Saturday, 27 April 2019

Test Dept Live. Studio 9294, 26/4/19.

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.

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. 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.
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 followed by the album which lived up to any expectation as a superb piece of work, combining visceral, riveting, finely honed industrial music with coherent, well informed, incisive political polemic.

On Friday 26 April Test Dept played Studio 9294 in Hackney Wick for an ‘album launch’, the area around Hackney Wick station is interesting, seems like a post industrial zone that has been colonised by the arts, with the venue tucked round the back of the station. We get there at 8ish, cool smallish space, nice staff, the stage is intriguing, with metal frames, an old tyre hanging, something that looks like an old ship steering wheel but made out of metal. Sometimes you feel you’re at something significant.

At some point the sound of a bell chiming rings out, it’s the start of Shelley Parker’s set. Now I don’t know anything about the kind of music she creates but apparently she had an EP out on Hessle Audio called Red Cotton which ‘sees Parker combining her abstract sound sources with dance music-adjacent rhythms and club-ready doses of sub-bass’(1). To me it sounded exciting, mesmerising, engaging, nuanced and intelligent dance music. May well see if I can get hold of her EP. Excellent.

At just gone 10 Test Dept start, Paul Jamrozy is blowing on some horn/bugle thing, it seems like a wake up call and simultaneously reminds me of the Elves appearing at Helm’s Deep to stand with the people of Rohan against the forces of Moria. (Except in The Lord of the Rings the elves join up with a community aware of what’s going on and planning their next move whereas in Britain it feels like most people would be down in some cellar getting pissed and talking about football.) From the first track the music is controlled intensity, constructed to achieve an objective, form follows function. The crowd at Studio 9294 must be predisposed towards the message Test Dept are sending to be here, understand its importance, or they couldn’t endure this bombardment of the senses, most people here must share the same politics as Test Dept or they couldn’t withstand this assault. The four figures on stage move from instrument to instrument, Paul who had the bugle thing is now hammering on a huge drum, on a heavy duty tyre, now some scrap metal, Graham Cunnington is at the mic again, his vocals injecting even more tension into the mix, the percussionist moves to her left and starts hammering on somethings metallic, a fourth person is doing something DJish with a box of tricks at the back, and this intense, superbly constructed maelstrom of anger, horror and conviction keeps moving, forensically dissecting late capitalism, exposing it for the (hidden) Horror Show it is. ‘The dirt behind the daydream’ to quote Gang of Four.   

We are looking over another bombed out Middle Eastern city, which one? Iraq, Syria, Libya? Have ‘the west’ and/or its allies attacked it directly or through proxies? Neoliberal capitalism in the form of a hyena pads relentlessly on looking for the weak, the vulnerable to isolate, rip apart, devour. A CAD style representation of a drone reappears emphasising their roles in modern warfare, modern surveillance. Refugees or migrants (does it matter? People) are packed into a dinghy that looks in imminent danger of going down, Can we imagine how appalling their lives must have been to have risked people smugglers, Libya, the Mediterranean in the slim hope of a crap life in Europe, are they from the bombed out city we saw earlier? Grenfell Tower, the word JUSTICE, protesters, and then a smirking Theresa May dancing on stage to Abba, Boris Johnson grinning down at us from his position of invulnerability.

I have to go or I’ll miss my last train, I gabble something to the merch people about how amazing the gig has been, I’m agitated, angry that the media has generally justified late capitalism's morph into something that feels alot like sophisticated fascism, agitated that I am complicit, frustrated that in all probability many of those who vote will again support a party whose policies have contributed to 120,000 excess deaths over 8 years.  

I get on the train, sit on the train, still disturbed by what I’ve heard/seen. Two hours later I go to bed.

Bibliography.
Smith, M. (2018) Shelley Parker debuts on Hessle Audio with new EP, Red Cotton’ https://www.residentadvisor.net/news/42812

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Girls In Synthesis Live. The Waiting Room 13/4/19.

Photo by Bea Dewhurst.
To accompany the release of Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018, a documenting of their first four releases (Louder Than War Records), Girls in Synthesis set off on a short tour between 6-13 April taking in Nottingham, Hull, Manchester, Northampton, Leeds and London (with a Brighton gig still to come). In an interview last summer John from the band discussed their approach to playing live with E&D commenting that ‘...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?...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’ (1).

Their four releases have been ferocious, superbly organised bursts of sonic light, searing and invigorating commentaries on contemporary Britain, musically and lyrically capturing the intensity of late capitalism and its felt effects. Marrying this to a utilitarian visual aesthetic of army surplus shirts, boiler suits and DMs and with the approach to playing live outlined above made them a must see band for me this year.

The Waiting Room is a small, literally underground, venue in Stoke Newington, imagine a big living room with a stage at one end and a bar at the other, perfect venue really! Really nice guy behind the bar, knows his local music scene, the place has a good vibe. First up were Human Pet, I hadn’t heard of them before but from the off they were on it; tight, intense, intelligent danceable neo-punk, nimble cleverly structured songs. Clash Magazine described them as having a ‘scratchy indie sound...layered in grunge effects...The off kilter riffing burrows its way into your cranium (2). When you’re on at 20.15 and get people moving you’re good, and these are. Hopefully more on Human Pet at a later date.

Glimpses of the various members of Girls In Synthesis before their set confirmed that they are a real band and not a perfection myth perpetuated by some super sophisticated algorithm that had analysed my preferences and constructed an idealised match! On the back wall are a GIS banner plus the repeated phrase ‘We Might Not Make Tomorrow’, after a quick last sound check two mic stands are positioned off stage, the lights drop..and this is where it all turns into an adrenalised blur of white light and shadow, of band members careering off into the crowd, of Jim and John’s vocal interplay, of them using the stage as a physical launch pad, of Nicole’s thunderous drumming seeming to hold the whole searing, explosive thing together as she is both a continuity of, and simultaneously looks on at, bodies working hard to adequately express the immediacy and ferocity of the music. Somehow I find myself dancing about at the front which means about a metre from the band, two old punks appear to my left drawn in by the energy of something hard to pigeon hole but completely invigorating and euphoric. Tight, tense, creating a liminal space between what is and what could be, Girls In Synthesis were superb, a reminder of why music helps you to both cope with, and make sense of, life. How long were they on for? I don’t know...half an hour? Forty minutes? Long enough and not long enough, of course you want more, you always do.

My imagination had set the bar pretty high for Girls In Synthesis live, they cleared it with no trouble.


Bibliography. 
(1)https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/06/girls-in-synthesis-an-interview/
(2)https://www.facebook.com/pg/humanpet/about/?ref=page_internal

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Platinum Rats by The Briefs. Excellent!


OK, I’ve never really experienced album review as journey before! But US punks The Briefs and their new release Platinum Rats managed to move me from initial response of ‘Heard it all before’ to ‘This is excellent’ in about three listens! I hadn’t heard of The Briefs before this album and we didn’t get off to a great start when I checked out their Facebook page and was confronted with a picture of a crucified figure’s feet-presumably Jesus’- with the accompanying text ‘We’ve nailed it’. Hostility towards organised religion in punk is about as old as, err, well, punk really but whatever you think of the person of Jesus (one of thousands of people who’ve experienced state torture and death through crucifiction historically and contemporarily) taking the piss out someone’s suffering in these days when cultural/political struggles over torture are still being fought seems, I don’t know, unwise? Maybe I’m overthinking...(and in all fairness it may have been a gig poster), but anyway it didn't endear The Briefs to me initially.

One of the hallmarks of postmodernism is ‘an eclectic mixing of styles. These styles can be from different historical periods and cultures, manifest in architecture, fashion and the arts...’ (1) another related aspect is the self conscious homage, the plundering of the past and the cobbling together of pastiche, on a first listen these were the kind of thoughts that were going through my head as an album that seemed rooted in ‘77 came blasting out the speakers, it seemed in danger of being a reproduction of a mythical musical origins story, punk as time travel, The Adverts meet The Rezillos!

BUT, you know what, after a couple of more listens and a bit more internetting I realised that ‘Yes’ it is retro, ‘Yes’ it sounds initially like a pastiche of early punk/New Wave but The Briefs are completely aware of that and wear their influences and admirations proudly! On their website their bio comments ‘The Briefs take the stage like commandos of the New Wave, retro zombies from the Disco Inferno’! (2). They know who they are, they know what they do-and they do it very well indeed, these aren’t just punk retreads/recycled riffs, this is a lesson in the art/craft of New Wave/pop punk (and that’s not pejorative)!

Platinum Rats is 12 examples of great songwriting, musically fresh and exhilarating and lyrically intriguing, the whole album sounds like one beautifully crafted melodic punk gem after another!

As the tracks keep coming you catch half heard glimpses of a whole raft of New Wave bands, (and even a bit of Robert Calvert vocals in ‘Out of Touch’) but it never sounds tired or derivative. The only gripe I’ve got is the lack of a lyric sheet because The Briefs sound like under that playful, not taking things too seriously, image they have some important stuff to say, track 1 ‘Bad Vibration’ ends with a sampled voice proclaiming bizarrely ‘Revolution, overthrowing the government, free sex, free dope, y’know, free TV’, on track 3 ‘Nazi Disco’ they take a swipe at fascism and white supremacy but all I could make out really clearly was the last few lines ‘I don’t need your Nazi Disco, We don’t want your Nazi Disco’...and track 5 ‘GMO Mosquito’, well I guess the title points to what it’s about but I would like to be able to read more closely what they’re saying.

OK we got off to a bad start but despite my initial reservations The Briefs won me over through the sheer quality of their songwriting and musicianship-in short Platinum Rats is a great album!

Platinum Rats is out on April 12th on Damaged Goods Records and The Briefs are over in Europe this summer playing Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, if you live anywhere near one of their gigs try and get there, judging by this album you’ll have a great night!

Bibliography.
(1)Bowman, M. Herbert, D. Mumm,S.(2001) ‘Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change. Course Introduction’. Open University, Milton Keynes. p.92.
(2)http://www.thebriefsofficial.com/about/

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Girls In Synthesis Release 'Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018'!


In a world when every news bulletin convinces you the world is run by the sociopathic and the incompetent here is some good news! On April 5 Louder Than War Records are releasing Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018, an album of the hard to get hold of first releases by Girls In Synthesis!! Inspired by the early DIY punk and post-punk movements and with a sound described as ‘intense, abrasive, confrontational, and original..yet somehow containing half-caught glimpses of incendiary half-remembered songs that helped bring you to musical life, (that) formed the origins of your musical cosmos’(1), GIS have had four releases so far ‘The Mound/Disappear’, and the EPs Suburban Hell,  We Might Not Make Tomorrow and the 4 track Fan The Flames. That’s 14 tracks of jarring, exhilarating, intense, thought provoking neo punk, of utter relevance to Britain nine years into Tory rule. If you want an insight into UK working class experience in the 21st Century then skip the mainstream media, give GIS a listen! This band engages with contemporary socio-political affairs that the mainstream media would rather you didn’t think about too much as it feeds you distraction, trivia and elite serving narratives. GIS bring you back to reality, remind you that the world is about more than cheap SIM cards and royal babies. Although not an overtly political band (‘I wouldn’t say we tackle politics head-on, like some groups do, but we do address it in our own way’(2)). their music engages with anger at suburbia, naivety about hard drug use among musicians (Suburban Hell), nuclear threat, animal rights, US politics, fading youth (WMNMT), elite corruption, greed, arrogance, the experience of powerlessness, precarity, anxiety familiar to so many, the corrosive effects of being subject to, and internalising, the hostilities of society (FTF). 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.
As you listen to the Collection unfold/drive forward you are aware that musically this band started from an extraordinary place with ‘The Mound’ and then kept getting better, with Fan the Flames moving the band on again from We Might Not Make Tomorrow, as they continue to evolve and develop.
To tie in with the Collection release in April, Girls In Synthesis have a short tour, a chance to catch the hallmark elements of ferocity, compassion and intelligence combined live in a way that only they can, more interactive, immersive art installation (2) than conventional gig, a more complete realisation of the DIY (DIT-Do It Together?) ethos than many classic ‘punk’ bands even contemplate. As John has previously commented ‘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’(2).

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. If you can get hold of Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018 do so, if you can catch them live, be there!

Girls In Synthesis: 'a dissident soundtrack to the urgent intensity of urban Britain’ (1).

Tour dates
Nottingham-6 April
Hull-9 April
Leeds-10 April
Manchester-11 April
Northampton-12 April
London-13 April
Brighton-20 April

Watch 'We Might Not Make Tomorrow' here
Get hold of Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018 here
Photo courtesy of GIS Facebook page.

(1)Foster, T. (2018) ‘Fan the Flames with the Girls In Synthesis’ https://thepunklounge.com/fan-the-flames-with-the-girls-in-synthesis
(2)Foster, T. (2018) ‘Girls In Synthesis: An Interview’ https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/06/girls-in-synthesis-an-interview/

Saturday, 23 February 2019

'Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story' Interview With Co-Author Celeste Bell.


Marianne Joan Elliot-Said was born in Bromley and grew up in Brixton, after leaving both school and home at 15, pre punk she identified with the hippy movement and led a precarious life orbiting music festivals. At this time she also recorded an album and released a ska/reggae single ‘Silly Billy’. All this changed in the summer of ‘76 when she saw an early Sex Pistols gig and was inspired to form a band, Poly Styrene was born!
X-Ray Spex, initially fronted by Poly Styrene and Lora Logic on sax, in many ways embodied all that was positive about first wave punk and contributed one of the few stand out tracks on the (as I remember it) very patchy ‘Live At The Roxy WC2’ album in 1977. Later the same year a studio version of that track ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ came out and is considered a touchstone among early punk releases. Paralleling Max Weber’s metaphor of industrial capitalism becoming an ‘iron cage’ for the working class ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ uses sexual metaphor to rail against subjection to capitalist consumerism, a theme that would reappear in Poly’s writing.
The album Germfree Adolescents came out in 1978 and evidenced Poly’s extraordinary insight and talent for exploring complex sociological concepts in accessible shorthand as she tackled consumerism, gender, the construction of self, gendered expectation under capitalism, genetic engineering, and performance.
After playing the 1978 Rock Against Racism gig in Victoria Park X-Ray Spex undertook a UK tour which left Poly exhausted, she subsequently left the band in 1979.
In 1980 she released the jazz tinged solo album Translucence before joining the Hare Krishna movement.
In the early 90s X-Ray Spex reformed for a one off gig and in ‘95 released Conscious Consumer.
In 2008 Poly dueted with John Robb on a remixing of a Goldblade track, appeared at a Love Music Hate Racism gig in London and then played a sell out gig with X-Ray Spex at the Roundhouse with a band that included her daughter the singer/writer Celeste Bell (who at one point Poly offered her X-Ray Spex role to). In 2010 Poly released ‘Black Christmas’, a song co-written with Celeste. The following year her final album Generation Indigo came out, a month before she died.
Poly Styrene was a musician and lyricist of extraordinary talent, she is a punk and feminist icon and in many ways a reminder to us of how society could be. Roughly eight years on from her death, on March 28th, a book Dayglo; The Poly Styrene Story co written by her daughter Celeste and Zoe Howe comes out as part of the ‘Poly Styrene; I Am A Cliche’ project. Excited by the idea of a definitive book on Poly by one of the people who knew her best I contacted Celeste for an interview about the forthcoming book, she kindly agreed.   
How did the the idea for the Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliche project come about? Was it one of those ideas that wouldn't go away?
The book project was first and the film came about as a continuation of what we wanted to do with the book.

The project involves both the book Dayglo: The Poly Styrene Story, which is out in March, and a film to be released in 2020. Have you been surprised by the level of interest?
I was quite surprised although I always knew that my mother's story resonated with many people for many different reasons and she always had a loyal and passionate fan base.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliche was crowdfunded wasn't it? How did that go? I imagine it could be quite nerve wracking!
It was really stressful! It was wonderful to see such a positive response from people supporting us but yes it is not something I would necessarily want to submit myself to again. The funds obtained from the campaign only partly financed the film as it has become a lot more expensive to finish than I had originally envisaged.

The book is co-written with Zoe, how did you find each other, have you collaborated before?
I met Zoe circa 2008 and she interviewed me for a book she was writing at the time titled How's Your Dad - Living in the shadow of a Rock Star Parent? We kept in touch and I reached out to her about working with me on a book which primarily would be focused on my mother's artwork. The book we have now developed from that; it is part art-book, zine, biography, memoir - a real mix.

What was it like researching the book? Was it quite difficult finding primary sources as X-Ray Spex and Marianne's early life were pre internet or was there plenty of material and the issues were more to do with editing?!
I feel that as I was so close to the story it wasn't too challenging. I had grown up listening to my mother's stories about her time in the music industry, it is a story which feels almost like my own.

Was the researching and compiling a journey of discovery for you at all? Did you come across information and people you hadn't previously been aware of?
There were definitely some surprises. It always is learning about someone you feel you know inside out from other people's perspectives. I interviewed my father for example, who I have had a very rocky relationship with for many years and it was interesting to be in a space where I could hear his side of a story which had been presented to me in a very specific way as a child.  

Punk has often been hostile to religion but both Lora (Logic) and Poly joined the Hare Krishna Movement in the early 80s, did Poly have a sense of continuity between those two involvements or see them as distinct from each other? Was her seminal involvement in punk and her spirituality different expressions of the same search?
My mother was definitely searching for meaning in her life. She channelled this search into her artistic expression, where, through her writing, she was asking big questions about identity, society, materialism, sexuality. I think she didn't necessarily find answers to those questions though and the experience of being in band with a lot of media attention left her more confused and mixed up than ever. Her retreat into the Hare Krishna movement was in many ways a complete break with everything that had come before, but was still driven by the same yearning for answers.  

In the book are you able to expand on the post X-Ray Spex Poly/Marianne, her involvements with the HKM and her continued recording and releasing of new music? Her last album, Generation Indigo, came out in 2011 didn't it?
Yes, X Ray Spex was only a small part of her life, she retired from music at 21! I was born post  X Ray Spex, so it the Hare Krishna period and the struggles in our relationship as mother and daughter are themes we were very keen to explore in depth.

While writing the book did you reach any conclusions about why Poly Styrene has continued to be a such a potent cultural figure?
I believe the answers she was seeking through her art are as relevant today as they ever were. I also believe that she was almost prophetic in her description of what the world would be like in the future - we are very much living in that world now.

Poly Styrene seemed to personify all the positive aspects of punk, the malleability of gender, the irrelevance of heritage, the opportunity for participation, the ability to critique society and to think independently. Do you think that is why she continues to be important, because she reminds us of what could be?
Yes.

Germfree Adolescents has some of the most perceptive, sophisticated lyrics ever! It's like a social science course in shorthand, dealing with issues of identity, gender construct, power, consumerism. Had she studied Sociology?  
She left school at 15. However she was highly intelligent and highly sensitive to her surroundings. She also had an insatiable curiosity and was always reading and educating herself. She did take a course in Psychology post X - Ray Spex however.

What happens now with the book, when does it come out and how can we get hold of it?
It comes out at on the 28th of March. A day before Brexit! You can pre order from Waterstones already. There will also be a limited amount of special editions with all kinds of goodies available to buy in selected stores soon.

Are there any book launches or book signings planned at all?
We have a book launch at Rough Trade East in London on the 28th of March.

Much thanks to Celeste for time and words and to Celeste and Zoe for researching and writing the book!

Referenced for Intro.

‘Poly Styrene’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly_Styrene

‘X-Ray Spex’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-Ray_Spex

‘Oh Bondage Up Yours’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Bondage_Up_Yours!

Bell, C. (2017) ‘My mum, the punk pioneer: Poly Syrene’s daughter remembers the X-Ray Spex leader’ https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2017/apr/28/my-mum-the-punk-pioneer-poly-styrenes-daughter-remembers-the-x-ray-spex-leader

Sweeting, A (2011) ‘Poly Styrene Obituary’ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/apr/26/poly-styrene-obituary

‘Germfree Adolescents’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germfree_Adolescents

‘Celeste Bell’ https://www.fredperry.com/subculture/playlist-profile-celeste-bell

Clarkson, J. (2009) ‘X-Ray Spex Live @ The Roundhouse, London 2009’ http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Review/6869/X-Ray-Spex-CD-X2-LiveThe-Roundhouse-London-2009

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Ruts DC: Continuity and Change Part II. The Crack.


Widely considered to be one of the greatest punk albums of all time and by Henry Rollins as ‘one of the best records I have ever heard’ (1), The Ruts iconic album The Crack was released 40 years ago. Preceded by the singles ‘In a Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Something That I Said’ the album came out in 1979 and included the latter two singles plus fourth single ‘Jah War’, which bravely confronted police violence in Southall and the SPG clubbing of Clarence Baker, manager of reggae band Misty In Roots. At a point when the two streams of art (college?) sensibility and raucous singalong present in the first wave of UK punk and exemplified by the Sex Pistols and X-Ray Spex were starting to go their separate ways* (think Magazine, PIL, Essential Logic v Oi!), The Crack showed that, with an eclectic musical knowledge and exceptional musical ability, the original promising synergy of punk could still be a potent force with short sharp songs like ‘You’re Just A’... alongside ‘Jah War’ and ‘It Was Cold’, both coming in at over 6 minutes long. Running through the album is a sense of tension and social commentary that reflected urban Britain in the late 70s but (unfortunately) is also extremely relevant to 2019 as the UK continues to be plagued by scapegoating, Brexit, class war and the mainstreaming of far/alt right politics. The Ruts DC decision to mark the 40th Anniversary of The Crack with a tour and the release of a remastered version of the classic album could not be more timely, a point I put to the band when we met up before their gig in Norwich.

Musically and lyrically The Crack transcends time and is still an incredibly powerful album, dealing with themes of 'ignorance and hate', anxiety, racism, racial profiling, police violence, all still very relevant, maybe especially so now after 8 years of so called austerity and with the social fallout from Brexit. It seems like The Crack is as much a commentary on now as then? Was that ongoing relevance something you were conscious of when you were remastering the album and organising the tour?
Segs: I think we've always been conscious of that, I think at the time I was a little bit naive and thought that everything we were doing was going to be an irreversible change, as I’ve got older, and I don’t think this is just cynicism, you realise it morphs into something else, it’s very difficult to get rid of racism and hate because you get rid of the hate towards a certain people and they find someone else to blame.
Dave Ruffy: I think you might change a few individuals but people keep procreating and ignorance still seems to reign supreme, but you just carry on don’t you? You can’t say ‘I won't bother then’.
Segs: It’s become a totally different thing for us, it becomes your own individual ‘battle’, I suppose, whereas I really felt part of the movement then. It was really a common sense thing for us it wasn’t ‘Right, I’m looking for something to join’, I’ve never looked for any bloody movement to join, we don’t really belong to any political party, I mean which one would you belong to if you decided to go that way! My whole thing is autonomy above anarchy, my own path, my own rules. It’s your own battle, we’ve had kids and you try to pass on to them what you live. I think Ruffy is right, we have won in certain things because my daughter doesn’t really see colour or race really.

I think there has been a cultural shift, when you think back to the 70s, it was so shit really! Pre punk culture was appalling!
Segs: Post war Pre punk I suppose you could call it, it was still post war…
DR: Yeah, it was awful when I was growing up, it is different.
Leigh Heggarty: You were saying about the album, obviously we have all heard the album quite a lot lately, and it’s funny there are songs that could almost have been written now, you don’t have to change any of the words, I don’t think. That’s a testament to how good it was in the first place, maybe it means things haven’t changed, but it has changed things for people.
Segs: For us it makes doing 40 years of The Crack more relevant, more doable really, we’re up there singing our stuff and playing it with a lot of vigour because we do still think of those things. I guess you are singing songs about the present rather than just singing for the past.

Which is why The Ruts DC still work really…
Segs: I think so, interesting for us when we get to Music Must Destroy territory in the set it kicks off, haha, it’s like we really mean it even more! We had that in rehearsals to be honest doing those tracks.
      
A few years ago I was in Berlin and went to the Rosa Luxemburg memorial, laid some flowers and gave the old communist salute as a tribute to a fallen comrade really, is that what this tour feels like for you at all? A tribute to fallen friends?
DR: Yeah. There has been a lot of pressure to do a The Crack tour for a long time and we resisted it for a long time because Ruts DC want to do new music, because a lot of people are liking our new music we felt ready to deal with it. To take on the task of doing it was quite a personal thing because Seggs and I were so involved in it, we didn’t really know how it would be, we have had to work very, very hard on doing it and we’ve had to find a way of doing it properly. It’s not just about playing the songs, we are (a lot better) musicians now than we were then, we had to unlearn a little bit to keep it loose as well. And of course you have the other two (Malcolm Owen and Paul Fox), the last gig we did, in Oxford, it was almost like they were there.
Segs: I think ‘tribute’ is maybe the wrong word, respect is definitely there and always has been, on this one you can’t do it without them being there really haha. I’m not going to go into ‘I think there looking down on us and thinking we’re OK’ but let’s say nothing’s going wrong so far haha!
DR: It’s fucking hard, songs we were doing in our early 20s to now! But we’ve worked really hard on it and I think we have found the right way of doing them, and generally the response to it’s been great. I think we are on gig eight tonight, the first gig was last Monday week, we’d been working on it, playing to a wall, but when you play (gigs) you get that energy back from the audience and from the off it's been great and it’s getting better really.
Segs: People want to like it, they want it to be good. I guess it could have gone so wrong, I mean I’ve seen a lot of bands that get it wrong, it wasn’t really an option. We have all put so much work into getting it right, but giving it its own Ruts DC twist, breathing life into it. Slightly different for Leigh, because we were on the original thing, you’re interpreting music that you actually did, and played on, and it is different now ‘cause it’s 40 years on. Be like painting the same piece of art again.          

