Wednesday, February 15, 2012

recent interview

This is a long one, so feel free to either ignore it entirely, or wait until you have a deadline you're trying to sabotage until you read it. Or if you're anything like me you'll save it until the next time you're working overnight.

It's going to be printed sometime this year in Czech in the 'zine Trhavina that Iny from Gride publishes . You lucky English speakers get a chance to read it first.

Interview was conducted in September 2011.

“Hello, my name is Andy. I play bass and do some noise sometimes. I’m 25 years old and I have been in these things since my 18…“ (Interview with EBOLA, Hluboka Orba 16 – 1999, zine done by Filip of MRTVA BUDOUCNOST). Do you remember this interview? What do you feel when you read some old interview with you?

Yes, I remember that one very clearly for some reason, probably because Filip is still active in the scene and even though I don't see him very often I'm still reminded of his presence by his bands.

When I read old interviews I usually feel two emotions simultaneously. One is a vague sense of embarrassment at any of the many sweeping generalisations I may have made and the other is more positive, it's nice to see either the consistency or the evolution of my thoughts over the years.

Sometimes I read myself ranting about totally insignificant things and I think "wow, I used to care about that?" Which is all just part of getting older.

How have you changed since this interview? What is the most important experience of your life?

Well, I'm older now and I'm generally much happier, other than that it's hard to know exactly how I've changed.

I don't want to say it's the most important experience of my life, but the death of Jonathan Shaw from Ebola is the event that's had the most profound effect on my life.

What happened to Jonathan from EBOLA? An accident or disease?

He died on October 9th 2006 of a very rare form of cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei, his daughter was nine months old. A day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t been with him in spirit since then.

You lived in Great Britain… how it happened, that you are living in Canada now?

I moved in 2003, my girlfriend was Canadian and I moved to be with her when she left Glasgow.

What is the main difference between Canadian and British society? Have you been surprised by any special attribute of Canada, when you moved?

I don't know the main difference and to be honest I only really understand some aspects of life in Toronto, as Canada is too big for me to truthfully say I understand the society here.

The hardest thing for me to get used when I first came to Toronto is that the way men interact with each other is much less aggressive than I was used to back home.

I enjoy my life in Toronto a lot; I just wish this city wasn't so physically ugly.

And what about hardcore scene in Toronto, is similar to Glasgow, better or worse? Had you been connected to Toronto scene before you came there?

When I lived in Glasgow there wasn't really much of a scene to speak of. The glory days of Sedition and Disaffect had dried up and gone away. It might be different now, I don't know, it was sometimes pretty dismal when I lived there though.

Toronto has had its ups and downs since I arrived here, but on the whole there's never been a shortage of older, established bands and younger bands into making a noise and yelling at the world. I've always been very impressed with Toronto's capacity to produce good, hungry bands, particularly when you least expect it.

I knew a number of people before I moved over here due to the Network of Friends, aka pre-internet hardcore lifestyle.

You played in many bands (EBOLA, SAWN OFF, SHANK…)… Were you sad, when these band split up? Is there any moment, when you recognize that something is wrong and band is on road to hell?

I left Sawn Off when we told Chris (drums) that we couldn't be in Ebola with him anymore, it would have been ridiculous of me to carry on with him in Sawn Off, especially as I was the one that told him we were through with him. I left Sawn Off at the point where I thought we were beginning to achieve what we set out to do, so I was sad to go, but there was no other way.

Leaving Ebola was mostly the result of me having a fight with Nick, but I knew for at least a year before that my heart was no longer in it and I should have left earlier, it would have been more respectful of me to do that. I wasn't sad that I parted with Ebola, maybe mildly bitter for a short while, but that was my own fault for not leaving earlier.

A part of me misses Shank a lot, but i forget all the stupid shit that was going on in our lives at the time that brought us together as a band and I certainly don't miss the stuff we were reacting to. Shank had pretty much run its course by the time we broke up, my leaving the country was a good end date, if it went on any further I might not have such fond memories of the band.

So yes, there's almost always a point where most people in the band know it's no longer working, it just depends on who's going to act on it first and do something about it. Every time I've left one band I've immediately moved on to something new, so I never really stuck in the past wondering what could have been.

