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(To get a better idea of the band and its individuals, interviews can give a much better insight than an "artificial" biography; so here we go!)
INTERVIEW DONE FOR ASEPSIS #1; somewhere in 1998 (Jordan Menzies, 410 Brock St. Apt #2, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 1T4 CANADA)
OK, TO START OFF WITH, COULD YOU GIVE A BRIEF HISTORY OF CATWEAZLE, HOW AND WHY THE BAND CAME TOGETHER?
Michael: I was asked to come join TROFOBLAST in July 1988. It all just happened, no special reason. It was very easy to meet people at the W.N.C. squat and alot of bands were formed in that period. At that time we changed the name into CATWEAZLE and the band had a different line-up (two vocalists, different bassplayer). Around 1992 the style of music changed from kind of grindcore to more melodic hardcore. The former vocalists went respectively to play with Fleas And Lice and Dr.Phybes (ska) and bassplayer also got involved with Dr.Phybes and a couple Techno-Projects. The current line-up is Axe on guitar, Emil on vocals, Erik on bass and Michael on drums.
We took the name Catweazle from a British children television-series with the same name (aired in the early 70s and also released as a series of paperback-books). It is about the adventures of the magician Catweazle that was imprisoned in the deepest dungeon of Farthing Castle during the late middle ages. For once his magic worked and he managed to fly from the accursed castle. But he didnt fly through space, instead he flied through time... He landed in a moat but the castle was vanished and in its place there was a large house with a clock tower. It appeared he entered the 1970s... During a whole series of episodes he tries to find the "Thirteenth Sign Of The Zodiac" which can get him back to his own time.
Sympathising with alot of the symbolism used in this series ("feeling isolated and alienated in this age of high technology, speed and profit"), we thought it was a good name to use for the band.
CATWEAZLE STARTED IN 1988, RIGHT? HOW COME NOTHING EXCEPT THE TWO DEMOS WERE RELEASED UNTIL YOUR 'CASH AND PAIN' MINI CD (ON PEFE) IN 1996? DID THE BAND GO THROUGH ANY LINE-UP OR MUSICAL CHANGES DURING THIS PERIOD? DID YOU PLAY MANY SHOWS?
Michael: We never had the money to release anything. The demos are low quality rehearsalroom recordings, originally made for promotion for getting concerts but because people were always asking for releases, we decided to sell some as well. The last concert in this line-up we did in November 1989. Until 1993, we had several line-up changes but eventually we kept working on songs. In January 1994 we had our first concert in the current line-up. We played about 20-25 concerts in the old line-up (also in Germany & Belgium).
MUSICALLY, HOW WOULD YOU LABEL THE BAND? (I'M ONLY ASKING SO I CAN ASK THE NEXT QUESTION...)
Michael: Im a sucker in describing music. We have been compared to zillions of bands; everybody hears something else in it. Also I have been influenced by tons of bands. Since everyone of us is into different kinds of music and also take this into Catweazle, we more or less fabricate our own style.
Emil: I always find it hard to classify our music but my best shot would be "fast intense HC with a metal touch and lotsa melodies n anger".
IS THERE A STRONG SCENE IN GRONINGEN (OR HOLLAND IN GENERAL)? IS IT VERY DIVIDED, WHERE 'CRUSTY' BANDS WOULD NEVER PLAY WITH 'STRAIGHT-EDGE' BANDS OR VICE VERSA?
