The story of Victim started in June 1978 when Staf De Peuter and Gust Meerts decided to disband theirband Mustang and start a new group named Hassle. They left guitar player Jef Sas (b.1951.08.08) and singer Willy Vissers (b.1952.11.27) disillusioned and so this duo immediately decided to form their own band simply named Victim, as that was exactly how they felt at that time. They were very ambitious and really wanted to be more successful than Hassle who was by then in the local press called a super-group.
Willy and Jef were on the lookout for fellow musicians and Guy De Bock (b.1957.11.27) from Noorderwijk was the first to join the band. His previous group Anthem; a flower-power style outfit with his mates Luc Canters and Chris Peeters, had been split up already some time ago. Therefore he used to practise a lot at home, while the window from his garret was open for the entire neighbourhood to hear. It was obvious that he was the right man because just as the others his favourite music was hard-rock.
On bass guitar it was Mil Daems from Minderhout, who was asked to join Victim. To find a keyboard-player, they placed an ad in the local paper and the 16 year old Coen Van Hoof from Halle was the first to call.
Coen (b.1961.12.03) had just moved from Germany where his parents worked, to live with his uncle in Belgium. He had tried to study classical music for some months but soon found out that this wasn’t his cup of tea. When he was supposed to play a well known piece for a test he played something he had written himself and before he knew, he was to his delight, thrown out.
From then on he took a daily job constructing, which allowed him to play whatever he wanted in his free time. In Germany he had played all kinds of stuff; (church-) choirs included. But there he also played with several musicians who were in Germany to do their military service, so that he quickly found out that hard-rock was what he liked the most. He really was determined to find a band that played his favourite music.
Coen: “But when Willy and Jef finally came to listen in my uncle’s café, my hands did shake like a leaf when I played them some self penned music. To my delight they seemed to like what they heard…”. He certainly impressed the others with his technical ability on the Hammond.
This five piece started rehearsing, the first song they played together was UFO’s “NaturalThing”; but they soon found out there was missing a second guitar to play some of the heavier songs.
Another even more important thing that was missing was a professional sound and light technician. They decided to ask Marc Costermans but he only wanted to take the job if the band asked Staf De Peuter to join Victim. After some arguing they decided to invite Staf to one of the rehearsals. Staf was a bit suspicious at first but after hearing this five piece play he became very enthusiastic.
He took the offer to join, as he already knew then, that Hassle really wasn’t going to happen for him. Light-engineer Marc Costermans brought along his friend Herman Bellens to do the sound and together they did put a lot of money in a decent light-show. Not only the lights were important, the band also decided to buy their proper PA-system to be sure to always have the perfect sound they required.
Things went fast from then on; the following weeks they rehearsed a lot of cover-songs as by the end of December the first gigs were already planned. A lot of people welcomed their old heroes on December 24th when finally Victim played their first show at Meerle’s Bombardon. With here Dré Van Miert (who had seen the potential from this new band right away) behind the sound desk, people were surprised to hear an already professionally sounding band on their very first show.
Everybody felt great about the vibe surrounding this new band, especially the boys themselves and at every rehearsal they tried to work on some new songs to stretch the play-list, still mainly cover songs (UFO, Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath…). It was Dré Van Miert who came with the idea to record a single. Although he worked for Luc Derdins’s Monopole label he was allowed to have his own sub-label which he named Racoon records.
The band took off to Monopole’s Tamara King studios at Heist Op Den Berg to record “Lady Love” the only song they had written, together with a Heavy Metal Kids cover-song from 1977 for the B-side. An De Bruyn, a friend of the band who had a really strong voice sang backing vocals on this “Sqaulliday Inn”, while she also did some of the artwork for the sleeve.
Both songs had a good balance between guitar and keyboards and were a good indication of Victim’s future to come. This first piece of vinyl was presented on June 2nd, 1979 at Rijkevorsel’s Pelikaan and on that same evening the famous Dutch hardrock-dj Alfred Lagarde (he had a weekly radioshow on Hilversum 3 named “betonuur”) was asked to play some records in between the two Victim-sets.
He was very impressed by this Belgian music and therefore played the single several times on the air.
A major event for this young band was the announcement of being support act (together with Tails Blue) for Thin Lizzy at Vosselaar’s Townhal.
