Interview: Getting to know Sylvester Anfang II, the best band in Flanders, Belgium (with video)

Creative Loafing: What member of the band am I speaking with today?

Sylvester Anfang 2: Hi, you’re speaking with Glen.

What instruments to do you play?

Mainly I play guitar, bass, and organ. But sometimes other things, like percussion or a violin passes my hands. Whatever there is around is good enough to get a useful sound out of it.

How many members are in the band?

For the moment, the core of the band exists out of six members. It used to change a lot, but now we have a steady line-up and we’ll try to keep it that way for a while, I think.

There’s not a lot of info about how you formed. Could you give me some details?

There’s nothing much to tell about it, actually. The first time we jammed as Silvester Anfang was on second Christmas day of 2004. It was just an idea that came to us a couple of days before. And from there on it kept going on to the point where we are now. But basically it’s still just some guys banging things and pressing the record button and having fun. The fun part was and is still very important.

Where does the band reside?

We all live a bit across Flanders. In the early days we used to record in Maldegem at my parents place. Now we record wherever we can find a place to jam, somewhere located a bit more central from where everybody lives. So we don’t have a real rehearsal space. We just move from place to place. It’s a lot of carrying around with amps and stuff, but it also gives different atmospheres that add to the music.

If I lived in Europe, could I see you perform on a regular basis? Does Sylvester Anfang 2 play live that often?

If you would live here, you could see us a couple of times per year. We play if somebody asks us, if nobody asks us we just jam and record. It’s good not to play that many shows. It keeps things interesting, also for the people coming to the show.

Is there a major difference between how the music sounds on the album compared to live?

I don’t think there’s a lot of difference how we sound on record and how we sound live. All the records are recorded straight to 4-track with no overdubs, so that’s pretty close to a live show. Maybe the only thing that is really different between the records and the live shows is the atmosphere and that is something you can hear. But that’s kind of normal, of course.

How would you describe yourself to someone unfamiliar with your music?

The Velvet Underground jamming with the fucking Grateful Dead!

What are your five most influential albums?

For SA that’s hard to say. Everybody in the band is a big music freak and we all have our own influences. For me, personally, the five ones that first come to mind when I think of SA are:

German Oak - s/t

Pärson Sound - s/t

The Velvet Underground & Nico

Vibracathedral Orchestra - Dabbling With Gravity And Who Are You

Tony Conrad - Four Violins

Within your albums there are pictures of men wearing hoods. Are those pictures of band members?

Those are indeed the five band members that were SA at that time.

What are your religious beliefs? Do the pagan images on the album sleeves represent the band’s perceptions?

It’s more an image that suits the music than it is a reflection of our beliefs. We are only into heavy jamming, and we try to find images that support the music. I like how it sometimes seems to confuse people. We don’t have an ideological agenda.

What are the major differences between Silvester Anfang and Sylvester Anfang 2?

With Silvester Anfang we were sitting on the floor, with Sylvester Anfang II we started playing standing up. Now we are in a phase that we all sit on chairs. Hehehe...

Many of your songs are long. How do you organize their creation?

We set a date to jam and on the day we set up our gear, we connect the mics to the 4-track, we check volumes and we start jamming for a couple of hours. We record everything we play and afterwards, Willheim edits everything and sends around the best parts to everybody. Out of those edits we make selections for records.

How long did it take to record S/T and Commune Cassetten, and where? Was it an arduous process?

I think the S/T record was recorded over of period of a year. But if you just count the days that we really recorded, I think a couple of days. Editing and getting everything mastered also takes a while, but that’s always the case.

The Commune Cassetten album is made out of two or three afternoons of jamming, I think. It was when Clay Ruby was in Belgium in 2009.

I don’t think it was hard to make those records. The hardest part is to edit everything and having enough material that we all like. But most of the time it’s fun.

What does ‘Commune’ Casseten mean?

‘Commune’ means the same in Dutch as in English. A community of people living together, and ‘cassetten’ means ‘tapes.’ We called the record that because we thought there was a big “commune” vibe in all the recordings that we made in that period. And we record everything on tape. So the combination of both was quickly made.

What does Sylvester Anfang mean? How was the name chosen? Does it come from the Mayhem song?

In Germany, they use the word “Sylvester” for New Year’s Eve, and Anfang means beginning. So if you translate it literally it means “the beginning of new year’s eve.” But the name was not chosen for that. It’s chosen after the Mayhem song. The first time we played together, there was that Mayhem CD lying around and during a break we found it and saw the name and thought it was a really good name for a band. We also thought it was funny to name a mainly acoustic drone band after a black metal song. It would confuse people and that’s good.

Why so long to complete The Bunker Tapes? On the website it says it’ll be completed in 2013. Will there be any further releases between now and then?

Hahaha... the Bunker Tapes. We recorded it in 2007 in one afternoon. We have a label that will release it, but it just takes a while. No probs, it will see the light of day at one point sooner or later. After all that time I still like those recordings, so that’s good I think. But we have some new stuff coming up. The label Who Can We Trust? just released a new tape called Buda Rehearsals. And you also can expect some new SA vinyl in 2011. We are working our asses off at this moment. Hehehe...

Do band members have any jobs outside of band? What are they?

Some have daytime jobs, some are still studying and some are doing what they need to do. We don’t make any money with SA, so everybody has to find his own way to pay the bills.

Are any members in other bands/side projects?

Almost everybody has other stuff on his hands. Ernesto makes heavy synth kraut vibes as Bear Bones, Lay Low. Bram is doing his loner spaced-out blues jams as Ignatz and he’s also starting up his stadium rock outfit The Beautiful Band (keep your eyes open for this one!!!). Father Sloow runs Sloow Tapes and Wilheim sometimes records other bands, but only if he can use his 4-track and his own mics. I make solo-recordings under the name of Hellvete.

Could you suggest other bands similar to your own that I might like?

Some name dropping: Pärson Sound, Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano, German Oak, The Beat Of The Earth, Furekaaben, Seventh Sons, Hapshash & The Coloured Coat, Spela Själv (Reportage LP), Christian Yoga Church.

To find out more information about Sylvester Anfang 2 releases visit The Funeral Folk website.

My favorite sub-genre of psychedelic music by far is referred to as “Monster.” Yes, it’s a ridiculously hyperbolic explanation of the heavier and stranger side of an already bizarro sound, yet the term is befitting of exactly what the music is trying to produce: paranoid and chilling sensations; gloom; harsh and terrifying landscapes; attempts at summoning shadowy forces; sinister atmospheres. [Photo by Johannes Schebler.]

Often, the best examples of Monster only appear at the climax of a song; the moment when it’s no longer apparent whether you are chasing the beast or if the beast is chasing you. But somehow, every instant of Sylvester Anfang 2’s jams appropriately personify exactly what I’m searching for in obscure, 40-year-old songs. There it is, all spread out before me: the nightmarish terrains, the endless drone and raga groove, the vague notion the record might grow fangs and eat me...


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