When you think about Belgian Heavy Metal, your first thoughts will immediately go out to KILLER. Their MOTORHEAD-like sound became their biggest point of recognition. And with this powerful sound, they created four strong albums. Add to this the solid solo album of Paul 'Shorty' van Camp and you'll see that we're talking about one of the most talented Belgian metal acts from the eighties here. Snakepit got in touch with Paul van Camp, also known as Shorty, to make a trip through the career of KILLER. We started with MOTHERS OF TRACK and finally ended with the bands, that Paul is still playing in today, namely GYPSY and BLACK JACK. My thanks go out to Paul van Camp for taking the time to answer all my questions. Read on what he had to tell me……
When did you start your musical career and can you still remember the first band you played in?
My first band was called MOTHERS OF TRACK, which I formed in the early seventies. It was a hardrock and blues outfit. We released four singles and one album, but were only famous in Belgium. Fat Leo, the first drummer of KILLER, was also in that band."
Why did MOTHERS OF TRACK actually split up?
"We decided to split up after ten years, because we wanted to do something completely different. Especially Leo and myself wanted to form our own heavy metal band."
When did you decide to form KILLER and who were in the band at that time?
"KILLER was formed back in 1980. Fat Leo was my best friend at the time, so obviously we started out together. We remembered a fantastic bassplayer/vocalist, who once played with a band called TRASH as support act for MOTHERS OF TRACK. That man was Spooky. After this first contact, it was clear that a great new band was born."
What are the real names of Shorty, Spooky and Double Bear?
"Our real names are Shorty = Paul van Camp, Spooky = Ivo van Dooren and Double Bear = Robert Cohen."
Did you always play this MOTÖRHEAD kind of sound, ever since you first started out with KILLER?
"Yes, we immediately picked up on the MOTÖRHEAD alike metal. Although I think in our music there was a lot more melody than MOTÖRHEAD, who are just a hard band. We also played hard but we tried to put in a bit of melody. The reason, why we were always compared to them, was probably, because we were also a three piece band and Spooky had a rough voice."
We already mentioned MOTÖRHEAD being one of your biggest influences, but were you influenced by any other bands at that time?
"Yes, of course. We were influenced by a lot of bands in those days. A few that I'd like to mention are SAXON, UFO, JUDAS PRIEST, RAINBOW, SCORPIONS and VAN HALEN."
Your debut "Ready For Hell" ('81) sounded really great! How was the response of the press towards the album and how did your fans like it?
"We got a lot of great reactions! Most of the media people also loved it and in a really short time, we became one of the most popular bands in Belgium."
Did you only play songs from the debut album in this first period, or did you also throw in some covers during your live gigs?
"I cannot remember we played any cover songs at all…. (which isn't quite true, because they played the STONES cover "All Over Now" as support act for GILLAN in Genk, Belgium- TvP)."
What about the name KILLER? Didn't it cause any problem with the KILLER from Switzerland, who also started to gain popularity in those days? You were both using the same name…
"We never had any legal problems with our name. Obviously, we were the first band that went under the name KILLER and we could prove that with documents."
On "Wall Of Sound" ('82), your 'old' drummer Fat Leo disappeared and he was replaced by Double Bear. From old articles I know that there were no troubles at all with Fat Leo. Why did he actually leave the band and how did you get in touch with Double Bear?
"Actually Fat Leo stayed with KILLER as a truck driver and chief roadie, but in fact he was more a blues drummer than a metal drummer. We 'stole' Double Bear from one of our support acts WHITE HEAT."
Fat Leo regularly showed up during your gigs introducing the band to the audience. He was also often to be found in the KILLER merchandise stand. It was like he'd dedicated his heart to the band. Did he do anything else in the music scene, after he left KILLER?
"No, Leo really quit his active career as a musician. Today, we are still good friends. There were no problems with him, whatsoever."
"Wall Of Sound" has a great production and the songs are (to my opinion) the best that KILLER ever wrote. Did this album sell more than "Ready For Hell"? And what was actually the best selling KILLER album?
