– Hello and first of all, thanks for taking the time. How is everything going right now with ANCIENT RITES? What are you currently up to?
My pleasure Tania, nice talking to you. We are rehearsing for the upcoming concerts. Dates in England, France, The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have been confirmed. I spent a lot of time answering interviews to promote the new album, deadlines to deal with. In a few days the album will also be officially released in the States and Canada so the interviews I must look into are doubled and keep on coming. Takes a lot of time and work but it is nice to see people showing that much interest in our new album. All good! : )


– First off, what prompted you to form the band? In your country and back in its day there weren’t much bands into your style. You were quite pioneering.

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There were none. Since the early 80’s I was trying to get an extreme Metal band with Occult/Historical lyrics formed but the projects never went beyond the rehearsal room stage because the world wasn’t waiting for this type of band. It was a constant going of musicians who all wanted to do something different than what I had in mind. Glam was the big thing. Crossover was as well. Alternative styles. It took until ’88 before I established a line up with whom we recorded the “Dark Ritual” demo. Guitarist Philip (rip) and I had played together in a Metal band and we found two musicians in another town whose band just had broken up as well. In the 70’s I started out as a bassplayer but meanwhile had moved on to guitars. In order to get this line up working I returned to the bass. “Dark Ritual” was noticed in the underground but no label wanted to touch us so we created our own label “Fallen Angel Records”. Guitarist Philip and drummer Stefan both died, Philip in a car accident and Stefan committed suicide. Our drum roadie Walter replaced Stefan. Guitarist Johan informed me he just stayed on to keep the band going but he wasn’t into the concept. We found guitarists Bart and Pascal. We financed and released our own debut vinyl, the “Evil Prevails” ep. This built up a following in the worldwide underground and was also released in South and North America by underground labels Warmaster and Wild Rags. We recorded and financed our debut album “The Diabolic Serenades” and released it on a new underground label After Dark Records. The companies still refused to distribute the record. Only when Black Metal got popular they suddenly were interested in our work. And after we got signed to an “official’ label. But we had not changed. They were selling/distributing the very same record they had refused earlier. It opened my eyes to how things work in this music industry. The the labels started complaining “you should sound more typical Black Metal, you sound a bit different”. They overlooked the fact our band was older, had established an own identity before the standard B.M. formula became popular. They signed us because we had the looks and dark topics but hoped we would have changed our sound to something more typical. Just like before the music industry had not picked us up because we weren’t typical for previous trends. Came to show they never understood a band like ours and always found it difficult to place us in a typical box. Pioneering isn’t always a rewarding task haha…Everything we achieved is due to our own hard work and our “Do It Yourself” mentality away from the music industry, its trends and business men. What prompted me to create a band like Ancient Rites? Although I liked many bands I missed a type of band in the scene at that time I could identify myself with for 100% on all fronts. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but if one is a musician with a certain vision, try to create it yourself, don’t wait for others to do so. And be a pioneer, not a follower. The moment one says “I want to be like this or that band” one comes too late, it has been done before. True, copycats can “make” it in a scene but is it truely rewarding artistically? Try your own formula. I like to express my passion and interests through different forms of “art” (I don’t wish to use this term in a “posh” way). Writing, drawing/painting and music. What I did with Ancient Rites was expressing these passions regardless public opinions/expectations. So perhaps one’s approach might not be a general “success” formule but at least it’s your own. Perhaps I’m not fit for the whole music industry thinking this way. But true artistic freedom can be found when one doesn’t not care about living up to other people’s rules/expectations or following the rules by the book, which could have increased our commercial success. But I always felt that art should be above these matters and a true expression of one’s creativity, no matter the commercial reward, otherwhise one is owned by businessmen and it becomes a job…Sometimes interested labels and musicians I have to work with pointed out that my attitude harms the band. I then think to myself: sign up artists who dance to your tune then and to the musicians: good luck with your solo career and do it better. But don’t try to change me or the character of A.R.

