I’ll be honest: there’s one aspect of skinhead culture I never really liked: subcultural self-pity. OK, so Mick Furbank’s famous ‘crucified skinhead’ design looks cool and always will. But the whole “so misunderstood & always blamed for everything” victim complex does get on my tits sometimes. How many more documentaries and Vice articles where we whine about being misrepresented as mindless thugs and racists? Come on. No black person ever gives a shit what I wear. Only privileged white liberals eye you with worry and suspicion. And so they should – because that’s what keeps them from co-opting our culture wholesale. After all, would you want skinhead to become as acceptable to them as punk is today?
To cut a long story short, it’s always refreshing to hear Close Combat’s trademark tune, ‘Skinhead Pride’, proudly kick off with the Millwall chant, ‘no one likes us – WE DON’T CARE’. The song is so chuck full of cliches, you can always predict the next line – but it’s the spirit that counts: unapologetic, proud and positive. The boys from Maastricht have retained this spirit ever since releasing their first mini-album, Viva Meestrech!, in 2004. Following the Guest of the State longplayer and an extended hiatus (more on that later), they’re now back with Spiet vaan niks, sounding bigger and badder than ever. Girth took the opportunity to ask their vocalist, Pie Menton, a bunch of questions.
Close Combat – what’s the history behind the band for the uneducated?
Well, the history goes back to the summer of 2002. A few good lads and a few (or a lot…. can’t remember) good beers were enough to start wondering what punk rock and Oi would sound like when sung in local dialect. Two weeks later, the first rehearsal took place. Nothing serious, just having fun. Soon enough, we started writing our first own songs. In 2004, we decided to record a five-track mini CD. Four tracks sung in our local dialect, and one track in English for those who don’t understand it. The response to our mini-CD, Viva Mestreech, was beyond our expectations. The locals picked up the words, the world picked up the music.
Two years later, we recorded the Guest of the State album, this time completely in English.
Over the following years, we played several gigs and wrote a bunch of new songs. In late 2009, things went bad for the band. Instead of recording a new album, a load of crap hit us and we had to go easy for a while. Every once in a while, we still rehearsed, but it took us a few years to get back on track. That started when a new guitar player joined our ranks. We dropped all the new songs we had already written and started all over again. The result is our new album, on which we sound better than before.
So what’s the story with your hiatus? I heard there were some ‘misbehaviour’ issues?
Haha, those ‘issues’ were indeed the beginning of a low profile period for the band. Issues with the law in Germany and the Netherlands, mainly booze and violence related. Most of these issues are over and done with, while one or two are still haunting us today. Nowadays jobs, wives, kids and health issues keep us on a leash.
What’s your relationship with The Young Ones? Are they your sons or something?
No family ties here. The Young Ones come from the same place as we do, that’s all. We were there when the lads stepped into the scene. Very young lads at the time, and very good friends today.
As Holland’s toughest Oi band – how you feel about your part in the history of skinheads and Oi music in Dutchland? How did skinhead start over there?
Skinhead here goes back to the early eighties. A lot of skins came out of the punk scene where they learned about the Oi scene and about Cockney Rejects, 4-Skins and The Last Resort, to name a few. The ska and Two Tone music of Madness, Specials and so on added a new chapter to skinhead. The scene became massive. But halfway through the eighties, it started to lose numbers. The fashion kids left the scene, and left were the ones who adapted the style as a way of life. Low in numbers today, but still around. As a band, we don’t have any part in that early history. We’re just people who adopted it as a way of life.
Now, you’re all big MVV Maastricht fans – how are they doing at the moment?
MVV is actually doing quite well at the moment. They’ve been playing in the first division (Jupiler League) for about fifteen years now, and every now and then we hope they go up to the premier division. Now is one of those seasons. Hope is filling our hearts again.
Which teams do you hate?