" "Wall of Sound" was responsible for the international breakthrough for KILLER, however "Shock Waves" sold three times more."
Did you write any songs for these two albums that never made it on LP? And wouldn't it be a nice idea to put them out on CD in the near future? I'm sure you would please a lot of fans…
"Yes, in fact we did have a few leftovers, but maybe these songs weren't that good after all."
Then you played on the famous Heavy Sound Festival in Brugge with OSTROGOTH, VIVA, WARNING, ANVIL, GOLDEN EARRING, URAIH HEEP, BARON ROJO and GARY MOORE. I remember this festival like it was yesterday. The time schedule went totally out of hand and GARY MOORE almost cursed the bad organization. What do you remember about this memorable day and how did you get on the bill?
"At that time, an organisation like Heavy Sound could not ignore the most popular band in Belgium. So it was a logical thing that we were on the bill, but it was a pity that we could not play our full set due to schedule poblems."
Was the gig at Heavy Sound the biggest you ever did and maybe you could give us some names of bands that you played with back in those days?
"We also played with GILLAN, SAXON, PRETTY MAIDS, VENGEANCE, PICTURE, etc.etc. Our biggest gigs were during a tour in Poland in 1986. Every night we played for an audience of 12,000 people."
KILLER always showed two hundred percent effort. The live gigs contained long solo spots and most of the times the crowd went totally wild. At least that's what I can remember from your gigs. Could you remember your worst gig ever and tell us what went wrong? And what was your best gig ever, or the gig you kept the best memories of?
"Our worst gig I'd like to forget as soon as possible, but I do remember some shows with technical problems, which were really horrible! The best gigs we played were in Poland (like I mentioned earlier), the Marquee club in London and also some in Kaatsheuvel, Holland. We had a lot of fans over there. Also, the show in Antwerpen, which we recorded for the live album, was very good."
How did a KILLER song come about? Was it through jamming and/or playing together or did you have a particular writing structure for every new song?
"First, I started writing the basic song at home. Then we went to the rehearsal studio and we added and changed a few things , which finally led to a new KILLER song."
My favorite KILLER song is "No Future", especially through the sudden change of speed at the end of the song. Of course I also like other killer KILLER tracks like "Rock and Roll Fan", "Wall Of Sound", "Kleptomania", and "Bodies And Bones", but "No Future" is really something special. Could you please tell us what your favorite KILLER tracks are and why did you chose these particular songs?
"I have a lot of favorite KILLER songs. I like the instrumental "King Kong" very much, because of the great guitar work, but also "Bodies And Bones"and most songs off the "Shock Waves" album."
Could you also name us your all time favorite metal songs?
"Definitely "Child In Time"(DEEP PURPLE) and "Victim Of Changes" (JUDAS PRIEST)."
In '84 you played your first gig in England at the Royal Standard in London. Which other bands played there and how was this experience?
"There were no other famous bands with us at the Royal Standard gig, but everybody said our performance was very intense and the press reactions were quite good."
The gig, you were supposed to play for Kerrang! metal magazine in Great Yarmouth, didn't take place, because your equipment didn't go through customs. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
"Our truck arrived much too late and the schedule of the festival couldn't be changed. The organisation wanted to let us play on the second day, but the management of headliners MOTORHEAD refused, because they knew we were serious competition for them. So we were dropped from the bill."
"King Kong", from the album "Shockwaves", was the first instrumental KILLER song. Can we see this as a taster of your solo LP "Too Wild To Tame" or is it just an instrumental KILLER song?
"I wrote "King Kong" in 1983. At the time, it wasn't so fashioned to play instrumental songs, so we thought it was an orginal idea. I had no intention whatsoever to do a solo album."
How did you get on the Mausoleum sampler "If It's Loud We're Proud"? And did you have anything to say about the song they used?
"The sampler was just some kind of promotional thing by Mausoleum. We did a medley of "Ready For Hell" and 'Wall Of Sound" - the title tracks of the first two albums. This was all our own idea."
