NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

I’ve known Jack and Wes since the first DIY punk show I saw in Norwich. The two were and are singing in Jackals, and as of late Wes is vocalist and Jack bassist in Norwich metal-punkers Midnight Parasite. Jack was vocalist of Sonic Order, organises a fair few Norwich punk shows, and has done a lot of writing about and photographing punk. Wes paints, draws and collages, and has created art for many bands and flyers. I met with them in The Owl Sanctuary and we had a long chat about a number of topics. This is the extended edition of the interview.

NMG: What’s the state of Jackals at the moment, and what’s the plan after the next record?

Jack: What’s the state of it?

NMG: That wasn’t intended to be-

Wes: Should we fully disclose it?

J: Yeah, fuck it.

NMG: You don’t have to fully disclose it.

J: We actually all hate each other.

W: Yeah I fucking hate them all. (chuckling) We’ve had a few line-up changes. People’s priorities have changed a bit, some don’t want to be in bands anymore…

J: I think the biggest thing is people moving to London, it makes it hard to practice.

W: Yeah, Sam has to travel from London… people obviously still enjoy it, but maybe touring’s something people don’t wanna do as much. We’re writing stuff for a new LP, and it’s a banger.

J: We haven’t recorded anything for about two years now. I think by the time we’ve recorded it will have been three years. It’s a long time. But even before the last 7”, we were practicing less than we used to anyway… it’s not been a bad thing because we’ve been able to spend more time on the songs, but it is frustrating when you want to get on with it. We’ll do the LP next year and play some gigs, and that’ll probably be it. Call it a day.

W: At the end of the day, it’s been since 2010, hasn’t it, so it’s a long time in anyone’s life.

Dave Gooch

J: It’s one of those things where it’s the level of commitment and effort to keep it going, it’s difficult to maintain when you’re not doing anything and can’t practice very often. Sam’s doing other bands, we’ve got other bands and those function more easily, so with Jackals we wanna go out in a good way, play some last gigs, have fun and leave it on a good note rather than letting it fizzle out entirely.

W: I’m not scratching the walls doing nothing because we have Midnight. We’ve got our own things, we wanna carry on doing bands.

NMG: Who’s in Midnight Parasite, how did it get started?

J: Neither of us were in that at the start. Pete, who drums, and Kyle, who plays guitar met on the internet somehow, because they both wanted to start a band. They practiced with each other maybe four or five times. I didn’t know Kyle at the time, but Pete asked me if I knew anyone in Norwich who wanted to play bass for it, so I just said I’ll do it, because I just figured it’d be a good way to practice bass. But the more we do, the more we go on, the more happy I am with the music. We started practicing last year around Christmas, wrote five or six songs. We didn’t need anyone to do vocals at that point because we were just writing. When it got to the point where we had to start looking I mentioned to Wes that we needed someone to do vocals if he’d be up for it, and that’s pretty much it. It didn’t happen by default, but he was the only person locally who we thought ‘oh yeah, that’d make sense’ about.

W: ‘Oh he likes the stuff’, you know what I mean? It’s sort of a niche band.

NMG: So Midnight Parasite just released a demo, and people seem to like it. What’s the plan next? More shows, more releases?

J: We’ve got loads of songs that we’re writing, the good thing about it is we’ve been able to practice almost every week since we started, so it’s quite productive. We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on, and we’re gonna record… next year? We’ll see where we are in a few months and let that decide what we do. Probably a seven inch or something, or record five, six, seven songs and figure out what we want to do with them.

W: It’s good as well because Pete seems to have been like… working on it for the last 25 years? He comes in with riffs he’d written on his acoustic guitar or something. Everyone’s coming to the table with something. You’ve [Jack] written some songs, Kyle has, Pete has… I haven’t, but…

J: It’s a good thing, everyone’s having their own ideas, we put it together, and it’s a bit different to what it started out as, but we’ve constantly got stuff going on.

NMG: Jack – what’s going on with Sonic Order at the moment? You recorded a new 7” a while back?

J: Yeah, we’re just waiting for it to come out. Nothing really interesting in terms of the reason why it’s been held up. It’s coming out on two labels, one’s from Zagreb, called Doomtown, these guys Carlo and Mihael, both people I’ve known for a while. And there’s another guy, Skunk, from Norway, who runs a label called Byllepest. It’ll be out next year.