Willy remembers: “the management required a “Space-Roland” echo-chamber for Lynott’s bass, which I went buying myself, although 29000 Belgian Francs was a lot of money those days”. But unfortunately Thin Lizzy didn’t show up when a packed hall was waiting after both support bands had played! The promoter Xavier Dries finally found Lizzy in some Antwerp hotel, completely drunk and unable to play. The management pretended the stage wasn’t big and high enough so the organisation had to give everybody their money back.What had to be a highlight that day in may 1979, turned out to be a real disappointment; although everybody had seen a fine Victim show;…when they left the stage that night, the ceiling was burned completely black…..
The offers for concerts kept coming (one of the first was supporting Dutch band Teaser with guitar-player Adje Vandenberg) but even more important were both (first in Buggenhout and finally in Bree) pre-selections for the “Rock Bilzen-amateurconcours”.
While the first one was rather easy to win; the final had all great-sounding bands on stage. As there were three categories to win it was not really a surprise that Victim won the press-prize. They had not only convinced the audience with their music and their professional presentation (fireworks!) but certainly also the jury who were impressed by the many fans (two busses came along!) who supported them since the very beginning. As they had to play a second show that evening they only heard they’d won later that night, when two fans arrived with the good news. Responsible for those fireworks were the two roadies Herman Bellens (who did the PA-sound) and especially Marc Costermans.
They helped the boys on every rehearsal and arranged the lightshow, fireworks and explosives. Those days that stuff was not exactly ready to use; it was self-fabricated with gunpowder they had to buy in England, while after a lot of trying in their backyard it was finally prepared for stage-use. No use telling it was in fact really dangerous but luckily only a few small accidents (Lille and Herenthout’s Lux’) happened during those years.
Long before a dry-ice machine existed, Victim already played with a smoke screen created by melting real ice and even before that, with a self fabricated steam-kettle. Guy about this: “a Victim show had to be a real spectacle just as with those foreign acts and soon we were known as ‘those guys with the fireworks’; Victim without fire and smoke just wasn’t the same…”
The prize for winning the “Bilzen concours” was the opening spot on the stage of Belgium’s biggest festival which happened on 19th of august; the third festival day. Although Jef and Staf had been there to play Rock Bilzen two years earlier with Mustang, the boys were quite nervous looking at the large scale everything seemed to be…
Willy explains: “everything was bigger than we were used to; for instance the caravan next to ours was from a totally unknown band announced as “surprise-act”. They really had an impressive rack full of guitars outside their door, which seemed to us really over the top, but that sounds these days quite normal when the band in question was called Molly Hatchet! But we certainly could not complain as we were able to use the complete mixing-desk…”. Despite the nerves, the band delivered well (with a truckload of explosives!) and got rave reviews in the newspapers and leading music magazines such as Oor and Humo.
That afternoon, they finally got their trophy (in the form of a gold record) for winning the contest, after which they had to hurry to the centre of the Bilzen village where they played their second gig that day.
This was a well known programme that recorded concerts themselves; but it surely was special that they chose to record two practically unknown bands! It was together with the band Flyte (with whom they would later share their rehearsal-space at an old milk factory in Wortel) recorded in December 1979 at the Rex Theatre in Essennear the border.
The Victim broadcast, somewhere in 1980, lasted for only one song (“Home Every Weekend”) which made it a bit disappointing after such a long day sound-checking. Another Dutch national radio show was “Stampij” with dj Hanneke Kappen who also used to play the Victim single regularly.
To anticipate on these fine reviews the band recorded two more of their songs at Tamara King Studio’s: “Home Every Weekend” and “Can’t Get Enough” this time coached by Bob Bobott from Belgium’s well known band The Pebbles.
Coen remembers this recording: “We weren’t that fond of playing in the studio, but after all things happened quite fast and we didn’t need a lot of takes to put it right on tape, so Dréwas certainly happy with it…” Released and financed once more by Dré Van Miert on his Racoon label, this 7” (once again on 500 copies) was housed in a picture sleeve showing the lads proudly on motorbikes.
Here the music was as good as the looks and both new songs where characterised by excellent riffs, but had this time, the keyboards some more in the back. This new 45-er was presented in Beerse on February 2nd 1980 and once more with Alfred Lagarde as special guest.
