Belgian DIY crust metal punks ULRIKES DREAM will soon release their new, aptly titled album “Anarchie in Leuven” and we’re really pleased to give you a proper feature to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. We caught up with them to learn about their view on the evolution of DIY punk and talk about the importance of political punk, DIY ethics, the longevity of punk culture, and the idea of creative approach that strives to go beyond product and competition.
ULRIKES DREAM will soon embark on a 20th anniversary tour. They are still looking for shows, so feel free to drop them a line via [email protected]. Also, stay tuned for more from these guys, as they are preparing more worthy surprises to properly document the 20 years of their existence.
Hey guys! How are you? 20 years later, still here, huh? How does it feel to be dinosaurs of the punk scene?
Hans: We’re not extinct yet…We played last year on a festival celebrating 40 years of punk, including some 40 year old punk bands. They were around before I was even born. Punk survived Thatcher and Reagan, I don’t think the powers that be will ever get rid of the punx, unless they dismantle the state and form an anarchist society. And even then there’ll probably still be plenty of punx!
Do you remember what led you to form this band? What were your motivations back in 1998?
Hans: We formed in 1997. Anton (our first drummer) and I had a band before that split up, and we wanted to form a new band. Erik had just bought a bass guitar and wanted to learn to make some noise on it. And we all liked anarchist music. So we’ve found each other in a local youth center, JH Clockwork in Leuven, which no longer exists, and we played our first gig there in December 1997, with OI POLLOI, BOYCOT and ACCION MUTANTE.
What was the first hardcore/metal show that you remember attending to?
Erik: My first metal concert was a band called HANDS OF MERCY. They were a local hard rock group. The concert that made the biggest impression on me was an AGATHOCLES-show somewhere in the early nineties. It was my first confrontation with grindcore and extreme music. When we started ULRIKES DREAM, I was very inspired by AGATHOCLES: the brutal sound, the DIY spirit, the bold lyrics…
Hans: My first Metal concert was METALLICA in 1993. The last concert of their black album tour, so they played a 3 hour set including all their classics. My first DIY punk gig was in the local youth centre in 1995. I don’t remember the bands names, but I do remember they played a CONFLICT cover that night.
How do you feel your local punk scene has evolved since 1997? How important has it been in sustaining the band?
Hans: With ups and downs. In July 2000 we squatted a huge building in Leuven, which became famous by the name Villa Squattus Dei, it existed for 8 years and it helped the scene to grow. After a few years we had hundreds of people coming to gigs in Leuven instead of 50. But after it’s eviction the scene started to shrimp slowly. There are no longer political squats in Leuven where activities and concerts are organized. So we depend again on friendly bars and a JH Sojo, a youth center just out of the center which has supported the hardcore and punk scene for years. But I miss a place like Villa Squattus Dei.
A local scene Is important for punk bands. If you can play locally, you do not have huge transport costs, and you get to have live-experience. So you can learn to rock, which helps in finding other gigs.
How do you view the 90s now that two decades separate us from its unique characteristics? What’s there to miss?
Erik: I remember the effort we had to get a hold of the records we wanted to hear. We had to trade tapes and re-use stamps and things like that. Nowadays it’s so much easier to do contact people via e-mail, buy online and download stuff. I like the fact that we can use the internet. I don’t feel the need to Instagram every meal I have, but a friend in another country is only an e-mail away.
Hans: Crust wasn’t a cliché yet. Since 2000 all crust bands sound the same which turned crust into a boring cliché. But in the 90ies you had bands like UNHINGED, HIATUS, QUARANTINE, DISAFFECT, FLEAS AND LICE, MUSHROOM ATTACK, SCATHA,… who each had a unique sound. They weren’t copies from each other, and they knew other rythms as D-Beat only.
What excites you about hardcore punk right now?
Erik: Punk is a genre full of energy; I like the fact that people organize stuff despite the lack of resources. If there is no venue, empty buildings get squatted. If the cops come over, they throw up barricades. If there is no electricity, they find a generator somewhere. It’s very creative sometimes.
Hans: after the commercialization of punk, already started in the 70ies, there has always been a hard core of punks that kept to their ideals. And though punk is dead since 1978, the punk scene is still around. So people who notice they don’t fit in this society can still find alternatives. Punk made it easier to escape from the system. Maybe even because punk has been incorporated partly into the system, so it’s easier to find. It’s still showing alternatives for those willing to see them.
Any favorite bands, labels and zines you’d like to mention?
Erik: There are a lot of interesting Belgian bands that are worth checking out: INTESTINAL DISEASE (grind), THE END OF ERNIE (punk), THE LEAGUE OF MENTAL MEN (powerviolence), VISIONS OF WAR (crust), TRAVOLTA (hc/powerviolence), AGATHOCLES (grind), SILENCE MEANS DEATH (crust), PROPHECY OF CROWS (crust), RENÉ BINAMÉ (punk), CHEAP DRUGS (hardcore), SUN POWER (hardcore), KILLTURA (metal), LINK (crust), MATRAK ATTAKK (crust), GI JOKE (grind)… And of course we listen to local radio station “Radio Scorpio” on thursday when Kardinaal Kannibaal is broadcasting. Hans used to play in a ska/dub/punk-band called THE USUAL SUSPECTS that is one of my favorite Belgian bands.
Can you tell us about your relationship with former band members over the last 20 years? Also, what is the current lineup?
Erik: Our current line-up is Hans (guitar + vocals), Erik (bass), Selle (drums). All former band members are friends who left ULRIKES DREAM because they had other projects or other bands.
