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BETHLEHEM

Dictius Me Spectare

Story online since:  07.10.2007 / 19:17:54
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Bethlehem, is not only the name of a city where Jesus was born and the whole insanity of Christianity came to life. It is also a hyper creative bunch of young/old, partly good looking musicians creating sounds that wanna make you jump off the bridge or some skyscraper, that make you wanna cut yourself with a knife, that make you partly wanna masturbate or even cook rotten eggs with horse worms and mouldy bread.

Bethlehem always went their very own way. In 1994 they released their debut album called "Dark Metal”, which nowadays is a synonym for a whole new sub-genre. Their albums are considered to be idiosyncratic masterpieces with weird and enigmatic lyrics. Jürgen Bartsch, creative head, bassist, lyricist and electronic technician of Bethlehem, a band which has accomplished so much since the formation in 1991. Jürgen Bartsch, a fantastic interlocutor who talks as long and much on the phone as my mother at the hair dressers.

Therefore, we spoke with the inimitable Jürgen Bartsch to find out more about the past, present and future of Bethlehem, his new job, his new hair, and his ideas about…. why don’t you read yourself??


"Mein Weg" has already been released 3 years ago. What has happened in the meantime? Will Bethlehem disciples ever get new fodder?

Sure, in the meantime I am preparing another longplayer together with "Herr Morbid of Forgotten Tomb" which is planned getting recorded at late summer 2008. The recordings should be done at the Priory Recording Studios in England, since I and Greg of "Esoteric" are in contact since the early 90s; we ever wanted doing something together and so will do soon. Later on, the tracks will get their final mix + master in my own mastering studio.

It seems like "Kvarforth of The Shining" & "Théry Jonathan of Ataraxie" will be responsible for the vocals then, specially Théry's vocals could be best described as the original "Landfermann" kinda style, coz they totally sound similar to those ones. Pretty much extreme. Other musicians surely will be "Olaf Eckhardt" for the second guitars again and of course "Stevo" on the drums. A very nice line-up we hopefully also can play life a bit with.

In the last years I more cared bout my side-project called "Stahlmantel", I did different demos for since I started with this shit back in 1999. Stahlmantel is kinda electro thing, ourselves do call it, Dark Industrial Elite Suicide = D.I.E.S. This description of course is totally bollocks like nearly all of em are somehow, but anyway. Without stupid crap like that no one is taking you so serious, right? So give you guys some bone, hope you gonna feel comfortable with.

In 2007 we finished the recordings for our latest demo "Satan Snuff Machine". I again wrote all the music for this, some dark, disturbing and cold mixture of industrial elements in combination with pure metal riffing. A friend of mine from Seattle/USA, known as "Nihilist" wrote all lyrics this time and was responsible for all vocals as well. Pretty disturbing black metal vocals I again have sent thru some distortion effects to let it sound more brutal and cold. Nihilist btw also is singing in "In Memorium" and "Abazagorath", both US bands. "Satan Snuff Machine" already was released in China as a limited edition of 500 CDs and also will be in Poland thru "Metalrulez Prod." with some new layouts + two bonus tracks, this or next month too.

I at the moment also am working on a vinyl re-release of "Dictius Te Necare" for that polish label, which will be done as a very special edition of 66 copies with a T-Shirt and some other crazy shit, and also as a normal release limited to 500 copies or so. All songs are re-mastered and do sound way more brilliant now like on the original version. Check out, personally I wont promote things like that a lot, also wont with Stahlmantel. Prolly check the Stahlmantel website or try at MySpace.

The music on "Mein Weg" has been pretty commercial compared to all your other releases. Could that be a direction for further Bethlehem albums?

I don’t think so. The "commercial" aspect mainly is depending on the different musicians who became part of those recordings. My song writing still is the same one like in the past, never changed anything special with it. But the new guitarist does coz he is playing another guitar style than e.g. Matton once did and surely because of Meyer de Voltaire who brought in something different with his special way of singing. Another difference compared to former albums was, that with "Profane Fetmilch lenzt elf krank" I started to produce Bethlehem releases by myself coz more and more felt so uncomfortable with those wannabe "producers" from the past who basically had no fucken clue how to let it all sound the right way. Still in our re-room we always had a more powerful sound like on any of those 90s albums; specially Landfermann was such a pain in the ass with his digital bullshit productions, never ever will give those things out of hand again.

Guess, a new Bethlehem album will sound different again, surely wont become some "Mein Weg" copy or so, more will become something cold, depressive & disturbing thing again like on the 90s albums, but with a more powerful sound than in the past. I honestly dunno yet, and surely wont care bout this, never before "arranged" things too much, no album ever was "planned", all ideas behind always are coming pretty spontaneous, since we wont do this for money, we always do what we wanna. Without any compromises.

