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Josh Fury of Congress: Part I

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This interview with Joost Noyelle, the lead guitarist of Congress, was done in the year 2009. I learned a lot and was very inspired by the things he said. I told him that it was going to be an exhaustive interview so we decided to do it in chapters. The first chapter, the one you can read beneath, is about the early days; how he got involved in hardcore and his view upon it, how he came befriended with Edward, Hans and UxJx, why and how he actually came to create the trademark music of the H8000 area (Edge-Metal). In short, everything from the Vortn’ Vis hangouts, the Wheel Of Progress 7inch, the demo and finally the beginning of the Euridium 7 inch.

Willem RWHAF: When you were younger, did you listen to metal or punk first, or other genres that made you grow more and more into the Straight-Edge Hardcore direction? I’m really interested in the music you were interested in!
Josh Fury: I got into Hardcore and Punk through skateboarding but mainly through reading ‘Thrasher Magazine’. The bands that where mentioned were: Suicidal Tendencies, DRI, the Accused, Circle Jerks, Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers… I was into Metal and Hardrock in the early eighties: Maiden, Priest, Saxon, Twisted Sister… I always thought that metal was musically superior to Hardcore back then, but lacked a decent message. So when I found out about Hardcore, I was blown away, a great attitude and positive message with angry and fast music combined. Also the Hardcore gigs where way more exciting, kids were more a part of the show and closer to the bands, stage diving and singing along, where as in metal, the bands were distant rock stars.

Willem RWHAF: My first hardcore records I had were Congress “The Blackened Persistence” and Vitality “Bloodline”, I got these two records together from someone I knew. So I really grew up with these. Any records that you grew up with? And left a great influence upon your musical taste, morals and convictions or even attitude?
Josh Fury: I had a few favorite records: Bad Brains “Rock for Light” for its speed and musical genius and positivity all over. With Agnostic Front’s “Liberty And Justice” the bridge was made between metal and NYHC, very refreshing and extremely brutal, some lyrics where a bit sketchy though… But one record that really stood out was Nations on Fire’s “Strike the match”: they had a very mean and raw sound, clear message and they were from Belgium for fuck’s sake! Their lyrics immediately turned me into vegetarianism and Straight-Edge. When you saw them live it was amazing, all members played as if their lives depended on it and their singer had his straight forward view on important issues without being too preachy. How I miss a band like Nations On Fire in today’s Hardcore scene!

Willem RWHAF: So you came befriended with people from the 8000 Crew, where and how did you met? Or were you already friends with Edward, Hans and others before the crew was formed? I know there was crew called Touch My Heart Crew and was later baptized with a new name, 8000 Crew?
Josh Fury: I suppose we met at a gig in the Vortn’ Vis, it had Shortsight and Blindfold on the bill. Only few of the kids rode with cars back then so most were waiting for the last bus. I started talking with Ed, Hans and UxJx. Hans was so hard to understand, taking too fast, many kids will agree with me…hehe… Edward seemed like a serious guy, really on top of things, planning and organizing stuff. UxJx seemed the weirdo of the bunch: wearing unreadable metal logo-shirts, rambling on about Marilyn Monroe and how he liked satanic stuff. No crew was formed as far as I know, although most records that came out were labeled 8000 crew.

Willem RWHAF: In 1992 there were Spirit Of Youth, Shortsight, Nations On Fire and Blindfold, were you into this bands? And how did you feel about Rise Above?
Josh Fury: Ofcourse I was into those bands: before them I didn’t even know there was a Hardcore and Straight-Edge scene in Belgium! I was proud to be around, buying every demo or 7″ that came out! I had the Rise Above records but never saw them live although I played their singles to pieces! Rise Above spawned the next generation of Hardcore bands and only good things came from their split.

