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Bjorn Dossche

Bjorn Dossche. Singer of Rise And Fall. Or maybe you know him from his time in The Deal. Anyway, I almost forgot about this interview. It’s another one from the vault, another one originally intended for Some Will Never Know #2. It was finished just after I finished all the content for it though, so I had to leave it out. The interview was done between April 2010 and October 2010. Let’s see what Bjorn had to say.

Hey Bjorn, what’s on your mind at the moment? What are you doing / did you do today? (aside from answering these questions)

Didn’t do much today besides working, nothing too crazy or exciting happened. I’ve been back at work since about a week after having had 6 months off, in those months I was basically on tour most of the time with Rise And Fall, so right now I’m trying to get used to the daily grind again I guess. Other than that my mind’s been obsessing over the fact that I’ll be turning 30 in a couple of weeks. My only resolution for 2010 is surviving that.

“My mind’s been obsessing over the fact that I’ll be turning 30 in a couple of weeks.”

Your survived being 27 (the age all rockstars die) so I guess you’re safe for 30 too. So what kinda work do you do?

I manage a Levi’s Store in the city of Antwerp right now. I used to work in another one of their stores in my hometown Ghent for a couple of years and got the chance to do this so here I am.

Like that job? Something you want to keep on doing?

Yeah I like the job. It is pretty challenging and varied and I get to deal with a ton of different people so that keeps it interestin as well. Plus I am somewhat of a denim lover and fashion enthusiast so to be working for an iconic brand like Levi’s is a good thing for me.

Good. Let’s start at the beginning. What’s the first memory you have of your life?

It’s hard to pin down one specific memory ’cause everything kind of blurs together… But something I can definitely remember myself doing is sitting down in one of those high chairs for babies behind the counter of the bakery my mom worked at at the time. We lived in an apartment above the bakery, which was surrounded by high risers. I must’ve been about 3 years old and we lived in Ghent at the time.

And the first music related one you can think of?

That’s gotta be sitting around on the living room floor of said apartment while my dad put on one of his Beatles albums and being mesmerized by the sounds that band produced. I loved them. I was a little older, maybe 4 around that time. And I still love them now.

The Beatles are amazing indeed. That riff in Helter Skelter, so good. Anyway, somewhere along the line you got into hardcore. I remember being asked to go to a show by Gio (who was then playing guitar for No Turning Back). The energy, the passion got me hooked right away. What did it for you?

That same energy, passion, conviction and that slight hint of danger for sure. My first hardcore show was seeing Congress live in November ’95. I’ll never forget that show, ever. I’d been into hardcore for a while and in the small town I lived in I didn’t know anyone else that listened to what I was into, except for an older dude called John who was super nice to me and took me to that show. It was wild. Congress was pretty much close to their peak around then, they’d just recorded their “Blackened Persistence” album a few months prior to that show but it hadn’t come out yet. They hit the stage and the place erupted, they had such fury and anger and seemed so sincere, I was definitely blown away. Brilliant band.

“People sometimes forget how tiny the H8000 area actually is…”

There’s always a band or a moment or something that makes you start a band, that gives you that little extra push to go out and do it yourself. It was Nirvana that made me pick up a guitar and the Reaching Forward final show that made me want to do a more oldschool hardcore sounding band. How about you?

I only got into Nirvana when I was a bit older and after I had been into hardcore for quite some time. I dunno why really. When they broke big I was more into metal, stuff like Slayer, Testament, Judas Priest etc. so I thought Nirvana was kinda weak. I can’t really say that one specific band or show sparked my interest in doing a band myself. I just figured so many other dudes I knew and had seen around were doing bands, so I could do that too. Although when I think about it, it definitely was Congress again that opened my eyes to the fact that hardcore was something that was living and breathing right next door as well. Before seeing them at said show and gradually getting into the other bigger Belgian bands at the time (like Blindfold and Liar) I was pretty sure hardcore was a purely American phenomenon because all the bands I was into were American.

A lot has been said and written about it already, but since you just mentioned getting into the bigger Belgian bands. Tell me a bit about the H8000 days, how did you experience those?

A lot definitely has been said and written about that era in European hardcore history and for some reason we get asked about it quite a lot. I guess that is partly because some of us are from that specific H8000 area and grew up with those bands and in that scene, kind of. Ever since that Congress show we discussed earlier I was gradually dragged into the local events and bands of the time. People sometimes forget how tiny the H8000 area actually is… It is the most western province of Belgium and doesn’t really have any big cities so the fact that so much was going on around there at the time is crazy. For a couple of years, from 1995 until 1999 roughly most shows there were crazy. A ton of local bands, tons of local kids and kids from all over Belgium showing up. There was an awesome energy in the air back then. Hardcore and straight edge were big – all in that little area. Congress, Liar and Blindfold definitely lead the way, while other younger bands like Vitality, Regression and Spineless followed in their footsteps and gained quite a following. I wasn’t an actual H8000 dude but I lived close enough to witness a lot of it first hand. Around 1999-2000 the whole thing really died down.

