Agathocles are a something of a legendary band in the grind scene. I've
been a fan of AG's unique mix of punk, grind, crust, and death metal, mince-core
as they call it, ever since I got the Apocalyptic Convulsions 10" comp
back in my sophomore year of high school. "Pulverized" floored
me, heavy as hell, good lyrics, and this was a live track! Since then I've
amassed maybe 20 or so Agathocles seven inches, tapes, cd's, or split records,
most of them excellent. I started to write with Jan AG a couple years ago,
and I decided to interview him, cuz not only do AG rock, they have a lot
to say. Speaking out against vivisection, racism, sexism, homophobia, Agathocles'
lyrics have covered topics that most grind/death bands don't even think
about, content to write umpteen songs about mutilation and gore movies (not
that I'm totally against that, yall know I love Impetigo!) Or worse yet,
stupid sexist rape lyrics.
Jan's been really cool about the interview, responding rather quickly, considering how much mail he must get. Makes me feel like a lazy jerk, considering how slow with mail I used to be!
This interview was done by mail, starting in January of '96, finished in July '97, and it originally appeared in TWISTED SYSTEM #1. I'll get around to adding links to the AG page and what not soon.
Congratulations to Jan and Burt for ten years of mincecore madness! Here's to another ten intense years!!!!
Who is in Agathocles, how long has this line up been around, and how
well is it working out?
AG now is: Jan - Bass / Voice, Matty - Guitar / Voice, and Burt - Drums / Voice. This lineup has been together since July 1995, but Matty had already played guitar for us during our tour in Spain in 1994. At that time, he replaced Steve, our old guitar player, who couldn't make the Spanish tour. In Spain in July 1994, we have done some studio-recordings with Matty which will soon be released as a 7" ep. This new lineup is turning out really great. We've known each other already for a long time, and the fact that Matty did the tour in Spain with us is the reason that we know each other very well. Lets hope this lineup will last for a very long time!
Agreed! The new material sounds great, especially the new lp! Speaking
of touring, how many countries has AG been to? Any tours that stick out
in your mind as being lots of fun? Any funny stories? How often do you play
shows? What bands are your favorite to play with?
We have played in countries like Belgium (of course), Holland, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Tschechia, Turkey, Denmark, Italy... The tour in Spain back in 1994 was really great. We met lots of our Spanish friends and we had the chance to see the enormous squat-movement over there. Really brilliant. Turkey was also fucking killer. Really nice people, great food... Anyway, I like all gigs we did. I think we play about 3 to 4 times each month, except when we are on tour, then we have more gigs. We like to play with all bands, as long as they are NOT sexist, racist, Nazi, big headed, homophobic...
What is the punk scene like in Belgium? How involved are the punks
in political actions?
We got some great bands - not only punk - who are involved in political actions like Rising Nation, Intestinal Disease, Out In The Cold, Cornucopia, Noise Reduction, Karma, Hiatus, Unhinged... But about "punk", well, I guess it's the same in the USA. In Belgium, lots of young kids call themselves "punk", wearing shirts of bands like Green Day, Offspring, etc. ... But there is NO political involvement AT ALL! Really sad story.
So the dreaded plague of pop "punk" has hit Belgium too,
is nowhere safe? (ha ha) Beside the shitty pop "punk," what styles
of music are popular in the underground in Belgium? Are there lots of crust
punk or mince core bands? Is there a death metal or black metal scene? How
integrated are the metal and punk scenes? Are there any crazy fascist black
BLACK METAL is the biggest trend in Belgium, together with this metal-core-thing like Biohazard, etc... Also Hardline-straight-edge is getting very popular in Belgium. And I am really NOT very happy with these 3 trends. A lot of Belgian black metal bands are NAZI-minded. I don't know if they mean it, but that doesn't matter. ALL NAZI-PROPAGANDA MUST BE STOPPED! The same goes for this hardline-straightedge crap. These hardline-guys beat up people because they don't think like hardline. Really pathetic. But still, Belgium has some really great and honest bands like Cornucopia, Rising Nation, Out In The Cold, Hiatus, Unhinged, Insane Youth, Karma (they fucking rule!!!!), Intestinal Disease, Noise Reduction...