Willem RWHAF: With Wheel Of Progress you guys definitely laid the foundations of your later ‘invention’ Edge-Metal, do you recall what drove you into adding more metal to the sound? Why did you want to make it heavier and harder? Anything to do with the music you listened to? Or is it rather a personal urge you dealt with?
Josh Fury: Everyone in that band was really into metal but none of them had combined their Hardcore attitude with metal-music. So I came up with those Slayer meets Ministry riffs, which Hans started drumming very basic. Rob (Born From Pain) had this really raw angry voice that fitted in, so we got ourselves a rather new sound for that time. While in Wheel Of Progress, UxJx and me also did Dreft, which was a down-tuned Death Metal – Doom Metal band. I didn’t want to re-tune my guitar all the time, as I only had one. So I kept the low-tuned sound. I listened mainly to bands from Paul Speckmann, like Master, Abomination or Speckmann Project and early Slayer or Morbid Angel back then.

Willem RWHAF: Although I hear that is was more the foundations of your other band LIAR. Correct?
Josh Fury: Yes, sure was the foundation for Liar, extreme metal with a Hardcore message. Although on “Blackened Persistence” the song ‘Body Wheeps’ got the once-over and was a Wheel OF Progress song… After Wheel Of Progress, I quit Dreft too, I had enough of the Metal attitude and wanted to start an interesting Hardcore band. I was in a band called Burning Fight at the time, which also had Ilja on vocals! Their bass player quit so I asked UxJx to join. He said yes, but didn’t like the drummer, so Ilja switched from Mike to drums and we had to find ourselves a singer to move on.

Willem RWHAF: Also, you and UxJx definitely stuck together after Wheel Of Progress came to an end, did your views of music coincide with him perhaps? Tell me more about UxJx!
Josh Fury: Dude has the biggest record-collection ever seen: all kinds of Metal, Crust, Punk, Straight-Edge, Hardcore, Hardrock… Just name a band and he shows you his records, vinyl I mean. He also had a car so if you were friends with him, you didn’t only get to know awesome obscure bands but he drove you to shows to. One time we hung out in Roeselare when we stumbled into a guitar-shop that had awesome new Jackson guitars in. Because the Slayer fan as I was, I wanted one badly! They costed like 20000 francs (500 euro). UxJ immediately went to an ATM to get half of the cash so we could give an advance. He then drove me to my house to get my savings and we went to get the guitar. That was UxJx, always doing everything for his friends! I got home and riffed like Hanneman throwing in a divebomb or two! That Jackson ended up being Coutre (David Decoutere of Regression) his first guitar.

Congress demo

Willem RWHAF: The year was definitely 1993; the new born band CONGRESS was formed in the winter of that year and later released a demo tape and started the initial huge impact on the local scene. Did you took the initiative to form the band or how did that pass?
Josh Fury: Burning Fight was actually the beginning of Congress. We wanted to find a strong name for the new start of the band so Ed (Edward Good Life) told me he always wanted a band called Congress so we took it from him since he didn’t want to form a new band soon.
After we found our singer called Roy Cappan, we did some local shows and once we had decent songs and some cash,so we recorded the demo. That was the deal back then: form a band, play gigs, record a demo, record a 7″and if you were lucky enough to stick around you recorded an album. I never had the intention to make it last that long, I dreamed of doing a 7″ that’s it…!

Willem RWHAF: So the demo wasn’t with Pierre, but with Roy Cappan. Where did you guys met up, because I understand that he came from another country?
Josh Fury: Wrong, Roy was a school friend, who lived in the neighborhood close to my house. We grew up playing with He-Man figures, later went skateboarding together and later got heavily into Hardcore music. It just happened he came to our rehearsals and picked up a mike and he sounded cool so we stuck together as a band. He got more into eastern fighting sports after a while, so he quit after the demo. He got involved in the scene again when we did our H8Zine, he had a powerful computer for that time plus the know-how as a layouter. Roy moved to Thailand in 1999 and in 2001 he died there under mysterious circumstances… Miss him heaps!

