Brob interviewed in Seba Odhalenie #1

April 9, 2016 at 6:40 am | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment
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Interview originally done by Matt Average (for the Zine Of The Month section in Maximum RocknRoll) in 1997; translated in 1999 to appear in the Slovakian zine Seba Odhalenie (Expose Yourself) #1

(translation below)

Brob Tilt (Slovakian zine Sebaodhalenie #1 '99, ori MRR) aBrob Tilt (Slovakian zine Sebaodhalenie #1 '99, ori MRR) b

Please start off with a history of TILT!.

TILT! was started to inform the local scene in my native town about various other scenes elsewhere (in Belgium and outside). I introduce(d) bands from our own country and elsewhere in interviews but I’m always trying to remain critical (a band has to ‘deserve’ me being a fan – and I do not only mean musically – but if I become a fan I can be very ‘dedicated’) and trying to look at things from different angles (I’m not so much interested in the musical aspects of a band in se but more in the ideas of the people in the bands – or distribution, label or organisation). I think it’s important to get to know a band before actually interviewing them. I also try to let my own ideas shine through. Besides that I review zines, tapes and records; and publish articles on political items. I do everything myself mainly but during all those years various people have written a piece here or there. After #1 I moved out of my native town. I got more and more contacts and people outside Belgium wanted to know about what was happening here (and vice versa for me and my friends) so I started doing it in English from #3 on. I did 8 issues between ‘84 and ‘95, I sold over 1000 copies of #8 (people keep asking for it but I don’t have the money to print more). I don’t print ads that are payed for (I want to re-main totally independent and critical), I take the money from my savings; the zine basically pays itself. Sometimes I publish free ads for stuff or people I really dig (when there’s space left). I always have lots of things in my head (some in my computer) for new issues. I’m currently finalising #9. It should be out late summer ‘97. Here’s a short content of the former issues:

#1: Scoundrels (Hol), Jan Kuypers (‘psychiatric’ dissident), anti-fascist info, travel-report Denmark, reviews (movies + records),… /// #2: Concrete Sox (UK), K.G.B. (Ger), Ludichrist (USA), Dawn Of Liberty (Bel), Get Stuffed (Bel), Hageland Recs (Bel), reviews (zines + records), letters,… /// #3: Negazione (Ita), Anguish (Bel), Lärm (Hol), Hate Crew (Bel), Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies), letters, reviews (zines + records + tapes),… /// #4: So Much Hate (Nor), Desecration (USA), L.U.L.L. (Den), Positive Peer Pressure (USA), C.O.C. (USA), Heibel (Bel), Mental Disturbance (Bel), Chronic Disease (Bel), reviews (zines + records + tapes), apartheid, squatting,… /// #5: 76% Uncertain (USA), White Rose Collective (USA), Political Asylum (UK), Th’Inbred (USA), Aldous Huxley, Nabate (Bel), cultural conflicts, reviews (zines + records + tapes),… /// #6: Sofa Head (UK), scene-report Poland, F.F.F. (Ger), Decadence Within (UK), Born Against (USA), Econochrist (USA), Zero Positives (Bel), reviews (zines + records + tapes + books), … /// #7: One By One (UK), Sons Of Ishmael (Can), Turbo Reanimacija (Lit), X-Mist (Ger), Belgian Vegan Society, scene-report Spain, Blindfold (Bel), For Mother Earth (Bel), HC-activists over 30, reviews (zines + records + tapes + CD’s),… /// #8: Acme (Ger), Graue Zellen (Ger), Fabric (UK), Shortsight (Bel), Undone (Fra), Voorhees (UK), interviews with women in the international HC-scene, radical D.I.Y., major labels, re-distribution of labour, free love, reviews (zines + records + tapes + CD’s),…

What was your inspiration for starting the zine and what keeps you going at it through the years?

Like I said, the original concept was to inform our local punk-community about things happening elsewhere (other parts of Belgium and other countries) – musically but also politically. Around ‘83 I started my band REPULSIVES, which went through 2 line-ups and died in ‘87 after a whole bunch of gigs (we were quite popular at that time) and recordings for a split-LP with the brazilian band Cólera (which never got out due to the fact the label folded). My second band YUPPIES’ DEATH only existed for about a year. In the meantime I had started to set up gigs in my native town. When the venue there was closed by the police, I was asked by my friends in the band Hate Crew, who had just started a gig-collective in another town, to join them. With that collective – SMURFPUNX – we organised well-attended gigs with loads of national and international bands until the early ‘90s. After that I joined the autonomous centre VORT’N VIS vo-lunteer-crew. I left that behind because of ideological differences but soon after we set up the NEWLAND-collective. Around ‘84 I had also started my zine TILT! and in ‘86 I started doing tours for foreign bands. At first I tried to inform locals (that’s why the first 2 issues were in Dutch), later it became also a means to communicate with people every-where. Because I worked a job and set up gigs & tours (especially during the SMURFPUNX-days), TILT! only appeared irregularly. At the same time I started to sell (mailorder & at gigs) vinyl and zines because nobody was selling DIY stuff in my neighbourhood… Through all this activity, you can imagine I got in touch with a lot of activists and other interesting characters all over the world. I was learning a lot, I was networking and I noticed what was possible because of all this, how we could orgainse a whole underground world where people with subversive (to the mainstream) beliefs and ways of living could take their lives a bit more in their own hands and spread their ideas. I wanted to share that notion, to learn even more and to encourage others to get involved aswell. I truely belief that the HC/punk-community is a breeding-ground for ‘revolutionary’ ideas. It’s probably never gonna overthrow the global capitalist society but is sure can be a shelter and a school for people who’re looking for and trying to establish an alternative to the vulturous, greedy, consumist world we live in. Even today, with the extreme commidification and commercialisation of HC/punk, I regularly still run in to people who wanna engage in creating that alternative: intelligent and caring persons with an ethical feeling and believing in solidarity. The scene still isn’t 100% what I want it to be so I go on…

What is your involvement with the zine NEWLAND?

The collective and it’s zine is set up to provide those people who are fed up with and frustrated by the increasing commercialisation within the Belgian (and international) HC/punk-scene, with a forum and platform to vent this frustration, discuss and hopefully find ways to deal with this. It has expanded into questioning and discussing subjects known as the ugly forms the capitalist society (racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, etc.) manifests itself in and that our scene tries to get rid of. Some of us are straight-edge (even though we don’t label ourselves as such) but there’s also people who are open to other music- and lifestyles (anarcho-punk, emo, crust, ska-core, etc.). I believe I can say the common denominator is the fact that we want to keep this scene (that we built up) in our own hands. Outer appearances and lifestyles (or gender or age) don’t play a role. When we first got together, in the spring of ‘96, we didn’t really reach a consensus of how to deal with things like bands signing to commercial labels (not necessarily majors), labels getting involved in commercial distribution-deals, bands touring with agencies aiming for profit and playing in commercial clubs, people making a living of HC/punk, etc. In fact not everyone understood (understands) that this has nothing to do with the original ideology behind this subculture, that it goes against trying to keep everything in our own hands, that this is a potential threat to the very existence of this scene. Most of us however did see the increasing sexism, homophobia and even racism, especially in those elements that are only attracted to the scene because of the ‘trendy’ means of expression like the ‘hard’ music e.g. It is my opinion that both these things – the aiming for profit and the lack of respect for those differing from the ‘norm’ – enhance one and other. It’s clear that we have to act if we want to stop this. But how? My way of doing things has always been confrontational. If something is not the way you think it should be then ask questions, be upfront about what bothers you, try to open up a discussion, give arguments. The problem with an approach like this is that some people might say they agree to avoid the confrontation, some will try to weaken your arguments by trying to isolate you and those who feel threatened and have no arguments are gonna choose for personal, sometimes even physical attack. Some of this might sound pretty scary to someone who believes deep down that she or he’s right and will scare her/him and cause her/him to keep quiet about it. This, off course, makes them loose the chance to alter things into the way they see things fit. But for some in our discussion-group it was the reason why didn’t want to adopt my idea of writing some sort of pamphlet explaining what we thought was going wrong in our scene. Peer pressure is also still a very actual thing in our scene and that’s why some people in our group didn’t want to support this kind of pamphlet because it meant speaking out against, or at least not in favour of, ‘friends’ or ‘friends of friends’. After the first meeting we agreed to put our complaints on paper to be able to compare them and find common ground. It turned out practically no-one dared to, even though all said to agree (more or less), with those things that I told them bothered me. The problem seemed to be putting names on these things we thought didn’t fit the ideology by giving specefic examples in order to make our ideas clear to the rest of the scene. Another reason why some of us did not want to make up a pamphlet, was the fact that they did not want to sound as preachers or “make up some rigid hardcorepunk-law”. It was their opinion that the ideas they had were open for adjustment, were not fixed and should be up for discussion in order to let them evolve. Even though it was agreed upon that this could happen in a series of pamphlets aswell, the proposition of doing it in a collective zine where outsiders (to our discussion-group) could join the discussion aswell, was cheered by all… We put out one issue so far and are planning a second one. We get together regularly to discuss and plan things. Some also organise gigs every now and then and various people do distribution-work so we try to help one and other.

