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Interview With Active Minds Pt. 2

Here’s the second part of the interview done by Deefekt (Kismet HC) with Bobs from AM. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

The Interview Part 2

Dee: Right, let’s take it back a bit and delve into the beginnings of your exposure into this seedy world of Punk Rock, what was the band that brought it to you, when did you know that this was going to be a life-changing experience?

Bobs: Our older brother, who is six years older than me, got into punk in ’77 and his interest got us into it. I was only 10 or 11 years old at the time. He’d moved on to other things within a year or so, but we stuck with it. Favourite band back then was probably The Damned – I seem to remember them having more of an impact on me than anyone else. The Stranglers, The Clash, The Jam and early Ultravox also made a big impression – along with the Pistols, of course.

When did I know this was going to be a “life changing experience”? I’m not sure I ever really saw it that way, as it’s something I got into at such an early age. When you’re 10 years old, you life path is not really set in any case, so it’s not like something came along and set it off in a new direction. I guess that when I started getting involved in playing in bands and distributing records (when I was around 16 or 17 years old) then I started becoming aware that I was becoming actively involved in something long-term.

So what has kept you within the sphere of hardcore punk? Your musical tastes I know are very eclectic, so what still draws you to playing what is now a musical style that is well into its second decade of existence.

I’d say it was well into its third decade now (surely I haven’t taken that long to answer this interview?). Yes, we do have quite a wide musical taste, but the DIY political music scene is where we belong really. Fast, hardcore punk music still excites me – even nearly 30 years after I first heard it. It’s hard to explain why, but I guess it sounds fresh and genuine – it doesn’t need masses of cash and expensive gear, or gimmicky stage shows. It’s just an honest expression of how people feel – put into a musical form.

Given our own limited musical prowess, there’s nowhere else that we’d fit in really!

Let’s talk a little about the recent album, you recorded it with Alex from Krupskaya in his studio and I think it is safe to say it is probably Active Minds’ most studio accomplished record, it seemed shall we say for use of another word more professionally approached, was that something you intended or Alex’s unusual studio approach?

There was about 7 years gap between recording our previous EP and doing the last album. In that time I think a number of things changed – that included digital recording technology and also our own views. We used to stick quite rigidly to recording all our stuff live in the studio, which we felt was the most honest way of capturing what we were.

When we came to doing the last album, we’d moved away from that a bit. We felt that times had changed to such an extent that we’d be playing to an ever-decreasing clique of people if we recorded in the same way as we used to do, as people these days are used to a more polished sound (without all the mistakes and bum notes left in!).

We’d never wanted to place ourselves in a sub-cultural cul-de-sac, and always wanted to be able to reach other people who weren’t already immersed in the DIY sub-culture. So we didn’t want to end with a sound so raw and ragged that it alienated a lot of people who might otherwise have listened to it.

Alex’s involvement certainly helped a lot, because we knew him well and he liked our stuff – he could see what we were trying to do, and was also quite happy about letting us be very “hands-on” during the mixing stages. And we were pretty happy with the finished result too…

I’d also like to talk about a couple of songs on the new album, starting with the album’s first song, ‘In God We’re Trussed’. There is an intelligent examination of the effects of religion and the church’s religious system attempting to reach God, and religion’s more man-made doctrine and restrictions of do’s and don’ts that produces bondage, bitching and banality?

Is there a question in there? 🙂

Secondly it’s perfectly obvious the system doesn’t work. If we do not take an active role in how the government and economy are organized, are we becoming victims to the larger political and economic processes that dictate our lives? I’m saying this because you play an active role in your local council/government elected body. Do you see the inner workings of the governmental process and the faults that go with it?

Yes, I’m currently an elected local councillor, which gives me an insight into the workings of the governmental process and it’s faults. It also gives me an insight into the parts of it that do work quite well – and the limitations of citizens doing things without some sort of organised administration.

You have to deal with all sorts from the public – apathy, prejudice, blind opposition to anything remotely community-spirited, etc. You also have to deal with all sorts from council officers – mindless bureaucracy, conservatism with a small “c”, protection of personal status and power. But amongst all that there’re also some genuine people in all areas who are doing their best to make a real positive difference for people. You just need to figure out who are the good guys, and develop a strategy for handling the bad ones.

