-- FireForce gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
Back in the day when I began exploring the Belgian metal scene FireForce was one of the first Belgian metal bands not named Channel Zero that I discovered and instantly liked. So obviously, when I founded the Belgian Metal Shredder, this band has been high on the list.

And finally, during Wizzfest 2016, I arranged with Erwin to have a talk with him and the other FireForce members present (which were Geert and Thierry). So the four of us sat together in the FireForce mobile and talked about cage fighting, an upcoming third album, spaghetti westerns and of course… COMBAT METAL! 

BMS: It’s been almost two years since you released Deathbringer. What have you been doing nowadays?
Erwin: We’ve done a lot of gigs across Europe in promotion of Deathbringer. We also did a German/Austria/Belgian tour with Mystic Prophecy and we were even invited to Greece to spread the words of combat! Now we’re making our first preparations to create Deathbringer's sequel! We’ve got about fifteen new songs finished that we’ll presenting to our producer soon.

Thierry: We also finally have a stable, high-quality lineup. We’ve got ourselves a kickass drummer and a slightly
 above average solo guitarist. Our third album will be the first one in which every band member will contribute to songwriting rather than having Erwin do all the work by his lonesome!
BMS: Yeah, Erwin, I noticed that you were the only songwriter in both March Ön and Deathbringer. Did you leave anything for the other guys?
Erwin: Very little, actually.
Thierry: Erwin IS FireForce!
Erwin: Well, the style and themes of FireForce have been my invention all along. I founded the band with Filip (who’s been my best friend for over thirty years) and since we were just starting out, I wanted to have as much creative control as possible. The only one I allowed to intervene in my songs, until now, was our producer Lia.

Erwin: But today we have a great lineup where Filip and I have three other guys who share our creative vision. I finally have the feeling that the FireForce soldiers all act as one and I’ve become confident enough to have almost everyone in the band take a shot at songwriting! Thierry, for instance, is the first FireForce guitarist I can actually work together with rather than just play some gigs. His contributions significantly improve the quality of the songs and will help make our third album tear our previous releases apart!
BMS: Erwin, do you or Filip still have contact with the people from Double Diamond or with former band members of FireForce?
Erwin: Filip and I certainly don’t have any more contact with our former “colleagues” from Double Diamond. Many, many years ago Filip and I joined Double Diamond as new recruits. About ten years ago, Filip was getting tired of me and him being held back creatively and he left. He also urged me to close the book on DD but I was a bit foolish into thinking I could save the band by myself. I eventually came to my senses and left Double Diamond and formed FireForce with Filip.

Erwin: As for former FireForce members, I’ve had guys that I loved playing along with but I also had to endure some less-than-motivated people. Those who sucked away the energy from the band instead of putting something positive in it. Anyway, that’s the past and now I want to focus on the future!

BMS: Damn straight! So, what are your other activities aside from FireForce?
Thierry: I work at the docks in Antwerp. I spend time with my son and I can’t wait for him to join our forces!

BMS: I recall that you used to do cage fighting.
Thierry: You remember correctly. Music is my passion but there was a time when I got so fucking sick and tired of not finding other motivated and capable people to play with that I had quit the scene all together. I’ve always loved doing sports so I decided to put my attention to martial arts and found some success in cage fighting. But some close friends of mine said that I should better spend my time hitting my guitar instead of someone else’s face!

Erwin: We asked Thierry several times to join FireForce but only after our third attempt he finally made the right choice. Guess he first had to ground n’ pound his personal demons!
Thierry: Yeah, I really needed a break from music. My guitar skills have improved since I entered FireForce and I’ll soon reach my full potential!

BMS: How about you, Geert, what do you do aside from FireForce?
Geert: Showing my everlasting love to my wife! Ok, in addition to being the band’s bassist, I also did the band’s booking schedule for 2015. It wasn’t easy, since being a band member is a full-time job as well, but I’m happy with what I achieved last year.

