Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Test Dept: Art, Politics and a New Album.

Photo by David Altweger.
More socialist art collective than conventional band Test Dept originally took shape in south east London releasing History-The Strength of Metal in Motion in 1982, the next fifteen years saw Test Dept keep up a ferocious work rate releasing, on average, an album a year until 1997 when the band decided to call it a day with the release of Tactics For Evolution. One of the early industrial bands, Test Dept utilised discarded industrial detritus in the creation of their music and alongside their writing and recording curated several large art events. Throughout the 2000s Test Dept members stayed active in the arts and in 2014 core members of the group reconvened producing DS30 to commemorate the Miner’s Strike of 1984-5, a political sound and image collage(1) containing film of mining communities and the group’s Fuel To Fight Tour in support of the striking miners, the film going on to tour cinemas in the north of Britain (1).

In 2016 Test Dept:Redux played a series of concerts including Raw Power, these concerts continued into 2017 when material for a new album started to be played. Also in 2017 Test Dept’s name appeared as co-curators with Aaron James of the 'Assembly of Disturbance' in partnership with Ernesto Leal of The Red Gallery. The three day festival explored ‘how one hundred years on from the Russian Revolution’, and the accompanying utopian art, ‘the current socio-political climate is also engendering a need for a profound shift in governance’ (2). As part of the festival Test Dept presented an exhibition, talks, DJed, performed a live soundtrack to film, performed as Test Dept and also, in collaboration with other artists, as Prolekult. There were also other speakers, artists, DJ’s and performers in this prototype event. 

Last year saw more news coming through that long term Test Dept members Graham Cunnington and Paul Jamrozy were working on a new album Disturbance set for release in March this year on One Little Indian Records! In November the first new Test Dept track for 20 years, ‘Landlord’, was released prompting one excited reviewer to comment that they have ‘pick(ed) up where they left off: melding face-melting industrial proto-punk jams with no-filter political vitriol’ (3). Excited by reports of a new Test Dept release and blown away by both ‘Landlord’ and the album it promises I contacted Graham and Paul to see if an interview was possible. Despite very busy lives they kindly agreed.

What lay behind your decision to reconvene and reactivate Test Dept? The music, friendship or was it a response to external factors like Brexit, the overt class war of 'austerity', the mainstreaming of nationalism and xenophobia, the lethargy of any meaningful response to climate change? Internal or external reasons?
It started with the re-investigation of our archive and projects such as the DS30 Installation and film and the Total State Machine book. This led to us looking at the audio archive and on to re-imagining early material and its relevance to today’s political and social situation and climate – the link between the start of the neo-liberal consensus during Thatcher’s reign, its spread worldwide and the consequences of those policies’ end-game today.

Your last album Tactics For Evolution came out in 1997, were you able to stay involved with music/art in the 20 years between that album and Disturbance?
We have been involved in various individual projects, and some collectively, from art and sound-art installation, through film, dance and theatre soundtracks, to theatrical performance and DJ/live electronic work. Paul has a project C.3.3. which focuses on concepts of incarceration and re-created a sonic rendition of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol, recently put out by Cold Spring Records. Gray wrote and performed in PAIN – a one-person play about his lifelong battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Angus Farquhar, a founder member and one we are still in touch with, created the NVA Organisation in Scotland, which produced large-scale environmental projects and the PAIN show.

Test Dept seem to have always been far more than just a conventional band and more like an art collective-have those collaborations played a big part in your artistic growth-that constant exposure to other ideas, to negotiation?
We have always been interested in working in a collective sense and the collaborations have been an extension of this approach. Our work with artists as diverse as Brith Gof, Diamanda Galas and Alan Sutcliffe (Kent NUM - from the mining community) have given us enriching experiences and created some of our finest moments. We find the investment and expansion of new ideas that derive from collaborative practice an inspiring and transforming experience and we look forward to future possibilities in this direction.

Picasso talked about art as "an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy" (4)-that it can play an active role in political struggle. Would that sum up TD's approach?
Indeed; and Brecht said “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it”. That would sum up our approach too, which is why we use that quote at the front of our epic archive book Total State Machine.

In Inventing the Future Srnicek and Williams write that political change often has to be preceded by cultural change (5), have you been encouraged by the emergence of bands like Sleaford Mods, Gnod, Idles, mainstream books like Revolution and films like The Hunger Games. Do you think there is an artistic challenge to what Gramsci called ‘cultural hegemony’-in our time of the neoliberal right?
Interestingly we invited Srnicek to speak at our Assembly of Disturbance event although it wasn’t possible at that point. Srnicek and Williams note the absence of Utopian visions in current thinking and it is true that we seem to have created a world-view that can only predict a dystopian future. The rise of Corbyn and Saunders with increased political engagement from younger people in the UK and US have given encouragement to an agenda for positive change, however the spectre of Brexit, Trump and Bolsonaro in Brazil has also given rise to many reactionary forces within society and we are becoming consumed by contemplations of a dystopian future with the fear that we are moving into ever darker terrain. Hopefully this period in our history will pass and we can once again look to a bigger world-view, which looks to tackle critical issues of poverty, corporatism and climate change.
The emergence of critical voices, whether Sleaford Mods, GNOD, Gazelle Twin or others, are essential as counter cultural forces against mundanity and commercialism. In the cultural expansion of Grime we find the use of industrial sounds, and protest writing as a reflection of street life in the UK, It’s polar extreme is drill music depicting and documenting violence highlighting the negative impact of social media as an instigator. All are manifestations of hip hop/rap culture, which in it’s gangsta mode could be argued as being a prime example of DIY entrepreneurialism or an egocentric celebration of ultra-capitalism, such are the polarities within culture as in a wider society. A lot of thought-provoking ideas are expounded in Revolution although not too sure about Russell Brand’s egocentricity. The Hunger Games is possibly not quite so relevant but if it gets people using critical thinking to question their environments at an early age that is a positive outcome. Black Mirror (UK) is possibly a better reference, glimpsing future technology, which always has a dystopian reflection. This conjures up the figure of Dr. Dee (TD track on Tactics for Evolution album) and his obsidian mirror.

In Resilience and Melancholy (6) Robin James seems to be saying, if I understand her correctly, that certain pop music structures parallel values within neoliberalism. The Dadaists wanted to create non-bourgeois art by drawing on non-bourgeois values and cultural resources. Have those sorts of ideas and tensions informed your approach, trying not to reproduce capitalism and capitalist cultural norms via your music-did that lead you to the musical styles and sounds you use? Or do you think it is more organic, that if you have internalised an alternative narrative that will affect the structure of your music because that alternative worldview is an integral part of your creativity?
In some senses this could be about rejecting the ‘rock n roll’ hegemony of guitars, etc. But the music industry has changed dramatically as has the political economy of music. Our surroundings in the docklands being the inevitable consequence of the destruction of the heavy industry and manufacturing economic base in favour of a service economy. ‘Use your environment’ became our mantra; our utilization of societies debris of industrial waste and found objects could also be seen as an unconscious manifestation of Arte Povera (Poor Art) a European counter cultural movement attacking the values of established institutions of government, industry and culture. So our development was organic born from necessity and our own personal conditions living in a South London squat but we were reflective on this; Dadaism, Russian Constructivism and Futurism were all inspirational influences that fed into our developing artistic practice, which was essentially collective and therefore essentially anti-capitalist.