NMG: So more shows to go with that?

J: Well, Jack, the guitar player, lives in Canada now. He moved out there six months ago?

W: He came back recently and stuff, but he’s in Toronto, or a little bit out of Toronto.

J: So he’s there. But the thing is, we weren’t really a band for long enough to make a big deal out of splitting up or anything. We’re gonna see – if he stays out there, then that’ll be it. But he comes back to England on and off, so there’s always the option we could play gigs when he’s back, do a tour here and there.

NMG: Is the name Sonic Order an Omegas reference?

J: I think it was. It was one of those things where we were just looking at song names because we couldn’t think of anything good. We had a couple of ideas of our own that weren’t very good… at all.

NMG: I don’t think I’d ever heard the Omegas until I listened to their song Sonic Order because I saw it online and went, ‘ah!’

J: Yeah, it wasn’t a tribute or whatever. I think they’re really good, but it was just us looking at song names and choosing one. A pretty lazy way to do it, for when you can’t think of anything cool. I will say that pretty much all the good band names have been taken now, there’s nothing left. You just have to stick with something that doesn’t sound awful. Just put a couple of words together and hope it’s not embarrassing.

W: It sort of varies how successful that can be sometimes. I always think of the Simpsons, the B Sharps bit. When I have to explain that my band’s called Jackals or Midnight Parasite, I just sort of say ‘it was funny at the time’. Six years later you’re fucked.

NMG: It’s a lot nicer than saying you’re in a band called Shower Boys. That was an in-joke for us, because we were gonna do a joke band, but then I started writing serious songs…

J: If you can’t think of a cool band name just think of something you’re not embarrassed to tell someone. If you can get that far I think that’s a start. If you’ve got a real cool band name, that’s good, but…

W: Just put Dis- in front of it, you’re sorted.

NMG: Yeah. Dishower Boys, that’d be totally normal. So with the different bands you’ve been in, how does the creative process differ?

J: Jackals has changed, really, from what it used to be. Now Sam’s writing a lot of the stuff at home.

W: He’s got Garageband on his phone and he just… does it on the toilet at work.

J: He’ll do the riffs at home and then fit the drums around it… whenever he’s got five minutes. He’ll bring that to us, and at practice we’ll kind of put it all together, add the bass, the drums. The songs often change as we do this. I write lots of lyrics for songs, and once we’ve got a finished track I’ll look through the different ideas I had and work out which one fits which song. That’s pretty much Jackals innit.

NMG: You mentioned Midnight Parasite, that that’s three different people writing songs and putting them together.

J: It started off that Kyle wrote them all, the first three or four songs Kyle had written and demoed himself, with drums and everything. As it’s gone on, I’ve been suggesting things, or he’ll have a riff and we’ll work from there, change things. Because we practice a lot it’s easier, because it’s all fresh in your mind and you can change it. And Wes has got the lyrics once we’re fairly set on a structure.

W: And as it goes on it gets easier to tell someone oh, I think you should tweak that.

J: Usually with Jackals it’s like telling Sam to keep stuff simple… I was talking to him the other day and he said he liked bands that will just repeat two riffs for a whole song, so he likes that, but he finds it hard to do that himself. So sometimes he needs to be told, just keep playing that bit, because it sounds good like that.

W: With every band I’ve been in, the creative process always feels roughly the same.

NMG: I suppose it differs depending on the genre, and who’s involved.

J: For me if I’m in a band I want to have say in how it sounds… but as a vocalist you have less involvement in the structure of the songs. With Midnight Parasite it’s the first time I’ve played bass in a band, and I’ve been contributing more of my own ideas from the start. You get an idea for a song and you can take it to someone more musically minded, and they add in stuff you might not think of and you can then learn through that. I usually write stuff that’s very simple and then tweak it with others. With the effect I play the bass through it’s sort of… grumbling… I could be playing anything really…

NMG: Now, the big questions. How do you think current events – Brexit, Trump’s political ascendency – is going to affect DIY punk, not just in terms of the music, but it terms of the organisation, the logistics, the distribution.

J: First of all, I’ve talked to people about this already, and I’ve found it really irritating and infuriating, how in the aftermath of it people had that detached approach of saying ‘oh at least we’ll get some good music out of it’.