– Now you have just released «Laguz», what are your feelings on the final outcome? And how is its feedback being thus far?
I think we have offered an interesting album for those who appreciate/understand our work without betraying our style yet still offering something new, not a copycat album of our previous work. We always sound different on each record yet it always is undeniably Ancient Rites. I have no clue regarding sales yet but I receive a lot of feedback through Facebook, e-mail and our webpage. I’ve heard Massacre is satisfied with the press response when they introduced one of the new songs to the gathered press on a Scandinavian Metal fair and the general interest from the audience towards the band, Gordeon are content with the response of the press regarding interviews and the main investor who hooked us up with Massacre and Gordeon is happy with the release and the way things are going. So far we already received concert offers to play festivals in France, England, The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. I was surprised to see the album being sold by major distributors, even through Amazon and Google Play. Also other labels and professional companies selling mainstream Metal are offering our work online or through published catalogues. I was contacted by a London based film maker to work on a video combined with ancient theatre and actors as he felt the music was inspiring. Also big merchandise companies/distributors have contacted us but I have to wait and see because we have been ripped off several times in our career. The merchandise was our only way in the past to gather money to record new albums, we controlled it ourselves. These merchandise companies want total exclusivity over everything and I don’t trust that too much. I offered exclusivity over certain designs but to control all of our sales I find a bit drastic. Anyhow, the feedback thus far has been great. But I remain with both feet on the ground, always.


– This is your first album in 9 years so, how are you feeling  about it? How have these last 9 years been like for the band?
Unfavourable times for the band. Many external and internal factors caused these nine years of delay. There were many obstacles we had to take before this album could be recorded. We lost our rehearsal room, had no record deal, financial troubles, Some of the band members gave priority to private obligations, line up changes. One problem leading to the other like a domino effect. Unfortunately many of these troubles were beyond our control. Like being stuck in a rut. What we have to “blame” ourselves for is that our music has become this complex it isn’t easy to find musicians. Live we work with a click track, which means the songs have to be performed exactly at the same speed as on the record. It all has become rather technical. And also our critical attitude towards our own material and our unwillingness to deliver a record of a lesser quality (because of the crisis in the music industry and labels offering little or no budgets for the recordings) do not work in our favour. But we rather release no album at all than a record which is a hasty job or a shadow of older work.


– Due to this I would like to know how did you start to work on this record and how was the songwriting process like.
One could say the writing process started nine years ago with intervals and was intensified the moment we knew there was a budget available and a record deal. It is a band effort. Whenever we entered studio with Ancient Rites we always wanted every detail to be right. Even during the demo days this was the case but on “Laguz” the fusion of our Metal sound and the classical orchestration and medieval parts, which in the earlier years were limited to intros and outros, became one whole. Also I think that on the new album every musical layer and each individual instrument can be heard in a more transparent way so that details don’t get lost. The actual pre-production demo recordings are made by our guitarists including keyboards and orchestration. Guitarist Domingo started out as a keyboard player in our band years ago which is very useful when it comes to the orchestration on the pre-productions. When we take our demos to the studio to finally record the album every layer and note of the music and vocals are thoroughly checked by our producers who are schooled in classical music. Every detail is dissected. Then everything is re-recorded, altered where needed. At the final stage I receive the basic files and alter and change my lyrics for a last time where needed in order to make the entire puzzle fit perfectly together. Sometimes the lyrics I wrote or concept I have in mind inspires the others to write the music in a certain style or vibe. The “Carthago” concept existed before the music for instance, hence the Eastern vibe and mysterious character of the music. On other occasions I let the music inspire my lyrics and I work around the vibe of the song. The music is complex, so are the lyrics and thus the whole creation is a rather complex process. We all focus on the own work during the final recordings and only when the recordings, producing and mastering is finished we have a complete and detailed view of the whole. In the end the pieces of the complex puzzle fit together.


– Time flies, specially nowadays and even more into the music industry. How has the music world changed since your previous «Rubicon» came out?
The biggest change is that sales went down generally in the music industry because of people prefering to download instead of actually buying the albums. And perhaps also because of the increasing crisis as an extra factor. Labels do not dare or want to invest in underground bands anymore, they don’t want to take any financial risks. I don’t mind about sales at all but on Ancient Rites it has an effect, we are not at all mainstream and on top outsiders in the scene because wo do not have a typical sound. Because of the current musical character of Ancient Rites we need a studio budget to work with for the album to sound decent and to be able to work with/pay professional producers. We did not have the money anymore to pay for it all by ourselves. On the other hand the positive aspect of the internet is that one can reach people with a single click without having to depend on the goodwill of others. Like with everything in life it’s a sword that cuts at two sides, there’s always positive with a negative and vice versa. A I mentioned earlier I was amazed though to see our album being offered through mainstream “channels” such as Amazon, Google Play etc…