Your new single 'Landlord' is a response to private landlords exploiting the housing crisis created by the selling off of social housing. Could you talk us through the subject matter and ideas you're exploring on the new album Disturbance?
Landlord is as you’ve described but is also a comment on the wider issue, of the housing crisis and structure of organized society. The social cleansing that shifts people from the centre to the periphery of large cities, which can also be seen as a wider form of social control.
There is a huge problem in London with skyrocketing property prices, Councils trying to raise money by selling off housing stock or waiving regulations on private developers’ obligations to provide social housing. Local councillors making loss making deals with developers and then ending up on their boards. Homelessness across the country is the worst its been for a very long time and has been exacerbated by legislation on benefits and laissez faire property development.
The rest of the album deals with the consequences of the worldwide spread of the neo-liberal consensus and these days of it’s seeming end-game; illegal wars waged not in our name (FSD); consumer frenzy in a climate of fear (Information Scare); Europe, borders, neo-fascism and the rise off the far-right (Gatekeeper); historical injustices that need resolving such the campaign by the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (GBH84); and lines of connection, activism and protest against these issues.
We look at disturbance on a sonic as well as physical plain, as a commentary upon and an instigator of seismic social change. A reflection on the dramatic times we live in, and a warning against catastrophe through historic repetition.

The artwork on the album is really powerful and seems to sum up UK working class experience in the 21st Century, how did you arrive at such a striking image?
Gentrification, social cleansing, brutalism, town planning, industrial decline and devastation of local communities, the Grenfell disaster and its aftermath. There are many issues we could discuss.

Has your sound changed much since the last album? What have been the main causes of those evolutions and morphs? Society around you, situations, influences, technologies?
We are in a totally different sound environment from 20 years ago.
We have embraced both software and hardware electronics and tried to link them into the live percussive set-up, which still uses cast-off materials from our surroundings, albeit in a new, and we hope exciting, format.
Scrap metal itself is maybe not so relevant as a dominant sound provider; it has a different reference point today, in relation to our surroundings, and to younger people who didn’t grow up with the demise of manufacturing industry and the breaking down of its infrastructure (in the UK at least). Today the cast-offs are more often than not defunct electrical equipment and the scrap metal has probably become more valuable due to its relative scarcity.

With a 20 year gap did you still have a sense of continuity with previous work when you were writing and recording Disturbance?
As documented, this album began and continues as an exploration and investigation of our archive, re-interpreting our previous work and building on that foundation. We reflect on the cyclical nature of events and in that sense the gap diminishes into one continuum.

Test Dept's music is embedded in conviction and wider practice, there seems to be a continuity between TD and the other parts of your lives. Would that be fair comment?
We are still politically active on many levels and individual work projects come within a wider spectrum of social engagement and activity. GC has been involved in trade union activism, helping to instigate and organise the Ritzy Living Wage strike campaign for cinema workers in the UK which gained nationwide publicity and notoriety and became an influencer in many precarious workers’ campaigns thereafter. PJ works in institutions with the incarcerated; on projects incorporating music technology, interactive media and radio production.
We keep links to the past struggles too – we regularly attend the Durham Miners’ Gala, where, even though the mining industry has been completely erased, 100,000 people gather every year to march and celebrate the communities, which still exist despite being abandoned by the ruling class, the history and the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights and a more equal and Social agenda.

How has your politics developed? What were the influences? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it a continual evolving of thought?
Things evolve and change as society changes around us and we are open to profound change rather than conforming to the status quo, as it exists. We have been influenced by many progressive political or historical figures, moments and events but do not align with any political parties or specific creeds, although we have come from, and still somewhat aspire to, a largely anarcho-socialist viewpoint.

Test Dept have been making music now for roughly 40 years and, judging by the single, this latest album is as angry and militant as any I’ve heard lately-what has helped you to maintain that level of concern and engagement?
We have lived and are still living through dramatic times, not as traumatic as those our parents and elders lived through but with the serious potential of uncontrollable forces taking hold. These are deep concerns about what kind of political and environmental legacy we will leave future generations.

What bands have you been impressed by lately, any authors you would recommend?
GC: Gazelle Twin, Gaika, Young Fathers, Shelley Parker, Nkisi, Puce Mary, Sonae, Ancient Methods, Broken English Club, Bristol’s Young Echo Collective...
PJ: I don’t really like naming things as it’s all very transient but recently on my radar lots of noise, Afro beat, South African House, poetry and ambience. Imperial Black Unit, Giant Swan, Black Coffee, Ape, Map 71, Kate Tempest, Tim Hecker, seem to stick…
GC: Steve Goodman’s Sonic Warfare (this links to some of our own academic investigations), John Higgs’ Stranger Than We Can Imagine (Making Sense of The 20th Century), Sapiens (A Brief History of Humankind) by Yuval Noah Hariri and The Last of London by Ian Sinclair have been good reads. John Higgs’ The KLF: Chaos, Magic and The Band Who Burned A Million Pounds is a fantastic read and gives interesting expansions on the art-terrorists’ wild ideas, influences and work.
PJ: Currently reading Cosi Fanni Tutti’s Art, Sex, Music.

The new album is released on March 1 2019, will there be opportunities to catch you live?
We have just signed to Little Big Agency worldwide, except for North America unfortunately, so we hope to be getting the live show out in 2019 and hopefully we can sort some shows in the US and Canada too soon.

Thanks to Paul and Graham for time and words. Test Dept play Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms on 25/4 and Studio 9294, London 26/4 with more dates to be added. Ahead of that listen to 'Landlord' here

1) Test Dept: DS30 tour.
(2) Assembly of Disturbance, Red Gallery, London.
(3) Smart, D. (2018) ‘Industrial veterans Test Dept return with first album in 20 years, share brand new track ‘Landlord’’
(5) Srnicek, N. and Williams, A. (2015) ‘Inventing the Future: Post-capitalism and a World Without Work’ Verso. London and Brooklyn, NY.
(6) James, R. (2014) 'Resilience and Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism', Zero Books, Winchester UK and Washington, USA

Also referenced for Intro Test Dept.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

BODEGA: Post Punk Situationists.

Courtesy of BODEGA.
All over the radio since the release of their first single, ‘How Did This Happen?’ in early '18, Brooklyn based BODEGA have been compared to all manner of bands from Kool and the Gang to The Fall, with both having a good point! Hailed by the NME as the ‘best band’ of SXSW ‘18 (1), their album Endless Scroll was released in the summer and excitedly received with pretty much universal enthusiasm. Evoking post punk art rock and bringing to mind (for me) bands like Talking Heads, Television and Devo, BODEGA remind that music, whether live or recorded, is performance art.

In Lipstick Traces Greil Marcus joins up Dada, the Situationists and Punk as movements that creatively disrupted and exposed their contemporary cultures (2), in any revised edition BODEGA are going to have to figure as the continuation of that lineage as they critique/document/expose (post) modern life with incisive, intelligent self awareness. Guy Debord’s multi faceted concept of ‘the spectacle’ included the critique of culture as mediated experience and BODEGA draw attention to the continual increase in that mediated non immediacy while also pointing out the mutually constitutive relationship between algorithms and subjects. And all that embedded in songs you can move to and that stick in your head for days!!

