Ever heard of Justice, Rhythm To The Madness, Joshua’s Song, Loud And Clear, Not Afraid, In Arm’s Reach or The Fight? Right. If Not… You actually have been listening to hardcore now and then the last couple of years? Anyway, all those bands have one person in common. Wim Berchmans, or Stief Positief if you want. I had a chat with him to see what he’s up to at the moment and to look back at his endless list of bands.
Hey Wim, what’s up, what’s on your mind?
I’m at work so right now it’s work-related stuff and work-unrelated internet stuff, anything in my tumblr feed, probably cats.
In a more general sense, women, my new apartment in Antwerp, the bands I’m playing in, Moby Dick and some YouTube video’s of Bill Gates and Jeremy Rifkin who are both saying that things are worse than we can possibly imagine.
What are they saying then?
See for yourself:
Heavy stuff (especially the first one in 3 parts). I suggest everyone reading this to check that out as well. What does stuff like that do to you? It blows my mind hearing it, but at the same time I never know what to believe, what to accept as the truth you know? This sounded logical (and real), but there’s so many versions and theories.
I don’t know, being skeptical is easy and predicting the future is not. Preparing for the worst is never not a good idea, even if these guys are totally wrong. Whatever ‘preparing for the worst’ means anyway. I’ll probably won’t buy beef, get an electric car and feel like I saved the planet.
That’s true as well. Let’s see. You probably answered it a zillion times already, but since I don’t know, there’s probably more people out there that don’t, so… What’s up with the nickname Stief Positief? How did that happen?
I used to play in a band with dudes from the west of Flanders and they have a funny dialect. Their word for ‘very’ is ‘stief’. So I was just my enthusiastic self, being young and going on about Youth Of Today and what not. So these guys would start saying that I was ‘very positive’ but in their dialect it would be ‘stief positief’. That’s where that came from.
“I’ll probably won’t buy beef, get an electric car and feel like I saved the planet.”
Aah okay, clear. So how did you get involved with hardcore?
I used to borrow CD’s from my friend who was a little older than me. Just all kinds of hard music. The hardcore bands really stuck out for me.
What exactly is it that attracted you? For me it was the energy and the fact that the band and audience were one. A bit later especially the DIY part sounded great to me.
I liked that I could relate to the lyrics. The fact that those bands were trying to say something meaningful spoke to me I guess.
As much as I would like to say that was what attracted me to it too, I don’t even know I could hear what they were screaming about at first. It came across sincere though.
Let’s talk bands. Bands you did. The first band I know of that you played in is The Fight, wasn’t that your solo project or something? I should have that demotape somewhere… Any good stories about that?
Right, in those days I didn’t really know anyone that liked that style of music, since nothing was happening that had anything to do with hardcore where I grew up. So I recorded all the instruments myself.
I recorded the second demo when I was playing in In Arm’s Reach and those guys learned the songs. I think we’ve played them live 5 times to be precise, Spoilers wedding show was the coolest one, because when I threw an empty beer case in the audience, everyone started moving and singing along to the COS cover we were playing. It’s funny because the guy I hit it with was the same guy I brought with me driving up.
“When I threw an empty beer case in the audience, everyone started moving and singing along to the COS cover we were playing.”
Haha nice. Chain Of Strength covers, I kinda miss them. I liked the recent one Mouthpiece did with Curt Canales singing.
Ok, back on topic. You just mentioned In Arm’s Reach, I totally forgot you were in that band. I liked that 7”, it had that American Nightmare vibe as far as I can remember. Wasn’t one of those guys doing Anger Management Records, what happened to that / him?
He’s playing in a band called ‘We’re Wolves’ and building a huge house out of clay and wood, I’ve seen it and it’s pretty cool.
Sounds good. So what about Justice. That band doesn’t need an introduction I guess… So much has been said about you guys, but how do you feel about it, how do you remember that band?
Justice was something I could identify myself with, being in that band changed me and at the same time that band was my search for who I really was. I think the same goes for Filip. Through music we were figuring out who we were and through music we were trying to figure out how to show that to the world, maybe to find people that were like us. From the get go we had a real clear view of what we thought was important and along the way those that became our closest friends through Justice were those that imo shared that vision. Plus the way that Justice evolved musically, was just an extension of us evolving ourselves. I still feel Justice as being a part of me and although I really don’t regret quitting when we did, I’m still stoked on playing those songs when the time and place feel right doing so.