Michael: I dont know about scenes. How do you describe a scene? I know there are different groups of people active all around Holland some cooperate with others, some stay in their own group/clique. Ofcourse theres concerts with combined musicalstyles (SE with crust with punkrock with grind etc.). Groningen is a small city so it is clearly "structured". Almost everybody knows eachother (means easy communication) and obviously we have alot of bands with the same people. Also I think the contacts between groups/individuals (nationally) is getting better compared to the last 10 years. In Groningen theres alot of willingness to organise (we now have a squat with a nightbar and already had concerts with Homo Militia, P.C.P., No I.D. and Sin Dios and SeeinRed later this year) and there are some places where it is possible to organise activities, concerts However, it has been more difficult to squat over the last years due to stricter laws. Squats have always been important for punk (for meeting/ discussions/ concerts/ food/ actions ). One of the sad results of having lesser self-managed places plus the commercialization of punk and hardcore is the de-politicizing of the "scene". A lot of things have changed politically. In the 80s the scene was very political (massive riots during the crowning of the queen, evictions, actions against Shell and nuclear missiles, South-Africa/Macro etc.). Nowadays its mostly apathy while alot of things are happening like the unification of Europe, treatment of refugees, uprising of fascism (especially in the countries surrounding Holland), pulling down of our healthcare and social security system Remarkable was the eviction of the W.N.C. squat in Groningen in 1990 where almost half of the arrested people (149) made statements to the cops about their actions and that of others (treason). People want to survive in this society and mainly think about themselves. Sad but true.
Emil: I dont feel Im in a very strong, active scene here in Groningen. There arent many gigs at the moment, so sometimes you dont see a lot of people for months in a row. Other towns seem to have much more activity + new bands. There have been times when the division between SE and crust was noticeable. The split scene "atmosphere" still exists here, although its not a predominant feeling. Just every now and then it is noticeable. Tolerance isnt always as high as it should be.
HOW DID THE PROFANE EXISTENCE FAR EAST CONNECTION COME ABOUT? DID THE INTERNET PLAY A ROLE AT ALL?
Michael: When we recorded the songs, we wanted to release an 7"EP very soon. We wrote alot of labels but despite everyone liked Catweazle, no-one could help us out within a short period. I put some messages on the hardcore newsgroup on internet and got in contact with Izumi from Profane Existence Far East. After sending him the demo and info, he was very interesting to make a 3"mcd version of the 7"EP. We decided not to wait and let him put out the mcd first. We found a Canadian label (from Gloucester; hey Miles, get in touch!) called Jip Records prepared to do the 7", sent him the DAT, artwork, everything, but never heard from him again In the meantime, Izumi has released a 5"CD version of his first 3 mcd releases including bonustrax by all bands. It was a special Japanese new-years edition (500) and only a few are distributed in the West.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY OF COMMUNICATION (LIKE THE INTERNET/EMAIL)? IS IT WORTH THE LOSS OF PRIVACY AND OTHER DRAWBACKS, OR IS THAT A CONCERN AT ALL?
Michael: Since a couple years I do alot of communication with email: organising tours, selling records, trading etc. The WWW is good for getting direct information from the source and not from the usual media like newspapers, TV. As for the loss of privacy, there are very good ways to encrypt your communication, so I see no concern at all. Ofcourse there are other concerns like the availability of this medium. Not everyone can affort a computer or a account although most universities and libraries give free access.
Emil: I used to have an e-mail account at the University which was anonymous, which, I felt, was perfect. I had and still have some concern about the privacy of e-mail. Since 1 year, they changed the accounts, and now everyones e-mail has his/her name in it, and of course its registered. The positive aspects of electronic mail are of course sped, flexibility, and the ease of staying home. But hey, theres nothing wrong with walking to the mailbox. I wouldnt use e-mail for very personal issues, and I wouldnt discuss plans for actions either.
WHICH ARE YOU MORE PROUD OF AS A BAND, THE 'CASH AND PAIN' CD OR THE SPLIT 10" WITH SEEIN RED (AND WHY)?
Michael: Hmm, the mcd has good timing. I think an full length LP/CD is often too much for a band. 20-15 minutes of Catweazle is far enough. Also I like this crazy format (3") alot. Only disadvantage is there was very little room for the lyrics and any explanations. Fortunately, the 10" gave us alot of room and in this regard I am very very content with it. Musically Im not totally pleased with it. We had an off day during the recording-session. Also the order of songs is not the strongest. In that regard, I think the "Form Of Fear"EP is much better.
