Interview with László Bohner
(Rock-Ness Record Shop)
Hello, my good old friend, Laci you are very welcome to my small blog, Archangel’s Lantern. How and when did you get introduced to hard rock/metal music? What was your very first stuff of underground music? Which band(s) did you see live for the first time?
- Greetings to you, my friend Gyuri, and to the readers of Archangel's Lantern!
I became close to the genre in 1980. I exactly remember the year, because in that and the following year there were some Hungarian albums released, that later became classics; just like the debut records by Edda, Korál, Hobo Blues Band, Karthagó, Dinamit, P. Mobil. Songs by these bands were played regularly on the radio. Listening to them, for some incomprehensible reason, has made my heart beat faster. But speaking about the others, I wasn't interested in them; moreover some of them specifically annoyed me. :)
The first release I've got my hands on was the first album by Dinamit, on cassette. It was given to me for my 11th birthday, and I still can't describe the pleasure I felt then. :) Later I started to buy cassettes and vinyls for myself. I was saving money by taking back bottles to the store, and spent it all on music and books. At first I bought albums by Hungarian bands, then later my range of interests expanded, so I became interested in foreign bands as well. In the first half of the 80's there were a few import releases that we could get our hands on. AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, etc... but later the tighter and heavier music started to infiltrate; like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon... From this point there was no stopping me. :D
My first decisive concert experience? The first concert I've ever been to was seeing the band Óceán, maybe in '82. And just like in case of the records, first came the domestic bands, then the foreigners. Anyways, the best concert I've ever been to was a Metallica performance in 1988, on the MTK-field. And the most memorable was a Scorpions concert in 1986, in the same venue. Of course, in the 80's there were some great concerts in Debrecen, too. Saxon, Running Wild, Helloween, Motörhead, Kreator; or Hungarian bands like Lord, Hobo, P. Box, P. Mobil. LGT, etc, etc....
Your Record Shop, called Rock-Ness in Debrecen/Hungary will celebrate its 21st Anniversary this year. Congratulations! Tell us more about the beginnings and current situation of Rock-Ness. What kind of merchandise can metal maniacs find in your store?
- Yes, in 2018 we celebrate the 21st anniversary of our store. Thank you for your congratulations!!
The beginnings were so trite. Two music fans unite to open a record store. That would be a very weak story. :) As a matter of fact I have always wanted to open a record store – this was a serious childhood dream of mine. If we view things from this point, I can say I've reached my goals. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult, so struggling? Anyway... let's start from the beginnings. I have started this business with Zsolt Kovács, who is such a huge music fan, just like me. Together we have planned how to start it all; we've had the first round of goods in, and shaped up the whole profile. Furthermore, my wife Kati takes part in duties connected to the business; mainly in issues that require a woman's mind. Moreover she gave us her spiritual support, which is an important factor when you are about to start a company. And there is my older son Balázs, who was 10 when we opened the store; and 3-4 years later he has become capable of taking over my duties, anytime I have some things to settle up. Also, he always helps in to sale, or anything related to business. First of all, we can be grateful to him for our website. He is responsible for the daily news feed, in one person. Tens of thousands of reports are behind him. He is very talented. My youngest son Bence – who has grown up together with our store – is not that interested in these things related to business, but we can always count on him in case of any issues. One thing the two boys have in common is the love of music. After all, they've grown up in these circumstances; they had no choice... :D
The current conditions – because of the well known troubles of the music business – are not too promising, but we are struggling, trying to survive. We try to sell anything connected to rock and metal music, and things that would be necessary in a rocker's life. This means that in addition to CD's, cassettes and vinyls, we sell great varieties of clothing and accessory items, too.
Please share with the readers some funny stories from the past of Rock-Ness.
- Do you remember, how many memories we have in common? One of the most memorable is when a young guy walks in, looking at the assortment including a significant quantity of CD's, turning the pages of the files of the jewel cases, then he says: "Thanks, but I haven't found anything!" Reading this could not be funny, but then – in the given circumstance – it was so hilarious. Our eyes met, and we laughed so loud inside. There were a hundreds of CD's on the counter and on the wall, which we could have enlarged our own collection with... but he didn't find anything. :D
Another story: A man with a big hat walks in, standing in front of the counter, looking at the CD's, scratching his chin and thinking hard. Then he says with a rasping voice: "What is it? Cigar?" :D In his world these absurd things like compact discs don't exist. Instead, he identified them as cigars.
For me, the dearest story is about an old man named Uncle Misi. What a great fellow he was! Uncle Misi was a 76 year old man with a real granddaddy look. He visited us at least once a week, and always bought a metal T-shirt. He did not know the bands on them, just liked the patterns. On one occasion Marduk's Fuck me Jesus T-shirt caught his fancy. Of course he bought it. Then, some days later he came back and says:
- You have sold a great T-shirt to me, Laci! Everybody is watching me on the streets! :D :D
Some months later, when I've not seen this T-shirt on Uncle Misi, I asked him:
- Uncle Misi, don't you wear your Marduk T-shirt?
- Oh Laci! I've got tired of it, I gave it to the Catholic church. :D :D :D
How would you describe the metal movement in Debrecen back in the day and nowadays?
- In the eighties there was a huge metal-life here in Debrecen, and maybe elsewhere too. There were a lot of rockers, better and better concerts. Not only Hungarian people, but foreigners too. Then came grunge, which resulted in thinning the number of rockers. In 1997 when we opened the store, the music business started to overstep the grunge-wave, and there were more and more people wearing metal-shirts on the streets. It hit its peak in the mid 2000s; since then it has been downhill again, and unfortunately I can't see the end of the slope. We are missing the new "supplies". Previously there were a lot of rocker people in the 13-14 age range, but now you almost can't find any. They've simply disappeared. Plaza-boys, plaza-girls are raising, with beauty hair, pretty clothes, and with the lack of riotousness and any demand for being outsiders. There are no real personalities anymore - although they obviously think they are -, they are all the same. Will it ever change? Maybe. I just hope so.
Alongside the listening to music, did you have any plans to play in the metal band?
- With my brother-in-law - who is a talented musician anyway – we had a band called Melissa. I was playing guitar in this band, even though I lacked any skills and tenacity. So it wasn't a long-term project. I should have practiced more, instead of being a simple rock 'n' roller. That would have been more effective... :) All in all, Melissa remained a good memory.
What are your favourite bands/albums of all time? Which bands and releases are your current favourite ones?
- For me, my favorite bands of all time are Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Overkill, Amorphis, D.A.D., Aurora, Pink Cream 69, At The Gates, Dire Straits, Death, Hobo Blues Band, Megadeth, Helloween, Dream Theater, and their albums... and I could count them for a while. For example, my biggest favorite albums are 'Rust in Peace', 'Master of the Rings', 'Slaughter of the Soul', the 'Kill / Ride / Master / And justice...' set, 'Dr. Feelgood', 'Symbolic', 'Elegy', stc. It would be difficult to list them all, and it's impossible to make a ranking list. Furthermore, I have a lot of favorites in the underground scene – just like Melechesh, Solstafir, Myrath, Obscura, Inquisition, Falkenbach, Catamenia, Sigh or the late The Devil's Blood and Dissection.
My current favorite bands to listen to are Solstafir and Myrkur. It's incredible how they can create such great atmosphere!
You are collecting not only metal music releases but books as well. How many ones do you have in your collection? What are your favourite authors and books? Any favourite quotes?
- Yes, I collect books as well. I can't tell you an exact number, but I roughly have a 3.500-piece library. Next to music, this gives me shelter from the madness of the world.
I have a lot of favorite writers: Updike, Joseph Heller, Vonnegut, Wodehouse, Solzhenitsyn, Faludy, Lajos Grendel, Robert Merle, Remarque, Márai. But I like the writings of Elemér Hankiss, Péter Popper, Béla Hamvas as well.
Among the Hungarian writers my absolute favourite is Béla Fehér. I feel lucky to know him in person, too.
My favourite author is Attila József.
I brought a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, which I find very relevant and timeless:
"Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns."
What kind of movies do you usually watch? Could you name us your favourite movies and actors?
- I watch movies very rarely, and I don't usually watch TV. If it comes to movies, then I prefer the contemporary Hungarian productions (not the popular genre), or the ambitious art films on Sundance Channel – I like those very much. Their atmosphere drags you in, and doesn't let you go. Although I don't usually voice my love for art films, because it sounds immensely snobbish. :D :D
I would pick up three Hungarian movies, which I like very much. Two of these are the toughest of them all (not in the American sense): the Árvácska [Little Orphan] and the Ötödik pecsét [The Fifth Seal]. And next of them is the most playful movie of the world: Indul a bakterház [The Rascal of the Railroad Shack ]. These movies are about how the spirit of the Hungarian people moves in extreme heights.