Excited by a band that manages to combine art theory, cultural insight and post punk sensibilities I contacted them to see if an interview was possible, Ben kindly obliged.
Could you give us an overview of BODEGA? Had any of you been in bands beforehand? Did I read a couple of you were in Bodega Bay?

BODEGA’s first show was July 30, 2016 at Alphaville w/ David Peel (R.I.P.) Me and Nikki started the group a month before that (we quickly found an ally in Montana and shortly after Madison joined on bass). That four-piece was interesting for its simplicity but the current lineup really started to click when Heather joined and Madison moved to second guitar. Most of the songs for ENDLESS SCROLL were written (melody plus chord changes) before this band played together but the five of us worked hard to sculpt and rearrange the songs to find a particular BODEGA-sound. Madison in particular was instrumental in deconstructing our first ideas and honing the unit’s process. I had a previous band called BODEGA BAY (that Nikki was also in and Madison occasionally involved with) that was philosophically similar to our new band. BODEGA BAY was a playful critique (and celebration of) DIY rock culture from the inside ——> BODEGA carries on that same kind of mentality but a key difference might be that the new band is slightly less parodic.

What sort of influences were you drawing on as you formulated the concept of BODEGA? In an interview (3) it sounded like you had a pretty clear idea of what you wanted the band to be from the start or was it a little more organic than that?

I always say that nothing was ‘organic’ about BODEGA. We sat down and talked quite a bit about the kind of music we wanted to make. All of our gestures were pre-planned. Now that we have been playing for a while, songs are written through more traditional modes of ‘jamming’ but we can only do that now because we are so familiar with the ‘rules of the game.’

Montana is an established visual artist and runs Idio Gallery, you and Madison worked at film school together (3)-does the band generally have a background in the visual arts-has involvement in other art forms influenced your approach to music and presentation?

All of us do art outside of music (we all have a background in cinema —> with a heavy emphasis on post-production). I also am a narrative filmmaker ——> if you want to check out some of my films (plus one directed by Nikki) here’s a link —> Many of our songs are about visual media and our approach to thinking has certainly been shaped by a cinematic consciousness. Nikki is the ‘art director’ for the band ——> she made the sculpture on the cover of ENDLESS SCROLL and directs all of our music videos.

Some of the NY No Wave artists of the late 70s had wider artistic backgrounds (4)-do you feel an affinity with that movement at all?

Yes. I think it’s natural that artists express themselves in more than one medium. It’s just more fun —> I often get great ideas for songs when I’m working on a film (and also get great cinema ideas when working on a record). I always say : ‘You listen with your eyes and see with your ears.’

What does the creative process look like in BODEGA, is it very collaborative or is there one main songwriter for each song?

I write my songs and NIkki writes hers (first with just melody+words and a very crude rhythm track —> often an acoustic guitar). Then our ideas/tunes are brought to the band and shaped into something more BODEGA-esque. Madison often takes charge in the second phase of arranging/sculpting/editing.

Part of BODEGA's post modernist appeal is your willingness to highlight the performance of urban life. Social commentary as an act of cultural resistance?

Well put. It’s certainly not enough but it’s a powerful gesture to say ‘We are individuals and we don’t consent to (all) the way things are.’

Your songs document the reconfiguration of our internal and external lives by digital technology, 'Bookmarks' seems to explore the question of which has become an extension of the other, did you reach any conclusions?

Often we don’t think but are ‘thought’ by the medium(s). For example the kind of thoughts my brain has when scrolling Twitter is not the same kind of thought I have when talking face to face with a friend over a bottle of wine. Most behavior is chameleon-esque. That’s the danger of over-exposure to vapid media : You become vapid yourself.

You played a benefit gig in late October for Justice Democrats, could you tell us a bit about them? Would they be roughly equivalent to Momentum in Britain?  Are they an organisation you have had an ongoing involvement with?

I don’t know enough about Momentum to compare but Justice Democrats is a very pragmatic group that is after (slow) radical change through old traditional means of politicking. It is mature, not glamorous and seems like the best approach we have in the US to deal with our very ill system. BODEGA usually doesn’t engage with ‘party politics’ —> our music doesn’t exist to endorse policy or politicians but we make exceptions when a cause seems worthy.

Has the election of Trump as President had a galvanising effect on the left in USA, has it created a new sense of urgency? Justice Democrats seem to be very pragmatic, accepting the hegemony of the two party model and working within that. A new realism?

That’s exactly what it is.

I found 'Jack in Titanic' and 'I am not a Cinephile' really interesting takes on the search for cultural resources in the construction of self-what resources are you conscious of drawing on in your own lives?

I consciously am always creating my ‘self’ in the shadow of my artistic heroes (Godard, Cassavetes, Mark E Smith) but culture works in mysterious ways on the subconscious. I wasn’t aware I was emulating ‘Jack’ until many years later. I doubt my conscious choices are as ‘in control’ as I think they are.

Endless Scroll is lyrically preoccupied with the dominant role of digital technologies and screens in our lives. Is that something that concerns you, that so much of life is mediated to us?

Yes. People tell me all the time that they like the joke of #Endless Scroll. It’s not a joke. It is funny but it is no laughing matter.

Digitalised humanity, passive consumers, empowered creatives, data flows?

You can knock the hustle.

The Situationists talked about the importance of creating situations of direct participatory experience (to counter the spectacle) and the revolutionary nature of play-would those ideas inform your live shows at all?


Does the speeded up, 'information overload' nature of a digital society make it harder for new bands to be heard in a society constantly distracted? As in the Sisteray video 'Algorithm Prison' or does it create as many opportunities as challenges?

That video is hilarious —> it certainly hits the nail on the head about the loneliness of the smartphone era but I have to say that the vid also indulges in a bit of rock fascism. A show is not for an audience to be subservient to the performers on stage. Having a microphone does not make you more important. An audience has the right to ignore a band or find their fun wherever they want (whether that’s in dance, conversation, drink, zoning out, or in a book or phone). When I see an audience member looking at their phone while singing, I don’t judge them. For all I know they could be looking up something about one of our songs OR finding out a loved one is in the hospital.

What writers have influenced your thinking? Can you give us any pointers to writers/musicians/artists you've been enjoying lately?

I recently read Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of my Life. One of the main ideas of the book is an examination of his ‘nostalgia for a lost future’ (not the past) that no longer involves the principles of pop modernism, ie. a belief that culture and art forms will evolve in a linear fashion expressing the zeitgeist of the time. I always personally identify with modernism and Fisher’s analysis of its demise certainly strikes a nerve in me. The goal of our band has been to find new rock song form(s) to express and document our experience and of course we have been influenced and inspired by rock music from the past (as all song makers have ever been) but his arguments really make me wonder if we could be trying harder to create more novel sounds. Then again, novelty for its own sake, strikes me as equally late capitalist. Conundrum...

What is 2019 looking like for BODEGA-any chance of seeing you over here in Europe?

