My friend Damien Moyal (Culture, As Friends Rust) recently put me in contact with Hans Verbeke, the director of a new documentary I know many No Echo readers will find of interest. Hans is behind H8000 Documentary — Anger & Distortion; 1989 - 1999, a 60-minute film that chronicles the revered Belgian hardcore scene that brought us such bands as Congress, Liar, and Blindfold. The director was also an integral part of the movement as a musician, including fronting Liar and Rise Above, the latter an influential straight edge hardcore group that began at the end of the '80s.
H8000 Documentary is an impressive film and features interviews with members of Shortsight, Regression, Spirit of Youth, and the aforementioned Congress, Liar, and Blindfold (Hans played guitar in the band), plus other key figures from the scene and era. In this new interview, Hans offers up some background on the making of his film. Also, if anyone reading this could help, he's looking for someone to distribute the DVD in the States.
First off, when did you first become aware of hardcore? Did metal come first for you? I ask that because for a lot of people in our age group, that is the case, at least here in the States.
I got aware of hardcore/punk back in the early '80s. As a young snot, I hung out with the adult punks in my town. One guy had a painted jacket and it had an MDC logo on it, split cop, split KKK... the image of their first album. That intrigued me. That was a whole different band then the Joy Division and Siouxie stuff I was listening to at the time. But I guess, metal..if you can call it that. KISS, Rush, Blue Öyster Cult, and that kind of stuff came kinda first. I was never into the radio orientated stuff, I guess. Heavier music always sparked my attention.
You’ve played in such bands as Rise Above, Blindfold, and Liar throughout the years. From watching your documentary, it seems like when you would discover a specific style of punk/hardcore, you would then start a project in that spirit. I say that because those bands are very different from each other.
Yes, variety has always been the key. I've always liked different styles in hardcore/punk, and so automatically there's the try out of different styles.
When did you begin to dream up the idea of making the documentary? I’ve met so many people throughout the years who tell me they’re going to make a documentary on a specific musical scene (especially punk-related ones) but then I realize it’s all just bullshit. I applaud you for actually doing it!
My son-in-law—who is a camera/montage person—came up with the idea. I never had a link with anything in that field. I knew it would be a pain to do, but on the other hand, we had build up something special back in the day, why the hell not documenting it, even in an non-DVD-minded world where everything goes up streaming and everyone is downloading things so fast now. But an actual DVD was the goal, no matter the trends. I can understand why people don't seem to manage making a documentary. I had no clue as well, untill I got involved in the montage and fixing of the whole thing. A few minutes of screen time means cutting and pasting an entire day.
As someone who works in that space for a living, I know how much work goes into making it all happen. It must have been such a huge learning experience for you.
It was interesting to see my story getting shape in a docu format. It was a learning experience on all levels and now I admire people who are working in this business. It's a stress job, definitely.
How long did it take to complete and what would you say was the toughest part about making the film?
To be honest, the whole concept happened in pieces. We even did some last minute interviews one week before the release date and had to squeeze it into the story. The montage took days/weeks. The layout and graphical stuff happened in the last stretch as well, so it was stresful, but thanks to the wonderful people involved, it stayed fun till the end.
I think I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that for most of people here in the States who love underground metallic hardcore, when you mention “H8000,” they think of either Liar or Congress. Why do you think those two bands resonated the deepest with people throughout the years?
I think that's because these two bands are the originators of the genre. These two bands have put out the most legendary and still standing releases out of all H8000 bands, these aren't my words, but just facts. A big role in the style of these two bands is the guitar work of Josh, who kinda branded H8000 in what it was and is. Maybe it's the combination of sounds, lyrics, artwork... I don't know.
For someone who hasn’t seen your film yet, and might not be familiar with Belgian hardcore/H8000, what would be the Top 3 records from that era/scene you would recommend they check out and why?
Congress, Blackened Persistance (1995)
Because this was the beginning of a new era in our scene... the shape of H8000 hardcore. This record is in my opinion complete. It has all the stuff I like in hardcore: great lyrics, superb songwriting, heavyness, and anger. There's simply no filler on this album. Every song is essential and then that layout... legendary.
Liar, Invictus (1997)
Being in Liar from begin to end, I know what this album means to me personally and what it meant and still means to a lot of people to this day. So, sorry for mentioning my own band here [laughs]. The album still stands yp, even though it's more than 20 years old. It's probably Europe's most important sXe release. We were very angry and pissed off at the world. It's pretty much metal, but it has a punk-crust vibe to it, a style no one touched upon back then. It was the first record we did with our new drummer Bert (Sektor) and the combination him and Josh created magic. We recorded the album pretty fast, no ProTools shit, just analog and all spontaneous. Live in the studio. I still love the results.
Spirit of Youth, Colors That Bleed (1998)
This record is probably the grooviest album ever made over here. It's filled with great songs, lyrics, and it was made by beautyful people. I love everyone in this band. Spirit of Youth is one of the oldest H8000 bands and always had a different style/approach, something I really like.
Outside of the documentary, what are you up to these days?
The film was definitely a one-time kind of thing. I'm a screenprinter and run a screenprint company together with my wife. It's an interesting job, because I still do a lot of work for the punk/hardcore scene.