Segs, in a recent interview you mentioned that you had been initially reluctant to tour The Crack, was that because you’ve kept moving forward musically, trying new things?
Segs: Absolutely! We always did move forward, we moved forward in The Ruts. When we made The Crack nobody thought ‘How are we going to top that?’ in fact it was the archetypal first album where the earlier songs like ‘Out of Order’, we had already moved on from that, if you listen to Grin and Bear It, which sadly never reached its full fruition as an album, ‘Rude Boys’, ‘West One’, we were really moving forward. We’ve continued to do that so it was a difficult thing. We don’t like the ‘punk’ monicker too much, we’re proud of our heritage and very proud of the punk ethic but not thrashy bands that we never really liked. People tend to forget that we were listening to bands like ATV, Mekons and stuff, who were most definitely punk but it wasn’t thrashy...I think punk got a bit stolen by various bands around The Exploited time and that has become the archetype of punk which is for me what you could call ‘postcard punk’, when you get those postcards of London and there’s four blokes...and that went round the world and that was the thrashy fashion, some people preferred that, but it wasn’t what we were about and it wasn’t what we were listening to.
DR: I think we all realised that The Crack for a lot of people was part of their soundtrack, it was a big record for quite a lot of people. We remastered it with Tim Turan- he came to our gig in Oxford the other night, he loved it- it’s really good the remastered album, sounds great. We hadn’t really listened to the The Crack, I mean we heard tracks off it but you don’t really listen to your own work.. Our new agent and manager really wanted us to do it so after much umming and ahhing we finally agreed to do it and once we agreed we embraced it and took it on board and made a good job of it.  

I’d like to pick up what you said about it being an important soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives, when The Crack came out Leigh, what did it mean to you? Did it play an important part in your own development as a musician? How did it fit into your musical life?
Leigh: It was a huge record for me along with several others from the time of course. It had a massive effect on me, the sound on it, obviously the guitar playing. The lyrics on it, this was when I was 17/18, you’d read everything on the sleeve, get all the lyrics, or I did anyway! It was a huge record for me and people like me. Like you were saying after the initial punk thing, when maybe bands were getting a bit... well not as good really, it was all getting a bit identikit, it’s like a cover version of a cover version, people were starting to sound like they’d only heard those bands and The Ruts didn’t sound anything like that. They’d obviously taken the spirit from it but to me they were always like a rock band playing to a punk audience. The record was a game changer really.

Has your relationship with the album changed over time? Have there been times when you’ve felt overshadowed by it?
DR: No, not really, when we split The Ruts up we went on, and left it behind, and went our separate ways, and we really never listened to it alot. Very proud of it, when we got together in 2011 we did some of the tracks off it, we never touched the ones we didn’t really want to do, we never really intended to, likewise with The Ruts DC stuff, as Segs said it was a really intense three years and Ruts DC was another couple of years  and that was very intense as well, and we all went off and did other things and our standards have been high in whatever we’ve all done individually, regardless of who we have been playing with. We remained friends but we didn’t really do much work together, just now and again we’d get together and do something. It wasn’t really until after the 2007 concert, we got together and did a bit of jamming in a reggae studio which became Rhythm Collision 2  that we realised we still had a thing, a very close thing. When we did the first shows in 2011 we were a five piece for a while, we tried different singers, we realised it wasn’t going to work, which is why we are now a trio. We are very lucky we have Leigh, who knows all the stuff, we’ve got to keep it real. Otherwise we could go and do something else and earn a lot more money!

You mentioned in an interview Dave, that the release of Music Must Destroy had changed your relationship to The Crack and I wondered what you meant by that.
DR: Yeah, it has in a way. because when we got together again people said ‘They’ll never be as good without Malcolm’ but Music Must Destroy I’m really really proud of, I’m as proud of that as I am of doing The Crack, and alot of our fans prefer the new stuff!  
Segs: I read a review today that said ‘I never thought I’d go and see one of those old punk bands and come away thinking I wish they’d played more from their last album’. I suppose we’ve fucking won then, haven’t we! It hasn’t been an easy path being compared to The Ruts as Ruts DC back then, not having Malcolm as the frontman. Doing Music Must Destroy, and even doing this, even these eight gigs I’ve changed because I really listened to the way Malcolm had sung the songs even the ones I’d been doing and thought ‘Oh, he sings it like that’ and used a bit of that, but now I’m kind of going ‘That doesn’t really work, you might as well just be yourself’. And the other thing is on this they said ‘Can we call it The Ruts?’, I knew it was coming and I said ‘I’d rather not’ and Ruffy just said ‘Where’s the future in that’ and the agent went ’Yeah, you’re right’.
DR: We’ve won that now, we’re the only people who can play The Ruts, there are two Ruts here, but the Ruts died with Malcolm really, it would have died if any of us had gone. But we can do The Ruts The Crack album, no one can possibly do it better than we can!
Leigh: It’s interesting that you said that, you are the survivors, you are the two people who can play it. I’m very pleased that it’s with me, but you can go out and play those songs because it’s your music.
Segs: Yeah, we’re survivors, but we didn’t go ‘We’ve got to keep this together’, we just went ‘That’s it’,  in 1983. We’re not back like ‘We had better go out and earn some money’, and we’re getting to more people.
DR: Yeah, the gigs are going really well, loads of people come in, it’s great!