We will have a new EP out soon that we recorded in December. I can’t wait for people to hear it. We will be touring Europe extensively. Here are the dates we have announced:

2.5.19 @ UNTER DECK, Munich. GERMANY.
2.6.19 @ BOGEN F, Zurich, SWITZERLAND.
2.7.19 @ BAD BONN, 3186 Dudingen, SWITZERLAND.
2.8.19 FESTIVSL GENERIQ w/ TBA @ Besancron, FRANCE.
2.9.19 @ LA POUDRIERE, Belfort Cedex, FRANCE.
2.10.19 @ LE CONSORTIUM, Dijon, FRANCE.
2.14.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ RESCUE ROOMS, Nottingham, UK.
2.15.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ THE ART SCHOOL, Glasgow, UK.
2.16.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ WHELAN’S, Dublin, IRELAND.
2.17.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ YES, Manchester, UK.
2.18.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ YES, Manchester, UK.
2.20.19 w/ GONG GONG GONG @ SCALA, London, UK.
2.22.19 @ LA NOUVELLE VAGUE, St. Malo, FRANCE.
3.1.19 @ STENGADE, Copenhagen, DENMARK.
3.23.19 @ LANCASTER LIBRARY, Lancaster, UK.
3.24.19 @ HUDDERSFIELD LIBRARY, Huddersfield, UK.
3.26.19 @ NORWICH ARTS CENTRE, Norwich, UK.
3.27.19 @ THE PORTLAND ARMS, Cambridge, UK.
3.28.19 @ CLWB LFOR BACH, Cardiff, UK.
4.2.19 @ LE STEREOLUX, Nantes, FRANCE.
4.3.19 @ ROCK SCHOOL BARBEY, Bordeaux, FRANCE.
4.4.19 @ KAFE ANTZOKIA, Bilbao, SPAIN.
4.5.19 @ RAZZMATAZZ 3, Barcelona, SPAIN.
4.6.19 @ SALA 0, Madrid, SPAIN.
4.9.19 @ LE REX, Toulouse, FRANCE.
4.10.19 @ CONFORT MODERNE, Poitiers, FRANCE.
4.11.19 @ LE CARGO, Caen, FRANCE.
4.12.19 @ ASTROLABE, Orleans, FRANCE.
4.13.19 @ L'AERONEF, Lille, FRANCE.

Big thanks to Ben for his time and thought provoking words, get to see them if you can and check out their album here

(1)Daly, R. (2018) ’Bodega stake their claim as New York’s most exciting new band at SXSW’s final days’
(2) Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London.
(4) Reynolds, S. (2005) 'Rip It Up And Start Again', Faber and Faber, London 

Friday, 21 December 2018

'Human Symptom' by Dead Objectives. Intelligent Fury!

Courtesy of Dead Objectives.
Manchester/Salford punks Dead Objectives is that rare and valuable thing, a band healthily comprised of 50% male and 50% female musicians*, y'know, very roughly mirroring the human race really, what an unusual idea! In 2015 they released a self titled 5 track EP and now at the end of 2018, they've unleashed their first full length album Human Symptom, 11 tracks of intelligent, well informed, incisive fury. In a society dominated by a media that will isolate events, disconnect symptoms from their causes, tell you what’s happened but not why here is the antidote, an album that points to structures and systems, that joins up the dots, reveals that our experiences are embedded in, and result from, economic and political structure. But this insightful lyrical intelligence isn’t at the price of the music, with Human Symptom Dead Objectives have released an album that hits your head and your feet.

First track up ‘Against the Grain’ reminds me of the struggles of Nigerian Ken Saro-Wiwa for the Ogoni people against the pollution of their homeland due to oil extraction and the dumping of waste (1), too easily we focus on the dangers caused by oil consumption forgetting the more localised devastation caused by oil extraction. This track says it all
“You undercut the people of the country for their resource,
cutting deals with corrupt leaders, from their pockets, for your own.
Your thirst for fossil fuels, shale gas and oil is archaic,
there are cleaner forms of power we can harness, we can hone.
After you destroy the environment we live in,
raping from the land all of the resource you can burn,
When it starts affecting your children and their living,
when there’s nothing left, will you listen, will you learn?”
All while the music builds, tense and unsettling-cracking start.

‘Grooming’ deals with the continual pressure we are under to accept and be assimilated into the status quo. Mark Fisher called it Capitalist Realism, the Situationists referred to ‘the spectacle’, the seamless representation of society and life from a capitalist perspective by the state, corporations and the media, the immersion of the individual in a system that tells you nothing else is possible, better just get on and make the best of this shit and stop dreaming, stop hoping. This track reminds us to not believe the propaganda, to remember that another world is possible and that resistance prefigures what could be.

Track 3 ‘Holy War’ and track 4 ‘Equality not Included’ engage with the power of brands and corporations, the latter track asking questions about where power really lies in a society where the blurring of the political and the corporate is pretty much complete and governments serve the interests of capital not the people, where people are only seen as exploitable labour and/or consumers,  
“There is no freedom in a world that's run by corporations,
corrupted governments bribed to change the legislation.
Big banks being bailed out by the countries where we pay our taxes,
despite all that, they have they put our lives under their axes.”

there’s a word for authoritarian capitalist governance by a political/corporate elite, now what was it? Begins with F…

Track 5 ‘New Environment’ slows the pace musically initially, with a nice riff going on in the background and the vocals intoned over the top before the whole thing bursts into furious life
“You pollute the air, you poison the earth.
Your oil isn't worth the destruction that you birth.
You pollute the air, you poison the earth.
We cannot repair the destruction that you birth.
You pollute the air, you poison the earth.
Your gas isn't worth the destruction that you birth.
You pollute the air, you poison the earth.
We cannot repair the destruction that you birth.”

You can probably guess what ‘May Poll’ is about! Musically this is awesome,  cue leaping around the living room with a clenched fist in the air!
“Communities lay in tatters, the UK's lost its soul.
Ever since you came to power, we've danced around the May-Poll.
You won’t stay too long in that ivory tower.
A phoenix born of Tory flames; the oppressed will rise to power.”

‘Hollywood Hegemony’ deals with the construction of self and the easy retreat into the model of masculinity propagated by Hollywood, a masculinity marked by aggression, consumerist status and competitiveness. Smart track, male punks have too often been content to leave exploration and de/reconstruction of gender alone, lamely reproducing male privilege in the punk scene. Maybe this track could contribute to a moving forward in that area in the same way that Idles have sought to reinvent masculinity?

Track 8 ‘Weapon of Greed’ is all big drum sound and guitar, sounds fantastic! Almost got a bit of 70s strutting Metally Glam about the verses! If 70s strutting Metally Glamsters had a sense of social justice! Great track!

I’m guessing ‘Narcissistic Tendencies’ is about a (psychologically) abusive relationship and is written from a female perspective. Sobering song-in some ways compliments ‘Hollywood Hegemony’, the female experience of that kind of masculinity.

Isn’t it great when an album doesn’t peter out musically!? ‘Accessorise’ will have you looking for the ‘Rewind’ button! Ace guitar work on this-brilliant riffing! Where’s that button again…”

Last track up ‘Martial Island’ is brooding guitar work and foreboding drums as we are reminded of the destruction of an island network, the Marshall Islands, by US nuclear testing.

