[Originally published: Issue #2, circa 1987]
[LOOKING BACK: Scott Helig from Total Thrash fanzine turned us onto LÄRM: “Here’s another band who should be in your zine. Write them, and they’ll write you back!” Well, that was good enough for us, given that we didn’t think we’d ever get enough content to flesh out even a single issue. In any case, we received a thoughful, in-depth handwritten responses to our question list. I ended up being a fan ofLÄRM. What’s remarkable is that more than 20 years later, the guys ofLÄRM (well, three of ’em) are still keeping it real in SEEING RED. Pretty remarkable. — Mickey]
What is LÄRM’s line-up?
PAUL: Our line-up is: Menno – vocals (22, a law student), Jos – bass (22, a teacher, but this summer will be fired), Olav — drums (24, unemployed), and Paul – guitar (26, unemployed).
What’s LÄRM’s history?
PAUL: Well, LÄRM was formed in January of 1983 out of the ruins of two bands: TOTAL CHAOS and SURVIVAL SQUAD. We were a file piece then (Dorien was the fifth member. She was also on vocals.) In that time, we were a real noise band in the DISORDER and CHAOS UK vein. Musically, we were untalented. In the summer of ’83, we released ten songs on a Dutch hardcore compilation tape, and to our surprise, a lot of punks liked our raw, wild and noisy sound, and we got our first gigs. We got more and more influenced by US bands like MINOR THREAT, SOA, SSD, BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS, JERRY’S KIDS, etc. Musically, we got a little better. In ’84, Dorien left the band and because of our musical differences and disinterest in the band. Since then, we are a four piece. We got faster and tighter, and got lots of gigs. In ’85, we released our split LP with STANX,; in ’86, our EP, and in ’87, a new LP.
What other bands have you played in?
PAUL: As I said before, Jos, Olav, and I played in TOTAL CHAOS, and before that we also played in bands like THE SEXTONS and DISTURBERS. All of those bands were just jokes – I mean we never came out of the practice room… and in fact, we couldn’t play our instruments at all! None of us knew how to play before we taught ourselves. Menno was the former singer of SURVIVAL SQUAD. But those very chaotic/unmusical bands were our first steps into fame. (Ha Ha Ha!)
Are you satisfied with the way the “Straight On View” LP came out? What would you change?
PAUL: Yeah, we’re very satisfied with it. Mike Rubinstein (One Step Ahead Records) did a great job! For us personally, it’s the best thing we’ve done, especially the studio side. It’s not perfect, but I think we’re getting better, and the next time we hope to spend more time in the studio. (Until now, we have always had to record in one day and mix in one day because of money problems.) The live side of the LP could have been better, but that night we had some problems with the gear, so it doesn’t sound that good. But the next time it’ll be better. But in all, we are satisfied with the LP, really!!!
What are your favorite songs on the album? Why?
PAUL: My favorite songs on the album are: “Dollars and Roebels,” “Negative Approach,” “MAS,” “Puppets on a String,” “Home, Broken Home,” “Work/Mad,” “Settled,” and “Troubled Mind,” because, in my opinion, they’re the best songs musically. Lyrically, I like all the songs! But it depends on what mood I’m in, ’cause sometimes I like the aggressive songs the most.
Have you ever been to the US?
PAUL: No, we have never been to the US before. We may never make the trip ’cause it would cost so much, but maybe we’ll do a tour (I hope so!), and then we’ll see what the US of A is really like.
Do you plan to tour here soon?
PAUL: Well, there are some plans to play this summer, but at this moment, nothing is sure. But let’s say there’s a chance we’ll come (about a 75% chance), we would really like to tour the USA, ’cause we get tons of mail from the US, and we want to meet some of the people, if possible, and play out there. It would be great!
Unlike many other straight-edge bands, LÄRM covers many different topics, from heavy metal to drugs to war. Why do you concentrate on so many different topics? Aren’t you worried that people will think you’re just covering the “punk topics?”
PAUL: Well we are not writing lyrics because they are punk topics. We write about topics we are concerned about, or about what affects us in our daily life, or about things we’re against. We all write lyrics, so you get a lot of topics, ’cause we all have our own ideas. And personally, we’re not worried about what other people think. We have something to say, so we say it! It’s more dangerous just to take one or two topics and just sing about that. You can easily get generic, or even naïve, in your lyrics then. A lot of straight-edge bands do only sing about straight edge, unity, friendship, etc. In the end, it sounds so naïve, cause, hey, there’s a lot more happening in this world than
Why are your lyrics in English?
