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]

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

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO LOUIS HARDING

Louis Harding has in the past decade been in countless beloved punk bands, including The Shitty Limits, Good Throb, and The Love Triangle. Ned Samuel speaks with him.

Hi Louis! I know (or I think I know) that you’re in The Love Triangle and Good Throb, and you were in the Shitty Limits. Any other projects, past or present, that I missed?

Hi! Yes, there are a few more. I am currently also playing guitar in Personnel and drums in No, Slur and Kichigai. Concurrently to The Shitty Limits I also played bass in a band called The Sceptres. After the Sceptres broke up, me and the singer started Good Throb.

Does being in several bands, with the members of those bands also having other bands, get difficult?

I don’t think it ever gets difficult. No band ever takes priority as far as I can see, so when it comes to organising band things like gigs or tours or practice or recordings its usually a case of working out when everyone is free. Gig offers and things like that usually work on a first come first served basis. I’m not that well organised so it can get confusing sometimes! I had a really interesting conversation 3 years ago with the Mexican band Los Monjo – one of the best 5 bands I think I’ve ever seen – about how in Europe it is common for punks to play in a lot of different bands, but for them, they could only ever be in one band together, and playing in other groups was out of the question. It really struck me that maybe playing in a lot of bands is a bit self-indulgent and non-committal. I would love to be in a group where you lived just to play in that one band and had ultimate belief in it. But for me, I think the idea of playing in lots of groups is about exploring punk as its own culture, and doing creative things in small groups with lots of people. I think that that is an empowering thing to do with your life. I also feel really inspired that some of my best friends play in bands that I think are incredible (such as Frau, DiE, Diat, Efialtis, Cianuro), and I find it humbling at times that these people want to make music with me.

I hear a lot of different terms and comparisons being thrown around in regard to The Love Triangle’s sound, so I think it’s worthwhile to ask this generic question: what are the band’s influences?

Haha! What comparisons do you hear? I would be interested to know! The Love Triangle began under slightly odd circumstances – it was just me and josh (the bass player) in a practice room trying to figure out how to use an 8 track recorder. So we wrote some songs very quickly and recorded some cover songs. There wasn’t much thought put into what the songs should sound like stylistically or what bands we should cover – it was just ‘let’s write a song now, we have 30 minutes. What song is an easy cover song to play?’. That’s how the first 3 tapes were made. We then asked Tim to play drums for us, so that we could turn our practice room recording project band into something that could play gigs. To answer your question as best I can, there weren’t any specific ‘lets do a band that souds like __’ type influences, but all three of us come from a background of playing in DIY hardcore punk bands, and at the time were interested in 70’s punk, proto punk, 60s punk, mod, soul and post-punk. Conversations about the sound of The Love Triangle that me and Josh had in those early days revolved around how we felt our songs linked the smart poppiness of bands like the The Buzzcocks and Protex with the trashy vibe of bands like Crime and The Electric Eels. We also talked a lot about Australian Murder Punk. I think that all this talk was more ‘reverse influence’ as in trying to think about what we had created rather than attempting to co-opt a style.

The comparisons I heard were Buzzcocks, Nuggets, Wipers and garage punk*.

The Buzzcocks comparison is pretty fair I guess and ‘garage punk’ is a broad term, but I really don’t think the Love Triangle sounds like the Wipers. But then I don’t think anyone sounds like The Wipers!

In a time where big tours seem less popular – particularly among DIY bands – The Love Triangle did a seven week tour of Europe. How did it go?

The tour was great! It was a difficult thing to organise, but I’m glad that we did it! It was totally an adventure and I’m proud that we made it happen through our own efforts and with the help of friends, rather than have someone book it for us. The Love Triangle rarely plays because Josh has lived in Berlin for the last four years, so it was nice to have a chance to play a lot and also go see him and hang out every day without any daily life type pressures. We played with some great bands, and broke the tour into chunks where we toured with different bands, all of whom are good friends of our (PUFF, the Splits, The #1s and Fluffers). It sounds like a clichéd thing to say, but really the hardest thing about it was coming home and getting back into normal life – the Love Triangle tour sat in the middle of an extensive period of touring for me where I was on tour with No and Good Throb beforehand, and then drove the Frau/Asesinato del Poder tour immediately afterwards. So with the exception of two weeks in May I was constantly moving from the end of March until the middle of August. So when I came back home I think I went a little crazy.

