Tag Archives: hardcore

Racetraitor (interview)

In 1998, when performing songs off of their debut album, hardcore veterans Racetraitor regularly created both controversy and critical debate with their brutally honest shows. Racism, white supremacy, sexism, the prison industry, religion, their own privilege – nothing was off the table. When ‘Burn the Idol of the White Messiah‘ came out, 20 years ago, guitar player Dan remembers that the lyrics and ideas behind the album sparked conflict. Today on the other hand he recognises more of a longing from the audience for such a political debate. I spoke with Dan and bass player Decker about the band reentering the hardcore scene (with a new album that just dropped and is a gargantuan banger) and how things are different for them as artists now, both on and off the stage.

What made you step back up onto the stage?

Decker: The climate around the 2016 elections was the motivating factor for me. Don’t get me wrong, all of the previous US presidents have been illegitimate and served the interests of the white ruling class. Obama, who was the best president we will ever have, is a fucking war criminal. There just seemed to be something else opening up in terms of outright fascist and white supremacist thought which felt different. I mean now 2 years later we see things like the immigration policies which are literally referred to as the “Muslim ban”and it is completely normalized. We have always seen punk and hardcore as cultural resistance and we wanted play our small part.

Dan: For me the most pressing piece was the continued incidents and footage of black being ruthlessly murdered by the police. This wasn’t a foreign idea having done activism with black communities in Chicago, and having heard these accounts, and worse for years. There was something about seeing it, this wave of incidents. I think if you’re not experiencing that reality, no matter how much you try to stand in solidarity etc. it is hard to grasp the brutality without seeing it. For me seeing this re-sparked a level of outrage, and we had this vehicle that gives us a voice to reach more people. It seemed wrong not to use it. Selfishly, it also served as a productive emotional outlet. Add the Trump campaign to that, the reemergence of unapologetic fascism, racism, jingoism in mainstream politics,and the liberal lefts typical weak response. It felt musically and politically relevant.

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Photo by Eduardo Ruiz – IG: @mylegsgavein

The band being active in the 90’s and then stepping back onto the stage now, because of the current political climate, must give you an interesting feel for the scene. How are people receiving your political talk on stage differently now than before? Has much changed?

Dan: We didn’t really know what to expect or how we’d be received. First time around these ideas and politics were much more unfamiliar to the scene and generated a lot of conflict. This time around people seemed to almost be looking for a rallying point for these types of politics. It’s been a warm supportive reception so far with some online trolls here and there keeping it “interesting”. We’ve been able to connect with some bands with similar politics and missions and it’s been overall a very inspiring and humbling experience.

Decker: We spend more time talking about what topics will be addressed in between songs than the actual setlist. We feel a responsibility to clearly communicate the more nuanced content of the songs. I think Mani has done a really good job of personalizing some of the issues in a way that makes it relatable for people who might be hearing these ideas for the first time.

What do you hope to achieve each time you have the stage and an audience in front of you?

Dan: If we inspire others and ourselves to look at how we can be effective instruments of change and action the mission’s accomplished. Again we want to continue to expand ours and others’ awareness of the brutal conditions oppressed communities experience and look at how we can use privilege and access to destroy systems of oppression.

Decker: We are all part of this weird hardcore/punk community, I mean I can literally connect with someone who I have never met before over the first Earth Crisis 7 inch and be friends for life. We hope to play our small part in inspiring this community to be its best self and support each other to be active in whatever way makes sense.

It seems like some people don’t understand that no matter how ‘radical’ any sort of activism can get, it always pales in comparison to how radically horrendous this world can be. How does it affect you when someone says you are ‘too radical’?

Dan: “Too Radical” is an interesting notion. I think what may seem radical to one person, is not that radical to another. We have all personally explored some pretty radical fringe stuff, so in some ways, even though our message is the same, from my perspective we’re being pretty reasonable now hahaha.

In the States I think there is a severe case of historical amnesia; segregation, slavery and lynchings weren’t very long ago. These are institutions that have long lasting effects on the Psyche of communities and huge economic repercussions that are long lasting and still effect people’s lives today. And of course these institutions still exist in different forms today.

So my opinion is we aren’t saying anything that “radical” we are talking about historical and current realities of the political and economic systems and they way the impact human beings. Nothing we’re saying can’t be empirically substantiated. Part of the problem is American society is constructed in a way to keep people practically functionally illiterate, inundated with work, sub-par public education and overwhelmed with consumerism. Add the flood of information from so many varied sources, and people haven’t learned to differentiate what are legitimate empirical sources, it is difficult for people to have a reference point or context for what is happening around them.

Do you have any bad or weird experiences with the audience’s reaction to what you have said on stage?