PAUL: In the early days, we had Dutch lyrics, but Dutch is quite difficult to sing (sounds a bit crazy, but it’s true, especially if you play fast music!). And because so many people couldn’t understand it and asked for translations, we decided to sing in a more global language: English. And most people in Holland can understand English very well – it’s a language you have to learn in school.
How would you compare your music to other bands? In what ways do you think you’re more original?
PAUL: Well, I think nowadays you can compare our music with bands like STARK RAVING MAD, early DRI, PANDEMONIUM, SEIGE, EXTREME NOISE TERROR, HERESY, etc., and I really don’t know in what ways we’re more original, ’cause a lot of these bands influence us, so maybe we are not all that original at all… but maybe our noisy sound is typical LÄRM. Some people say we have a typical LÄRM sound, but we ourselves don’t know what that is. We don’t make songs to be more original, or anything like that. We practice, someone comes up with a riff or something, and we make our songs. We’re really not looking for an original sound.
your little scene. In a way, we don’t want to be just another straight-edge band, ’cause you already have a lot of bands like UNIFORM CHOICE, YOUTH OF TODAY, VERBAL ASSAULT, CRIPPLED YOUTH (now BOLD – Ed.), etc., who all have lyrics in the same vein, and I think that the situation in Europe is a but different: we’re into squatting, politics, the peace movement, anti-Fascism, etc. The political situation is more radical within the punk movement. Straight edge is important to us, but changing things, resistance, and taking a political stance, are more important to us.
Why the name LÄRM? What does it mean?
PAUL: LÄRM is the German expression for noise. You know we are a very noisy band, so you can guess why we chose that name. Certainly in our early days, people came to our practice room or gigs and just said, “This ain’t music, but horrible noise!” So we thought LÄRM would be a nice name.
Obviously, you’re against the metal attitude finding its way into hardcore, but what about the punk attitude finding its way into metal music? Do you think “crossover” music could help both types of music thrive?
PAUL: First of all, in the beginning we were positive about the whole crossover thing – we always thought it could help both types of music — but now, after one or two years, we see it has gone the wrong way. Certainly in Europe, great hardcore bands turn metal, behave like metalheads. They take over the attitude, ask for more money, etc. Recently, we played at a so-called crossover festival, and it showed that crossover did not work. We got 250 guilders, the metal bands got 900 guilders, and because the metal bands asked for so much money, the door price was twice as much as any regular gig. OK, we played, and both punks and metalheads enjoyed it, but after the gig, we saw the differences in attitude. Punks were interested in our music and lyrics, while the metalheads were just interested in merchandise, with their hands full of moneybills… disgusting. They didn’t care about our thoughts/lyrics, and that showed pretty well, ‘cuase headbangers with swastikas came to us to buy our t-shirts. We told them, “We’re anti-Fascist. We do not sell our t-shirts to people who wear swastikas.” They got angry and wanted to fight! And there was more!!! We sold our t-shirts for about five dollars – they sold their shirts for ten dollars. The metal bands are too Capitalistic. We were really pissed about that crossover gig. Those are our experiences up until now. But besides that, we’ll see no change in lyrics. SLAYER, METALLICA, ANTHRAX, and other bands are mainly singing about Satan, Hell, etc. (ANTHRAX does NOT sing about Satan, Hell, etc. – Ed.) Only a few bands have good lyrics – like Cryptic Slaughter and HIRAX. The crossover bands do well, like COC and DRI. Only the sad thing is that they signed to major record companies. And why? We don’t know! ‘Cause you can’t take your lyrics seriously anymore (we think) if you’re on a Capitalistic record company. All in all, we haven’t seen many positive things coming out of it – certainly not in Europe.
What bands do you listen to? Do you listen to other types of music?