The album before was a fascinating mixture of metal music, weird sound collages and a radio play. Can you tell us more about "Schatten aus der Alexanderwelt"?

"Schatten aus der Alexander Welt" originally was done for the "Filmstiftung NRW" and planned as some short movie for the "Das kleine Fernsehspiel" TV series. I wrote the short story as well as the script. But coz of different personal problems, I don’t wanna mention here, it could not be realized like this and therefore was used for Bethlehem some months later.




How satisfied are you with the realisation of this album, especially concerning the narrators? Sometimes it is hard to transfer own ideas into someone else who is speaking them out, but with another intention than you probably would have spoken… Would you rather have spoken yourself?

Basically I am not quite satisfied with the result to be honest. This surely has many reasons, since my health wasn’t at a good state during the recording sessions; I somehow wasn’t so concentrated as well as motivated like I normally am if working in a studio. Another reason surely was, that things like a new record company, as well as finding actors or narrators in general for that thing, re-writing everything for a more musical concept, the huge pressure caused by people like e.g. Matton who shortly before studio again decided to leave the band, totally disturbed the whole process. We did not had a singer and Meyer de Voltaire came in only two weeks before entering the studio, so there wasn’t time for practising etc. The complete Chaos! And a complete new situation for me, coz it was the first time in my life that I had to work as a director, specially those professional TV actors who spoke the main parts of this radio play were used to work like this. Beside, we also had uninitiated persons who also weren’t used doing things like that before.

So everything became some strange experiment which basically wasn’t planned like that before and although I also spoke one character "Archangel Gabriel", I somehow could not transport nor direct my personal point of view into the whole radio play. Therefore, the once very dark & disturbing mood behind, was destroyed by myself and artistically seen surely became some failure. And surely Prophecy also wasn’t able to pay money for once wanted speakers like e.g. the German voice of Robert De Niro, as well as others who probably would have brought in some more professional touch in general. Anyhow, I wont look back, the album was done the best I could do at that period of time. Specially with all those circumstances working against me.

I know questions about lyrics and their meaning are always stupid, especially when it concerns such an enigmatic poet like you. Still I think that the lyrics are kind of the quintessence of Bethlehem. So I'd like to talk a bit about it. Though I am a native speaker in German I have to admit: I don't understand the lyrics at all. But somehow they have a very strong effect. At first my brain looses its anchors and begins to spin - it's all so strange and distorted. And then your words evoke very strong pictures in my head. So one thing I'd like to know: Do you try to consciously build a meaning in your lyrics? Or are they more transporting an irrational stream out of the sub consciousness? Or do they have a special meaning, but a very personal one that just Jürgen Bartsch can understand?

Not really. All lyrics ever done not only should have some exclusive meaning only for myself. Since I am using a very metaphoric style, everybody who is more interested in some deeper themes than some stupid, metal-cliché oriented crap, surely will find him-/herself back in those ones.

Although every lyric or poem is telling a pretty personal story for me, I sometimes also experienced my words more as some spiritual landscape, some mood, feeling or atmosphere, telling me some different story like the original meaning did. Therefore, everybody who can let these words come close to his/her mind, also will find his/her own very personal meaning behind em. This is wanted but varies alot on the momentary mood of each human, I personally sometimes found myself at a wonderful place in a wonderful space but also in some dark and horrible cave, known as my sometimes own sick mind.

I remember well your description of the Alexander world in an ABLAZE interview long time ago. This has been years before the release of "Schatten aus der Alexanderwelt". Are you still there sometimes? Or has it become a shadow of your past?

Haven’t been there for a while but this wont mean anything. Because the last time I visited my sub consciousness before I started writing about it was when I was a 7 year old child. And there was a break for around 20 years then. So, I am sure that one day the enormous door again will open for me. Cant await it.

Could the Alexander World be described as the dark part of your sub consciousness, your resort out of the boredom of the real world? Maybe a parallel world where strong morphines like heroin are the key for entrance?

I honestly don’t think so. Like I said, it first happened when I was a child and be sure I had no fucken knowledge of drugs during that time. It surely has something in common with my sub consciousness, or could also have with my mental disease.

When I was a child I first started escaping from reality, coz the real one did not offer me so many positive things in general. Since I already have red some very personal things bout my past in the internet, spread by some jerk I should know personally, I don’t wanna comment on those things any longer, somehow wanna keep my personal experiences from the past exclusively for myself. Hope you do understand? Fine.







In the mid 90's there was a picture taken of you giving yourself a shot with the needle. Did you consume drugs at the time? What kind of drugs, did they help to write the music and what is your opinion on drugs today?

Drugs? I am not so sure yet Missy, but aren’t some of em forbidden? Well, I still am a follower of all Christian rules, only eat bread, only drink water and have no sex.



What about the parts in the radio play where the lobster is cooked? Is this a personal memory of you? Would you describe your father as cruel?