– During these last years you have been through some health problems so, do you see or approach «Laguz» as a new chapter for ANCIENT RITES and the musicians involved?
Indeed these past few years I often was in and out of hospital and had to deal with several operations. Gallbladder had to be removed, gallbladder stones at the panchreas which could have become dangerous when damaging the panchreas, kidney infections, a big part of my bowels had to be removed because of infections and polypes the surgeons wanted out asap because of cancer, chronical infections. I started to know all the staff on all floors of the hospital. Even on my wedding day, while waiting for the bowel operation instead of a honeymoon trip, I had to go to the emergency because a bottle fell and the glass cut my hand which had to be stitched lol! Doctors and nurses were joking asking if I missed them so much because I kept on returning. I think humour is important. Even on the operation table just before anaesthesia kicked in I was joking with the surgeons and nurses. No time for self pity, one has to focus on the positive, even during dark times. A positive attitude is a powerful weapon to avoid stress, to remain calm and it speeds up the healing process. In between the operations I always went back to work, always soon up on my feet again. My life quality was bad but I focussed on feeding my mind and cultivated inner strength. This brings us to the album title “Laguz”. The „Laguz“ symbol is a less known and darker rune. In mythology the symbol is connected to the moon and tides. But also to the tides of life. Laguz stands for water, the beginning of life but also renewal and initiation, dreams, travel in mind and flesh and a darker side. When our ancestors read the runes the „Laguz“ rune warned for hard times but through perseverance the storms could be taken, the reward awaits afterwards. Ancient Rites had to take many obstacles since the very beginning of our career and especially these last years when so many different factors on different levels where preventing us to release a new album or to work in normal situations. In a way the “Laguz” concept was fitting to the situation. Storms and obstacles had to be taken with the band. I reflected this on my personal situation as well. I was and still am fighting chronical health situations that had escalated. Sometimes when I was facing another operation or was in pain and exhausted I smiled to myself thinking „Laguz is striking but the storm shall be taken and the Rune rewards afterwards“…I am not a religious person but I related to the ancestral symbolism of the Rune. I took a personal liking to the symbol and its symbolism. Apart from that it stands for many things fitting tot the universe of ANCIENT RITES, the “Laguz” topic combines history, mythology, Heathen religion, culture and philosophy. Several layers all gathered in one word.


– As always, you have historical lyrics here. How did you get interested in history and how do you do your research for lyrics? What are some of the events that inspired some of the lyrics in «Laguz»?

