On 87-05-22 my band (‘Repulsives’) was billed for a show in Overpelt (far east of Belgium), together with local bands ‘Dawn Of Liberty’ & ‘What The Butler Saw’. For some reason we were never informed about that and obviously didn’t make it. It must’ve been around that time that I got a tape by the latter in the mail. They weren’t as active as ‘D.O.L.’ and only did a few shows (mostly in their province) that we heard about; I only know of one in the west: on 89-11-18 (they were on a bill with ‘CowboyKillers’, ‘Heibel’ & ‘Rise Above’ in Eernegem…
The guys in the band were Lode Vanhelden (vocals), Stefan Custers (bass), Frank Berckmans (drums) & Franky Cox (guitar). They played music in the post-punk/new-wave vein. I never heard about any of their releases. They were featured on the (1991) Noise Against Repression compilation (double LP) – with the track Short&Sharp – though.
‘What The Butler Saw’ started somewhere in 1986. In that year we recorded a demo with 4 of our own songs (in Westerlo). A second demo followed in 1988 (Tango Studio in Eindhoven); that one had 5 own songs and a cover (Play With Fire by the ‘Rolling Stones’). Other covers in our repertoire were Boots (Nancy Sinatra), No Room (‘Spizzenergi’), Mother’s Little Helper (‘Rolling Stones’), Gathering Dust (‘Modern English’) & The Nile Song (‘Pink Floyd’). We played about 20 concerts (Westerlo, Dilsen – with ‘Belgian Asociality’, Mechelen, Eksel, Hechtel, Bree, Eernegem, Molenbeek and several in Overpelt (e.g. supporting ‘La Muerte’ in the legendary community-hall Pelter Skelter – the poster of the night can be found on that band’s live record). ‘What The Butler Saw’ ceased the exist in 1989. I believe these recordings date from February ’89 in café Tiljo in Overpelt…
In our village in the early 80s, as in so many others, there were punks at our college. In Neerpelt it was a big thing, especially nurtured by the local punk-pub Kwiet (Hamont), and bands such as ‘Brassers’ & ‘Struggler’. (Being a 14 year old, I thought the first were too slow and sluggish then to pass as a punk-band; ‘Struggler’ made one fine punk-single but after that they were also inexorably struck by the experimentation-diarhoea.) Those punk-guys at my college (I was too young; 12-13), didn’t really make an impression. In the beginning I thought they were just a bunch of nozems; being a snotty brat I even shouted (instigated by Axel Willekens) “skinhead” (didn’t know what that was), to a red-headed punker. That guy turned his bike towards me and punched me on the shoulder real hard. But it was January and freezing real hard, what resulted in an inevitable tumble. Almost the entire school was observing the scene and laughter rose. When Franky – that was how the onfortunate was called – got up and slipped once more, the whole playground couldn’t stop laughing. Meanwhile I had already gone into hiding. Franky, Franky Cockx [Cox]: one couldn’t ignore him with his leather jacket, safety-pins and especially that bright read head with hairs perky in the air. His buddy was Lode Vanhelden, also in leather, band-names in white chalk; they were the heavy guys in school: you had to show awe or fear for them. Because of my ambivalent feelings, I experienced both. Coincindentally I was in the neighbourhood (the office of the administrator, discipline-dictator of the school) when those two gentlemen were questioned and interrogated regarding their behaviour/expression: “What’s that all about with those safety-pins in your ear, that upright hair; what do yourt parents think of that?”. But that disciplinary officer declaimed that in such a special, crazy way, that his remarks didn’t miss their comical effect. Franky and his buddy Lode made no effort to hold back their laughter. Franky & Lode, the heavy guys of the school. After a school-trip to Eindhoven [The Netherlands], May 5th 1981, I also got infected with the punk-virus, thanks to music on a tape-recorder, brought along by Axel Willekens (‘Axie’) & Walter Peerlings (later ‘Afai’, an antifascist anarchist individual): ‘Dead Kennedys’, ‘Ruts’, ‘Angelic Upstarts’,… It sounded as if the gates of de hell were opened wide. I immediately bought the ‘Dead Kennedys’ album Fresh Fruit… – secondhand, for 200 BeF [5 euro]. Years went by, Lode & Franky had left the college in the mean time, I was 15 or 16, secretly went for a beer in an alternative pub in Neerpelt, that these guys also frequented. Kindled by DIY, tapetrading,… With lead in my shoes I got up to Lode and asked him if he could fill my empty tape with self-chosen punk-music. He was astonished with my guts, threw me an unfathomable smile but a week later I had my music. I got my guts together again and rode my bike to his house, rang the door-bell and asked him if he could play some more music. We clicked better and better, but the age-difference made things difficult. He started to listen to somewhat more experimental music, wave-toestanden, gushed about the ‘Virgin Prunes’ (That was OK but a-political music remains… a-political.). By 1983, I went looking for the harder stuff, and again got bold and cycled to Franky’s house, rang the bell and asked if I could come listen to some music. He played ‘Disorder’ and ‘Discharge’… Wow! He even took out his guitar, it sounded damn good. But some time later he also got affected by music-that-has-been-thought-about and we lost sight of each other. ‘Astrant’ was founded, that went well, nice regional gigs, renamed to ‘Dawn Of Liberty’, fanzines were made, particularly encouraged likeminded coevals to communicate and rebel, more fanzines, Axel thought of an overarching name: Clandestiene Producties. Local heroes we were, selling our fanzines in the pub, making punk-music. And who of all people got influenced by us?: Lode & Franky, not exclusively punks anymore, but definitely still anarchos that also started a fanzine: Vox Populi. They even thought it was necessary to state explicitally in their editorial that they weren’t part Clandestiene Producties; they ze had sympathy for us but undescored that they were running an independent publication. They also started a band then: ‘What The Butler Saw’. It’s difficult for me to describe the Music: a punky edge but with the emphasis still on… well, on what? Oh, I don’t know anymore, can’t put a label on it. They never sought connection with the hardcore-scene or manifested themselves as a punk-band, They kind of fell outside of every guitar-path. Lode was the singer, Stefan Custers played bass, Frank Berckmans drums and Franky Cox guitar. Of course they did play in alternative circles, released a tape I think and also a single (that came with the first edition of Gonzo [indie music mag edited by Stefan Joosten]). But the band didn’t last long lang. Don’t know why they disappeared so quitely. Well, I don’t know that much about them but I do about certain members and what influence they had on us (and we on them later). How lost sons return to the punk-stable but explore other paths with their music.