It all comes in waves… A bit later another great wave in European hardcore happened. Aside from Rise And Fall there was Justice, Restless Youth, Dead Stop, True Colors… But all those bands have quit or are quiting soon. How do you look upon the current scene in these regions?

Hardcore/punk is definitely a cyclic thing and I think the explosion around ’04 had a lot to do with people being fed up with what was being sold as hardcore at the time. Things were very stale and boring when it came to real hardcore. Watered down and dumbed down metalcore was soaring high. So anyway… all those bands managed to do amazing things in a relatively short amount of time. Creativity and enthusiasm were super high and it was exciting to be a part of all that. I miss seeing Dead Stop but I know that what they did was exceptional and I also know that a blitzkrieg career like theirs is what made it possible for them to make such an impact and give everyone a good old kick in the ass. Things have definitely changed since those days, the bands we used to play with often and hang with broke up and right now it seems like we’re the only ones left. Then again in a way because of who we are and what we do with Rise And Fall we were always somewhat different anyway but personally I can honestly say I felt very connected to all those bands. I really dig what The Reactionaries are doing – love them – and I also think Joshua’s Song and Hooghwater are doing well but obviously those aren’t hardcore bands per se – so if you want to discuss that scene I really haven’t seen any newer bands around here that have excited me. It will come though. I like what Hessian is doing so hopefully they can make things happen.

Ok, enough about that. I know you were in The Deal before Rise And Fall. I think that was just before I really got into hardcore but that split with No Turning Back I have is cool, it reminded me of American Nightmare. How do you look back upon that band?

Being in The Deal was a fun time for sure, though it was frustrating at times as well. The band was around for about 3 years, we put out a couple of 7″s and did a few smaller tours but Vince and me always wanted more and most of all, after a while we wanted a band that sounded heavier and darker, so that’s how Rise And Fall came to be. Looking back it was alright for a band at that time, we definitely weren’t great or awe inspiring but tried hard to be.

“… looking back at that whole process really makes it clear to me to it is a miracle we managed to write that record…”

After that Rise And Fall came to life. Could you tell a bit about the starting days of the band?

Vince and me were always talking about the kind of band we really wanted to do while we were still in Das Deal. Something darker, harder, more vicious. We asked our friends Pedro (whom we soon dubbed F-Double) and Murph if they would be down to do something new with us and they were. Both of them were in the underrated Kingpin at the time. We started jamming once a week at F-Double’s house. Cranking our amps up to the max and songs were written without much second guessing. It all came together very spontaneously. We would just come up with riffs that we thought were hard as fuck and I would scream over them trying to sound as angry as possible. During breaks we’d watch old Integrity live videos and the non straight edge dudes would roll a few crazy ass blunts and get high. After a while AK joined on second guitar and we recorded our first 4 songs at his home studio… Those recordings became the demo. We made sure we had the demo out for our first show in March ’03 and things started rolling from there. The demo recently got re-issued on a vinyl 7’’ by our good friend Geert at Control Records.

Yeah that was a cool start for his label for sure. Good demo anyway. I like the tape version I’ve got, but those liner notes etc give it just a little bit extra. Anyway, Rise And Fall is going full speed since 2003, you’ve toured the world, put out a nice amount of releases, had quite some line-up changes. And you guys keep going. Something that’s getting rarer these days where bands seem to split up pretty fast. What’s next? Do you have set any goals or something, things you want to achieve with the band?

It’s definitely getting harder to set new goals with Rise And Fall because we have already accomplished most of the things we wanted to accomplish and even did a whole bunch of things we never thought we would. Also, we’re all getting older and with real life responsibilities always creeping around the bend it’s not easy to juggle our lives and the band the way we’ve always been doing it. We did a lot of touring right after “Our Circle Is Vicious” came out and right now we’re taking it pretty slow. We’ll see what comes up next. We’re touring soon though – a couple of weeks with our friends in Harm’s Way and Nails. I am stoked on that. It’s been since february since we last toured so we are anxious! I’d also love to go tour Asia, but we only want to do thing that make sense. If we feel like there’s enough people that want to see us and if things make sense financially, we’ll play wherever people want us but we don’t want to tour just for the sake of touring. We have also been writing a bunch of new jams with our new drummer Wim who’s been with us for a while now and has proven to be an awesome addition to the band. I am really into what we have written so far.