Are there a lot of Nazis in Belgium? Are they organized?
Yes, there are some organized Nazi-movements, but they are not very big, except for the big fascistoid political party called VLAAMS BLOK. They are really getting more and more votes.
Are there any antifascist / anti-racist groups working to get rid
of those bastards? How about anarchist organizations? Is there an Anarchist
I don't think there is an Anarchist Black Cross in Belgium, but there are people who are into the A.B.C.! Some Belgian antifa-movements are RODE JEUGD, S.J.W., ANTIFASCISTISCH FRONT, N.A.F. ... But it's sad to see that these antifa-movements also have some problems with each other. I think they should all stick together to fight the common enemy: FASCISTS!
The song "Insufferable Being?" on the split with Unholy
Grave is about homophobia, and, from the context of the song, it seems to
imply that the song writer is gay. Is this a correct assumption? How much
blatant (and hidden) homophobia is there in the scene in Belgium. I would
assume that homophobia is on the rise because of the Hardline jerks... Also,
the song seems to exclude lesbians from its subject matter, most notably
in the lyric "You must respect these boys" was this intentional?
(I doubt it)
No, the song writer of that song is not gay. Matty, our guitarist, wrote that song and he's not gay. He wrote the lyrics that way, like it seems that it was written by someone who's gay. Homophobia in Belgium is not really a big problem. Being gay or lesbian is quite well accepted here in Belgium, except by the extreme rightist political parties. I don't know if the Belgian Hardline movement is against gays, but I guess they are, if you read their ideologies. I don't really hang out and have a few beers with hardline people, hahaha.
No, we don't want to exclude lesbians in that song, maybe it seems so, but "boys" sounds like "choice" (see the lyric), so that's why. Also here in Belgium, male homosexuals get more shit than lesbians. Being a lesbian is better accepted, I think.
When AG plays live, do you discuss what your songs are about? If so,
do you ever encounter the "shut up and play something fast" attitude?
How do you deal with it?
Yeah, we still explain our lyrics on stage, but I prefer to explain them face-to-face to people who are interested in it. This kind of communication is more personal. If you are on stage, you can't get feedback from the people who came to the gig. Yeah, of course some people shout things like "shut up and play", but that's their right, I think. If they don't wanna listen, then that's their choice. I can't force anyone to listen to our ideas.
I noticed that AG has done several songs about animal rights, are
you vegans? Have you done any benefit shows or protests?
We don't eat meat, so I guess we are vegetarians. Yes, we have done lots of benefit shows for animal rights movements like GAIA (a Belgian movement), A.L.F., APMA... We have also done lots of benefit-tapes etc... and also protests. We are in contact with a lot of animal rights movements here in Belgium.
Is being a vegetarian easy in Belgium? How accepted is it to not eat
meat? In the US its gaining acceptance, but it can be tough to find a decent
meal sometimes, are there any vegetarian restaurants near you?
Here in Belgium, it is quite easy to find vegetarian meals. Yes, there are quite a few veggie-restaurants, and they are not really expensive. So, it should encourage more people to eat vegetarian dishes, it really isn't too hard over here, and there are tons of cheap and healthy alternatives.
Who is the Hormon Mob sung about in the song on Cry Now, Cry Later
vol. 3? Who is paying them to "kill for profit?" In what way are
they killing for profit? On a similar note the song "The Accident"
tells the story of an ALF style action going haywire and resulting in murder,
is this a true story? Could you elaborate on what happened?
The Hormon Mob is a Belgian criminal organization which pushes illegal hormones in cattle to make bigger profits. Lots of these hormones are poisonous. Karel Van Noppen fought against this Hormon Mob, but last year he was shot in the head by the Hormon Mob. Nobody knows exactly who the Hormon Mob is, but there sure are a lot of Belgian politicians involved, as the investigation is being fucked up by the government. It's nothing more than big corruption.