“Justice means a lot to me, so if we’re going to play those songs live again then it has to be for the right reasons.”
Yeah you guys did a couple of ‘reunions’ already, any good stories about those?
Justice means a lot to me, so if we’re going to play those songs live again then it has to be for the right reasons.
The only real reunion we did so far was because our good friend Ian asked us to play the farewell show of his record label. We love Ian and he supported us big time back when we only had a demo out, so even though I was reluctant when he first asked us, we decided to go through with it and give it our best shot. We found it very important to make sure we were tight as hell and I was superstoked that we could get our first line-up together which made it extra special.
The other times we played some Justice songs live were never announced and it was never a full set. We just did it because it seemed like it would be a good time and the right context offered itself to us.
We’ve been asked by a certain fest this summer to play a full reunion and we were offered a good amount of money. We told those people that we’d do it for free (+ a few guestlist spots) if they left our name (Justice) off the advertisement for the fest, either that or pay us such an amount that we wouldn’t be able to say no. The reason we even considered it was because one of our favorite bands was going to play as well but in the end they refused our offer and it turns out that band isn’t playing anyway.
They refused the offer? Strange, like a free surprise show is a bad thing? I hope to witness one of those ‘right moment, right reasons’ times soon again haha. Anyway if you had to pick a single moment to remember Justice, what would it be and why?
Playing CBGB’s. No need to explain.
“I think Escapades could’ve been a much better record had it been produced by someone that was on the same page as us.”
Haha, that was exactly the moment I was thinking about when asking the question. That must have been great. Any good stories about that? How did it feel to get up on the stage and bust out your tunes?
It was awesome that we were able to experience a matinee together with all our friends’ bands and not just a random show. I would’ve boasted about that as well, but now I can look back at playing a crazy set in the most legitimate venue (RIP) in the world and just being surrounded by friends.
Awesome. Anything you wished you could have done differently with Justice?
Yeah, I think Escapades could’ve been a much better record had it been produced by someone that was on the same page as us. I feel that there are some good ideas on that record but it lacks maturity imo. If we’d record those songs today, they’d sound a lot harder and maybe even better arranged.
Musically I really love Escapades, it’s only the singing that I think isn’t as good as on the other records (Live and Learn, I think, is a lot better vocal wise for instance). But that might be just me being a jerk. Now that you mention it, I think I prefer the version of Up And Down of the EP over the album version too. What was the problem with Don Fury exactly? I liked that little note you guys put in the matrix code of the vinyl haha. Totally forgot about that.
I kinda regret that too, but whatever. We just didn’t get to a point where we were feeling what direction the other was going in. And being inexperienced as we were, we kinda counted on that extra push from someone who knew all the tricks. Maybe our expectations were too high, maybe we should re-record those songs.
During Justice some of you guys also did Loud And A Clear. How did that came along?
We were driving to Hengelo to see 86Mentality playing the A Step Apart release show. In the car we started talking about how every straight edge band out at that time was playing a cheesy, not-very-hard kind of hardcore. We wanted to see a band that raged, that sounded like YOT and SSD. It seemed to us it was either hard bands singing about how much life sucked or straight edge bands yelling go before they went into another emotional melodic part (being fully aware that we were seeing things too black&white, but still). In that car we had a guitarist, a bassplayer, a drummer and a singer, so we decided to write that record that we wanted to hear.
“Joshua’s Song is my continuation of Justice, which might not make sense to anyone but it does to me.”
Haha awesome. Then there was Rhythm To The Madness. Why was it so short-lived, because I think you guys got better and better with every release and show?
RTTM started when Klaas, Justice roadie, got me excited about writing later Cro Mags influenced stuff. It was longer lived than intended since it was only supposed to be a demo tape. Those bands like RTTM & LAC, they didn’t feel like real bands to me, more like projects. After recording the RTTM LP we decided to play shows until all our recording bills were paid off, which we did. Playing live with RTTM, even though I really liked it, always felt a bit like posing, because I’m not really a skinhead Krishna living on the streets of NYC.
