Tag Archives: rant

Pussy Riot

24 Aug

The Pussy Riot sentencing sent a chill up my spine and not just because of the echoes of both Stalinism and McCarthyism. It served as a very real reminder that free speech is in jeopardy wherever governments seek to control dissent.

As someone who speaks out against the US government, Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act could technically land me in much greater peril than even Pussy Riot. The characterization of Pussy Riot’s church performance as hate speech is flimsy to the point of being laughable. If pointing out an organization’s hypocrisy and history of exploitation means inciting hatred and is therefore illegal, then virtually any sort of substantive protest is effectively banned. The eerie similarities between the Russian charges and the provisions of the NDAA’s definition of “supporter of terrorism” should not escape anyone.

Let’s be clear though, Pussy Riot is an activist group using performance art as a means of protest. As they themselves admit, if they operated purely as a band and worked within established channels (playing clubs, releasing records), they would not have as great an impact or have become as great a target.

Advice for aspiring musicians

18 Nov

Shamelessly lifted from an interview with Conformists singer Mike Benker. Words to fucking live by.
  1. DO NOT PLAY LONGER THAN 35 MINUTES, TOPS. Leave people wanting more not less. The first Black Sabbath record is just under 38 minutes. Are you better than that record? Nope.
  2. GET THE FUCK OFF OF THE STAGE. Grab your drums and move out of the way. When you set up, take as long as you want. You are burning up your 35 minutes. When you are chit-chatting about how you just weren’t “feeling it tonight” while you remove wing nuts from cymbal stands, know that a band is ready to run you over. If you see another band helping you off the stage, that is a bad sign. Figure it out.
  3. STOP FORMING BANDS AND TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO SOUND. Get in the basement and play your asses off. Write ten songs and play the shit out of them then plays some shows. Scrap seven of the songs and write more before you dare record. The first ten songs a new band writes are usually not that good. Keep the best three. Not all of your ideas are good, numbnuts. Stop recording and releasing everything.
  4. IF SOMEONE SAYS “GOOD SHOW” SAY “THANK YOU”. If you complain about your set to someone who liked it, you look like a douche. Don’t be a whiner. Take the compliment and try harder next time.

Interview with Russell Emerson Hall

1 Oct

Throat torturer/guitar abuser Russell did an e-mail interview with Julian Kaapke for the German print-only zine, Die Eelritze.

Everytime I hear your new record, I think of the William S. Burroughs quote “We intend to destroy all dogmatic verbal systems.” Your thoughts? Is this just me being weird or is this a legitimate connotation?

I think that accurately sums up how we think about the world. There are so many big lies that are sold to us in Amerikkka in the interest of maintaining the status quo. We are often told that we have a two-party political system in this country when, in fact, it is simply a single party unified by wealth and status and whose only interest is to entrench their position and power. The political, economic, religious, cultural, and anti-science dogma only serves to prop up a failing capitalist system. As Marx said, “question everything.”

Sticking with this theme for a moment — to call your lyrical themes highly literate and political would be an understatement. Which authors were influential on your worldview and when did you realize that the average person was basically getting it unlubed up the ass by the powers that be?

I became enthralled by Burroughs and Bukowski in my early 20s and they sort of warped my mind to think about the flip side of the American dream — the seedy underbelly. My skeptical inclinations grew as I was exposed to Chomsky and other media critics while studying Journalism in college. I had long had an unease that things were not as they seemed in this country and while I had long embraced Marx’s views on religion, it wasn’t until my early 30s that started really examining my views on the political and economic climate that we’re living in.

Part of it was this band. I made a decision right from the start that I did not want my lyrics to be the sort of intensely personal heart of darkness that I had trafficked in before. As I pushed myself to think about other areas of emotion, I tried to put myself in the place of people who had real problems (not “white-people problems”). I started exploring and researching the exploitation of indigenous and working class peoples and became increasing radicalized. I revisited Marx and Chomsky and Zinn and became involved in various socialist organizations and activities.

You pointed me to a quote by Howard Zinn about that moment of awakening and the responsibility it requires: “We all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.” That is the mission of this band. That, and ear-splitting noiserock.