Talking about writing and recording new jams. Could you talk a bit about the writing process of the last record. It was delayed quite a bit right? What happened?

Originally we wanted to start writing songs after the summer of 2007. We had been touring a lot for quite a while and wanted to take some time out to write and then record pretty soon after. However we didn’t take into account a couple of little things like the band almost falling apart due to clashing personalities and ambitions… Added to the fact that we hadn’t been creative in such a long time and couldn’t seem to get back into the swing of getting together creatively and writing. The first half of 2008 was similar and we weren’t really getting anywhere. The fact that we didn’t have a steady place to rehearse didn’t help either. However in the late spring of that year we got our own spot and things started falling into place. It wasn’t a fun process, nor was it easy at all with the pressure we put upon ourselves, but we managed to write a bunch of songs that we were all happy with and then booked studio time with Kurt Ballou. During the recordings of ‘Our Circle Is Vicious’ we were still argueing about some of the songs and some only got finished while we were recording but looking back at that whole process really makes it clear to me to it is a miracle we managed to write that record.

Yeah I know how that works, finishing songs in the studio. Not always a pretty thing haha. In the end I guess going through all that only made the record more rewarding for you guys in the end. Now we dealed with the negative things about it, what do you love about it?

I love being able to express myself and write songs with Vince, Cedric and Wim. I love playing shows – especially the ones where you feel like you connect with the crowd and everything else in your life just blurs out. I love touring and being able to spend time with a bunch of people I can relate and talk to. I love the Bad Brains.

“I wish I was Eddie Sutton or Keith Caputo but I’m not.”

You played Pukkelpop the other day. I heard good things about it, but that most have been strange playing to such a big (and completely different) audience. How was it? That moment of walking onto that stage and seeing the audience?

We’d already played Pukkelpop in 2006 so it wasn’t an entirely new experience but still – it is pretty fucking crazy to play to a sea of people like that. Luckily I have gotten a little more comfortable with crowds and playing shows throughout the years so I wasn’t puking my guts out before the show like I was in ’06. I think we played real well and there definitely were A LOT of people there to see which is real cool ofcourse. However it is really hard to really ”feel it” when you are playing a huge ass stage like that with the crowd that far removed so we just focused on playing well and playing hard.

How did this band impact your life so far? Would you have done anything differently in hindsight?

My life has pretty much been based around this band ever since we got going for real. I’ve quit jobs for the band, I’ve neglected friends and loved ones at times but I don’t want to get too melodramatic over choices made. Especially choices I don’t regret. I remember the excitement there was when we started the band, Vince, Murph, F-Double and me jamming at F-Double’s house, just writing the most savage, hardest shit we could come up with and being stoked as hell. Ever since Cedric joined in early ’04 things just fell into place as far as a touring, hard working band goes and I’m proud to see what we’ve accomplished. By no means are we “big” but people know our name and we have our own thing going and that matters most. Throughout the years that excitement has come and gone and that’s normal ’cause doing a band the way we’ve been doing it isn’t always that easy but I don’t think I’d do anything different in hindsight. No use crying over spilt milk. All the choices we made usually made sense when we made them, although some of them turned out to be the wrong choices afterwards, but such is life.

Don’t be that modest. I think you could consider you guys to be “big” to be honest. I mean you’re on Deathwish, you’ve toured the USA more than once. Released a couple of records. Pretty much any kid remotely into hardcore knows about you guys… Yeah, that’s big I guess. When was the first time you noticed things were working out for you guys?

Anyone can tour and put out records I think. That is not the hard part. The challenge these days with so amany bands out there playing shows and touring and working hard to get ahead is making a real impact. Creating records that someone will listen to in 10 years from now thinking ”Wow… I am feeling this”. I hope that we can achieve that. It is hard to pinpoint an exact moment when it comes to the band working out… But I do remember one show we played in early ’04 or ’05 I think with The Promise and Champion in Hengelo. We played a pretty short set with some old ”Hellmouth” and pre ”Hellmouth” songs and a Ringworm cover back when Murph was still on drums and I remember thinking ”damn we sound good” and I could tell people were looking at us as if we were a ”real” band you know? Things just clicked and it felt good.

How is your voice coping with the lengthy tours, with all the shows? I could never do that many shows you guys do, so hats off for that. I did see quite some shows of Rise And Fall though where you could hear you voice was strained. Know what I’m getting at? How do you handle that?