Haha, you had me fooled. Man, you did a lot of bands. Now there’s Joshua’s Song. I saw you guys at that Iron Age show in Belgium and liked it, but the newer songs that you recently put online are really great. How did that band come together?
Joshua’s Song is my continuation of Justice, which might not make sense to anyone but it does to me. The project bands I did were always set to sound like a certain band or type of hardcore, where with Justice and now with JS, I set out to write music that ‘I’ would write. Like the grand total of everything that ever influenced me plus my own identity. That may sound a bit dramatic but I’m trying to explain the difference between what I was doing with LAC & RTTM and what I’m doing with now JS.
The band formed when Lennart filled in for Cete on RTTM’s tour with Blacklisted. Sike played in Justice with me and Lennart brought along Ivo from his other band Oathbreaker (who are on Deathwish and you should check them out if you’re into punkmetal).
Doesn’t sound strange at all. The difference between later Justice stuff and Joshua’s Song is not that big. So what are the plans for Joshua’s Song?
Our plan was to record an album which we did, so now we’re looking for someone to put that out.
“I need more money or an alternative for our financial system where everything’s free and abundant.”
Looking forward to that record! Something else that just came to mind. You played a show with Supertouch in Newport right? Such a cool venue. Were they as good as in Essen? Man, I loved that show.
Fuck yeah, that was awesome. They totally exceeded all the expectations I had for them. I’d say Antwerp was their best show though. Those guys were real, they weren’t trying to be anything. NYHC at it’s best, even if you don’t like their sound.
Can’t agree more. Great people too. Wish I saw them more! Let’s just hope they come back soon. Now that we mentioned playing shows abroad, how about a tour? Any plans in that area?
I’m driving Title Fight around in August, that’s all the touring I’m doing until the end of the year.
That should do haha, enjoy that!
Damn, I almost forgot Not Afraid! That 7” is really good, especially that “Am I Wrong” song. It has that Supertouch vibe which I love. Plus, it’s pretty different from the rest of the songs on that EP. What’s there to tell about that band yet? Anything that Packo didn’t already tell in the short feature that was up on the site not too long ago?
Not Afraid is a band that Packo started and since we’re all friends and hang out a lot, we might as well play in a band together. Plus, it feels good playing hardcore, I love hardcore. Thanks for the love.
Any projects that we didn’t talk about yet? Maybe some that never left the rehearsal room?
“I’ve seen Mackie play drums and became deeply spiritual”
Good. Okay with all that bandtalk out of the way, what defines you? Who is Wim Berchmans? I’m not asking what you do or what you own…
If what defines me is my actions, then I am a regular working guy who plays guitar and hangs out with his friends and tries to have fun and tries to be conscious of other people and of the environment. I what defines me is what I think or the sum of both, then, like anyone else, it’s a bit more complicated. I’m reading a lot lately and I’m finding a great deal of the right questions in books after posing a lot of the wrong questions after Justice called it quits and I broke up with my girl and had to get a job. Everyone goes through phases, I’m not different from anyone.
Do you mean there was some sort of ‘void’ you fell in when Justice quit?
Yeah, but I didn’t really connect the dots until much later.
Where do you see yourself in, let’s say, 20 years?
Travelling the corners of the world, smarter, more humble and more at rest.
Nice. Anything bothering you lately, something you wish you could change? Can be something small?
I need more money or an alternative for our financial system where everything’s free and abundant.
There’s an alternative that embodies exactly that, it’s called Marxcism. Probably never going to happen though.
I thought it was called ‘robots’ (already happening).
Haha touché. You already said you weren’t a skinhead Krishna, but are you religious or spiritual in any way?
Sure, I’m spiritual in my own way.
Care to eloborate a bit more on that?
I’ve seen Mackie play drums and became deeply spiritual.
Haha okay that I can totally relate to. So let’s see what come up with for this last one: You probably did quite some interviews by now (or read them in zines). What’s your favorite question (doesn’t have to be something you have been asked)? What did you or would you answer? I always loved the “When was the last time you cried?” of Antimatter.
IK MOET THUIS MIJN HARDWARE FANZINES NAKIJKEN EERST.
Photo credits All pictures provided by Wim Berchmans.