Underground Metal Blog since 2013

2021. november 16., kedd

Gunther Theys (Ancient Rites)

 Interview with Gunther Theys of Ancient Rites

(Questions compiled Sorin Necrotrooper and Georgius, 

the conversation was published originally on Sadistik Witchfukk, 1st of March, 2013)

G: Ave prospective Pope Guntherius I.! I know you've removed this request but if you would be elected, which will be your first orders in Vatican?

- Haha imagine: Pope Guntherius I. My first request would be rather selfish. To open the Vatican library and enter the section with ancient “forbidden” books. I would gather scholars who have a great knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin and other old tongues for translation and dive into the hidden treasures. Probably this would immediately lead to discussions within the Vatican to replace me as this interest would reveal I am not the Pope they had in mind. Perhaps I should play it more clever and less obvious in order to win enough time in the library ;-)   

We hope you will record a new Ancient Rites album as soon as possible and crush the European scenes. Please tell us about your future plans!

- We are working on new material and matters are progressing. We did receive interesting offers from record companies but it is too soon to tell when or on which label the new record will be released or where it will be recorded…The music industry has changed a lot over the past years, studio budgets are limited as cd sales are crashing due to downloading. I have no problem with people downloading but reality is that labels do not dare to take risks anymore with underground bands. Also I am rather old school, I still prefer to hold the original album in my hands but in general the mentality has changed. Bands finance themselves mostly by selling shirts nowadays and many pay for the own recordings etc We will see what the future will bring,  as soon as we have enough material to record a new album we will look deeper into the matter…  

Back in time a little bit. You played during the late 70’s-early ’80’s in a lot of bands, would you be so kind shortly to share some info about that period? 

- In the late 70’s I formed a Punk band named Addix in which I did vocals and bass. Our style was ’77 style Punk-rock but lyrically we differed from most bands in the style as the lyrics I wrote were misanthropic. In the early 80’s I played bass for bands such as Subversion (Discharge style) and Capital Scum (old school Hardcore). I formed my first Metal band in the early 80’s. Style was Black Metal with Speed/Thrash influences. We had names such as Necrophilia but it was impossible to find gigs or a decent line up. The style was not as “popular” as it is nowadays. Mid 80’s I joined a band named Nuclear Domination (Crossover) until I formed Ancient Rites around 1988. The rest is history…When I look back it is strange to see that several of the musicians I worked with died very young due to car accidents or suicide. Tragic. Also two of the founding Ancient Rites members died soon after the release of our debut demo “Dark Ritual”…I was looking at a picture of the 2nd A.R. gig recently and I realized I am on the photo surrounded with “dead” people: two band members but also an old friend of mine, a first hour fan who was in front of the stage on that photo. It is strange…Life can be hard. Past two weeks two friends of mine died, one had a heart attack, another one a brain stroke. I have been in and out of hospital myself a lot recently, operations and such but somehow I always pull through. I try to enjoy every minute on this earth, no time to sit down and complain or feel sorry for oneself.  

G: For me Ancient Rites is a very unique band and to be honest you inspired me to write historical lyrics for my first band, Castrum and later to Domhring. Where do you take historical themes from? What is Your favourite historical era and why? What is your much-loved Ancient Rites album and song?

- Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated :) I take my inspiration from historical literature, travels to historical locations, museums etc. My first love as a child were the Ancient times. Ancient Rome, Gallia, Germania etc and World War II. I also developed an interest for the middle-ages as a kid. As time passed by my interests grew wider and wider. At this moment for instance I am reading about the Nordic Renaissance in the Lowlands and explore the 16th century writings of Erasmus, Pieter Gillis, Nicolas Cleynardus (who was born in my hometown, I have an authentic 16th century work of this scholar in my collection). But I “cross read”, at the same time I’m studying about the American Civil War, dive into eye witness accounts of World War I, read diaries of Flemish soldiers serving in Napoleon’s cavalry, Stanley exploring the Congo etc. The Victorian era I find fascinating but also prehistoric times or ancient cults or philosophy, also explorers from the Viking age to the Portuguese/Spanish conquistadors etc My interests are very wide, I love to “jump” from century to century, endless worlds to be discovered constantly… I have no particular fave A.R. album or song because they all are like my children to me :)    

(I've got an awesome package from Erik Sprooten with dedicated Ancient Rites CD 'Fatherland', 10.I.2017-G)

Sorin: What bands influenced you during the Ancient Rites era?