The best show was probably in Barcelona, and the worst was Amsterdam.

The Love Triangle have done a lot of releases (six tapes and two EPs, at my count) that were tape and vinyl only, and are now sold out widely unavailable. Are there any plans to digitise them, or re-release them?

There aren’t any plans to do this. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of what you’re saying, I don’t feel that The Love Triangle is a band that many people are interested in, and what’s more I’m not sure the tapes are that worth listening to! If I was inundated with emails asking to hear the tapes I would make them available. As it happens I get about 2 emails a year asking about this material and I usually will send any MP3s if I can find them.

I have a cassette player but many people don’t, and I hear a lot of people critiquing the format. Why cassettes? And would you say there’s a benefit to the obscurity tape-only releases give?

OK! There are a few different parts to your question. In response to the first part about people critiquing tapes – they should either just buy a fucking tape deck or piss off out of punk! Tape decks are cheap to buy second hand (I have two, both of which cost me £10). Tapes are cheap and easy to produce with a quick turnaround to get professionally made. I find it gobsmacking that people interested in punk and DIY culture would bellyache about a physical format that you can produce in your bedroom at low cost in bespoke numbers. Tapes are empowering, and I suspect people just whinge about them because they see them as some sort of continuation of the hipster-vintage-pop up shop-retro fetish continuum. This kind of cultural bitchiness is not something I am interested in.

This kind of answers the second part of your question – we made Love Triangle tapes because it was the easiest way to make a physical release. Like – one day we were recording our stupid songs in a practice room, the next day we were cutting out sleeves and dubbing tapes. It was exciting and fun to do so that’s why we did it.

I’m not sure I understand the last part of your question, but I think some of our songs suited being on tapes rather than records – like we went to record 7 songs, the best three went on our first single, the others all went on a tape… I think its nice to separate visibly the output that we want people to pick up and investigate if that makes any sense?

Some of The Love Triangle’s lyrics are very juvenile, whereas some are more intellectual, though never in an overbearing way. Is The Love Triangle more of a tongue-in-cheek, irreverent band, or do you want to be taken seriously?

Honestly, I don’t care how people perceive the band. The lyrics are sometimes about serious things and sometimes they are not. They are mostly just attempts at being honest about something, but usually have something that I find funny in them to myself. I think that some of the songs have good lyrics and some have bad ones, but this doesn’t really correlate to whether the song is about something juvenile or not – for example, some of the worst lyrics I wrote were for the song ‘growing pain’ which was about my friend telling me she had cancer, but some of the best lyrics I wrote were for the song ‘tangle’ (the only lyrics printed on the inside of the LP) which I think really accurately describes the feeling of having an intense and emotional hangover.

I don’t think we’re any more or less irreverent than any punk band should be.

Something I noticed about The Love Triangle’s LP Clever Clever was the many mentions of toast. Intentional motif, or coincidence?

This is actually coincidence! There wasn’t any intention with lyrical motif for the LP, but I was conscious that I wanted the lyrics to be good for the album so I put time and effort into them. I’m not sure all the lyrics are good, but I tried hard (ish) in comparison to the tossed off nature that a lot of our previous songs were written. I suppose there are a number of domestic themes running through the LP as well as songs about feeling the pull of time / mortality and songs about getting fucked up. At the time I had come out of a long relationship and then got into another heavy duty romance, so I think exploring those ideas is pretty natural in those circumstances.

Your old band, the Shitty Limits, were profiled by the NME but, from what I heard, told them to fuck off when they asked for an interview. What informed the decision not to cooperate with them?

It wasn’t a particularly difficult decision to make. The NME is shit and I find it embarrassing to see it sniffing around punk. Punk has its own way of presenting itself in print. Why would we want to be involved with that? Who would get what out of it?

On a related topic – at around that time, this man called Jeremy started coming along to a lot of Shitty Limits gigs, he would praise us endlessly and buy Tom Ellis drinks and was obviously a fan of the band. It turned out that he worked as a music editor at I-D magazine and he wanted to run a feature on us. I think we all were uncomfortable with being in the magazine, but felt bad about snubbing this guy. So we told him that we wouldn’t do a feature for them, but maybe they could run an article about the youth centre in Guildford where we booked DIY gigs. So they came to some gigs in Guildford, took some photos of the kids in the pit and published it in I-D. I don’t know whether it’s hypocritical to visibly snub the NME, and then let I-D in through the back door like that, but the Guildford Youth Centre is now demolished, and, seeing as I probably went to over a hundred gigs there, I’m glad that it got its due in a fucking fashion magazine!

Good Throb’s getting a lot of praise right now, and deservedly so. What’s the creative process for that band?

Thanks! We write songs collectively and all talk about ideas together at band practice, including the lyrics to an extent. I really like this way of making music – like our song ‘Central Line’ (about the pain of commuting to work) came about because Ash started playing the bass riff, and then I was like ‘that sounds like a train track’ and so we wrote a song about a train. Not all our songs have been made with this kind of epiphany, but they are all done collaboratively.

Perhaps this is a stupid question, but why did Good Throb call their debut Fuck Off?

I asked the others one day at band practice if we could call it that and everyone immediately said yes. I think it suits both the savage and comic elements of what the band is about. Also, its kind of incredible that such a ubiquitous term hasn’t been used for a punk record that I know of (please correct me if I’m wrong).

[To my knowledge, he’s correct.] Where next for The Love Triangle and Good Throb?

I’m not particularly interested in The Love Triangle at the moment – we played a lot last year, and are all really busy with other bands. I talked to Tim about it last week and he’s keen to make another tape, but at the moment, I think I’m more interested in making aggressive / less normative music than what the Love Triangle is about… but watch this space. Maybe it will resurrect! Good Throb is writing a new record. We just have a few songs, but I like them so far. I think it will be a little harsher sounding than the first LP, and we are thinking about calling it ‘My Arsehole’. We don’t have a lot else planned apart from a week-long tour in Spain in April. I wish we could tour more with Good Throb but it isn’t really possible with everyone’s other commitments.

We didn’t do a cool wrap up question. Sorry.

*The original sentence I wrote in reply didn’t make any sense. ‘Buzzcocks, Nuggets, Wipers and garage punk seemed like a weird mix of them.’ What?

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

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO LOUIS HARDING

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

NO MORE GIGS TALKS TO FABIAN FROM SKAGGS

Skaggs are a straight-edge hardcore punk band from Germany, reminiscent of early Youth Crew groups like Youth of Today, and Boston ’82 bands like SSD. One of the first punk shows I ever saw in Norwich was Skaggs, Jackals and Church Slave (who later became Caged In) at the sadly now demolished Fine City Audio. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, DIY punk at its absolute finest. Church Slave played a four-minute set, I saw Jackals for the first time, Skaggs were brilliant and covered Sham 69 to the delight of everyone, and there was silly crowd-surfing galore. I also met a lot of nice people, including the members of Skaggs, who were all delightful.
I recently emailed their frontman, Fabian, to see how things were going for the band, and to ask about punk and politics in Germany.

– After two demos in 2013, 2014 seemed like a quieter year for Skaggs. What did you get up to?

Honestly, I don’t know why we haven’t released anything new in 2014. I mean, I live three hours away from the other guys in Skaggs so practicing is always something we have to plan ahead. We played weekenders and shows and I guess we had to take care of other stuff in between.

– You just put out a live album, Live at the Pit’s, which has some new songs on it; are there any plans for a studio EP or LP with those songs on?

