October 2, 2023

A bank robbery, punk rock and a nihilist musician who came back from the dead (only to turn himself in to the cops). This is one weird story.

Once upon a time about 35 years ago, there was a French punk rock group called Camera Silens. Its singer was Gilles Berlin, a guy who helped the band attract anarchist punks those on the far left. Berlin was kind of like France’s version of Sid Vicious.

Berlin, his bandmates, and their followers believed they had zero future. They had no money. They were addicted to heroin. Several had contracted HIV from sharing needles.

Sitting around in a squat one night, someone said: “We can either die here in our filth or we can go out with a bang, sticking it to The Man in the process.” So they robbed a bank, making off with about $3 million CAD.

But because they were also stupid and cocky, everyone involved with the heist was caught–except Gilles Berlin. While the sickly punks were all sent to jail and served out their time, Berlin was nowhere to be found. But just to be safe, he was sentenced to ten years in absentia.

After a few years, Berlin was declared dead. But he wasn’t. He took piles of stolen money and opened a record store in Portugal, met a woman and had a son.

Ten years later, he was on the run again, certain that Portuguese and French police were on his trail. After a bout of hepatitis that left him blind in one eye and nearly killed him, Berlin decided to return to France and turn himself in. Imagine the surprise of the lawyer who took his call.

A trial began yesterday in which Berlin, now 57, pled guilty. More details at the BBC. (Thanks to Chris for the tip.)

Here’s what Camera Silens sounded like.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37133 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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