravery and drama. If I were a director and had the financial means I would create a mini epic movie out of it. Ancient Rites hardly appearing in the video, the essence is a tribute to ancient valor, our work merely a tool to praise what I rate high. If a video will be made depends on our financial situation and the support/ interest we receive. WHERE DOES YOUR INTEREST IN (EUROPEAN) HISTORY COME FROM? DO YOU HAVE A LARGE COLLECTIONS OF WRITINGS AND ANCIENT ARTEFACTS? I am interested in cultural heritage and history. Ever since my childhood I am fascinated by these topics. It came instinctively; no one ever pushed me in that direction. But my father has an interest in history as well. I remember how I used to spend hours as a child watching his collection of historical cards, fascinated by these realistic paintings. They put me on the right track to catch a more realistic vision of the past. I do have a large collection of books dealing with historical matters, often works by ancient writers, eye witnesses. I often travel to historical locations and inspiration strikes on those timeless places. Immediately I have this urge to become creative with the knowledge I gained and to re-create these lost worlds in a historical correct manner. In the past I used painting and drawing as tools to express this passion, today music and lyrics are at my disposal. Fantasy and abstract worlds are all very nice but I try to reach accuracy. When watching a Hollywood movie in which I see ancient Romans wearing the wrong uniforms or helmets not corresponding with the era, when I witness King Arthur in 15th century armor or see Metal bands in historically incorrect Viking outfits I get annoyed. Kitsch I absolutely hate. Once I read an interview of a Black Metal band, they stated they disrespected the ancient Hellenic civilization because the Vikings kicked their ass. They must have invented a time machine. In that case I might as well write a lyric about Native Americans lead by Sitting Bull fighting the Imperial Guard of Napoleon Bonaparte. When I read this kind of nonsense I don’t know whether to laugh or cry :-)…Ancient artifacts are a dream but I only have a few coins and pieces of pottery. Ancient artifacts are extremely expensive and even forbidden to export/ possess as it belongs to the state. Someone in Asia Minor has invited me to go on an expedition because he owns an old scroll with directions to an ancient treasure but although I find it a very tempting offer I don’t feel like spending time in an exotic jail, haha! REGARDING MODERN PROBLEMS SUCH AS NEOLIBERALISM, UNEMPLOYMENT, INTEGRATION, RELIGIOUS FEAR, LACK OF IDENTITY: WHAT CAN WE LEARN OF OUR EUROPEAN PAST? IS THE CONCEPT OF STRONG EUROPEAN NATIONS A SOLUTION? I relate to the idea of a Europe united in diversity. Where all nations prosper and show mutual respect, where history and ancestry is cultivated, an idealised, harmonic Europe that has learned from the past. Where Germans and British, French and Italians, Spaniards and Flemings, Walloons and Swedes etc keep their identity but exchange culture instead of bullets, a solid Europe of nations which are paying tribute to their ancient lands. Probably my views are politically naïve as the Europe of my dreams does no longer exist and maybe never even existed. AT THE MOMENT BELGIUM ALSO FACES RACE PROBLEMS, FOR EXEAMPLE THERE HAS BEEN AN AMOK RUN OF AN 18 YEAR OLD GUY IN ANTWERPEN. WHERE DO YOU SEE THE REASONS FOR SUCH HATE? ANY WAYS OUT OF THE TROUBLE? The world is constantly on the move, migration on large scales. It is an ancient phenomenon which happened throughout the history of mankind. When small groups migrate to another place in the world they will assimilate with the local inhabitants, when large groups migrate they will form their own communities to preserve their own traditions. It’s a natural instinct. When large groups of people with a different ethnical, religious and cultural background move to another part of the world where another culture is already established, to live on the same soil, culture clashes inevitably will happen as the already established culture instinctively shall want to preserve their own traditions as well. That is a natural instinct, too, a conflict of interests. The more different these cultures are the more difficult a harmony is achieved over matters like religion, society, culture, law, politics and morality. Europe is standing at crossroads and has become a complex multicultural place. In a way Europe starts to resemble the United States more and more, society has turned more violent and grim. Fundamentalism is increasing, extremism on the rise as an anti-reaction, ancient conflicts between East and West, the USA as big brother, Imams calling for Jihad, terrorism on European streets. As if we’re living on a time bomb. Personally, I had a gun pointed at me as well by a half drunk troublemaker who said he hated my culture; I surprised him by keeping calm and by talking about his native country that I had visited, it distracted him from his hate and I reckon he wasn’t really convinced to pull the trigger. Luck and diplomacy got me out. Self control and clear thinking can help to avoid dramas, at least sometimes. It seems Nostradamus was right on many points. I see no way out; things will