PAUL: The bands we listen to are mostly punk and hardcore bands, ’cause that’s the kind of music we like the most – and that’s from ’77 punk to ’87 hardcore thrash. For example, STARK RAVING MAD, SEIGE, AOD, UNIFORM CHOICE, MINOR THREAT, HERESY, FUNERAL ORATION, THE DAMNED, DEAD KENNEDYS, BLACK FLAG, NEON CHRIST, ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT, MDC, DRI, DISORDER, CHAOS UK, FOD, JUSTICE LEAGUE, HUSKER DU, GOVERNMENT ISSUE, RAMONES, BGK, PANDEMONIUM, SUBHUMANS, old SSD, YOUTH OF TODAY, STRAIGHT AHEAD, WCF, SCREAM, BAD BRAINS, etc., etc., etc. Too may to mention (you just did! – Ed.) Yeah, we listen to other kinds of music like reggae, some new wave, some speedmetal, sixties music (the BEATLES, the WHO, etc.), noise like TEST DEPARTMENT, SWANS, and SONIC YOUTH, and ska and African music.
How does your country view Reagan? Is he seen there as a world threat?
PAUL: Reagan is not really popular in this country, and you might say that a lot of people see him as a world threat… and let’s face it: HE IS!!! People here just don’t understand how such an old man is in power. Here in Holland, that’s just impossible. (I think the oldest president was 63.) And Reagan has a lot of dangerous views: he’s too anti-Communistic (he calls the Russians “Red Barbarians.” That really doesn’t serve world peace!) He’s a member of the Moral Majority (well, that says enough!). Reagan’s policy towards the arms race is clear; he wants to win that race, but he should know that nobody can win! His policy in middle America (Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc.) makes him very unpopular here ’cause he supports the Contras to destroy the Sandanistas! And at the same time he supports the Fascist regimes in Chile – a clear choice. Reagan is a fascist!
What’s your opinion on religion?
PAUL: All of the members of the band are anti-religion, in that we don’t believe in any god or something like that, and we don’t like the idea behind most religions. It doesn’t matter if you talk about Catholics, the Islam, Zionism, or any other religion. They all have one purpose: keep the people dumb, give them something to believe in so they can take control over them! We see the church as being an oppressive institution. Religion is doing more bad than good things. Just look around and see that most of the wars on the planet are religious wars (e.g. Iran vs. Iraq, or Israel vs. Egypt) or look at the Moral Majority or those religious people who want to censor books, films, records, etc. It’s ridiculous. Hitler was a very religious man. Kaddafi is tool. And what about Reagan? What about the Pope? Did you see his visit to Chile? Unbelievable! He was preaching love and peace, while the people were being beaten up and killed by the Fascist police. Our Prime Minister Lubbers? He’s a good Christian? All he does with his policies is make the rich richer and the poor poorer. We think the world would be a lot better without religion. Most of the time the church and state are just one – that explains enough! But I must say that some religious ideas are not that bad – they want love, peace, freedom, and all of that, and if people believe in that, then it’s OK. Here in Holland there are people who are believers, but they do not go to church, they do not wave around bibles, etc. No, they go to anti-arms race demonstrations and they protest. That’s OK. They don’t go around and say “We’re religious!”… well, I can accept that.
What’s your scene like?
PAUL: If I must tell you about the Dutch scene, I need much more space. So I’ll tell you about my town, Amersfoort. We have a small scene here of about twenty punks. There are three bands: LÄRM, SECOND SIBERIA, and LOUD WARNING. There’s one speedmetal band. Punks and metalheads go hand-in-hand here, though we do not always agree with their views. But they’re learning. HA! HA! We did squat a big house where we have the Kippenhok, our local hardcore club, where we have gigs and other things. We also have a fanzine Definite Choice, and under the same name, we released a video compilation of live stuff. I think that’s all. It’s small, but united. Oh yeah. Skating’s the new thing here. You see more skateboards every day.
How are you handling your success? How successful do you want to become? Would you ever sign to a major label?
PAUL: Up to now, we think we have handled it very well, and that’s because we stick to our principles! We are still non-profit. That means we play for gas money, and nothing more, we sell our records and t-shirts cheap, etc. We do it all ourselves – no manager, no businessmen involved. It’s just us: LARM. We would like to be very successful, and by that we don’t mean lots of money, fame, girls, etc. No, we mean that people like us and most importantly, listen to our views so they can learn and we can learn from them. We don’t want that stupid barrier between band and audience. If we get successful in a wrong way and we mean that some rockstars or if we lose contact and success destroys our views, we would stop the band. WE WOULD NEVER SIGN TO A MAJOR LABEL! Major labels are in the hands of businessmen and capitalists, the people we are against – so how could we ever sign to them? We mean what we sing and if we would sign to some capitalist company, those words wouldn’t mean anything anymore.
