Tag Archives: anti-war

Exclusive Video Premiere: Checkpoint/Dompass/Hajiz by Free Radicals

By Profula – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Karankawa was an indigenous tribe that lived along the coast of the Gulf of México. Along with the Atakapa tribe these indigienous communities thrived for a few thousand years in the area before Spanish people, under the command of royalty and religion, invaded the land, bringing disease and terror.

Today, ancestors of these people live scattered around northern México as well as the greater Houston area. The city of Houston is the fourth most populous city in the US and now considered one of the most diverse cities in the country. According to the 2020 census Hispanic, Latino, African-American and Asian people make up around 70% of the population.

Where some people might see such diversity of ethnicity and cultures as a positive and enriching thing, others find it bothersome and prefer their life in a monotonous bubble. In the whole of the United States clashes have occurred because of race, gender and religious beliefs. In the melting pot that is Houston, one musical group in particular has been at the forefront of protests and marches against racism, against wars, for equality, against police brutality, support Palestine, et cetera. This is the musical genre soup that is Free Radicals.

The band members have throughout their 20 odd year career mostly released instrumental music and used their voices rather at before mentioned marches and protests. But throughout their career the band has collaborated with rappers, singers and spoken word artists who have lent their voices to various projects. In 2020 the band released the critically acclaimed ‘White Power Outage vol. 1’ which, in a very direct way addresses denazification in the US, or rather the lack thereof. Now, two years later, the band is back with vol. 2 and we could not be more excited to premiere one of the singles off of the new album and its corresponding music video.

I’m honored to have had the opportunity to converse with the band via email and I’m stoked to now share the Q and A with the Shouts audience.

Halldór Kristínarson: Can you tell me a bit about the new volume and in particular the song/video we are premiering, ‘Checkpoint/Dompass/Hajiz’?

Free Radicals: Seven years ago, Free Radicals released the instrumental version of Checkpoint on our breakdance music album Freedom of Movement.  We always knew we wanted to come back to the track and do a rap version, and now finally, the whole project has come together with four powerful and musical voices. We decided we could only do the topic justice if we included rappers from Houston, Palestine, and South Africa. Apparently, having English, Afrikaans, and Arabic lyrics on the same tune is not a normal thing to do, because when we registered the song on YouTube and on streaming services, we could choose to list only one language.

We first invited EQuality, who has been collaborating with Free Radicals since our 2004 album Aerial Bombardment with his insane spoken word piece We All Inhale. He had also joined us to take on Israeli apartheid on Every Wall on our 2012 album The Freedom Fence. He opens up  Checkpoint/Dompass/Hajiz for his fellow rappers with a bang. When we the got tracks from Prince Alfarra from the Gaza Strip, and Jitsvinger from South Africa, we were completely blown away. 

We knew that this song was going to be everything we had imagined for years, but the icing on the cake was the voice of one of our mentors, Lindi Yeni, a South African who taught dance in Houston for many years. Her theatrical experience kicked in and she improvised a skit between herself and a South African border checkpoint guard during apartheid. Lindi is a legendary figure in Houston, who helped arrange political asylum for South African performers during the apartheid years, and is seen here performing for Nelson Mandela.

To say that this was our dream team would be an understatement!

Exclusive Premiere:
Checkpoint/Dompass/Hajiz by Free Radicals

HK: Some protest musicians are subtle and poetic, hiding a bit their messages while others tackle issues very openly in their lyrics. What can you tell me about the evolution of your style of protest music, did you consciously reach this point or was it all a natural happening?

FR: Recently, on social media, someone commented about the album cover for White Power Outage Volume 2, saying “What is this? Some kind of subtle attempt to imply that businessmen, judges, police, and politicians are all white supremacists?” We responded, “We weren’t trying to be subtle!” 

We live in a country that has had no reckoning with our history of apartheid and genocide. In Germany, there are zero statues of Nazis that are still standing, they teach the Holocaust, racism, and genocide in school. The United States has only barely ever started the process of denazification. Here, in the South, every attempt to teach real US history in schools is attacked, statues of slave owners and Indian killers abound. There’s no subtlety, and we’re certainly not trying to be subtle when responding to it.