This album is a thing of excellence, musically inventive and diverse, lyrically insightful it superbly critiques dystopia-in-the-making Britain in the 21st Century while also taking time to recognise both (global) interconnections and the struggles of individuals trying to construct meaningful, positive selves in an impoverished cultural landscape.

Buy it! Go and see them!

Listen to Human Symptom here


(1)Ken Saro-Wiwa     

* Referring to biology here not gender...and Yes I know, that is why I wrote 'very roughly'...and Yes gender is a social construct that varies over time and space...and Yes Judith Butler would argue that our interpretation of biology through a two sex model is also a social construct.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Flea: The Band That Wouldn't Die!

Photo by Richard Davis (1990)
Originally active between 1987-93 Manchester band Flea carried forward the energy of punk reinterpreting it for a different time in a way that prefigured their (briefly) contemporaries techno punks ATR and Prodigy. Their angular industrial post punk ‘take no prisoners’ vibe seems to point to the future, kindred spirits to the ‘let’s see where this takes us’ experimental energies of the fragmented post punk scene of the early 80s. They are in many ways the antithesis of the cobbled together rock by numbers deployed by Oasis, another Manchester band from the same period. Flea, comprised of Art Carbuncle (bass and vocals), Boz Vile (guitar and vocals) plus a drum machine named Sissy, despite (/because of?) their spiky inventiveness and originality were somehow overlooked at the time as Madchester took shape followed by Britpop but…
It’s 2017 and Art is putting together a gig for The Cravats and wondering about a third band on the night when the idea of a Flea reunion gig occurs to him, Boz agrees, they get hold of an old drum machine and go for it! In the audience that night are German Shepherd Records and they like what they hear offering to put out a Flea release, the album, parasitic insects teach us humility, coming out in November 2018! The 8 track album consists of songs originally written and recorded between 1989-91 and like so much great music they transcend time. Intense, uncomfortable Flea sound like a band whose time has come.
Excited by an album that reminded me why I listen to music I contacted Flea to find out more about the band who refused to die, Art kindly answered some questions.         

Could you run us through the story of Flea!? How did you get together? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to sound like from the start?
Me and Boz were living in the same deck access block, Charles Barry Crescent, in Hulme around 1987. Although, initially, we didn’t know each other, I guess we were united in the fact that we seemed to be the only two people who weren’t in a band in Hulme. We had similar tastes in music: The Damned, The Stranglers, and we had both played guitar and written songs in previous bands during our teenage years. I didn’t have any musical gear left in 1987 having had to sell it all to survive. I think it was Boz who approached me saying that he had a few songs half written and would I be interested in putting some bass to them. The songs comprised ‘Glam Sham’, ‘Death with a Vile Smile’, ‘Pacemaker’ and ‘Comfort Cracks’ (I think). Drummers were in short supply in Manchester at that time, so we borrowed a drum machine off our mates, The Slum Turkeys, and began rehearsing in the bedrooms of our respective squats.

Why a drum machine? Did it shape your music or fit best with what you were already doing?
The drum machine seemed to fit, naturally, into Boz’s unusual, angular approach to songwriting and also worked well with my penchant for creating space using thundering, repetitive, melodic, bass lines. The relentless rhythm forced us to tighten up our playing too. If you bear in mind that we lived a few doors away from the infamous studio/ illegal rave The Kitchen (on the top floor of Charles Barry) where the fledgling 808 State and A Guy Called Gerald were honing their craft, a drum machine didn’t seem quite that unusual. Plus, it was a lot easier to manage than humping a drum kit around.

parasitic insects teach us humility sounds like it has its roots in post punk, it brought to mind bands like Cabaret Voltaire, early Human League, DAF, what were your influences?
We were both highly aware of these bands but our real influences lay in bands like Big Black, Public Image, The Cravats and, for me, dub producers like Scientist. I like artists who bend things out of shape a little.

Flea coincided with the Madchester scene, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, James etc (1) but I've started reading K-Punk by Mark Fisher and in the Foreword it mentions an early 90s Manchester band he was in, D-Generation, who described themselves as 'techno haunted by the ghost of the punk' (2). Alongside the Madchester thing was there a more punk influenced scene going on as well that you were part of or were you out on your own?
There were lot of scenes going on in Manchester in the late eighties/ early nineties: Crust, Grunge, Rap, Avant Garde, Anarcho, Reggae, Indie, to recall a few. Madchester became the dominant one probably more from external Manc influences rather than any of the popular bands making a conscious effort to be part of ‘Madchester’. On a personal level, I worked as a roadie and sound engineer for bands that played with the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and know that their members were heavily into Public Image, The Sex Pistols and Crass. We were all influenced by punk and we all knew each other in some small way and we all endorsed the spirit of punk to keep creating new things.
I think that a lot of people found Flea’s music hard to take and we were at the bottom of the pile but a lot of bands and good people had our backs. Dub Sex, Community Charge, The Inca Babies, and, particularly, The Slum Turkeys were all very supportive. A lot of American and Canadian bands started touring England in the early nineties, on the back of Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana’s popularity. Flea (and the Slum Turkeys) were able to slot in quite nicely in support of bands like No Means No, The Holy Rollers, and Fugazi in our local venues.

Britpop is sometimes dated as 1993-97 (3), did that influence your decision to call it a day or did life just move on?
I don’t think that either of us paid much heed to the influence of Brit Pop or any other scene. I think the last year of Flea was probably a difficult one for both myself and Boz. I was getting more absorbed into a career as a live sound engineer and Boz was playing more and more with The Inca Babies new incarnation; Houndgod with a Tumour. We both wanted to expand the Flea sound, but couldn’t agree if we should use a drummer or develop on our basic drum machine programming, perhaps with the use of a synth. We spread ourselves to thinly and this impacted on our ability to gel and compose with each other. That, for me, was when we called it a day.

In 1991 Baudrillard argued that the first Gulf War 'did not take place', he was pointing out that the reality of what happened and what was (mis)represented to the public via the media were two very different things (4). When I was watching a Youtube video of you playing live this summer (1) you introduced 'Golf Show' as being about the TV coverage of the first Gulf War comparing it to golf coverage, were you spinning off Baudrillard?
Well Baudrillard was right in his concept that the Gulf War was a product of, and driven by, the media. The media does promote war and the ways or actions in which wars are fought are consequently media influenced. It’s obvious when you hear populist war related soundbites like ‘Boots on the Ground.’
I think Baudrillard was writing that at the exact same time Boz was writing the lyrics for ‘Golf Show’. Let’s call it spooky coincidence.

Are you surprised how relevant that song still is with the increase in concern over 'fake news' ?
Surprised and disturbed.

Could you run us through the subject matter of some of your other songs? What informs and inspires your lyrics?
Paranoia about what is really going on behind Government closed doors – ‘Sick Bake’ ( as yet unreleased)
‘Banal’ – Is a kind of visceral scream and a rejection of personal events that were happening at the time.
‘Pacemaker’ was a conversation I had at a bus stop with an old man telling me how his whole life is now geared to whether his heart pacemaker will keep working. Apparently, he’d had a few blips. I’d like to think that modern technology has sorted him out now.