Geert: Ever since childhood I’ve had a love for the military. I played cute war games with my friends and I very often wear camo shirts and pants combined with khaki colored aviator sun glasses! I’ve also spend time in the military. Of course, that meant sacrificing my long hair! I still recall the sound of that pair of scissors cutting away at my long manes and it still gives me nightmares!

BMS: What are your other interests, Erwin?
Erwin: I’m a shift supervisor for a big chemical company in Antwerp. And I’m a big history-aholic.
Thierry: Yeah, while touring we constantly stop at every bunker, fort, battlefield or historic place for Erwin to check it out and take some photos!

Erwin: I’ve inherited my love for history from my father, who always dragged me to every museum or exhibition he encountered. War history in particular was my favorite subject. So when I and Filip founded FireForce, I immediately began writing songs about history! To be honest, I did that already for my first bands and also for Double Diamond. I can’t bring myself to write about subjects like romantic breakups or flower power!

Erwin: Not only that, but we as human beings can learn a lot about history. History has a tendency to repeat itself but people are sometimes too lazy or too naive to realize the similarities. They just don’t want to learn!

BMS: Hmm, I like some history from time to time. Maybe in some alternative universe you’d be giving history classes rather than playing combat metal!
Erwin: All of my father’s relatives (aside from himself) were teachers. I may not be a teacher by profession, but like Thierry said before: I love going into detail about every historical building or place we pass by while travelling to our gigs. When you’re involved with FireForce you will be educated, unless you close your ears, ha ha!

BMS: Great! Now image you could be born during a specific time period, what would it be?
Erwin: Every time period has its respective beauty and ugliness. Thinking that it was all better in the good old days is a very naive and counterproductive mindset! But ok, I’d love to spend a couple of days in medieval times, I’m passionate about that age’s architecture and clothing style. But I certainly don’t want to spend my entire life there unless I’m born a lord or a king! I’d rather be born again as myself in this time period, going through it all again and founding FireForce and creating combat metal!
BMS: I sometimes fantasize about being born in the Old West. But I’m not talking about the real Old West, no, I’m talking about the Wild West you see in those spaghetti westerns starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson! Born as the man with no Name! I also would love to return to the 1990s. I was born in 1990 and I want to experience that world again as an adult.
Thierry: Speaking about the 90s, it was around that time I began exploring the heavy metal genre. One of my first albums was Deep Purple’s Machine Head but I also ventured into more commercial stuff from bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses.
BMS: My first experience with metal was with Motörhead as well as the soundtracks from games like DOOM and Grand Theft Auto (Vice City and San Andreas in particular).
Thierry: I remember playing a game called Dirty Larry on that ancient brick called the Commodore 64. It was a sort of dating game.
BMS: I don’t know that game, but I do know Leisure Suit Larry, a game with a similar objective. And where you can die from an STD should you bang a whore without using a condom!
BMS: Anyway, let’s slingshot things back to FireForce level. I love how you write about topics like the Battle of the Golden Spurs and about Leonardo Da Vinci.
Erwin: Ah yes, Da Vinci! Now that’s a man I wanted to meet! His sketches and inventions are revolutionary! He created a winged device that eventually helped create the airplane! Maybe I’ll get reincarnated as his assistant or as a relative or friend of his. He was a man with a great mind!

Erwin: When it comes to the song 1302: Battle For Freedom, I’ve written that song specifically as a tribute to our Flemish culture and historical legacy. Nowadays, the black clawed and tongued Flemish lion is almost seen like the freaking swastika! And that’s in Flanders of all fucking places! It’s ridiculous! Our flag has nothing to do with separatism, let alone fascism! It’s about being proud of your identity and your heritage! That’s why it’s also incorporated on our Deathbringer cover, the burning Flemish flag behind the Deathbringer stands for the dangers that can bring a nation down.
BMS: I completely agree. We could learn a lesson from countries like France, Great-Britain or the USA. Countries where people are genuinely proud of their nationality.
Erwin: Yeah, but the Americans shouldn’t be boasting that much about their country. They’ve only been there for the last three hundred years! But still they’re proud of what they have achieved and what they have now, and that’s the way it should be!
BMS: What have been your best experiences with FireForce so far?
Erwin: I remember a gig in Antwerp where we were scheduled to open up for Vicious Rumors, one of my all time favorite bands! We also arranged with VR that they could use our backline. However, our drummer at the time didn’t show up but still we did give them our equipment because I didn’t want to let them down. The fun part of it was that Geoff Thorpe offered us to jam a few FireForce songs (as well as covering the Judas Priest song Breaking The Law) with Larry Howe on drums after their show! And we played their instruments! It was awesome! So that day, Vicious Rumors was our support act so to speak, ha ha! No, deep respect for the guys, I’m glad I can call them friends.