How do you spend your free time?
PAUL: During most of my free time, I’m answering mail. We get about ten to fifteen letters every day, with a lot of interviews, which take up a lot of time. The rest of my free time is spent listening to a lot of records, going to concerts…. We all work on a fanzine called Definite Choice. That fanzine takes up a lot of our time. We run a hardcore club with other punks here called The Kippenhok. The club is a squat. We have a bar and a small concert hall. We also do some video. We released two compilation tapes. Of course, we spend a lot of time practicing, writing lyrics and new songs. And besides that, I watch TV, read books and comics, go to a movie once in a while. We are quite active in the squatter scene and other action groups, and that takes a lot of free time (all those meetings). Well, I think that’s it.
Do you find yourself arguing with each other very often?
PAUL: As I said before, we all have our own views, but on most topics, we agree. But of course sometimes we argue quite a lot. For example, some of us believe in Direct Action and some of us do not. So we have a lot of arguments about that, about how radical you are, how far you go, etc. Yeah, we do argue a lot about all kinds of things, but I think that’s good ’cause it keeps the tension going and otherwise we could get naive or dogmatic and that’s not what we want. OK, sometimes we have such arguments that we nearly split up, but then we always stick together ’cause we have a lot in common and the band is important to us.
Where do you practice? Do the neighbors complain often?
PAUL: We practice in a kind of collective. It’s a non-commercial organization that rents practice rooms here in Amersfoort. So for F10 (about $4 or $5) you can practice for six hours. That includes amplifiers and all. It has very good rooms and the neighbors do not complain because it is very isolated. But we used to play at Jos’s house in the early days. He lives on a farm so there are no neighbors to complain, but his parents did go deaf! HA! HA! And let’s not forget about the cows! We had to leave…
How does it feel to be so popular all over the world? Do you get overwhelmed by it all?
PAUL: I must admit, it does feel very good, but we are not overwhelmed by it. But we do get overwhelmed by the mail we get every day! In the early days, we used to get two letters a week. Now, we get piles of it. And sometimes it is a bit frustrating ’cause you get a bit sick of answering (sometimes you’re not in the mood for it), so you get a bit angry, and you want to throw all the mail out the window. But happily, it has not happened. So sometimes popularity is a bit frustrating and hard. But please keep writing. We write back, but please be patient ’cause we have lots to do.
Who would you like to play with the most?
PAUL: AAARRRGGGHHH! That’s a difficult question because we like so many bands and it’s not easy to pick a few out, but OK, to give an idea, I’ll name a few bands (but again I just can’t say which we like the most – sorry!): STARK RAVING MAD, HERESY (UK), AOD, STRAIGHT AHEAD, DAG NASTY, JUSTICE LEAGUE, GI, FOD, MDC, YOUTH OF TODAY, SCREAM, and HALF OFF. This is just a small part of the list. Really, this question can’t be answered at all. AAARRRGGGHHH!
Is punk dead?
PAUL: No, not at all. Maybe it’s changing, or it’s not as active as it used to be, but it’s still alive! There are so many bands and people who are active in a positive way that you can’t say it’s dead. In some ways it’s a bit dying – more bands (especially in the US) sign to major labels or turn metal and betray their old fans: the punks who supported them in the beginning days! That’s really sad. And you see the whole scene going down the drain of course. That’s not funny. But still you see new bands coming or people who get it together and try to build new things that give hope for the future of punk/hardcore. Let’s hope that punks stick to their ideas and roots and let’s hope they will fight for it! And let’s hope that metal does not take over. I mean, the crossover thing can be good when both sides learn from it, but all that we see now is hardcore bands turning metal, signing to major labels, charging high door prices, etc. That’s not really positive for the punk movement!
What merchandise do you have available?
PAUL: We have t-shirts for $8 ppd. Stickers are for free. Our split LP and 7″ EP are totally sold out, so please don’t order them anymore. If you want them, send me a blank 90-minute tape and $1 for postage, and you’ll get the tape back with all our studio material and some live stuff too!
Any final comments?
PAUL: My arm is falling off… but I want to say thanks for this interview and all the support. Maybe we will visit the US in July of 1987, and hopefully we can see each other somewhere. Be positive, be active, make a stand and fight all forms of discrimination! Fight for your ideals, and fight patriotism! ONE UNITED WORLD – NO MORE BORDERS, COUNTRIES! Thanks!