Around the same time Marc and Herman suggested it would be a good idea to start a real Victim fanclub; which everyone thought was a good idea; especially Jef Roos who took the job with both hands! Later Jef Roos helped managing the band; something all members took care of those first years. A lot of concerts were organised by the band itself and promoted as “fanclub event”.
The Victim merchandise sold well, but unlike other (Belgian) bands they really had a wide variety of different stuff (2 different T shirts, bags, wallets, etc…)
After the third show they played together with Alfred Lagarde he offered the band a deal on the Dutch record label “Backdoor Records”. Willy about this opportunity: “we rejected this offer not only as the financial risk for us was far too high, but Backdoor also asked no less than twenty original Victim-songs to choose from; we simply didn’t had that much songs yet!”.
Therefore the boys once more concentrated on playing memorable concerts. The set-list was really expanded and sometimes a Victim show lasted 2,5 hours!
They all had chosen some special tunes such as “Angel Theme/Tower” (Angel), “Eyes of The World” (Rainbow), “Destined To Die” (The Boys), “Secret Of The Dance” (Gillan), “Mean Business” (Whitesnake), “Black Rose” (Thin Lizzy), “Lazy – complete with guitar/keyboard-duel” (Deep Purple) and also a lot of Foghat and UFO tunes. Besides these cover-tunes Victim started working hard to come up with quite a few self penned new songs as they knew a recording would be the next big step to take.
However just when everything seemed to go the right way, dark clouds gathered above the band: After their show in Hoogstraten (June 14th, 1980) Mil and Staf decided to leave. Staf wanted to give his old band Mustang another try and Mil followed Staf to Mustang, but only to play a few rehearsals.
Some Victim gigs that were already booked were cancelled, as the search for replacements started. The first new member to join was bass-player Ivo Sas (b.1959.05.18.) from Lille. Ivo had played in a local rock outfit named System and despite his name he was no family at all from the Victim guitar player.
Jef had decided he would play the guitar-parts alone to leave some more space for Coen’s keys. They rehearsed like hell while that same time they got the opportunity to start recording their new songs in the “Nightingale Studio” in Berchem.
Behind the deskstood Eric De Weerdt, who a few years back used to play guitar in a band called Fetish. The idea was to have a good sounding recording which could be picked up by a record company to release as Lp. Those recordings were spread over several months as it was hard to finance it all. But once again the line-up had to change; Guy De Bock could not longer make time for his musical commitments. So this time they were on the look-out for a drummer. It was already early November when they found Wim Heireman (b 1958.11.18) from Turnhout, formerly with symphonic rockers Brain Trust.
The following five months this new band rehearsed 3 times a week to be ready for their first concert on March 7th, 1981. As it turned out, this new Victim-incarnation really kicked ass on this first reunion with their fans. As an extra feature, they had once more expanded the visual aspect of the show. And even more was to come…
At their 5th show in Rijkevorsel they used for the first time another “hot” gimmick: two giant flames from gas-burners connected to a gas-cylinder. Those were made with automatic ignition so that they were completely adjustable concerning the height of the flames (during “I’m On Fire”).
Not every hall owner was pleased when he saw those boys arrive with their giant gas-bottles and therefore they hid the bottles in big mirror boxes. These flame throwers were constructed by Coen himself, while Herman made the electric part of it. Bob Schoenmaekers was the roadie who operated this whole installation.
Besides the fireworks, the “rainbow” (during “Over The Rainbow”) and the “star-curtain”, it was especially the lighted Victim-logo that was the absolute eye-catcher at the concerts. The logo was really sophisticated with three separate parts with mirrors on the inside. Every letter could be lit separately which gave the lightning technician a lot of possibilities. Being a Victim roadie was for Herman and Marc almost a full time job as Jef remembers: “Those guys were much more nervous then we were. They were up since early in the morning to buy the ice for the smokescreen, while during the two hour show itself they had to be 100% concentrated as in every (!!!) song they used a different special effect. Even the portable synthesizer that Coen was using during one song, did spit fire!”
More concerts followed, as well as some support gigs for Highway Chile, Vengeance and Raven. At a gig in Schoten, the hall’s fire-alarm set off and the sprinklers gave everybody in the hall a shower!