Martin Amis recently caught a lot of flak for his unabashed and unapologetic bashing of Islam, being called a racist among other things. However, I’ve noticed the tendency in the secular left to take a lot of shit from these assholes it would never take from the Christian right, e.g. outlawing same-sex relationships, pre-martial sex, atheism etc. and chalk it up to ‘cultural differences’. Personally, I think that these people are full of shit and every bit as dangerous as the born-again zealots. Your thoughts?

While I am a fan of Amis’ novels, his statements are clearly the ignorant rants of a reactionary racist. That said, I view Islam through the same lens as I do Christianity: religion has no place in truly democratic society. It is harmful on both a societal and personal level. Not only has it inarguably been incredibly damaging throughout history, it prevents individuals from finding their true potential and self-worth. As Richard Dawkins puts it, “atheism is life affirming in a way religion can never be” because “the here and now is all we have.” Of course, this exactly the   reason the elite encourages religion for the masses: it helps them ignore the brutal realities of the here and now and focus on a final reward after they are dead and gone.

Now you’ve been playing music all of your adult life if I understand  correctly, and it shows. If you hadn’t turned to music as an artistic expression, what do you think you’d have become? 

A drug addict, dead or in jail. Not a joke. I actually was very close to joining the military when I was in high school, which means I probably never would have discovered the Sex Pistols or Gang of 4 or The Clash. I suppose I might have become a visual artist (a designer or photographer) as that’s something I dabble in to this day. It’s difficult to conjecture because music making has become so intrinsic to who I am. I suppose that’s why I’m still doing it without much, if any, in the way of financial reward or public recognition.

What bands have you been currently following and what band would you  love to tour with if you could choose one, past or present? 

Current obsessions:

Touring in the past? These Arms Are Snakes or Unwound.
Touring in the future? Young Widows or Shipping News.

What was your impression of Europe on your first European tour?

We felt almost guilty every night when we were fed and housed. American clubs/promoters don’t give a shit about taking care of unknown bands. We had a lot of fun but the shows were not very well-attended and we didn’t come close to recouping the cost of our plane tickets. But I am proud of the fact that we booked the tour 100% DIY. No one was going to send us over there, so we fucking did it ourselves — just like everything we do.

Euro Tour: Day 13, Prague

27 Jun

I woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose but some juice and coffee went a long way to making me feel human again. The ride to Prague was a continuation of a conversation I had with Jason the night before. This morning Josip joined in the discussion about the tribulations of being in a band. This tour has been fun, but as far as a smart “business” decision goes, it’s been a disaster. We are losing money and show attendance is slim at best. No one knows who we are or gives a shit. How long do you go on paying your dues before you just say enough is enough? I mean, we feel like we have forward momentum with our music and our playing and our recordings, but there never really seems to be an upward curve to people knowing about us. Unsane played to 80 people in Zagreb recently. If a band of that notoriety and stature limps along like that, what chance in hell do we ever have to be heard? Despite what Bruno keeps saying from the back seat, life’s NOT all about bitches and money. I don’t want to be famous or to be rich. I just want to be able to be known and respected enough to roll into a town and know that some people are looking forward to it and will come to the show. You can’t become known if you don’t tour and it’s almost impossible to tour if you’re not known.

The show at 007 Strahov did a bit to restore some self confidence for both bands. There were probably 30-40 people there and they were there specifically for this show (advertised as “old-school noise-rock”). There were kids up front singing along to our songs. WTF?!?! There were a few mistakes during the show, but it didn’t matter. In fact, it almost seemed to add to the show — to increase the visceral impact. Having people right up to the lip of the stage, savagely banging their heads, fueled our performance and Bill and I hurtled across the stage at and away from each other, always in danger of banging our heads on the extremely low ceiling. Bruno was besieged at the merch table afterwards. Quoth he: ” they were attacking me.” The promoter, Petr was super cool. He gave us a great spinach and potato curry for dinner and was really enthusiastic about the show and our performances. He even arranged a secure parking spot for our van and an awesome clean hostel. All in all, a great night. Too bad the whole tour wasn’t this great.