Our political messaging comes from the street protests that we perform at. Our marching band, the Free Rads Street Band, has marched with Palestinians protesting Israeli oppression, Muslims and other groups fighting against Muslim ban laws in India, janitors demanding a living wage, anti-war protests, anti-corporate greed protests, students demanding gun control, people for women’s rights, etc. 

Sometimes, journalists have mentioned that we were talking about border walls in 2012, years before Trump, and oil wars in 1998, years before the 2003 Iraq War, as if that was somehow prophetic. But there was nothing prophetic about it at all. There were protests against border walls in Texas and Palestine all the way back to the 90s, and of course, there were protests against the earlier Iraq war in 1990. Protests in the streets have been shouting about these issues for decades, and we just try to amplify those messages.

HK: How important is it for you to be able to use your art as a vessel for political activism?

FR: Our albums have always had political themes. Our first release, The Rising Tide Sinks all in 1998 was the beginning of a long collaboration between our musicians, social movements, and visual artist John Kitses. However, 99% of the shows that we’ve played have been just instrumental music, and we don’t make political speeches from the bandstand. We play at parties and clubs, weddings and funerals, street protests and break dance competitions. So, we’re used to just focusing on instrumental music most of the time, with politics only really coming in at the street protests, and when we release an album.

HK: How is the scene in Houston, when it comes to socially conscious music and art? Are there many artists who use their talents to raise awareness or promote a positive message of change?

FR: With the most diverse neighborhoods in the entire world, the Greater Houston area has all kinds of pockets of resistance and art. There are incredible LatinX, Black, Asian, indigenous, African, Muslim, and white musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, dancers, and comedians who wouldn’t even be capable of leaving off political themes from their arts, it’s too much a part of them.

Just to mention some of the Houston artists who have participated in the White Power Outage albums with us…  Swatara Olushola fought to expose the scandal of the Sugar Land 95. Obidike Kamau was the long time host of Self Determination on KPFT, and is an activist for reparations. Marlon ‘Marley’ Lizama teaches writing to incarcerated youth. Jason Jackson teaches music to refugees and kids in shelters with Nameless Sound. Zack Hamburg blogs about cars and climate change. Henry ‘Hennessy’ Alvarez is part of the local chapter of the Brown BeretsKarina NistalMichele ThibeauxEQuality, 200 Texas Poet Laureate Lupe MendezDeniz ‘deecolonize’ Lopez, and Nosaprise all make music about social justice. Brian Is Ze has an intersectional take on gender and health care issues. Akua Holt is the host of Pan African Journal on KPFT.

We didn’t just invite rappers, singers, comedians, and spoken word artists who we like listening to, we focused on connecting with artists who are also activists!

HK: What do you hope to achieve with your latest album?

FR: We hope that the album will be the soundtrack for dismantling white supremacy, corporate capitalism, the military industrial complex, and environmental destruction! Or, if we fail, we hope the album can be an elegy for the dream of a sustainable and equitable world.

HK: What is on the horizon for you?

FR: White Power Outage vol. 2 features 66+ voices of all ages, and right now, we are especially looking forward to our June 7 concert with living legend Harry Sheppard, our 94 year old mentor, band member, and friend.

HK: Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

FR: On the two volumes of White Power Outage you will hear the beautful voices of the kids from Peace Camp Houston chanting these:

Down Down with Deportation!
Up Up with Liberation!
No Hate! No Fear!
Immigrants Are Welcome Here!
¡Racista, escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha!
Freedom for All! No Cages, No Walls!


A Shouts Interview With Igor Sydorenko Of Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus

Stoned Jesus. Image retrieved from the band’s Facebook page.

Continuing efforts to engage with Ukrainian artists and musicians in the midst of the Russian invasion that is now into its third month, I had the recent pleasure of connecting with Igor Sydorenko, vocalist and guitarist of Stoned Jesus—one of Ukraine’s most iconic reefer-shrouded outfits.

Now signed to the legendary international label of heavy-making oddballs, Season of Mist, Stoned Jesus carries the bitumen-soaked torch of sludgy, geological stoner rock.

Brandishing abundant low-end fuzz, loose yet patient song structures that build to monolithic crescendos, and Iommi-inspired riffs that are both celestial and subterranean, Stoned Jesus are unique in the stoner/doom metal scene with their simultaneous firm foothold in the realms of more progressive explorations.

