A few years ago MaximumRockandRoll published a Fucked Up interview. Since it came out so long ago, there are lots of people who probably didn't get a chance to read it. Here it is reproduced with hyperlinks. Look for a sequel interview in HeartAttack to be published in the next month or two.
Interview conducted March 2004 by David Eliade.
Everything is boring, going, going, gone to shit. And it's no wonder. Next time you're at a show look at the band up on the stage, and look at the audience down on the floor. Most bands look alike, and this is reflected in their midset. People in these bands want to play to the audiences that look just like them, and they want to give the audience exactly what they know the audience knows they want to get out of the deal. But abberrations do exist, good songs are being written, interesting voices are being raised, important questions are being asked; and the method is aged in the wool. When you hear Fucked Up, a band of individuals who not only don't look alike, but barely even manage to tolerate each other, remember this. Fucked Up's records are not the limp, sterile stuff of hardcore or so-called political punk they are power-packed plastics, intense sonic creations that sparkle and cut with the brilliance of actual thought. Ladies and gentlemen, Fucked Up. (Intro by Tim Molinari)
Why and how was Fucked Up formed?
Me and Camp wanted to play in a band with him as a frontman, since he has a nice wiry frame and a volatile personality. He couldn’t hack vocals, so after 3 or 4 shows Pink Eyes (Mr. Damian) came out of the woodwork to be the frontman. In 2001 he had a kid, so he wasn’t really going to shows or doing anything other than collecting records. That’s why we haven’t toured yet and don’t really play live or practice as much as we should, because in addition to all having to work 40-50 hour weeks, Mr. Damian has his hands full with Eli. Plus Camp is only 15. We kind of formed to put some ideas I’d had into practice. Me and Camp used to do a long winded zine…we quit that and sublimated those energies into this band, which has essentially become the 4th issue of Quick. All the ideas and concepts I’d saved for articles, became ideas for songs (most of which haven’t appeared yet). Baiting the Public was going to be an article on the history of derisive movements or thought-control experiments through history – Paracelcus and Alchemy - - "god did not choose to give us the medicines prepared. he wants us to cook them ourselves", to Pavlov and William Sargent, the the Actionists, to William Joyce – these are all people who were able to use frenzy, fear and admiration to beat people’s minds to the extent to which they become maleable and useful. That’s basically why we started the band – using music laced with subtle hints and a strong emphasis on symbols, sigils and logos – to get people to dig us to the extent that we could dig right back into them.
Is that what the Logo is for?
Yeah, that’s how logos work. Records are sort of a casual way of participating in someone else’s project – you mostly have them as a background to whatever else you’re working on and devoting your attention to. Wearing a Fucked Up shirt or armband means you are taking part in the project, because you are broadcasting the band into the world. We’ve only made like 50 shirts and a couple hundred armbands, but we used to be amazed when people we’d never met before would buy a shirt – we played the Reverb with Kill Your Idols a few years ago and some pretty hip woman walked out of the club wearing the Logo, out into whatever culture she was part of, to trasmit the band to her crowd. We got the circle-F into a Treble Charger video here in Canada, who are a major label pop band, because our friend Ben wore it when he did a cameo in it with Arvil Lavigne.
We’re trying to get them everywhere. That’s why we pay for our friends to get it tattooed if they want. Bands get confused into worrying about lettering, band pictures and that shit on their records – first you have to get a logo if you want to get yourself into peoples brains. That’s how Black Flag got popular, by reproducing themselves through their logo all over LA. Those aren’t just bars, they have a meaning. That’s how sigils work, they sneak through the corner of your eye and into your subconcsious where they start to pick at your life.
What are Sigils?
We were going to write a song about it, but figured it would be lame. As European bands use runes, North American bands could use sigils. There is one in the top corner of our page in the Toronto Omnibus LP, and a bunch through Police. Mr. Damian got into them after reading The Invisibles. When we lived together I would wake up in the morning and find these weird symbols all over the fridge and in the bathroom on the mirror and shit. Camp put a huge one on his wall when the Leafs ran for the Cup 2 season ago. We put them up all over a crucial intersection as sort of a pre-victory ritual for this OCAP action that happened there. The idea behind sigils is that you think of something you want to happen, write it down, make a monogram of it, and then drill the monogram into your brain while forgetting the meaning. That way the meaning gets detached from the symbol, so its no longer in your waking mind. Your subconscious goes to work trying to make the outcome happen, and presto in a few days it does. It sounds like a lot of bullshit, but there is sort of a devoted literature on sigils and ritual Magick, and sigils work. I think it is rooted in Haitian voodoo, but is translated through our culture by Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley and contemporary people like Phil Hine and Grant Morrison.
That sort of creates a new perspective on danger in punk, in how a band could be used to boil someones brain.
See, danger to me doesn’t mean getting a black eye at a show, which is something that just hurts. Danger is about getting your life fucked up. A dangerous band doesn’t lead to injuries in the pit, but is a band that has the ability to hold and control peoples attentions. Black Flag wasn’t dangerous because you had to worry about getting hurt at a show, but because people did and still do put a lot of faith and belief into them. At any show, Henry, could have stopped playing and said “OK, now we’re going to go to the police station and set it on fire”, and 100 people would have followed him and done it. SUM41 is a dangerous band, you know, fucking Justin Timberlake is dangerous, because they hold people in this kind of rapt attention, they had fans fucking standing at attention. I think punk isn’t dangerous, because people aren’t interested in fostering this kind of danger. You know they say the brain is the biggest sexual organ, not the dick – fear and violence aren’t in peoples nerves or fists, its in peopls brains, and that’s where we want to be, in your brain.