Emil: Just like a parent cant choose between two children, I cant tell you which one has my preference. They are different projects, reflecting different aspects of Catweazle, on diferent formats (though both are unconventional), and each with a different musical style. The 3"mcd was our first release, with mostly uptempo songs, and was well received. Its very special to see your first release of music go around the world. The split 10" went around the world even more, and is a more varied record with slow + fast songs and a lot of explanatons of lyrics.
I'VE NOTICED THAT YOU TRANSLATE MOST OF YOUR LYRICS/SONG EXPLANATIONS INTO ENGLISH. IS THIS SIMPLY TO REACH THE MOST AMOUNT OF YOUR AUDIENCE WITH YOUR MESSAGE/INFORMATION? WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT THE WEST, WHEN ENGLISH IS SUCH A DOMINANT LANGUAGE ALL ACROSS THE WORLD? DOES THIS MATTER TO YOU (AS SOMEONE WHOSE FIRST LANGUAGE IS NOT ENGLISH) OR IS IT NOT A CONCERN?
Michael: I guess so. I have more contact with people abroad than in Holland. Our records are better distributed outside and also we seem to play more in other countries than in Holland. Of course it would have been best to have it translated in Spanish and French as well. I have met people that refuse to speak/learn English because it is the language of the capitalists. So far I adjusted and try to speak in the other language but it is a tricky subject. Would Esperanto give the solution? I still have to give it some thought before I dig into this further. So you can say it is of concern for me.
Emil: We use the English language in our explanations of lyrics so that more people can hear what we are trying to say. Dont you hate it when you buy a good record with "foreign-language" lyrics with explanations in that same (for you: incomprehensible) language? You went through the trouble to buy and listen to the record, the band went through the trouble of writing ideas and opinions, laying it out, and releasing the stuff. But still in the end: nothing comes across.
I would agree if you said it would be better to release stuff in Dutch, English, Spanish and French. But hey why stop there? Why not Greek, Turkish, etc.? This is a choice you have to make. Besides all this, many topics Catweazle sings about are just as valid in the US, Canada, or wherever as that they are here. Why I sing mostly in English? Well, I consider it my first language, and i just "feels" betting writing in English. It gives me more creative freedom.
FROM THE LYRICS TO 'EQUATION', YOU EXPRESS CERTAIN VIEWS ABOUT DRINKING/ALCOHOL. HOW EXACTLY DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DRINKING OR DRUGS, AND DOES THIS REFLECT ALL OF CATWEAZLE? DOES ANYONE IN THE BAND CONSIDER THEMSELVES 'STRAIGHT-EDGE'? AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HOW THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO LABEL THEMSELVES WITH THIS TITLE, INSTEAD OF JUST A PERSON WHO DOES NOT DRINK OR DO DRUGS?
Michael: Catweazle is a group of 4 individuals with their own views. Thats why we often sign our articles. The song Equation and its explanation is written by Emil. Personally I dont have anything against drugs and alcohol, as long as it is not taking over your life. Also, I have been too many times in situations where drugs (I consider alcohol as a drug as well) spoiled the atmosphere. On Catweazle concerts we always get the obligatory crate of beer but when in the end theres only 5 or 6 consumed, the organisers are either surprised or shocked to see we dont drink so much (you must know our home-town Groningen is (in)famous in Europe for its drunkpunks). Its quite funny.
Im not so concerned with straightedge. Theyre people as well. I have seen them come and go. "True til death" you know. Its often just a phase in life, like punkrock. Behave extreme for a couple years and then go for the bucks/family life or drown in drugs (the other extreme). Only thing that bothers me a bit is the "respect for all" aspect. Religions, fascist ideas, conservatism, patriotism . are consumed without any critique and pop up in alot of fanzines. It is really nauseous, especially when you see 13 year old kids swallowing that shit. They take it like a drug
Emil: Alcohol is an accepted and tolerated drug in todays society which, in my eyes, does more damage than good. A lot of misery in this world exists because of alcohol; a lot of reality and misery is avoided with the help of alcohol. It gives temporary pleasure and is an escape from the things that are happening around you, no matter how small. Alcohol is artificial because it distorts your perception of your surroundings.