Yes its a very personal memory and I don’t wanna comment on this too. Although I already have done in the past. Shame on me.

Many of your lyrics deal with suicide. Can it be a solution?

Totally! Still met many different people in my life who somehow acted very wise by killing themselves instead of go on torturing themselves and their surroundings for further years again. Surely this opinion isn’t wanted so much, coz people say there "always" will be some other "solution". I personally am thinking that this might be right in some cases but in others this surely might not work and instead of suffering in pure pain for the rest of your life, mentally or physically, one better should have the strength to kill oneself.

We also have received many, many letters of folks who somehow found back to life with our suicidal interpretation of music and art and surely this made us all real proud. But personally, I never would see Bethlehem as a "solution" but more as only one aspect for a way out of one’s own misery. Kinda help in suicidal questions, not more. As kinda last resort before killing thyself.



Because of these lyrics you also had problems with the police. How often have the police come to your house to shake you down for "bad material of any kind”? Have they ever found anything they could buttonhole you for?

If I get it right, they "visited" me four times. The first two times they mainly came to my house for interviewing, all other times they took nearly everything with em they could find here, letters, mainly letters, flyer, tapes, drawings, lyrics, CDs, LPs, all that. Nearly got it all back except some records like a Mayhem bootleg with the dead Dead on it, some pics showing me naked, completely covered in blood, some letters with stupid swastika etc. bullshit drawn on em, some old VHS stuff showing early black metal bands during their live shows, or more personal ones. Also never got back the "Sid Vicious" movie on VHS, which damn was shown on TV as well. And surely more stuff I cant remember yet.

In the end I was accused of doing some Terrorist-Network which was based on the worldwide fan-letters I received to that time, as well as some of my lyrics which would spread some "violent theories" in their opinion. The result was that Bethlehem could no longer play shows in the area we lived in, and that Red Stream has to change an album title + the booklet photos. My lawyer said it would be wise doing, otherwise they surely would accuse me again and I surely would get some nice sentence for this shit. The original accuse was smashed at the court, fortunately the judge was pretty "open-minded" and it somehow was possible to explain the artistic concept of Bethlehem and Heavy Metal in general.


You have had many line up changes with Bethlehem. Are you difficult to work with?

I dunno. Am I folks? Personally I wont think so, but this surely depends on whether other musicians ever were comfortable working together with me. Coz me, I sometimes wasn’t and better decided to fire some people coz of e.g. not coming to rehearsals for months, or bringing their personal problems into the band, or acting like real "rock-stars" like Landfermann once did, or did not come to the studio while recording a record, or any other reason.

Some other members fired emselves coz they e.g. were afraid of the success, or wanted to dictate their own silly musical point of view, or whatsoever. Surely this caused many, many problems in the past but since I know that I could work with so many different people these days, I never would care about again.



You’ve been with Redstream for quite a long time, then signed with Prophecy and went back to Redstream. Why the change of label?

I honestly have no clue! Like I said, I wasn’t so comfortable with myself in that period and therefore picked up interests of other band mates too damn quickly. Today I know it was some very huge mistake doing, specially coz I of course had to care bout everything again by exclusively myself although once it was said, that "others" would take more responsibility too. But anyway, guess too many things already were said bout the "partnership" of Bethlehem and Prophecy. So I better wanna close that book forever.

I realized your new haircut on your new Website www.stahlmantel.com , and I realized further the use of third Reich symbols such as the Reich eagle but without the swastika symbol.
Why are you using fascistic metaphorical language? Are you showing sympathy with the National Socialism or do you want to provoke? And why the hair cut?


Well, the "haircut" was done coz I haven’t cut my hair for a long time and they started to more and more "break" at the peaks. Other than that I was bored by always cleaning my flat which was covered with those long, brown hairs everywhere. Somehow it was like I would have a bunch of hundreds of dogs at home. This totally pissed me off. So one day I took some machine and cut em all off, which somehow was like paradise. Meanwhile they still are growing and became longer again although I am not so sure yet whether I again wanna have em hanging around my knees. This sux alot. I am a German Patriot, no doubt. But being a Patriot not directly means being a Fascist.

Those "Fears" exclusively are typical German fears dictated by different foreign countries and their interests keeping Germany controlled. All Germans once in their lives, - mainly at school where one has to study the "right" history written by people who have won the II. World War -, were brain-washed and were manipulated to believe that every thought coming to your mind, whether it’s the idea of the so-called "III. Reich", or some symbols, or maybe clothes, boots, music, art, whatsoever, best can be described with something pretty criminal. Exclusively done to start another World War or to rot everybody who is not e.g. "Arian" or whatever. The brainwash is working really good, you also directly asked me whether I would "sympathize" or "provoke", which is soooooooo typical getting asked over here. Specially over here. But also in nearly all other European country coz people over there also are brainwashed with those subjects. Instead of feeling too guilty they are forced hating us.