Igor was gracious enough to answer some questions about his band and their current activity, which I’m excited to share below.

NY: Thanks so much for making the time for this, Igor. Pleasure to virtually make your acquaintance.

Igor Sydorenko: Sure thing, nice to e-meet you! Let’s go!

NY: Where are you based right now, and what are things like there as Russian aggression intensifies?

IS: I wouldn’t say it intensifies, really, quite the contrary—they’re pretty laughable in land combat, so obviously they have stalled. Now they have been using mostly airstrikes in the past week. I left Kyiv on the second day of the full-blown invasion and now I am in central Ukraine.

Our drummer, Dmytro, is in Kharkiv volunteering with the locals while the city is being obliterated by Russian airstrikes. People can simply Google pictures or videos to see the scale of destruction; it’s inhumane.

They never aim at military objects, they just bomb regular houses, schools, and hospitals like they did in Chechnya, Georgia, and Syria. Sergii, our bass player, is in his hometown in central Ukraine, also helping as much as he can. The whole country is incredibly united at the moment. Russian TV would probably call this “nationalism,” lol.

NY: Psychedelic music seems to be very healthy and alive in Ukraine. Can you tell me about the scene?

IS: Yeah! We’ve been there since the very beginning (hence the ridiculous name of the band), and our first record is a 100% stoner doom album. But, you know, the more you grow as a songwriter, the more you progress as a band, the less you really think about the genre and its limitations.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m following the new bands and I’m trying to listen to each and every new release here in the Ukrainian underground. I’m even curating a yearly music festival called Winter Mass—a festival for Ukrainian-only stoner/psych/prog/doom/post-whatever artists/bands. I would say, though, that a lot of great acts fall between genres, you know? So, for me, it’s definitely not about stoner or sludge exclusively.

I’ve always been pretty bummed out about the fact that many people can’t get past our name—they think we’re some joke weed act, not the prog-rock auteurs like I myself envision us in my head! But really, everything seems so small and unimportant now. I’m just happy a lot of people support us and our country; this is all that matters at the moment.

Stoned Jesus. Image retrieved from the band’s Facebook page.

NY: I read an interview with you where you discussed a bit of the gear you were using. The interview is a year or two old now, but as a gearhead myself, I’m curious about what kind of hardware you are playing on to get that thick syrupy sludgy sound?

IS: Hah, I don’t think much has changed since then. We basically use whatever is available; we don’t have our own backline or our own signature sound, and dare I suggest this flexibility makes us who we are. Give us any gear and a room full of people, and see these people get crazy soon!

NY: Before the war, what did a day in your life look like? What does it look like now?

IS: Wake up, morning coffee, and walk in the park. Then for the whole day I’m sifting through loads of emails and messages—as band manager I do all the paperwork for Stoned Jesus, including label and booking communications, interviews, merch, logistics, all social media, etc. I’m listening to a lot of music while doing all that, and then in the evening I can finally relax.

Sometimes I remember I also play guitar in this band, so I do play some, but right now I can’t play my guitars. I left them in Kyiv and can only pray they’re still there and that my flat isn’t ruined or marauded. I have to do basically everything else because the band needs to keep going. I do all I can to get it done!

Read also: “The Heart Is Supposed To Beat. And It Will Beat:” A Wartime Conversation With Ukrainian Rocker, Artem Dudko, From Straytones

NY: I recently interviewed Artem from Straytones, and he had very positive things to say about you and Stoned Jesus. He told me that when COVID started you began doing standup comedy? Tell me about that.

IS: Busted! Yep, I’ve been always interested in comedy, and with 2020 being such a gloomy one, I figured I needed a sort of therapy. Instead of going to a shrink, I chose to go to a local open mic, and somehow it worked, hehe.

So yeah, I’ve been doing this for almost year and a half now, and right before the full-blown war started, I was supposed to film my best 10 minutes of material! I wonder how this will change when we win and I’m back to the comedy…if I’m back. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m going to do when we’re through with this war.

NY: Can you share some highlight experiences from touring with Stoned Jesus? What’s life like on the road?

