OSTROGOTH can be seen as one of the most important Belgian metal bands from the eighties. Together with KILLER and CROSSFIRE, they were one of the most interesting acts in this scene. They had a heavy, melodic sound with leadguitarist Rudy Vercruysse as eyecatching centrepoint. Snakepit got in touch with Rudy to talk about the good ol' days and his new band RUN 4 H. Read on for a full history about this Belgian metal band from Gent, that released great albums like "Ecstasy And Danger" and "Full Moon's Eyes". A very underrated band, that never really got the success that they so much deserved.
When did you start OSTROGOTH and who were in the band in the first line up?
"OSTROGOTH was actually formed a few years before I joined the band in 1981. At that time their singer was a guy from Gent, named Luc Minne. He was a good fellow, but we didn't really like his voice. We did a few gigs and realised that we had to change the frontman. Because I came in last, it was not that hard for me to tell him the bad news. With my previous band, THE RAG, we once played at some kind of a festival and I remembered a band playing there as well with a real good singer. His name was Marc de Brouwer. Our guitarist, Hans 'Sphinks' Vandekerkhove, happened to know the man and contacted him to sing with us, which he did."
Who came up with your bandname and what does it mean?
"As I mentioned before, the name already existed, when I started to play with them. It must have been Mario ('Grizzly' Pauwels; drums) or Marnix ('Bronco' van de Kouter; bass) I think, who picked the name. What it means? In former days OSTROGOTH people somehow lived like vikings. They stand for courage, perseverance and fight to succeed. That was exactly what we intended to do."
Why did you chose nick names, like Red Star, Sphinx, White Shark, Grizzly and Bronco, instead of using your own?
"There was no particular reason. Hans was a student in Egyptian physiology or something like that at the time ('Sphinks'), Marc was always dressed in red ('Red Star'), Marnix ('Bronco') could steam like an animal, Mario was not the smallest of the bunch ('Grizzly') and I, Rudy, ('White Shark') was able to move my fingers 'as fast as a shark'."
How did you get on the Mausoleum sampler "If It's Loud We're Proud"?
"There are actually three bands on the album; KILLER, OSTROGOTH and CROSSFIRE. In that order we signed a contract with Mausoleum. We were the first bands as well. Mausoleum wanted a compilation with the three of us."
Where did your musical influences come from and which bands were your great examples at that time?
"First of all, my mother. She plays the violin (and still does), but that was not really my cup of tea. I have an older brother, who listened to JIMI HENDRIX a lot and that's when I fell in love with the guitar. Later on, DEEP PURPLE became my heroes and in 1974, I got a chance to see them live at the Forest National in Brussels, Belgium. That was a wonderful experience and it was also my first big concert. At the time I played with OSTROGOTH, I was very much into bands like JUDAS PRIEST, THE SCORPIONS, MSG, WHITESNAKE and more melodic metal bands."
Why was "Full Moon's Eyes" (1983) released as an EP ? Was this a budget thing or didn't you have enough material for a full length release?
"Indeed, it was just a matter of a small budget."
How did you get in touch with Mausoleum?
"When we'd recorded the rough mix of the EP, we were invited to a local radio show, called Domino. It was broadcasted on Saturday evening. Two of the four songs went on air. The next day we got a phone call from the guys from Mausoleum saying that they would take over all the expenses and give us a contract for the EP. Nice, huh?!?"
Who wrote the lyrics for OSTROGOTH and what are they about? Fiction or true told stories?
"Most of our lyrics were written by Marnix and they are fiction mostly."
How did your debut album "Ecstasy And Danger" sell and how did the press react on this release?
"It's almost impossible to say how much the album has sold. Officially a couple of ten thousand copies, but they were all over the world. We have seen magazines from Brazil to Japan (couldn't read them, though). The press, for all we know, reacted pretty enthusiastic."
Why does a band start their album with a great screaming guitar solo, like you guys did in opener "Queen Of Desire"(my all-time favorite OSTROGOTH song) on the "Ecstasy And Danger" album ('84)? Was this to wake up the listeners and show them that OSTROGOTH was there?
"You answered the question already: it was a great screaming guitar solo! No seriously, it was a decision of that very moment. It wasn't planned, nor studied. I just felt something and played it and it seemed to be the perfect opening for the album."
When I listen to "Lords Of Thunder" (instrumental), it sounds to me that this song originally had lyrics to it. Am I right here or has "Lords Of Thunder" always been an instrumental track?
" "Lords Of Thunder" has always been an instrumental track."
Please tell us a bit more about "The Gardens Of Marakesh", which was on your next album "Too Hot" ('85). This song really sticks to your mind, when you listen to this particular album.
"You seem to have an ear for instrumentals! As you may have noticed, we often put various kinds of rhythms and melodies into our songs. Also, we tried to do some different by using 'strange' kind of instruments, like mandolins, bouzoukis, a violin (no, not my mother!) and some percussion instruments, too. That is how we created "The Gardens Of Marakesh"."
Was Marc de Brouwer also responsible for the scary vocals on "Halloween", found on that same album?
"No, both Mario and Marnix did the devilish sounding voices. It was great fun to see them go mad, really!"
You guys once called OSTROGOTH a 'foudation without any profits'. Why was that?
"Two of the OSTROGOTH members were unemployed and had some troubles with the social services. They were not allowed to earn any money by playing in a band. The only solution was to start a foundation without any profits."
What was it like to open the first edition of the Heavy Sound Festival and wasn't it extremely difficult to be the first band on the bill?
