Sunday, March 4, 2012

Blockade interview from 2010

Originally published in Inverted Forest from Australia in 2010. Written whilst i was still pretending to people that we weren't about to break up; i knew we the ending was in motion before we'd even finished the Bastard Noise split, i just didn't know how we were going to get there (Ben moved out of the country, the same excuse we used to break Shank up)

Could we please get the perfunctory introductions out of the way? Who are the members of the band and how long have you been around?

Formed in 2003, current line up: Bloomer, Carroll, Edgar, King, Nolan

What were the original intentions of the band? Do you think that these have been fulfilled? I have seen that the 3rd lp is slated to be the last; will this mean the end of the band.

I was perhaps a little rash in proclaiming our third LP would be our last but it will probably still be the case. A band can only last for so long and remain vital and relevant to its members.
Given the self imposed restrictions we put on our music there’s only really so much we can do with it until it becomes stale to us. We’ll see what happens; I think there’s life in the beast yet but when it’s time to stop we’ll kill it without a second thought.

[Obviously the third LP only ever existed in my head, but man it was great!]

Anyone familiar with your work will be aware that there is significant discourse relating to religion and its faults within the lyrics. It has been suggested that religion will exist as long as fear is present within human nature. The implication is that we will never be rid of organised religion. Do you think that humanity will ever see a time where religion does not exist? Do human beings even deserve that freedom?

I think saying the reason that religion exists is based entirely on fear is the kind of useless bullshit you can hear from any armchair atheist with no real understanding of the role religion has played in the world either historically or presently.

People will also go on at great lengths to tell you that religion is the cause of all wars. Religion is present in lots of wars but it’s not the cause, if anything it’s more like the Twinkie Defence in a murder trial.

Religion appears in two forms; an individual form and a mass form.

Religion as an aspect of society was born out of a need for another racial/ tribal identifier. People who worshipped different gods than you did were not your kin and thus both easily identifiable and easy to wage a war with.

It also served/ serves as simple moral instruction and allegory. This is something the fundamentalists get horrifically wrong almost every single time. It’s also something the atheists get confused with; as if they’re confusing myth with fairytale (the two are very different).

As a personal need it’s generally just a way of acknowledging you don’t know how the universe works.

The idea of a religion that crosses racial boundaries is a relatively new one. Any good practicing Christian can enter the kingdom of heaven; they just have to accept Christ as their redeemer. Same with Islam, those crazy militant fundamentalists that we’re lead to believe are in our midst’s waiting to slit our children’s throats will actually take a short break when everyone converts [for the benefit of internet skim reading i'm being sarcastic here, i don't believe that Muslim's are trying to destory the world].

The Jews are different though, you can’t decide to be one of God’s chosen people, you have to be born into it. Sure, people do convert to Judaism but in my (extremely limited) experience those people are treated as curiosities and not taken seriously without the matrilineal heritage. [Perfectly happy for people with far more knowledge on this to call bullshit on it, i'm just a dumb guy in a band]

So religion has changed over the years as being a way of keeping the bloodline intact (kill non-believers) to a way of keeping an idea alive (convert non-believers). And i realise i’m skipping over things like supersessionism, but this is punk zine and not a theological tome (unless i’ve been horribly misinformed).

Without a religious imperative wars would have still occurred, they would have just had to find another excuse for coming into being.

People would have probably gone to war over what kind of local flora and fauna another land had without the God angle.

Saying things like ‘No Gods No Masters’ is cute but ultimately addresses a whole lot of nothing and to my mind is like trying to convert gay people to heterosexuality. A personal religious need is perfectly acceptable and often a deep seated human need that goes far beyond our modern understanding.

I think that modern atheism is generally nothing more than Victorian parlour games; witty intellectual conundrums and little else. I see the most useless aspects of religion (in particular fundamentalism, easily the dumbest and most modern thing about religious thought) and modern scientific atheism as being exactly the same stupid things; both want to make the universe a smaller and more explainable place. This is something i have no interest in; i want the universe to be incomprehensibly huge and daunting. I don’t need answers to every single thing.

Religion will tell you that things are the way they are “because God deemed it so, hey, no talking in the back, this is God’s chosen representative on earth talking to you here.”

And scientific atheism will tell you things like stimulating a certain part of the brain will induce a feeling of divine presence and being in love is just a mere chemical reaction that ultimately means nothing.

I don’t need science to tell me that i’m a bag of meat and bones with some weird chemical reactions going on to make it move. I accept that's what i am, but life is something i still find myself experiencing and it can’t be explained away so neatly.