IS: I’m an introvert, so it kind of sucks for me, haha! But I’m also an exhibitionist in the creative kind of way, and I’ve always needed to share my art with people, so I’ve had to adapt. Obviously touring and playing music is heaven compared to the last two months, and it sucks our huge European tour for April had to be cancelled. Even if everything had been fine by April, we would still be needed here in Ukraine. At least that’s how we feel about it.

NY: What was one of your most memorable performances with Stoned Jesus? What made it so memorable?

IS: Opening for Deep Purple in Kyiv in 2018 was very emotional. First of all, this is the biggest audience we’d played to so far—almost 10,000 people! And second, this is my father’s favourite band. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2017, and I dedicated our set to him. Plus, seeing Deep Purple now actively supporting Ukraine warms my heart. We’re all on the right side of history here!

“It’s always very tough to laugh in the face of death, and I know thousands of Ukrainians have lost their friends and relatives since the war started, but no one can take our spirit, our will, away from us, and humour is a huge part of this.”

NY: When I talked with Artem, he spoke about how Ukrainian people are also keeping their spirits up and keeping humor in their lives during this time. He mentioned the widespread circulation of humorous memes depicting scenes from the war and light-hearted responses to some of the things that are happening. In your opinion, as a citizen, artist, and comedian yourself, what is the role or significance of humor in this time? How are you personally keeping your spirits up in the face of war?

IS: It’s vital. It’s also in Ukraine’s blood. We’ve been oppressed by Russians for centuries and misunderstood by many westerners for decades, so we have no one to rely on but our own people and our own spirit. And what else lifts your spirit if not something funny? Like a lame Russian army with their ancient equipment!

It’s always very tough to laugh in the face of death, and I know thousands of Ukrainians have lost their friends and relatives since the war started, but no one can take our spirit, our will, away from us, and humour is a huge part of this.

Besides, Russian propaganda literally begs to be memed upon on a daily basis—it’s so unrealistic and batshit insane! If anyone falls for it they should check their IQ immediately.

NY: What do you do outside of Stoned Jesus?

IS: Well, all of us in Stoned Jesus have always had to have a side gig or two in between touring because it’s tough to survive being an underground musician only.

Dima was working on a studio that is now being used as a shelter in Kharkiv; Sergii is an aspiring video editor (drop him a line if you need a 3D ad or something!), and I was flirting with stand-up comedy as you already know, while also writing some movie treatments and music reviews.

It all seems so distant now, but I believe we’ll return to our normal life soon, even though it will never be the same again.

NY: What would you ask of your international fans and supporters right now? How can people around the world help?

IS: Spreading the word helps the most. Unfortunately, many people (even politicians!) still believe that this is just a temporary brotherly quarrel, not a full-blown war with thousands of causalities already.

The way Russia wages this war—destroying hospitals and regular houses from the air, turning Mariupol into the new Sarajevo—must be scrutinized also.

Fighting the Russian fake news and conspiracies helps a lot as well, however absurd they are. And, of course, donating to Ukraine helps a lot. Our economy stalled due to the war and it needs time and assistance to get back to normal.

You can help out here: https://supportukrainenow.org

And here: https://war.ukraine.ua/support-ukraine

Just make sure you’re choosing a real Ukrainian charity, not some shady “organization” that registered out of nowhere a few days ago.

With the world’s help, Ukraine will power through! Slava Ukraini, and cheers from Stoned Jesus!


Julian Lennon Breaks His Vow And Performs ‘Imagine’ For The First Time To Raise Funds For Ukraine (Video)

“I had always said, that the only time I would ever consider singing ‘Imagine’ would be if it was the ‘End of the World’,”

The son of the activist Beatle has broken his vow to never perform his father’s legendary ode to peace.

Current tragedies happening in Ukraine motivated Julian Lennon to perform ‘Imagine’ for the first time ever, as part of the Stand Up For Ukraine campaign, a global fund-raising effort broadcast from Warsaw, Poland.

“As a human, and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way I could.”

It has been reported that over $10 billion (9 billion euros) has been pledged to support those who have had to flee their homes.

“The $4.6 billion (4.1 billion euros) in grants and $5.5 billion (5 billion euros) in loans will support refugee efforts in Ukraine in providing accommodation and economic security, as well as support for grassroots organizations and UN agencies working with refugees and internally displaced people.”