The cover songs were still in the set-list but were no longer the major part of the show. Some that were played very occasionally were Black Sabbath’s “Die Young”, Triumph’s “Blinding Light Show”, Montrose’s “I’ve got The Fire” or even an Iron Maiden tune. “Secret Of The Dance”, “Love To Love” and “Mean Business” stayed part of the regular Victim show.
Besides playing live the boys continued working on their studio recordings at Nightingale.
Wim played new drums on those and in the summer of 1982 seven songs were finally finished. “Killer”, “Long Black Night”, “Innocent Girls”, “Nightriders”, “Over The Rainbow”, “I’m On Fire” and “Are You free Tonight”. Some other songs that were already on the play-list for monthswere: “Back On The Road Again”, “We Are Tonight”, “Is This Happiness”, “Black Lonely Girl” and “Plan To Kill”. Those were as good as the others and would surely have been recorded if there would have been more money.During 1982 they had also come up with a few new songs that were not yet played live; “The Last Bird On Earth” and “Like Ice In The Sun” were longer compositions (eight and nine minutes!) that showed a softer and more symphonic side of Victim.
A lot of plans were made those days: someone suggested the idea of a compilation album with four Belgian bands on it. Ostrogoth and Treason were found to go along with that idea, but when a decent fourth group could not be found, the whole project was called off by lack of funds. The Nightingale recordings were later played for Alfie Falkenbach from Mausoleum Records, who was indeed interested to release them. There was even a first draw of the album sleeve made.
But before this could happen, an argument between a roadie and Coen made this last one decide to leave the band. A few weeks later the same thing happened with Ivo and Wim as they had an argument with Willy & Jef, so that Victim broke up for the second time in September 1982.
Once again bad luck for Victim as Jef recalls: “As we waited for Mausoleum we did not send a lot of those studio tapes to record companies, while just after the split it wasn’t right anymore because it contained Coen’s keyboards…although I was determined to continue…”. Singer Willy announced to stop the band, but after a few weeks he was convinced by Jef to restart the band with new musicians and a second guitar player.
The others Ivo Sas and Wim Heireman had immediately teamed up with Coen Van Hoof and started rehearsing in Rijkevorsel to form a new band.
To play the guitar they asked Bart Heynen (b.1966.05.05) (from Turnhout). Bart was really talented and since the age of 14 he had played in Giant Flush, his first real band. Together with Dirk Baeten, Eric De Witte and Dennis… he then played heavy cover-songs from bands such as Trust (“Antisocial”), Riot (“Road Racin’”) or Neil Young (“Hurricane”).
Since 1981 he played in an as yet unnamed band together with Peter Heireman, Wim’s brother and a guy named Frank. With this second band he also played UFO tunes (“Lights Out” & “Rock Bottom”) and heavier stuff as Iron Maiden’s “Prowler”.
Finally playing with those ex-Victim musicians was quite a big step as Bart saw it then: “I remember when I was 14, I saw a Victim concert in Vosselaar, and they were incredibly good. They even had the balls to play UFO songs as “Doctor Doctor” and “Love To Love”….I really thought wow, as Michael Schenker was one of my all time favourites…”
The new unnamed “ex-Victim” band wrote only a few originals and rehearsed cover-songs as well; one of them was the Journey classic “Wheel In The Sky”. Also Coen remembers this six month period: “We were aware that things would end if we didn’t found a real singer soon, but we had no prospect yet when Bart got the offer from the others…”
During those months Victim drafted in some new recruits; firstly bassist Raf Van Herk (from Retie). Willy knew Raf as he had produced a single from Raf’s previous band “De Foempers” (“kaj blues”) where he had played the bass really powerful.
And finally their old friend drummer Guy De Bock also returned to his former band.
By the end of 1983 Victim roadie Bob Schoenmaekers suggested to ask Bart Heynen who played with the other three ex-Victim musicians and this seemed like the next big step for Bart as he recalled: “playing with Victim musicians was one thing, playing with Victim itself, was then a real opportunity for me as this band was known by everyone over here…” Bart, still only 17 years old, was really fond of making it in the world of heavy rock. He practised every day for hours and it was amazing to see a 17 year old with so much charisma flying over his fret board. It took a while for the new Victim to become accustomed to one another, but with a twin-guitar line-up replacing the keyboards it was clear that these guys wanted to play the so popular real “heavy metal” from now on.
