87-06-27 (Netwerk) Ripcord – Napalm Death – Ear Damage

Filed under: Netwerk, Aalst — Tags: , , , , , — smurfpunx @ 17:25

Smurfpunx (Aalst 87, Ripcord)

When I got the flexi-disc (‘The Damage is Done’) from the British band ‘Ripcord’ from Onno Hesselink (‘Peace or Annihilation’ fanzine), little did I know this was gonna be the start of an amazing decade. I was blown away by their music and found myself phoning them, to see if they could come over to play a gig. Their drummer John’s mom called him out of his room and we ended up agreeing that I would try and get them some concerts in Europe… I had never organised a tour before but hey, “If I can do it in my hometown, I can do it anywhere!”, no?! After a few talks with John the next weeks, I heard they were gonna come over with ‘Napalm Death’, a band I didn’t know at that time… ‘Heibel’s singer Bollie informed me they played ultra-fast and had one of the wildest drummer’s he’d ever seen…

The first gig on the tour was gonna be in ‘De Marbel’ in my hometown Tielt, where I had set up a few great gigs already. Unfortunately, the place got closed down because of some fights (If I remember correctly at one of the anniversary-shows of ‘The Dirty Scums’: a drunk threw a bottle at a police-van and a whole bunch were taken to the police-station while a riot-squad blocked the street and the venue.)… Disaster!

At that time I was already friends with ‘Hate Crew’ (a band that my own ‘Repulsives’ played quite a lot of gigs with). Some of them were doing concerts with a group of people called Smurfpunx. I had already been to some of them and think ‘Repulsives’ already had played for them too at that time… Anyway I called Duco… He remembers me nervously asking to help me out. This was the start of me joining the Smurfpunx collective.

The ‘Ripcord’ / ‘Napalm Death’ bill was the beginning of their first ‘European tour’ [Baz mentions in ‘Trapped in a Scene’ that Armin Hofmann set it up but it was me. A. helped with a few german contacts. See Brob’s tours]. Arriving in the port of Zeebrugge, they found themselves unable to ‘import’ their guitars and amps (no certificates) so they had to leave the van with all their gear behind and some nice (Onno, Kockie, Kris F. & Natasja H. ?) folks drove from the concert-place to go and pick ‘em up so they could play that gig. I can remember panicking at first but I only had to cancel one show (in Eindhoven) the next day because we could arrange the paper-work for the gear so they could depart for Germany, Switzerland,… anyway. They played their Smurfpunx gig with the instruments and over the backline of a Belgian band… I remember they had to re-arrange the strings of a guitar because one of them was left-handed.

If I remember correctly the ‘Napalm’-ers at that time were Mick Harris (drums), Lee Dorrian (vocals; later ‘Cathedral’), Bill Steer (guitar; later ‘Carcass’) and Jim Whiteley (bass; later ‘Ripcord’, ‘Filthkick’, etc.). Not a lot of people had heard of the band at that time. They had just finished the recordings for the Scum LP… ‘Ripcord’ had recorded the track for the Defiance Of Power LP but I don’t think it was out yet; at that time the band was: John Millier (drums), Steve ‘Baz’ Ballam (guitar), Brian ‘Buzby’ Birchell (vocals) and Steve Hazzard (bass).

The driver that had to take the ferry back to arrange the paperwork for the backline was Tony May (‘Wretched’ bassist)…


It was our (‘5Les’) backline. We had been rehearsing in the morning that day and everything was in our car. We even went to pick ‘em up in Zeebrugge: the van couldn’t get through customs because they missed a couple of stamps and papers.

I still wake up screaming at night with the thought of what volume the ND guitarist played my amp…

Onno H.

Thank you Brob for setting up the ‘Ripcord’ + ‘Napalm Death’ tour [6 gigs in 8 days: Aalst (Bel), Eindhoven (Nl) had to be cancelled because of the customs-story, Arnhem (Nl), Dortmund (Ger), Hamburg (Ger), Geislingen (Ger), Zug (Swi) ], it was a great experience and one we’ll néver forget! It went well and we were paid, fed and cared for ay every gig – so that as great. Next time we will make sure all the customs-forms, etc. are checked/stamped befóre we leave England! If it hadn’t been for everyone’s great kindness and organisation, we may never have got to play at all… Thanks for all that you’ve done.

John Millier, ‘Ripcord’ (personal communication ’87)

‘Ripcord’ – original line-up; pics by Kockie:

Steve – Buzby – Baz – John – ?