Alright, but why do you think ULRIKES DREAM has endured?
Erik: We are still doing what we do because we love it and because we need it. After a day at work it’s great to play a brutal concert in a dark squat or a filthy basement. It’s great to meet new people.
The music we play is constantly evolving. We started as a grindcore band, but evolved towards a more metal/punk sound. We used to have vocalists that did all the grunts and screams, but when she left, Hans took over and decided to do “clean” vocals so you can understand the lyrics. We adapt. When we want to mix reggae in a metal song, we don’t hesitate. We play a pop song called “Kraken gaat door” (look it up) in front of a punk audience. We made a metal version of a folk song, but we play it with a hardcore attitude. I like that ULRIKES DREAM is full of variation, but still consistent. That is for me why UD has endured. And we don’t do cocaine or speed or things like that. That helps too.
Hans: In 2005 the drummer , 2nd guitar player and vocalist, left the band, as they wanted to do other projects. We played a goodbye concert with that line up in Villa Squattus Dei (our vocalists entered the venue during the first song on a motorbike, it was one of our best shows ever). Then Erik and I went to look for a new drummer, so we play together since 2006. Kim has been singing from 2007 to 2015.
Alright, so looking at your current plans, tell us about your new record? How long has it been since you started writing for this album?
Hans: Our previous album: “Van 9 tot 5” was released in June 2010, so I suppose we started writing the first songs of this album in 2010. Though we used 2 old UD songs and wrote new Dutch lyrics for them, so the music of the oldest ULRIKES DREAM song on the new album was written in 1998. The album is called “Anarchie in Leuven” it will include 13 tracks. The album will also contain 3 cover songs, translated to Dutch. A song from THE USUAL SUSPECTS (RIP) ,where I used to play the guitar, a song from LES BAUDOINS MORTS (RIP) where Erik used to sing, and a song from KILNABOY (UK), one of my favorite bands. They play anarcho-folk punk, you should really check them out. Their last 2 albums are brilliant and it’s one of the best DIY live bands currently playing.
Lyrics wise, considering the 20th anniversary, is this an album where you’ve moved from the political more to the personal approach? Where do you find yourself now in your writing?
Erik: Our songs are about topics like squatting, animal rights, social injustice… things like that. I consider UD a political band that promotes anarchism and direct action. We write about squatting because we have been active in squats. We write about animal rights because Hans and me are vegetarians. The politics have a very personal base. It’s like in that song by CRASS: “In attempts to moderate they ask why we don’t write love songs. What is it that we sing then? Our love of life is total, everything we do is an expression of that, Everything that we write is a love song.”
Hans: You have ex-punks who claim that the hype is over, but to me they’ve just conformed to the system, cause it makes their lives easier. To me political music is a necessity. As long as injustice is law, resistance is our duty. So the current system provides me with enough anger to continue singing about alternatives and taking action to change our world. Punk to me is not about drinking beers only, it’s about changing the world. And about living the change you want to see. The most personal approach is a song about firing your boss. My girlfriend got fired in a disgusting way, so I wrote a song about firing your boss instead. You’ll save the company more money this way, as they earn way more as their employees. And who needs a boss anyway?
Haha, exactly! So how about the big picture of the record? What do you feel it accomplishes for the band and for the listeners?
Erik: Language wise we’ve switched to Dutch. Our previous record (“Van 9 tot 5”) was partially in English and partially in Dutch. We’ve noticed that we prefer Dutch. But it’s more confronting. You cannot hide behind English tropes or clichés. It is what it is. Plain and simple.
Musically this is our most “punk” record so far. Yes, there is a bit of metal and even some folk, but the general feel of the record is “punk as fuck”. And that is what it should be.
Hans: And I like to mention a cheers for Steven who’ve put a lot of effort in drawing the picture for the cover of the LP. He was the first Anarchist I’ve ever met and he has shown me a way of living I’m still enjoying. He also drew the cover from our first demo-tape in 1998, and he introduced Anton and me to Erik, which led to the birth of ULRIKES DREAM.
I hope people listening the record join our anger, and not only pogo to it, but also take the message serious. Together we can beat the system.
You mentioned you are working on a 20th anniversary tour. Can we reveal some more details on that trek?
Erik: We’re still looking for shows to play. So all suggestions are welcome. Organisers can contacts us via [email protected]
Ok guys, so what else? What’s in store for ULRIKES DREAM’s 20th year and beyond?
Erik: First of all we will release our new album “Anarchie in Leuven”. Maloka and Deviance Records will release it in France and Wahnfried Records will release it in Germany. Order it from them if you live there. They’re cool people.
We will play some shows to promote of course, but on 16/12/2017 we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary in our hometown Leuven.
Hans: we also plan a 20year anniversary cd, including some live recordings from 1998 until now and some cover songs from metal/punk classics we recorded along with the new album. As a present to the people attending our anniversary gig. So limited edition…
I guess we’ll start writing songs again in a few months, as it seems to take us about 5 years to write an entire album, it will take a while before the next one will be ready. But that’s for after the release of “Anarchie in Leuven”.
Finally, from your experience, what would be your advice to young bands out there?
Hans: Do it yourself. Or even better: Do It together. And do not try to imitate your favorite bands. Let them inspire you to make your own style of music. Making crust/punk music interesting again.
Great! Thanks so much for your time guys! Good luck for the rest of the year and take care! The last words are yours.
Hans: We’ll be back.