Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Wigga than Punk Rock.

Well now!

It's good to be here in the US. The weather is treating us great and the gigs and the people have been awesome. Knock-Out have been an amazing help to us and a great bunch of friends to boot. Wish you were here! Rather than writing a big War and Peace style tour diary, I've decided to make some video diaries which present our little troop in all it's technicolour (or should that be technicolor) glory. I've put up a video diary of our first few days on Youtube. I'll be compiling another video very soon. Check it out and leave us a comment!

On the first show we played we dropped in on the Ultra Violet Social Club in Los Angeles, a venue that also incorporates a clothing store as well as various art projects. The whole co-op vibe of the set-up was amazing and Raul and Daniella, who run the boutique, were kind enough to show us round. You can check out the stuff they do from the shows to the shop over at their SITE. The threads all have a strongly DIY vibe as well as some really cool designs from Raul and clothing by independent labels like Bishop Park. There were also skatedecks designed by the Mexican artist Benjamin Estrada who has worked with a whole host of punk and ska and hardcore bands which you can see HERE. All this stuff is great independent stuff and well worth checking out. We also need to thank Clemente from Evokore promotions for helping organise the whole shebang and giving us such a warm welcome to the States.

 Also worthy of comment is that Neil has finally got his first tattoo over in the Everett, WA parlour Sunken Ship Tattoos who also did some designs on Knock-Out and have inked such celebrated punk rock royalty as Micheal Graves. Check them out HERE.

Awesome. I've had a few questions coming in which is amazing so please keep them coming. A few of the more political ones I'll have to get my head around soon but it's been a bit sunny here for pontificating upon the finer points of political reform.

You must get called a "wigga" a lot Barney, as do I. Please, in your own special way, tell me a bit about what you think about all this colour in music shenanigans, like have any silly mings ever found you offensive and maybe about your habit of (almost oxymoronicaly) speaking/rapping patois?

My immediate reaction to that question is that it always seems to me that it's the people who make this into an issue that have the problem. Without putting too fine a point on it, I've never had anybody black or asian come up to me after a gig and complaining that I'm not authentic or whatever yet I've had kids write stuff on the internet about it and in the end, when you eventually meet them, they always seem to be white and from the home counties and the whole thing kind of answers itself. It's really their hang-ups about race, it's the belief that different races should act in a particular way. It's not really something I spend much time getting bent out of shape about. To put it another way, if someone was to utterly dismiss say, Eminem, simply because he's white most people would look at that person and say 'well, that's their loss and their problem'. Whilst I'm not going to compare myself to Eminem, I still think that it's pointless to dwell too much on the mindsets of people that you're never going to reach.

I think that ultimately pop music is powerful when it's an expression of one's self and the only way that's ever going to be potent enough for other people to be swept along in it is for it to be a true expression of something unique. In the sense that I am who I am and if I can express that through music, it's going to have to be in a way that relates to how I speak and behave. I personally don't think there is anything at all 'wigga-ish' about anything I do, but I do see that it incorporates stuff that has melted into my approach to music that came from living in a city and feeling comfortable in being involved in the hip-hop scene and emceeing at parties and things like that. If that's in any way remarkable, it's still part of me, so it's something worth expressing. I'm always going to be myself. If some people don't like that, it probably means that others will.

British music has a strong history of bands that mix different styles, sounds and patious, none more apparent than my favourite bands the Specials and the Clash. If people were scared of ridicule, then you'd never have the self-expression that places like Bristol, Coventry, Manchester and all these other cities that have had times that they have been breeding grounds for extreme periods of creativity have done so because of the mix of different musical cultures coming together and creating something new. The reason that Massive Attack, the Specials, the Happy Mondays, the Streets, the Prodigy and even Gorillaz work is not because they express simply a crossover of black and white, they work because they express something that is uniquely British in the social and cultural things that are going on there. So if I'm a 'wigga' to some of the punk scene, I'm glad of the fact that the part of that that is offensive is paradoxically the part of self-expression that I associate with simply being British. Not white and not black and something unique and interesting. It's great that within music is one of the places where those kind of barriers can drop down so when people go out of their way to put them back up, it's a little sad.

To be honest, it isn't only us. I've seen the same things thrown at other bands in the past. Sometimes it does bother you, just the other day I saw someone talking about the Skints and saying they are awesome except for the drummers ridiculous Jamaican accent. It's criticising the form not the function which, in art in general, is missing the point. Jamie may have a ridiculous Jamaican singing voice(!) but it happens to be absolutely amazing - one of the best voices I've ever heard - so to dismiss it because you're uncomfortable with it because of the hang-ups you have about your own sensibilities about race, it is really your loss. And it's not just ignorant, it's really sad.

Also, how many caps do you own, and why the transition from trucker to New Era?

Ooooh, a fun one! I've got, or at least had, about 14 different Boston Red Sox hats and various others but I do like my B on my head the best. I guess the transition from Truckers to New Era was just following fashion. It's like saying why did I used to wear baggy jeans and now I wear tight ones? I don't know, but everyone else is.

Yeah, keep them questions a coming at

Love ya!

Barney x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Rebel Without a Stamp.

Alrighty then

I hope everyone is well out there! It’s been good to be back on the road and after an interesting month or two for the band things are definitely coming together. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the writing and performance of our new stuff and we’re confident it is all going to take us to infinity and beyond. It feels great to be sure of ourselves again. So thanks to everyone who has come to the recent shows and given us feedback about the new stuff. Good or bad!