I wish I was Eddie Sutton or Keith Caputo but I’m not. I’m not a real singer and it took me a while to learn how to scream in a way that wouldn’t result in me blowing my voice out every third day of a tour. I can’t claim to know what I’m doing 100 %, but I pace myself more nowadays, started wearing earplugs and actually enjoy having some vocals in my monitors now. So personally I feel like I’ve been doing quite well in the last year or so, but sure, a couple of weeks into a tour my vocals will definitely sound rougher and a little strained and sure, I’ll usually blow my voice out once per tour and start freaking out when I cough up blood but all in all I try not too worry too much and I feel like that helps too. I try to keep warm, drink a lot of tea with honey and I try to stay away from cold carbonated drinks before we play but that’s about it.

Good to hear that. So how do you see the future? There probably will be a time without Rise And Fall (unless you’re like Motorhead for example), do you think about something like that?

There will definitely be a time without Rise And Fall. I love Motorhead but we ain’t them. We’re still doing this because we love it and we enjoy getting together to write songs and play shows. With Wim joining the band on drums we definitely got an new dose of energy as well… We want to try keep writing songs for the upcoming album right now, our first album with Wim on drums. We have studio time booked at God City in May so that is all very exciting. After that we’ll see how it all pans out.

I guess you just feel that as a band, when your time is near. We talked about it too within the band. To see if we’re all on the same page. Anyway, maybe that’s a nice way to close off the band talk and dig a bit deeper again. What or who inspires Bjorn Dossche? Not only lyric wise, but more in general. I already read in an interview that life itself inspires you for lyrics, but could you be a bit more concrete?

Life itself would still be my aswer. It is weird for me to get all personal but I will try to clarify a little… I am inspired by greatness, frailty, genuine passion, love, loss. All sorts of things. It takes on different forms. An awesome song with a chorus that hits home could do the trick. Reading a great book and getting carried away to the point where you aren’t just reading anymore but visualising the story – walking around with the characters and seeing the story through their eyes. Seeing a painting that completely baffles you amidst a mass of modern art that you feel like you are too dumb for. Being together with your old friends and realizing how crazy it is to still be this tight 12 years down the line. Crossing the same homeless person out on the street every day and realizing how narrow the line is between his life and mine.I am in a pretty contemplative mood here so bear with me.

“People that know me well know that I can get carried away easily…”

Where do you stand spiritually? Are you spiritual or religious?

I guess everyone is at least a little spiritual. Everyone must wonder sometimes how in the hell this world came to be and what will become of us when we’re dead. It doesn’t really bug me all that much anymore really. It’s normal to have questions and sometimes you just gotta accept that there are no answers. Do I believe in a God or divine creature that created this world? Not at all. Do I do things fearing the wrath of God or trying to buy my ticket into heaven or a happy afterlife? Hell no. But I do try to be a good person and I do try to live life to the fullest. I was reading a book in the park close to my house recently and a couple of Mormons came to talk to me about God. They were young, American and super stoked on Jesus. We had a nice talk. They asked me if I didn’t have a need for God in my life. I told them that I don’t really need God to be a good person and live my life. I also said that everything known to man as ”the word of God” is actually the word of men that have claimed to speak for an unseen and unknown entity or a God if you like. The existence of this entity has never been proven either… So I told them that I see no point living life according to scriptures like that. If there is no God then cool, that makes sense to me… If there is one – well it’s all the same to me. Good for the believers. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Back in the days you did a paper zine, any plans on picking that up again someday? Your Mind Over Matter blog on paper maybe? Or should we see Mind Over Matter as the continuation of that?

I haven’t had regular access to a computer in a while now so that is why nothing’s going on with Mind Over Matter. I love writing and doing the blog however so I hope I can pick up on it again later. I was working on a paper version for a while with my friends Klaas and Geert but unfortunately we only got to finish half of it before life got in the way.

Since you did a zine yourself and all I’m pretty sure you know the Anti-Matter zines… Remember that question “When was the last time you cried?”? Johan Reflections told me in an interview it was the best question he ever read in a zine. I think I agree with him. So… to close this interview off. Wanna answer that one?

Ha. Classic question indeed. People that know me well know that I can get carried away easily… I am a pretty emotional person actually. Not a hardman at all come to think of it. So the last time I cried must have been last week when I was watching this video about a guy named Ludo Coeck who died in a car accident 25 years ago. He was a hugely talented football player that was super popular in Belgium at the time. One of Belgian football’s first real stars. I remember being real little and hearing about his death and how upset people were about it. He was 30 when he died. I don’t know if it is because I am 30 now too but when I watched the interview with his sister where she said she still misses him every damn day and when I listened to the way his old friends spoke about him, somehow it all got to me and I had a little cry. There you go.

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