Reaching Forward come from the Netherlands and play cool old school sXe hardcore. As I like this kind of sound a lot I decided to do an interview with their singer Johnny before their show in Schorndorf, Germany, on March 16th.
First I asked Johnny if he had heard about the riots taking place during a soccer game in Eindhoven, Holland, the evening before the show and then I wanted to know if the Dutch and Belgian HC scene is as violent as people often say…
I think some of the shows are pretty violent, but I think it used to be worse like a couple of years ago. Because then you had only like tough guy shows and old school shows and the scene was bigger and at the tough guy shows it was really tough. But now bills are more mixed and people are more respecting each other. The tough guys are not so “touch guy” and the old school kids are more open minded towards metalcore. So I think it’s okay but sometimes you have really violent pits. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the time we live in. Maybe everything in the world is getting more violent. Maybe that’s a reason but I don’t really think so.
I was just wondering because friends of mine told me about really tough shows in Holland and Belgium…
I don’t know, in Belgium there were the first shows were the violent dancing started and some people took it over to Holland. At first people were really pissed off, but after a while you get used to it. In the beginning it was like “Huh, I’ve never seen this at a show.” I think maybe I’m getting a bit older and my way of dancing is maybe not for the new kids, they don’t like that way anymore. They find something new and they like it more. I think more people complained and people got a bit more social and respected each other more, but I don’t know, I’ve heard that in Germany there are also like tough guy bands, violent pits etc. This is probably everywhere, it’s not worse in Holland or Belgium.
Are you still satisfied with the way your “For the cause” album turned out?
After the 7” we rushed it a lot because I had to write the lyrics very fast and I was just singing for a couple of weeks in this band before we went into the studio. We were not really happy after a couple of months. At the beginning you’re always happy with the new release, but after a couple of moths you’re like “Uhmmm, this could have been better.” But we’re still happy with most of the things, it’s more like little things like production wise this could have been a bit louder or that could be better, but in a month we go into the studio again for another full length and it’s gonna be in the same style but a more different song structure, more diversity, but still fast hardcore, youth crew style. We’re still happy with the album though.
Where do your influences come from? Why do you play old school sXe hardcore and not another type of music like new school?
For everybody in the band it’s like our favourite style. Old school hardcore and youth crew hardcore is a style we all like and besides that everyone likes something else, some of the members are maybe also into new school or hip hop or anything like that, but one common bond between us is that we really like that old school style, especially bands like Side by Side, Alone in a Crowd, Youth of Today, you know, all these bands. So that’s what we want to play, and it’s easier for us. From the beginning it was like “We’re gonna do that style”, so we don’t have to argue what our style’s gonna because with this band we’re just gonna do old school. So it’s working really well for us this way.
I often have the impression that European kids are a little bit prejudiced towards European hardcore bands. Often they seem to prefer American bands. Would you agree and what’s your explanation for that?
Personally I like more American than European bands, but it’s stupid to think that a European band couldn’t be as good as an American band. There are a lot of good European bands. Especially in the past Europe has had a really good history of bands just like Man Lifting Banner, Feeding the Fire. These bands are also really important for us just like the bands from America, the famous bands. They both really inspired us. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating, because we’re trying to get some attention in America and they don’t take you seriously. For them Europe, Asia, Africa is all not America, it’s all Third World. Over here people really look up to American culture and you can see that also in the hardcore scene. A new band from New Jersey or Boston must be cool and everyone buys it without listening to it. Americans think that a European band must have bad accents or that they are probably not so good. So it sucks. It’s not fair but what can you do?
What about the distribution of your records in the States, are your records released over there?
We’re working with a guy who is gonna do an American pressing of the “For the cause” CD and he’s doing a split 7” with us and Strength in Numbers, so maybe that will give us some more attention. We’re trying to find a good label that suits us to do a record with. Maybe it’s gonna work, because the split 7”s we did with Bloodpact and Ensign are selling really good in America. We get some e-mails from people over there.
Which would be your favourite American label to be on?