"Well, it was raining, when we had to open the festival at 11.30 a.m. We just had a quarrel with the road manager of the GOLDEN EARRING. They had to play a second time that day somewhere else, so they wanted to play right after us. No problem with that, but we had to move everything forward, so there was only about a two meters of space left. A little dispute later, we came to an agreement and played on an almost full stage."
Was this the largest crowd you ever played for?
"Yes, we never played before three thousand people anymore."
The only thing, that people still remember, was the bad organisation of the festival. How did you experience this and did it also effect you guys backstage?
"Our only concern was to play the best possible set and except for that little argue, everything went well for all as I can remember. Oh yeah, at a certain moment, we were no longer allowed to pass the caravan where mister GARY MOORE was practising."
Can you tell us a few other big names you played with in the eighties?
"DEF LEPPARD, LOUDNESS and not to forget, we played with MANOWAR twice."
Did you guys record any videoclips for airplay on MTV or something like that?
"We once did a live playback for RTBF (French talking Belgian TV channel). We didn't play live, but it was in real time on television. That was the title song of "Too Hot"."
How did you get in touch with Peter de Windt of CROSSFIRE? As a matter of fact, he was singing for the competition back in those days.
"On the "Too Hot" album, some of the choir parts were sung by Peter and two other German singers, who were also connected to Mausoleum somehow. It was not hard to persuade Peter to join us, when Marc had left the band."
Why did Marc de Brouwer, Hans van de Kerckhove and Marnix van de Kouter leave the band, before you released "Feelings Of Fury" in '87?
"First it was Marnix who left us, because of family reasons. Later on, Hans did quit OSTROGOTH for his study and work. Every now and then, he had to travel around for a few months. And finally Mark was discouraged, because of all the changes in the band and no gigs as a result of that. It was a difficult year for OSTROGOTH, but we kept faith."
Why did OSTROGOTH finally split up and are you aware of what the other bandmembers are doing at the moment?
"The final line up with June Martins (from Brasil) on guitar and Sylvain Cherotti on bass was the hardest as far as the sound goes. We did some gigs, released the last album and there were plans of doing a tour in Germany and the USSR. Due to problems with visa documents for our Brasillian friend, nothing of it all came true. From that moment on, the candle burned out slowly and I was the one, who was discouraged this time. Mario, June and Sylvain started HERMETIC BORTHERHOOD. An album and a few concerts later, it was exit BROTHERHOOD. Peter recorded two albums with his band MYSTERY. I don't know what he's doing these days."
What do you think about the Belgian rock scene of today and are there any interesting names that we may not be aware of yet?
"I'm afraid, that I'm not too familiar with new bands except for the late CHANNEL ZERO, because I know the singer. I think that 75% are cover bands, just like I do."
You are now in RUN 4 H. What kind of music does this band play and how did you get in touch with them?
"I know Eddy Termote, the singer, for years. He used to sing with BAD LIZARD. After OSTROGOTH, I didn't play for over five years, until I met some guys who asked me to form a new band. Some time later Eddy joined us and we're on the road again. As I mentioned, we play covers such as "Child In Time" (DEEP PURPLE), "Battle Hymns" (MANOWAR) and a few songs by AC/DC.".
Is there any unreleased material left that the fans haven't heard about and if yes, is there any chance you're gonna bring these songs out in the (near) future?
"I'm sorry, but there's nothing left!"
What kind of music do you listen to nowadays and who are your current fave bands?
"I still like the old ones very much and I have no favorites from today."
Lately, there seems to be a comeback of the eighties going on and a lot of bands are planning reunions. When will the reunion of OSTROGOTH see the light or is this just wishful thinking?
"One of us already died. Hans had a heart disease and left us in 1991, so I'm pretty sure that a reunion is out of the question."
At one time OSTROGOTH had three fanclubs (wow!). Tell us a bit more about that.
"Two of them were Belgian fanclubs. One was Dutch and the other one was French. The first one released four editions of a OSTROGOTH comic book, which only consisted of a few pages, but still…. The third one came all the way from New Jersey, USA. Our first EP did quite well overseas and someone felt the need to start a fanclub. He made contact with us and came up with some proposals for stickers and other stuff. A pity there were no email possibilities yet back in those days. Everything went by airmail, which was quite expensive."
King Fowley of the great true metal band OCTOBER 31 is pictured on the inner sleeve of their new CD "Meet Thy Maker" with an OSTROGOTH teeshirt. Are you honoured with that? Is it still possible to order any merchandise from the band somewhere?
"I'm afraid there's nothing left at all! You guys out there better invest in something that still exists - right? And yes, of course I'm flattered with King Fowley wearing a shirt of the band I played in. At least he knows what a nice shirt is - huh!"
Have you got anymore stories you'd like to share with our readers?
"Well yeah, we once played at the Zeche in Bochum, Germany. When we left the stage, a guy and a pretty girl asked one of the roadies, if they could come into the dressing room to meet us 'please'. Of course, they could! They must have been seventeen years old, I think. We talked for a while and they seemed to play in a band, too. Not long after that, their band signed a contract with Mausoleum under the name of WARLOCK. Two years later it could have been us to ask permission to enter their dressing room - ha! DORO and her boyfriend Michael evolved twice as fast. I wonder what she (DORO) is doing today."
Anything you'd like to add to this interview or maybe you have something to say to the readers of Snakepit?
"As it's been a few years now since OSTROGOTH split up, which means that I'm the same amount of years older too, but I still have a heart for Metal and I'm sure this will last for several years longer. Not to say forever!"
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #8, 2000)