Decker: When we first started in the 90s there was way more weird reactions from people at the shows – to be honest we caused a lot of it. This time around we have been way more in community building mode than calling people out. I think some people have been disappointed that we aren’t calling everyone crackers.

What advice do you have for young artists who want to use their voice to spread political/activist messages through their music?

Decker: I think you just can’t listen to the cynics and their apologies for this white supremacist capitalist system within our scene. They will always have a reason why you shouldn’t do or say something. It will never look cool. It is important that you are connected to real communities and real work to inform your art or music.

Mani mentioned in a recent interview that the song Dar Al-Harb had some seriously controversial lyrics for its time. Is there anything today that makes you wonder about whether or not to tackle it in lyrics?

Decker: No, I don’t think anything is really off the table. I know Mani had to deal with that song because of his work and I have been asked about the band a few times in my “professional life” but our lyrics aren’t even that straight forward anyway. They are more in the modality of Sufi poetry than traditional protest songs. If we could write a song like Phil Ochs or Nina Simone we would be stoked but I think it just doesn’t come out that way for Mani or I when we write them. It’s these interviews that will get us in trouble haha!!!

You recently released a single, BLK XMAS, off a new LP. Can you tell us a bit about how the creative process has been different now than on for example Burn The Idol of the White Messiah (1998)?

Dan: One thing that has been amazing is re engaging with the band, in some ways feels seamless. I love that the song was fully collaborative. Everyone has a significant finger print on it. The other thing I love about it is the skeleton was completed Xmas eve.

Probably the biggest aspect that has been different on the new material (Invisible Battles…, By the time… and 2042) is technology. A lot of the “skeletons” of songs are demoed with me and Decker in Chicago, on Garage Band, then sent out, and worked over by everyone. Without that we couldn’t have done it. The current technology gives us more ability to continue the writing process in a collaborative way with Andy in Portland, Mani in NY, me and Decker in Chicago.

I think we’re all older, slightly better at communicating (haha) and appreciate each other and the process in a wholly different way then from when we were kids.

Will you revive Racetraitor again in 2042?

Decker: God no.

Are you following any current protest music?

Dan: Definitely Run the Jewels, SECT, HIRS collective, Wake of Humanity, La Armada, and Propagandhi, there is so much good music out there right now it’s hard to keep up.

Decker: Our collective favorite newer band is Redbait from St. Louis. If you haven’t already, you really need to check them out!

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Photo by Eduardo Ruiz – IG: @mylegsgavein

Do you feel there is a lot of bands today using their voice responsibly or not enough?

Dan: “It seems there are a lot of bands using their voice in that way. But there is also a lot of music out there, so I don’t know if proportionally it’s increased. Obviously I think protest music is important, but I think music that delves into different and all human experience is important as well.”

Outside Racetraitor, do you partake in your community or activism of any sort?

Decker: “We are involved at various levels in our personal and professional lives. If it was any other way I don’t think this band would work. They range from immigration to human rights to “criminal justice” reform to environmental to community organizing work. I specifically have been very much involved in community violence prevention in the US and Latin America, working to end mass incarceration here in the US, and have long standing work/ties to post-genocide Guatemala. I don’t think any of us in Racetraitor are under the illusion that we are doing enough. What we love about punk and hardcore is that it can be a community that supports each other to be more active in the cities/countries where we live. That’s what we are interested in. Fuck cynicism.”

What is on the horizon for the band?

Decker: “We are putting out the record 2042 on Good Fight this month (October) and will be playing a bunch of shows over the course of 2019. We are also working on a project that is going to combine the lyrical content of the band with short documentary series. The members of the band are actively involved in the issues we write songs about and are privileged enough to have access to many places and people that many do not. The project is our attempt to bridge the two and communicate the larger issues outside of a two minute hardcore/punk song. We will see if we can pull it off.”

Thank you again for participating and for the music! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

Decker: “Thanks for the interest and I would strongly suggest that everyone takes a hour of their day and listen to Public Enemy’s ‘Fear of a Black Planet’.”

 

2042 is out on Good Fight Records on October 12th. Below is the second single off the new album, titled Cataclysm, featuring members of La Armada, Decline, Redbait, LIFES, Through N ThroughMalinche and Turnspit. The cover photo is by Eduardo Ruiz – IG: @mylegsgavein


Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys (interview)

Cars, tractors and other vehicles are important to the writing process for Adelaide’s feminist, punk rock quartet Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys as bassist and vocalist Eb tells me via email. Words apparently come storming to her while driving and even the band’s unique name came to her while driving a tractor (a Simpsons episode reference where Chief Wiggum calls Marge both ‘Stabbitha’ and ‘The Knifey Wifey’).

