-- Ostrogoth gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
The very first interview I ever did for this webzine. Done way back in June 2015 during the Summerrock festival. A warm and friendly conversation with Ostrogoth's Mario "Grizzly" Pauwels.

What did we talk about? Ostrogoth's 2012 revival, their first trip to the USA, and how a band promotes itself today compared to the 1980s.

BMS: Hello Mario, I hope you didn’t sweat too much during the gig today?

Mario: Not that much, the stage was very well situated and we received a healthy dose of cool wind during our performance.

BMS: One question that I really want to ask, is the reason why you decided to start Ostrogoth again, so many years later.
Mario: In 2010 we did one performance (during Ages of Metal) with virtually the entire original lineup, but that wasn’t a successful concert. After that gig, I called Dario Frodo and asked him to be Ostrogoth’s guitarist and he accepted. However, we had to put our reunion on hold for an entire year because Rudy (Vercruysse) had suffered a terrible factory accident.

Mario: After Rudy recovered, our vocalist told us that he wasn’t able to perform with us anymore. So we searched for another singer and so Josey Hindrix came into the picture. In April 2012 we went to play at the Keep It True Festival in Germany and our performance received a lot of acclaim. The audience’s positive response motivated us to continue.

The Ostrogoth line-up at the time I did the interview. From left to right: Stripe (bass), Mario “Grizzly” Pauwels (drums), Josey Hindrix (vocals), Geert Annys (guitars), Dario Frodo (guitars)
BMS: Personally, I really enjoyed your latest album, Last Tribe Standing. Do you guys have more material in mind?
Mario: We certainly have, but the past few months we had a very busy touring schedule. In addition, we all have our full-time jobs. Virtually all of our spare time is dedicated to Ostrogoth. Anyway, we still have a lot of ideas and stuff to make so we’ll definitely keep you in touch.
BMS: Speaking about tours. A month ago you had your first gig in the USA. How did the trip go?
Mario: We had an awesome time there! The USA still have an old-school heavy metal atmosphere that was prevalent here in Belgium during the 1980s. The US metal scene is still very underground and there were a lot of small metal-themed bars. We received a very friendly reception and the crowd was very happy with our performance.
BMS: Do you have any other locations you wish to visit? I read in another interview that you wish to play in South-America?
Mario: We’ve already had contact with people from the South-American metal scene but we haven’t arranged for anything in particular yet. We also have to keep an eye on the available budget and our personal schedules. But we certainly are more than willing to play there. Next year we would like to play in the USA again and with a bit of good fortune, we’ll be able to combine both tours.
BMS: I see, I suggest you start brushing up your Spanish, señor Mario.
Mario: Yeah, or Portuguese should we end up in Brazil!
BMS: Tell me, what was your personal favorite Ostrogoth moment?
Mario: That’s a tough one, but I’d say the moment we played in the US for the first time. Our first EP, Full Moon’s Eyes, had a lot of success in the American underground metal scene back in the day. We even had a fan club in New York who asked us to play there. Unfortunately, that gig never happened because we did not have the financial resources and because the concert itself was poorly organized compared to today’s standards. That was a real shame. But now our life-long dream of playing on American soil has come true! Aside from that, playing with Ostrogoth always is a blast!
BMS: Do you have any warm-up ritual before you begin the concert? Something like juggling with your drumsticks or doing 100 push-ups with just as many sit-ups followed by a 10 km sprint?
Mario: No, nothing like that. I just like to take a walk, rehearsing the moves in order to keep my wrists flexible. I always try to rehearse a day or two before each concert so that my muscles don’t stiffen up while I’m performing.
BMS: In recent years, Ostrogoth has become more popular than ever before. Young fans in particular dig your work. What do you think could be the reason for such success?
Mario: Maybe our work ethic has changed. Anyway, you need to realize that, back in the 1980s, we were one of the first Belgian heavy metal bands. In those days, metal as a genre and subculture was far less socially accepted and popular than it is today. There also were far less festivals and we as a band had to do a lot of promotion by ourselves. Nowadays we have Facebook and that is an awesome promotion tool!