only get more difficult. I don’t trust the nature of mankind enough to believe we’re heading for a Garden of Eden. DO YOU SEE ANY CHANGES IN THE METAL SCENE FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS? A RENAISSANCE OF VIKING/ PAGAN BANDS MAYBE? I indeed noticed a revival of Viking/ Pagan bands, peculiar how music styles and revivals always move in circles. A bit like what happens in the fashion industry, trends come and go and are recycled years later. Positive about the Viking/Pagan renaissance is the increased interest in history and northern mythology. I COULD BELIEVE YOU ALSO LIKE NEOFOLK/ NEOCLASSIC MUSIC. IF SO WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ACTS? DEATH IN JUNE, BLOOD AXIS, DER BLUTHARSCH. YOU RECENTLY PLAYED AT THE ULTIMA RATIO FESTIVAL IN KREFELD. WHAT IMPRESSIONS DO YOU BRING FORTH OF THIS EVENT? THERE HAVE BEEN SOME ORGANISATIONAL DELAYS I BELIEVE… Things really need to be cleared up around this. Our management had been at the festival long before we arrived. Suddenly Flemish fans came to tell us rumours had been spread that we refused to play because the time schedule was not respected, that people were angry on us. We were informed that on stage was announced that ANCIENT RITES would not play and that the audience were offered a choice between us and the other bands. Later on we ran into one of the promoters who said he had been having trouble with us but that he always had been a fan and would regret if we didn’t play. We knew nothing of the whole situation. All got cleared up when we heard that our management and the organisation had been in a fight over the delayed schedule and that without consulting us the management had threatened A.R. would not be playing at all. We did not like this situation at all and after the show our management resigned. We understood the management tried to get us on stage on time, they panicked as they saw how late it was but this was a wrong judgment, a wrong move and not at all in harmony with the ANCIENT RITES attitude or spirit. As a result we played too late anyway but on top many people were angry on us because they believed we were boycotting the fest and the other bands. When the P.A. people dismantled the stage many people believed we had ordered this so other bands could not play their show, others thought that we packing to leave. The P.A. people also were dealing with time pressure. By the time the stage was finally ready for our show many thought we had left for home and others were too angry to watch us. We started a quarter to two in the morning. There was a die hard crowd of A.R. fans still present who never doubted us. So it still turned out great. However, the next day I read angry posts on German forums of people accusing us of rock star attitudes etc… A pity these misunderstandings had to happen and backfired at us while we honestly had no idea about what was going on. Our management resigned but we were left with the trouble. Ironic, isn’t it? I would like the other bands and all people attending the fest to know that cancellation never has been our way or a weapon we would use to put pressure on anyone. Only rock stars and spoiled brats would behave in such a manner and that would be an insult to the underground character of our band. Of course it was a pity we hit the stage far too late but we are used to difficult situations and play with heart and soul no matter how many people are present or regardless what time it is. I hope this is settled. YOU WILL PLAY AT GRASPOP 2006, I BELIEVE YOU ARE REALLY PROUD OF IT, WHAT CAN THE FANS EXPECT? 40 minutes of pure adrenaline. First we were booked to headline the Metal Dome on Friday night but the organisation contacted us with the request to replace Deicide on Saturday in the Marquee. Every time we played Gras pop it has been a grand feast, a home match somehow. It will be the first time tracks of “Rubicon” will be performed in front of our audience back home. It will be a highlight of the year for us. AND WHICH LIVE PLANS DO YOU HAVE IN MIND FOR REMAINING 2006? These last weeks we have played gigs in England and Germany to try out a couple of the new songs live and now we have received offers to play Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Slovenia. We’ll appear on several summer festivals. When an interesting tour is offered we’ll hit the road. “Rubicon” has been received very well so far so anything is possible. We look forward to it all. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD THE SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIPS IN GERMANY? WILL YOU ATTEND ANY MATCH? No. A national football team should represent one’s colours; since there is no national Flemish football team I don’t feel represented. You can’t expect a Scott to support England; I feel the same way about Belgium :-). ANY LAST WORDS TO YOUR GERMAN FANS? Thanks for the years of support you have given us. We hope to play again on German soil soon. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SHARING YOUR TIME AND GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR STRONG EFFORT. Thank you, Karsten, for this interesting conversation, good luck with your publication. Feel free to visit our website at: ancientrites.be/
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