What began as a joke amongst friends, Zwaartekracht was a hand-made photocopied Dutch Heavy Metal News magazine, which over time changed its name to Metal Europe, became professionally printed, and at its peak had a local readership of 1000 copies.
This is the remarkable story of Marko van Haren, Donald Wever and friends and how they enjoyed the ride which saw them hang with Guns ‘N Roses before they were famous, work on a pre-gig photoshoots with Motörhead and Shy and how they came to document the 1980’s Metal scene as bands passed through on the European tours.
Marko is building the gem of a Metal Europe archive online at fusewire.nl and MetalTalk recently spoke with him to find out more. Recent updates at Fusewire include Bernie Marsden’s Alaska from October 1984, Bon Jovi from May 1985, Anthrax from October 1987, Megadeth from May 1988 and Faith No More from 1990.
Initially ‘Metal Europe’ was created for their circle of friends. Written with tongue in cheek humour, the first few copies contained reviews of albums the friends had bought.
One edition included a concert review of a local Metal band where they talked about their experience of the gig and how the friends got drunk. Soon after the release of that story, the photocopied magazine was shared with a band member and then things started to grow.
Marko van Haren takes up the story: “Suddenly, we received requests from other band members for copies and relatives, fans and friends wanted copies, so we photocopied a couple more and gave them out. We thought it was a bit of a one off and would soon stop. It didn’t.
“One thing led to another and it took the local scene by storm. More and more people took notice of it and seemed to like our no-nonsense approach to writing.
“The demand for extra copies didn’t stop and requests for the next issue were already flowing in. How would we deal with it? So, like many people in the industry…… we had a meeting at the bar and Donald Wever and I decided to go public with the magazine.”
The second edition was sold at school, to family and friends, at concerts and their local record shop and it soon sold out.
With every new edition the numbers swelled and after time the name was changed to ‘Metal Europe’. The magazine was then professionally printed, with paid advertising and the team soon began covering bigger gigs.
How did the gig arrangements work? Did you have official access through the magazine, or were these ‘from the crowd shots’? For example, to cover the Monsters of Rock you must have been in the photo pit, yet Overkill looks like a fight with the crowd?
“In the beginning we contacted the promoters, venues and record companies ourselves and always made sure to send them a copy of the magazine when it came out. After a while they started to know us and from this it became possible to build an invaluable relationship.
“So, at one point we fund ourselves in a privileged position. The record companies called us to see if we were interested in doing interviews and photo shoots when an artist/group visited the Netherlands for a promotional tour.
“With concerts it followed the same process, with an interview and photo pass. Depending on the size of the venue, there was a photo pit, or you had to mingle within the crowd. Either way, there was never a dull moment!”
You had some great backstage access too. The shots of Shy and Motorhead, backstage look great…. a real superb capture of a point in time.
“Most of the time all of this was in combination with an interview. If you had a good connection with the artists during their session, then you could push it a bit further into something special and different from the standard pose.
“If you were lucky, sometimes situations just developed and the band would provide a funny situation and you would be ready to click the shutter. That was the moment you were waiting for. Priceless.”
DIO was a great show. I saw that show in England, with the Dragon and all. That is when the three-song rule kills you, as there was not much chance to get the dragon in action and difficult to capture the whole essence of the show.
“A previous year when DIO played in Amsterdam, they sent their people into the venue to confiscate illegal cameras.
“During that time lots of bootleggers with unofficial T-shirts, posters and tour books were appearing at gigs selling their merchandise.
“This activity caused a lot of touring bands to lose money. One night something went wrong with my photo pass and I had to wait for it. In the meantime I was mistaken for an illegal entrant and was involved in an argument with one of these people and the guy didn’t believe my story.
“Security got involved and the record company person wasn’t there to vouch for me.
“As I had borrowed the camera, I didn’t want to give it to them so decided it would be easier to leave the venue.
“So that night I couldn’t make shots from the crowd as I had planned.
“Later, I informed the record company about this incident and they made it up to me with access all areas during DIO’s next tour.”
You got to photograph Slayer and interview the band just as they were hitting the big time with ‘Reign in Blood’. Do you have good memories of that gig? Tom Araya was great and their recent farewell tour was a bit of a success. Turned out they had a decent career!
“‘Reign in Blood’ was received in the Dutch music press with mixed feelings because of ‘Angel of Death’. Some political groups had their own interpretation of the lyrical content of that song and wanted to protest in front of the Jaap Edenhal.
“The Mayor of Amsterdam wanted to avoid a clash between the protesters and Metalheads and had arranged the special riot police, known in Dutch as ME, to keep an eye on the situation. Due to their presence there was a lot of noticeable tension outside the venue, but luckily everyone behaved themselves.
“I think Tom was aware of the situation outside during our interview, but he was more than happy to talk with us and we were free to ask him anything about the new album. Meanwhile, the tour manager came in to announce that Slayer had just been booked for a large stadium in the States.
“Things were hitting big for them and this was the start of their impressive career.
“Despite the turmoil, the evening was sealed with a great show. Sadly for the fans, Slayer retired at the peak of their career, but sometimes it’s good to go out on a high. They are still missed.”
Motörhead. Great photos and a great pre-gig Orange juice story. Can you remember the gig and do you have fond memories of seeing the masters in their prime?
“With the first wage from my summer job, I bought ‘No Sleep Till Hammersmith’. The album had just been released and it was, at that time, the hardest and loudest live album around.
“For Donald and I, Motörhead were our heroes and meeting them was the icing on the cake! We enjoyed every minute of it.
