Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Nigdy się nie damy! (We Will Never Give Up!) by Radioactive Rats.

Polish punk has a long and impressive history, emerging under totalitarian Communism in the 1980s and seen as a threat by the government, it learnt to survive in hostile conditions. The end of State Communism made things easier for Polish punks but it was still viewed with suspicion by many and being a Polish punk in the 90s wasn’t an easy option as “Travelling to bigger places in Poland…a lot of people would like to hit you for looking different!”(1). Despite official and unofficial opposition Polish punk thrived in the 80s and 90s producing bands like Dezerter, Homomilitia, Siekiera and Apatia.   
In 2003 a bunch of young punks formed Potluczony Kaloryfer (Smashed Radiator) in the Polish town of Namyslow, fast forward to 2013 and the assorted Smashed Radiators, now living in the UK, decided to reconstitute the band and give it another go playing their first British gigs in 2014. After a couple of gigs a change of name seemed like a good idea and Potluczony Kaloryfer became Radioactive Rats, a name chosen as “Rats are very cute and very smart but disliked and seen as a threat… a little bit like punk rockers!”(2) according to lead singer Ewa Zablocka. The next year or two saw a couple of personnel changes with new drummer Bartosz Gilewski, and additional  guitarist Marek Stepien, previously of Snowball Ambush(2), joining Ewa, Josef Borach (guitar) and Kubczak Zablocki (bass).
Spending the last few years getting out and gigging-they played 14 shows in 2017- Radioactive Rats have developed their danceable riff laden sound, which has become harder and heavier, into an all encompassing experience as the twin guitarists wander into the crowd and the music infuses you with a sense of exhilaration, anger, hope and frustration. Which raise lots of questions as most of the lyrics are in Polish! How does the communication of those universal experiences and emotions work across language (and culture)? The intonation of a voice? The structure of the music? Is the person next to me sensing the same things?!   
Over that time they’ve also been writing and recording and in December 2017 self released a mighty 8 track CD Nigdy się nie damy!-(We Will Never Give Up!)- consisting of 5 self penned tracks and 3 covers.
With all the guitars and vocals recorded at home on a very small budget Nigdy się nie damy! somehow manages to capture the sound of 5 piece Radioactive Rats in full flow so intrigued I asked Marek how they had pulled it off, about his academic background and whether it had come in handy and also asked Ewa to explain a bit more about the songs.
Marek: Yes, I have MEng in Electronics and Telecommunications majoring in Acoustics and my Master’s thesis was about Home Recording. Having a theoretical basis and already some experience in home recording (the demo of my previous band was recorded in the same way) helped a lot. Basically we used USB audio interface to connect guitars or microphone to a computer and recorded tracks through Reaper software. All the tracks were recorded as a DI (before signal is compressed or distored) to re-amp it later (raw tracks sounded very funny). It was all done in my living room. With guitars it was easy because everything was recorded quietly on headphones, but always when recording vocals I was worried that one of my neighbours would call the police reporting domestic violence as Ewa (or Joseph or Kuba when doing backing vocals) had to really scream to reflect the energy we hope we are showing live! Then I had to choose the best shots, cut, move, time-align etc. Because recording drums is most time consuming and costly we decided to program MIDI drums and process in drum software afterwards. After that we sent all the tracks to my friend 'Lotnik' from www.sound-online.pl (I cannot recommend him highly enough!) to do the aforementioned re-amping, drums processing and final Mix and Mastering. Because with DI tracks you can change sound almost 'in the fly' he sent us a few samples of guitar and drum sounds, we chose the ones we liked the most and ‘Voila!’
Q: Ewa, can you run us through the songs, what the titles mean and the subjects they engage with?
Ewa: The tracks 'Nigdy sie nie damy' (‘We Will Never Give Up’), 'Sprzeciw' (Protest) and 'Do bolu' (Till It Hurts) are all political(ish) about The System, politicians, corruption, lies, etc and that we do not agree with all that shit.
'Pojebany' (Fucked) is about a fake person who pretends to be the part of punk culture and 'Bog' (God) is about religion, that you don’t need any gods to prove yourself, to understand that you are your own god.
Q: We had a (drunken) chat once about the twin themes of hope and frustration running through Radioactive Rats lyrics and that I could sense that despite not speaking Polish-are they emotions you feel strongly when singing these songs?
Ewa: Yes, as per our conversation, I don’t think you need to understand all the lyrics to understand the meanings and feelings. In our music and lyrics there is a lot of anger, but it’s hard to say whether I feel anger on the stage. It’s more that I just feel the music and energy. Even if I didn’t write most of these songs, I do feel connection with most of them. All these old songs like 'Pojebany' or 'Nigdy sie nie damy' reminds me of when I was 15 and we started to play as a Potluczony Kaloryfer ‘angry, untalented kids against the world’. 'Sprzeciw' and 'Do bólu' reminds me about a very important part of my life when I started gigging with ZMT and growing up as a person and a vocalist. 'Cyrk' or 'Zero' are the songs of my favourite band from my hometown, Terra, Joseph’s and Jimmy’s (original RR drummer) previous band. I shared the stage or travelled with them numerous times (and would highly recommend their two CD’s on their Bandcamp page).
But to be honest most of my energy comes from the music itself and people around me during the gigs.
Q: You included three covers on the CD by Zielone Zabki, Homomilitia, and Apatia, are they songs that are special to you, were they part of your growing up in Poland, are they important songs in Polish punk? I noticed when you covered the Apatia song in London-the place went wild!
Ewa: Zielone Zabki, Apatia and Homomilitia are good, old, punk/hc punk Polish bands. I think everyone knows them. We started to play 'Młodzi faszyści' and 'Policja' because of the lyrics… 'So2' we chose because it’s very simple to play and it’s nice to sway for a change, also it was nice to drink some cheap wine before a gig when we were teenagers and the lyrics are about love to cheap wine!
Q: How do you feel about the CD being out, what has the response been like?
Marek: To be honest I feel a kind of relief that we managed to record these songs and we’ve also just released on our Bandcamp 14 tracks recorded live at BSV Studios in Nottingham in 2013. In some sense this closes the chapter titled ‘Potluczony Kalofyfer’. Hopefully now we can concentrate fully on writing new material - 100% Radioactive Rats! The response for 'Nigdy sie nie damy' is very positive. We were praised for the sound (all credits to Lotnik), recreating our live energy (to some extent), and even selection of cover songs, so ‘so far so good’. And all of that motivates us to work even harder on new stuff and give 110% on each gig...

I’ve been eagerly waiting for a Radioactive Rats CD and Nigdy się nie damy! does not disappoint, full on metal tinged punk that has successfully captured and transposed the energy of their live show. If you like your punk vibrant, modern and hardcore then do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy...and then go see them live!     


Bibliography.
Also referenced Hutchcraft, J. (2017) ‘There’s a Polish Punk Scene in London and it’s Thriving’. https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/d7e89x/polish-punk-scene-london-anti-fascism


Saturday, 2 December 2017

"Songs about social injustice and the struggle for a better future" An interview with Healer of Bastards.

Photo courtesy of  Chris Hill Photography.

Melodic hardcore 3 piece Healer of Bastards comprising of Paul (drums and vocals), Jake, (guitar and vocals) and Simon (bass and vocals) formed in December 2014 and quickly released their self titled debut EP in May 2015. Just over a year later they released the 3 track EP Wage Slaves which engaged with working class experience in Neoliberal Britain “MPs would have us work to death, Retirement age at your last breath, Life reduced to bills and fees, Economic slavery.” (Wage Slaves), the evolution of warfare “Asks no questions, obeys all orders, No need to think what is humane, Not all wars are fought in defence, The Iraq war showed them this” (They are the Drones) and alienation “What is this place? – Why does that meal still have a face? Words fall on your ears – but the meaning seems to disappear” (What is This Place? (Not on Your Own)). H.o.B.’s mix of social concern and hardcore punk had one reviewer comment “... I had never heard these lot before but had checked them out online and was expecting them to be good. However not this fucking good... hardcore punk with a passion to make the world a better place... Tight, catchy and inspired. Healer of Bastards have some important stuff to say from ‘Killed By Catwalk’ through ‘Who’s To Blame’ to ‘Wage Slave’ they care...have a passion for change and musical ability by the tonnage” (1).
Early 2018 will see the release of their debut album Justice which aims to capture their live sound and was described by Paul as  “thrashy, catchy, angry, and doesn’t give you any time to catch your breath!" All of which sounds pretty exciting!        

I caught you at a Punk4TheHomeless gig at The Sumac in Nottingham where you played an amazing set!! Could you give us an overview of Healer of Bastards? How did you meet? When did you start?
Thanks very much indeed, Tim. It was really nice to meet you there. We always enjoy playing and supporting those gigs, and the Punk4TheHomeless crew do an amazing job raising money and awareness for the cause.
In terms of our history, I (Paul) have played in a few bands for a number of years and became friends with Jake (guitar) many years ago via gigging with his other band SLAB. He ended up joining my old band ‘R.A.M-M.A.N’ for a time, and we always got on really well, so working together again was just a matter of time I suppose. I met Simon (bass) through a mutual friend who asked us to be part of his band/project for a while. That was fun but only lasted a short time, so I decided to work on a solo project, which I wanted to call Healer of Bastards. I wrote a couple of songs, using drum machine patterns I wrote, samples I made, and playing bass/guitar over the top. I told Simon about it, and he immediately wanted to be part of it, so it quickly became a joint project. I also showed Jake some early stuff, with the idea that he might help flesh out some of the guitar parts and do guest vocals etc. He really liked the lyrics and arrangements, so we suddenly found ourselves being an actual band! It all happened so fast, but it’s been a blast ever since.
Did the band come out of a shared politics, shared musical interests?
I think the first and most important factor was how well we got on. I believe that a band can only be truly fun if you like and trust your band mates, which we are lucky enough to have with H.o.B. In terms of shared politics, the lyrics we had created was one of the reasons we asked Jake to collaborate on joint vocals in the first place. I had written a song called 'Pit Bullshit', which is about the absurdities of the Dangerous Dogs Act, an act that effectively means innocent animals that have done nothing wrong are destroyed, simply because of how they look and their measurements etc. I knew Jake hated the injustice of this, so he jumped at the chance to help, but ended up embracing the idea of the whole project. As for Simon, he was really into the messages from day one, but also liked the idea of working on something that had potential to sound a bit different. We are all so open-minded about what our songs can sound like, which was such a great feeling and one of the reasons I think we have worked so well together. We will turn any idea that one of us has, no matter what style it is, then ‘Bastard’ it up into a H.o.B song.
How did the name come about?
Ha ha, yeah, people are always interested in the name, which I think is a really good thing! I wanted something people would remember, and also something that would never be questioned in terms of what our intentions were i.e. we are a DIY band that are interested in saying important things and having fun, not trying to play Download Festival and being featured in mainstream media. That’s fine if people want that, but we just want to play music, have fun, and express ourselves. Also, I had been in bands before where the names never stuck with people, or 10 other bands had chosen the same name, even though you didn’t realise it. With the H.o.B name, the story goes that I was doing one of those stupid Facebook quizzes once (don’t judge me), and one came up once called What is your Game of Thrones name? You simply typed your full name in and it would put your name in graphics and included a description for you that sounded Game of Thrones-esque. It described me as a ‘Healer of Bastards’. It seemed fitting, because I am always writing about social injustice and wanting a better world. Healing this world of all the bastards that ruin it appealed to me, so that was that.
Who would you admit to you as musical influences!
Wow! How much space do we have? Ha ha! We have such varied tastes, all of which I think spill into the music. However, the variety of influences means we have ended up with a band that sounds like a blend of hardcore, thrash metal and pop-punk. I’d say that there is some influence from Sick of it All, Entombed, Pennywise, Dead Kennedys, Drongos for Europe, SLAB, Satanic Surfers, Rise Against, R.A.M-M.A.N, and Motorhead.
You formed in late 2014 and had your first release out in April 2015! You must have the ground running! Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start?
Not really to be honest! I had an idea of what it was going to be like if it were my solo project, but the additional styles, influences, and enthusiasm that the others brought to the table just meant that songs came together quickly and organically. In short, it just ‘worked’ really quickly and was never a chore. I guess that’s what happens when everyone is into the project and loves making music. There are no passengers in the band and everyone wants to do it.
How has it evolved? On your Bandcamp page you advise people to listen to your second release Wage Slaves to get a better idea of your current sound...
It’s evolved a lot since those early days. It started out with me as a lead singer, and we played to the drum tracks I wrote electronically, with samples etc. I loved diving around the stage and being the front man, but everyone kept saying we would be so much better with a live drum sound, which we agreed with. Every good drummer we knew was already in quality and busy bands, so I decided to pick up some sticks and try playing again, something I had not done for a number of years. We played our first show with me drumming and singing at the Brum Punx Picnic in 2015, and we loved it! Also, people said that it was nice to see a drummer-singer, as it is not especially common. Wage Slaves, our second EP, was the first with me drumming and singing, but we have improved dramatically since then and are much tighter these days. Our debut album JUSTICE is coming out very soon, and I think people will notice that we have taken things up a notch.
You describe Healer of Bastards as playing ‘angry, but catchy songs about social injustice and the struggle for a better future’. Could you talk us through the subjects you engage with?
Sometimes a message in a song is pure anger towards the injustice of a situation or occurrence, but the songs usually aim to make you think more about something and decide how you feel about it. For example, we have songs about how ridiculous homophobia is; the cruelty of blood sports; the heartlessness of austerity; the responsibility that fashion industry has for negative self-image; and about how the insanity of this world can drive you to dark places, but that you are not alone in how you feel. We challenge negative views and events in the world, and almost demand a person to reflect on what to do about it.
I despaired with the state of the world when I was younger, and I educated myself about important and moral issues. Feeling utterly powerless to change the world, you have to start with yourself and then try to inspire others. Sometimes, direct action is required, but fighting with words, music, and dialogue has an important place too (music and lyrics made me turn vegan 20 years ago). That’s what all the songs are to me. They are a challenge to read the words and think about what you want to do about it. If the words don’t affect you, then at least the tunes might make you dance….. I’ll work on the politics some other way, perhaps over a beer!   
What resources do you draw on in your lyric writing? Personal experiences, other sources like films and books?
It’s all from the news, books, personal experiences, individual politics, and those light bulb moments whereby something occurs to you about life, and you just have to share it in order to feel sane. Hopefully, some of it resonates with others, or maybe even changes the way someone sees an issue. Nobody is perfect and we are always learning, so that is why reflection is so important! None of us should go on just doing and thinking the same things we always have, so we need to learn from each other. I am not the same person I was 20, 10, or even 5 years ago! We live, we learn, we share, we try to improve. The lyrics we sing about are just our two pennies worth. However, the music is just as important to us as the message, and we always enjoy what we play. We just don’t know how to sing about anything else!
John Holloway talks about our sense of self emerging from our acts of collective creativity (2), do you think that-plus community-is the key to maintaining an alternative narrative and resisting the pressures to conform and consume?
I have studied Sociology a lot in the past and had heard of John Holloway, but I was not really aware of his work to be totally honest. However, I know there’s a Marxist influence there, and the ideas you outline above sound really interesting. I will genuinely read more about this when I get time.
Anyway, to try and answer your questions as best I can, I think that everyone is completely different, so I believe our sense of self is probably way more complex than scholars can explain. However, I think a lot of what is being said there resonates with me. One of our very recent songs, as yet unrecorded, is called ‘Connect and Reflect’. To explain, this song warns against being insular in your own points of view, and being unwilling to consider others’
opinions and experiences. In short, the point of the song is that engaging in debate, thinking, reflecting, and then re-shaping how you think and feel can lead to better awareness of who you are, what is going on around you, and what may or not be utter bullshit. We can’t change the world from our keyboard, or through Facebook, so we have to get out there and work together. Along the way, we should all challenge our own thinking, and the thinking of others. Music has a part to play in this but, ultimately, it’s all about communication and reflection. Being part of a punk rock scene is about this for me. Even if other punks might not agree, I think we are all unconsciously shaped by the people and communities we engage with, and part of that in the
punk scene is to challenge, question, and resist. There’s a certain love for non-conformity, possibly because there’s such a strong desire within us to please, to follow suit, and not rock the boat. Deciding to tip the boat over, instead of start rowing too, appeals to everyone somewhere deep inside, even if it makes them feel uncomfortable. Community can help us with self-awareness and thinking differently, but they are only extensions of the people that make it up, so they can also be toxic and lead to being close-minded. Part of human nature is a need to know what to do, so being told what to do by huge groups of people is why religion still exists. You can’t necessarily find your own ‘self’ in these communities, but you definitely cannot find yourself if you don’t talk to anyone, or leave the house.
I may well have missed the point of your questions and talked a lot of shite, but it’s the best answer I can give without really looking at his work. However, I enjoyed thinking about it, and it’s given a few more ideas for future work, ha ha.
How does a song take shape in H.O.B.? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?
We don’t really have a set way of writing, at least not consciously anyway. Sometimes we just start with a cool riff and develop parts to extend it into a full song. I’ve always got lyrics lying around, so we will either fit some to go with the tune, or, if they won’t fit, I’ll write new ones to match the tone of the song. Sometimes, I’ve got an idea of how I want to sing something and then we will write riffs to go with them. It’s extremely collaborative and no one person dominates the song-writing process, which I love about the band. In terms of lyrics, I suppose I usually write most of the them, but there is also input from the other guys on this. They may add lines, sections, or even come up with concepts we might write about.
You've got an album out soon called Justice, can you talk us through it? What sort of subjects and ideas are you engaging with on it, how would you describe it musically?
Musically, it’s relentless, fast, varied in terms of styles, and true to how we sound live. It’s also got a lot of our heart and soul in it. We recorded it DIY style in our own lockup with our mate John. We set a goal of wanting it to sound just like we sound live, and think that’s what we have ended up with. There was no “fixing” of drums and guitars etc. If we made a mistake on our respective parts, then we started the track again. That was partly because the old school portable studio we used doesn’t have many tracks, so we had to get the songs right! I think that’s what really makes it sound authentic. If I missed a kick drum beat or a cymbal hit, then that’s what it sounds like on the record. I refuse to play to a click track too, so it feels extremely human and you can hear and feel it when we are getting into the music. It also sounds live in that we play at the tempo we play at during gigs. Sometimes, bands play faster live and the album sounds slow in comparison. Not with this album! It’s thrashy, catchy, angry, and doesn’t give you any time to catch your breath.
The themes we cover in the album all seemed to be about injustice in the world, so we asked a UK artist (Shindy Design) to draw a simple logo for the band that signified the powerless fighting back against their oppressors. Seeing as we sometimes sing about the injustices that non-human animals face in the world, the bull goring a matador was perfect. That really sums up the essence of the album. With songs about the powerful dictating austerity, nepotism, the decline of our environment, and how the self-interest of capitalist society means that the people are forgotten, this album is us yearning to see a paradigm shift.
How would you say the UK DIY punk scene is doing, is it in a healthy state? Are there plenty of opportunities for bands to play?
I think DIY punk is doing really really well these days. There are certainly lots more gigs than ever before, but I can’t say that it’s easier to get gigs. We always put our own gigs on in Birmingham, so we play locally whenever we want, but it can be harder to get shows around the country sometimes. There are loads of great DIY people working hard all year round, but there are more bands than punters. In fact, the punk fans are the bands themselves, for the most part! The majority of any DIY punk crowd is made up of cool and appreciative band members. The bands are all so good too, so it is not always easy to get gigs during busy periods. We mainly have to rely on mates to help us out, and we use gigs as a nice excuse to spend time with the people we like, but it’s a huge bonus when you constantly make new friends too. Some DIY scenes have become so big that I can’t really figure out how anyone gets on some of these bigger DIY festivals. There are so many great bands to choose from, so it’s hard for DIY promoters to be fair to everyone that wants to play. However, I can’t imagine any other way of doing things, and DIY punk extends across the globe, which is magical. I have given DIY gigs to bands all from all over Europe, and even the USA, plus we have had similar help from great DIY people too. That’s how we organise our Euro tours, with all our mates helping us when they can. The DIY scene is not perfect, and the left are too divided for my liking, but it’s still pretty fucking great.
Obviously H.o.B. are an overtly political band- how has your politics developed? What were the influences? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it a continual evolving of thought?
It’s all from personal experiences, books, music and gut feelings about what is right and wrong. We do not go out of our way to be overtly political, but as I said earlier in the interview, we really don’t know what else is worth singing about, ha ha. Music is passion and emotion, and we all care about this world and the creatures that inhabit it. In my younger years, I would have happily tried to categorise the politics of the band, but I would now contend that there are some seriously fucked up problems in the political left, which has led to unacceptable divisions. This, as well as many other problems we have with pigeon-holing, means I frequently refuse to identify with established positions. We all have our own political positions, and there is no one person in the world that I agree with on every issue. The best answer I can give is that I think we try hard to be nice people, we hate unkindness, hate prejudice, hate the oppression of the powerless, and would love to see everyone unite in a shared of sense of creating a better, fairer, kinder, and more compassionate world. Whatever that standpoint is called, then that’s what we aspire to be.
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
There are too many books to mention, as we all like everything from fantasy to crime, but some recent good reads we enjoyed are: ‘Pirates, Punks & Politics’ by Nick Davidson; ‘The World Without Us’ by Alan Weisman; and ‘The Year Of The Flood’ by Margaret Atwood.
I hate to single out bands, for fear of missing any out, so we’ll just stick to mentioning what is genuinely right next to our stereos at this moment – ‘The Storytailor’ by Bambix (Netherlands); ‘The Dusk in Us’ by Converge; ‘Suas Torres Douradas Entraráo Em Colapso’ by Killbite (Germany) and Odio Social (Brazil); ‘United States of Horror’ by Ho99o9; ‘To Live and Die in West Central Scotland’ by The Kimberley Steaks; and ‘Appreciate your Concern’ by Brassick.


Bibliography.
  1. Eagle, http://www.healerofbastards.co.uk/reviews-interviews/
     (2) Holloway, J. (2005) 'Change the World Without Taking Power', Pluto Press, London and New  York.
Photo courtesy of Chris Hill Photography.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death!

Photo courtesy of Matt Clixby.

The flamboyantly named The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death formed in 2013 around a pre existing duo of Gareth 'Winty' Winterman (Guitar) and Dom Goodbarn (Drums), to them was added two brothers Anthony (Vocals) and Mat (bass) Thomas, the new four piece playing their first gig in December the same year. In 2016 they commented about a then up and coming gig at The Maze in Nottingham “We like playing loud, we like having a laugh. If you don’t enjoy either of those then perhaps we are not the band for you”!(1) I have to admit my own experience of seeing them live certainly bore out the first though I remember it as being pretty intense and dramatic rather than particularly amusing! (Though subsequent meetings have confirmed that they certainly do like having a laugh.)  

Every now and then you see/hear a band that you struggle to pigeonhole, Forward Russia, Gnod, bands that seem to have synthesised the component parts of rock in ways that are new to you or are constructing their art using slightly different resources, The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death fall into that category. Intrigued by the combination of name, sound and a stunning live set I contacted them to see if an interview was possible and that was how we came to be sat round a table in The King Billy just outside Nottingham city centre.   .   




How did the band come together? What was it that you formed around? Relationships, shared musical interests?

Gareth: Me and Dom starting doing stuff just as a two piece, drinking cans of beer and trying to make something really weird! We got one track down and that was when we realised we needed some lyrics aswell and got Anthony in to sing and then Mat came in on bass to add a bit of depth. And then we all started writing stuff together.
Dom: Everybody seemed to be on the same page.

So when did you get together?
Mat: I think it was summer 2013, I only know because I got one of those Facebook ‘This happened..’ pop ups about a year ago and I thought is it three years already!
Dom: And first gig was December 2013  

So how did the band’s name come about? Let’s be honest it’s a bit weird!
Mat: The name was there before the band was!
Gareth: It was a name that I already had in the sack, so when we started doing stuff I thought we’ll use that!
Dom: Rolls off the tongue quite easily as well haha!
Gareth: It takes up so much space on posters as well who’s not going to see it!

Has it led to any confusion, it sounds like you should be a spoof heavy metal band!?
Mat: We’re often taken to be a cod metal band…
Gareth: It’s because there’s ‘Death’ in the name twice…

So what sort of gigs do you pick up with a band name like The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death? Heavy metal gigs?
Anthony: We have done some metal gigs.
Gareth: We did an all dayer and we did stand out a fair bit, we’re not overly worried, if anything I like to go to a gig where there’s a range of bands, you get a bit fed up if you go to an all dayer and its all punk bands or all metal bands. I’ve had promoters say ‘You’re too different’ about us playing metal gigs

When I was listening to you online the other day I was thinking where do you place these in a record collection? You seem somewhere near Housewives but with off kilter bits of phrasing and structure in the vocals like Talking Heads-it seems like it has punk sensibilities but constructed using different resources.
Mat: I think it’s because we’re all bringing different things to the mix and I always think Anthony vocals are a bit Steve Albini, we’ve been compared to The Fall as well.
Anthony: Someone said we sound a bit like Christian Lunch who were a band on Alternative Tentacles, I think they did one EP in around 1982, its four tracks of brilliance and we sound like that!
Mat: Gareth’s got a lot of metal influences.
Dom: And there’s a few things that cross over.
Gareth: Yeah there are loads of bands that we all like...
Mat: And we’ve all got that 90s alternative rock grounding, Sonic Youth bands like that.
Dom: My tastes are quite diverse, rock, garage rock, Suckers, Helicopters.
Anthony: We’ve never discussed it, never said ‘We want to sound like...’
Mat: We’ve never sat down and said what’s our plan in terms of sound, it just sort of happened
Gareth: I’m always pushing to play faster and faster but it doesn’t really work, these guys just sit there for hours not really doing anything and we end up with another song with a bit of a swing in it!   

And who would you cite as influences in terms of performance-live you’re a pretty intense experience?
Anthony: Again there are influences, people like Biafra, Rollins early on in Black Flag, Albini. A bit of Iggy. Nick Cave even, with The Birthday Party.
Gareth: But when we first started we were really static, we were fairly new to it and a bit overwhelmed, we didn’t discuss it but we thought we’re going to have to throw ourselves about a bit.

When your writing your lyrics Anthony, are they based on personal experiences, or do you draw on other things like films and books?
Anthony: Mostly they’re drawn from current events, I try not to write from my own perspective but from a neutral standpoint, sometimes that might be a little bit wry or bleak.

Do you have a shared politics that you coalesce around? Or is there a diversity of views within the band?
Anthony: I think generally we’re the same...
Gareth: We’ve never really talked about it!
Mat: We’ve been brothers for years, we’ve known Winty for years, we’ve known Dom a couple of years now and we’ve never sat down and asked what is the politic of this band, but generally we don’t fall out over politics, we fall out over stupid things!

Right we’ll go through some tracks and you can tell us what they’re about!
‘Max’, there is a refrain that you repeat quite often and end with...
Anthony: “He is ready. He is prepared” It’s basically a story about an everyman bomber. The loner, it doesn’t matter what the beliefs are, the gender is, it’s about the motivations to do that, the mindset. “He is ready, he is prepared” to act whichever way he feels fit. About him being able to go out there and do this kind of nastiness. And the pattern, that it is usually a loner or a cell and the modus is that they act in the same way, that’s repeated.

‘Children of Edith’?
Anthony: Oh yeah, now that was strange! We did the music and I went away and did the words and between the two the Charlie Hebdo attack happened, so I kind of wrote it about that. And then some time later the Bataclan thing happened and it more fitted that. Again it’s looking at whats going on. The joke is I’m always writing about the news and I kind of am really! For me the boy/girl theme is redundant and a bit indulgent.

Presumably you have to have an inflow of information to have an outflow of lyrics because you're not evacuating you interior life?
Anthony: Yeah, continue consuming that media junk! I guess this is the first time these guys have heard what these songs are about-we don’t really talk about it.
Mat: We’ve got a song called ‘The Age’ and for a long time we thought he was singing ‘The Aids’!
Dom: It wasn’t till after a few gigs that I heard it as ‘The Age’!
Gareth: It reflects badly on us that we didn’t ask! We just thought ‘Oh he’s singing about Aids’.
Anthony: On a lighter note ‘Housewives Favourite’ takes a swipe at a certain type of man, usually middle aged, lothario. It came about because Dom was talking about ‘Lovejoy’, suavey, pervy, ‘loveable old rogue’.

Your going into the recording studio on the 18-19 December, will there be a physical release January/February?
Mat: We’re going to see what comes out of it and that will dictate what the running order will be and whether it will be two EPs or if it all hangs together quite nicely it could be an album.
Anthony: And we’re talking about getting some out of town gigs next year and maybe going on a little tour with hopefully some physical kind of merchandise.

Last question,what bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
Dom: I’ve been reading a bit of H.P.Lovecraft. Music wise I’ve listening to a band called The Bronx.
Mat: I’ve been going through a bit of an Afro Funk stage, Congolese stuff. Also some old Garage stuff from the 70s.
Anthony: Reading, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, at the moment I’m reading about the rise of the Prussian Empire. Music, there’s an American band called Flatworms who I really like, a band called The Lovely Eggs who are great.
Gareth: I’ve been reading technical manuals for work! And I’ve been listening to an American band, Drug Church.

Bibliography.
(1) http://www.themazerocks.com/gig/perennial-the-white-skull-death-snakes-of-death-lnc-more
Photo by Matt Clixby.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Truth Equals Treason: "(Punk's) message should not be diluted, we need to be inclusive and open to new ideas or it's pointless"

Photo by Debra Wilson.

In his book  'Lipstick Traces' Greil Marcus connects Dadaism, the Situationists and early Punk as movements that creatively disrupted and exposed society as a construct (1), and in so doing pointed to the possibility of something better than what was. Punk has long been a contested art form struggled over by both those who see it as a DIY grassroots artistic expression of progressive politics that may or may not be musical and those who would reduce it to a musical style with associated fashion accessories. In a continued attempt to defang and domesticate punk the BBC recently commemorated 40 years since the release of never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols by representing punk as a bygone historical movement, an interesting museum piece, references to ‘the punk era’ were common.

For those who consider punk as a DIY grassroots artistic expression of progressive politics there never was a punk era! For them punk is an ongoing vibrant voice of dissent, a problematic community that at its best offers a glimpse of solidarity, tolerance and alternative social relations. One of the bands who best express these aspects of punk are Lincoln based Truth Equals Treason, at present a three piece, who formed in 2015 and released an EP It’s Got a Photo of Thatcher, Must be as Punk as Fuck early this year. Having seen them deliver an astounding set of well structured, danceable, riotous, compassionate, political songs at a weekender in Nottingham recently I contacted them for an interview.  


I caught you at a Punk 4 The Homeless gig and was blown away!! Could you give us an overview of Truth Equals Treason? How did you meet? When did you start?
Jam: 3-piece punk band from the Lincoln area - used to be a 4-piece, but we recently mislaid our original guitarist in bizarre circumstances... Alan, Glen and Jackson had started a band in 2015 called 'T.W.O.C.', but needed a bassist, so I volunteered (even though I hadn't played bass in a band since 1985...) and the rest is history - started as the embryonic T=T in August 2015; played our first gig in February 2016; became a 3-piece in August 2017...

Alan: I was only 16 when the band first started - I was in a bar with my dad when we met Jackson, and he introduced me to Glen. We used to practice in my front room to begin with - our first song was a cover of 'Taken by surprise' by Poison Idea!

Glen: Yeah, I was asked by Alan and our old guitarist Jackson to come and have a cider-fuelled jam-session round at Alan's house back in 2015. We tried a couple of cover versions ('Scarred for life' by Scottish band Last Rites and 'Taken by surprise' by Poison Idea) and also had a half-formed song or two knocking about from mine & Jackson's previous band that we kicked into shape. Rehearsals were chaotic to say the least - vast amounts of booze was consumed and local lads and lasses wandered in and out all the time...

Great band name, how did that come about?
Jam: After I joined, we decided to change the band name from T.W.O.C. to 'Death Rattle', but that lasted less than a month before we had a rethink - I came up with 'Truth Is Treason' (inspired by cases like Bradley/Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, etc. and the state/media reaction to them), but after a week we realised it had an unfortunate acronym, so TIT became TET...

Glen: Hahaha - I have no recollection of the Death Rattle thing at all! T.W.O.C. was bandied about for way longer than was sensible until Jam came up with Truth Equals Treason - it suits us.

Your set was really well delivered at The Doghouse despite being down a guitarist! I guess you’ve been in bands before Truth Equals Treason?
Jam: Thank you very much - it was our first outing as a 3-piece, so it was a little nerve-wracking waiting to see if me switching to guitar & simulating a bass sound by means of electrickery would actually work out OK on stage (we'd only had two practices up to that point...), but by all accounts we pulled it off! As for other bands, I've been playing about with various outfits in and around Lincoln since about 1981, but it's very unlikely you'd ever have heard of any of them, although some did at least make it as far as playing live (Cri de Coeur (recently reformed...), Doctor Rat and Shanarchy).

Glen: I'd never been in a band 'til RatRaven - a band I'd played with the year before T=T with my good mates Whaler, Jacko, Nugs and Black Metal Adam. It was shambolic at best but we did put out a track on a great comp 7”, so all the 9% lager and fallings-out were kind of worth it...

Alan: I hadn't had much band experience, but I was studying at Access To Music and had a little band there. It wasn't long after I began college that I started with Truth Equals Treason and now also play for Cri de Coeur.

Who would you admit to you as musical influences?!
Jam: I've never been able to pin down whether I'm influenced by other bands when I'm writing or playing or not, but I've always loved Crass, Dead Kennedys, Discharge, Subhumans, etc.

Glen: Bands that got me into music and I love - it all started with Bay City Rollers and the Wombles... At 8 years old I started going to record shops - I bought Madness, Undertones, The Jam, Clash, The Police and all the classics of the time! Later I got into electro and early hip hop, then a friend (who later became a Nazi) introduced me to basic punk. Dead Kennedys blew me away. Round about the same time, I saw The Exploited on TOTP - my dad weren't keen... In about the mid '80s I started to listen to John Peel and it all kicked off - Chaos UK, ENT, Napalm Death, Ripcord, Electro Hippies plus all the Yank core: DRI, MDC, JFA, Septic Death - I spent a ton on imports. The anarcho sentiments of Crass, etc. strongly influenced my thinking, but I was swept away with the harder and faster choonage. Saying that, I was also listening to metal, industrial, hip hop, reggae etc. These days I listen to h/c punk, metal, hip hop and jungle mostly, but I love old skool London music like Johnny Moped and Chas & Dave - working class music with heart, innit...?

Alan: When I was 14, my dad bought me a drum kit and I taught myself to play by listening to music on my headphones. I would say I have been influenced by bands like Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash, and The Exploited.

Who would you not admit to?!
Jam: I'm rather partial to a bit of Slade and have an enduring love of Blondie, but I don't see too much of them in our sound (although Glen might look good in a big sparkly hat...)!

Glen: Well... I love good pop - Kylie, Adele, Manics, Dolly Parton, Tom Jones, Amy Winehouse... There's not much I wouldn't admit to liking - I have little in the way of shame!

Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved? Where are you in the punk spectrum?
Jam: As the 'new boy', I just went along with the flow to begin with, so it's probably fair to say that the first songs had more of a metal influence courtesy of the then-guitarist. As things have developed, though, we've moved away from that somewhat and I personally think we're probably tending towards more of an anarcho punk feel now (which covers a great many styles and neatly dodges the question!). A couple of people have described us as 'anarcho street punk', but they were drunk at the time!

Alan: When we first started I believe we were looking to do something Discharge-sounding or The Exploited, but it didn't seem to go to plan...

Glen: Hahaha! I'm in a band whose music I would listen to myself. I've always wanted it to be hard-edged music with heartfelt progressive lyrics. The punk spectrum is big these days and as long as we're not playing with braindead fence-sitters or stagnant '77ers I'm normally happy... I do like to see diverse line-ups (grind, HC, etc.) - it brings people and our ideas together. Mates of ours like Sods Law, The Domestics, Kill Bitches To Dress Foxes, White Skull Death Snakes Of Death, The Rioters, Paul Carbuncle, Nieviem and more, I see as our peers - that's our present spectrum and it suits. We've played with folk punk through to grindcore bands - they were all punks.

I noticed that you are donating all profits from your latest track ‘Through the Cracks’ to Punk 4 The Homeless, the lyrics seemed really empathetic,
‘Spend all day just traipsing the street.
Numb inside, life on your feet.
Alley for a house, step for a seat.
Stark, cold living death - bricks & concrete.
Scrounger, parasite.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Believe the lies - demonise.
Never want to sympathise.
Spend every day in a world not fair.
Pass every day in a living nightmare.
You gotta fight for the meagrest share.
See the people round here, they do not care.'
Is this an issue that particularly troubles you?
Jam: I think it's fucking shocking! People have signed up to the lies trotted out to them by the Tories and right-wing media and swallowed the 'austerity agenda' hook, line and sinker (the 'I'm all right, Jack' mentality always prevails when the Tories are in power). Unfortunately, the people who fall 'through the cracks' are increasingly fucked as mental-health care, social services and safety nets are eroded and they're left to fend for themselves. For one of the richest countries on the planet, the state we're in is an absolute disgrace, and it's all down to ideological dogma!

Glen: If we're not looking out for those at the butt-end then what are we? Our home city is particularly bad at the minute - all funding for homeless people has been stripped and I hear a lot of victim-blaming. One of the biggest issues we have is with the legal highs - it's terrible from what I've seen. People shuffling, underweight, often convulsing on the floor. What are people escaping from now? It's heartbreaking to see. We live in a country with hundreds of thousands of empty houses - they should be homes not investments for the rich.

You released a 5 track EP It’s Got a Photo of Thatcher, Must be as Punk as Fuck in January, could you talk us through the subjects you engage with in it?
Jam: Mainstream media manipulation and false news; dead-end jobs, wage-slavery, erosion of workers' rights; the plight of refugees and immigrants; the negative effect of religion; reality TV, exploitation of the needy and dispossessed, vilification of the poor, and back full-circle to mainstream media manipulation... Essentially modern life in microcosm, sadly. The title might also be a little dig at lazy 'dad-punk' that sometimes appears to think that wearing a pair of bondage trousers, surrounding yourself with the tired iconography of 35-40 years ago, and singing about puking your guts up after 20 pints and a kebab is all that punk's about... I mean, I'm a fully-paid-up old fart myself, and we all wallow in nostalgia at times, but c'mon - punk used to shake the foundations of society for fuck's sake! There are still plenty of battles to be fought here and now to try to make the world a slightly better place, so let's have it!

What resources do you draw on in your lyric writing? Personal experiences, other sources like films and books?
Jam: For me, my songs are usually based on politics (local, national, international and personal) and current affairs, with personal insights if I've been affected/involved by either.

Glen: It depends really, it can be different with each song. A song like 'Fuck off back to Eton' can be seen as flippant and knee-jerk, but it comes from a serious place - sometimes I'm adding the politics to the personal experience sometimes vice versa. I really haven't been putting pen to paper very long, but I've been ranting all my life so it comes naturally - hahaha!

How does the creative process work in T=T? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?
Jam: I come up with the music these days, with the lyrics usually coming from Glen, although a few of my little ditties will probably make an appearance in due course (I'm not a vocalist, though, so my lyrics tend not to take into account minor things like breathing, being able to remember fourteen verses, etc.!). Once I demo a new tune, it's then a collaborative process sorting out arrangements, etc. - Alan's got a good ear for song structure, and the song usually evolves fairly quickly from that point, although we've had to take a couple of months off from song-writing recently to adapt to our changed line-up. We're firing on all cylinders again now though, and plan on getting back into the studio in the new year to record our next EP.

Glen: The creative process has been fairly organic up 'til now - Jam has a decent bank of riffs and our Alan is a powerhouse on drums as you know. We've had to adapt slightly now we're a 3-piece but it's still flowing, although we don't set out to write songs to any deadline. Jam's lyrics are a bit more cerebral and wordier than my own, but I like that mix, it works for us!

What is the music scene like around Lincoln? Are there plenty of opportunities for bands to play?
Jam: In spite of a shortage of good venues, there seems to be a bit of a punky resurgence in Lincoln at the moment with fairly regular gigs and quite a few good bands on the go - Mothcob, Nieviem, Boycott The Baptist, Throatpunch, SkinLover and others I've probably forgotten, sorry! Having said that though, in the two years that we've been going, we've only actually played our 'home-town' once, so we're possibly not the best band to ask...

Glen: Pretty healthy tbf! We get on quite well with all the lads and lasses involved with the Lincoln scene and it's been brilliant to hear how we've all progressed over the past couple of years. Me and Jam are like the elder statesmen obviously (well, we're old!) - not that the rest of the little fuckers would ever listen to us...

Alan: Not the best place for live music, not enough places have live bands.

How would you say the DIY punk scene is doing more generally, is it in a healthy state?
Jam: It seems in fairly good health, although getting people off their arses and out to gigs (or actually in to watch the bands instead of standing outside with their mates having a fag...) is an age-old problem. We've done DIY gigs in Bradford, Derby, Grimsby, Lincoln, Norwich, Nottingham, Manchester, Peterborough, Sheffield, Wellingborough, and usually found the events well organised, so there are still a lot of committed folks out there keeping the flag flying.

Glen: The enthusiasm from promoters is definitely there, but it seems to be hit-or-miss with the punters. Not to say all gigs are under-attended, but it seems you need a 'big name' draw to get a crowd sometimes...

Capitalism tries to create a sense of anxiety and insecurity, tries to get us to root our sense of self in consumption. Do you find the punk community and exploring your creativity helps in resisting those pressures to conform and consume?
Jam: I haven't felt any pressure to conform for about 30-35 years - I am what I am, and if people don't like it, they can go fuck themselves... (I'm quite the diplomat, as you can see!). Also, I don't know if there is a single punk 'community', to be honest - some of the people who call themselves punks should be ashamed of what they've become, in my humble opinion. Seeing people who've grown up listening to the same music and messages I have, but obviously haven't understood a single fucking word makes me weep! 'Punks' slagging off 'foreigners', minorities, 'benefit scroungers', LGBT+ people, women, even tattooed/pierced folks, veggies/vegans, etc. - what the fuck is that all about?! And at the same time, these cunts are often waving the flag, proclaiming their devotion to 'our troops' and licking the arse of Farage, Britain First and the like! I saw a snarky comment a bit back when Trump was elected, saying something like, “watch all the anti-establishment punk bands now trying to find words that rhyme with 'Trump'”. My question there is, what the fuck is an ESTABLISHMENT punk band...?! So to be honest, half the time I find the 'punk community' more of a frustration than a comfort, but I've always been an awkward sod - hahaha! As for capitalism, well sadly it's unavoidable in the world we live in - like it or not, we're all consumers, but you CAN minimise your participation in the whole rotten system if you want to: choose ethical companies where you can (or more ethical, at least...); don't rip people off for a fast buck; don't be daft enough to believe that the latest expensive shiny gadget will make you any happier; if you have the choice, don't work for or trade with wankers; do-it-yourself wherever you can, etc., etc. As Flux said all those years ago, “Strive to survive causing the least suffering possible” - that will be different for every single one of us, but at least it's a start...

Glen: We still have to operate within the neoliberal capitalist system, but we can as punks only try to be fair and try to exploit those around us as little as possible. Punk as an identity and philosophy is important to me - whether punk is affecting much in the way of change globally, I don't know, but things like P4TH give me hope. We cannot afford to stagnate. Our message should not be diluted, we need to be inclusive and open to new ideas or it's pointless - it's good to see the new blood involved, they should be taking it to the next level! In my opinion, the 'non-political' punk scene is often just Bernard Manning playing bad heavy metal really, but there's a lot of it about!

How has your politics developed? What were the influences? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it a continual evolving of thought?
Jam: Ideologically, I've always considered myself to be an anarchist (anarcho-syndicalist, if we're splitting hairs; which anarchists inevitably always do...). Having said that, I'm also a pragmatist, and acknowledge that as a far-distant goal rather than any sort of immediate reality, so in 'traditional' political terms I'd probably have to describe myself as a socialist. It's something that you continually re-evaluate in response to changing events (even just getting older), but in the face of the damage caused to people and the planet by the greed & selfishness inherent in capitalism, 'neoliberalism', 'neo-conservatism' and the like, I'm still firm in my beliefs that no matter the political system, we need to work together for the benefit of every member of society, not just allow a privileged minority to flourish while the rest of us drown in shit.

Glen: I'm a socialist with anarchist tendencies. My politics have become cemented over the years through life experience, union work, travelling and reading. I volunteer when I can in the community and I'm on the parish council, which raises the odd eyebrow, but fuck it! Think globally, act locally - amirite?

What are your plans for 2017 - will you be out gigging a lot, do you have more any planned releases?
Jam: We have a couple of gigs on the cards for the remainder of 2017 and several already confirmed for the first half of 2018, but we're always up for more, so get in touch, people! Hopefully we're recording again in January, with another EP in the works, which with luck will be released early next year.

Glen: Nothing to add really, just to say it's been a brilliant trip so far!

What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
Jam: I've been reading war poems by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon recently, as well as starting the first book of Sassoon's 'fictionalised autobiography', the 'Sherston Trilogy' (the ruling class doesn't change its stripes much...). Music-wise, in the past year I've bought new stuff by Active Slaughter, Armoured Flu Unit, Healer of Bastards, Nieviem, Oi Polloi, Shot!, Steve Ignorant/Paranoid Visions, The Domestics, The System, as well as catching up on stuff by Witch Hunt, Resist, Ação Direta and discovering Verdun, a sadly now-defunct French anarcho band.

Glen: Bands I'm currently enjoying are Sods Law, The Domestics, Nieviem, Anti-System, Bratakus, Doom, Bring the Drones; also I've been revisiting some old thrash metal (Kreator, Sodom, Death Angel, Hirax, Toxic Holocaust) and '80s British HC (Napalm Death, Hellbastard, Ripcord, Heresy) - I love the rawness of that era's music. I've also been listening to Sleaford Mods, Idles, Wonk Unit, Scroobius Pip, Lovely Eggs, Hygiene, Good Throb, Hard Left, Shandy, & Hard Wax. On top of all that, two bands that have impressed me with comeback albums recently are Wu-Tang Clan and Iron Monkey... Book-wise, I've just finished a great book on skiffle by Billy Bragg called 'Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed The World'; also John Lydon's autobiography, the NOFX autobiography ('The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories'), a book on social mobility and class by Dr Lisa McKenzie whose title escapes me because I left it  in a caravan in France, Maximum Rocknroll and Ripping thrash zines, and the newly re-energised Class War insanity! Oh, and Elvis Costello's autobiography which was the beige-est book I've ever read...

Alan: I have been enjoying Burning Flag, Sods Law and Nieviem. I don't really read books, though, so don't have a favourite...

Jam: And on that note...

Glen: Thanks to Tim for the interview - we appreciate it a lot. See ya soon!


Bibliography.
Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London.