So basically whole Europe is manipulated by e.g. the United States of America or Israel. Be sure they are following their own interests and surely wont give a damn, whether this will become traumatic for a population or not. Basically this totally is wanted. Whether I sympathize with National Groups or not, surely wont become a theme here. Using "fascistic metaphorical language" definitely is an interpretation or yourself and I also will not comment on those things here. All I can tell you is, that I am a proud German man who really enjoy living in Germany which for me personally is the best country in the whole world, I have great respect for my Godfathers and Mothers and to no time would deny my cultural and also historical roots, whether they were good or bad.

So if e.g. using symbols of my own culture, I definitely wont feel guilty doing and whether I gonna follow some "political" aspect with this or wont, well this always depends on the things I mentioned here before. I by the way stripped off the chains of mental slavery long time ago, no longer feel guilty of being German and therefore, see myself as some strong, self-assertive, individual, and free member of the global community.

Some years ago I did an interview with you where you disliked the internet and tried to avoid it as much as possible. And now you are having your Stahlmantel.com and Myspace Page going. Was that the reason for the haircut? You changed your opinion about the internet completely?

What the heck ? Hahahaha, great imagination ! Cutting off your hair because of the Internet ? Somehow cool idea, wow ! No I haven’t changed my mind bout the Internet, it surely still is some control system for the dumb, but one also can use it to spread the word around a bit more. Ever used it for e.g. writing emails around the world, which definitely is more comfortable than doing the "writing letters" stuff from the past which on the one hand was expensive doing and on the other got lost so many times. My "Stahlmantel" website wont be visited by people who are interested in Stahlmantel itself, it more is used from a handful of guys, who gonna meet there on the small "Bethlehem forum", I once have opened there.

The Bethlehem Myspace profile at the moment has around 13,000 clicks in a period of four months, but basically this wont mean anything. Never sold any records there, so basically this network is done for really nothing. The Stahlmantel profile was dead since the very beginning. Those new and free "possibilities" only are some other tool of the momentary "Zeitgeist" which totally is impressed by personal prostitution and global entertainment of mainly useless crap. Sure, I would be an idiot if not using this for my own crap too, specially coz I pay for this and also use it for the most important thing in my life, being in a closer connection with my girlfriend who is living in Barcelona/Spain, but it never was the revelation for me in general. Sorry to say.

Just recently you've told me about your new job, similar to Käthe Kruse and Schildkröt, on creating fetish dolls for dominatrix studios etc. Can you send me some pictures for agm.com and tell me how you got the idea of making such dolls? Do you own Käthe Kruse dolls?

No, I don’t and though I somewhere heard this name before, I honestly know nuthing bout "Käthe Kruse dolls". Unfortunately I cant send you photos at the moment, coz my new creation of real seize Fetish Dolls isn’t yet finished. I am sure I will finish the new series till end of December, so if you would agree, I could send new photos to a later date ? Thank you. Well, the idea was born together with a Dominatrix back in 2006, she wanted to open a special studio where beside getting e.g. whipped or humiliated, you also could buy some Fetish Wear or Fetish Latex clothes, fitting you like a second skin. Since I am experimenting with those materials for many years now, I thought it would be some cool idea also doing some more artistic kinda things which surely isn’t exclusively done for Studios or Scenes, but also for people who follow some morbid taste. So, since the end of 2006 I experimented alot with this idea but always failed coz of many, many handicraft- and also copyright problems.

Meanwhile I progressed with my techniques and therefore decided to step away from the original idea and better open my own company called "Body-Drop" which is specialized on creating those special artworks for a wider crowd as well. Like in music, I don’t wanna limit my art to only some special scenes, everybody who wants em, can buy em of course. If you folks should be interested, please contact me under "info@stahlmantel.com".

In 1994 you've called your debut album "Dark Metal". Now many years later a whole scene has developed around this term. It's even mentioned in online encyclopaedias like Wikipedia as a special subgenre of metal. What do you think about that? Can "Dark metal" be seen as an own metal genre? How would you define?

Bethlehem = Dark Metal. Ever was, ever will be. Of course it can be seen as an own genre now, coz it is. Although in my opinion, some bands did not get the original meaning behind and just called it like that although playing just e.g. usual black metal.

On the other hand bands like The Shining, Silencer, Forgotten Tomb, Abyssic Hate and many, many more somehow understood the intension behind and since they call it "Suicidal Dark Metal" which basically is the same term, they all interpreted it in a very special, unique and grateful manner. Which of course honours us a damn lot, specially coz we are the original creators of some new sub-genre, followed by so many people these days.

So basically, beside some old German bands like e.g. "Can" or "Kraftwerk", also "Bethlehem" created something not known before and therefore helped to progress a worldwide musical genre. This is more than we ever expected. Amen.

Katja Honeywine

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