Flea ran from 87-93, did you carry on being involved in music afterwards?
I continued to be fully involved as a sound engineer for various bands while also writing lyrics and music for planned projects that never quite happened. I was in no rush to return to the stage until a few years ago with current band Dead Objectives.
Boz had his ‘There’ll Always Be Diseases’ (TAB-D) project and then after bass player Bill sadly died ten years ago, he directed his energies to various anti-folk style incarnations and film music.

There was a Flea reunion gig in 2017-how did that come about?
It was a kind of very last minute/ might never have happened thing. Boz and I had already discussed once or twice the possibility of having a Flea reunion but I didn’t expect it to progress further than the rehearsal room.
I had wanted to put The Cravats on in Manchester as they had never played here in their 38 year career. I also wanted Dead Objectives to support them. I’m not really a promoter, it was more a labour of love. Having set the gig and venue up, I was conscious that people might expect more than two bands to play. I didn’t really have any more money and was considering options when the possibility of Boz and me knocking out a few Flea classics, albeit a bit unrehearsed, sprang to mind. I contacted Boz and he was up for it. We had to borrow an old 8 bit drum machine, which was pretty basic compared to the HR 16 we used to use, but Boz managed to get about 4 drum patterns working on it and off we went.

You opened a Facebook page for Flea in 2014, about 20 years after the band had ended, to act as a collection point for all things Flea. Did you have a feeling that Flea was a band whose time was still to come, an idea that refused to die!? Or was it more of a response to ongoing interest in the band?
Boz did a Flea myspace in the mid 2000s too. We were both fond and proud of what we had done and it always felt to me like we never completed Flea. We both agree that we’d like to revamp the songs a bit and perhaps unveil the one’s we hadn’t quite completed such as ‘Banal’, ‘Sick Bake’, ‘Words’ and several others.

People have compared this second decade of the 2000s with the 80s as another decade of unrelenting neoliberal class war being waged by the Tories; impoverishment, abjectification, the running down of public/health services, the final dismantling of the post war settlement. Against that backdrop does the eventual release of a Flea album written in 89-91 seem particularly appropriate?
A lot of our songs addressed mental illness or the glossy packaging over the shit we really get sold.
It does seem that democracy is suffering from some kind of mental illness in 2018 and we are still being sold the same overpriced shit dressed up as gentrification, or must have consumable. Flea have still got traction.

How did the German Shepherd Records release of parasitic insects teach us humility come about?
It was that Cravats gig. Bob and Ian from German Shepherd Records were there and liked our stuff and offered to put Flea out. We’re very thankful for that.

Have you carried on writing-any chance of a second Flea album?
There is every chance of a second Flea album.

You've starting playing live again! How does it feel to be playing songs you wrote nearly 30 years ago, are they still a 'good fit'? Do they still feel like an expression of yourselves?
I’m surprised how the weirder stuff we did like ‘Head Shrinker’ and ‘Panic Button’ are now being enthusiastically received compared to the pleasant applause we used to receive when playing them back in the 80’s.

What has the last few weeks been like!? It must be amazing to have the album come out!
Great. Gotta thank German Shepherd Records for that.

Any plans for 2019-some more gigs?
We are both reprogramming Sissy (SR 16) the drum machine with some fresher sounding takes on the old songs and hope to record and play these live in 2019.

Check out parasitic insects teach us humility here


(2)Reynolds, S. 'Foreword' in Fisher, M. (2018) K-Punk; The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016), Repeater Books, London.


(4)The Gulf War Did Not Take Place,

Also referenced, Louderthanwar, (2018) ‘The return of Flea ‘German Shepherd Records release long-awaited debut for industrial techno-punk combo’

and, (2018) ‘Flea to release ‘parasitic insects teach us humility’’

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Girls In Synthesis: 'Howling'.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.
The people I work with seem to want to listen to retro commercial radio stations whose playlists are musical honey traps of lowest common denominator, innocuous, familiarity, lulling the listener into a soporific state, so they can be sold to the advertisers, cultural roundabouts always moving but taking the listener nowhere...the musical equivalent of a comfort blanket, ‘Keep Calm and Go Round In Comatose Inducing Circles’. Against the backdrop of late capitalism’s domesticating of so much cultural output Girls In Synthesis stand out like a searing, prophetic burst of uncompromising honesty, like a beam of condensed light, waking you up, reminding you of the importance of art as insurgency. Art as site of resistance, music as cultural resource in the struggle to remember and reproduce reality in a world of disorientating bollocks. Girls In Synthesis, inspired by the early DIY punk and post-punk movements, have had four releases so far The Mound/Disappear, the Suburban Hell EP, a Dub version of Suburban Hell and in May this year the EP We Might Not Make Tomorrow. October/November has seen them playing a series of gigs around the UK with a new 4 track EP Fan The Flames being released to coincide. It’s four tracks of jarring, exhilarating, intense, thought provoking neo punk, of utter relevance to working class Britain eight years into Tory rule. If you want an insight into working class experience in 2018 skip the mainstream media, give this a listen, elite corruption, greed, arrogance (the effects pictured on the cover), the experience of powerlessness, precarity, anxiety familiar to so many, the corrosive effects of being subject to, and internalising, the hostilities of society. Girls In Synthesis are important because they don’t just point the finger, they remind us that we are all infected and that our struggles for truth, reality and justice are as much internal as social/political. Musically Fan the Flames moves the band on again from We Might Not Make Tomorrow, as they continue to evolve and develop. 
To coincide with the EP release Girls In Synthesis have released a video of 'Howling' a track that combines Girls In Synthesis’ hallmark elements of ferocity, compassion and intelligence in a way that only they can. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

'Jesus Was a Punk': Peter118, Pop Punk and Christianity.

Photo courtesy of Peter118.
Punk has never been short of strong convictions, from the Sex Pistols’ slightly incoherent class rage to The Clash’s more considered socialism to the anarchism of Crass, early punk was awash with strong beliefs, fortunately most of them progressive. Fast forward to Anti Flag and then again to Adequate Seven. In the contemporary era Lost Cherrees and Truth Equals Treason stand out for me but there are plenty of of other punk bands who wear their political convictions on their sleeves. Punk has had a slightly more ambivalent relationship with musicians and bands whose convictions have been more spiritual than political. They have always been there of course, Bad Brains’ Rastafarian beliefs, and post X Ray Spex both Poly Styrene and Lora Logic were part of the Hare Krishna movement. There is also an intriguing film The Taqwacores, based on a novel of the same name by Michael Muhammad Knight, about a group of Muslim punks in New York, which is well worth a watch and played a part in the rise of real life Taqwacore bands (1)!
The problem for punk, I guess, isn’t spirituality per se but the social conservatism of many religions and in USA and Europe this has been particularly obvious in the Christian Church which has a bad track record of social oppression and colluding with the state. However sometimes spirituality can be a resource drawn on by the oppressed in their struggle for freedom and dignity against their oppressors, Liberation Theology being one example.
Christian punk bands are pretty easy to count on the fingers on one hand for most of us, (early) MxPx and (the excellent) Crashdog, (hmm still leaves three fingers), but there have been/are plenty more as a quick Google search reveals. One of them is Peter118. Originally a side project of Peter Field, the Stoke based band started in 2012 and is currently comprised of Peter (guitar /vocals), Janine (bass) and Sam (drums), their first release Make It or Break It came out in 2015 followed by Need You More (2016), a split EP In Stereo (2017) and an album Anthology and Live in L.A. (2018).
Following a heads up from The Punk Lounge I contacted Peter for an interview to find out more about Peter118 and the compatibility of punk and Christianity.        