From reading your zine and contributions in NEWLAND, I know you take a very strict and outpoken stance against the commodification of punk culture. Has this attitide cost you many friendships?

To understand why I’m so strict and outspoken, you’ld better read the answer to the next question first. Some people assume that I do what I do and what I say is because I want to be in the centre of attention, that it’s my own little ego-trip. What can I say to that? Of course it would be a lot easier to float along with the current but my self-respect and my ethical feeling tell me that I shouldn’t opt for this, that I should stick to my beliefs. It’s the old story about the message and the messenger. Those that feel criticised or attacked by what I have to say don’t come up with arguments, they just attack the person who confronts them with their actions, their insolidarity, their egoism, their lack of courage. It’s a thing that happens in the mainstream aswell: the businessmen, those who benefit from the vulturous system try to blacken people’s reputation by spreading all kinds of rumours or by blackmailing or bribing them. They don’t address the actual problems, they don’t get into discussion about the facts; they go of on a tangent, trying to divert people’s attention. It happens to me regularly. It would affect me if I’ld realise I was alone with my ideas. But I know I’m not: there’s people all around the world that think the same way, they might be not as outspoken or argumenative as I am but they’re there. True friendships can stand criticism and discussion. If someone turns away or breaks with me because of my outspoken ideas, I think they weren’t very good friends in the first place. Sure, there are people that don’t deal or talk to me anymore because of my strict views but looking back, many of these ‘friendships’ appear as abusive to me now. There are also people turning away from me without even having seriously talked to me (because of rumours or my socalled ‘reputation’) but I don’t believe people like that can really be your friend. On the other hand, there’s still many people who do want to communicate and be friends. There’s also people who find that my thoughts are valid when they actually listen. Lots of people agree but just choose another way of expressing themselves (not as direct or confrontational) or some don’t feel confident. Remember, the businessmen in the scene have power and don’t fear threats. I’ve been beaten up already once and threatened physically many times. People also steal from me or just treat me bad. It’s the way of the world… Sure it affects me but I’m surviving. And most of all: I know I’m not alone… What does bother me is the fact that certain people claim I’m the leader of NEWLAND and that the others in the collective are just blindly accepting what I say… As if they can’t think for themselves. That’s insulting my friends’ intelligence. Everyone in NEWLAND has his own opinions and no-one is forced to say things they don’t want to. There’s no pressure. People are free to join us or not and they can also contribute without coming to the meetings.

What is the importance, from your point of view, to remain underground and D.I.Y.?

Well, let me start to tell you what my frame of thinking is, what I believe HC/punk is about… (You might have read this already in other pieces I wrote.) The HC/punk-scene is supposed to be an alternative to the capitalist music-industry and the rock’n’roll-circus. This industry attracts and tries to bind young people to a consumist lifestyle (which guarantees them their profits and thus more power) by commodifying what plays a big role already in young people’s lifes: music, fashion and an ‘alternative’ lifestyle (their “alternative” is a superficial and temporary reacting against parents, school, etc. but it doesn’t attack the real powers). Our (HC/punk-)alternative aims to be a profound, honest and lasting struggle – based on solidarity – against those that want to control our lives, dictate their rules of power and greed and destroy our world. I believe it’s impossible in the given situation to win this fight (not in this era, where egocentrism rules) in the mainstream, in the global capitalist society. That’s why I think it’s much more appropriate and feasible to teach, to show people what can be done on a smaller scale, i.e. in the HC/punk-scene – where the atmosphere is leaning much more towards coorporation and where there’s already a global network of likeminded people established. A network that is existing for 20 years now and that has accomplished at least a few things. Maybe now you can understand why I react so passionately and fervently against people who want to adopt the capitalist ways of doing into our subculture. People who (try to) make a living of any of the aspects of the HC/punk-scene (bands selling out, agencies and commercial clubs cashing in, distributions marketing music + merchandise as just another commodity, shops trivialising the honest efforts and messages of people who work for our alternative, etc.) are greedy vultures that are abusing & exploiting the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of people constructing our scene. They don’t feel part of a bigger whole, they don’t feel solidarity. That’s why I fulminate against people running commercial record-stores (especially when they also sell major-label merchandise). It’s not about making profits that I worry in the first place (but of course these should be minor in order to keep the prices as low as possible). I worry about what the profits are used for, if one re-invests in the scene there’s hardly a problem. People who want to make a living from commercial activities in the scene, have the intention to survive and make it their only source of income by doing this. They drain the scene of the energy and money it needs so badly. It also means they will have to compromise with the capitalist system and it’s bureaucracy controlling activities within the HC/punk-scene to such an extent that it strips the subculture of it’s essence. We all compromise but it’s my strong belief that people making a living off it, cross the limit. HC/punk is – for lots of people that get into it for the first time – a music-scene; music and the ways it is presented and handled is very directive for people like that. I mean, if they see it’s bein’ handled in a way different from the mainstream it can show them the way to an alternative way of thinking and living. If they see this scene is just copying the capitalist ways of promoting and selling, the competition, they won’t change the attitudes spoon-fed to them already by the system. People that are running distributions & record-stores have a very big responsibility towards the scene. Unfortunately very, very few of them run their businesses in a solidary way but many – practically all – are just hypocrite, selfish and greedy pawns of capitalism. I don’t see any harm in running a small solidarity-based (cooperative) record-store outside of the capitalist system though. The latter make an essential contribution to the scene. But anything aimed at profit in the first place is condemnable! Thus, HC/punk can set D.I.Y. an example, an alternative on the way to an non-exploiting society. You know the slogan “Cooperation, Not Competition”. I still keep urging anyone involved with HC/punk to stay away from the mainstream, to stay underground. “We might reach more people.”, I hear some say. Well, it’s my conviction that the ones reached this way are mostly only attracted to it because of the fashion, the hype, the trend and easily leave it all behind once they sucked out the energy/time/money of those really working and trying to turn this ideology into reality. I’ve seen it happen way too many times. I hear others claiming “We’re ghettoizing ourselves.”. As far as I know a ghetto is imposed on a population. We (at least people who follow my line of thinking) – contrary to people living in real ghettos – choose to go underground because that’s where we can organise the resistance more freely. At least there we have a bigger part of our lives in our hands. There we have more space to develop our thoughts. Young people who already go against the grain or who might have revolutionary thoughts are gonna find their ways into the underground. They’re gonna search and search till they find a way in. That’s what I did and that’s what some young people do. Regularly I get letters of people saying we heard you say this or do that and I wanna know more ‘cause that’s how I feel. That’s because I do my own publications, because I organise my own distribution (with the help of others in the underground of course). So fuck the mainstream and their mediaslaves. Organise your own underground world!

Mainstream interest in punk is fading out. What longterm effects do you see the previous interest leaving on the scene as a whole?

Mainstream interest has always been there since the beginning and will always stay. Maybe the interest for the current styles, formats or hypes will disappear but it will take another form. Remember, the mainstream capitalist society will always try to keep controlling that part of the ‘market’ they fear loosing. They jump on it, try to modulate it into something they can handle, package, market and finally throw it away when they sucked it dry. Like I said before, the music-industry is the tool the global capitalist system uses to seduce and try to hook teens and twens to a consumist lifestyle (which allows them to make more profits and thus gain more power) by marketing what is already important in their lifes: their music & fashion and hence recuperating their ‘alternative’ way of living (the ‘alternative’ of the kids is usually inspired by the generation-gap: a form of teeny-bopper rebellion against the authorities that restrains their freedom – the narrow-minded, egotistical view of it – but it isn’t really anything revolutionary or subversive). What we try is to create a niche where they can develop themselves politically and as persons, while teaching them to be aware of the fact that one only gets as much freedom as they leave to the other person, that boundless consumption has to lead to annihilation. (Yeah, I know I sound like Crucifix.) I think it’s important to show them what can be done on a smaller scale, i.e. in the HC/punk-scene – where so much more has already been accomplished through co-operation, solidarity and networking with likeminded people. We have to stay underground! The history of HC/punk has proved that anytime people in the scene have cooperated with the mainstream has been disastrous and HC/punk-activists had to clean up the mess and start from zero again. Values like solidarity & respect disappear from the scene once HC/punk-businessmen forget about the ideology behind it all and realize they can gain profit. If we don’t succeed in controlling even that chunk of our lifes, I think more and more young people will adopt the mindless “consume-and-shut-up” mentality. Less people will have access to knowledge on different forms of sociological and political organisation from a young age. We can feed them these through the music but if the music is in the hands of corporations, the ‘youth of today’ will surely turn in to the assholes of tomorrow…

In what ways do you practice your politics in daily life?

