Refuse Records just reissued our ‘Strike The Match’ LP as a one-time Picture Disc. Here.
This is a limited picture Lp, complete with added bonuses : a new A2 format color poster, a fanzine with 90s photos and flyers + interviews, a strong cardboard insert with the lyrics plus several vinyl stickers.
‘Nations On Fire’ were probably the most known band in the Belgian straight-edge scene, they did an LP, a few EP’s and quite some concerts… Jeroen runs the label Machination recs and does a zine called Words And Letters.
Since you were all still working in other bands before, or still are: What were the reasons to start ‘Nations On Fire’?
I [Edward] was in ‘Rise Above’, which was a pure SxE band. No stupid band, but we basically only sung about the typical topics. It was OK but somewhere I got to a point where I told myself that in fact I also have quite a lot of other opinions about relationships with other people or people in the scene. I then decided to write a few lyrics about these feelings. These were then rather political issues, problems in the world, problems in society and how we can solve them. That’s why, while I was still in ‘Rise Above’, I developed a concept in my mind. This band should then be three things: 1. Positive – lyrically, in the sense of constructively, 2. Political – in the sense that a lot of political things should be addressed and 3. Powerfull – I just wanted to move on and therefore quit ‘Rise Above’ and started with ‘N.O.F.’
Why do you sing in English and not in your native language?
I think the reason for this is that it’s the language that most people, where we come from, do understand. I’m French and the other three are from Belgium, so we communicate in English. I can’t speak any Flemish and besides Edward the others also don’t understand a lot of French. I think that if you want to bring your views to a wider audience, then it’s simply better in English. We’re also on the road a lot, e.g. in the U.K., France or now in Germany. So if we were to write the lyrics in Flemish, hardly anyone would read them. Even if you could arrange a translation, I find it better in English, because the people can sing along, etc.
The scene, if you can call it that, where we do our thing – pretty much around the town of Ieper and the venue the Vort’n Vis, where we also recorded our live 7” – is quite close to the French border and the coast, direction England. There are many visitors from French-speaking Belgium, many French, people from Germany and sometimes from England. If you were to sing only in Flemish, you would only reach a certain percentage of the audience. But if you do it in good English, explaining things slowly [in a simple way, with words between the songs], then everyone can understand what it’s about.
Many people in the French anarchist scene are talking Esperanto and also try to develop it further. But if you look at it in reality, many people aren’t willing to learn Esperanto at all because English is much easier. Sure, it’s cultural and social imperialism if you have to speak English, but if you want to communicate… I see the English language as a code that you can use to communicate anywhere in the world. In this context, I don’t care too much about the background, culture or ‘imperialism’ which they [the English-speaking] might represent. OK, it’s a world-language and I don’t want to express myself too strongly in favour of Esperanto either. Even though I think it’s a good idea, it’s too much of a challenge, and it’s easier to exchange ideas than to fight for an international language. The idea is good but not our thing.
I think being in two bands is an important thing in my life, but that’s not all I do. I’m also involved with other things, in political groups or anti-racist groups, or write articles in French journals, or translate articles from German into French, do a radio-broadcast that a lot of people listen to. The fact that I’m in these bands is important to me but not what will change the society. If you want to change society, you have to work on a social level. Meet people there where they live, where they are faced with violence, drugs, fascism and other things. That’s why I find it important that you also collaborate on a social and political level if you want to have an influence on people. I still want to say something regarding the point of change. When we, ‘Scraps’, arrived in the city we were living there, a few years ago, we were the only vegetarians. Everyone laughed at us: “You fucking hippies!” and everyone was drunk at the show. If you look at the influence we have now, then the norm is vegetarian and not to drink alcohol – even if this covers a very local level. With sexism and racism it’s the same thing. It’s all on a local level but it’s something you can feel and that really exists. Nowadays we’re organising buses, for example, for the people who want to come and see us in Belgium. In the past we could never have done that because our followers were always very drunk. And at the last show that we organised so that people could witness ‘NoMeansNo’, there was only one drunk. This is the influence that you can have as a band on an environment of perhaps 200 or 300 people. But if every band would have that kind of influence on such a crowd, there would be much more. ✪