About "The Accident," this has happened for real, back in 1987 in the slaughterhouse in Mol, Belgium, where a girl who was working in the slaughterhouse slipped out on some animal bowels, fell on a meathook, and died. This was not an ALF-action, it was just a freak accident that happened in the slaughterhouse in Mol. I just heard that a few weeks ago, another deadly freak accident happened in the slaughterhouse in Mol.
How long have you been involved with the punk / grind scene? Do you
see yourself still involved in ten years? Outside of AG, what do you do?
The first time I got involved in "fast, hard" music was back in 1981 with bands like Dead Kennedys, Discharge, The Exploited, etc. but also bands like Iron Maiden, Venom, Judas Priest...
Later on, I got more interested in the lyrics / attitude etc. Bands like Neos, Lrm, Revenge of the Whores, etc. really had a big impact on me. I started doing my first noise / punk - projects in 1985. Really noisy stuff. We put out a few demos and did some little gigs. Really nice years! In ten years, I don't know what I'll be doing then. Maybe I'll be a husband with 5 kids, hahaha. I really don't know, and I don't really wanna know. Lets see what the future will bring. Besides AG, I write poetry, I do paintings, I cook, write articles for zines, do workshops about punk / HC / grind / mince and the attitude. These workshops I do at schools, youth centers, etc.
That's very interesting! What exactly do you tell the students / youths?
How did these workshops come about and what is the goal? And what kind of
articles do you write for zines?
It's something about the other face of punk. Most young kids only know "punk" from TV and other big media. I tell these kids about the DO IT YOURSELF-movement (what it means), I let them listen to old punk-bands from countries like Spain, Ecuador, Peru, Japan... just to show them that punk/hc isn't just an American or UK-thing. These workshops are a big help to show kids that DO IT YOURSELF is a really great alternative for the big business, if you understand what I mean. The articles I write are mostly scene-reports or antifascist stuff. Just the usual stuff, I guess.
AG has an amazing amount of records out, how do you keep up with all
of the records and tapes AG does?
I guess we got lots of inspiration and lots of friends who want to release our stuff! DIY and communication are very important! Everyone can release AG stuff - if we have enough new songs, etc...
What does DIY mean to you? For example, if Relapse records were to
ask if they could put out an Agathocles Lp, would you let them? How far
removed from the hands-on production / distribution of the records are you
willing to be?
Do It Yourself for me means keeping as much as possible in your own hands, being autonomous, dealing with a network of friends! It also means doing tons of mail, taping stuff for people who can not afford to buy your stuff; communication, cooperation, friendship.
About Relapse, hmm, if they want to do an AG record, that would be no problem for me. You see, I have been in contact with Bill Exit 13 / Relapse since 1988, long before Relapse Recs existed, so it is not like a major label which wants to make some profit out of AG. Me and Bill have been talking about doing an AG record for years, but nothing concrete is planned. I don't think that AG will be a good seller on Relapse, hahaha! But I don't care... I am 200% behind the things AG is doing and that's the most important!!
(I originally asked here what records Agathocles had coming out in
the near future. Thing is, they put em out already...) Who are some distros/
record labels that you recommend?
Well, a very good one is: Morbid Records, Postfach 3, 03114 Drebkau, Germany. They have a huge list of intense HC / Grind which is very interesting. They also put out records / CD's and they are willing to trade, so if you are interested, just write them. Another good one is: Axioma, Vorsterhof 69, 8107 BD Broekland (OV), Holland. They mostly distribute tapes. And I myself have Mince Core Mailorder, but it's just a very small one. If you are interested in my list, just send a letter and you'll get one.
And what about bands / zines? Any distros in the US that usually have
new AG stuff?
