Friday, 8 November 2013

From the Rebellion Archives: Runnin Riot Interview 2012

One of the best things about writing for a festival programme is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to get back in touch with people you may have only met on the odd occasion. This is what happened with the Runnin Riot boys. I'd met Marty and Colin forever ago but never really had the chance to get to know them properly. They were as lovely as I remembered them and gave some cracking answers. An absolute pleasure to share a Bucky or two with them and carry on our chat at Rebellion that year.

Belfast's finest Oi! band have been described as producing songs that "revere booze, brotherhood, and politics and their combined effect on the working class". A band set apart from the other Oi! bands who sing on these classic themes by their overriding sense of fun, their experience in gigging and by having the knack of writing bloody catchy anthems, they have become firm Rebellion favourites. They will be playing with Rancid later this year and with a new album due later this year, things are looking good for Belfast's premier bovva boys. Rebellion had a chat with singer Colin over a large Buckfast. It ended better for him than us.

Rebellion: Welcome back to Rebellion boys! When was the first time you played here? Has it changed?
Runnin Riot: We played at H.I.T.S way back in 2001. we played Rebellion in 2009 and 2011. We love the festival! It's good to see so many great and colourful people in one place, it's a great time for catching up with our mates. We wouldn't change a thing about Rebellion.

Rebellion: What's your favourite Rebellion memory?
Runnin Riot: That first year we played we'd been across to England a few days before the fest and had done a few gigs around the North of England and Scotland, so we had been partaking in quite a bit of Buckfast. Anyway, the day we play, our bassist is nowhere to be found. So with various search parties dispatched he is eventually located asleep on the beach. He is then virtually carried back up to the venue about a half an hour before we play. Incapable of speech he plays an absolute stormer of a gig, then promptly disappears again as the rest of us retire to the sanctury of our Buckfast.  Then around 3-4 hours later the bass player reappears with those immortal words (which still bring a smile to my face!) "alright lads? What time are we on at?" Laugh?.....I even bought Watford Jon a drink that day!!

Rebellion: Who do you recommend not to miss on the line up this year?
Runnin Riot: We're big Social Distortion fans so we'll be front and centre for them, The Slackers, Argy Bargy, Gimpfist, Booze & Glory, Control, Marching Orders, The Blame, Los Fastidios, Hardskin and of course Rancid! Far too many great bands to mention!

Rebellion: Who would be on your ideal line up?
Runnin Riot: All of the above with the addition of 'Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, The Skints, Patriot, and from Oz, Plan of Attack and the mighty ROSE TATTOO!

Rebellion: What are your live shows like?
Runnin Riot: It's somewhat of a Buckfast fuelled sing-a-long! We have the odd stage invasion too! I guess if ya really wanna know come down and watch us play.

Rebellion: Are you happy with being described as an Oi! band?
Runnin Riot: We don't really care how people describe us or label us, but the roots of the band and the music we produce are based firmly in the hey day of good old fashioned Oi! of the early eighties. It would be fair to say that our music has evolved immensely since the release of  "Reclaim the Streets" in 1998. Oi!, Punkrock, Streetpunk! We play working class street music! Oi! Oi!

Rebellion: You appear tread the very careful line of carrying a strong social message in your songs without being overtly political. How important is that to you?
Runnin Riot: We think its important to be responsible with lyrics. I think nowadays we have a lot to be pissed off about! We try to strike a balance with our songs. We have songs about injustice and working class struggle but we also have songs about George Best and getting pissed!

Rebellion: How would you describe the state of punk and Oi! in Northern Ireland right now? Any bands we should watch out for?
Runnin Riot: With the recent opening of the new Warzone Centre Belfast's scene is looking healthy! It's a drop in centre with a stage and huge sound system, a great place to put on gigs or play with a great atmosphere. There are a lot of great bands doing the rounds at the minute! Hardcase, Excuses, Thee Radicals, The Jollars, Section 4, 1000 Drunken Nights are all worth checking out.