Whilst I’m not advocating that everyone gets involved in local politics like that (as it can be a recipe for driving you crazy), I do think that we need to get more actively involved in the decisions that affect our lives, so that we don’t feel like victims of something that’s being done to us by something we feel unconnected to.

It’s difficult for a lot of people on the street to distinguish one political party from another, each seemingly have a similar ‘fiscal conservatism’ that has come to mean reduced spending unless it benefits the super-rich, and structure the tax code to favour the rich and corporations regardless of the consequences in the public arena.

You mention earlier about corporate owned companies and our use of their products, do you think that we can use various strategies for reclaiming power from big corporations or the government?

DIY ideology can help reclaim power from big corporations – whether that’s making your own music, making your own clothes or growing your own food. Yes, we all use products from corporations, but the extent to which we’re reliant on them to provide everything in our lives is something we can all have a bit of control over.

I think the problems with political parties looking the same as each other (the “main three” in the UK, anyway) is to do with both living in a post-idealogical age and also with our “first-past-the-post” electoral system. All of that has tended to drag all political parties (those seeking to be successful anyway) in towards the political centre. They feel that their job now is mould themselves to fit with the views of mainstream society, rather than have an ideology which they go out and persuade people of. This is very sad in a modern world where mainstream economic thinking is now showing very visible signs of falling to pieces which nobody can ignore anymore.

We are really crying out for some radical analysis which highlights the inbuilt limitations of our current economic system. But the main political parties shy away from providing that analysis for risk of alienating people – resulting in a general political consensus in support of the status-quo.

What can we do to regain some control from or over governments? Get informed, get empowered, and get involved in things going on in the wider community. Organised groups have a voice that greatly magnifies the influence of the individuals that comprise them. And I think it’s a mistake to imagine that there is some government “machine” which exists to prevent change – if change happens at the grass-roots it can (and does) filter up into government thinking at all levels.

Right tell us some information on future plans, gigs/tours, releases, your label ‘Loony Tunes’ has recently been active on re-releasing some older material by other bands, can you elaborate on this, why past recordings, would you ever consider ‘down-loadable’ material instead of the vinyl format?

As well as the last Active Minds album, we’ve put out three other albums in the past two years – two of older material from the ’80s (Kulturkampf, from Barnsley, and Euthanasie, from Germany), and one featuring a modern band (Intro5pect, from the USA).

The decision to release Kulturkampf and Euthanasie really came about because they were both tapes that we’d had kicking about for many years, and were things that we always felt should have come out on vinyl, but never did. In that way, they were both things that we’ve had in mind to put out for many years. Finally getting a new Active Minds LP out was the catalyst for us kick-starting the label again and saying to ourselves that if we really wanted to put out this old stuff then we ought to get off our arse and do it sooner rather than later, as the longer we left it the less likely it was that we’d ever be able to trace any ex-members.

There’s definitely advantages and disadvantages of doing old unreleased stuff by long-defunct bands. On the plus side, you tend to be dealing with people who are resigned to thinking that nobody remembered their old band and were resigned to the band’s obscurity. That usually means that they’re really chuffed that you want to put it out and don’t have the demanding egos that current bands can have. But on the downside, getting anybody interested enough to sort out some lyrics or artwork is like getting blood out of a stone…

We’ve got a couple of ideas for other possible future releases, but they’re not advanced enough for me to want to announce them yet. We are recording some new Active Minds stuff in October though – which should be for a new 7″ on Loony Tunes, plus a split 10″ and a split 7″. Then no doubt we’ll be doing some more gigs abroad next year.

As for releasing stuff in a “downloadable” format – we’ve not discussed selling downloads yet, but so much stuff ends up being ripped-off and downloaded over the net for free that I’m not sure that selling downloads is viable for us. And bands do need to be able to sell their stuff to recover the costs of recording it…

Active Minds live in Bristol 23.01.10

Active Minds, The Whitehall Tavern, Bristol 23rd Jan 2010

Thanks again to Deefekt and Bobs for taking the time to do this 😉

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