As I've travelled up and down this country over the past few weeks I’ve had quite a few questions, online and in interviews, about the subject of the election and I’ve found it difficult to explain my perspective on the whole thing. I’ve found it unusually hard because this time I’ve become that thing that I said I never would…

A non-voter.

Rest assured, through a combination mulled-over campaign manifestos and officious registry practicalities, I have my own valid reasons. I shouldn’t be ashamed. But I can’t deny it still feels wrong. I don’t really know what to say about it all. And while I agree with the intention behind the surge of voices intending to empower and stimulate the ‘non-voters’ who have literally given up on the politicians and system as it stands, I’m still racked by a vague guilt about my self-imposed role as the martyrd malcontent. It’s just not me. Hasn’t my ‘thing’ always been to stick up for the everyman? How can I agree with letting that hatemonger go and hang himself by his bongo-eyed neck on Question Time when I won’t be part of the democratic process that can ensure he gains as little power as possible? I really don’t know. But there we have it. And, truth be told, there really is nothing out there that’s making me regret that decision apart from my own nagging doubts.

It's very difficult for me not to reflect upon the contrast between the media's treatment of our election with that of the circus over in the US that we witnessed on a US tour during Obama’s rise to power. On the one hand, the US’s media-conglomerate festival of political infotainment was hard to stomach, what with its Wrestlemania-style campaign promos and sound-bites reduced to the cerebral content of the prose on your average lolly-stick. But, golly gee, at least there was passion. People stopped you in the services and were ready to tell you who and why they were voting. The dayglo election campaigns were booming from every TV and radio and the neighbourhoods bore the images of their political Hope on t-shirts and in shop windows. There was something happening. There was the feeling that whatever happens on the day would be vital and palpable in everyone’s life. Whether such engagement with the pageantry was misguided or not, it’s hard not to be sheepishly swept up into the sport of it all. It’s hard not to wholeheartedly condone the concept of giving a shit.

Here in the UK, is anything happening? We wear our cynicism on our sleeves and sit comfy in our know-it-all chair with an air of deflated pessimism and prod at it lazily with our famous British sarcasm. But is it really that funny? Footlights in-joke traditions of a ‘groan being as good as a laugh’ loom large in our collective psyche. How easily we’re swept into pointing and braying at our beloved public gaffes and seeing the papers the next day in a game of who-blinks-first in declaring the most outlandish omens of doom for our current leader. Who cares what their policies are? He called a woman bigoted with his mic still on! We chortle at the Americans propensity for earnest cheesiness whilst wallowing in our peculiar obsession with public manners. We fold our ballot papers over in case anyone sees. The most impassioned display of campaigning I’ve seen has been a yellowing ‘I’m Voting Liberal Democrats’ poster in a bungalow in Kent. I’ve read columns by politically contrasting popular pundits from Jeremy Clarkson to David Mitchell that are unified in that they centre more on the fact that we don’t care about voting than anything about the campaign at all, eyes-rolling with a tone more akin to Charlie Brooker reviewing X-Factor than an examination of the political parties ready to seize or lose power in our sceptered isle. And I'm not knocking it, I recognise that is the way a lot of us feel, essentially sneering and curling top lips at the whole thing because we’re so at a loss to our total, burning indifference to the options being presented.

Is apathy the right word? It’s a judgmental epithet to be saddled with to be sure; an image of a slovenly Kevin the Teenager with a ‘can’t be bothered’ mantra, sat in front of the PlayStation wanting to engage in nothing more than the boss of level 3. Maybe this widespread denial of the ‘civic duty’ of voting is empowering in itself. Maybe we have simply had enough?! But where to from here? Many of the more left-wing groups are actively promoting the notion that not voting is the first step into galvanising the individual into pro-active political action beyond the remit of our flawed system. You’re free to not vote if you do something constructive instead to curb the system that stands. I hope that this works, I hope they can channel the collective guilt of the creaky old ‘someone died for that vote’ into something powerful. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly sure that there are enough people who are aware of any symbolism or statement that not-voting makes as there are Kevins who can’t be bothered. However, I wholly agree that there is a difference between pushing your plate away and sitting there grumpily and actually leaving the table and going to find something else to eat.

I heard it enough growing up that ‘someone died for that vote’ is tantamount to the Catholic Guilt I never had. It’s hard to argue with a catchphrase you heard bandied about through your entire childhood and teenage years and had the unflappable belief that those families that didn’t were either roguish philistines or aloof bohemians. But at some point you come to realise that there is a difference between respecting these conventions and being dictated by them. We’ve been stuck in the rut of this 2-party race for so long now that it’s almost comical to trace back from David Cameron’s airbrushed face to Emily Pankhurst’s days of suffrage. But nonetheless, there it was and here we are.

If what you’ve just read sounds like I’ve used a lot of words to essentially say nothing that’s probably because I’m as much at a loss as anyone. Perhaps I am a political rebel, rejecting the shackles of his enforced governors by his symbolic denial of their need for valediction. Perhaps I’m a lazy Kevin who can’t be arsed dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare that registering for mail voting would have entailed for me. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.

If any of you guys are thinking about who to vote for, and more power to you if you are doing, there is a great page HERE detailing the fundamental differences between the main party policies. Ironically enough, I’m going to be in America anyway when it all goes down so we’ll see how much they give a damn about what’s going on over here.

Frankly my dear, I doubt it will be much less than we do.

Barney x

p.s. If you've got any questions about anything, band-wise or anything else, bang them over to and I'll answer them on here. Throw us a bone you buggers, otherwise I'll have to do more of these ponderous artifacts.