Our favourites are like Youngblood Records or Indecision Records, they are releasing good old school stuff so we would fit in there. I like these labels, they’re doing good records and I think they have good distribution and they seem like nice people to work with. Classic labels like Revelation, everyone wants to get on them, but those two labels are maybe realistic for us to focus on and try to get there.
Did that split 7” with Ensign come out on Indecision?
No, it’s put out by Reflections because the Ensign guys wanted to do something with a European label. At first the plan was to do a split 7” with my old band, Mainstrike. This was going to be on Crucial Response, but Mainstrike broke up. I was talking to Tim through e-mail and he was like “Hey, maybe you guys wanna do a split 7” with us.” And he already became friends with Reflection, so I said “Yeah, let’s put it out on Reflections, that would be cool.” This is how it happened. We’re really happy with it. Right now we’re working on the CD version of that 7”. It’s gonna have like CD ROM stuff, so we’re high tech, haha.
So will there be live footage on that CD version?
Yeah, just some songs that we recorded with videos at shows, live songs from us and Ensign. Because otherwise it would be four songs on the CD. Some labels don’t have a problem with that but we think we have to offer something more ‘cause there’s so much space on the CD, so we’ll put some extra stuff on it.
One of the reasons was that we all were living very far from each other, it was hard to practice. Some of the members were having serious jobs and couldn’t take time off, so it was hard for us to tour, to go to Germany for a couple of shows because they all had to work. We could always play Holland, Belgium, sometimes we went to Germany. It was getting frustrating. Also we made a bunch of records, we experimented with some different styles, but we still wanted to be youth crew straight edge. After a while we were like “Yeah, we’ve done some different things.” If we wanted to do something new it wouldn’t be old school anymore, the only reason that band once started, because Bech was trying to get back that old school spirit, so it would be stupid to change our style and do something else. We wouldn’t want to change our style under the same name. Now Bech is starting a new band that has some more New York hardcore influences, and Jeroen is doing The Oath, a more powerviolence kind of band. So we’re still into hardcore.
So there were no hard feelings after the break up.
There were no problems at all, except for we thought it was time to quit, we had done most of the things we wanted to do, especially after we went to America, that was like a dream. Maybe the tour wasn’t really what we expected, but still it was cool to do that. When we were coming back we thought what we were going to do now, there was really no time to practice new songs, we’ve had a few ideas, but it was not the youth crew spirit in it. So we thought “Maybe we all have to do different things.” We’re all still into hardcore and sXe, we also still love old school, but everyone is doing a bit more different things.
As you are wearing the Xs on your hands I guess you must be a straight edge band, hehe (Isn’t this the most obvious sign that I am so damn intelligent? – Stefan). So what is in particular important for you concerning sXe?
For me the most important thing about straight edge is that you’re in control of everything you do, because your mind is the only thing that you have that you are 100% sure of that it even exists. It create your vision on the world, so fucking with your head and mind seems to be a really stupid idea to me, because you can’t control what you do, what you think. Sounds like a very dangerous thing to me. Besides that, sXe for me is more than just not doing drugs. It’s also living a positive lifestyle, showing people that you don’t need all that garbage. So for me it’s like a foundation and that you build your life. Living a positive life is also speaking out against homophobic people, sexist people and not eating meat, fighting for animal rights, all that kind of stuff for me is part of it. Not necessarily but for me personally.
As I consider myself as being sXe, too, I was wondering if you would agree that the whole sXe scene is a little bit closed minded at times?
Yeah, I think probably a lot of kids are closed minded. In the world a lot of people are closed minded, so why should sXe kids be smarter or not closed minded. There are a lot of assholes in the scene. For me being vegetarian is not a part of sXe, but if you try to live your life healthy and you try to live a positive life you see the connections like “I don’t want to hurt animals, I think they should be free, too.” So you stop eating meat. If you think like “For me, living a good life has nothing to do with caring about animals” then… yeah, you know, I believe in finding your personal thing in life, not just blindly following the Youth of Today song “No more.” You go “Oh, I stop eating meat because Youth of Today are telling me that eating meat is not sXe.” You have to think for yourself. Straight edgers shouldn’t blindly follow others, like you shouldn’t blindly follow anybody.