Erwin: Another gig I have fond memories about was the one in Cyprus. The journey there was rough, our flight was delayed by a thunderstorm, our plane was struck by lightning, and we arrived there mere hours before we had to begin our sound check so we had little sleep. But we had a great time playing there with Mystic Prophecy.
BMS: Thierry, you’ve got some fun facts to tell about your time with FireForce?
Thierry: I recall our time in Athens, it was the first time I ever travelled that far to play a concert, but the response from the crowd was incredible! They treated us like deities, going all wild on the tunes of our music! Compared to Athens, the reactions we get from crowds here in Belgium is rather lukewarm.
Erwin: Yeah, it’s a lot harder to get over with Belgian crowds and promoters. But I’m glad that there are people out there who have a genuine love and support for Belgian metal!
Geert: One thing I noticed is that there are a LOT of metal bands in Belgium alone! And of course, promoters want to get some big names to their festivals because they know they will attract people.
BMS: Yeah, I also wish that the Belgian metal scene puts more attention to Belgian metal rather than constantly recycling the same bands over and over again! That’s one of the reasons why I created my webzine. Sometimes I go to festivals where I know only one band or no band at all! But I always arrive just before the first band starts!
Thierry: Indeed, the opening bands of today are the headliners of tomorrow, at least when people show up to give them the support their rightfully deserve!
Erwin: We always try to give people a show they will remember, it doesn’t matter where we play, the audience deserves it! Our stage is always full of war props. They will keep that on their retinas…ha ha!
BMS: What are your favorite FireForce songs to play?
Thierry: I mainly enjoy the songs from the Deathbringer album. They are fast and catchy. They weren’t easy to learn, but I’m happy I’ve mastered them.
Geert: There’s a distinct difference between the sound of March Ön and Deathbringer. March Ön feels more like generic heavy metal while the Deathbringer songs sound much more like FireForce. True combat metal! So I’ll take the Deathbringer songs!
Erwin: I have no real preference. I’m completely satisfied with every song I’ve written thus far. It’s all a pretty logical progress for me…
BMS: Is there anything else you want to add?
Thierry: Can I go to the bathroom?
BMS: Sure, Thierry, see you in a minute.
Erwin: When was the first time you saw us?
BMS: That was about a year ago, during that gig in the Rockfesthall in Hamme.
Erwin: Ah, yes! That was one of our 2 gigs with stand-in drummer Stefan, who did a great job, because at that time we decided to split ways with our former drummer and we didn’t want to cancel any shows. Soon after this show, Patrick joined our ranks and look at us now: the best FireForce line-up ever!

Erwin: Speaking of cancelling shows: FireForce is hard to kill! Last year, Filip suffered a severe cycling accident, leaving him with severe wounds on his head and body, bruised ribs, and a broken collar bone! But he was back on stage after just fourteen days of recovery! I myself have been suffering from health problems with my lungs for 3 weeks straight but I’m still on stage! We will not give in… ever!

Geert: I do have some advice to other bands in the scene. It’s vital that you work together as a band. If you’re on the same wavelength creatively and share a mutual passion and dedication to your work, then you have a bigger chance at success. That’s all I’ve got left to say.
BMS: Thanks for the great time. Combat metal forever!

Enjoy the song Combat Metal from the Deathbringer album!