They were looking to the future with renewed optimism and three months later they were in the Nightingale studio again, to dub the keyboard parts (with Bart’s guitar) from some of the already recorded tapes. In February 1984 a demo tape with four of the re-recorded songs (“Long Black Night”, “Nightriders”, “I’m On Fire” and “Over The Rainbow”) was made in an ultimate attempt to gain some attention. Those songs were also supposed to be released on a 12” by a Belgian heavy-metal fanzine but after all nothing happened. A proper release was a must to put the group right back into competition, and all hope was once more on Mausoleum records.
But it didn’t turned out that way and the only thing left was gigging whenever the possibility arose. In May 1984 in the manege in Dessel they finally hit the stage again.
The newly written songs (like “Hollywood” or “Electric Sun”) were also much heavier than the older ones. Jef about this: “with this third line-up it would have been the right moment to enter the studio because we had the songs and would were able to record an album really fast…”.
Lots of concerts followed including three in Holland (Nijmegen, Vigelen, Veghel) This Dutch mini tour turned out to be extremely successful with everywhere excited audiences. Bart remembers: “in those days everything was about having fun for me; I can remember at one of those Dutch gigs somebody had changed my water by vodka and I wasn’t used to drink alcohol so at the end of the gig when the others were already backstage I continued playing a solo sitting on a Dutchman’s shoulders….no idea who finally stopped me…”
Although there were a lot of Victim original-songs, still people kept asking for cover-songs. New on the setlist were Manowar’s “Battle Hymn” and Gary Moore’s “Hiroshima”. They still had a lot of fans; there were some dates when a complete German delegation turned up to see Victim. The boys also convinced a lot of people when they were playing festivals like at Geel’s Heavy Metal festival or Poederlee’s Hegge Rock in the summer of 1985. Mausoleum Records also promised to work on a European tour together with Killer including dates in Poland and the UK but once more this fine plan fell apart due to lack of finances.
So as it transpired, Victim appears to have called it a day a few months later in April 1986.
Right before this they played two (Turnhout and Heist Op Den Berg, while a third was cancelled) shows with Warhead and Germany’s Expect No Mercy who were organised to promote the double compilation lp “The Mausoleum Collection”. This album contained Victim’s “I’m on Fire” but it never got an official release (although even the cover design was finished!) as on October 22, 1986 Mausoleum Records was officially declared bankrupt as rumours had already suggested for weeks. This Mausoleum downfall was also the end of the band as everybody had put his hope on an lp release and the disappointment just was too big to get everyone motivated again.
Jef looks back: “it’s extremely difficult to keep five people motivated and pointing out in the same direction as we tried during eight years, maybe I haven’t done enough as now it feels that we left some opportunities…”. Nevertheless Guy thinks about it with no regrets; “the only mistake we made was being too modest; we never took the step to look for a real professional management; something that possibly had made a difference…”
From then on Willy Vissers did try out a few bands that were on the lookout for a singer but when his old colleagues from Tails Blue asked to rejoin, he took the offer and was on stage with the band in April 1987 to support British rockers Magnum.
Willy: “but a weekly Tails Blue rehearsal wasn’t satisfying enough for me. That’s why I asked the others to start a new cover group to secure us a few gigs a month, as for me standing on stage was the main reason of being musician…”. Besides his Tails Blue mates Jan Van Dessel(drums), Luc Van Dessel (guitar) and Wim Wouters (bass), Rock Circus as this band was called, started off with two keyboard-players: Coen Van Hoof (ex-Victim) and Luc Van Den Heyning (ex-Tails Blue). They both stayed only for a few rehearsals and were replaced by another ex-Tails Blue musician: Koen Bergmans while Guy De Bock replaced Jan Van Dessel. That line-up was later expanded with Willy’s brother Ronny when an Everly Brothers song asked for an extra voice.
There were also a few different girls who helped singing lead during the years while finally also Chris Peeters joined to replace Ronny Vissers. Rock Circus was extremely successful and played during more than ten years for thousands of people.