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As long as I can remember, even before I could read, I am fascinated by history. Throughout my life I cultivated this interest by learning about history in its different facets: from the cultural aspects to military history, theology to philosophy, art to politics, mythology to architecture, literature to daily life. Like a neutral observer. As it contains so many facets and layers, history is a re-occurring theme in the different “art” forms through which I express my passion: from writing to drawing, from painting to music. I also prefer to reflect on lesser known or darker histories. Away from Hollywood or fiction. It is a passion beyond music. All my life I travelled to historical places, visited museums, collected historical books (including original medieval parchments). The research is therefore natural. Even if there wouldn’t have to be lyrics written for the new album the studying would have continued, because of personal interest. The newly gathered “knowledge” I would have expressed in writing blogs or a novel, or drawing a graphic novel or a painting. The urge to do something with it is always there, no matter the form of expression. Of course I was content to write the liner notes and lyrics for a new album, music is a powerful form of expression. Surely not everyone will read the lyrics or liner notes but those who do for sure will understand and enjoy the album even more, all aspects contribute to each other: music, lyrics, liner notes, the booklet artwork (some of it my own)…As for inspiration on this album: thousands of years of history to get inspired by. And many histories or aspects left untold or only locally known. For example “Von Gott Entfernt“ is about the „Bokkenrijders“ cultus that shook parts of the 18th century Lowlands. Apart from its mysterious history it also has a personal meaning to me as direct ancestors of mine were a part of it. It was a peculiar, bizarre and mysterious phenomenon. A phenomenon internationally quite unknown as it is regional history. Hundreds belonged to this Horde and most members eventually got caught, tortured and publicly executed. Many questions remain unanswered. Why was a well-respected military surgeon like Doctor Kirchhoffs leading one of the fractions, how come they used military tactics and ranks? These were times of war and soldiers of different armies roamed the lands or had deserted. Women were a part of it too which was unusual. They were a strange mix of soldiers, artists, butchers etc. The blasphemous rites in chapels at night were an unseen phenomenon back then. Some historians believe it was not about the loot which was often poor but to destabilize society, like forerunners of the Enlightenment. I used Flemish/Dutch and German languages in the song to achieve authenticity, witnesses testified that the Bokkerijders used a mix of Flemish/Dutch, German and sometimes French when communicating between each other, revealing their international character. Also I used authentic Bokkerijder oaths in the song. I have been investigating old documents of the era, read publications concerning the trials, executions and court reports. Old books with eye witness accounts. You see, I can trace back my family roots to medieval times. Interesting is that some of them belonged to this infamous Bokkenrijders cultus. They were like a Black Guild. In military fashion they robbed churches and the aristocracy, they swore loyalty towards each other and the Devil, practiced anti-christian rituals to mock the clergy. One forefather of mine called Johan Theys was suspected of belonging to the first generation of the Horde, he got caught after a church robbery but he escaped from the prison tower. His name appeared in the old files, also in the diary of a local priest who wrote about his escape and who suspects him to have formed a new Horde in another town. Interesting dark family history. Another ancestor was caught and got hanged on the local gallows’ field. Local legend tells he still haunts the fields. What historians writing about the matter don’t know and what the 18th century authorities didn’t know and are questioning in their documents I can shed a light on. They spoke of the Theys family as members of the Horde and a new family appearing on the suspect lists named Boon not knowing where they came from. Fact is that in those villages our Theys Clan was nicknamed Boon. It was the same family using different names. Over there we are still called this way. It was the ultimate proof to me they were talking about my direct ancestors apart from the locations were our family always have been living. I was introduced to this phenomenon at the age of five. I was wondering why the captain of the Horde described and pictured in a novel my family were reading to me was called Theys. Now I understand why. „Leg V Alaudae“ tells about the Rise and Fall of the sole official Roman legion consisting of…Gauls. Their path was a dramatic one with no survivors. The entire legion was wiped out while facing alone a massive enemy force. After first having built up a strong reputation starting with Caesar’s campaigns, they vanished into oblivion never to be re-formed again when they all went down in Dacia. History seldom tells their peculiar story, I felt it was time to share their interesting and tragic tale. They were trapped between two worlds because of their position, as it were. You see, Gallic tribes who had made alliances or peace pacts with Rome before, during or after the wars were obliged to deliver recruits. Some went on a voluntary basis, others did what was expected. They were offered Roman citizenship but remained also Gauls because of their roots. Consider barbarians by most Romans and considered too Romanized by many other Gauls, they were between a rock and a hard place. Which often resulted in strange situations. Whilst visiting Rome they were in constant fights with Roman citizens who looked down on them while they had fought wars for Rome and their own tribes’ pact. It was written that they were not pleased when Caesar had shown no mercy to other Gauls after battle whereas he usually pardoned defeated Romans. So one day they attacked politicians and friends of Caesar who came to watch a battle and offered no mercy to anyone but their own legion, it was said to make a statement against the double measures that Romans sometimes used depending on the origins of the defeated enemy. Their history is less known that is why I felt like writing a song about the Larks Legion (Alaudae comes from the old Celtic word for “Lark”. The Lark wings were a typical ornament for Gallic helmets. They were the only non-Romans equipped in full Roman legion military gear. The wings on their helmet referred to the Gallic roots. I like to offer different layers and meanings when writing lyrics and to reflect on less known histories.


– Anyway I have always thought you can read a lot between lines in your lyrics, what in first appearance are historical lyrics have some metaphors. For instance in this album I noticed an overall quite positive «hidden mesage» about overcoming and strength. Is it just my perception?
Very correct analysis again, Tania. The lyrics indeed contain different layers, nice to see you noticed that. And your perception is totally correct. Of course the album will take the interested listener on different travels to forgotten times and worlds but there’s a philosophical undertone for those who like to dig deeper. Like you did J It also contains openly philosophical inspired topics, without preaching, but that could offer inspiration to those who need it. Songs like “Mind Unconquered” or “Umbra Sumus” for instance. To give a few examples: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Carthago while also reflecting on their dark religion. The tragic story of Emperor Julian who tried to restore Ancient Heathendom in a Christianised Rome. He almost succeeded but died in battle while rumor has it he was killed by one of his own men bribed by the clergy. History named him „The Apostate“ which is a negative label for someone who has deserted his goals and beliefs. But history paints him from a Christian point of view, with the song I try to restore his reputation because it took courage to fight for a lost cause, chasing the ghost of the old Rome and Hellenistic philosophies. The philosophical undertone of the song is that Emperor Julian followed his own path regardless the public opinion or mentality of the era he lived in. That takes strong character. A track like „Mind Unconquered“ talks about the power of the will and mind. It has a positive message based on my personal experiences, to persevere in difficult times and to fight on without self-pity, no matter how hard life can be at times. „Umbra Sumus“ reflects on mortality and how we all join the Danse Macabre in the end, it calls for modesty and reflection. And even the song “Under the Sign of Laguz” contains, as you correctly stated, a positive message underneath the first historical layer. I like to offer more to the listener/reader than just an interesting story.