Some great bands to check out are: Groinchurn, Warsore, Karma, Cut Throat, Autoritar, Fatal Error (split up, but they have just released a cd with their old stuff, a killer cd!), Poseydon .... Some great zines: Less Than One, Lunatic, Bloody Revenge, Miasma, Final Holocaust, and tons more. US distros selling our stuff, well, the only ones I can think of now are Relapse Records, and Vacuum Records. But there are tons more, I think.
Some killer Belgian bands are: Bloodsuckers (mince-core), Intestinal Disease (mince-core / punk), Cornucopia (mince-core / punk), Muggles (mince / chaos noise / punk), Out In The Cold (sympho death metal), Disjoncotor (really original grind / mince), Unhinged (female vox, killer fast HC), Hiatus (crust, too bad they have split up), R.O.D. (pagan (whatever that means for them) gothic / doom), Karma (female vox, killer chaos / fast HC),... Some great bands from the past (most of them have split up) are : X-Creta, Zyklome A, Wulpse Varkens, Vortex, Ostrogoth, Killer, The Rogers, Subversion, Exhaustless Revolt, Guy De Simpele, Capital Scum, No Debt, Koyaanisquatsi, Corpus Christi, Rise Above, Violent Mosquitos, Extreem, Menstrual Garbage, Distress, War Risk III, Moral Demolition, The Pigz, Mad Virgins, Neuthrone, Mutilations and Death, .... And a lot more!
Almost every time I get a grind demo or live tape from Europe it has
an Agathocles cover song on it. How do you feel about the hordes of bands
who worship AG? Do you feel sometimes that people are spending too much
time just imitating AG (and other early grind gods like Fear of God, Napalm
Death, Carcass, Lrm, etc.) and not being original? (Not that early AG stuff
is terribly original, I've heard a few Napalm Death riffs in there!
It is a big honour for me to see and hear bands playing our songs or having similar song structures and lyrics. Yes, that's a real big honour. What more can I say about it? Of course a band has to reach it own individual style, but having influences from other bands is no problem, I think. When I write AG-songs, I am influenced by tons of bands that I like. Yes, you are right, early AG was very much influenced by Napalm Death (old), but no one seems to notice the influences we had at that time from bands like NYC Mayhem / Straight Ahead and Lrm. Anyway, I am still behind the stuff we were doing then and doing now. Long Live Mince Core, and thanks to all my fave bands who have had an impact on me. Without them, I wouldn't be doing the things I am doing now. Cheers to all of you.
You'll have to excuse me for being an ignorant American, but what
is the native or predominate language in Belgium? Does writing your songs
in English pose a problem for communicating your message to local punks?
Does the majority of punk "stuff" being in English cause a problem
In Belgium, we have 3 different languages: French, Dutch, and German. I (and the rest of AG) speak Dutch (like in Holland), the guys of Hiatus and Unhinged speak French, and the guys of Rising Nation speak German. But most people speak Dutch, then French, and the smallest amount of people speak German. English is no problem here in Belgium. They teach English in school, so almost everyone can understand English. So it doesn't cause any real difficulties.
Is the language one speaks determined by where they live in Belgium?
Again, I must plead ignorance, when I ask the following question: Where
is Belgium located, surrounded by what countries? How big is Belgium? What
is the political system like?
Yes, I guess the language one speaks is determined by where someone lives. Of course, there are some exceptions, but it is mostly like this. Belgium is located in the middle of Europe. Our neighbors are Holland, Germany, and France, and there's also the North-Sea that is near Belgium. Belgium has a coast. Belgium is really small, don't know how small exactly, but who cares... The political system is a democracy (in theory or course), and ain't really too bad.
The fact that a "highly educated" and intelligent American
like myself is forced to ask questions like the last two reflects poorly
upon the education I received, how decent is the education system in Belgium?
The education system in Belgium is very well-organized, which is a great thing. There are lots of alternatives to choose concerning different kinds of studies and difficultly levels, but still, there are some "holes" in it. Since 2 years, there's a European project going on to "fill these holes." And it may work.
How are the poor treated in Belgium? Is there a "welfare"
system? What is the squatting scene like?