In 1998, The Explosions was another “sixties” cover-band Willy & Guy had grounded with some different musicians than Rock Circus. Two years later Willy helped out the band Brain trust from his old colleague Wim Heireman,to sing a few concerts as a temporary replacement. Around 2002 he formed a new southern based blues-rock band, Steamboat Willy with Coen Van Hoof on keyboards, Guy De Bock on drums & vocals, Karel Leysen on leadguitar, Dani Boenders on guitar & vocals and Frans Anthonis on bass.
This band recorded one demo tape and despite a tasteful set-list (Gary Moore, Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynnyrd…) they weren’t so successful. So for that reason he opted for a more rocking sound under the name Force it. Once more a short-lived band, this time without keyboards and with Staf De Peuter (ex Victim) on guitar.
Together with Staf, Willy also played the pubs under the name Carte Blanche.
The last “Willy Vissers” project was a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band with both Staf and Karel Leysen on guitar but this one also didn’t get out the door of the rehearsal room.
Next to his Rock Circus and Steamboat Willy adventure, Guy De Bock recorded a demo with his new cover-band, Undercover, one of the best classic-rock bands in Belgium.
Staf De Peuter can only be seen on stage these days with his hobby-rock & roll group Michael Curly’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.
After Victim and the six months rehearsal without name, Coen Van Hoof joined a local group Saptemband who played pop-music only for fun, although this band was really creative in writing music. “Fun and friendship were the things what it was all about by then and believe it or not, I even ended up playing with a local reggae band…” remembers Coen. In 1985 he was asked by Jos Antonissen (ex Rancid) to form a new hard-rock band. Jan had seen Coen playing when Victim supported the Dutch band Highway at the end of the seventies. This new band became Emergency and in 1989 they managed to release the album “Martial Law” on BMG Ariola records. Indeed a remarkable effort that gained a lot of good press reviews but unfortunately failed to produce the necessary hit-single. A year before this, at the end of 1988 Coen got an offer to join Dutch rockers Zinatra to play keyboards on their European tour as support to David Lee Roth. He took this adventure with both hands, learned the songs in 14 days and got on the bus for two months… “I will never forget that final date of the tour in Brussels when I never had been so ill in my life but still played the gig with a 40° fever on stage behind my keyboard…”
Right before Emergency would start writing for the second album they fell apart, for what’s called “musical differences”. Coen was really disappointed, not only about the band but also about the whole music business and all the things that had nothing to do with making music in the first place. He unfortunately decided to sell all his gear….. In 1997 he started playing again with some local friends in a new rock-band named Empty Head. From there on he enjoyed music again and played different styles in different bands: southern rock with Steamboat Willy, soul with The Keyphonics (with also Jan Van Dessel on drums), country rock with Runaway Train (with ex Emergency Frans Limonard) and disco with Smooth Favouralthough he would certainly not say no to join a good hardrock band these days.
Since the early eighties Mil Daems played in a few bands but only for amusement while second bass player Ivo Sas was seen in the nineties with an 11 piece soul/blues band.
Wim Heireman returned again to his old love Brain Trust.
Bart Heynen started playing jazz with Freddy Sunder right after Victim, he was even offered a spot in the BRT-jazz orchestra but refused. “This was maybe a chance of a lifetime but I simply didn’t felt good enough for it, as besides the three years before my seventeenth birthday, I hadn’t really studied music yet”, he remembers. So he started studying jazz-music in Rotterdam and later in Brussels where he graduated but wasn’t seen in the rock scene anymore because he became a guitar teacher (at “jazzstudio”). From time to time he also took a “job” as touring with singer Helmut Lotti, Ramses Shaffy or the “ballet Van Vlaanderen”. Since 1996 he stopped using his guitar as profession….
Jef Sas stopped making music and became a successful businessman.
Since 2005 rumours occurred once again that the victim boys would hit the stage for a one off reunion gig; but until now nothing concrete happened…
7” Lady Love / Squalliday Inn (racoon records RR 113 — 1979)
7” Home Every Weekend / Can’t Get Enough (racoon records RR 120 — 1980)
Lp The Mausoleum Collection (mausoleum records BALLS 833233 — 1986)
-I’m On Fire