SATKW just released their first full length album, following the brilliant 2016 effort, Cats Against Cat Calls. Eb told me about the approach they took to the creative process on ‘Worriers’ and the differences to the previous album.

“I guess the main difference in the process of making ‘Worriers’ is when we booked in the recording we only had a couple of songs fully written. So it was a different process in that we were more, almost forced, to write songs rather than have a few up our sleeves that Eb had already written like on ‘Cats Against Cat Calls’. We also had a lot better idea of what we wanted the finished record to sound like and were able to communicate that a bit better to Uptoe (Alex Upton – the Hard Aches).

As far as the creative process goes, there were a lot of lyrics written while driving around in my car, a lot of music written on my couch while being harassed by 2 needy dogs and couple written in our actual rehearsal space. Sass and I (Eb) also consulted each other a fair bit more regarding the lyrics on the album as well and how they were going to fit into the actual songs. I have a tendency to write way too many lyrics for short songs haha.”

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‘WORRIERS’, is out now.

SATKW have a lot to say. Which is understandable and much appreciated here at Shouts. While they cover a vast political ground on ‘Worriers’ Eb explained there was the personal stuff that was the toughest to put out.

“There’s a whole lot of basically saying ‘we’ve had enough of your shit’. Whether that be sexism, racism, domestic violence, bigotry or double standards in general. The song ‘Worriers’ is the one that was the hardest to put out there though as I wrote it about how coming out to your parents is fucking terrifying!”

 

 

As Eb describes there seems to be quite a decent amount of bands working in Adelaide these days that use their voice responsibly. We at Shouts can agree that there is no lack of protest music coming out of Australia these days as we have recently interviewed two artists out of neighbouring Melbourne (Formidable Vegetable Sound System and Pataphysics). I asked Eb what they wanted to achieve with their music and besides the chance to tour internationally she told me how they want to inspire girls to use their voices.

“…we want help young people, particularly young women, queer/trans/nb kids see that their voices and experiences are important. We want to hear what you’ve got to say and hope our art inspires you to put yours out there too.”

 

I also asked the band if they had some recommendations and favourites when it comes to protest music. They of course answered the call by name dropping legends like Anti Flag and Bad Religion but also gave a shout out to some fierce, bands that, just like SATKW, scream their lungs out for the voiceless of this world. These include Cable Ties, Against Me, Outright,  Gouge Away, Dream Nails and Divide and Dissolve.

 

When asked what is on the horizon for Stabbitha and the Knifey Wifeys, besides writing music and attending to extra curricular activism Eb told me that they spend a good amount of time to “convince our bosses to give us time off work so we can tour interstate more!”

Let’s just hope exactly that happens. Sponsor the band, let’s spread this protest music and check out their album ‘Worriers’ below.

 

War On Women (interview)

 

They play fast, conscious hardcore punk music. They sing and shout about equality, street harassment, the gender wage gap to mention only a few issues and they have a new album coming out in 2018. Shouts contacted the band and Shawna from War On Women was kind enough to participate and answer a few questions.

 

For those who are not familiar with War On Women can you tell us a bit about the group?

War On Women is a feminist punk band from Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

 

What do you hope to achieve through your music?

First and foremost we play music that we want to play! I don’t see a point in sharing our message of equality with others if it’s unlistenable. So, we want to make good music, with intersectional-feminist themes, that validate what people are feeling, as well as educate folks on something they maybe didn’t know about.

 

Are you a part of a strong scene of like minded bands or do you feel isolated at times?

I do think there is something special to being grouped in with other political bands, but we don’t all have a secret Facebook group where we chat, though maybe we should!

 

What are some of your favorite political bands, current or not?

Well the question might be what constitutes a “political band”? Are you political if you talk about social issues? Does feminism count as political because “the personal is political” and men in charge of governing seem to politicize women’s bodies? Does being a non-white man mean that anything you do is automatically politicized? The most obvious bands that come to mind are Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Strike Anywhere, Propagandhi, GLOSS…But that’s a really incomplete list! I’d rather people comment on this interview with their fave political bands!

 

Let’s hope people do exactly that. Do you partake in any extra curricular, political activities besides the music?

Yes I do, for years I’ve run the local Hollaback! chapter in Baltimore (which is an anti-street harassment organization) and I teach DIY clubs and venues how to become safer spaces.

 

What’s next up for War On Women?

We just finished recording a new record, which will be on Bridge Nine Records in 2018, and we’re planning to do some touring when it’s released. If there are any big bands from your country that want to take us on tour, let us know!

 

Thank you very much for participating in our project and for the music you make.

That’s very kind, thank you!