Definitely. It’s about time we record a 7”. I’m pretty sure we will use the two new songs that are on the live tape (“Control” and “Goblin Laughter”) and put them on record. We actually wanted to have the record done by the time we’re going to tour Scandinavia in April. But yeah, I guess we have to postpone that to spring. Or summer. Or 2015 in general.

– One Skaggs song that’s really stuck with me is ‘Dying Beat’ which has the line ‘you’re the one that’s living off the carcass of a Fat Wreck!’ Hearing that resonated with me because there’s a lot of people – especially on the internet – who sneer at hardcore bands for being insufficiently ‘fresh’ or whatever while they wait around for the next record by a 30-year-old pop punk band. What inspired that song? Was there a particular experience?

I think it’s great that you get the idea behind the song because after releasing those songs I wasn’t sure if “living off the carcass of a Fat Wreck” does even make any sense. It’s exactly about those people. I came up with the lyrics after missing my train home from a show and being stranded with a bunch of “punk rockers” who were having a little party in their living room. Turned out all they’re listening to is that Fat Wreck Records crap and stuff like Hot Water Music. Don’t get me wrong, I loved NOFX as a teenager. But they were all in their late 20s and 30s and they were still hyping every new release out of that corner. It wouldn’t have bothered me at all if one of them didn’t say something stupid like “Hardcore died after SSD started playing hard rock”. I hate it when people – and especially people like that – say that hardcore died in the 80s and everything today is just a rewind of something past. And in the end the joke is on them because they keep on complaining while missing out on something cool.

– What’s ‘Breed Like Rats’ about?

It’s about stupid people especially here in Germany who get together and protest against refugees. There were some peculiar protests like that in a small town in Saxony by the time I wrote that song. It was crazy because so many people took part in it. The whole scene was very scary since those protests were infiltrated by right wing groups and nobody there seemed to care. They were marching almost every week by night with torches (that’s why “torches in the night” which is also a hint to the Third Reich) and it was just a disgusting thing to look at. And yeah, sadly those people don’t stop reproducing.

– In Germany there seems to be a lot of quite frightening far right politics at the moment. How’s this affecting the punk scene over there? Is there effort to fight back? Do groups like PEDIGA ever try and infiltrate the punk scene?

PEGIDA is a nasty phenomenon of the last few months but fortunately that movement is already destroying itself from within. But nevertheless, it shows you again and again how much racist potential exists in parts of the society. But I think by now the PEGIDA demonstrations are already outnumbered by the protests against it.
The hardcore scene – especially in East Germany – has always been in the focus of right wing groups. But PEGIDA is still different than real Neo-Nazi organizations especially when it comes to the age of its supporters.

– Are there any German bands that we should be keeping an eye on at the moment?

In my humble opinion Germany has a very weak hardcore scene compared to some other European countries. The reason why we did Skaggs was because we were bored with almost all the bands that were around Germany at that time. But there are a few bands that are definitely worth checking out.
There is this band called MIND TRAP. They meet and practice in Berlin but two of the guys are from Moscow. We still call them a German band because they’re sick. They are probably my favorite German hardcore band and you should check them out if you’re into that whole Boston ’82 thing.
DOGCHAINS from Southern Germany are one of my favorite German bands to watch live. They started as a Lockin’ Out kinda youth crew band but now they sound more like Supertouch or Verbal Assault. I used to call this the “Mental transition”.
If you dig power violence or fast and dark hardcore in general you should check out VOWELS and HIKIKOMORI. Yannick from Skaggs plays in latter band and I was told they sound like Dropdead. The singer of Hikikomori also sings in BLUDGEON BOYS which is also a Mannheim based band. I always thought they sound like a moshier and slower version of that band Stoic Violence from California but that’s probably because the singers sound alike. Other than that Yannick is constantly writing stuff for new bands. He’ll soon release the demo of his new project MISSING LINK and I’m really psyched about it. Me, him and the guitarist in Skaggs (Adrian) are also jamming on some youth crew songs right now. I’m really excited for that as well. Oh and before I forget it, keep your eyes out for a band called SPIRIT CRUSHER. I never really liked the Cro-Mags after Age of Quarrel but I definitely love the sound this new band is going for. Adrian is playing guitar for them and I will 100% go nuts for them.