Willem RWHAF: Also in that year you proposed to put the ‘H’ before ‘8000’. Why, because I believe hate can consume a person…
Josh Fury: Well, the first generation called 8000 crew had mainly Old School bands or sounded more emotional. When Congress got around I wanted to make a difference: we were heavier, had a Metal sound but kept the Hardcore ideology. I put an H in front of the 8000 to make a difference and to label a new breed of bands and so putting a new scene on the map, the rest is history. Never thought about the Hate issue, well we hated a lot of stuff for sure but who didn’t in his early twenties? Positively looking towards a hateful world was the deal!

Willem RWHAF: In contrast to others you also didn’t do labels and releasing stuff?
Josh Fury: No, I had a busy job and some other hobbies so I never wanted to do that. Besides that, everyone had a label, so why be a competitor?

Willem RWHAF: About the demo, I really hear that CONGRESS at that point was influenced by the sound of the 8000 crew, especially the songs from the “Regress No Way” compilation. But you added a more aggressive sound, by adding metal and a hard-hitting pace. Hard to describe or define in words. I really come to the conclusion that this hybrid sound is true innovation and creativity by anger and reflection. I already feel the duality coming… Can you concur with what I’m saying?
Josh Fury: It was only after we became a hype that the demo was really sought after, so after hearing stories from people coughing high prices for an original copy, we decided to put it as an extra on the mini-CD “The Other Cheek”. I was never proud of that demo, sound was shit, Ilja drummed like he rode a bicycle with square tires and the vocals were dull. That studio was awkward, run by a bearded nitwit who split his house in a tanning salon and a music studio. He made way more cash with his tanning salon for sure! It was only after we discovered Midas studios that we got the sound we wanted.

Congress “Euridium” release show cover by Yoeri Christiaen

Willem RWHAF: Man, kind of amazing everything you tell here. I really wasn’t and aren’t into real or pure metal and can’t add a sound to the bands you mentioned. But I guess that isn’t important because I liked Congress and come to the conclusion that you are a truly talented and creative musician. So the demo wasn’t that satisfying for understandable reasons. But then came “Euridium”. The record that kick-started and changed the sound of the scene as you wanted it to be. Listening to the “Euridium” 7 inch, it is kind of evident that you guys wanted something heavier and more brutal, according to the different sound the band made then. I understand it wasn’t difficult to get these new songs released?
Josh Fury: Since there were a couple of great local DIY record labels over here (PMA Records from UxJx, Warehouse Records from Jeroen Lauwers and Edward, Sober Mind from Hans and Jean Blindfold, to name a few, we decided to take the first and best offer from the area. Edward approached us immediately after seeing us at the Flodder in Langemark. He understood our message and liked our sound very much. So, the “Euridium” got released through Warehouse Records which became Good Life Recordings later on.

Willem RWHAF: But to take a deeper scoop at the songs. As you told me earlier, you wanted the power of metal and the message of Hardcore. I believe that’s a great idea. But it isn’t only you who created the songs? Since you were in a band, how did the creative process go back then? I guess smooth co-operation?
Josh Fury: Ilja and me jammed a lot in those days, we were determined about the style we wanted to play and what sound we liked. We wanted to combine Cleveland Hardcore (Clevo) with New York Hardcore while throwing in our own touch. Ilja was always very influenced by Hip Hop in his drumming, something I never really liked, but in the end it worked out fine. In that day, I believe everyone in the band contributed to our riffs, even UxJx who never really believed he could create great riffs. As a matter of fact, the main riff of ‘Black Demon’ is his, later on you hear his riffs in ‘Grieve’ and ‘The Darkside’ from the Blackened Persistence record. Some years later, most ideas came from me, musically as well as lyrically.