– Musically I could say this is a more melodic and symphonic album than some of your previous ones. Was this how you envisioned the album or was just how things came out?
It was a natural process. If one would erase the filmic orchestration and medieval/classical music from “Laguz”, one would hear that the basic Metal tracks are even more intense than before, more extreme and more complex at the same time. But I can understand that the extreme Metal aspect is less obvious because of the filmic elements which got a more prominent place in the total mix. The production turned out that way because of the “character” of the “Laguz” songs. Because so many things are happening in the music, details we did not want to be “drowning” in the total sound. Even on our pre-production demos the orchestration was big. All musical elements have been intensified on “Laguz”. The Metal aspect and also the orchestral element have been pushed further. I think this orchestral grandeur, the classical influences and medieval elements contribute in a large way to the atmosphere of a song. As if they open the portals to the worlds of the past described in the lyrics even more. These classical/epic filmic elements enable the careful and truly interested listener/reader to understand the concepts/themes of the songs even better and to visualise the described images in their mind. Sometimes we are criticised for this classical aspect but I like our work to stand the test of time. Even on our debut demo we worked with a classical intro and filmic outro. The essence of our work is the same and undeniably Ancient Rites. As I said, if those criticizing the later work would dissect the Metal elements they would realise they are as intense as in the early days, even more, but we have added a musical element that fits our universe. Perhaps they don’t understand the whole concept or care less for the lyrics, otherwise perhaps they would understand these elements fit together without contradicting each other…One could say that the “ancient” factor of our band name is actually translated into music. In my book, the universe and concept of Ancient Rites would allow us to record a complete classical record or a very raw, vile, under produced album without both albums contradicting each other, so long as the essence of the concept remains intact. We like to explore musical boundaries within our own style and offer a difference, we don’t really work according to a certain “strategy” that is why every album sounds different and sometimes takes getting used to by the fans. It could be very well possible that on the next record the mix and production put the accents on other factors and that the album will sound more “basic”. All is possible as long as the essence remains Ancient Rites.


– Anyway you still keep the whole dark essence, fitting with your more «mystical» lyrics. I think nowadays a lot of bands nowdays when go for a more melodic approach don’t manage to keep an overall dark vibe or keep their brutlity. Is it easy to get a good equilibrium?
Correct analysis, Tania. We haven’t evolved in a more commercial direction because despite the richer melodies and classical/filmic orchestration “Laguz” is a somewhat stubborn and more difficult album to get in to. One has to listen the album a few times before it will grow on you. To keep a good equilibrium one has to pay attention to “details”. For instance when a music part gets very melodic I compensate with non melodic vocals, where the music is more basic I use a more harmonic vocal style. Example : in “Von Gott Entfernt” has a very melodic instrumental line there, on top of that part I sang the authentic 18th century Satanic Oath of De Bokkenrijders Cult/Guild with an ultra deep voice to achieve a ballance. Theme and vocal style deliberately chosen there to remain in a dark atmosphere. Lead instrumentalists sometimes have a tendency to place layer on layer of different melodies and that is fine but one has to keep that a bit in check and so I anticipate with the vocal style. If I would have sang that part along the melody it would not have worked or would have lost its “darkness”. A ballance has to be achieved. I find it my task to watch over that, as a founder and lyricist I do not want to alter the essence of the band. This can sometimes lead to musical conflicts. We exist since 1988 and we had many line up changes. Such is inevitable when a band exists as long as we do. One of the reasons is that sometimes musicians who joined in later do not understand or respect the legacy enough and see the band as a platform for their talent or a stepping stone for their own career, in that process they sometimes try to push the band into different directions. I’m all in for musical evolution but the equilibrium has to remain intact. And as I mentioned earlier, the Metal basis itself is extra intense and aggressive, again to achieve a ballance with the orchestration. I see that you analysed our work well and understand the character…Well done.