- We weren’t influenced by any particular bands because we felt it was/is important to achieve an own identity. This happened in a natural way actually because keep in mind we listened to old Hard rock, lived the birth of NWOBHM, saw the beginning of Black Metal, the rise of Thrash, Doom, Speed Metal etc . I think we were subconsciously influenced by several genres we had experienced over the years and tried to do our own thing which resulted in an own identity… 

Sorin: We all know in 1998 you went into a musical direction. Why did you decided to do that? Were you "bored" of traditional Black metal?

- Not at all. We never sat down to plan our sound, it was a natural evolution of musical progress without looking down on the tradition. Also we started working with classical and progressive musicians who produced our albums. In order to create an epic feel fitting to the often historical concept of the lyrics we felt it was an interesting move to experiment with classical music, to achieve a “filmic” atmosphere without however betraying the essence of our sound. Personally I would like to record another “primitive” album too. The “essence” of A.R. remains the same, we don’t mind using different “dialects” of the style. When one thinks of it: each A.R. release sounds different, still each release undeniably sounds like Ancient Rites.

G: You played/play also in bands Iron Clad and Lion’s Pride. Do you have any plans to release new albums with them in the near future?

- Only a few days ago the new Lion’s Pride release reached my address. The first prints for the band members. It was a long wait. Soon it  will be on the market. It is a double release containing old and brand new tracks on CD and a bonus DVD with old and new clips. It is a nice luxury edition with gatefold cover and booklet.  As far as Iron Clad is concerned there are no plans for a new album.  

Ancient Rites gave a lot of concerts in Europe through the years. Share us, please, some funny stores.

- Too many stories to tell J. Ok one story: we toured England with At The Gates but got ripped off by the tour promoter who didn’t pay the tour bus agency. The label of At The Gates promised the tour agency to pay for the transport home of their band but our label didn’t help. We were kicked out of the bus and stranded in England with all our equipment in the middle of winter. We hide from the cold in telephone cells and with our last money we called the London promoter. He paid a train ticket and we travelled to London with only our guitars to play concerts to earn money to get back home again J. Later we had to return to England to retrieve our equipment, clothes and merchandise. A part of our merchandise was stolen. Hard times but I had a lot of laughs, I always keep a positive spirit even in the most difficult times, always helped me to survive…It was hilarious, we started the tour as a big rock band in a very luxury tour bus and returned like beggars who had to sleep in telephone cells without money for food. Lol! 

G: I’m always fascinated when I read your posts about history on the popular social network. How many books do you have in your own collection? Which writers/poets (Flemish too) do you prefer?

- I have been collecting books since my childhood so one can imagine my library is rather big. On top I also collect graphical novels. I lack room. I do not know how many books I have in my collection to be honest. When a topic catches my interest I go to my library and find works on the matter, often books I don’t remember buying. As a collector I buy works that catch my interest but I wait the right moment to read them. I love reading ancient historians and philosophers such as Herodotus, Tacitus, Plutargos, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Julianus Apostata etc. Also theologists of the Renaissance era such as Erasmus, Pieter Gillis,Thomas More, Machiavelli. Writers such as Nietzsche, Lord Byron, Ernst Jünger, Ernest Claes I find inspiring as well. Modern historical novelists such as Steven Pressfield, Ian Pears, Umberto Eco, Gore Vidal, Steven Saylor, Joris Tulkens know how to revive past times in an excellent way. The list is endless. As I speak I hear my library calling my name. It’s an addiction my friend…I often find myself alone in this passion, people often say I don’t live this modern age enough, perhaps they are right but I always had this passion for anything historical even before I could read.    

G: As I’ve noticed you are an admirer of movies too. Are you not angry when do you see in many so-called historical films a lot of non-sensical things? (as unsuitable clothes, weapons, dates etc.) Could You please name 5 of your favorite movies?

- Yes, many Hollywood productions annoy me, especially when they are presented as historical correct and are too far away from historical truth. I realize the masses don’t care for “detail” but Hollywood has large budgets, it wouldn’t harm to at least take in consideration correct dates, the right historical backgrounds, clothes, architecture etc…I saw a “historical” film recently, set in medieval times. Some of the background figures were dressed up and painted like Celts, some of the extras were shouting curses in Polish language while it were supposed to be  English soldiers. In another movie Romans enter the lands of current Scotland and one sees a lady dressed in medieval clothing as if she’s a character from “Braveheart”! Things like this disturb me. As if historical correctness is sacrificed to feed the cliché views of the masses. I still watch and enjoy some of the so called historical films to an extent but there are always those disturbing “details”. Remember how in “Kingdom of Heaven” Saladin puts the cross right on the table as a sign of respect after he has won the war? In reality he had a supposed piece of the holy cross dragged through the streets of Jerusalem for the crowds to desecrate the symbol. Why is history re-written I often wonder? Most cinema viewers will take the misinformation for reality. I think I expect more than just entertainment and that is my “curse”. Productions I did enjoy were the series “Rome” and “The Borgias”. I know there are historical mistakes and liberties taken but the “vibes” of the series are  correct with an eye for the culture, religion and architecture of the eras portrayed. Movies in other genres I love are “M”, “The Third Man”, “The Name of the Rose”, “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, “The Bunker”, “Exorcist”, “The Shining”, “The Birds”, “Citizen Kane”, “Nosferatu”, “Dog Soldiers” to name a few…

