Interview with Stefan Löns (July, 2014).
Also, the incredible new issue is available now To get a copy of #6 write to: firstname.lastname@example.org OR (snail mail): Witchcraft Magazine, P.O. Box 32 01 02, 56044 Koblenz, Germany. Price is 7,- Euro postpaid (Germany) or 8,50 Euro / 11$ (Europe, World). I still got new old stock of issues 4 and 5, too… [also, and can be found here from Nuclear War Now Productions]
[SBMS!] How did you first find out about the underground, fanzines and the tape trading culture? What made you get involved and what it made it special for you? How did you decide to start with your own fanzine [in Witchcraft] and what did you hope to contribute?
Hm, let’s see… Back in 1989 there was a bunch of really young guys who started listening to metal music. One of us was particularly interested in bands we never heard of before so he introduced us to crazy stuff like Impetigo or Xysma. At the same time we discovered a few local metal / punk bands who already had some demo tapes available that we could listen to. So while we usually spend the days meeting at each others place and listening to metal (after getting home from school) the idea was born to start our own fanzine with the intention to support some of those unknown bands (especially the local ones). We didn’t have any money or experience in writing articles or doing interviews, but that didn’t stop us. As a matter of fact we didn’t know much about fanzine culture or the underground movement at all but we somehow managed to finish a first issue (it was called “Der Lappen” in German, which means something like “the cloth”) and made copies on my dad’s small xerox machine (and by doing that we ruined it, too… I remember my dad being really pissed off!). We sold them at school or to local friends, and after a while we managed to do more and better issues and even generated some funds to get more copies printed. This way we got in touch with people from other countries, trying to spread the word. Some bands started to send us their demos while others wrote letters or offered some tape trading. Aaaaand tape trading was really important back then if you were looking for unknown bands!! I still own a bunch of those old home-made compilations… and I especially like the compilations featuring bands from one country only, let’s say Greece, Spain or USA, that would give me a quick overview of what’s going on in those countries (or the specific area it came from). Anyway, after doing a third issue of “Der Lappen” I felt like starting my own thing, mainly because we had different ideas on how to go on with our zine in the future.
So my first own fanzine was a small thing written in German called “Underground”. I managed to get two issues done in 1991 and 1992 but was unhappy with the whole project because it didn’t work out. It was all a bit too mixed up, featuring all kinds of metal, punk or core music. And as I was already obsessed by death and black metal stuff by that time and felt like doing something new that would be a better fundament to deal with I started “Witchcraft” in 1992. I created five issues (from which the first three can be viewed on your nice little site) until I stopped working on it in 1996. There was a small follow-up project called “Zeitgeist” and I managed to get two issues done. In 1998 I had a hard time and things got out of control (sort of) so I had to stop everything for quite a while. I reactivated “Witchcraft” in 2012 and finally managed to finish a sixth, brand new issue in March 2014 which is still available (as well as some new old stock of issues 4 and 5 I found at my parent’s attic – they somehow survived undamaged and untouched in two separate boxes for almost 20 years).
But back to your question: What did I hope to contribute? I’m not sure… seriously, I just like doing stuff like this. It was (and still is) fun and I simply loved writing letters and talking to people about metal or other interesting topics. It was so exciting, especially all the new black and death metal stuff. I remember listening to Dark Throne’s “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” or Entombed’s “Left Hand Path” for the first time and felt like “what the hell just happened to me?”. It was so intense, just: wow! No surprise these albums became my all-time faves which I still listen to on a regular base. So maybe my original intention was to spread the word and let people know there are some extreme yet thrilling new bands out there and that everybody should listen to – period!
[SBMS!] What is your best memory from that time and how in your opinion have things changed during and after 20 years? Is the black/death underground as a subculture still ‘viable and thriving’ today, even as most people send e-mail instead of letters? Does it have the same energy and feeling in a different way, or is it the same as always, perhaps?
Oh well, you got me here… errrrrmm… of course a lot of things have changed. I mean, we got the internet today which makes it easy to access all sorts of information, listen to music or to get in touch with others by using email which is practically free of charge and allows you to communicate blazingly fast. And I don’t have to spend all my money on postage anymore like I had to in the past… Best memories? Getting in touch with people from all over the world has always been and still is a cool thing. I really love doing that! You know, talking and discussing, trying to work something out together and stuff like that. I am still amazed every time I get an email or a letter from someone far far away just because he / she wants to get in touch or buy a copy of my little zine. It rocks, seriously!!!
As for the black/death underground itself: Like I mentioned above I wasn’t part of that subculture for quite some time and it’s still hard for me to get a full overview again by looking at all the new bands I never heard of or even listened to. There’s a ton of releases available these days which makes me feel a little “lost”. So you may call this ‘viable and thriving’ but I’m not sure if it’s going in the right direction. I often get the impression that there’s too much weird thinking around that got stuck into people’s heads. That it’s all about value, limitation, merchandise crap and this “cult/true” stuff these days. That some of the (key?) elements like musical abilities or simply separating yourself from the masses / commerce have been replaced by topics like market value and commercialization. I think that creates too much envy and greed, making people believe that you can sell even the shittiest old demo for a 100 whopping bucks just because it’s old and therefore considered as “rare”. But I still believe in things like sharing our resources, working together and supporting each other instead of making profit. That may sound outdated or even sentimental, but to me that’s what underground is all about. At least that’s my opinion, and I think more people should adopt this and take a stand because I feel that’s what is needed in times like this.
Witchcraft #3 (Germany) June, 1994. Editor: “Stefan Löns”
With interviews and/or features on Behemoth, Celestial Season, Burzum, Graveworm, Krabathor, Blood, Order From Chaos, Calvary, Inverted, Septic Flesh, Mystifier, Master’s Hammer, Misanthrope, Necromantia, Forgotten Sunrise, Pax Mortis, Sadistic Noise, In the Woods, Sceptical Schizo, Soulgrind, Ungod, Golem, Phlebotomized, Absu, and many more, plus tons of reviews and Estonian, Polish and South African scene reports…
Witchcraft #2 (Germany) 1993. Editors: “Stefan Löns”
This is the second issue of this German zine (in English) that focused more on the black/doom scene (but not exclusively). Interesting and early interviews/features with Beherit, Belial, Phlegethon, Damnatory, Deathlike Silence Productions, Emperor, Fester, Greek Scene Report, Marduk, Mortuary drape, Occult, Order From Chaos, Sadist, Thergothon, New World Symphony Records, and more. (Thanks Stefan).
The cover of the zine is Emperor, live in Liverpool, UK (1993).
Witchcraft #1 (Germany) 1993. Editor: “Stefan Löns”
This issue from Germany (in English) featured a (mostly) darker, black and black/death/doom focus — right on time for a number foundational bands’ first and second albums. Miasma from Austria are on the cover (who released their debut through Lethal Records back then). Features Samael, Emperor, Immortal, Dark Tranquillity, Ancient Rites, Bethlehem, Avulsed, Unholy, Impaled Nazarene (always fun!), Martyrium (pre-Secrets of the Moon), Necrotion, Profanatica, as well as features or classic ads on Eihal Records, Lethal Records, Mayhemic Death Dist., Osmose and more. (Thanks Stefan).