Do you think that it is possible to be “true till death” or do you believe that most kids drop out of the sXe scene after a while, especially when they get older?
Probably most of them will, but I for myself I can’t picture myself not being sXe. For me it goes beyond the hardcore scene, it’s more a part of my life, like my philosophy on life, how I wanna live my life. I think the sXe scene is cool, I like the bands, I like the music, and maybe when I don’t listen to the music anymore or when I’m tired of the scene I think will still think the same about this subject. You can’t be 100% sure, but I think I’ll probably stay straight. I think most of the kids dropping out of sXe do so because they drop out of hardcore, they lose interest, they start looking for something new. And I think that’s like a sign that it wasn’t really in their hearts, it was just because they liked the music and the image, it was nothing more for them.
Very interesting thoughts. Once again a comparison to the US, lots of kids over there seem to be “true till 21” or “true till college.” Your comment, please.
We went to America with Mainstrike and toured there, and it seemed like most of the sXe kids over there are 15 or 16 years old, so I think you’re probably right. I talked to some bands that come over here, sXe bands from America, and they’re like “Wow, you see people in the scene that are over 30 and are still sXe.” They think that’s cool, kids in America usually are a lot younger.
Concerning this tour, could you give me some information about it?
Tonight is our first show on this tour, but we’ll probably have a good time. This is our third tour through Europe and we’re really close, we’re really good friends, there’s never any problems. The first part of this tour is good organized, but some of the shows in Sweden fell through, so maybe we have to go home earlier. Mostly we don’t have any problems, if we have to go earlier we’re not pissed, we’re not like a professional band (Hey Johnny, that’s not true, remember the highly professional computer print of the setlist you did, haha – Stefan). We just want to have a good time.
Are you touring during your vacation or is Reaching Forward a full time thing for you?
No it’s not full time. I think the other guys are all in school, our second guitarist who is not here today because he broke his foot just dropped out of college, and he’s now looking for a job, and I finished my education last year and I am now an artist. I can do anything I want time wise, I just go when I want to. The others take a break from school, telling they’re sick, haha.
You said you’re an artist, what exactly are you doing?
I make silkscreens and I’m into new media working with videos. I also do noise performances, I work with computers and do some stuff for theatres in the background and just did a couple of gigs with that. It’s just like noise in the traditional way, Japanese noise, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that (Other than Japanese “noise bands” like Gauze or Outo, no – Stefan). It’s like music without structure, people are using all kinds of equipment, it’s just like fucked up noise.
Yeah stuff like that. I also started a record label and I put out stuff like that. It’s some of the music I like besides fast hardcore. I release some of that stuff as long as it’s weird and experimental. I like this extreme music. It’s really hard stuff, the stuff that scares everybody away, haha. It’s a really small scene, if you go to some of those gigs there are like 15 people, mostly fucked up weirdos, haha. But for one strange reason I’m also into that, haha.
What about the new record that you’re going to record, can you tell me anything about this one yet?
We will record it in two months, in May we go to the studio. We’re doing a full length and at the same time a split with Strength in Numbers from the States. It’s gonna sound like In My Eyes with more aggression, some break down parts in it, harder mosh parts.
We will record it in a studio where we did all the Mainstrike stuff. We also did the LP and split 7”s there. Menno the producer is really familiar with hardcore punk and he knows how it should sound.
What about the single songs, are they completely finished at this point or are you still working on them?
I think some of the songs maybe can change a little bit, like some details. We still have to write one or two songs and I have to write a couple of lyrics, but most of the stuff is finished. The other times it was one week before we went into the studio we were still changing stuff, but now pretty everything is okay and finished.
So you’re responsible for the lyrics.