Did you get on more samplers other than this? And if so, which songs did you do?
"There was a sampler, called "Heavy Metal Killers" with "Bodies And Bones" and two other CD samplers (sorry, I don't remember their names) with "Shock Waves" and "In The Name Of The Law". Both are live songs, that were never released on any other record."
You guys also appeared in a special about Metal on the Belgian television, together with SAXON. You played "Kleptomania" on stage there. Did you do more TV appearances in those days or was this the only time?
"Yes, we did appear on television and the program was called 'Pop Electron'. We also were in a few other Belgian TV programs, like for example 'Vinger in de Pap'. During our tour in Poland we appeared there on television as well."
In the eighties, it was very cool to do a video clip for MTV, like ACID did with "Black Car". Did KILLER ever had any plans to shoot a video clip? And did you ever think about releasing a live video or isn't there any good KILLER live footage, that is suitable to bring out?
"Unfortunately, MTV didn't exist yet in the early eighties. As all KILLER video material was recorded with very primitive cam recorders, the quality of the stuff is not that good and they only have historical value."
Another burning question is regarding the live LP "Killer Alive In Eighty Five". In the eighties there was a rumor already that you would release this LP. In the later nineties you also appeared on a free promo CD of the Belgian metal magazine Mindview with the song "Kleptomania", which was taken from these sessions. Any chance that this double live LP (or CD of course) will ever be released in the future, and why was it actually never released in those days. It would have been the perfect way to present the fans the power of a KILLER live gig on an album.
"The live album could have been the worldwide breakthrough for KILLER. At least that's what we were expecting somehow. We were really looking forward to this release. The reason why the album was never released, is quite simple. Our record company Mausoleum went bankrupt, while we were finishing the final mix at the recording studio in Brussels. The studio owner kept the tapes in his safe in order to have his money paid. Other record companies were interested to buy the tapes, but the studio owner would only release them, if Mausoleums debts from previous recording artists were paid. Of course no record company would be so foolish to do that. However, this was the end of our live album. I have a few takes on cassette and they sound really great. Also the cover of the album was nearly completed (see picture)."
Your first solo album "Too Wild To Tame" sounded totally different than we would have expected from you. Why did you release it in the first place?
"After the big disappointment of not releasing the live album, the end of KILLER was approaching very near. We all felt, that we couldn't go any further. From that moment on, I thought it was about time to start with something new. I would do a more guitar orientated album, but of course also with some KILLER ingredients."
How did your fans react on this solo trip?
"Most of the fans were very positive about it. And during the live gigs, we still played a few KILLER songs in our set, so KILLER never really died completely…"
You released the album in a period full of releases like this. Did you want to become the new YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN?
"No, I certainly didn't. It was never my intention to copy another artist. But I must admit I was very much inspired by his music and he is still my favorite guitarplayer. We even supported him in Gent… Great experience!"
Who were your other major influences, when making this great album?
"Well, besides myself and MALMSTEEN, my major influences came from other guitar albums released at that time. People like VINNIE MOORE, TONY MACALPINE, JOE SATRIANI, etc.etc. But my album was not instrumental."
Did you ever think about (or work on) a second release?
"Yes, of course I did. But halfway the nineties, the whole Metal scene seem to change and many new styles came up, like grunge and the alternative music. Suddenly, the record companies were more interested in those kind of bands."
Did you also play live as VAN CAMP and if yes, with who did you play in those days.
"We did about ten gigs in the same line up as on the album. We also played two shows in Holland, Kaatsheuvel and Katwijk aan Zee. We played the gig in Katwijk together with CANDLEMASS from Sweden."
Who were in VAN CAMP? I know that good old Double Bear was your drummer. Where did the other guys come from? Did they play in other bands before they joined VAN CAMP?
"There was me, Shorty, on lead guitar, Double Bear on drums, Apache on bass guitar and lead vocals and Olaf van Deuren on rhythm guitar. Both Olaf and Apache came from WHITE FANG."