I can't rate my favorite actors, because there are lot of foreigner ones, but I know the Hungarian ones better... but among them is the most fantastic: Zoltán Latinovits. Beside him, I can name better and better actors and actresses endlessly: Lajos Őze, Hilda Gobbi, Ildikó Bánsági, János Bán, László Márkus, Károly Eperjes, Imre Sinkovits, Mari Törőcsik, Péter Rudolf, Enikő Eszenyi, András Kern, Irén Psota, György Cserhalmi, Dezső Garas... I won't carry on naming them, because the list would never end.
Which places could you recommend to visit in Debrecen? What foods, drinks are your recommendations from local cuisine?
- Attractions, sights? Hmm. Well... I would say Rock-Ness. :D Okay, that's a joke.
And this is irony: We have a beautiful stadium, the tram number 2, paving blocks are everywhere in and surrounding the Great Forest, every street is on a one-way road, and there is the Fórum... Do you need anything more? :D :D
Okay! Now let’s get all serious. I'm half Baja-born, and I miss the water very much. As a kid, I spent every summer on the bank of the Danube, therefore I love swimming, the water and the atmosphere of the shores. Unfortunately in Debrecen there are no rivers, no mountains, no hills, no seas, nothing. Although I like this city in my own way, I miss these things very much. And I could tell the same if it comes to the traditional cuisine. In Baja, chowder is the regional national food; they eat it as frequently as they eat meat-broth elsewhere. What could we call special Debrecen food? Maybe the cabbage rolls? No, not exactly.
It all may sound pouting, but if I left this town, I would miss it.
Do you have any special hobbies besides music?
- Music and books. I don't have any other hobbies. Maybe, - if we call it a hobby – visiting some places, vacationing with my family – in Hungary, or abroad, depending on the actual situation, or how we can afford it. We don't have any special desires, we don't need the latest LCD TV-s, smart phones, cars, etc. - luckily the whole family are not impressed by these things. We rather collect experiences. Those things are more everlasting, than any modern, technical garbage. These experiences accompany you in your whole life. We remember them as good memories; and they're not just for us, but for the kids too. Fortunately they've appropriated this approach of life. Advertisements and trend waves don't affect us. We are bad objects of the consumer society.
(László Bohner and me, April, 2009)
Perhaps you know, that Archangel’s Lantern is dedicated to Jon Andreas Nödtveidt among others. What are your favourite ones of His heritage?
- I guess a primal Dissection fan wouldn't say this, but for me the 'Reinkaos' album is the dearest. I wouldn't pick any songs from that album, because the whole is perfect as it is. Maybe you remember, how many times we have listened to this album. You can't get tired of it. Anyway, losing Jon has been a huge loss, because he would have created more great things, if he didn't choose this kind of death. But if he felt that he has a right to do it, we can't judge him for it.
Nagyon szépen köszönöm Laci barátom az érdekes válaszokat/Thank you very much, my friend, Laci for the interesting answers, it was a pleasure. Share some thoughts to the readers to complete the interview.
- It's my pleasure to give an interview to a highly committed underground legend like this! In my afterword, I would paste my dearest Márai-quote here. (in Hungarian only) Márai was a juggler of words; let's taste his masterful lines...
"Az utakat sokáig nem érti meg az ember. Csak lépdel az utakon és másra gondol. Néha széles az egyik út, aszfaltos, néha rögös, barázdás, meredek. Az utakat sokáig csak alkalomnak tekintjük, lehetőségnek, melynek segítségével elmehetünk a hivatalba vagy kedvesünkhöz vagy a rikkantó, tavaszi erdőbe. Egy napon megtudjuk, hogy az utaknak értelmük van: elvezetnek valahová. Nemcsak mi haladunk az utakon; az utak is haladnak velünk. Az utaknak céljuk van. Minden út összefut végül egyetlen közös célban. S akkor megállunk és csodálkozunk, tátott szájjal bámészkodunk, csodáljuk azt a rejtelmes rendet a sok út szövevényében, csodáljuk a sugárutak, országutak és ösvények sokaságát, melyeken áthaladva végül eljutottunk ugyanahhoz a célhoz. Igen, az utaknak értelmük van. De ezt csak utolsó pillanatban értjük meg, közvetlenül a cél előtt."