I'M INTERESTED IN HEARING WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS NEXT QUESTION, AS SOMEONE WHO COMES FROM OUTSIDE OF NORTH AMERICA, AND (HOPEFULLY) HAVE HAD DIFFERENT MEDIA EXPOSURE/INFORMATION. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CONTINUED SITUATION IN IRAQ? ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE US HAD A PRIMARY ROLE IN CREATING THE SITUATION, AND THE SANCTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR OVER 500,000 IRAQI CHILDREN'S DEATHS SINCE THE WAR? DO YOU THINK SADDAM SHOULD BE REMOVED IN THE WORLD'S BEST INTEREST, AND ARE SANCTIONS THE BEST WAY OF GOING ABOUT IT?
Michael: First I must emphasis that we might have a different way of media/coverage than North America but eventually it will not differ much. As with so many political issues, media is used to manipulate and lie and to mobilize the people against "the enemy" (in this case Iraq and Saddam Hussein note hes already been compared to Hitler). Fright and prejudices are exploited. Welcome to the world of psychological warfare and massmedia. In this sense the Dutch press/media doesnt work different than the U.S. People have been brainwashed so much that theres almost no identification with Iraq anymore; its mainly seen as a threat.
As for Saddam being removed, I believe I wouldnt shed any tear to see him dead. Only take a look at what he did and is still doing to some of the minorities (like the Kurds). Genocide that is. As for sanctions and interference by governments, it can only get worse. Always the wrong people will suffer. And besides that, the arms-lobbies/trades will find their way and no matter what sanctions, will continue doing their business with Iraq.
Emil: Actually, media exposure on the Iraqi situation in 1990 was pretty one-sided since CNN had a monopoly on the news from that area. All other broadcasting stations had to use CNNs info to make their own news-shows. This definitely changed in the last confrontation U.S. Iraq (the setting of deadlines to allow entrance for inspectors). Partially this came about because CNN had realised what had happened during the Gulf-War was fairly one-sided.
Your question about Saddam is a very good one. It is also a difficult one to answer. Since I cant offer an in-depth perspective of the situation, Im afraid I cant give a good answer to your question. If I could, it probably wouldnt be possible to do so in the context of an interview.
COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THE 'PIG-PLAGUE' IS, AND WHAT HAS HAPPENED BECAUSE OF IT?
Michael: Pig-plague is virus-disease which is already known for decennia. The first breakout was around 1830 in the American state Ohio. Infected animals have for example fever, diarrhoea or bleedings. Sows have often spontaneous abortions. Infected piglets grow with great difficulty and stay behind their age-groups. The spreading of the disease can happen directly or indirectly. Direct through for example animal to animal, through clothes, foot-gear or transportationmeans. Indirect through the air from sty to sty. Humans are absolutely impassive for pig-plague. Even if infected meat is consumed, there is no risk at all.
On 4th February 1997 there is pig-plague determined in Venhorst (in the province of Noord-Brabant which is in the south of the Netherlands). All animals from that particular pig-farm are destroyed (a usual pig-farm holds around 500-1000 pigs) and a protection-area is created where any transportation of cattle and/or dung is forbidden. Soon after, the epidemic breaks out all around (first mainly the south but later also the middle of the Netherlands). Belgium starts to destroy all pigs that were imported from Holland since January 97 (12000). In a lot of areas it is forbidden to transport and/or deal in pigs and pig-sperm. After about 100 cases, the preventive destruction of pigs starts. Also the European Union agrees to the buying and destruction of 500 000 piglets (0 3 weeks old), to avoid over-population in the pig-plagued areas. After the 176th case, the Dutch government decides to destroy all piglets between 3 and 17 days old. The destruction-centres have a hard time to keep it up. The press is not allowed to be present at the killing of the piglets. Until 22 July, there are 803 farms preventively cleared (750000 animals destroyed). In September, the government agrees to a structural change in pig-farming. Last case (the 429th) was determined in March 1998 but the fight against this epidemic is still fully on.