Rebellion: You are all renowned for liking a beer/vodka/bucky, how did you celebrate completing your last album 'Boots and Ballads'?
Runnin Riot: Think we had a few bottles of the monks' finest to celebrate. We're very proud of the album. We have a great engineer who knows what we're looking for when we record. We're in the middle of writing our new album at the minute. We hope to have it finished and out by the end of this year. The new tunes are shaping up well and we're looking forward to airing a few at Rebellion this year.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

From the Rebellion Archives: The Other F Word is family, not fatherhood (2012)

When Daryl asked me if I'd write for the programme, he also asked me to throw in a couple of interesting articles that were about punk life in general. This article was published anonymously and very few people clocked that it was me that had written it, even people I had full blown conversations with about the article. So here is me owning up to having written it and telling you that I still feel exactly the same way. Exactly. 
This Father's Day I bought my Dad a copy of  'The Other F Word', the documentary about punk and fatherhood. It features a who's who of Californian punk from Black Flag and US Bombs to Blink 182 and this year's Rebellion headliners Rancid. The film focuses on Jim Lindburgh, the singer from bro-punk pit-inducers Pennywise and the conflict between the need to tour to support his family and the band, and missing important times in the lives of his children. 

The concept is an interesting one; the punk bands that are approaching their twentieth year mark are all reaching the age of marriage and children. The state of the music industry and the decline in record sales means that mid-level bands have to tour almost constantly to pay the mortgage and provide for their families. Having children has impacted on all of their lives, how has it changed them as people and altered their perspectives on punk? 

Whilst the weaving of the Pennywise narrative throughout the documentary allows for the other interviews to fit nicely into the structure, it was the discussion of fatherhood from the perspectives of the range of punk stalwarts that really give this film its strength. Those of us at Rebellion last year who saw the Pennywise play without the original singer already know how his story ends.

One thing that they all acknowledge is that the arrival of their offspring changed their lives. The majority of the men state that becoming fathers changed their outlooks, (all except NOFX's Fat Mike who stands out as the anomaly in his assessment of the bringing a child into the world he already occupies, rather than making the adjustments the other dads allude to). There's one particularly touching moment with Flea and his articulate teenage daughter, when he breaks down talking about how much joy being a dad brings him. There's a few other tear jerkers in there that I won't spoil for those that haven't seen it, but I recommend not watching it after a couple of bottles of wine like I did the day after Fathers Day when I watched it with my old man.

And it did make me think. I'm not a parent, so I'm not in a position to comment on that side of things. But I am the eldest daughter of someone recently described in a Czech review as an 'elderly Titan' of punk. I'll leave you to guess who. It struck me that I know lots and lots of English punk families but very few other families in the people I've met from around the world. And by this I don't necessarily just mean couples both being punks or skins, but actual generations of punks and skins in the same family. Needless to say we are one of them. 
A quick anecdote for you. At a local gig in which one of my friends was drumming for his former band, I turned to another punk woman I knew and asked her if she lived nearby. Turns out it was his mum. I'd known both of them for years and heard them reference each other on countless of occasions. I never connected the dots and I felt like such an idiot. They are now both friends with my family.

I think that the English experience of punk and families is different to the one portrayed in the film. The differences are only subtle but significant. There's one thing that I've always loved about Rebellion is that it has always been a family affair and my relationship with my Dad has been strengthened with the time we get to spend together in Blackpool or in Morecombe. I came to my first festival aged 14. It's now the first thing that goes in my diary each year. 