How did you meet other members of THE ENDLESS BLOCKADE? Who brought the idea to start the band?

I put it all together. A mutual friend introduced me to Ryo, who had also recently arrived to Canada. I'd known Ben for a few years from my visits to Canada and it was natural to ask him to play guitar.

“Turn Illness into a Weapon” is your excellent debut LP. This LP is dedicated to Ryosuke Kiyasu, who should’ve been on this recording…what happened?

We recorded the LP with Ryo on drums at Audiolab studio two weeks before he left the country. Stupidly the files weren't backed up properly and the studio lost most of what we'd recorded. We salvaged enough of the recording to release the Come Friendly Bombs 7".

We re-recorded Turn Illness into a Weapon a year later with Eric on drums.

Ryo now plays in Sete Star Sept in Tokyo.

Could illness really be a weapon?

The LP is named after a Socialist Patients Kollectiv manifesto and they believed that psychiatric illness could be used as a weapon against capitalism. I've just realised people might think we're talking about biological warfare with that title, which we're definitely not.

Many members of the Socialist Patients Kollektiv were recruited to RAF, what do you think about this group?

I think RAF are “interesting” in much the same way that bored housewives think serial killers are “interesting”. For those of us in the punk and hardcore world that have our roots in militant politics there’s an undeniable appeal around groups that blow shit up to meet their aims, but at the end of the day - away from some of my angry times when I wish the human race would just fuck off and embrace extinction with open arms - I find it hard to support killing people for politics.

I love your song and lyric Death Ritual… Do you have any your personal rituals besides playing music, which keep you alive?

If you mean rituals in a general sense, then my daily interactions with my girlfriend and my dog give me a sense of joy and sense of life in the world.

If you mean something more esoteric, then I have some outlets, but nothing that takes over my life.

Many reviews of your music label you as a power violence band. What do you think about this term… many bands hate it. What do you imagine, when man says “power violence band”? Do you feel some continuity to US p-v bands of early 90ies?

I think most bands hate the label because most bands described as power violence are pretty crappy. I try not to think too hard about whether or not my music is power violence or even how you would define what power violence is. My music is influenced by the power violence originators, whether or not that means my own creations are carrying on the power violence legacy is not something I can objectively decide.

I feel some connection to the early 90s power violence bands because that was the side of hardcore that captured my imagination in a big way. Some of those people involved at the time have become good friends over the years, so I feel a connection there as well.

You use many quotations in inserts of your records. Are you inspired by these quotations to write lyrics or are the lyrics first and then you find some quotations to confirm lyrics’ thought?

Due to our songs being so short I generally use quotations to underscore my point. I try not to overdose on quotations, but I usually have one on each record these days that broadly sums up my mindset when I wrote the record.

Part of my motivation for using quotes is simply because I'm keen to promote people reading. I find a reading list says more about a person than a play list.

Are there some connections between philosophy and punk? Or are the attempts to find some these connections only efforts to give noise more sense and importance?

Our entire lives are spent attaching meaning to acts that are ultimately senseless and unimportant and punk is no different in that regard.

I think it's generally better for the world if people place meaning onto positive things that will help their own lives and the lives of those close to them. So the punk philosophy that aspires to make a positive change in the world is fine by me.

“Man understands divinity like a dog understands electricity” In lyrics Perfection on Primitive LP you talks about theological noncognitivism, what do you mean?

Of the many questions I've had about this song, and in particular the line you quote, you're the first to ever ask about theological noncognitivism.

It basically means that religious language has no concrete meaning. It means that religious language is unverifiable and refers to concepts that are unthinkable and unknowable and religious language is thus meaningless.

Are you spiritually near to any religion or do you take many influences and find your own way? What do you think about ateism?

On a level that’s partly intellectual and partly emotional I have an interest in Gnosticism –  in both its modern and historical forms – and also in what would broadly be described as pagan (European) beliefs. My interest in these schools of thought is not what they tell us about our relationships with God(s), but about our relationships with each other, with our surroundings, with ourselves, with our past and occasionally with our future.