Yes, there is a very well-organized welfare-system here in Belgium. I think it's the best in the world. Really, I'm not complaining about it! Of course, there are some "holes" in it, but all by all, we can't complain. In Belgium, the squat-scene is not very big, because the police is very oppressive against squatting. Not only the police, let's say the government. In Gent (a big Belgian city), there's a good squat-scene, but they have to move out a lot. Every 3 weeks or so, they have to squat somewhere else.
What does the name Agathocles mean? How was it chosen as a band name?
When did Agathocles first get together as AG?
Agathocles is the name of an ancient Greek tyrant who sacrificed his own children to obtain power. For us, it symbolizes mankind which sacrifices its own creativity to conform like sheep. We first took the name Agathocles in August 1987.
To me, the story of Agathocles is a good metaphor for the corporate
states' quest for wealth, sacrificing our future, our freedom, and equality...
however, its your band! Can you explain the "Theater" concept
that seems to be a common lyrical subject, at least in the earlier AG stuff
(like "Agarchy" and the "Who Profits, Who Dies" split
with Morbid Organ Mutilation). How did this come about?
The "theater" concept was written in 1989, I guess it was in Leuven, a university city where I studied psychology. It's just based upon some philosophy, claiming that "life is just a play, and we are all the actors." There's no truth to be found, just a theater, where all is subjective!
How did the cover of the Averno / Agathocles cd end up being pornography?
Based upon your lyrics, I know that AG is against that kind of thing, was
this done without your permission?
The label, War Master Records, who put out that lp / cd just did it without asking us. We fucking hate it and we are very pissed about it. Of course we would have said no. We don't need senseless porn-photos on our records. If we want to have things like that, we would buy some porn-zines, haha.
How do you feel about the growing acceptance of Meat-Shits style porn-grind?
About Meat Shits, I don't like them, both musically and concerning attitude / image. It has no feeling at all for me, no real meaning. And for me, the porn-grind scene has nothing to offer. It's OK with me if you want to use that image, but there is a difference between homophobia and pornography. Yet lots of porn-bands are homophobic assholes, who spread fucking ignorant hatred. By the way, Infected Pussy from France is also a porn-grind band, but they are not homophobic. I guess they just have a good laugh or something. (Hi Phil!)
Yeah, but one really has to wonder about their respect for women (or
lack there of)... I've noticed that Agathocles tends to have "scary"
song titles for songs about political issues, for example "Hideous
Headchopping" is about deforestation and "Insufferable Being?"
is about homophobia. Is this an intentional attempt to appeal to the gorecore
fans while writing about interesting topics? (It sure works out that way!)
I like those "scary" sounding words. Maybe for you, as an English speaking person, these words sound ridiculous, but for us, Dutch speaking people, it sounds good. No, it's not an attempt to appeal to the gorecore fans, but it sure is nice that people who are not really into lyrics, get to know our lyrics. I think the new song titles will be more in the sarcastic way, like "Thanks For Your Hostility," I really like this title.
I love punk rock in Spanish for that same reason, it just sounds awesome,
even though I barely know 20 words in Spanish... Is Agathocles actually
going to tour the USA this year? (meaning 1997) With who, and when?
Unfortunately, our 3-week US tour for July 1997 got cancelled the very last minute. Yeah, real sad. We worked about half a year to get it fixed. All contacts were made, we got the airplane tickets, .... but just before we wanted to fly over, Will Fridlin (the guy who was setting it up) told us there was no money left to rent a van. Shit happens. Hopefully we'll have better luck in the future as I was really looking forward to meeting my old and new friends in the USA.
Any closing comments?
Thanks a million, ANTHONY, for this huge and great interview. Sorry for my short answers, but I just found a full-time job as a social-cultural worker and it takes a lot of my time which I usually spent doing mail. So please forgive me. To all people who have read this, thanks for taking the time!! If you want some more info about AG, just write me a note. Take care to all of you, keep your eyes open and MINCE HARD!! Bye...