Could you tell us a little bit about Peter118, how did you get together? Had any of you been in other bands beforehand?
Peter118 started in 2012 as an acoustic project going into bars in clubs ands singing punk songs. I met the drummer Sam at an acoustic night at a local museum in 2014 in Stoke on Trent - my hometown. That night Sam jumped onto the Cajun drums and joined Peter118 instantly. At the time my bass player was Andrew Derbidge however he moved to London in 2015. Janine joined on bass filling in for Andrew, Janine then took her place in the band following her first gig -she  had two weeks to learn all the songs before she played her first gig at a church youth group evening in Bloxwich, Walsall. I previously played in Christian bands such as the Ambassadors of Shalom and Risen from Ruins. Prior to that I was in a secular punk band called Senseless for 10 years where we did an EP and supported punk legends such as Stiff Little Fingers, Bouncing Souls and TSOL. Peter118 was always a side project, however in 2014 the song ‘Radio’ was played in Japan by a DJ called Mike Rogers which then led to having airplay and exposure all around the world.

You identify as 'pop punk'-who do we put your album alongside in the CD/Record rack?
Green Day, Rancid and the 90s punk rock sound.

Have there been any bands that have been major influences on you?
Peter118 brings a fresh sound of pop punk. We are influenced by the 90s punk rock sound and bands of the 70’s like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. Peter118’s sound is a mixture of Green Day, Blink 182, Sham 69 and The Sex Pistols.

How does a song come together in Peter118, is it a very collaborative process or one main songwriter?
I usually come up with a guitar riff or tune , then write lyrics with Janine's input and we then take it to band practice and the song develops.  

The band seems to have taken a massive leap forward musically between 'Break 'em out' and a more recent song 'Wasting'! What happened!?
We continue to write and play lots  of gig's. The more we practice and play more ideas come into the band. 'Wasting' is taking our sound back to the original punk rock roots. ‘Wasting’ was our first track to get played on 'Kerrang' radio.

You are very happy to identify as a 'Christian' punk band. What does that mean? How does a 'Christian' punk band differ from other bands? Motivation? Lyrics?    
Peter118 plays to God and does not look to man’s approval. We believe we have something to offer to people - a hope in Jesus Christ, our lyrics talk about life and can offer hope and  truth and can show people that there is a God that loves them.

In an interview earlier this year Janine commented that 'Jesus was a punk', citing his (direct) action of overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple (in part a simultaneous attack on state, religion and treasury) and radical teachings (2). Would that be part of your understanding of punk that it should disrupt the status quo and contribute to moving society forward to something better, that it should at least 'speaks truth to power'?
Jesus challenged the religious teachers of his time offering a hope to people- he healed the sick, he showed us to help the poor. Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and the homeless.  Punk challenges unfair systems in society and defends the working classes and the oppressed people in society. Jesus loves the punks and I think he would be on the streets with the punks and homeless showing them love and compassion.

What sort of subject matter do your songs engage with?
We sing about life and peoples struggles offering them hope and truth. The new song 'For Your Glory' is an example of this.

What do you think punk can learn from Christianity?
Forgiveness and Love.

What do you think Christianity can learn from punk?
I think Christian Churches and Christian radio  can learn to embrace punk culture and music. I know some churches that put on regular Punk shows and Christian radio is now embracing more punk music and bands.

I completely get that there could be an overlap between progressive punk and the person of Jesus-challenging the powers that be, identifying with the poor and marginalised, egalitarian attitudes, desire for social justice-but generally punk is antagonistic towards the church due to its track record of patriarchy, oppression and collusion with the state-where would Jesus be happiest..mosh pit or choir stalls?
Jesus would be in the mosh pit.

What has your experience been of playing live-have you generally had a positive response?
I would say that we have had a positive experience of playing live- people enjoy the live show and message.  We do get a lot of negativity on social media but in person I never see this.

When are you going to repent of wearing that American flag jacket (surely a symbol of hegemonic oppression to many) and burn it? And will you promise to live stream the burning?!
Never, the American jacket is awesome, however I do get strange looks when I go to my local pub wearing it.

You've had an album out this year and have been playing live regularly. What are your plans for the rest of 2018 and going into 2019?
We have a new EP at the end of November to finish off this awesome year, 3 brand new songs and it’s a split EP with an American band. Can’t say much more than this at this stage. 2019- more shows and new song writing, maybe also another USA tour.

What writers and albums have you been enjoying lately?
Roam- Great Heights and Nosedives. I love that band, awesome songs and riffs. We met Roam at Slam Dunk and would love to do some shows with them.

(1)Wheeler, S. (2018) Jesus was a Punk Upon this Rock

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Active Slaughter: Back And Still Bothered.

Photo courtesy of AS. Photograph by Lara Homaidan.
Formed in 2001 Active Slaughter released two albums, Ave a Butchers (2003) and 4t2ude (2009) plus an EP Smash HLS (2002) before they disbanded and took an enforced hiatus in 2010. But they are back! Reforming in 2016 they released  the EP Tomorrow’s Too Late in 2017 with 3 tracks that confirm that Active Slaughter have lost none of their compassion, vision and sense of outrage. Prophetic in a society where a media savvy alt right have been mainstreamed and the destructive has been accepted Active Slaughter, now comprised of JJ on vocals, Trev on drums, Trystan on guitar and Mark on bass, are an important voice. With a new album on the way it seemed like a good time for an update on how things are going for the band!      

Could you give us an overview of Active Slaughter's story so far? There has been two chapters haven't there, 2001-10 and then you reformed in 2016 (1)?
JJ: Formed in 2001 and disbanded in 2010 just before I went to prison (Animal Liberation).  Reformed in 2016. I’m sure we would have reformed sooner but as part of my licence conditions I was not allowed to do Active Slaughter as we were seen as too political/extreme. So I was told by an anti extremist Scotland Yard officer, who was overseeing my probation, that if I did Active Slaughter whilst I was on licence my licence would be revoked and I would be returned to prison.
So reforming had to wait due to prison and licence conditions.
From the first era we released two albums and a single. From the second era we have released a single so far and we’re currently recording a new album which should hopefully be released for December.
The original lead vocalist didn’t want to do the band again so I stepped up to lead vocals since the reform. Previously I was on guitar and backing vocals. Trev is still on Drums, I’m not sure I could ever play with anyone else on drums, probably because I never have done!
When we reformed in 2016 Phil and Jeannie stepped in on guitar and bass but then we had a lineup change in 2017 and Trystan (Lost Cherrees) and Mark (Liberty) took over on bass and guitar. We have a solid line up now and they’re also really good friends of ours.