Human beings are small, inconsequential things that have no understanding of the world they live in, thus they have absolutely no knowledge of their creation or purpose. Humans could never possibly understand God or Divinity; even calling God a “force” is an attempt to understand something in human terms that has nothing to do with humans. I’m not an atheist, a theist or any shade of agnostic because it absolutely does not matter if I believe, or more accurately humanise, God or not.

This is not to say I don’t have some sense of experience with the Divine. When I’m away from the cultural noise of the world I feel the unmistakable presence of something else that is beyond human, but it isn’t God. It isn’t some guy with a highly out-dated moral code where I have to score at least a B+ in order to get to heaven.

Atheism is too bogged down in issuing rebuttals to propositions that are meaningless in the first place. I don’t place human beings at the centre of the universe, which monotheism and atheism have a tendency towards.

I want to be clear that I do not doubt the idea of evolution, but what I call into question is the idea that evolution fits a higher purpose and is unquestionably for the better of all. Many Atheists reject the idea of an after-life (which is fine), but shift the sense of purpose for humanity – in religious terms that purpose is generally act “good” and “moral” on Earth and receive your reward in heaven – onto some strange idea that we are evolving into something better. It’s still the same human centred approach that never once allows the thought that perhaps human beings are completely unnecessary to the well-being of the universe and perhaps life is completely random with no great reason or design.

On a final note, I’d rather the punk scene was full of stupid atheist bands than full of stupid religious bands, and fuck Creationism and Intelligent Design; if there was Intelligent Design in the universe God would never have allowed the Industrial era to start.

THE ENDLESS BLOCKADE use many noise samples in their music and the fusion of music and noise is always perfect. I suppose you do it… What inspires you when you do it? Do you do noise samples before writing music or you find appropriate noise after composing music?

I do the noise after we've recorded, but I usually have a sense of what it should be like and where it should go. It can't be something that's going to interfere with the frequencies already in the track, so a straight up, blown out wall of sound has to be placed between tracks and not in the middle of them.

It depends on the song, some demand complete overkill, like the first song on the Unearthly Trance split - which is just drums, vocals and noise - and some warrant a more subtle approach.

You take part in industrial noise experiment project PIG HEART TRANSPLANT too. Tell more about it…

Pig Heart Transplant is Jon from Iron Lung's brainchild. He asked me to send him some sounds to reuse a few years ago which I duly did. I have no idea if he's used them or not but on their myspace page I'm listed as having been a member, so maybe he did use the material?

You released split LP with BASTARD NOISE, both sides of this LP are awesome… I know you played some shows with BASTARD NOISE, did you try to play this LP together alive?

Unfortunately we didn't try and perform Deuteronomy when we played with Bastard Noise, I suspect it would be difficult to pull off and live I like the safety of shorter songs; though we played a one song 25 minute set in our early days once.

Why did you decide to write only one long song for split LP with BASTARD NOISE? It’s unusually for extreme hardcore band…

Originally it was to be Blockade and Bastard Noise collaborating, before they became bass and drums again, so we wrote our material as if it was going to be reworked by Bastard Noise. The plan changed when they got Danny Walker in the band (before Joel Connell replaced him) and we decided we would shorten it to the 14 minute track it ended up as.

Does Jello Biafra really sing in The Endless Blockade song on Primitive LP? How did you meet them and recruit him for collaboration?

Yes, it's really him; Dave Adelson who runs 20 Buck Spin was the manager of Alternative Tentacles at the time and asked him for us. Jello was in the studio recording something else and recorded about ten-fifteen minutes of him saying "Endless Blockade!" in more and more ridiculous ways. I should find that material again, he started doing George W Bush impressions for us at one point.

When I’m writing these questions, it’s 10 year anniversary of New York’s Twins plane attacks. What do you think about conspiracy theories connected with these attacks? Have you ever seen movie Zeit Geist and if you have what do think about?

I haven't seen the film Zeitgeist.

Conspiracy theories are an expected and natural facet of modern disasters. People feel helpless and traumatised by tragedy, and the idea that a conspiracy behind the scenes that has controlled events for a long time leading up to the crisis is comforting in a sense. It gives purpose and meaning, and on the whole humans aren't very good at the idea of there being a lack of meaning to world events.