Mostly it’s our bass player, he comes up with an idea and then he makes a song out of it with the other guys. Our drummer comes up with some cool drum breaks, the other guys have some cool guitar stuff. They build a song and when the song is totally finished then I write the lyrics.
Half of the new songs deal with more personal things like, feelings you go through, things you’ve seen, some songs are about sXe, vegetarianism, classic hardcore topics. There are more social issues in them, stuff you see that bothers you, we have some songs about standards of beauty, a way people have to look like, all this shit you see on TV and in the media. Or the dangers of technology, some different topics. We always have a few more cliché songs, but I also try to bring up a new topic, because the message is pretty important to us, we don’t want to be an empty band with empty slogans. To us this is more than music, it’s what hardcore always should have been, but lately you see more and more bands where the singer just says: “Fuck shit up!” We don’t want to preach or tell people “We’re better than you”, but we just want to come up with some useful stuff. I always think it’s cool when someone tells a story and I can learn something. A band that is like that is Bloodpact, they talk about things on stage and I am like “Yeah, they are talking about this stuff and I haven’t been thinking about this before.” It’s not that they are preaching on stage, that they tell me “Hey, you’re dumb”, but “Why don’t you think about this?” It’s like communication, they tell me something and when I’m on stage I tell something. That’s how people learn from each other. For me that’s an important thing in hardcore, that’s what sets us apart from other music scenes, people are trying to communicate with each other through zines, that’s an important aspect.
You told me earlier which bands were important for you in a musical sense, so which bands had an influence on you when it comes to the lyrics?
I am really into the lyrics of Gorilla Biscuits, I think their “Start today” record is together with “What we believe” from Insted one of my personal favourites, because every song is like a lesson. I like The Smiths but that’s not a hardcore band. I think their lyrics are really good. I’m also in more traditional punk bands like The Exploited and Dead Kennedy’s, because it’s like in your face, I think that’s what hardcore always should have. You write about something that you think is important but not in an abstract kind of way, more like in your face, because hardcore music is in your face, you get rid of all your aggression, frustration, so I think good hardcore songs should have some slogans that people can sing along with can get rid of their frustrations. A band like The Exploited, it’s probably stupid but I think they have that kind of energy that makes you pissed off. They’re like (sings) “Fuck the USA” and you’re like “Yeah, fuck them!”, you know? Besides their lyrics are of course not interesting, but I’m more talking about the energy.
The lyrics of the Bad Religion period between 1988 and 1990 have had a huge influence on me…
Yeah, I was just listening to Bad Religion this week. Especially the “Generator” album is one of my favourites. Their lyrics are really good, I agree. “Against the grain” is awesome. First I was more listening to bands like Agnostic Front, The Cro-Mags, D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies. They all had something to say, they all had a message, but not really strong. Sick of it All was the first band that got me into the message of hardcore. Not that their message is particularly really good or outstanding, but I was just reading their lyrics and thought this is different than the thrashy (Or did you mean trashy, Johnny? - Stefan) metal bands I’ve been listening to. I was listening to Slayer and Exodus and Helloween, stuff like that. I noticed the difference between these bands and hardcore bands, just like “This is something else.” When I got into posi-hardcore bands like Uniform Choice or 7 Seconds, I was really into it from the first second. It blew me away. At that time I had a lot of negative feelings inside of me and I can say that those bands really changed my life. I was reading their lyrics and was like “Yeah, these guys are right.” In the beginning it was more like following every word they said, and then slowly you’re “Aah, you’re not right about anything”. It’s still a big part of my life, those bands.
Honestly I can’t think of any more questions. Hopefully you liked this interview, do you have anything to add?
Yeah, I want to thank you for the interview, good luck with your zine. I liked this interview a lot, because I mostly do e-mail interviews, and I am slow typing so my answers are usually rather short. But during this interview I could express more of my feelings. Yeah, I hope hardcore keeps on going, I hope fast positive hardcore won’t die.
If there are bands like Reaching Forward around I don’t think this kind of sound will ever die. Straight edge hardcore rules!!