NMG: Oh yeah, I’m not trying to say that, that it’s this wonderful thing. I think it will change the landscape a bit.

J: I think for a lot of politically aware punk bands, this is a worrying development, in terms of the rise of the far right, but if that’s the only thing someone gets annoyed about, America having a bad president, I wouldn’t really wanna hear that person’s opinion on politics. The only bands I think will gain political mileage out of Trump is bands like NOFX. Ultimately in terms of these developments it’s best to see them as indicative of a worrying shift. The political landscape has changed, but it’s a development of the way the world’s been going, and the way the world’s been for a long time. People are exploiting things which were already there.

NMG: I’m interested in the way punk reacts to the far right, but I feel like the Brexit thing is going to change the distribution of punk, the way records can be traded and sold.

J: It’s gonna be more expensive. But it’s still pretty open in terms of what could actually happen. There’s a lot of ways it could go, but the terms on which it’s going to happen and what the long term effects are going to be is uncertain. Maybe some have a better idea than me, but I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Ultimately as much as I have massive reservations about the EU, for bands, the idea that you can tour mainland Europe without any sort of hassle, just go out and do it, might be in danger. I’d hesitate to call it the end of open borders, since they were only open under certain circumstances for certain people.

W: In terms of the far right, I’ve seen a lot of people who think that what they do in the punk scene exists only in the punk scene, and don’t really see it in the grand scheme of things. They’re aping the right. I’ve had to turn down artwork requests for some bands because I don’t think they’ve understood the implications of what they’ve asked me to do. It opens doors for certain people to come in. I’m seeing people at shows who I’ve seen on social media with swastikas in their houses. And with Brexit and Trump and all this other stuff; now the fascists are feeling quite bold. Often when people object, the PC thought police thing gets brought up a lot, and all the social justice warrior fucking crap. But basically, I don’t want to be around people who are alright with nationalism and racism. That’s what it boils down to.

J: With the far right, you give them space to occupy, and they’ll occupy more. I think what we do culturally matters and can have an impact, and the current political situation makes the need for uncompromisingly anti-fascist music and culture all the more vital. There are people in the US and the UK and around the world in bands that have a large degree of social capital and influence on other people. For people to not use that in a positive way, I find that very frustrating. The difference between bands I’m ambivalent about and bands that I’m excited by is whether they use that scene credibility, or whatever they’ve got, for good; to encourage people to think about things and take action. 

NMG: Well that sort of leads into the last question. If there are any truly effective ways, how can DIY performers, groups, promoters, scenes and such resist against the far right?

J: It’s a really old discussion I think; since punk’s existed people have been asking how, as a subculture or a counter-culture, it can have an effect on the wider world. As I said, I genuinely believe it can, especially when people are able use the power that punk gives them to do positive things and put things on the agenda. For example at Static Shock Weekend, Strutter were absolutely raging but between songs made it explicit that one of their songs is about white privilege. Their singer’s in a cool band that people like, in fact three or four bands that people really do listen to, and is using that platform to challenge people. Punk can sometimes, if it’s done well, be an escape for marginalised people, so if you can use your own ability within the scene to make it a more inclusive place and elevate marginalised voices that’s also an important thing.

NMG: In the past few years it seems like punk’s become better for that. There seems to be more discussion about it.

J: It’s one of those things where for all the bad, there’s really genuine people using it in a really good way.

NMG: When G.L.O.S.S. initially came out that was exciting because it seemed to draw a lot of people into not just the music but also the idea that it can be radical.

J: I think the biggest thing for punk right now, as far as its vitality goes, is in the expansion of the range of voices that you can hear. Not to say that there’s not a long way to go, as for some people women in punk is still seen as an anomaly, but in a lot of scenes there are so many women that are just destroying the idea that punk is for and by men. Before the Static Shock aftershow at the Unicorn there was a fundraiser for a Decolonise Fest, and these things are happening everywhere, not just in London. If marginalised people are able to find power and a voice for themselves through punk, that’s a good thing in itself, beyond debates about the effect punk has in an activist sense. There’s bands like Haram, for example.

NMG: The New York scene is very interesting because of the different languages in use – Haram singing in Arabic, La Misma in Portuguese, Nomad in Japanese.

J: Punk’s always been an international thing. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so vital, it brings together people from very different backgrounds.

NMG: There is this internationalism in punk now, the way the New York and London and Barcelona scenes connect together and share ideas and members. But also just the way you can go to a DIY gig in Britain and see like, a Malaysian grindcore band being supported by local bands, that’s something special in itself.

J: It’s always been the case that punk’s had that international thing, and while the world is becoming a more fragmented place in some ways, in terms of ease of travel it has got smaller maybe, so it’s still viable for people to do this.

NMG: It’s not as time consuming to keep up with internationally now – there’s less writing letters, making cassettes, mailorder and the like than there was in say the 80s.

James Rollo

W: Even though it is all there at the click of a button, you still have to do it… even if the means are there, it’s still an effort, and it’s still worth doing. If you really want to find out some bands, maybe message somebody, get a tape off them… so some of those elements are still there. But there’s no point romanticising the 80s and saying oh, now it’s not like that, so it’s not genuine.

J: I can understand where that comes from, but at the same time I think with anyone who’s actively involved in punk now, you really do get those moments that are actively utopian. It’s less necessary for certain people, and people’s experiences of these kind of things vary, but where it’s done right I think punk can be a very unifying experience, where you can break barriers. You can look at the bigger picture and ask how does punk effect the real world, but if it gives people an experience of escape, that’s good in itself and if it gives people experience in organising, that’s something they can then use in the wider world to make tangible differences. Like building DIY spaces, it shows you a new way of working with people different to the one you’re taught about. You can show someone a DIY space where everyone works together and contributes to make it happen, purely because they realise the value of it, and use it to show them that collective organisation can work, that people can organise and make something happen. There’s elements of conflict or whatever too, of course, but there’s a lot of positive examples.

NMG: Well that’s about everything. Any inspirational words for the kids?

J: Oh shit.

NMG: You can just say no.

W: ‘Smash to fuck the fucking system’.

J: That’s not actually the lyrics though…

W: It is! He’s not doing it but it is the lyrics!

NMG: Oh. Discharge. Right.

J: On the recording he said ‘it’s a messed up fucked up fucking system’ which is bad, and then they realised that ‘smash to fuck the fucking system’ is much better. I guess the lesson to be learned from that is review your previous work, and that you can build on your previous mistakes.

W: Demo a lot.

J: Punk’s a learning experience…

W: Punk’s about… refining what you’ve done under a microscope until it’s devoid of any originality.

J: And you hate your own work. Nah. It’s about learning, getting better.

W: I hope that was alright mate!

The bands:

https://jackalshc.bandcamp.com/

https://midnightparasite.bandcamp.com/releases

https://sonicorder.bandcamp.com/

Jack’s photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/69364653@N03/

Wes’ art:

http://getinthefuckingvan.tumblr.com/

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, a shorter version was originally published in No More Gigs issue 11, December 2015]

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NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

No More Gigs speaks to James Scott from the Domestics and Dis-Tank

James Scott is a scene veteran, currently in The Domestics and Dis-Tank. We caught up with him to speak about The Domestics new album, and much more.

The new Domestics album Routine and Ritual sounds more raw and aggressive than your previous releases. Who were you all drawing on when you wrote and recorded it?

Well firstly I’d have to say that I don’t think any of the previous releases were necessarily any less aggressive. I would concede though that the recordings didn’t perhaps didn’t capture that as well as Routine and Ritual and the other tracks being released from the same session. Previously we’d always recorded on a digital multitracker in whatever room we could get hold of at the time – a rehearsal space, Rik Spanner’s front room, wherever. Given the limitations of that setup I think Rhodes (The Domestics’ bass player) did a great job, but going to a ‘proper’ studio with a producer that’s been recording hardcore since the late 80s has meant we now have a record that sounds how all the other releases were meant to sound! We cranked everything up into the red a bit, recorded all the basic bass, drums and rhythm guitar live – mostly in one or two takes then stuck on the second guitar and all the vocals so it has an immediacy about it – we don’t like to labour these things; if you do you lose the energy. We went in knowing exactly what we were doing and exactly what we wanted and just bashed it out, no messing.
I guess I’m best placed to talk about the writing as I write all the songs. That’s not to say that they don’t get tweaked by the others because they all chuck ideas in and put their stamp on them but I write them initially and bring in demos to rehearsal. The influences I was drawing on were the ones I’ve always drawn on for The Domestics’ songs – classic Japanese hardcore like GAUZE, FRAMTID and more recent stuff like KRIEGSHÖG or D-CLONE. Then there’s the old US hardcore stuff like CIRCLE JERKS’ first album, BLACK FLAG, OUT COLD, NEGATIVE APPROACH, that 8 track ACID REFLUX 7” which I’ve been playing repeatedly, but again the contemporary stuff like MAUSER, GREEN BERET, LIMP WRIST, KOWARD. Also other stuff like CHAOS UK, EXTREME NOISE TERROR, DHK, SUDOR, GOVERNMENT FLU, VIOLENT REACTION…there’s so much great hardcore out there if you care to look around. I try to keep my ear to the ground. We’re pretty weird in our tastes as a band…I mean Ed hardly likes any hardcore at all; our taste crosses over far more on music that has nothing to do with punk. Recent tour favourites have been CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, CHAS ‘N’ DAVE and TOM WAITS. I’m also into northern soul, roots reggae and all sorts of other stuff. I think that’s one of the reasons we always have tunes in amongst the noise and aggression, I like something memorable with hooks and a chorus and I make no apologies for that. A few reviewers and gig-goers have likened us to CONFLICT but I don’t really see that at all. Maybe it’s the delivery and my accent (the others are basically Suffolk lads but I grew up in Essex and my family roots are in East London so I inevitably have that London-Essex accent, although it has mellowed over the years of education and living in Suffolk). But although I’ve always liked the idea of CONFLICT and the delivery and conviction, I think THE DOMESTICS are much more song-based. I always want to make records that don’t just fit in with the latest hardcore fad but that someone could pick up in 10 or 20 years’ time and go ‘these are great songs!’.

As implied by its title, a lot of the songs on the new album talk about the way capitalism shapes our lives, often for the worst, through its routines and constraints. What are good ways to regain some control of your life?

Yeah, that certainly is meant to be implied by the title but it’s also supposed to reference how so much of what we do and don’t do as part of our everyday lives is dictated by routine and ritual – the way we socialise, the way we speak, the things we eat, how we engage with the media, our consumption habits. Sometimes we constrain ourselves through routine and ritual as well as being constrained directly by the forces of capitalism. Although of course, those two strands are not entirely unrelated – far from it!
I’ve thought about the notions of personal freedom and ‘regaining some control’ at various points in my life and I’ve still come to no satisfactory solution. The game seems rigged before you start. Of course we have the freedom to quit our jobs and try to follow some self-supporting lifestyle, growing our own food etc., employing a more agrarian bartering system and stepping outside the system but you still need land, equipment etc. which of course costs money; and it’s all very well being ‘free’ but how free are you to travel, to do things you want to do when you have no money to speak of? Capitalism is a trap that we’re pretty much all caught in whether we like it or not. Once that genie popped out of the bottle it was, and is, way too tricky to get the fucker back in! It’s pretty depressing that all notions of personal freedom now seem to be inextricably linked with having enough money to step outside the system, but of course any attempt to reach that goal necessitates immersion in the system itself. There’s no escape really! The picture on the centre labels of the vinyl version of the album suggests to me that one of the women taking part in the tea ceremony – the one looking at the camera – has suddenly thought that there is an unknown world beyond the routines and rituals she is immersed in and she wants to know what it contains. A moment of revelation. I have no idea whether there is any truth in that but that’s what the image represents to me and why it’s part of the artwork.
For me at least, the control I exercise is in my creative life. Writing and playing music, running the label, resisting doing things that I don’t want to do as much as is practicable. Being someone who has an idea and follows it through – I mean anyone could start a label and put out records but I know to a lot of people it seems a daunting exercise. It is hard work, especially when you’re working on a few things at once, busy with the day job, playing gigs and a have relationships to maintain and enjoy. Worth it though. It does give a sense of doing something based on ideas of community, reciprocity, friendship, art etc. rather than purely capital, although it would be naïve to think that commerce doesn’t come into running a label or playing in a band. Petrol to get to gigs costs money and no one wants to press 500 records and sell twenty – that’s just not viable, it’s fucking pointless.