– Are Skaggs ever planning to come back to the UK?

We’d love to but right now there are no plans to do it. In April we’re going to Scandinavia with PODER ABSOLUTO from Valencia. Other than that we have no plans for the rest of the year. Actually we got asked to play a few shows in Ireland this year so I really hope this will work out since I’ve never been to Ireland. It’s hard to plan ahead right now because our bass player Marco is moving to Hamburg pretty soon and we will have to see how Skaggs will work out then.

– Finally, why do hardcore bands do intros on their demos/EPs? Is that something new? My old band did an intro for its demo and I still don’t know.

Haha, I don’t really know. Hardcore bands have been recording and playing intros as far as I can remember. But you got me thinking. The earliest hardcore record I know that has a “intro” song is probably DFTS DFTS by Warzone. I’m pretty sure something like that has been done before but this song is one of the most popular intros in hardcore history. I guess the purpose of intros is to get people into the mood and deliver some mosh parts in the beginning of your set. Just listen to that Warzone intro. If that doesn’t get you hyped for the rest of the record then something is wrong with you.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 3, February 2015]

NO MORE GIGS TALKS TO FABIAN FROM SKAGGS

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO DAN DONAGHEY

Dan Donaghey has been in a handful of bloody good Norwich punk and hardcore bands, including No Fun and the sadly rather short-lived Caged In. I emailed him to ask him a few questions about how it’s all going, and his new band, Street Piss. I wasn’t aware he was also making electronic music (as Detox Water) at the time of this interview, but check that stuff out too.

– Tell me all about Street Piss. What sort of thing are you guys doing?

Street Piss is a band I have with two of my good friends, that don’t take ourselves too seriously (hence the name). The sound is kind of in the vein of Black Lips, it’s just rowdy party punk/indie, the kind of band I’ve wanted to do for a very long while.

– Has Street Piss got any plans to record or tour?

Yeah, we’re planning on recording in the next few months. We played our first show last month, and got a great reaction. It was kinda funny because people admitted to me afterwards they were expecting it to suck. Hopefully we’ll be able to do some shows out of Norwich too.

– What prompted the move away from hardcore? Have you really forgotten the struggle and/or the streets?

Haha, I still really enjoy punk/hardcore, it’s just quite nice to play something a little different. I’ve always found myself playing guitar in punk bands, it’s just cool to do my thing for once y’know?

– Have you got any plans for Caged In if you can get ahold of the others? What’s happening with Sonic Order, the project with Jack from Jackals, among others?

I’m sure Caged In will do another show again, it was a really cool project to do with, again, some of my good friends, but I don’t think I’ll be joining another hardcore/punk band again anytime soon. I got kicked out of Sonic Order (that makes them sound mean I know) but the truth was I couldn’t really afford or commit to it as much as I’d have liked to. Are they still doing that band? I have no idea.

– Finally, you’ve put on a fair few shows. Have you got any hints and tips for people looking to put on DIY shows in Norwich?

Yeah, I’ve done a fair amount of shows over the years. My advice? Get someone else to do all work for you. I’m just kidding, putting on your own gigs if a great way for your own band to have a platform, and it’s a really great way of meeting others. I’ve never done it for the money, which is why the majority of my shows are free, and I intend to keep it that way if I can help it. I just enjoy organising a night in which my friends can congregate and watch each other’s bands and have a few drinks. If you have a passion or an interest for that kind of thing, I honestly recommend getting involved, as it keeps you busy and gives you something for you and others to look forward to.

– Cheers for doing this!

No problem man. Thank you for taking an interest.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 2, January 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO DAN DONAGHEY