The best years for me have been those years when the atmosphere has that family feel. That means seeing the little kids in their first pair of boots and braces, or sporting their first mohawk. I love the fact that you see anarcho-punk parents with the biggest mohawks you've ever seen, carrying tiny kids in UK Subs shirts wearing ear defenders. Regardless of punk sensibilities, sensible parental choices prevail. The family feel means meeting the kids of my friends as they bring them to Blackpool for the first time, watching their faces as they are captivated by the sights and sounds of our summer's annual family gathering. And seeing those kids again next year, and the year after that, bringing their own mates and making their own friends.
I think that Rebellion does it better than any other festival in providing the space for people to have the festival experience they want. I have siblings who aren't punks, come to Rebellion to have a good time, and go home raving about what they've seen and the experiences that they've had. I have a friend who bought her elderly mother last year to see The Adicts. What other fesitvals could you say that about? 
I can imagine the concerns parents have when deciding when it's appropriate to bring their kids to a festival like this, and I also understand the argument that it's one of the only chances some people have to get messy with their mates in the year. But I think that for the sake of getting the next generation of punks who love live music and support the bands, we have to allow for other kids to have the same access to the gigs as I did.  
The important point I suppose is that I've always felt welcome, even when I was a youngster. Coming to Rebellion at a young age allowed me to grow up in the punk world, find the love of my life and a large majority of my closest friends in our smelly pubs and grotty clubs. And of course, on the streets of Blackpool and Morecombe. The reality is that family to me extends to the people I see once a year at the Winter Gardens. I hope it continues so I can one day bring my kids and introduce the next generation to the world's greatest festival. The Other F Word for me isn't fatherhood, it's family. 

From the Rebellion Archives: Downtown Struts Interview 2012

I'd got to know the boys in Downtown Struts when they'd come to San Francisco and stayed at the Pirate ship. The album was rarely off my turntable at the time of writing and we listened to it constantly. I Skyped with Dan sitting in my parents' house (my first Skype interview - that was weird!), which we recorded and I transcribed. I thought the band were great then, I still do now. I'm very privileged to now call them friends.

Don't forget you can get your Rebellion 2014 tickets now!

Downtown Struts play Rebellion for the first time this year in support of the release of their debut full length Victoria! The album was recorded with Matt Allison at Atlas Studios in Chicago and follows the release of the EP ‘Sail The Seas Dry’ and the first single to be taken from the full length, ‘Anchors’. This year has been unbelievably busy for the Downtown Struts, with much of it spent on the road. The band have been touring with The Business and Face to Face, and have dates planned with the Sydney Ducks, Street Dogs and Bouncing Souls later this summer, as well as a number of different festivals.

Formed in 2008, the band come from both Chicago and California but are now all based in the mid-West. Their music isn’t easily categorisable, but fans of melodic punk, clever guitar work and belting vocals should give them a listen. Many of the reviews have cited their inspirations as including The Clash, The Descendents and Springsteen, although you get the impression that their influences are broad and wide. The band themselves are passionate, professional young men, who take what they do very seriously. Don’t be surprised if they take over the world.

We sat down with guitarist and vocalist Dan Cooper for a chat about playing Rebellion, life on the road and visiting Europe for the first time as a band.

Rebellion is getting the drinks in, what are the Downtown Struts having?Dan:  Ryan our bassist would have a beer, guitarist Ben loves a root beer, Zach our drummer is a whiskey and soda man, and I’ll stick to the water thanks!

Rebellion: If you could only save one record from your collection in a fire, which one would it be?
Dan: We have an original pressing of ‘Damn The Torpedoes’ (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) at the house that I would jump through fire for.

Rebellion: The reviews for your first album Victoria! are overwhelmingly positive on the whole, how does the rest of the band react, and how do you react, when a positive one is brought to your attention?
Dan: We’re pretty stoked to be honest with you. When the record came out, we were really nervous about getting reviews back. Our first review, I don’t even remember what it said but it wasn’t super positive, and I thought from here on out they’re all going to be shit and I’m not excited to get any more reviews in. I decided I wasn’t going to read anymore. Then (bassist) Ryan sent me the second one and it was good, and then I started paying more attention. It got to the point where whenever we saw one another after that, we’d be like ‘did you see this one?’ It’s really funny too when we get a bad one, that’s when we make sure that we all read it because we find it funny, depending on what it says. You never take it too seriously.

Rebellion: The album has garnered incredible support from punks and other musicians that I grew up listening to and loving. What were your reactions to hearing some of those quotes?
Dan: I thought it was great, I didn’t expect people to hear my band or to say good things about it, so it was really nice to hear any sort of validation outside of just like good friends and other people you would expect. So it was really nice. Like you said, growing up, I never expected  to put out my first record and for people to hear it and actually like it. You never assume that will happen so it’s nice.