The song ‘Wrong’ contains the lines ‘I should defend your right to say what you like / But how can I in good faith when you’re just not right?’ What do you make of the notion that good comes from letting bigots and liars spread their views? Would you endorse censorship for certain views? For example the notion that vaccines cause autism?

That line really makes reference to that quote that’s often attributed, wrongly I think, to Voltaire on free speech: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” and how, however noble a sentiment that may be, there are some things that are so offensive to me or you or whoever, that even the right to say such things seems indefensible on some level. Every time I hear a bigot spread their views it makes me shrivel inside but then I do think about what kind of society it would be if there were certain groups who made decisions about what words and ideas were spoken – do we really want to live in a society that can censor to that degree however abhorrent the views may be to us – well some of us, clearly they’re not abhorrent to all – I don’t know. It’s about weighing up which is the preferable scenario and I don’t have an answer to that, all I can do is pose the question! Useless really…
I don’t really see how you could censor ideas like the one you mention regarding vaccines and autism. Now, that’s a potentially dangerous view but is it any more dangerous than hundreds of others? I think public bodies or news outlets should be very clear about the ‘facts’ (the notion of ‘facts’ is a whole subject in itself so here I’ll use ‘facts’ to mean the most supportable view at the time or something along those lines) of such matters and be held accountable if they are found to be deliberately whipping sections of the public into a frenzy about these kinds of issues which could have future health repercussions but you can’t stop individuals from holding ill-informed or downright stupid views on any subject you care to mention.

‘Punk Points’ attacks bands who talk about politics, ineptly, just for the sake of looking punk. Is that something widespread?

Maybe this is something that comes with age and increased levels of cynicism. I just sometimes feel that bands are trotting out the same old tired lines with no thought beyond whether they are ‘suitably punk’. If you asked them about what they specifically disliked about capitalism, the police, politicians, war or whatever I wonder whether they really would have any view on it beyond what they robbed off some other bands’ lyric sheet. I think that of you are going to write around these subjects you have to talk about aspects you understand, even if just subjectively – you don’t need to be an expert! But personally I just can’t sing about stuff I don’t know about. How can you explain what you’re on about of someone asks you to clarify? I’d find that extremely embarrassing so I don’t do it. THE DOMESTICS do cover the political and we’re often thought of as being quite a political band but more from a personal, sociological perspective than from the perspective of a totally clued up activist. For me, I have to be true to what I know…and whilst I do know plenty of stuff I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not, which is a core tenet of punk really. I won’t bullshit people by pretending I know more about a given subject than I do. If I want to know more I’ll ask not try to bluff my way through something. It’s all about communication after all.

You worked with Dean Jones of Extreme Noise Terror on ‘Fuck Your War’. How did that come about?

Ah yeah, that was great. I’ve been into E.N.T. for years, I got into them through older punks when I lived in Clacton (or ‘crack town’ as it’s now often referred to) some years ago. Dean lives in Ipswich and E.N.T. had just started recording what will be their new album around the same time we recorded ours. I mentioned to the producer, Mark, that I’d really love it if we could get Dean to do a vocal on ‘Fuck Your War’ but that I didn’t really know him and to my surprise he said he was seeing him the following week and he’d ask. Anyway, the next week I went in one evening to do all the lead vocals and after a few songs, Mark says “Oh we have to go and pick Dean up in half an hour” – I really hadn’t expected it to happen!!!! Turns out he’d heard the rough mixes with the guide vocal and liked what he heard so we picked him up, got him in some Special Brew and the rest is history as they say! Then when we did Rebellion fest last year he came along and sung it live with us too, which was great. I think there’ll be a repeat of that this year now the record’s actually out. He’s a top bloke with a lifetime’s worth of great stories and the stuff I’ve heard from the new E.N.T. album sounds amazing. I’m not just saying that, it really sounds great and contemporary and fucking full on.

With a lot of punk bands these days from the emo revivalists to the garage rockers focusing more on the personal, would you say punk is becoming less political?

Not really, but then my ear is always more to the underground where the political side of things still persists to some degree. I guess if you listen to emo, pop-punk and ska-punk then the politics may be lacking but I don’t listen to that stuff. If I want ska I’ll listen to sixties stuff.

I understand this sounds cynical, but what function does political punk serve right now?

I don’t think that’s cynical particularly, it’s a fair question. With most of the topics played out over the past thirty plus years you could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing left to say… but that could’ve been said when I was getting into punk in my late teens too. I hadn’t heard about all this stuff so it was useful to me being a newcomer and that in a nutshell is the main function it serves. It’d be ridiculous to think that anyone just discovering punk would automatically know or have even thought about racism, sexism, animal rights, DIY, government control, misogyny, the evils of capitalism etc. These are not big topics of discussion in the average ‘straight’ household. It also serves the function of keeping these topics on existing punks’ agenda I guess.

Artwork for The Domestics and Kibou Records often draws heavily on Japanese artwork from the 19th century and earlier. What inspired that?

Just my love of Japanese aesthetics I guess. I have some Japanese prints and books at home, my tattoos are largely Japanese. I also love Japanese punk as I said. I guess it’s just a combination of those things. I love the serenity of a Japanese garden or the ferocity of their hardcore. I’ve always been drawn to Japan stylistically. One day I’ll go!

As well as The Domestics, you’re also in Dis-Tank. What’s that band’s agenda?

DIS-TANK was a side project that was used to soak up some leftover riffs really. THE DOMESTICS had a few months off at one point so I just put this stuff together – it’s way more generic than THE DOMESTICS and it’s intended to be. It was a bit of an experiment really – call it ‘Dis’-something, stick a tank on the front and some skulls in the artwork. I just wanted to see how easy it’d be to make a d-beat tape…I wrote down the first 7 titles I could think of that sounded a bit d-beaty and just fitted them to the riffs. It was a piece of piss! Anyway I took the plunge and pressed 50 tapes but they sold out in no time, then a Spanish label asked me to press some more as demand was high, then an American distro wanted some…anyway there’s a 10 song 7” out next week – it’ll be out by the time this is in print I expect. As an experiment it’s worked pretty well so far! I’ve created a monster!!!!! I think the other factor is that the tunes, despite being a shit-fi d-beat racket, are actually pretty memorable. I dunno, it’s a bit weird really.

What have Kibou Records, The Domestics, and Dis-Tank got planned for the near future?

KIBOU has just put out a 14 track 7” called ‘Haiku Fucks’ featuring SHOWER OF BASTARDS, 51ST STATE, CHILDE, NASTY BASTARD, THE SHORTS, RATRAVEN, BOYCOTT THE BAPTIST, VOLUNTEERS, BRAINFREEZE, THE DOMESTICS, DIS-TANK, SKINNERS, THE MIGRAINES and FORCED EXISTENCE. The label is also involved in co-releasing the DIS-TANK ‘Hardcore D-Beat Bruiser Volume One’ 7” (alongside GLOBAL RESISTANCE, DESORDEN and MONO CANIBAL) and the THE DOMESTICS/VOLUNTEERS SPLIT (alongside RIOT SKA, URINAL VINYL, GLOBAL RESISTANCE and ALMIGHTY BEARD). Also there are plans for a co-release on the MIERDA 7” and hopefully a 7” by HARAMARAH from Bandung in West Java. I’ve offered to do a 7” by Basingstoke’s SHITHOUSE but whether they’ll ever get it together to record one I don’t know! I hope so, I love that band and the guys in it.
If anyone wants any great punk and hardcore sounds from all over the world, check out the KIBOU distro at http://www.kibourecords.bigcartel.com Support the underground!
THE DOMESTICS have those things mentioned above coming out – all with exclusive tracks on – plus a track on a comp 7” on ORCHESTRATED DYSTOPIA RECORDS sometime soon. We have some festivals and gigs lined up all over the country for the rest of the year plus hopefully some Euro dates in June and are working on tracks for a new 7” which hopefully we’ll record over the summer. Actually 2 7”s maybe – one of originals and one of covers. We’ll wait and see.
DIS-TANK have the 7” coming out and then, when I get some time, I’ll start work writing for the D Beat Plague album.
Cheers for the interest, Ned, much appreciated.

No problem!

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 4, March 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to James Scott from the Domestics and Dis-Tank