I try to avoid the traps of capitalism as much as possible. Of course I also live in the global capitalist society; I have to participate to some extent if I don’t want to marginalize myself. I have a car, a fridge and a stereo but I don’t lead a luxurious life. I try to keep aware of how my lifestyle, my consumption-pattern, my behaviour affects the world and the people around me. I try to pollute and waste as little as possible (select and recycle garbage, dumpster-dive, ride bike, consume very little unnecessary products). I try to make as much as possible conscious choices that will not endanger anyone or anything (I don’t drink alcohol or use tabacco or other drugs – not because I wanna belong to some peer-group but because I see it as a way to emphasize my anti-capitalist stand). I eat vegetarian and try to use as much cruelty-free products as possible. In my relations to other people, I try to stay clear of racist, sexist, homophobic behaviour. I’m aware of all that but I’m not sure if I can get rid of it a 100% yet (my education, mainstream media, etc. may still affect me sometimes), I’m not perfect. Politically, I don’t follow any dogmas. I don’t call myself anarchist or communist or socialist; I have sympathy for these and I take elements of all but I’ld rather stay autonomous. I’m also atheist. I’m not member of any political group except for an independent, pluralist anti-fascist group. I do coorporate a lot with people in the anarchist scene (like going to and organise info-nights, discussions, demonstrations, etc.). My tools are leafletting, demonstrating, informing, direct action,…

What do you look for in a zine that will make it great?

Personality. I always hope a zine will stand out from the crowd, that the opinions presented will be original and challenging – not just copying what has been said before. In interviews I want to read about people’s ideas, their way of thinking and how they apply it in their day-to-day lives; I don’t wanna know about what strings a band’s using and in what studio they recorded. I also hope an editor dares to go against the grain, to be critical. It’s good to read an interview where a band is actually questioned and not just worshipped. Editors should be analytical and be able to make a point and get a view across. I’m looking for dedication, I’m especially looking for zines that choose for a radical D.I.Y. attitude – not beating around the bush when it comes to business in the scene. I hate editors who choose for an easy way out. I mean I’m disgusted by ads for commercial labels and distributions and by reviews of mainstream or sell-out bands. I want zines to look good but not slick. I don’t like zines that have layouts like they were made in a professional graphics-workshop with the newest fonts and all the tricks in the book. I also don’t like messy layouts; things have to look good and be readable but that doesn’t mean they have to be done with computer. The cut’n’paste-style can do wonders if you try to be a bit creative and take your time for it. Oh yeah, you Americans: I’m not so much into newsprint. I know it’s cheaper but it also looks cheap. A zine is not a mass-product, is it?

Any parting comments? What does the future hold for TILT!?

I don’t know, I really don’t know what the future holds. I’ve always been busy with so many stuff, that’s why TILT! got out so irregularly. My activities have also been jeopardized because of legal and financial problems more than once and these are still affecting me. Recently, I’ve also been diagnosed with a chronic illness which means my energy-level has gone down to a point where I have to slow down if I don’t want to end up vegetating. I’m the kind of person that can’t stop his brain from working, I’ve constantly new ideas, come up with things to try and do so it’s very frustrating to not be able to be as productive anymore. I’ve stopped doing tours and only pass on contacts for gigs nowadays. I think I’ll always keep writing; not just letters (they’re my lifeline, a way of communicating with likeminded people) but also other stuff (for other zines and hopefully NEWLAND will also keep going). I’m not really sure if there will be another issue of TILT! after this #9; maybe it’ll take me 3 years to get one done if the situation remains as it is. The way it looks now, the mailorder/distribution will go on: I just won’t let it grow over my head and I’m getting some help of friends already. So if anyone is interested in zines and political literature, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you put together an interesting zine that you wanna see distributed, drop me a line. I want to take the opportunity to show gratitude for the long-lasting support I got from various MRR-people – especially Matt Average! Thanx. A big FUCK OFF to all the parasites in the HC/punk-scene!

If anyone wants to discuss any of the above, please write.

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