IN THE 'RANDOM THOUGHTS' IN THE SPLIT WITH SEEIN RED, YOU WROTE ABOUT ANIMAL RIGHTS, AND THE HUMAN PERCEPTION OF ANIMALS. IS THERE A RAISED AWARENESS IN HOLLAND/EUROPE ABOUT THE ISSUE? IS THERE MUCH ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISM, GREENPEACE, ALF, PETA, ETC? EVEN MCDONALDS HAS STARTED TO SERVE VEGGIE-BURGERS, IS THIS A VICTORY FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS, OR THE SAME OLD EVIL MCDONALDS CORPORATION JUST TARGETING ANOTHER GROUP OF CONSUMERS?
Michael: I believe so. It is a totally accepted thing to be vegetarian today. Ofcourse commercialisation has something to do with it, but its taken more seriously now. Alot of people I know are active in the animal rights dpt. Many of them are focused totally on how animals are (mis)treated but dont (want to?) see why. Any change in treating animals would mean a huge change in politics/economics. Where does this places you politically? Not many animal rights activists seem to bother about this, which is odd.
I think McDonalds veggie-burgers are only served to make another easy buck. It is quite naive to think otherwise.
Emil: I believe that McDonalds veggie-burger sales are partially a small victory for animal rights activists/supporters, but that the main reason of its existence is the fact that it brings in some extra money. In a sense, its a logical step for the corporation to expand its market share and number of varying customers. Next to that, they now can say: "Hey, we care about animals too, you know check out the menu!". Many people who visit McDonalds dont know/dont care about all the other "consequenses" of McDonalds policy. Yes, that is meat consumption (animal murder in our eyes). But there is also environmental pollution, low salary and bad workers rights, campaigns meant to mislead children, and shameles lies all hidden behing a laughing clown who is shown everywhere.
CATWEAZLE OBVIOUSLY HAS A STRONG OPINION ABOUT RELIGION IN THE PUNK/HC SCENE, COULD YOU EXPLAIN A LITTLE? DOES KRISHNA-CORE OR CHRISTIAN HC HAVE ANY PLACE IN THE SCENE AND HOW BIG HAS IT BECOME IN HOLLAND/EUROPE?
Michael: I think religion is a means to escape, like drugs, consumerism or ideologies. Religion is based on hierarchy and not liberty and leads to a weakening of individuality and a lose of self-identity. The last couple years alot of Dutch and Belgian punk/hc-zines write without any critic about Christianity and Khrsna. Mainly taking out the "positive" points and use it as it suits. I guess it has alot to do with the North-American influence. It has always been very popular to copy U.S. hardcore (see NYHC, Straightedge, Khrsna, Emo ) including the life-style (give it a very "personal" touch). Nowadays, alot of Euro-punk/HC fanzines write about stuff like how well they do on school, about their parents, about how much they miss their girlfriend when on tour, how it feels to shit . Interviews dont differ much. In regard to this: religion is very personal, very spiritual it comes from the heart. A perfect subject!
Emil: For me religion is oppression, and it stands for a lot of misery in the form of the many wars fought in the name of religion and even more victims it has led to. To many religious people, the "one above" is the cause and reason for almost everything in life, and, in this submission, their own "input" to (their) life has decreased. "Everything that happens, happens because He wants it to happen." To me, this is even worse than Murphys Law ("Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong"). Anyway, I believe the world of punk to be one whre thinking for oneself, taking responsibility, and being free of chains are (among others) values which are important. I believe religion stands in the way of these values, and cannot sincerely be combined with them. Lets keep punk free of religion.
I hear a little here and there about people/zines with Christian beliefs stepping in the scene. But when I read their naive columns, I dont worry at all about an invasion"or "take-over"of religious freaks in the scene. Its good to let them say what they want because they have the right to do so, and because its a healthy injection of humor, something our "serious" scene can use every now and then.