Rebellion: Were there any of the quotes in particular that you read and thought ‘oh my god, that’s wicked!’?
Dan: I really liked Trevor Keith’s (singer from Face to Face) just because it sounded like he actually loved it and you can tell that he listened to the songs and to me that’s the most important thing. If I read a good review even if they didn’t like it or love it, it’s nice to read it and be able to feel that they actually listened to it and have something to say about the music.

Rebellion: You’ve definitely got a reputation as a solid touring band, one that appears to have endless stamina on the road especially from looking at this summer’s dates. Where does that motivation come from?
Dan: Because if we were at home we wouldn’t be doing anything fun. When we’re at home it’s weird because now we’re just used to being on the road, so I still live out of my suitcase! It’s something you just get used to. We’re still young and we still like to play shows, and we still feel like we have a lot to prove, so it’s nice to go out and feel like you’re still on a mission to do what you have to do and make it bigger and better than it was before.

Rebellion: Would you agree with the assessment of your writing that you appear far wiser than your age should allow you to be?
b I try to be more honest and relatable. We’re very big on ‘what can we do to be different and better than other shit that we listen to?’ It’s a hard to question to answer, in one way I’m a dick and in the other way I’m indifferent so… I wouldn’t say that we are wiser, but that is an impression that some people get, and it’s a positive thing. Other people must just see that we try a little harder. I’ve read reviews that say that our song writing is more complex than the typical punk band. I think a lot of people just thought we were a streetpunk band, and I think that when we put out this record they were a bit surprised.

Rebellion: In my opinion, I think there is a maturity in the storytelling. I think the songs have an observational aspect and these are the lyrics that appear older and wiser because the observations that you make aren’t necessarily the ones are that fit your age. It’s not about going out and getting fucked up. It’s about what life is like in America. There’s a universality in that.
Dan: If I got to that point in my career where I was just singing songs about partying or just random shit, I would probably hate myself and wonder why I was even getting paid to do what I do. If the only things that were important to me were going out, being young and doing dumb things, then I hope my band would stop letting me write songs. I don’t want to be a pointless band.

Rebellion: Talking about your storytelling, there are some of the negative portrayals of American life on the record, how optimistic do you think America is right now about the future?
Dan: I think America is doing pretty badly right now, the recession feels like it’s getting a little bit better, but with the election coming up and people not feeling that they have a decent person to elect, that is getting to people. But the reality is that those aren’t my problems. My problems are do I have money to pay rent? Am I going to be able to eat a solid amount of food so that I won’t pass out later tonight? Am I going to go to a city, play a show and people there are going to enjoy it? Those are my problems. 

Rebellion: You’re playing Rebellion in the middle of your first European tour. How excited are you about crossing the Atlantic?
Dan: A lot, we’re very excited. I’ve been there a few times and Zach, our drummer, has been there once or twice, but everybody else hasn’t been there. I’m most excited about being the one who has already experienced it and being able to share it with my friends.

Rebellion: Is there anywhere you’re particularly excited to visit or any tourist attractions you want to see?
Dan: The two places on our tour I haven’t been are Denmark and the Netherlands, so I’m really excited about that. Europe is a lot prettier and a lot older, so any American tourist enjoys going over there. History is not something you get to see whilst touring America. On top of it not being a familiar place, Europe is also a better place.

Rebellion: The thought that goes into your releases seems to continue to the artwork and the design. How central to the Downtown Struts is the way that your records look and feel? And how do you decide what the visual aspects of your releases are going to be?
Dan: I’d say that it’s very important, the artwork is critical to the whole package. To me the visual is super important, it’s stronger than just the music on its own. I think that when you’re listening to something and you can look through the artwork, those two things should click and people should be able to relate to you even better. And Paul who does our artwork is very important.

Rebellion: Finally, is there anyone who is playing at Rebellion who you haven’t seen before and you’re excited to see?
Dan: I’ve never seen Rancid play, and I’ve never seen The Slackers play, those are two groups I hope I have time to see.