Willem RWHAF: And now some short and detailed questions; I saw that video of one of the first show with Pierre on vocals, where and when was it shot?
Josh Fury: If you mean the one on the extra content from the Blackened Persistence CD, that footage is shot in my own bakery, we used to do gigs there now and then (Lash Out, Abhinanda, Spawn and some local bands also played there). I suppose it was a birthday gig for my 19th birthday.

Willem RWHAF: I see on the insert of ‘Euridium’ that you rehearsed at home with Congress? Because I see on the thanks list that Congress thanks your parents for coping with the noise. How was that like?
Josh Fury: Well, we didn’t exactly jam quietly you know and our music is not that radio-friendly either so you bum people out with the noise you make. We’re fortunate to have kind neighbors who never complained about our rehearsals and behind our lawn, there’s only spare land and after that the cemetery. On All Saints people complained if we jammed while they were putting flowers on the graves…

Willem RWHAF: I really liked the vocals of Pierre, very strong and dep voice. But he didn’t write the lyrics back then? But you did?
Josh Fury: Pierre always came with fragments to lyrics which I used in songs but never wrote whole lyrics. He wrote two complete lyrics for the final Congress though, “Shadowbreed” and “Live the Pain” to be more precise.

Willem RWHAF: How did Pierre feel about your lyrics, I understand he found himself in the subject and views you entered?
Josh Fury: Back then, everyone was into vegetarianism and Straight Edge so it was the common good to write about those issues as well as the anti-organized religion songs, those always caused provocation within the scene. Pierre never made it an issue to sing about my views, not even after he dropped the Edge, which many people took as an insult…

Willem RWHAF: Lyrically I really feel connected to what you wrote. I think it is still relevant to nowadays. Let me give my view:
While the song “Conspiracy Of Silence” is rather about a personal feeling of solitude and isolation within society, and the pointless but well-meant actions. The second song “I Lead Astray” is more about the actions of the outer world. And the effect these actions have on you, they lead you astray. I believe these song are about influence of you upon others and other upon you, but you are aware of that and are able to keep yourself away from the mainstream. Hardcore gave you a mean to realize this and stay your true self, unpolished and free of societies game. So Conspiracy Of Silence is the reaction upon “I Lead Astray”. Well, that is my interpretation, but can you concur with this?
Josh Fury: Intentionally, “Conspiracy Of Silence” was about isolation, solitude and even suicidal tendencies. Most lyrics I wrote came from hardships I had to endure, lyrics and music work as therapy. “I Lead Astray” was mainly written by our first singer Roy and I wrote the fitting chorus. I’m glad you question about lyrics and make up your mind about them, later lyrics worked quite controversial so we included some explanation on the records.

Willem RWHAF: Now a question that I will ask several times in the evolution of CONGRESS, that we are trying to capture here by this interview. How did you feel about your fans and scene in the time of the “Euridium” 7 inch?
Josh Fury: The scene was getting bigger, crowds went from 100 to 500 kids at special occasions like record releases or festivals. Our fans were Straight Edeg kids, metalheads and some alternative people to. I remember going to a party in Roeselare and they played Dog Eat Dog, Biohazard and then “Conspiracy of Silence”. Kids went nuts looking at me, I felt creepy about that, I still try to avoid people when I hear my music in public.

Willem RWHAF: But you did get good response of the fans?
Josh Fury: We sold heaps of 7 inches, 4000 and midCD’s for the ‘Euridium’ release, even more I suppose, so I guess people liked it. Not that I’m bragging about the number of records sold but it was way beyond my imagination that we would push that many records. Sure, the response got better every gig almost.

Willem RWHAF: Where did you all play at and did you do many shows.
Josh Fury: Mainly inside of Belgium, some in Holland, some in Germany, even in the United Kingdom. Small Hardcore fests started to be organised and we were with the headliners then. Our first tour was in Germany with Neglect and the second was in Scandinavia. Small clubs mainly but some small festivals too, such as Schleiz which was with Refused as a headliner.

Anyways this is it. Next will be the Holy Grail called “The Blackened Persistence”.


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