HAS THE SCENE IN HOLLAND GROWN OR GOTTEN SMALLER IN THE LAST 10 YEARS? HAVE MANY OF YOUR FRIENDS GROWN UP AND MOVED ON, OUT OF THE PUNK 'STAGE' OF THEIR LIVES?
Michael: People come and go. Hc/Punk is always there and will always stay around but its constantly changing. Musically, skatecore and melody/softcore are currently very popular (in the mainstream), crust and outspoken political hardcore balance between underground (squats, bars...) and acception (youthcenters, fests). Theres a network of D.I.Y. bands, individuals, groups that help eachother. Also a couple interesting zines pop up which is good for being kept up to date. But overall there are really not that many people involved, in like doing labels or putting out fanzines.
Since I have been involved in punk from 1982, I have seen most of my friends "grown up". With some I still have contact. For most of them punk is something that belonged to their youth while they moved on. To me it is a rebellous lifestyle. DIY. Self-managing your life.
THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO THINK THAT PUNK DOESN'T PRESENT ANY THREAT TO SOCIETY, AND THAT THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM IS BY WORKING WITHIN THE SYSTEM (LIKE BECOMING A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWYER OR SOMETHING). WHICH WAY DO YOU THINK MAKES MORE OF A CHANGE, OR ARE THEY BOTH EQUALLY USEFUL?
Michael: It depends on how you describe Punk. If you see punk purely as music, I think punk doesnt present any threat to society. Punk can be a method to make people conscious about certain issues but I never think it is a direct threat. If you see punk as a movement, including squatting, making actions, demos, radio etc., I think it can be very influential and eventually make a threat or a change.
As for changing the system by working within, I have some reservations. It fully depends on the situation. If you look at the social centres in Germany, it works quite well. Since squatting is almost impossible, alot of punks/activists live in houses with an official contract. Because they now own certain rights, they can do alot of activities with their houses (meetings, concerts, bar etc.). This is a good example to make a change by working within. However, if you work for example in a refugee-organisation that has to follow government-rules, I dont think you can make a change. You probably make a change for the individual refugee, but you maintain the system.
SO WHAT DOES CATWEAZLE STAND FOR AS A BAND? ARE THERE GOALS, OR JUST TO HAVE A GOOD TIME AND MEET LOTS OF COOL PEOPLE AND TRAVEL?
Emil: Catweazle stands for 4 friends making hardcore music, each contributing in his own personal way. We live very different lives sometimes, but we get along very well and I respect the others a lot. Musically, we want to let our music explode and let the melodies stick in your head. Lyrically, we ventilate our opinions, ideas, and feelings on many subjects, be it political, personal, or otherwise. Its nice if ideas are spread.
Michael: Like Emil states, we are not a band with 1 opinion. My "goal" is to travel/tour all over, build a network of friends and exchange ideas. In this way I have already met with alot of different collectives, squats, places (I play drums in 2 other bands and organise tours for friendly bands as well). We help eachother and build an free alternative in this consumerist society.
WHAT IS IN THE FUTURE OF CATWEAZLE, ANY TOURS PLANNED, NEW RELEASES, ETC? ANYTHING YOU WANT TO SAY BEFORE I WRAP THIS UP?
Michael: It is now July 1998. Im almost off with No I.D. to Spain and some of the other Catweazles have taken their holiday-break. I wish Axe and Erik could participate in this interview as well but they had no time. I could have written more extensive answers, but Im under timepressure as well. If you want to know more about us, feel free to write at the address below. Currently we are working on new songs and we hope to start doing concerts again later this year. Maybe we will release someday something on Difusion Libertaria La Idea from Madrid. So far, our new EP is doing pretty well and we receive alot of positive feedback. Thanks to Jordan for making this interview (some of the more interesting questions weve been asked in those past 10 years!), good luck with Asepsis and take care.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET IN TOUCH WITH CATWEAZLE?
P.O.BOX 752, 9700 AT GRONINGEN, NETHERLANDS.
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