G: Could you tell us about your nice Flemish land in short? What places/museums do you recommend to visit to the readers? Which painters/sculptors do you like mostly?

- Flanders is the North, Flemish (Dutch) speaking part of current Belgium. There are many historical locations to visit. Brugge (Bruges) is a nice place to start. I recall American tourists who asked what time the theme park would be closed, they believed the city was a medieval museum J But also Ghent and Antwerp or Leuven are nice places to visit. Even my hometown Diest is as it already was a settlement in prehistoric times. There are many medieval buildings and remains here. Those interested in ancient history should visit Tongeren, it was a big Roman settlement in ancient times and the Gallo-Roman museum is quite interesting. Flemish painters I like are Pieter Breughel, Rubens, Adriaen Brouwer, Teniers…Some Belgian surrealists were not bad either like Delvaux, Magritte. 

Introduce please the Flemish culinary art: which foods and drinks are your recommendations?

- Typical are the fries and mussels. We consume large amounts haha. Also typical are “Witloof” and Brussels Sprouts. And of course we have an enormous beer culture, almost every village has its own types, brands and recipes of beer dating back to medieval times. I do like the abbey beers brewed by monks since the middle-ages. Some of our beers carry interesting names such as Duvel, Lucifer, Satan etc.   

Sorin: What do you think about such bands as Blasphemy, Beherit, Darkthrone, Mutilator, Vulcano, Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Varathron, Salem? What kind of music do you listen to nowadays generally? Are you into such stuff nowadays?

- Great bands. Most I know personally due to the intense merchandise trading/letters exchange and shared underground concerts in the early 90’s. I still listen to the same music I always listened, from classical music to noise, when the music is able to touch a string inside of me I am interested. Be it Wagner or Beherit, Triarii or Ennio Morricone… 

Sorin: You also played two shows in Romania with Necrodeath. What do you remember about our country?

- We toured Romania and played smaller towns as well apart from these 2 dates you mentioned. I met many great people at our shows and I really enjoyed the epic landscapes while travelling through the country. I remember playing a small village and everyone turned up, even people who were not into Metal. Our music has Folk parts and the locals started a group dance so I jumped from the stage and joined in. Nice memories. Highlight for me were the historical locations we visited, castles linked to the history of Vlad Tepes and such. It felt like wandering around on a perfect film-set: full moon, Carpathian mountains and forests, wild rivers and castles in a gloomy architecture style. One can understand the vampire myths when being there, very gloomy and full of atmosphere.    

Dank je wel Gunther! Create, please for the readers of Sadistik Witchfukk a fake history by Gunther and send a message to the fans of Ancient Rites from our land.

- Graag gedaan :) 
A fake history? Ok ;-) Vlad Tepes was feared by his servants. One day he had enjoyed a nice meal but was annoyed by the meat stuck between his teeth. He ordered “tooth picks as sharp one could impale Ottoman invaders”. His servant was hard of hearing, took it literally and the next morning Vlad saw a field of defeated Ottoman armies impaled on huge tooth picks! “Not what I asked for but I can live with this” he said and impaled the servant too ;-) 
Ok, enough nonsense. Thanks to all who supported our work in your beautiful ancient land. Ancient Rites Troopers Never Surrender! 

Additional fake story: "Once upon a time, when owls still could speak, a poor simple man named George went to consult a powerful witch who lived in the Hungarian forest. Rumour had it she was related to Countess Bathory. "I feel miserable" he explained to her. "I have a lot of work but can't concentrate when I have several jobs to do. And I'm always ripped off by my customers, never have the heart to bargain hard. My wife dominates me and her mood changes drive me even more crazy. Don't you have an elixir that can help me with these matters?" The Witch named Pruprunella (for no reason) made poor George drink a mysterious elixir which contained unknown things and lots of chocolate. George felt a certain change. Then he broke into a panic as he was bleeding! "No worries Love" Pruprunella said "That's only your period. Want to join our Witches Coven, Georgette?"

a cartoon of Gunther, 16.XI.2018

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