– Talking about the symphonic side of the album, how handled the orchestrations?

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The basis of the orchestration on the pre-production demos was written by Domino Smets. On the album it is handled and perfectionised by Oliver Phillips. He is a classical musician, he writes soundtracks for films and TV productions etc. While reflecting on this: a special trip was the last song on the album named “Fatum”. It was a collaboration between Oliver Phillips and myself, it is a completely classical/renaissance styled track. In Ancient Rites tradition there are always classical intros and outros on the album. This time I felt like taking the classical outro further and turn it into a complete song.


– You have done the artwork yourself. Would you mind to elaborate a little bit on how did you take inspiration from and its significance?
I handled the artwork myself in the sense that I selected illustrations I found fitting to each song. Honesty demands me to say not all the artwork is by my own hand as is mentioned in the cd booklet. I selected works of historical masters and by doing so I felt like honouring their talent and impact on art history. Their names are mentioned as are the titles of the works on the credits page. You are right though that some of the artwork is by my own hand. “Under the Sign of Laguz” shows a drakkar sailing out in restless waters which symbolises the obstacles awaiting during the travel, it of course also is a metaphor for the struggles in life and a tribute to perseverance. On the sail I drew the “Laguz” symbol to accentuate that. One sees the fjords, a stormy sky and clouds. They are forebodes of the storms the travellers have to take. Overlooking the scene are Odin and his ravens. This is a reference to ancient Heathendom, a world view close to nature and its elements which were typical for the era. To “Frankenland” I made a drawing of a Frankish warrior with axe. I made three versions, a coloured aquarel, a black and white drawing in ink and a “negative” version with snow. I left our lay out man Jef Van Laer the choice which version to pick which would fit best to the rest of the booklet in matters of colours and style. A third illustration from my hand was a black and white ink/pencil drawing which I found fitting to the “Fatum” song. The work depicts the Women of Wyrd (of the old Northern mythology) metaphorically weaving the strings of “fate”. Originally it was an illustration I made for a publication of an organisation called “Traditie” that focusses on ancient traditions. I was playing with the idea of making an illustration for “Carthago Delenda Est” as well, showing the ancient harbour of Carthago with the reflection of a statue of the Punic God Ba-‘al Hamon in the sky with fire coming out of the statue’s mouth. According to ancient legends and several historians, human sacrifices took place in Carthago, the sacrificed were thrown in the firy mouth of Ba’al Hamon. There was no time make this illustration though as I was also working on the liner notes, the video clip and cd booklet in general.


– And you have recorded once more at Spacelab Studios, in Germany. How positive is to repeat this procedure?
Since “Fatherland” we always work at the Spacelab studio’s in Germany. The producers are demanding classical musicians who expect the maximum of our and their own work. Especially drummer Walter and I find it important to work with this team since we feel that their professionalism contributes to the end result. The instrumental Metal parts were recorded at Spacelab with producer Christian Moos. The orchestration and vocal parts were recorded in the studio of Oliver Phillips this time. I like to work on the vocals with Oliver as he is also a singer and I urge him to be as critical on every note I sing as him and Christian are with the instrumental parts. It is a double check. He often says he can’t contribute much to my vocal style but he is too modest. In matters of timing but mostly in fine tuning he has an extra sharp ear, also the technical aspect, in the heat of the recording one has to pay attention to the distance from the microphone or the volume of pronouncing certain letters such as the “s” which can deform while recording or sound too harsh. And I like to record different vocal layers, these notes have to match in perfect harmony. Of course I’m not doing opera but if I’d be singing a double or triple layer and a note would be wrong, one would hear that on the album, the more layers the more tricky it becomes. Now it all sounds natural and harmonic. Often what one doesn’t hear is the hardest work. After the recordings of the Metal parts, the orchestration and the vocals all files are send to Spacelab again and Christian Moos starts the producing. Each day a track is posted online and we must write down our thoughts. When the album is mixed we can ask for alterations if needed. Then the files are sent to Eroc’s Mastering Ranch in Germany where the mastering takes place to finalise the album.