Are you all in other bands as well? Did I spot a Lost Cherrees and Mindframe connection?  
Trev: I’m in Mindframe (and Anthrax) and Trystan’s in the Lost Cherrees.

Trys: I’ve also just joined Left For Dead on bass cos I’m trying to be in as many bands as Trev!

What were the main reasons for reforming? Music, message, relationships?
JJ: All three of the above!

Where would you place Active Slaughter politically? Anarchist, or do different members hold different positions and political thought is always evolving so reluctant to attach a label to yourselves?
JJ: I would say as a band and each one of us hold a lot of views that could be regarded as anarchist views. Whether we’re all anarchists or not I’m not sure. I don’t really regard myself as an anarchist as such as I don’t really like to attach a label and I also think to be an anarchist you must have a lot of faith in the human race, I personally don’t.

Your most recent single 'Tomorrow's Too Late' came out last year on Grow Your Own Records, and you're playing on their Mini Tour later in the year. Are they a label you have a particular affinity with?
Trev: I’ve known Gary who does Grow Your Own Records (and who’s the vocalist in Anthrax) for about a million years and know that he’s a sound bloke, so when he started the label it seemed kinda logical that we’d be on it. It’s a great, completely DIY label that has quite a diverse set of bands on it, which is another factor I personally like a lot.

Your songs deal with a range of political and social issues, I think that most recent single engaged with animal rights (whaling and vivisection) and scandals around sexual abuse (1). Have you found your songwriting deals with different subjects since you reformed or similar subjects but different perspectives as it is six years on?
JJ: I think the same sort of views but I would say maybe some different perspectives, but only slightly, from the first era which ended 8 years ago.

Trev: Unfortunately a lot of the stuff we sing about hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve been doing the band, so the subject matter is largely the same now as it was in 2000. The perspectives might change slightly but generally it’s stuff that we wish we didn’t have to be singing about nearly 20 years down the line.

What influences your lyric writing, reading, personal experience, discussion?
JJ: Lyric writing anything from the 1980s through to the modern era of anarcho punk. There have been and are some great bands.  

Trev: For me it’s a bit of all the above.

Is there much of a change in the Active Slaughter sound between 2010 and 2018?
JJ: I would say quite a bit yes. I enjoy the new AS a lot more than the old. I think musically we are a lot tighter and better now as well. Our music has slightly changed in that the sound is quite a bit more “harder” than it used to be.

Trev: The new line up pisses over everything we’ve done before.

Trys: I know this one is more for JJ and Trev, but since joining I’ve loved the way we’ve all worked together, and reckon any change in the AS sound reflects the way we’ve all been able to have an input on the songs old and new.

You were in the studio recently-can we expect a new Active Slaughter release soon?
JJ: Oh yes! It will be a 12” released on Grow Your Own Records.

As an anti-fascist band what do you think of the call by some, including John McDonnell, for a reconstituting of the ANL and RAR to combat the reemergence of the far right? Good idea or completely different situation to the late '70s/early '80s with a need for a different response?
JJ: I think as with animal rights, fascism and racism should be tackled on all fronts and everywhere. So anything that does this I support and can only be a good thing.

As a band who play all over the UK how do you read the political mood in Britain, have people realised austerity is class struggle, appropriation through dispossession, and are ready for a change?
JJ: I think if it wasn’t for the Daily Mail, The Sun and all the other scum I think the political mood of the country would be a lot better. But instead, these newspapers influence and brainwash a lot of the working class into thinking that immigration and Muslims are the reason why the country is in such as mess.
Of course there is still a massive opposition to all this and there are still many who believe in class struggle instead of race war but unfortunately it’s not enough to bring about the change we all desire.

Is the punk scene still something that encourages social/political activism, it's DIY ethic encouraging involvement in wider society or is it more that those already concerned find a 'home' in punk ?
JJ: I definitely think it does yeah. Not just in the U.K. but all around the world. There seems to be still a good load of the younger generation coming through as well. Of course those of that state of mind will also find a home in punk, maybe this is why we all did? But punk still encourages this sort of thing and I believe it opens our minds up, especially when we connect with other people who often have much to teach and tell us.

Which way round has it worked for you, did punk encourage you to stay engaged, Active Slaughter as a musical expression of the rest of your lives, or were you 'brought to consciousness' by punk?
JJ: I would say both of the above! Punk has had an influence on me definitely.
I would say though it’s actually been more the friends I have met over the years through punk than the bands I have listened too.

Trev: I think I was “brought to consciousness” by punk originally but Active Slaughter has definitely been a vent for the views, opinions and hopes that I have for certain things.

In an interview earlier this year a band commented that their radical politics had scared off local promoters and prevented them from getting gigs (2). Have you had any similar experiences?
JJ: I know for a fact previously (and maybe still today) our views on animal liberation has had an effect on not getting some gigs. But then again it has also got us a load of gigs. It’s always going to happen I guess when a promoter lets their views get in the way of putting on a gig. Of course to some extent though I guess we all have to do that sometimes!

Is there always a tension in the punk scene between those who see punk as inherently political and those who wish it was just vapid loud fast music plus fashion accessories?
JJ: I’m not sure if there’s a tension over this. There is often a tension though if the latter decide to spurt out racist, sexist, homophobic nonsense of course, or when they say they just sit on the fence (we all know which side that means they lean to!)

As musicians involved in punk for a couple of decades how is the DIY punk scene doing, have you been encouraged by it's evolution?
JJ: From what I’ve seen there are a lot of young people putting on gigs and playing in bands still. The punk sound with the younger generation seems to have changed quite a bit over the years, but the spirit still seems to be there.

What bands/musicians have you been enjoying lately?
JJ: I wish I could get out more often and see more bands but I’m quite a busy person so often the only gigs I can get to are those I’m playing at. I’ve really been enjoying Mindframe in recent years (Trev’s other band) we often play together so I get to see them play a lot and I never get bored with them. Their new stuff is fantastic as are all the new Anthrax releases, Bug Central, Shot, Jawless, Grand Collapse, Eastfield, Oi Polloi.... loads of bands. Hopefully Lost Cherrees and Liberty will have something new out soon, which I can enjoy also. Lads?!? 

Trys: Loads of stuff, and agree with all of JJ’s, and particularly like Grand Collapse when stomping to work and Eastfield when wandering home. Two of the best recent albums that spring to mind are the new Filaments, and Spoilers have just released a cracker as well.
Chaz Hayward’s Global Resistance Records HSA benefit 7” series is also awesome.
Other than that I can say that Lost Cherrees are currently writing and have 8 or 9 new tunes done. So there will be more to come.

What is the rest of 2018 looking like for Active Slaughter, are you out and about, are there plenty of opportunities to see you live?
JJ : We have a gig in Norwich coming up soon and a small tour of the north and Scotland in December. Currently open to offers of gigs, but right now I think all of our thoughts are on the new album, getting this right.
Thanks for the interview!

Photo/Logo courtesy of Active Slaughter. Photograph by Lara Homaidan. Logo by Iain Ball .

(1)Brown, N (2017) Tomorrow’s Too Late - EP Review  
(2)Interview: Art As Resistance: NurseOnDuty
Also used in Intro  and
Active Slaughter