I also don’t need a religion to tell me that there are mysteries in the world and that trees and flowers grow for magical/ divine reasons. I accept that my knowledge and experience is crushingly limited and i will never really understand even the tiniest fraction of how the universe works. And let’s not forget that a wasp experiences the world in a far different way than a dog. Which one experiences the world ‘correctly’ and which one is deluded?

The term God encapsulates everything we don’t know about the world. God is the idea of an idea. God is the idea of perfection, and as flawed human beings we have no idea of what perfection even looks like. So when someone tells you God speaks to them how do they even understand what’s being said?

Even when people talk about God being a ‘force’ they humanise what God is. I take the stance that God is something i will never know or understand or be able to experience and for that reason is largely irrelevant in my life.

Neither religion nor atheism are able to speak to what God actually is (or is the absence of) so i reject them both as irrelevant to my life and sphere of understanding.

How much time do you spend on your lyrics? Do you think that within hardcore punk there is an acceptance of weaker lyrics simply because they are not always easily decipherable in the context of the music? How important is lyrical content to you?

I’ll have ideas of what i want to put across in a song and think about several of those ideas for a while before just getting everything out in one sitting if possible. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to get them ‘right’, I’ll figure out the key parts that need to be in the song and go from there.

I think there’s an acceptance of weak everything in our world and punk is generally no different. I only really notice lyrics when someone points out to me how utterly appalling they are, by and large i can live with them and pay only scant attention to most bands lyrics.

Very few people (and i most certainly include myself in this statement) have much to say that the whole world needs to hear.

From what I can gather your live shows incorporate a lot of noise elements. What is the usual crowd reception to this? Have you heard any fan response regarding the Noah Creshevsky or The Rita remixes that are included with the new split with Bastard Noise?

We definitely use a lot more noise live now and have added a fifth live member to assist with this and integrate it more. Some people are into the noise live, some don’t like it at all, some understand the noise on the recordings better when they hear it live at loud volume.

The reception to the tracks by Noah Creshevsky and The Rita have been largely predictable; some people dislike them, some people love them, some people want to try and understand it and ask questions. The Rita is certainly not what i would call entry level noise so that’s definitely a tough one to get your head around if you’ve no real prior experience with noise as a genre.

I think some people who were familiar with Noah Creshevsky’s work before are amazed we got him to work with us and genuinely excited about the track.

Have you always been interested in the occult and the use of symbols and codes? How important are these to the identity of the band?

Possibly more than any other band i’ve been in previously i consider this band to be a large part of ‘me’ and consequently a lot of my interests break through the surface.

The occult is just a word that can signify a lot of different ideas of various merits. To me it represents another selection of ways of understanding and interacting with the universe. It’s also a way of coding larger pieces of information into much smaller formats for other people to either decipher or not. The Unearthly Trance split LP came about largely because of shared aesthetics and language.

My interest in more esoteric matters has been in an ebb and flow since i was a child.

My first academic interest  - i.e. an awareness of formulised systems by other people who didn’t merely experience ‘weird shit’ as i had been for a number of years - came in my early teens after reading books (and practicing their examples) by Sylvan Muldoon and Oliver Fox and listening to several tapes obtained from Sorcerers’ Apprentice in Leeds.

In my late teens it was Robert Anton Wilson, Peter Carroll, Phil Hine, Ramsey Dukes, Discordianism and others and from my 20s and onwards it’s been a strange mix of doomsday cults, post-Golden Dawn thinkers/ practitioners, hermetic Qabalah, anti-modernist/ anti-enlightenment ideals, antinomianism, Perrenialism and a lot of dysfunctional thought occasionally labelled as ‘transgressive’.

And i view it all as being equally important and equally ridiculous. “It’s” both the most important thing informing my worldview and complete and utter nonsense at the same time.

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted” as Hassan-i Sabbah probably never actually said (but it makes for a nice anecdote).

Do you believe that there is an anti-intellectual streak in punk music or punks in general?

I think modern life certainly doesn’t encourage an inner life or quiet introspection, which could be conceived of as being anti-intellectual i guess.

I haven’t noticed a specific anti-intellectual streak in punk though. If punk isn’t visceral then i’m not really interested in it so i’m ok with it being perceived as dumb.

If you watch any documentary on the development of hardcore in the US the same talking heads will tell you punk was something wonderfully liberating and artistic until all the violent yobs came along in the 1980s and ruined i for everyone. Clearly those pesky working class oiks just had to ruin everyone’s fun and good for them, i’d rather listen to Agnostic Front than X any day.