But that's not to say there wasn't any conspiring going on in the events behind 9/11; some people are making relatively compelling cases for events not being as reported. And of course some people sound like crazy people shaking their fists at the sky when they talk about 9/11 conspiracies as well.

This Trhavina issue has the main theme: Vinyl and its collection. Are you fan of vinyl? What do you think about contemporary rebirth of vinyl popularity?

I still buy vinyl, a little less than I used to, mostly due to money and a narrowing of interests, but it's my preferred format.

In the last few years I've seen many of friends who were former maniac collectors selling off their entire collections with great zeal. It seems that they amassed as much stuff as possible then changed the game to getting rid of as much stuff as possible. I think there might be a reverse hunter/ gatherer mentality going on there.

In some interview with you I have read that you are selling with THE ENDLESS BLOCKADE fewer amounts of records than you sold with your previous bands. What is the reason of it according to you?

I'm not too sure of the reasons, Ebola sold more records, but Blockade is much better known. You could probably point the finger at downloading, but I don't really know. Partly it’s because releases are only considered “new” for a matter of weeks these days, as opposed to months, or even years, which is how it used to be.

The only way to sell vinyl these days is to play live. I've noticed that we sell much more at gigs than Ebola or Shank ever did, so maybe the only people that buy records in North America are those that go to gigs?

Does Gride sell more records and shirts at shows in the US than in Europe?

I think so, but it’s hard to compare it, because we have never played in US before and we haven’t optimal distribution our records in US... But I agree with you, only chance is playing a lot of gigs or offer to people something special. Are you interested in limited editions, did you release some specialty for collectors?

The Endless Blockade made several tour editions of our releases, mostly so that people would buy them from us instead of the local distro or record store a week later.

It's unfortunate that we have to resort to such tactics to force the hand of the consumer, but you have to do something to make enough gas money to get to the next show sometimes, God knows door prices aren't bringing in much cash in most cities.

Last time I was in Germany I noticed that at every show there was still at least one arsehole with a distro selling records of the bands playing, trying to get a cut of their performance, which is pretty disrespectful; take them out of the distro box until the next show when some other band is playing.

The most uncommon venue/place, where have you ever played?

Shank was the only band playing in a bar somewhere in Poland that turned into a reggae disco. There was a bunch of Polish reggae guys waiting to listen to songs about Lions of Judah, Babylon and Zion sitting patiently through our set.

Not my favourite tour moment to be honest.

Shank also played a show with an anarchist puppet theatre once. Strange times…

Are you going touring Europe sometime in future?

I hope so, but we'll see. Time and money are two things have increasingly less of, so it might not happen.

Plus when Iron Lung, Hatred Surge and Blockade toured Europe in 2007 it seemed like the style of music we were doing just wasn't that popular in Europe.

You told me that The Endless Blockade broke up actually and you have new band... Tell us more, what we can expect?

We played our last show in July 2010, when Ben moved to Bermuda to live in a tropical island paradise. Column of Heaven is the new band, we had a tape available in mid-2011, now sold out, but you can download it pretty easily. There's a 12" ep due out on SPHC, which is Dan from Lotus Fucker's label, sometime in 2012. We have a few other releases planned after that but experience has told me not to mention releases until they're almost out.

Column of Heaven carries on the same lineage that I've been doing for a long time now. In much the same way that Blockade came from the ideas we were doing in Shank, Column of Heaven comes from some of the ideas we were doing in Blockade.

It’s all. Thanx a lot for your time. Any final words?

Hails to all middle age hardcore guys in eastern Europe that I've known over the years.


Anonymous said...

good interview, it's always interesting hearing what you have to say. Is there an email or snailmail address i could get in touch with you at? I find myself in the same spheres of interest as you in regards to music philosophy and "spirituality"

Survivalist said...

good use of "". My contact info is in the "view my complete profile" on the right, underneath the banner on the main page

jbalsinek said...

A decent interview indeed. Speaking of Filip Fuchs and See You in Hell, I went to see them live when I was in Brno, CZ at Christmas. I don't like the production on their records very much but they're always great live.

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed the interview flow of the questions was very organic. Must say I always thought the illness as a weapon was a reference to biological warfare. Informative post as always.