OK, hackneyed question, what track do you enjoy playing the most live?
DR: From The Crack, probably ‘It Was Cold’, I like a lot of them but ‘It Was Cold’ it’s a favourite of mine, it’s a bit of a timeless thing and it goes across different categories of music.
Segs: And the track before that ‘You’re Just A…’ is good fun! I didn’t want to do ‘Human Punk’ personally, didn’t want to do ‘Out of Order’, I don’t think anybody did. But it takes on a different thing, when you get to ‘Out of Order’ you think ‘Fuck, is it here now!’ haha and actually you think ‘I might as well just enjoy this one’! And even ‘Human Punk’ we’ve made something out of, it was never really a finished song but we’ve made something out of it. When we did it in rehearsal I was ‘What we going to do, this is shit?’ But the two words Human Punk are brilliant , we use the essence of that, and when we first finished it we looked at each other and went ‘Well, that’s pretty good!’  

Any new material in the pipeline at all? New album on the horizon at all?
Segs: Yeah, it’s all been put on hold. I’d say, I’ve got quite a lot of songs on my side of things, there’s two or three that didn’t make the last album that might be revamped, there’s other new stuff. This is taken over everything really, I’ve been writing lyrics but I don’t even feel like I can think about those songs.
DR: This is all encompassing, so we have put it on hold but we have got a couple of real corkers. But with this looming up we couldn’t really focus because when you’re doing something new you have to really just focus on that, and we’ve had to focus on this tour and how are we going to present it and play it. I’m warming up! I’ve never warmed up before a show ever in my life and now I do because we do the album from start to finish, ‘Babylon’s Burning, ‘Dope For Guns’, it’s really hard, and they’re flat out. So we have to be prepped, warmed up, ready to go!
Leigh: If I can just say, going back to the album, we have all listened to it incessantly over the last six months and what’s very interesting hearing those songs again is that the arrangements of the songs are so good, there’s three verses in a song and there is something different in each verse pretty much every time, there’s a tweak, there’s an extra bit or there might be a line missing in the last verse, might be a shorter verse, and all of that is one of the reasons why it is such a great record and they’re such great songs, and they all have that about them. Like Segs said, you can’t just go ‘Savage Circle, yeah, we can play that one’, they’ve all got something going on that, without sounding too pretentious, not everyone would notice. I can sit there with a guitar trying to work this stuff out and there is something in each song where you go ’Ah, that’s interesting wasn’t in the first…’, even in some of the more punky or simpler tracks like ‘Criminal Minds’ the drums are different in every verse. We’ve had to really knuckle down, it couldn’t just be good it had to be great, and it couldn’t be great it had to be brilliant!
   

Bibliography.
(1)Rollins, H. (2012) ‘Henry Rollins: The Column! In a Rut.’ https://www.laweekly.com/music/henry-rollins-the-column-in-a-rut-2399586
Also referenced in Intro
*Laing, D. (2015) ‘One Chord Wonders; Power and Meaning in Punk Rock’, PM Press, Oakland, CA, USA.
Peacock, T. (2019) 'The Crack': Why The Ruts Classic Remains One of Punk's Hottest Debuts'
https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/rediscover-the-crack/
‘The Crack’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crack
‘The Ruts’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ruts
‘Misty In Roots’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misty_in_Roots

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.
https://c-3-3.bandcamp.com/album/ballad-of-reading-gaol-the-cacophonietta-3
http://nva.org.uk/artwork/pain/
http://nva.org.uk/

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?
Artists…
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…
Authors….
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


Bibliography.
1) Test Dept: DS30 tour. http://www.testdeptds30.co.uk/
(2) Assembly of Disturbance, Red Gallery, London. https://testdept.org.uk/
(3) Smart, D. (2018) ‘Industrial veterans Test Dept return with first album in 20 years, share brand new track ‘Landlord’’ https://www.tinymixtapes.com/news/industrial-veterans-test-dept-return-new-album-disturbance-share-new-track
(4) https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/96000-painting-is-not-made-to-decorate-apartments-it-s-an-offensive
(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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_Dept