(Just so you know this interview contains swearing.)
A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted 'Predators' by North East punk band In Evil Hour; an intelligent, ferocious critique of Drone warfare which reminds me a little of Rise Against. Trying to find out more about them I came across their Facebook Bio where they self describe as 'a breakneck assault of melodic punk rock and searing 90’s bay-area hardcore'. Their songs expressing '..a continued frustration at the wilful destruction of our shared planet, as well as a general disgust levelled at our plutocratic, militaristic society where social constructs such as class, nationality and gender still dictate the opportunities human beings have access to in life'(1).
Their 2013 album 'The World Bleeds Out' was described as a 'classic album from an extremely impressive band'(2) and 'immensely powerful'(3). Excited I contacted them for an interview. Q: Can you give us an overview of the 'In Evil Hour'? How long have you been together? How many releases? Your name is from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book isn't it?
Gareth: We’ve been playing as In Evil Hour for around 4 years now but myself, Al and Gib have played in bands together for over ten years now. We released two EPs and an album so far with the most recent being six tracks for Built on our Backs which came out in August 2015. In terms of the name you’ve rumbled us! We took it from the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s first novel, he’s one of my favourite authors.
Q: During an ATR gig I was at in Berlin a few years ago Rowdy was shouting during one song 'Wake Up! Wake up! Wake the Fuck Up!' Is that something you would aim for with your music, that it would wake people up?
Gareth: I think it would be possibly selling the punk audience short and overstating our own importance to presume it would wake them up. I don’t think there is any kind of bolt of lightning situation happening when we play or you listen to us. I guess it’s maybe more about… I mean we would hope that people may identify with the things we sing about and there is a hope that around certain issues maybe it makes them take more interest or at least think about them if they haven’t before. I guess in an ideal situation the subject of songs would be a conversation opener, a way of starting a kind of dialogue with someone, opening them up to another view point or ideas rather than trying to tell them how they should think. I find one of the most powerful things music can do as well is to offer reassurance to people that they’re not ‘alone’ in being frustrated and pissed off with the chaos of our world.
Q: In a society that is increasingly shaped to suit the interests of corporations is your music an alerting to that or an act of resistance? Can the punk DIY/proactive ethos itself be a counter to late capitalism's consumerism and commodification of all things?
Gareth: I think the importance of music and if I can use the term without sounding too pretentious, the importance of any art, is to present ideas or engage/encourage their formation. I honestly don’t know if it in and of itself can really counter something as all-consuming as the neo liberal capitalism that we now have as I guess we are also a small part of it being consumers and selling our music. That commodification is insidious, kind of like dry rot, and I think sadly it is everywhere. Trying not to be horrendously pessimistic though I think the DIY punk ethos definitely creates spaces where positive and alternate ideas can be shared.
Q: Al, how have you found being a woman in punk? Often in mainstream pop women's physicality seems to be emphasised. Have you experienced much sexism and gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience?
Al: I’d say for the most part my experience has been very positive, it’s obviously limited to punk but I’d say that as a scene it’s probably one of the most diverse and accepting out there – one look at the Rebellion lineup for example shows a higher concentration of bands with women in them than almost any other scene. Any negatives I have encountered I feel are more related to issues in society at large and certainly aren’t limited to the scene itself. There’s the usual stuff – getting directed to the merch stand rather than the stage when you’re first in for soundcheck, getting asked by venue staff which band you’re WITH rather than which band you’re IN. The times it gets to me most are when it’s more insidious. The bassist from a support band who complimented me on my “very sexual performance” after I came off stage was a bit of a stand out moment, simply because 1. It wasn’t and 2. I doubt he would have drawn the same conclusions if I were male. I think it’s the idea that’s been present throughout history that as a woman in a public space you’re somehow advertising your sexual availability, so you’ll always get the guys who’ll try to touch you or feel the need to comment on it – sadly though I think you tend to find them everywhere. And there’s the “backwards sexism” that occurs when a (male) sound engineer assumes you don’t know what you’re doing and shows you how to work your microphone, or the men who apologise for swearing backstage because there’s “a lady present.” I don’t think any of these things would have occurred if my gender were different but thankfully they’ve always been rare, and I’ve never encountered anything really sinister in my time with the band. One overarching frustration I have is the notion that “female” is a genre all by itself. I’ll get the same comment from both men and women almost every gig, that they “don’t normally like female [bands/singers/performers] but I thought you were really good!” Of course they mean it as a compliment but change the gender in that statement and it highlights just how ridiculous it is. It’s the same reason that I will always ask any promoters who list us as “female fronted” to take it down. We’re not a female fronted band, we’re a band. Whilst I feel that the idea of “women in punk” is still a relevant question and that it’s important such a traditionally male-dominated space as music explores experiences different to the norm, my hope for the future is that eventually the idea of a woman doing the things I do isn’t seen as something especially “other” and will become something that people don’t even feel is worth focusing on.
Q; Your songs are driven by a strong political position-how did your politics take shape? What were the influences? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it always evolving?
Gareth: Personally mine have come like most peoples in part from my family and where I’ve grown up. My Grandfather was a coal miner and an ardent supporter of the socialist workers party so that side of things I think has just been passed down to me. I think for everyone it is an evolving spectrum. I’ve been influenced by writers like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Primo Levi, Simone De Beauvoir and music from people like Propagandhi, Rise Against, Manic Street Preachers, Subhumans etc…The list is endless really because I think most things we read listen to or watch, as well as the conversations we have with other people be it positive or negative, help to shape, reinforce or change our existing ideas and opinions.
Q: What range of issues have your lyrics engaged with? The artwork of 'Built On Our Backs' depicts industrial capitalism's exploitative and oppressive nature and the EP includes the track 'Predators' about Drone warfare...
Gareth: The things we tend to write about are usually triggered by something be it a book, a news story or documentary or something we have experienced from environmentalism to social and economic disparity. I think we just pick up on things that frustrate/anger us in the hope that we can write something that is at least a half decent song so that people a. want to listen to it and b. hopefully relate or are interested in the sentiments being expressed. Our main focus is to try and be informed on issues and not present a half-baked populist ‘Fuck the government’ statement. Not that I think we’re doing anything particularly deep I just think you can tell when you read a bands lyrics whether they are really trying to express something that matters to them or just repeating a slogan or statement verbatim.
Q: What is the grassroots rock scene like in the North East-are there plenty of venues and opportunities to play-or is it more 'got van will travel?'
Gareth: There are some great venues in the North East but we're big fans of just getting in the van and going places, meeting new people and playing new places we haven’t been before.
Q: Obviously the internet has changed how people access music, do you notice any other effects on how people 'relate' to a band? Do you think it has helped dismantle hierarchies? For grassroots bands has it been a positive or a negative?
Gareth: I think the internet has reinforced the hierarchy more than anything else. I think now many people see paying for music as an imposition as it is so readily available for free. I think it has ultimately hit the smaller/medium sized musicians the hardest as it has made it more difficult for them to dedicate time to actually playing music. If you’re against any form of capitalist influence in music then I’m sure ideologically it has been great but I don’t think in real terms it has led to a more egalitarian music scene.
Much thanks to Al (vocals), Gareth (guitar), Gib (bass) and Mike (drums).