– Throughout your career you have worked with a lot of different labels. For instance «Laguz» is your first opus with Massacre Records. How did you hook up with them? As I guess you may got offers from some other companies too.
Actually several parties are involved regarding the production of “Laguz”. We’ve been picked up by a German investor who always liked our work, who did several underground releases and who works with Massacre Records. They were interested in Ancient Rites. He hooked the band up with Massacre and also connected the band to German based Gordeon Music for the PR/publicity. The budget came from different origins. There has been interest from other labels but none were really interesting and we weren’t searching either. It would have had no use because we still had to fine tune our material. The moment I saw we were ready to enter studio I talked with the contact person who already years ago had said he would sign Ancient Rites to inform him we were ready to start. Since he agreed on all our terms and offered the studio budget which the studio was asking for, agreed on us working at Spacelab plus sorted out the album to be released on Masacre and worked with Gordeon, there was no need to look further for other labels or to negotiate with others. He showed the most interest, was the most flexible and achieved more than he actually promised from a professional point of view.


– All this about «Laguz» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
From a musical point of view: Epic. Intense. Complex. From a lyrical point of view: Historical. Dark. Philosophical. I know I cheated a bit because these are 6 words but I divided it in 2 chapters because otherwhise a complete picture wouldn’t have been given…Both aspects contribute to each other but yet they have their own function/accents.


– You are hailing from Belgium, a small country with a not really prolific Metal scene but, how is it like over there? Are there any new bands worth suggesting?
I am convinced that if we had hailed from any other country things would have been a lot easier for us. There are many Metalfans here but there are no professional labels and the big festivals focus on foreign bands. There’s even a policy of putting a limited amount of national groups on these festivals one of the promoters once told me. “Yes you’re popular but we already have one national band playing. We can’t have more than one or two”. I never heard of such a policy abroad. When it comes to those who could make a difference the mentality over here is one of “when it’s local it can’t be that good”. When I started the band I immediately realised I had to focus on the international underground. Only after we had built up an international reputation we were offered chances here and still lower on the bills than elsewhere. Also the fact that next to universal history we also wrote about our own ancient (Flemish/Germanic) heritage dating back before the creation of Belgium did not go down well here with those in charge. Gutter press tactics, negative articles in newspapers and programs on national TV twisting truths and demonising the band were the result. Police investigations regarding occultism or subversity towards the state and being considered political incorrect for always having questioned religious fundamentalism etc. You see, questioning Christian fundamentalism was ok, doing the same with Islamist fundamentalism was considered not pc and “wrong” because it seems one can’t question anything exotic even when it’s negative. I don’t discriminate in questioning religious fundamentalism, local or recently imported, why should I? Boycotts, being banned, press circus, you name it, we faced it. There never were any charges against us because nothing we do is illegal but a certain climate was created to make us a “taboo”. What did they expect? We are a band also writing about ancient history so why should writing about my own be forbidden because it doesn’t suit their modern political purpose? We do have a large following here which is considered some sort of treat. Press and authorities, those pulling the strings, do not favour us, on the contrary. I remember riot police outside at one of our concert waiting to intervene, the gig was regarded as a risky football game where one expects huge riots. While actually nothing illegal is taking place at our shows. The riot police who was in stand by for our concert had to march out indeed. But not for our crowd, for the violence and drug abuse at a big official Dance party that took place that same night in the same area. Ironic I find: sing about crime, drugs and how bad you are and you’ll be regarded a hero and left alone, write about your own history, culture, ancestry in a positive way without attacking anyone, one is regarded “wrong” and becomes a target. For having an own mind. Also how often A.R. was described in the press as if we were a dangerous occult sect was rather ridiculous. Some articles were even downright funny and hilarious. And of course full of lies seen and read by thousands. If A.R. had been Scottish or Irish and we’d done exactly the same by also writing about Scottish or Irish history we wouldn’t have had to deal with all the nonsense we face(d) here. I found out first hand one shouldn’t always believe what the press writes, not even the national news. Think for yourself. I wouldn’t want to trade my ancestral identity for any other but if we had been born somewhere else things would have been a lot easier…I have little reason to be grateful to the state, press or the music industry here. We do draw larger crowds here but it’s DESPITE the big press and authorities and music industry. I do not care because in the end I am an individual who is not in it for the fame or fortune, but an independent thinker/artist who does his own thing regardless public opinion. Outsider, always. Fine by me.