“But before Motörhead started the gig, the record company A&R manager told me in confidence that they probably would not extend the band’s contract longer than five years because of Lemmy’s extraordinary lifestyle!
“But the guy drank only orange juice!”
Guns N’ Roses is an amazing story. A new band with little local press attention, so you were sitting in the dressing room and interviewing Duff, while the tour manager pours the drinks! Did you realise at the time how big the band would be? Can you remember what you thought on the night?
“When I tell people about this, they hardly believe that I was sitting in the dressing room with the entire band, including groupies.
“I was conducting an interview with Duff and being offered loads of drinks – it seemed like a dream! My only evidence is the pictures.
“The band were excellent on stage, blending Punk Rock with other styles in Heavy music. It was refreshing, totally different and something new to the scene. I had the feeling this could be or become something really big…. with good promotion and management.
“Slash and Axl were already claiming their attention from the crowd on stage. Especially Axl, who was already well-known for his attitude off-stage as well as on-stage.”
With epic bands such as King Diamond, Manowar, Overkill, Venom, it was a great time for Metal and it must have been a fantastic experience for you. Any special gigs stand out for you?
“In December 1984 I had the opportunity to go on tour with Dutch Metal band Martyr through Germany. The band had just finished the recording sessions for their debut album ‘For the Universe’ and needed some pictures for their album cover.
“They asked me if I would like to do it. Of course, I would do it, I was there anyway to make a report of the tour. But your photos on an Album cover, this was a chance of a lifetime. They handed me some special films which they got from the record company and I shot this during their shows.
“Over the years ‘For the Universe’ has became a cult classic and still is a well sought after item at record fairs. A collectable with images which I shot.”
You speak about borrowing cameras for gig. Did you have any training at all, or was it all learning on the job?
“This was definitely on the job training. I really didn’t know much about it all so it was very much a baptism of fire!
“Every camera was different, so you had to learn quickly about it’s capabilities. How to deal with technical issues, broken film and wrong shutter speeds, lens adjustments etc.
“For me, as a student at that time, I was more than happy when someone loaned me a camera. Their trust made it possible for me to follow my passion: concert photography….and of course, being able to watch a great show at the same time.”
You shot black and white, to keep the printing costs down. Did you buy the cheapest film, or more expensive film with a low ISO? Any special camera lenses?
“The local photo shop sometimes had a batch of film which was out of date or close to its expiration date. These were sold for less than half the price and after finding out that the expiration date was only a commercial ploy, I was able to buy batches of film secure in the knowledge that it had no effect on the quality of the pictures.
“As I was using the film at speed, the only thing I had to be aware of was the development process. If you crank-up the ASA value of the film, you had to be careful during the development process. My favourite film to use was the Ilford 400 ASA film, a god-send for live photography.
“In the photo booth I used, depending on which camera I borrowed and from whom, the lens was mainly 1.8/50mm and for ‘in the crowd’ photography, 2.8/135mm.”
When did you finish ‘Metal Europe’? Can you discuss why? Was it the changing of the technological times?
“Because of our growth, we had to join forces with other magazines in order to spread the distribution channels of the magazine, as it was mainly Donald’s father who drove throughout the Netherlands doing the job.
“Also, with the ever-increasing requests for interviews, concert and record reviews, we were inundated with work which obviously required more people.
“In the beginning it worked out well, but later there were too many captains steering the ship. Everyone had opinions which made business decisions very difficult, especially when you were close to a professional distribution deal.
“Donald and I broke away and continued with Metal Europe. After a while we had a particularly good relationship with the Amsterdam based magazine ‘Rope’. I stayed until this wound up, around 1991-1992.
“As time went on, we became entwined with different priorities in life..family, relationships etc. So, this adventure full of challenging and exciting times, with lots of ups and downs and of course lots of fun too, came to an end.
“Once in a while, I drive to the east of the Netherlands to meet Donald, have some beers together and chew the fat about the good old days…those DAMN good old days.”
Congratulations on the website. I think it is great and I love to check in each month to see who has been added to the list. It is a treasure trove of Metal of that time. What is your inspiration for doing this?
“Thanks. It all started when I left a memory stick behind for the Dutch Guns and Roses Fan Club day at Musicon, a local venue in The Hague where regular concerts are organised. It contained pictures from the notorious Paradiso gig and only a lucky few had seen the band in their early days.
“The reactions were overwhelming and the band’s fan pages on Social Media exploded.
“My wife had advised me a long time ago that I should do something with my archive. Release a book, or something with pictures and written memories of that era. To be honest, I had no appetite to be busy with this, it’s a lot of work and is time consuming.
“I knew this from my experience with the magazine. So, it had to be a website. It is the easiest way to share this legacy, easily accessible for everybody around the world. It is the best way to offer a nice trip down to memory lane.
“Website building is a profession on its own, so I was looking for someone who could help me out. Luckily, Rick Bouwman (guitar player of Martyr) and Koen Bakker (Wayland Management) put me in touch with Robert Lammerding of Media Plantation.
“Robert is well known on the scene for his media concepts and artwork. He designed the website logo, and digitally reworks my images and makes the website happen. His most recent artwork is to be seen on the latest release of Dutch thrash Metal band Usurper, called Evilution.
“Robert and I have our roots firmly planted in the same musical era. Our common background makes it easy to plan the content for the next new edition of Fusewire.
“During our monthly meetings, we also listen to old and new discoveries of bands in the company of a couple of beers. It’s fun, it’s what we enjoy and it keeps us going.”
Fusewire.nl will celebrate its first anniversary in January. Marko is planning something special, so bookmark it now.