We hate – and believe me, “hate” is a mild word here – one team, and one team only. It’s a team from Kerkrade, a city about thirty kilometres from Maastricht. The ground turns into a war zone when we meet. Sadly, that doesn’t happen too often anymore because they play in the premier division. But we will meet again…
What’s the best gig you’ve played?
We don’t call it our best gig, but our most memorable one. And that was the “Viva Mestreech” gig in Maastricht itself. Punks, skins and ordinary locals gathered for something that people still talk about today. Three local bands on stage for a big party. A rock band kicked off, followed by a punk band. Then we came on stage. First tune…. Iiiiiron Ciiiiity Paaaatriots! And what happened then was one of the greatest moments on stage for us. One big party. The mixed crowd went well together. Moshpit from front to back. The folks behind the bar didn’t know what hit them – biggest beer sales ever. Money was piling out of the cash desks. And since the whole Young Ones crew was there, we managed to get them on stage for the afterparty. All nice memories.
You’ve got a new album out – what’s it all about?
Spiet vaan niks (No Regrets)! Again, a complete album sung in our local dialect. Although you might not understand a bloody word of it, the Germans might understand it well, as our dialect is heavily influenced by German words. The lyrics are mostly about the life we lead and what motivates us to lead it. The music is a mix of punk, Oi, rock and even some metal. And by that, I don’t mean a punk song, and then an Oi song, followed by a rock or metal song. No, we managed somehow to mix all of these, yet the result stills sound like Close Combat as you know it. We’ve evolved, but in a positive way. As for the lyrics, don’t worry, we will do English songs again in the future.
The city of Maastricht looks beautiful – worth a visit?
Absolutely worth a visit. Maastricht, or Mestreech as we call it, is a city with a great history. One of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, if not the oldest. Founded by the Romans some 2000 years ago. Historically, the city was inhabited by different nationalities. We’ve been Dutch, Spanish, French and Dutch again. We were even German for a while. And our city still has this international character today.
Have you mofos ever been to London?
All of us have been to London. Some parts of London feel like home. It’s like a bigger version of our own town, with all its history and even its modern changes.
Dutch beers – which ones can you recommend?
None. Down here, we drink Jupiler, a Belgian beer from a brewery about twenty kilometres south of Maastricht. We used to drink Brand Beer from a brewery about another twenty kilometres east of Maastricht. But that brewery was bought up by Heineken, and we’ve been drinking Jupiler ever since. We think Heineken is an insult to your liver. As to other Dutch beers beside Brand Beer, you might want to try Alfa, Amstel, Hertog Jan, Bavaria or Dommelsch. But we stick to Jupiler – a must-try.
As native Dutchies, how often do you wear clogs? Are clogs the new boots?
Wearing clogs? Seriously? Never have, never will. Next question please.
What’s the best city in Holland and why?
First of all: we don’t live in Holland, we live in the Netherlands. Holland is just a northern province in the Netherlands. We are from the Limburg, a province in the south. Never call a Limburger a Hollander. That’s like calling an Irish guy an Englishman.
Secondly, the Limburg province belongs to the Netherlands as result of a crappy political deal made about two hundred years ago. They split the Limburg province in two, so there’s another Limburg province in Belgium.
Thirdly, if you wanna know the best city in Holland, pfff….. don’t know. Try Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Tilburg and Eindhoven. As for the Netherlands, we claim our own city as the best. It has a history, an international character, plenty of pubs and lovely women. Good enough for us.
Do you have any Close Combat merchandise or propaganda available that you can feed the masses?
Check our Facebook page for that. It will keep you updated: https://www.facebook.com/close.combat.maastricht/
What’s the rudest Dutch phrase you can teach me?
There are a lot of rude phrases in Dutch, but when people asked an immigrant who lived a few doors down the block about the rudest Dutch phrase he learned, he told them: “In de naam van de koning” (In the name of the King). If you ever receive an envelope with these words, you know you’re in trouble. And it’s the kind of trouble you’re not going to win.
Any words for your loyal London fans?
Stay true, stay loyal, and fight the real enemy.