– You are also playing in some other bands apart from ANCIENT RITES. Are you working in anything new with any of them?
With Iron Clad a full lenth album and a split cd was recorded/released. With Lion’s Pride a full length album, a split cd, some tracks on compilation albums and a recently released double cd/dvd. For now I must concentrate on Ancient Rites. The idea behind Iron Clad was to record the band’s legacy, the material the band had written over the years, they date back to the 80’s. It was always intended as a studio project. One of the founding members moved to the States. We did receive concert offers and he didn’t object to the idea of carrying on without him but since I wasn’t an original member it somehow didn’t feel correct to me to start playing live without all the original members. Also the Lion’s Pride line up isn’t complete anymore. The band is banned from most clubs anyway because the symbol was the medieval lion of Flanders. This resulted in many boycotts in this country. Made public enemy n° 1 by the national press etc with fake articles and manipulated/invented tv programs. The banner still is the official Flemish community flag but a band cultivating these ancestral roots is considered too politically incorrect over here. It was almost impossible to play anywhere, mostly we played abroad. I play with the idea of starting a new band with the Iron Clad/Lion’s Pride drummer who is all in for the idea. But for now I must focus on Ancient Rites.


– And finally, what are your near-future plans?

ancient rites 3
Very busy times on all fronts. In a few months a short graphic novel of mine will be published in a compilation comic album in support of the Child Cancer Fund. It is a story based on folklore figures of the medieval Flemish city of Ghent. The setting are the monuments and castles of the city which I drew in a realistic style whereas the figures themselves are drawn in a humoristic style. The story tells about local legends and history and one sees historical characters connected to the city pass by in the novel. It has a dark touch too but not to the extreme as it is for an “all ages” audience. People of Ghent who saw an excerpt loved it because they recognized so many things which they consider a part of their personal heritage. That is a compliment of course. Another graphic novel will be released very soon. It is a full length realistic style graphic novel that I made in the 1980’s. People on my FB were asking if I could publish a graphic novel for them to read. I asked what they would like to see by my hand. The answers were: “historical, adventurous, mysterious, dark and with your black humour”. I realized I had made one exactly like thatback in the 80’s which was released limited on the local Flemish market in Dutch and in black and white. So I started cleaning up these 30 year old pages digitally. Then I translated the work into English so my foreign contacts would be able to read it as well. And thirdly I started coloring the graphic novel. It is a dark thriller, film noir style. Set in two time periods: ancient times and the 1980’s. The ancient times I colored in grey tones and black and white to achieve an old feel. For the 1980’s part of the story I used full color. The graphic novel is called “Devil’s Charm – The Ancient Curse”. The ingredients are history, unsolved murders, a supposed cursed ancient artefact, heathen and occult secret organizations, there’s a slight supernatural touch and dark humor. The main characters are opposites: a police inspector called “Van Roy” (I used the family name of my deceased grandmother, to honor her but also because it is a name easily pronounced worldwide) who tries to solve the murders and a treasure hunter who is nicknamed “Crazy Sid”. They become allies against their will. The search leads to ancient sacred woods, forgotten medieval graveyards, cult caves, the old paratroop historical fortress where I did my military service and…directly into to the 80’s Metal scene. Because center of the murders and mayhem is a first generation occult Metal band. The band deals with boycotts, banned concerts,  police investigations, gutter press and band members dying. Someone who read the book in the 80’s once told me “Do you realize you almost told your future real life story with Ancient Rites? All these things started happening to you after you finished the book. You jinxed yourself!” It is a funny thought. Indeed one year after completing the story I founded Ancient Rites. The graphic novel will be printed in Germany, I expect a test view any moment and then it will be send to the printers. Very busy with rehearsing now for the Ancient Rites dates as well and flooded with interviews. On top of it all my regular job. I’m also involved with 2 authentic medieval Guilds of my hometown founded in the middle-ages that upholds ancient local traditions including crossbow shooting and annual feasts/gala balls. I founded an international historical/cultural hiking/travel bond named Alaudae/Laguz with whom we travel to interesting historical places and into nature. A.R. gigs are coming up national and abroad. And as I said I play with the idea of starting a new back to basics underground Metal band with the drummer of Lion’s Pride/Iron Clad. I am working on a new graphic novel and think of publishing some of the short gags/comics I made. Busy times ahead of me, many plans. I hope the Grim Reaper will stay away for a few more years but we have no choice in the matter. I’m not being afraid but just realistic. Carpe Diem, life can be over soon. Only a few weeks ago I had to bury a childhood friend. At least I lived my life to the fullest. Thank you for this interesting conversation Tania, and my best regards to your readers…


– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
I think all is said and done, Tania. It was a real pleasure talking to you. It always is when someone seems to understand your work…Thank you 🙂


Tania Giménez

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