Mario: Back in the day, we had to send invitations for gigs by regular mail, but now you can just use Facebook and invite hundreds of people with just a few mouse clicks. When we were promoting our performance at KIT 2012 on the internet, news of our revival spread around like wildfire! It gave many fans the chance to finally see Ostrogoth perform! I recall that there were even fans from Finland and Singapore who were so happy to see us play again. During our concert at Chicago last month we also noticed fans coming from other states such as Texas.

BMS: I myself remember that Kenny Powell (Omen) was walking around with an Ostrogoth T-shirt during that night you and Omen performed together in Hamme last March. Even James Hetfield belongs to your legion of fans! I’m very happy to see that you’re having so much worldwide acclaim despite you being a “little” Belgian band!
Mario: Ok, honestly, Belgium isn’t a very significant country when it comes to music, but I do believe that there other Belgian bands who have earned their spot globally. The general mentality has also changed. In the past there was a kind of “they're just Belgians” mood. Everything was also very locally and the number of bands was also pretty scarce compared to today. Nowadays, everything can be organized at a much large scale, once again thanks to social media.
BMS: Indeed, songs like Full Moon’s Eyes and Paris by Night are really catchy songs. Your latest album also has such songs. Like Clouds, my personal favorite track on the EP.
Mario: I can imagine that. Clouds is one of those tracks that captures that typical Ostrogoth energy and finesse. That was our main goal when we were working on Last Tribe Standing. To make it feel like a throwback to our earlier work. Our fans would be disappointed if we drastically changed our musical style just because we have a new line-up. They want the old Ostrogoth, the Ostrogoth that made them fall in love with the band. In our early years we already were satisfied with our work, but today we have truly come to realize how much our fans connect to these songs from our past records.
BMS: They say wisdom comes with age.
Mario: Not in our case, anyway (laughs).
BMS: What are your other activities in addition to playing with Ostrogoth?
Mario: I work as a remedial educationalist. In addition I love listening to music and I frequently watch psychological drama films. I also draw.
BMS: Ah! A true Grizzly! I’d love to see that! A painting of yours, I meant, not the animal! Come to think of it, how did you earn your nickname?
Mario: Back in the 1980s it was trendy to have a nickname when you play in a band. Therefore, I decided to give all Ostrogoth members a nickname that fitted their appearance and personality. I wanted to be the Grizzly, I love the strength and energy of those animals. My appearance too, is based on those animals.
BMS: In any case, you’re more than hairy enough to be the Grizzly Man! Do you have some sort of advice for future generations?
Mario: It’s very important to believe in yourself and in what you’re doing. You also have to work hard enough for it because nothing will ever happen if you don’t pay your dues. And if you want to break through with your band, make great songs! This is pivotal for success, especially when you’re working on your first EP or full-length album. That’s your chance to stand out from the crowd and a good first impression will certainly get you going in the long run. You also have to make sure that every band member helps the band move forward. Discuss and communicate enough with each other and do not succumb to ego-tripping, the band comes first.
BMS: I also notice that Ostrogoth energy and cooperativeness when I see you perform. Every time you guys play with such unparalleled passion and drive and you pass that energy through to us. May I give you a suggestion?
Mario: Go ahead.
BMS: I’m extremely happy that you added a full live-version of the Full Moon’s Eyes EP as an extra for the Last Tribe Standing EP. I would really love to hear more live recordings with the current line-up. I would suggest a live version of the Ecstasy & Danger album.
Mario: That’s a great idea, Stijn.
BMS: Thanks! It would be a perfect way to introduce your younger fans with that awesome EP. Well, Mario, thank you so much for this conversation. Keep on rocking and keep on rolling!

Ostrogoth - Queen of Desire