Your fourth CD "Fatal Attraction" was originally meant for the German market only. Were you still that popular over there, that the fans demanded a new album from KILLER?
"Heavy Metal was and is still popular in Germany, so we did a German tour and the album was only released in Germany."
The CD, that I have, has no inlay - just a cover. Didn't you have any more money to make a proper inlay for this CD?
"My copy of the album has an inlay, so maybe you have a later edition or a bootleg."
Double Bear left the band right before this CD. What happened to him and is he still active in the music scene?
"The album "Fatal Attraction" was recorded by a second edition of KILLER, which started out in the early nineties. Double Bear had no interest to join the band at that time. He is still very busy in several cover bands at the moment."
Double Bear was being replaced by Rudy Simons and you also added an extra guitar player called Jan Van Springel to the band. How did you get in touch with them and why did you add a second guitar player?
"Rudy Simmons and Jan van Springel were contacted by Spooky to form a new KILLER. On the very last minute I also joined the band, after VAN CAMP had split up."
What happened after the release of "Fatal Attraction" ('91)? Did KILLER actually broke up or what?
"Shortly after our German tour we broke up, yes. There was not enough interest in our style of Metal, except in Germany of course."
In '97 you did a reunion show at 'T Heem in Meeuwen with NUTELLIC (a German METALLICA coverband), KIN WITHOUT THE BLOOD and CASUALTY. How did that go, who were in the band and which songs did you play, besides the regular 'hit singles'?
"In '97 we did in fact five reunion gigs. Our line up was: Spooky- bass and vocals, Shorty- lead guitar and vocals, and our new drummer Ivan Opdebeeck. We played all our greatest classics and no new songs. The reactions were very positive and everybody in the audience was very happy to hear the old songs again."
What's the status of KILLER at the moment? Do you still exist officially?
"For the moment, KILLER does not exist anymore. But we are always ready for reunion gigs in the last line up, if requested."
I got to hear that you and Spooky, the original bass player of KILLER, are now together in a blues rock band. What's the name of this outfit and who else is in this band?
"The name of this blues rock band is BLUES EXPRESS. The line up was the same as the KILLER reunion line up. Unfortunately, we broke up a few months ago."
Tell us a bit more about BLUES EXPRESS. Did you release anything?
"BLUES EXPRESS existed for over six years in different line ups. We only had a few demo recordings, but no offical album release yet. We wrote our own compositions, but most of our set consisted of the traditional rock and blues cover songs."
KILLER and ACID have always been amongst my favorite Belgian Metal bands. Maybe you can inform me about a few other Belgian bands of which we didn't hear much through the years. Any news at all about CROSSFIRE, THE ROGERS, STAINLESS STEEL, WARHEAD, THUNDERFIRE or CYCLONE?!?
"I'm afraid I can't tell you much about all these other bands from the eighties. I met a few people from these bands on one of the BLUES EXPRESS gigs, but most of the guys are no longer active musicians."
Do you have any plans for the future?
"I have formed a new cover band called BLACK JACK. We do a lot of rock and blues classics, like DEEP PURPLE, RORY GALLAGHER, ZZ TOP, HENDRIX, etc.etc. I also play in a splendid JIMI HENDRIX tribute band, called GYPSY. We do most of the JIMI HENDRIX hits, combined with some own compositions in the HENDRIX style. With this band, I plan to make a new CD. The audience reacted so enthusiasticly towards the JIMI HENDRIX songs, that I decided to form a tribute band. JIMI was one of the most important guitarplayers ever and without him, there wouldn't have been Heavy Metal or people like YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. I think the guitar wouldn't have sounded like it does today! The line up of GYPSY and BLACK JACK are the same. Paul 'Shorty' Van Camp- lead guitar and vocals, Ian Anthonis- bass and vocals and Ivan Opdebeeck- drums."
Any messages for our readers?
"Come and see GYPSY or BLACK JACK, if we are in your neighbourhood. You won't regret it!! Furthermore, I'd like to thank Snakepit and Toine van Poorten for their support.
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #8, 2000)