These ‘Ripcord’ photographs are taken on the first visit to Belgium (June ’87) as Steve (bass) / Buzby (vocals) were no longer in the band for the gigs in ’88.

There’s an additional page with extra photos of ‘Ripcord’ & ‘Napalm Death’.

Not a great start to a European adventure when you’re denied entry to mainland Europe because of some bullshit bureaucratic technicality. We were allowed into Belgium but equipment had to be returned to the UK along with the hire van & driver because in our ignorance we had neglected to have our ‘EEC Carnet’ docket officiated – we had to have this paperwork stamped to ensure that we weren’t going to sell our gear in the European mainland!? Why a touring band would wish to sell their gear is beyond me; it wasn’t as if any of us had any money to even upgrade anything! ? All of us had to beg and borrow money just to be able to pay for van-hire, ferry-tickets, fuel…  I think we had a few records to sell just in case things got really desperate. Saving us from a potentially disastrous situation before we’d even started the tour was a measure of the diligence and organisational skills of the ‘Smurfpunx ‘crew. They ensured that we were able to still make it to Aalst via various vehicles and helpful people. On arrival we were thankfully able to borrow the services of other peoples’ gear as we had no guitars, backline or drums whatsoever. The option of re-stringing a right-handed bass to accommodate my left-handed needs was deemed too troublesome & time-consuming so I (vaguely) remember just sitting on a beer-crate trying to follow what the rest of the band was doing – I couldn’t actually play standing up because the guitar-strap proved to be too problematic because of the shape of the bass. It’s best to be mindful that I was at best a very incompetent ‘musician’ (I still am, ha ha) and so I was placed in quite an awkward situation. Hopefully the PA operative would have just turned the bass off to the audience, ha ha…? ‘Ripcord’ had played a really tight and impressive set and I think that after we (‘Napalm Death’) performed, I was already sitting under a black cloud so I remember drowning my frustrations with free-flowing beer and sympathetic company. It transpired to be a great night; myself and Lee (Dorrian) I think managed to drink the entire beer-supply in the venue – more in a social manner than blatant hedonism – we weren’t exactly discouraged by the folks we were having a great time with! Wow, so this is how things are done in mainland Europe: appreciative audiences, actually getting money from gigs to buy food & fuel and free beer too?!! For someone stepping out from the Thatcher-ravaged economically bipolar UK it was quite a change from what we were accustomed to. On that last note then I don’t think that things have changed very much sadly…

Jim Whiteley ( ‘Napalm Death’ bassplayer)



  1. Great to see ‘Ear Damage’ on this flyer!!!

    Comment by Dirk — 09/07/2009 @ 09:53

  2. Haha, if memory serves correctly the ‘Ripcord’ gig in Dortmund, Germany (which I helped organise), was chaos and fun too; there was a hold-up at the Dutch/German border because customs were suspicious about those folks in the van and cars. Arriving in Germany we found the venue to be the club-house of a gardeners-colony; we had to put two dining-tables together (covered with an old carpet) to putthe drums on. Gardeners passing by surely seemed a little shocked.

    Comment by Bernd 'Battlefield' Backhaus — 06/24/2010 @ 10:06

  3. Great fun to read Jim Whiteley’s take on the bass he got to borrow.
    On the ‘Ripcord’ pics both bass and guitar were mine… Markus used my bass for some time after destroying his own 4-string.

    Comment by Dirk — 07/20/2010 @ 13:33

  4. Those photos bring back memories of great times spent with all the mad Belgians and others at the shows in Aalst. ‘Ripcord’ played there three times over the years we were together (I think). The shows were always well attended, which wasn’t what we were used to coming from England. Just to back up what Jimmy has already written: because of various ‘fuck ups’ en route we wouldn’t have even made that first gig if it hadn’t have been for the immense organisation and generosity of the Smurfpunx who came all the way to Zeebrugge to pick us up and ferry us in various cars to the show, whilst our driver Tony (‘Sacrilege’ bassist) had to travel back with the van and gear to the U.K. to get the relevant paperwork stamped – what a logistical nightmare! The good times certainly outweighed the bad tho’…

    Comment by John, 'Ripcord' drummer — 01/15/2012 @ 17:18

  5. ‘Ripcord’ interview in Onno Hesselink’s fanzine Peace Or Annihilation #10

    Comment by Brob Tilt! — 08/18/2013 @ 08:39

  6. Tony May from ‘Sacrilege’ drove the van…

    Comment by Bernd Backhaus — 09/18/2015 @ 15:48

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: