Saturday, 30 June 2018

Know Your Place...? by Truth Equals Treason; Intelligent, Ferocious, Inspiring!

Courtesy of T=T.
Lincoln based Truth Equals Treason, whose name was inspired by whistle blowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, formed in 2015 releasing their first 5 track mini album It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck in early 2017a collection of hard core political punk diatribes that engaged with the corrosive effects of mainstream media, working class experience in 21st Century industrial capitalism (‘Lives are spent, live like drones-hand to mouth and payday loans’) and the plight of refugees and the West’s military involvements that so often lie behind their flight. It was a great debut album from a band on a mission, as guitarist Jam said in an interview for Echoes and Dust It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck is ‘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!’ (1)
The rest of 2017 saw Truth Equals Treason release the Fifty Shades of Pain single and ‘Through The Cracks’ a benefit track with all monies made going to Punk 4 The Homeless; a band who put their money where their mouth is.
Fast forward to June 2018 (via a couple of compilations) and T=T have released their second mini album Know Your Place…? Now in rock mythology there is the idea of the ‘difficult ‘second album so it’s always interesting to see what a band comes up with once they’ve used up all their best, tried and tested material in their first release, does Know Your Place…? manage to build on It’s Got A Photo Of Thatcher, It Must Be As Punk As Fuck or is it IGAPOTIMBAPAF Part II?
Good news is T=T have managed to raise the bar in every way with Know Your Place…? It’s a cleverer, sharper, slightly more sophisticated, more variously textured album while keeping the anger, the compassion, the power of their first outing.
With Know Your Place…? Truth Equals Treason don’t even let you get the CD in the player before they’re having a go, making you think, challenging you about your own complicity in the militarised, neoliberal plutocracy that is the UK 2018. On the cover a group of six marionettes stand heads bowed with a seventh out front standing tall with cut strings and a pair of scissors in hand. Thoughts occur, ‘Where am I in that picture?’...’The lead marionette is wielding the scissors, no one has cut the strings for her/him...what resources do the scissors represent?
For those of you into such things you’ll be pleased to know it just keep getting better when you slide the CD out, it looks like an old school vinyl single! Nice touch! Plus lyric sheet. A lot of thought and love has obviously gone into this.
Know Your Place…? starts with a sampled speech ‘Today the top tenth of 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%’ then the music starts while another voice dismantles trickle down economics. Brooding, ominous, setting the scene, the lull before the storm...then it hits! Think G.L.O.S.S., think Glamour, think your favourite old school hard core band, great riffs, great drums and incisive lyrics delivered with barely contained fury-Glen gives the impression that if he wasn’t singing ‘Crumbs from the Table’ he’d be in danger of spontaneous combustion
‘Sit up and fight - your blood it should boil!
Or lay down and suffer a lifetime of toil.
The system's a farce, you’ve got nobody fooled;
if you close our eyes, then they’ll always rule.
Aspiration to lies - all power is guarded;
they gave us nothing - why should the advantaged?
Sold an illusion - told we are free;
dangled a carrot - social mobility.

If you’re willing and able; you’ll get the crumbs from the table.
If you’re strong and you’re stable; and believe in their fables.’

Honestly punk doesn’t get better than this, great start!

Track 2 ‘Progress’ has an extended ferocious Intro before the vocals come in as more of a recitation than a song.
‘More people in the west now die as a consequence of our way of life, our standard of living, and our affluence, than are killed by natural disease. We slaughter them in road accidents; we kill them with fast food, smoking, and through alcohol abuse; we addict them to drugs and chemicals. A vacuous media diminishes their feeling of self-worth to the point where they kill themselves because they’re convinced that they’re too fat, too thin, too short, tall, or flawed in some other way. We drive them to think only of success and convince them that personal achievement overrides the needs or rights of others.
Does that sound like progress to you?’
Truth Equals Treason collective response? ‘FUCK OFF!’ before somehow Jam and Alan raise the intensity even more while Glen roars ‘Does that sound like progress to you?’ Brilliant!

‘Born Again Atheist’ takes aim at the dark side of religion, right wing Christians-isn’t that an oxymoron?- TV Evangelists fleecing the vulnerable, religious intolerance, religion as the co-opted priesthood of the status quo. Understandably T=T are a little put off by this litany of abuses and power plays, by religion as a means of social control, but cleverly, while stating their atheist position, they don’t take aim at the spirituality of the poor or the use of faith as a resource in the struggle for freedom (eg Liberation theology). Clever, nuanced song. This is no adolescent shock stuff, well thought out.

‘And the Bombs Keep Falling…’ is as hard core as you like, furious musically and lyrically if this doesn’t make you cerebrally/emotionally angry and physically excited then you probably need to take your pulse, you may be comatose.
‘A charred corpse kneels in supplication,
arms raised to shield against the fire.
‘Assets deployed’ to defend the nation;
piling fuel on the world’s funeral pyre.

Bad men’s bodies strewn amongst babies’ toys;
Predator’s feel no parent’s concern.
‘Collateral damage’ means more girls and boys.
Hellfire rains down and the bodies burn.

A father kneels and holds his lifeless child.
But death came not from terror’s hand.
Tries to remember his baby’s smile,
as her blood seeps away into the sand.

And the bombs, they just keep falling…’

All over h/c riffs that perfectly compliment the subject matter!

Track 5 ‘Blame Thy Neighbour’ is even better!! It starts with xenophobe Katie Hopkins arrogant twaddle before T=T’s riposte to the new mainstreamed, smartened up, media savvy alt right. Musically it starts off at a slightly slower pace before Glen's vocals/roar kicks in and the whole thing becomes an anthemic masterpiece! Are three people allowed to make this much noise?
‘Confront them on your doorstep; far too close to home.
Fuck the fascist, fuck the racist, sexist homophobes.
I see you on my doorstep; we’ll have it, toe-to-toe.
Fuck you fascist, fuck you racist, sexist homophobes.

Daily war from the street to the shop-floor.
Everyday war; we can’t afford to ignore.
Explain away all inequality;
blame thy neighbour, not those in authority.
Shut ‘em down; nothing but trouble.
Anti-fascist war; it’s an everyday struggle.
Vigilance: be eyes, be ears.
Dogs they prey on the slightest fears.’

Towards the end the sound of chanting ‘Alerta! Alerta! Antifacista!’ comes in, this is punk at it’s best! T=T manage to encapsulate all that makes punk important-intelligent, engaged, angry, compassionate. This album is the distillation of hours of reading, thinking, discussing, acting. I’ve just read Reminiscences of RAR this band carry on that struggle.

Last track up is ‘Four Million Watching’ on surveillance. Great way to end the album, musicality, lyrical intelligence, engagement with the Panopticon society, self policing, 1984, who watches the watcher?

Look I’ve pretty much run out of words to describe this album. It’s an exhilarating, exciting reminder of the world we live in, our responsibility to make it a better place and what made you love punk initially. My partner asked me to review Know Your Place…? while she was out as she knew it would involve loud, repeated playing but when I put it on for a reconnaissance listen she was dancing excitedly around in the next room! Buy It!! Go and see this band!

By the way if you're offended by swearing don’t buy this album, but if you're offended by injustice, inequality and oppression then buy it now!
  



Bibliography.  

(1)https://www.echoesanddust.com/2017/11/truth-equals-treason-punk-cannot-afford-to-stagnate-our-message-should-not-be-diluted/  

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The Worst Show On Earth: Evil Blizzard.

Photo courtesy of Division Promotions.
OK so where do I start! I’ve seen the name Evil Blizzard for a while now, especially in Psych Rock circles but to be honest never got round to checking them out so when someone sent me a link to their latest album I came to it pretty ignorant. A bit of reading up on them and, first surprise, found them listed on the Rebellion Festival line up for this August! Second surprise, they’ve played there several times before. So I fished them out of the Psych drawer and decided that maybe I should give writing a review of their new album a go.
Practicing the Situationist method of appropriation and detournement Evil Blizzard have taken a critic’s description of one of their gigs (1) and called their new album The Worst Show on Earth-and any review is going to start off inevitably with the cover, a disturbing photo montage which to be honest put me off them initially. It’s like an abject art take on Moby’s 18, the one where Moby is standing in front of a bright blue sky, astronauts helmet under his left arm. Evil Blizzard’s cover is like a shock rock equivalent, similar blue sky, similar sandy terrain but in this artwork a sinister clown stares down at you, horse head tucked under his arm. This is a band who understand the power of the visual so I’m sure they won’t mind that it had the predictable effect of making me a little wary of them, was this going to be some tedious Slipknot/Alice Cooper retread trading in horror shtick? However onwards-’You can’t judge an album by the cover’ as they say, and any band who have opened for Ruts DC, Sleaford Mods and Bo Ningen (2) deserve a listen in my eyes/ears.
The Worst Show on Earth is composed of 8 diverse tracks-if you can imagine falling into a post modern cement mixer with Hawkwind, PIL, Gnod and bizarrely early Genesis (but that might be the masks), miscellaneous heavy riffing and more bass guitarists than you can shake a stick at then you may be near to the general feel of this album, although it is not without it’s subtle, more nuanced moments as well. Apparently they went into the studio with a couple of road tested tracks and then just went for it (1), so I guess this is a fair indicator of their live show.
First track ‘Hello’ starts off with a keyboard intro reminding a bit of ‘Tron’ by Gnod before it gradually evolves into a full on rocker, ‘Who are we, we are we. Who are you, you are you?’ Great riffs, headbangers could well end up in hospital-be warned!
Second track ‘Fast Forward Rewind’ is almost like ‘Hello’ Part II in tempo and feel, a continuation of the full out assault on your musical senses-excellent!
‘Unleash The Misery’ changes the feel, drums, keyboard, Tom Waits style vocals, completely different rhythms going on before the guitars kick in, nice change of textures. No one trick pony. Really like this musically.
‘Those You Left Behind’ is another heads down rocker with echoes of glam swirling around in there somewhere!
‘Like A God’ is next up and another slight change of feel, probably the best start so far for me, brooding, building-you know something is coming...very Doremi Farsol Latido, then it shifts again, really great, interesting track, loads of Hawkwindish stuff going on here. Back into tense...on a very good album this stands out.
A bit like ‘Fast Forward Rewind’ kept the ‘Hello’ vibe going ‘Tell Me’, keeps the energy of ‘Like A God’ going, maintaining that slightly edgy feel, good stuff.
Just when you think you’ve got The Worst Show on Earth sussed it metamorphosizes, changes direction again and becomes a far more moody piece of work, and I’d say they’ve perfectly timed it. Glimpses of early Bowie are half caught out of the corner of your eye as the penultimate track progresses with a child’s voice reciting in the background that all (original) artistic expression has happened, that we have found our truths to be lies (I think). Self deprecating, self aware comment? Commentary on the cultural state of late capitalism?
Final track ‘The Worst Show on Earth’ revisits and redeploys the Intro from ‘Hello’, with the voice of German poet Arne Wald over keyboard (1) before the track builds atmospherically into something truly magnificent. Great work.     
Evil Blizzard seemed to have managed to synthesise early metal riffs, punk and psych (and a touch of Prog?) into a very coherent, satisfying whole, with for me the most interesting tracks coming at the end-great album. Really interesting to see a flow going on between the psych and the punk scene, it will make both richer. Gnod and The Oscillation playing Rebellion next year?! The Ruts DC and Truth Equals Treason at Raw Power?!

John Lydon has never made any secret of his pre punk appreciation of Hawkwind and with PIL playing Rebellion this year keep an eye out for him in the queue to see Evil Blizzard!.

(1)Little, A. (2018) ’Review:Evil Blizzard-The Worst Show on Earth’ https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/06/evil-blizzard-the-worst-show-on-earth/

(2)http://www.evilblizzard.com/unleash.html

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Reification Blues by White Skull Death Snakes of Death, " intense, mesmeric, wholly original"

Courtesy of WSDSoD/Artwork Anthony Thomas.
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. Somewhere near Housewives but with off kilter bits of phrasing and structure in the vocals that occasionally echoes Talking Heads Nottingham based White Skull Death Snakes of Death are not, as their name may suggest, some obscure overblown 70s metal group but a 21st Century reimagining, reconstructing of punk! Drawing on punk sensibilities but pointing it in a slightly different direction they’ve been compared to The Fall and Christian Lunch. while their vocalist Anthony Thomas cites Jello Biafra, early Black Flag, Steve Albini, Iggy Pop and Birthday Party era Nick Cave as influences.
Formed in the summer of 2013 when Anthony (vocals) and Mat (bass) Thomas joined a pre existing duo of Gareth 'Winty' Winterman (guitar) and Dom Goodbarn (drums) White Skull Death Snakes of Death had their first gig in December of the same year. It was late last year when I first came across them at a punk benefit gig when their set was an intense, mesmeric, wholly original shock to the system! So have they managed to reproduce that on this album?
The brief answer is 'Completely!!' Trying to stay as close to the live show as possible they recorded Reification Blues live with Phil Booth at JT Soar, an ex-warehouse now DIY and music space in Nottingham (1), with Mat the bassist mixing the album and Tiago Queiroz mastering it. The result is superb!
Reification Blues is a blistering album of complex angular punk that doesn’t compromise, if a successful artist is one that manages to bring into being that that they imagined-transposing the imagined into reality-then White Skull Death Snakes of Death are a successful band, this 8 track album perfectly captures them in multifaceted full flow!
The album kicks off with ‘Children of Edith’ which lyrically came about as a response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. It’s 4 minutes of relentless rock/punk with Anthony’s vocals demanding your attention as they become increasingly intense. If you use music as a comfort blanket don’t buy this album!
Next track ‘Gravity’s Pull’ ups the tempo and the intensity! Not sure how they managed that really! Pulverising can be a bit overused but not in this context! But it isn’t that old school bludgeoning ‘Turn it all up to 11’ type power, this is music made by a band who know exactly how to achieve the effect they are after and don’t have to rely on upping the decibels. Although I’m sure they would be very happy to do that as well!
‘Shaking Hands and Kissing Babies’ savages the manipulative and dangerous machinations of some contemporary politicians as they up the nationalist ante. I’m not sure if the comment at the end ‘Another glorious mess’ is an initial frustrated response to the recording or a reference to current right wing politics-I like to think the latter!
‘The Sweet Smell of Excess’ and ‘Dream of Mo’ maintain the quality, in an alternative dance universe the latter is a huge hit!
Track 6 is ‘Housewives Favourite’, distilled musical fury while Ant takes a swipe at old school, often middle aged, lotharios.
Penultimate track is ‘On Demand’, great riff, great chorus! Just great, full stop.
‘Max’ is a song worthy of the honour of being the signing off track-it has everything that I’ve mentioned earlier, clever lyrics-about the motivations and mindset of a lone bomber-Anthony’s delivery is dramatic without ever being melodramatic, the sound perfectly complimenting the vocals. Thunderous drums-did I mention the thunderous drums earlier? Sinewy guitar snaking its way through the tumultuous, brilliantly organised highly sophisticated racket.
Think Gang of Four meets Idles, intelligence, musical nous and power.

You probably haven’t heard of White Skull Death Snakes of Death, you’re confused by their name, it’s got two ‘Death’s in it for one thing but you are seriously missing out if you don’t give this album a listen. And when you have I’ll see you down the front at one of their gigs in the near future.

https://whiteskulldeathsnakesofdeath.bandcamp.com/releases



Bibliography.
(1)https://www.alttickets.com/venue/nottingham/jt-soars

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Girls In Synthesis: An Interview.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.
Formed in late 2016, Girls In Synthesis is comprised of John, Jim and Nicole who, inspired by the early DIY punk and post-punk movements, have had four releases The Mound/Disappear, the Suburban Hell EP, a Dub version of Suburban Hell and very recently the EP We Might Not Make Tomorrow. As exciting as the first time you heard your favourite band their music is intense and abrasive drawing on Crass, Flipper, Wire and The Fall as influences although to be honest they sound like none of them particularly and do sound like a jarring, adrenalised version of life in Britain and every band that’s made you feel alive. No wonder Louder Than War commented on the Suburban Hell EP ‘...feeling utterly original….Girls in Synthesis are clearly very sonically clever, and the mix of the waves of feedback and swirling myriad of sound colliding with the very minimal and primitive is hugely effective...A truly exciting, exhilarating assault on the senses…’(1)
Enthralled by a band who sound like they’ve re-energised punk and who have a real DIY ethos, they've kept everything in-house; artwork, videos, performances and recordings all being created by the band and a small group of collaborators, I made contact with John for an interview...
Girls In Synthesis came together in late 2016-did you have a clear vision for the band from the start or has it been more evolutionary?
There was definitely a strong and clear vision before we played a note or wrote a song. The vision was to bludgeon the ears, without resorting to heavy riffing, distortion, rock n roll clichés etc. It has certainly evolved over the last year and a bit into something a little more nuanced and subtle. We present the group as a full package, so if we can’t sell an idea to each other (visuals, music, presentation etc) then we veto it. That has been in place from the start.
Engaging with your music is an experience of being confronted with distilled reality as opposed to escapism-is that what you intend? A music that mirrors the jarring, anxiety inducing social and economic experience of many in neoliberal  Britain (2)?
I think there is some truth in that, yeah. Some probably see our outlook as po-faced and maybe a bit impenetrable, certainly musically that has been thrown at us. But, as we are all past the glory years of our teens/20’s, there has to be a time to face up to reality. I have a son, and while I’m able to bury my head in the sand (to some degree) for my own sake, I can’t do it for his. I wouldn’t say we tackle politics head-on, like some groups do, but we do address it in our own way. The ‘personal politics’ aspect of life we can tackle, as although it varies from individual to individual the pace of life and the strains of living affects most of us in the same ways.
Do Girls In Synthesis draw attention to that experience as an act of resistance? Picasso's idea that art can be a weapon, an alarm bell?
Hmm… I guess so, but sometimes it’s hard to remind yourself of that, I think. We do feel that we project a form of opposition in some way, and through the noise hopefully people can hear (and identify) with the lyrics. We always make sure they’re printed in full with each release. But can music change anything? I’m not sure… It’s hard to see what can at the moment. I think deep down the group presents itself as a sounding block for each of us. A weapon, perhaps, but I couldn’t say what for.
Your approach to gigs seems to be to create an immersive environment not just play music for people. An art installation more than a conventional gig?
Yeah, why not! We started performing in the audience at the end of last year, and the shows became a million times more memorable. If you were going to be critical, I guess some could level a “attention seeking/spectacle” charge at it. However, the results speak for themselves. People come away from our shows having felt something. That’s the whole point. Hate it or love it, we’d rather have a reaction. And that’s what we get. People have much better ways of spending a Tuesday night in East London, why not give them something to react to and, essentially, remember?
As far as I understand it Relational Aesthetics was the idea that a piece of art was completed by the involvement/contribution of others-a 'participatory other' rather than a passive consumer. Is that what you are doing live? Transforming the 'audience' into part of the creative process?
Absolutely. There wouldn’t be a great deal of point performing this music without an audience present… our music isn’t technically interesting, it’s pretty unforgiving and belligerent. I guess it doesn’t care whether you like it or not. But, as I’ve said, audiences do react if you give them an opportunity to. We’ve had shows where people will just grab the mic and start doing there own thing. We’ve given people our guitars and let them get on with it… we’ve only really just started touching this aspect, really. We often wonder what we’ll do when we play bigger venues or support acts in such places… but we’ll get round it. Playing on-stage for a whole show isn’t an option for us.
With the organisation of space at your gigs dismantling the artist/audience dichotomy and hierarchy (3)-is that the intention?
Yes and no. Undoubtedly, there is a hierarchy, whether we like it or not. It’s not an open mic night… but, in very simple terms, part of it is us being bored to fuck of bands with long hair staring at their effects pedals while playing a show. Ten a penny. It’s a way of involving people, giving them a bit more for their money/time. I think people respect the fact that we get among them.
“Destroying the barrier between the audience and the artist” is a bit hackneyed, isn’t it? No one else, as far as I can see, has really made a proper stab at it. Saying that, I doubt we’re the first, but maybe just the only group making the effort to achieve it at the moment?
A widening out of the punk DIY aesthetic to everyone present...?!
Yeah, I’ll have that.
Is there a group of bands that you feel a musical affinity with? The almost physical intensity of your sound reminded me a little of Gnod, Housewives, Idles.
Not really… I’ve heard all of the above, and as good as they are, I think we’re far too wrapped up in our own world to really consider the good and bad about contemporaries. I love Bad Breeding, they’re the best group I’ve heard in years. They’re a lot more hardline that us, both musically and lyrically, but I’m from a similar suburban area of Hertfordshire as them, so I identify with the way they project their frustrations.
Starting on the 15 June there is a photo exhibition in London documenting the band, with all money raised going to the charity Mind, could you tell us a bit more about that, how it came about?
I can… my partner works at Lomography in London, and she is a huge proponent of analogue photography. She has been documenting bands since her teens, and she’s the perfect person to have document us visually. She has a huge collection of photos of us, from day dot up until now. They’re works of art within themselves, we’re merely artists’ models in some way. There’s no self-consciousness from our part when she’s snapping, so her work suggested she use the small gallery space to show people what she can do.
It’s going to be a great, celebratory night for us, having just released the new E.P. Every other celebration has involved playing a show at the end of it, so we’ll just be playing some records at the launch, drinking and marvelling at wonderful photographs of our ugly mugs. Her Instagram is www.instagram.com/starr.snaps if anyone fancies a look.
So far you have had three releases The Mound/Disappear, the Suburban Hell EP and very recently the EP We Might Not Make Tomorrow. What sort of subject matter and themes do you explore on the different releases?
I think the first single dealt with an abstract representation of frustration and paranoia. I think the music is where strength lies for those particular songs.
‘Suburban Hell’ again, deals with personal issues alongside the title track’s anger towards middle class suburbia. I grew up among this, so I feel at least slightly qualified to comment on it! 'Phases' is about the stupidity and nativity towards hard drugs, and how there seems to be a blight among young musicians at the moment. Maybe it’s always been there, I don’t know.
I think the WMNMT E.P has the best lyrics so far, and they stretch from the fear of COLD WAR II and the real threat of nuclear war to the governments attitude towards animal rights, the USA elections and ageing and fading youth. To explain them all too deeply would probably kill some of the interpretation, but I’m very proud of this collection. Jim’s lyrics are excellent and add another point of view to my own.
Your artwork is really interesting, what sort of ideas informed the images? The cover of The Mound/Disappear for some reason reminded me of, and subverted, the gender hierarchy of Gainsborough's Mr and Mrs Andrews. Could you unpack the artwork for us?
'The Mound' artwork was a gesture towards us not wanting to push the personal parts of us as people. So you nearly get to see us, but you’re looking at torsos really. Could be anyone… I’m not aware of any gender roles being subverted here, that certainly wasn’t the attention. It was purely to remove any ‘personality’ from the cover. That’s changed now of course (see the exhibition answer) now we can’t get enough! Haha. However, I think that now we’re documenting the spectacle. We just happen to be part of it.
Suburban Hell has a double garage with a limp England flag. The whole thing looks drab and dull, the asserting of an easy 'off the shelf' identity in a mundane suburban environment...the reproducing of a small minded worldview (2) based around an elite serving top down narrative?
The cover photos for both E.P’s we’re taken by an old friend, Bonnie Carr. She has a fabulous eye for the mundaneness of her surroundings, and it fit perfect with the subject matter of the title song. That feeling of pride, misplaced probably. Proud of what, exactly?
Another garage on We Might Not Make Tomorrow...!!      
Again, taken by Bonnie. None of these photos were taken for the E.P’s, by the way. We just saw them and they seemed to fit perfectly. This photo is of a hearse with a stack of coffins, in some industrial unit somewhere. This helps narrate the title track perfectly, it represents the death, and huge amounts of it, hinted in the song. It also represents death as an industry. Pile them high...
The Dadaist idea was to create their art by drawing on resources that didn't reproduce the status quo? Would Girls In Synthesis be happy to be included in that line of artist?
Nahh… I see our artwork as slightly more functional and utilitarian in a way. Musically, maybe.
What are your plans for the second half of 2018, will we be able to catch you live?
We’re recording over summer, so I don’t think we’ll be doing an awful lot show-wise. But we are booking ourselves a small tour for the end of the year, when we hope to have another release scheduled.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.

Bibliography.
(1)Britton, A. (2017) ‘Girls In Synthesis-Suburban Hell-EP review and exclusive track premiere’. https://louderthanwar.com/review-girls-synthesis-suburban-hell/
(2)Hardy, SP. (2017) ‘New Music-Girls In Sythesis’ http://www.pylotmagazine.com/new-music-girls-in-synthesis/
(3)https://www.facebook.com/pg/girlsinsynthesis/about/?ref=page_internal
and ‘Girls In Synthesis Q&A’ http://therockclubuk.com/index.php/rock-club-uk-interviews/2834-girls-in-synthesis-q-a

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Punk 4 The Homeless Vol 1.

Image courtesy of P4TH.
Punk 4 The Homeless is the brainchild of Nottingham based couple Eagle Spits and Rachel, admittedly that is probably not his birth name but it does seem to suit a character who 40 years after his initial involvement in punk is still going strong- still angry, hopeful, humorous, militating for change. Seeing The Stranglers on TOTP performing ‘No More Heroes’ at 14 was Eagle’s introduction to punk but he’s never settled for a narrow definition of punk that fetishises fast music and studded belts, for Eagle punk includes a call to arms, to participate in improving the world. Early on he hung round with The Clash before their gig in Peterborough, got ‘Feeding of the 5000’ by Crass discovered anarchism, became acquainted with the ‘Agitator from Nazareth’, and realised that punk that included changing the world made much more sense than punk that gave up on it. In 2014 he commented ‘...’Yes’ I am a punk if punk is an attitude but ‘No’ if it’s someone who just consumes generic, unchallenging crap.. I’m still naive enough to want to change the world and despite its problems believe the punk scene can be a major part of that’.
Eagle quotes one of his heroes Joe Strummer as saying “I thought we were a fucking punk band. I thought that meant we could play what we wanted!’ Consequently there has been a book of poetry Slap Bang In The Middle of a Contradiction, The Poor Geezers, Spitune, Eaglespitshexx, all have given expression to spoken word, industrial noise, collaborative cacophonies.
Alongside making lots of noise Eagle and Rachel have run ‘Punk 4 The Homeless’ since 2010 putting on gigs each month, raising money to take kids off the streets of Central America and into the safety of orphanages away from the hands and feet of local cops.
This has focussed on a monthly Punk (Benefit) Gig in Nottingham. The monies raised are channeled through Compass Children’s Charity which started as Casa Alianza UK in February 1999 in response to the senseless death of one street child – 13-year-old Nahamán Carmona López – at the hands of four police officers in Guatemala City who found him sniffing glue on the streets to combat his wracking hunger pains (1). This incident lies behind the P4TH slogan, ‘Stopping Cops Killing Kids Is Punk Rock’.
Earlier this year P4TH released the first in a series of Punk 4 the Homeless Compilations. Volume 1 is made up of 14 tracks by bands who have played P4TH gigs since the early days, with further volumes planned.
The predominant style is musically ‘punk’ in its various forms but there is also a fair smattering of acoustic stuff in there which reflects P4TH’s ‘broad musical church’ approach and makes for a varied aural experience.
Now the tricky bit, how do you review 14 tracks without boring people who can’t actually hear what they are reading about..OK, I’d better make it snappy but comments in no way imply that any tracks are better than the rest and in fact when you buy this excellent album you’ll wonder how I skimmed over…(insert your favourite).
The album kicks off with Brocker, Born To Destruct and 3 Stone Monkey-nice run of three tracks that gets the album off to a quality, energetic start. I’ve only seen Brocker out of these three and this track ‘Gimme Gimme Rock n Roll’ gives a good idea of their melodic end of punk sound, this is one of those tracks that gets better everytime you hear it, which can also be said about the tougher sounding ‘We Love It’ by Born To Destruct and the popier ‘Left to the Right’ by 3 Stone Monkey.
For me it is track 4 by Blackpool based thrash metal/punksters CSOD where things really get going, a riff Motorhead would have been very happy with...hang on while I listen to it again.
Luddite Bastard are next up with ‘Hitler Youth’, hardcore punk from Derby, reminds me a bit of Dead Kennedys for some reason, maybe it’s the vocals? Very good!
Track 6 is ‘The Glory of Yesterday’ by Rich Gulag. I’ve seen Rich solo and as part of Black Light Mutants and as expected it is musically strong, intelligent and articulate lyrically. Not a comfortable song to listen to. ‘Stop referring back to what you’ve done, what are you living like today?’ would probably be a reasonable summing up. Thought provoking. Good work.
I’ve seen Headsticks a couple of times-excellent band at The Levellers end of things. ‘You’re Killing Me America’ starts off with Trump promising a crowd that a wall will be built, lyrics include “The blind leading the blind”, seems to sum up much of American politics very succinctly. Good band, good song.
First of three acoustic tracks is ‘Chin Up’ by Lily Gaskill, I’m not always a big fan of singer songwritery type stuff but this is excellent! I’d like to write out all the lyrics but better than that, find it and listen to it! “...without you good honest workers, the rich don’t have shite…” Stirring, thoughtful, politically bang on. This should have been used on the film Pride.
Steve White and the Protest Family’s ‘Moving Target’ is track 9-good song on the experience of being a cyclist trying to survive in a world of car drivers.
Skapete the Uplifter’s (sort of) anti-paean to a ‘Dirty Cat’ rings true, dead birds, dirty, persistent. I’m not a cat lover, this rang true.
UK Skunk celebrate the mundane with ‘Hobnobs (The SAS of Dunkers)’, good fun track. “The man with the greatest R&D job was the man who invented the holy hobnob” I like it more each time I hear it!
Wonk Unit contribute ‘Van’ really good quality as most of you would probably expect, I’m off the pace on this band and think this is the first time I’ve heard a track by them despite seeing their name numerous times-really impressed! Guess that’s one of the great things about compilations…
‘The 99%’ by Mispelt is the penultimate track and a cracker! “We are the 99%, innocent victims of the government. Got no money can’t pay the rent, we are the 99%” Musically and lyrically bang on.
The Blissetts ‘Nothing to Lose (But Our Chains)’ is an ideal closing track with a succinct, incisive summing up of the worker’s experience of capitalism and this track seems to be an apposite way to end an album that will contribute to rescuing kids from poverty and vulnerability.

Like with any compilation album different tracks will appeal to different people but overall this is a great album that gives a good overview of UK DIY punk and as the first Volume in the Punk 4 The Homeless series sets the bar pretty high!

Punk 4 The Homeless Volume 1 is available on Bandcamp
https://punk4thehomeless.bandcamp.com/album/various-artists-punk-4-the-homeless-vol-01
and at P4TH gigs.

Cover design by Joey Mutant /P4TH logo by John R Dean.

Bibliography.
(1)http://compasschildrenscharity.org.uk/about-us/

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Music, Catharsis and Anarchy: An Interview With Interrobang's Dunstan Bruce.


Early this year something wondrous and perfectly formed appeared in our midst...the Interrobang album had been released! If you haven’t heard it yet that’s several months of your life that have been musically poorer than they needed to be-get to it! Interrobang are like a wonderful cocktail that includes hints of The Jam, Gang of Four, Pulp and Blur while always maintaining their own distinct sound. Intelligent, witty, self aware lyrics embedded in vivid, cleverly textured and shaped musical landscapes that always enhance what’s being said. You can tell that this is a band that have spent time thinking about, honing, road testing this collection of lean, perfectly delivered songs. Ego-less collaboration, not an easy thing to find. Dunstan Bruce, Stephen Griffin and Harry Hamer have created a work of art that honestly and courageously explores the experience of being a 50 something dissident still bothered about the inequality and injustice they see around them, ”I’m sick to death of being told to keep calm, no danger of that happening any time soon, I’m angry, still angry after all these years, I’ll never calm down, never ever” (‘Mad as Hell’), still with a sharp mind but, disconcertingly, a waning body, ”…I’ve been privately browsing middle aged concerns, and I’ve been googling the 50 something blues…I’ve been denying existential truths and I’ve been ignoring hashtag cancerous news…” (‘Asking For a Friend’). The overtly political and those aspects of life often considered more personal (although of course the ‘personal’ occurs in, and is affected by, a social/political context) are kept in perfect balance as the album engages with the wide gamut of life (and death, both of a parent and the contemplation of one’s own) including apprehension of the next milestone  “I’m in a car wash and frankly I’m terrified…what’s gonna happen when I hit 60, will I still be hungry, will I still be angry, and will I still have the energy?” (‘Breathe’),
As he had spent some time out of music between Chumbawumba and Interrobang I was intrigued to ask Dunstan Bruce how in retrospect the whole experience of returning to music, being in a band, releasing an album and touring again had gone...  
Interrobang formed in 2012 and the album was released in 2018, in that time were you conscious that you were engaged in a valuable process of perfectly realising a vision and there were no shortcuts?
That’s a long gestation period isn’t it? We obsessed over this album, this project, this labour of love. The last thing we wanted to do was pour our heart and soul into this and watch it go out with a whimper not a bang. We spent a long time developing the songs, getting them tighter, more economical, more less-is-more-ish, honed into incredible little gems. And then life comes along and distracts you, kicks you in the balls, knocks you sideways. So you put everything on hold and then when you’re ready you throw yourself back in. This was too precious to us all.
I was reading a couple of interviews you gave (1,2), in them you mention that the album has been gestating, at least lyrically, for about 8 years, how did you feel as the launch day approached?
There has been a wonderful feeling of validation, of purpose, of value. It was a massive step for me lyrically, baring my soul, letting the world in, sharing my confessional. I had hit a point where my ability to communicate with the outside world had almost ground to a halt. Where I was incapable of expressing an emotion, where I embraced curmudgeon as an affectation rather than an affliction. It was a dark and lonely place. So I approached it with trepidation. And a glorious feeling that I was taking a leap again. It was exhilarating and terrifying. I had butterflies. I loved it.
The album has been really well received!! Were you surprised by how many people completely 'got it'?
I’d got wind that people were digging what we were doing from the gigs. Middle aged men coming up to me after a show and sharing their own stories about their difficult relationships with their dads, about feeling invisible, about never giving up. I discovered it was a common experience that I had gone through. Talking about stuff like that at a gig rather than at some men’s group was incredibly rewarding. Without the rarefied atmosphere, but just that visceral shared experience it was easy to talk and to share.
The album speaks to those of us who are wondering what dissent looks like when you are 50 something but it also explores mortality, relationships and the fear that one is fading into irrelevance. Did you find it difficult to write so honestly, did it feel vulnerable or did it feel a like necessary catharsis?
There’s no guarantee that something like this was going to bring me any sort of love, peace or understanding but it certainly did. Catharsis yes. definitely that. It cleansed my system. I kind of re-booted myself. I opened up. It was scary and I felt incredibly self-conscious at times. Even just bringing those words to the rehearsal room - a safe environment – I felt exposed. But part of getting to my age was that front part of my brain loosening up, that bit that says stop being so uptight, let it out, don’t give a fuck, that part just let go. I’m 57. What have I got to lose? This is my one go at this; I decided not to waste it any more. So weirdly now I feel like a bit of a fraud getting up in stage being that character who wrote those words. I’m not quite sure that’s me any more. Cliched I know but I’ve been on journey and I think I might just be coming out the other side now…
How have men responded to it, have they whispered/mentioned casually to you that it speaks to/for them?
Less of a whisper, more of a shout! It’s resonated for sure and that’s been great. There’s some tricky stuff on there, taboo stuff, awkward stuff, difficult stuff. I made a decision to put it all out there. Whether it’s entirely me or not. It’s all in there/out there and we’re all going through it. Sometimes I wonder whether not talking actually makes us ill. I’m almost evangelical about it. Almost…
How about women-has it resonated with them as much? Or is their experience shaped differently by society?
There’s no denying that what I say is very male-oriented and deliberately so but still there are shared ideas, shared themes, simple ideas that cross genders. There are lots of universal, communal conversations going on in there too.
Up till about 2005 you were in Chumbawamba, who identified as an anarchist band, how have your politics evolved in the last 10 years or so, would you still identify as an anarchist?
In the way I think we should organise, yes. In the fact that we have to take responsibility, do it ourselves, fight injustice and inequality, call out the egregious, take on the man, not rely on others, believe in a better fairer world also yes. But an anarchist who can bend his own rules, who can collaborate with the broad left, who can find links and connections and not exist in a bubble. Anarcho-outwardism.
Anarchism because it is the best way to preclude social injustice and inequality or because you prioritise personal freedom?
Anarchism because common sense.
I saw a clip recently of Benjamin Zephaniah talking to Krishna Guru Murphy about anarchism (3), and KGM appeared to be struggling! Have you had similar experiences, that people find it hard to imagine something other than a tweaked version of what is?
I loved that Zephaniah interview! He’s putting out those radical ideals but we know his heart is in the community. He’s no high-falutin head in the clouds fantasist. I love that. His feet firmly on the ground but he’s aiming at the stars. He’s a beautiful role model. I haven’t got any 5 point plan to change the world and whilst I might still dream of revolution I know that it’s unlikely. I love that Audre Lorde quote “Revolution is not a one-time event”. I also like that Howard Zinn quote ““We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
What next for Interrobang? Is there going to be a second album?
It’s taking some small, initial, faltering steps. There will be a second album. There must be.
Any early ideas about what sort of subjects it might engage with?
Only that it will be different to the first. I’ve come through that process. I’m on a different adventure now. Audre Lorde again “ Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now”.
So, album out and tour complete-any final reflections on the whole experience of starting from scratch in 2012 to releasing a brilliant album and going on tour again in 2018?
At the age of 50 it felt like I was on cruise control, freewheeling downhill. One of the first lines I wrote for Interrobang was a stolen mashed up quote from somewhere or other that was “I’m embracing adventure with comfortable shoes and a clean place to shit, yeah that’s it”. I’m still on that adventure and I’m loving it all.
Any plans for more dates later in the year?
The autumn yeah; Ireland, Germany, hopefully a few choice UK shows. We’re still specifically waiting for the call for a Scottish jaunt too… I miss playing live. I miss Griff. Griff’s a genius. And a style guru. And a guitar god. We’ll be back though. Shouty man and loopy guitar man. Getting all hot and bothered under the starched and pressed collar…


Bibliography.

(1)Dix, J. (2018) ‘Interview: Dustan Bruce from Interrobang’ https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/04/dunstan-bruce-from-interrobang%E2%80%BD/

(2)Fox, C. (2018) ‘Dunstan Bruce still dreams of revolution: Interrobang Interviewed’ http://louderthanwar.com/dunstan-bruce/

(3)’Benjamin Zephaniah on Windrush, anarchism and his time in North Korea’. Channel 4 News (2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zowOkv0Cuhk

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Slow Faction: Punk, Politics and German Literature!

Photo by Frau Mony courtesy of Slow Faction.
Citing The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers as major influences London based Slow Faction have been around in their current incarnation since 2012. Their first two releases The Shopping Malls and The Brixton Tapes came out in 2014 followed by This Machine Kills Fascists in 2016 and Under Heavy Manners in 2017. The latter elicited widespread praise with one reviewer describing it as ‘music...so spot-on and tunefully perfect-punk that this is simply a great mini-album (1)’ and another commenting about the songs that they have ‘a rare songwriting craft about them (2)’. I caught Slow Faction in Nottingham a few weeks ago where I spent their entire set grinning to myself at having stumbled over such an outstanding band (a subject me and a mate keep returning to!) and then saw them again in London where they confirmed what I had suspected-they’re a musically and lyrically exceptional band who can do it in the studio and on stage where their convictions are palpable and their energy impressive!
At the London gig, that John (Youens) had also helped organise, we had a chat about getting an (email) interview together and lo and behold here it is!   
Could you give us an overview of Slow Faction, how long have you been going, how did you get together?
If truth be told, Slow Faction is a lifelong project for me, albeit an intermittent one. I first used the name Slow Faction in 1986/7 when I was writing songs with a friend at University in Exeter. We went our separate ways but carried on writing songs by correspondence – I got into 4 track home recording and he sent me lyrics or I sent him themes to go with tunes I had. He moved down to London in 1993 and we put the second incarnation of Slow Faction together as a gigging band. 4 years later we split in acrimonious circumstances. I and the other musicians limped on for a year or so under a different name but the impetus had gone. After the split I continued down the home recording path and writing new songs and this time lyrics – I posted the songs under the name Suburban Armchair Paranoia and always got good feedback so never lost sight of the fact that these songs should one day be played live. I never lost touch with Umbi, the bass-player in 93-99, and we used to see each other every couple of years, but he was always in bands doing this and that…then in 2012 we met up and he wasn’t in a band anymore. It might seem strange that I waited 13 years to play live again but I always had the feeling that Umbi and I would make music again and it felt that this time around, the time was right. We recruited Zen (drums) and Lee (rhythm guitar) through Gumtree and worked up a live band and started gigging again in Feb 2013. Zen left in Dec 2016 and Kit joined us on drums. Since Kit joined us I feel that we are more musically complete than at any time and the gigs are getting better and better.
Did the band come together out of a shared politics or shared music? Which was the main driver behind Slow Faction? Could Slow Faction have been a band who sung about getting pissed?
To be in Slow Faction you have to have a broad sympathy with the politics but the music has to come first. My idea for Slow Faction was always the best possible tunes & melodies which rocked but allied to lyrics that had substance. I always wanted Slow Faction to be a literate punk rock band that quickened the pulse. I feel there are enough bands singing about getting pissed already.
Had any of you been in bands before? I would guess from the level of musicality that you have!
As I said above, for me Slow Faction is a lifelong project and I have grown musically over the years through improving my musicianship, teaching myself about recording and sound engineering and trying to find a lyrical voice. Umbi, Kit and Lee have been in multiple bands before. But, just as important, we are all massive music fans and listen to a broad range of music – we don’t sit around listening to just punk – and within our music there are different influences at play which come out when we play live.
What bands are you conscious of being an influence on your sound? You describe yourselves as being influenced by the first wave of punk and people have mentioned The Clash but I was also thinking about The Alarm and The Levellers, I think it's because the songwriting is so 'musical'!
Thanks, yes for me the Clash and early Stiff Little Fingers were a prime motivating factor to pick up a guitar and write songs. Later on I became a big Rancid fan – I think Tim Armstrong is a very interesting story-teller lyricist. I have also followed the Manic Street Preachers from the start until now – I love the way that even 29 years into their careers they can still pull out a big exciting melodious song.
Was Slow Faction's sound a deliberate decision, or is it the combination of the component parts?
I always had a vision (if that’s the right word) for how I wanted Slow Faction to sound. Of course, like everyone, we went into studios a few times but it was always an unsatisfactory experience. In the days before digital, there would always be the pressure to mix quickly so the studio could wipe and reuse the tape. This led to hurried mixing and we never came out sounding how we wanted to. Now, we record ourselves and each recording comes closer to how we want to sound. The reviews for Under Heavy Manners (Sept 2017) were outstanding – and no one mentioned the DIY production so we must have been doing something right!
How does a song come about in Slow Faction? Is it a collaborative process or does there tend to be one main songwriter?
Because I have spent so long writing and recording myself, it is not a collaborative process. I tend to have the song completed in terms of lyrics, structure and guitar riffs and present a drum machine demo to the band, which we then work out into a band version.
My writing has always come about from an acoustic guitar or electric guitar on a clean setting. I focus very much on chord structures and melody lines…I live with this for a while until the right lyric starts to form and then I will start to think about arrangements, riffs, solos…but it always start with the melody lines…
'Can’t you see, there’s a war going on out there?
It’s a fight for survival now
But you don’t really care
You think it doesn’t affect you
Two million children live in poverty
And they say we’re a civilised land
The social contract’s been rescinded
As a million queue for food banks'
('There's a War Going On'-Heavy Manners)
One of the things that marks Slow Faction out is the relevance and quality of the lyrics, they stand out for their sophistication and intelligence. What sort of resources do you draw on? I'm guessing a lot of time reading is distilled into three minutes of singing!?
Thanks – yes, this was always the long-time aim of Slow Faction to write relevant, literate songs which mean something and it hasn’t exactly come about overnight. Like most people my sort of age, I am a synthesis of everything I’ve experienced, read, listened to and this has come together to form my lyrical voice. If you want to boil it down to a few ingredients – punk rock, left wing politics, German 20th Century Literature, Eastern Philosophy and meditation – my wife is a Thai Buddhist and we go to the temple regularly and I have studied Taoism and meditation for over 25 years. I have also travelled extensively for my job and have experienced many different countries and cultures. In the broadest sense I would describe my views (as Heinrich Boell did of himself) as humanitarian liberalism. I am from the left but not dogmatic about it…I am more concerned with equality and fairness and balance and, certainly in this country life has become far more unequal, unfair and unbalanced. There is a war going on in this country and as I write in the song Under Heavy Manners, it’s one that’s being waged by the rich upon the poor…
You released your first EP The Shopping Malls in August 2014, The Brixton Tapes later that year, This Machine Kills Fascists came out in 2016 and last year you released Under Heavy Manners. That's quite a stream of creativity! What sort of subjects have preoccupied you over those 20 or so songs?
The overarching themes are the abuse of power by the rich which is used to control and subjugate and destroy the poor, aided and abetted by the complicit people in the middle who unknowingly allow it to happen while being fed a diet of stultifying drivel by the media. If you look at just the song 'Under Heavy Manners', this contains most of the major themes in its 3 verses: closing down the cities and ordinary people’s way of life, distracting people with cheap reality television, lying politicians leading us into unjustified wars while all the time taking from the poor and giving it to the super rich, surveillance and CCTV spying on our lives while we sit at home satisfied by what the media provides as a distraction…and all the while we are more and more divided and there is no motivating factor to unify us to take to the streets and say enough is enough…those of us who seek to offer a different viewpoint are lone voices in the wilderness as I conclude in the song 'Clear Channel'…
In your song 'Poundland Society' (Under Heavy Manners)
'Now in this world of demagogues
They stir up hatred to unite
So you rally one more time
Behind your flags of ignorance
I'll leave you now as you celebrate
The hollowness of your victory
Your aim was so wide of the mark
You've handed power to the enemy
- and you'll always have nothing Poundland Society
- I see the desperation
- of this divided nation
- enjoy the independence
- of your bargain bin fucked existence
- you've got your sovereignty now
- say hello to penury now
- wave your flags that's all that you've got left'
you've nailed Brexit completely 'You've handed power to the enemy', is a succinct analysis of the class dimension that seemed to be missing from most working class peoples' thinking. Did you find that a particularly frustrating time?
Personally, I am horrified by Brexit. I have lived and worked across Europe and I view (and backed up by European friends) the EU not as some globalist, fascist state, but rather more as a well-meaning but obviously imperfect social democratic institution which, by necessity, is seeking compromise across many countries’ interests. Sometimes they get some issues very wrong, but on overall balance, I see the EU as more positive than negative. I see Brexit as a very negative step that’s been sold to the British public by unscrupulous politicians from the far right and by tax-avoiding media enterprises. Also there is definitely something behind US and Russia interference both of whom would benefit from a weakened EU. People in this country have been left behind by the rich NOT because of EU policies but because of policies pursued aggressively by our own government. If the EU was a neoliberal plot then how come the gap between rich and poor is much narrower in Germany (which has had a conservative president for most of this century) than it is in the UK? It is entirely down to domestic politics that we are so unequal and so much has been taken away from the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. If people who voted Brexit seriously think things will become much fairer in this country in a government led by Johnson, Gove, Raab, Fox, etc, supported by Murdoch, Dacre, Viscount Rothermere, Richard Desmond and the Barclay Brothers, then I think they might well be in for a nasty shock…
You are a political punk band, whereabouts would you place yourselves politically or is there a continuing evolving of thought? Is there a spectrum of positions within the band?
We are a band of mature individuals who all have our own life experiences which form our own thoughts and opinions. Having said that, we are all left of centre to varying degrees. Personally, I view myself as more of a European-style social democrat but on the social issues (fairness, equality, race, the abuse of power, etc) very much to the harder left of the spectrum.
How did your politics develop? Were there any significant experiences or influences?
Punk rock was very much my first music, being 13 in 1977 and growing up in the Midlands, but it was very much the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers who sparked my interest in politics in the broadest sense. When I was 18 I lived in Germany working in a hotel and, for what was then a very prosperous country, saw homeless people for the first time. At the same time I started reading Heinrich Boell (Boell had been a leading liberal voice of reason in Germany at the time of the Baader-Meinhof gang and the public reaction had led to extreme measures against anyone with a leftwing background). His views were very much ones of the politics of the everyday – how we relate to people, our thoughts when confronted by people less fortunate or different than ourselves, how sharing a conversation or a coffee or a cigarette could be interpreted politically or even take on an almost sacramental value. At the height of the terrorist paranoia he described the feeling of Beruehrungsangst (fear of contact) and how the clampdown on freedoms, supported by media distortions, was making society more atomised and people less willing to have anything to do with people different from themselves. In this country from Thatcher through to today we have seen this happening – we are more remote from other people, we live outside communities and society is very fragmented and this is supported by a media full of stories designed to make us look down on or fear our fellow human beings – the fear of contact that Boell was referring to 40 years ago, has come to fruition in the UK.
Slow Faction are very involved with the DIY punk scene in London and with the South London Punk Collective, how do you think grassroots punk is doing? Is it encouraging to be part of?
Grassroots Punk is very healthy in terms of the number of bands out there writing and playing amazing music – the songwriting talent and musicianship is incredible. In London, however, you are always chasing the 200-300 people who are regular gig-goers and if there are 4 or 5 punk gigs on the same night (very common) then the audience gets very fragmented.
Yes, it is very encouraging to be part of as certain bands really contribute to the feeling of community, that’s so lacking elsewhere. However, the frustrations are the ones of bands everywhere and live music in general – some bands are only in it for themselves – they message me for SLPC gigs but never see them at a DIY gig unless they are on the bill themselves. Even if they can’t make a gig, they could help share and promote the DIY gigs on Facebook but even clicking on share is too much effort for some people.
The other frustration is that there are people who will pay to see ‘name’ bands – particularly on the punk nostalgia circuit – but wouldn’t walk to the end of the road to check out a free entry gig of local bands.
Has involvement in grassroots punk grown again in reaction to the imposition of neoliberal class war inspired cuts aka austerity? Have you seen more young people looking to punk as a site of resistance?
I’m not sure about that. Punk feels very much a niche music genre these days and London is a very big city which has always been home to people of alternative outlooks, attitudes and lifestyles so it’s very hard to tell if the ranks have been swelled as a response to austerity. Also, although we are a political band, there are some who state firmly that punk is not and never was about politics – and those views are not confined to age groups or genres within punk.
I feel that anyone drawn to politics or resistance of whatever form of protest, will do so regardless of whether they see themselves as punk or not.
Over the years has the numbers involved in punk tended to move in waves or is it fairly constant?
In terms of making music and active punk groups I would say we are currently at a peak. In spite of venue closures, there is always a choice of gigs every weekend in London. Recording technology is cheap and people can make their own music at reasonable expense and the internet means you can distribute it to a potential audience.
The problem is that the audience for punk both as music consumer and gig-goer is very limited. Punk remains a niche genre.
Do you think punk has generally developed in a positive way? Has it fulfilled your hopes for it?
Personally, yes – punk is in my heart and in my head and informs how I live my life – not just in the music scene, but how I approach my relationships, my work, my family – this is also combined with my interest in Buddhism, Taoism & meditation – through these I try to live my live with honesty, integrity and transparency and punk values inform this approach to life just as much as the Eastern values. I also know many people in the punk scene who I would trust 100% to uphold these values.
But, but, but – being a punk is not an automatic pass to the higher plain. Punk is a microcosm of society and there will be racists, sexists, selfish people, users & abusers within punk just as much in society at large.
In your own experience has it managed to stay as a counter to consumerism as identity, to offer positive community and creativity as alternative resources for the construction of self?
Once again, for me, personally, punk embodies many healthy values which I subscribe to and which have informed my life. Yes, punk has made me less susceptible to consumerism and selfishness. It has engendered a sense of community to me, my band and the bands we most closely associate with. ‘Ignore Alien Orders’ still informs my thinking and leads me to question everything. This in turn leads to the desire to keep on exploring ideas which then come out in the form of new songs – and yes, always being questioning does lead to an exploration of self, if not a construction – that happens with every thought, experience, action, not necessarily just through punk or punk attitude…Hermann Hesse described those who explore through questioning and self-examination as Morgenlandfahrer and with my combination of punk and Eastern philosophical values, that is how I view my own personal journey
What are Slow Faction's plans for the rest of 2018? Are there plenty of opportunities to see you playing live?
We’ve still got a run of gigs through May/June/July and August. Umbi, our bass player, goes to Japan every year around October time so we’ll be out of action for mid-autumn but gigs always come up and we’ll no doubt organise some SLPC gigs in London. I would also like to take some time out to write new songs. Each year our set changes and we want to keep moving forwards – writing new songs, exploring new ideas…
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately? Who should we keep an eye (ear?) out for musically?
Writers – I’m re-reading at the moment a novella by Boell as I had a discussion with a friend about a month ago and she inspired me to pick something up by him for the first time in 20 years. My other favourite writers are Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse. I would also recommend reading the Tao Te Ching – reading this 25 years ago literally changed my life.
Musically, I love so many DIY bands that if I mention some, then I will only leave someone out….but special mention goes to my SLPC comrades Stone Heroes and Mindframe plus the wonderful bands we toured Germany with recently: The Phobics and Proud City Fathers. Favourite CD of 2017 – the debut EP by the utterly wonderful Backstreet Abortions.

Bibliography.
(1) Babey, G. (2017), Louder Than War, https://slowfaction.bandcamp.com/album/under-heavy-manners
(2) Whyte, J. (2017) https://slowfaction.bandcamp.com/album/under-heavy-manners