What do you think of the use of descriptors like power violence these days? Do you think that settings such as internet message boards have created an environment where more emphasis is placed on genres rather than the actual output of a band? I guess what I am trying to say is, do genres matter in hardcore punk?

It’s generally only important if a band is good or not, however you choose to define good. If a band doesn’t have some sense of internal logic and consistency then they’ll almost always fail. Being aware of the minutiae and subtleties of genre above and beyond a “recommend me some power violence like Apathetic Ronald McDonald” level goes part way to accomplishing this.

I think message boards have created an environment where it’s important to be seen as legitimate as quickly as possible and it’s fairly tedious to behold.

Trash Talk and Ceremony were the buzz bands for a while and now they seem to be written off as farts at a funeral; quite what happened is beyond me, perhaps people want to prove they have better taste than everyone else?

With black metal over the last few years there’s been a rush to proclaim Blasphemy, Von and Beherit as the only bands worth listening to, which is great, i love those three bands, and people should pay attention to them, but if it’s only lip service in a quest for self legitimisation what’s the point?

You can see it already with the new Burzum LP [It was 2009, Belus had just been leaked], many people are desperate to be the first to write it off as either garbage or the second coming of black metal based on listening to half of a sub-par download on laptop speakers.

Punk is no different; i heard Fucked Up jumped the shark because they have too many guitar tracks on their recordings or something.

I miss the days when you’d spend a year listening to an album before moving on to the next one.

But regarding your question of genres, it’s hard to say how important it is. There’ll always be people that will call Melt Banana noise, Morbid Angel thrash, Siege power violence, Merzbow power electronics, Slayer death metal, and you get the picture...

I’ve seen that you have commented that the recent split with Bastard Noise was something of a laborious process. Care to elaborate? Are you happy with the finished product?

We’re all very happy with the end product and yes it was a long an laborious process at almost every level imaginable and everyone in Blockade lost their mind an interest at some point of its long and painful birthing process.

What do you think about record collecting? What about record collectors?

I have an extensive and great record collection, what can i say? I’ve gone through significant periods of my life where money went on records or postage for trades at the expense of rent or food.

I think record collecting is less exciting in this time of e bay and download blogs but that’s fine. I still hunt for the stuff that’s important to me.

The Endless Blockade is building up quite a sizeable back catalogue now, is there any release that stands out in your mind or one that you are most proud of?

Probably Primitive, though i like the Bastard Noise split a lot

The “Primitive” lp contains guest vocals from Jello Biafra, how did that eventuate?

Dave Adelson (20 Buck Spin guy) used to be the label manager at Alternative Tentacles and pulled the favour.

I have a fifteen minute CD of Jello saying “Endless Blockade” in more and more ridiculous voices including George W Bush and Elmer Fudd impersonations [if i ever find this again i'll stick it up on bandcamp]

What do you have in mind for the future of the band? Any thoughts of an Australian or SE Asia Tour?

I played some shows in Australia ten years ago and had a great time. If someone will pay for our flights upfront then we’ll consider it carefully.

The future of the band is anyone’s guess, we’ll see when we get there. [we played our last show about a month after the zine came out]


Papst Benedikt XVI said...

The Jews are different though, you can’t decide to be one of God’s chosen people, you have to be born into it. Sure, people do convert to Judaism but in my (extremely limited) experience those people are treated as curiosities and not taken seriously without the matrilineal heritage.

that's a tricky subject it starts with that Judaism contrary to what most people think isn't a monotheistic religion like Christianity but a hinotheistic Mystery religion.

the opinion of an Ashkenazic Jew on coverting to Judaisn will differ to the opinion of a Sephardic Jew and if you ask an extremely honest Rabbi he might even tell you that you can't convert to Judaism cause the only way to become a Jew is to be born as one according to the talmud or the tora if I'm not mistaken.

nearly all Jews however agree on that it isn't possible to convert from Judaism to Christianity, Islam, whatever cause you are born as a Jew and therefore you die as a Jew.

Survivalist said...

Thanks Matt. My (very limited) understanding is that Judaism is more rooted in monolatory than monotheism.

I'm completely out of my depth here though.

Papst Benedikt XVI said...

you are welcome Andrew.

Judaism is probably more rooted in everything else then it is in monotheism cause it has nothing to do with monotheism.
even though trying to dig really deep into the roots of Judaism is pointless if you can't speak and read old and new Hebrew and Aramaic nearly any version of the Old Testatment will do it in case of the monotheism.