In 2019, the urgency of anarcho punk’s message is just as relevant, if not more so, than in 1982. Punks with informed opinions and a ferocity towards the injustices of government and mankind as a whole continue to make their voices heard amid a cultural atmosphere of ignorance and submission. Vive Le Rock caught up with Bad Breeding, who carry the flame of anarcho wrath into the 21st century.
You formed in 2013 in Stevenage, how did you all get together and what’s the journey been like?
We’ve been friends since we were kids and went to the same secondary school. There was a time in the summer of 2013 when we were all at a bit of a loose end in terms of employment and decided to do something in the evenings that would serve as a bit of a release from the slog of labouring shifts and agency work. Bad Breeding has allowed us to contribute to a lot of political and cultural discussions we’ve felt marginalised from growing up in somewhere like Stevenage. It’s given us an outlet of expression that we haven’t been able to construct elsewhere in our working lives.
How long did it take to write and record this album and what do you want people to get out of it?
We wrote the bulk of Exiled in a month or two after getting back from a European tour last October. We had structures and a few songs down before we left, but most of them were finished off in the autumn after spending a month or so travelling around in the van. Exiled further explores the systemic, pernicious con-tricks of neoliberalism that have dogged and punished vast sections of the British working class since Thatcher through Blair and beyond into the sort of ideological contempt that is being played out now under the Conservatives. I think there’s been a trend in mainstream guitar music in recent years to confuse working-class resistance with unshakeable victimhood. Things seems to be put through a patronising or condescending liberal lens. I think you tend to get a lot of virtue signalling and weird class tourism from bands. We wanted to write a record that spelled out the rank injustices experienced on a daily basis as they are in the cold light of day – without pretence or performative gesturing.
Since the first wave of anarcho punk, what did those bands change and achieve?
The thing I always took from that period was the emphasis on a collective effort to push for change – whether that be within immediate music scenes, local community issues or wider constructs within the political landscape. I wouldn’t term myself as an anarchist, I would define myself as a socialist, but those anarcho bands were important in opening up political dialogue within music that wasn’t led by the capitalist class and wasn’t constricted by the overbearing nature of liberal intellectualism. It placed people at the heart of everything and inspired collective politicisation without people being put off by the misdirection of the supposedly complex political realities laid out by late capitalism. Educationally those bands played an important role in offering a route into politics that didn’t have to be defined by a lofty education and were often more aligned with direct action. Through pamphleting, art and organising, they democratised access to radical information, arguments and varying modes of resistance.
What message are you spreading?
The intention is to create records and take part in shows that centre on the spirit of the collective and allow people to take part in political discussions without feeling marginalised or belittled. For me you’ve got to use genuine anger and frustration as a means of bringing people together. Channelling anger and frustration into something that people can relate to at an immediate level has always seemed a positive practice for me. If it can open up doors for people to read up on particular issues or get involved in local, direct work then that’s progress in my mind.
What other bands do you feel are vital to the anarcho scene now and why?
Nicky Rat, who produces most of the band’s artwork, has put together a brilliant band called Subdued. I think they’re pretty crucial at the moment. It sort of takes the best and coldest parts of Amebix and a lot of those early bands on Spiderleg Records and combines them with that deathly smog of stuff like Celtic Frost. There are lots of exciting things happening in the DIY scene both here and in Europe at the moment, which aren’t necessarily defined by anarchism, but are certainly driven by a collective desire to bring people together and give bands a chance to play shows and tour.
What are some influential bands to you and some key albums that inspire you?
Being born in 1990 most of my inspiration started with an inherited record collection and all the literature and artwork that came with it. Flux of Pink Indians and a lot of the bands on Spiderleg (Amebix, Subhumans, The System, Kronstadt Uprising) are important to us. Crass and some of the bands on Crass Records too (Zounds, Omega Tribe, DIRT, The Mob). The Six-Minute War EPs are some of my favourites and the later Fallout records too. No Trend’s Too Many Humans is a crucial one within the band as a document of progressive nihilism. They had so much commitment to messing with conformity and people’s heads. That band is a standalone art form in its own right. There’s plenty of other stuff too – Icons of Filth, S.A.S, Instigators, Reality Control and the Epileptics.
What do you think of Crass?
They’ve been a vital entry point for us, especially in understanding the importance of collective power and collaboration, although I wouldn’t say we share the same politics. One of the things that always drew me to Crass was the intention to question and resist without being overbearing or condescending. It didn’t smack of being educationally pious, but more of a group that asked people to question what was around them. Some of their comments on the links between capital, power and the condition of our environment seem to be ringing truer than ever as we become acutely more aware that we’re enduring a vile system that is wholly incompatible with the survival of life on our planet. The use of different elements of media has appealed to us too – the use of video, literature and some of the more direct methods of resistance that came to define a lot of anarcho bands at the time. In terms of artwork we’ve tried to use that idea of writing to help further the points on our records by including essays and other bits of literature with the releases.
Do you go along with the DIY ethic and if so, how?
Stevenage hasn’t got a live scene and licensing issues make it difficult to put on shows. You’d need people wanting to come out too so in that regard building something based around music here has been difficult. We had Bowes Lyon House in the 80s that put on a lot of great anarcho bands but sadly they don’t do shows there anymore. Instead we’ve been involved with different movements across Europe. For example, we did a Rote Hilfe fundraiser in 2017 to help pay the legal costs for those arrested at the G20 protests in Hamburg, while we’ve also taken part in fundraisers for No Tav and a number of other movements in Italy. We get involved wherever we can. Locally our work has been less built around shows and more focused on our community food bank and locally-run group People for People – Stevenage, which encourages the use of direct methods to help alleviate the strain of austerity taking grip in the town.
If Brexit was handed over to you – how would you deal with it?
I can’t answer on behalf of the band unfortunately. We’ve all got differing viewpoints and it’d take a while before we got anywhere near a coherent answer. It’s taken two years to reach this weird impasse so imagine the arguments we’ve had amongst ourselves during that time. Personally I feel the only democratic option is to deliver what people voted for. We risk conceding huge amounts of ground to the right if people’s votes are done away with. There was evidently misdirection on both sides of the debate and I think that was an honest measure of just how much political self-interest governed each campaign. That said, I think it would be dismissive to assume that people were duped or voted solely on ideologically nationalistic lines as opposed to their own economic experiences and material conditions. Some sections of the mainstream press ran with the idea that Brexit purely centred on reactionary nationalism and xenophobia, which may have been true in some cases, but they never really gave space to acute concerns regarding the role of the European Union as a damaging neoliberal cartel. There are important questions to be asked of the EU as a reactionary force of late capitalism and its exploitation of workers both here and in mainland Europe. If we’re striving for revolutionary challenges to the nefarious and exploitative structures that govern our lives then it’s vital we should hold a mirror up to a neoliberal construct backed by corporate banks, big business and imperialistic forces like NATO.
What’s lined up next for the band in 2019?
We’ll be doing some shows with Uniform from New York City at the back end of July – Bristol, Hull, Leeds, Cardiff and London. We should get out to do another European tour in September and hopefully get over to the United States where Iron Lung are releasing the record too.
Exiled by Bad Breeding is out now through One Little Indian.
For fans of: Subhumans, Flux of Pink Indians, Subdued
Bad Breeding are featured in the current issue of Vive Le Rock!
Pic by Katie Rose