To do what with?
Yeah well, who knows. I was kidding around in Town of Hardcore zine, saying that bands in cities don’t get along in the right way. Bands should be like cells you know, every band say is able to pluck like 100 people in the city out of whatever they are doing to say “pay attention to this for half an hour” and they do. Well for half an hour, those 100 people times however many bands there are in a city could be marching. One time my friend said that the problem with punk was that bands didn’t try and change peoples lives anymore, and he was coming from a mid-90s perspective, when there were bands like Born Against, trying to be really important for people. That’s what we want to do, but maybe with different motives.
Is that what Baiting the Public was trying to do?
Yeah, the lyrics were about whipping people into a frenzy, and the record itself was sort of trying to do the same thing – you can’t read the lyrics, you have to flip the record to hear the second half of the song, people were already pissed off about 2 song singles for some reason, the cover gets dog-eared really easily, the liner notes don’t make any sense. Originally, the plan was to make 1000 of side A as a one sided single on Deranged, and self-release 200 of the bside so that 800 people who be left without the whole song. It obviously won’t, but the record was designed as a tribute to art projects that were able to send people rioting out of the theaters or fainting in the gallery. “Now that you think like me, you can act like me”, that whole deal. We’re the big fish, trying to gobble up all the little fish.
But do you think that’s an effective or even a responsible way at creating change in society? The point seems to be to wreck peoples lives to the point where they have the perspective of someone living in the gutter, which I get, but the control and coercion in getting there seems to have an underlying almost facsism to it.
I think it more has to do with the perspective you already have. If you’re fearful or wary of having your life ruined, it means you’ve got some vested interested in maintaning society the way it is. Think of that movie Falling Down – its almost like in our culture your either a business man or a criminal. And its your position that dictates your perspective – life for most people is just trying not to get dragged down into the shit. The perspective of someone on the bottom is that the people at the top belong at the bottom as well. And I mean, this isn’t just some dumb band shooting their mouths off, this is kind of a major thing in the world I think. Think of movies, religions, politics, school, all that shit, its culture’s attempt to bait people upwards by people at the top. Buy a car, buy a house, get along with your neighbors, don’t do drugs, be a little concered about the environment, all the good you do in a wretched system just keeps reproducing that system. People at the bottom only have the choice of trying to move up, or to try and wreck the system as a whole. And so being timid or afraid of the sick movement at the bottom, is just the attempt to keep the world the way it is. That’s why there is such a taboo even in like activist circles against violence, or hard drugs, or aggretion, and shit like that, because in a large way, violence is one of those precious things that has yet to be recuperated and swallowed up by the dominant culture.
But isn’t freedom one of those taboos too? That’s why to me it seems irresponcible to trade off freedom for participation in the “right” sort of culture.
But the trade-off happened a long time ago. Having the freedom to earn money and buy things, doesn’t mean you have the freedom to survive without going to work, or not complicitly have people working in sweatshops, or the freedom not to destroy the environment, or act out in any substancial way. The real irresponcible force at work is the culture trying to convince people that freedom IS taboo and untouchable, and that people have long enjoyed it. The only reason we feel safe is because theres been sort of a brand loyalty created between fear and comfort. You look at like the Nazis, who created a Fear and Furor division in their society – on one hand people were made to fear and hate some arbitary elements of society, and to love and admire others, and it was really effective in whipping people into the frenzy. I think most social movements use this same sort of tactic with varying degrees of intensity – vilify and scapegoat your enemy, and make your goal righteous. So then think about what happens when the brands people start to swoon over are like, organic foods, or (more) violence, and chaos, then what happens?
Well how would you build a responsible way of life?
I want to be a yeoman. Thomas Jefferson’s concept of agrarian democracy, where every family compact gets a large plot of land and grew their food and that was that. Like Wendell Berry wrote “you cannot loose your land and remain free; if you keep your land you cannot be enslaved”.
“No Pasaran” was about Spanish Anarchists. Are you anarchists then?
Not really. I believe in a freedom based in traditional ways of life, like yeomanism, agrarian democracy, permaculture, nomadism, etc. Those things could be loosely construed as anarchist, because they aren't political, they are ways of living. Your political ideologies are meaningless unless they are informed by the vision of what you'd like life to look like. I would like life to be based on the land, structured around family compacts that create local communities.
The things i believe in aren't political - i believe in bioregionalism, living machines, evolution, organic farming, Community Supported Agriculture, gardening, industrial ecology and shit like that. Anarchism is really an idea for the cities, and i'm not sure i believe in cities.
Ok switching gears, what is Dance of Death about?
Well that song sort of deals with the same shit – its about like the imperialist lifestyle and how its been perfect and reproduced to such a dazzling extent, that people within it are convinced that it is the best way, and that they love it. Its like Stockholm Syndrome, when a captive begins to love and revered the captor. The Harbinger’s spiders laid their eggs inside all of our heads, and convinced us to keep dancing in the muck, because we love it. We love smoking and eating non-food, so we love cancer. We love making money and cheating, so we love crime. We love TV and novels, so we love being stupid. We love war and punishment so we love pain. We love life, so we love death.
You sing a lot about dehumanization and alienation, what part do you think activism should, or can, play in reconnecting people and improving our lot?
Well i think any activist group who isn't doing that might be a scam. What else is there? I'm not an activist, but reconnecting myself to the things i need to be in tune with is a primary concern. The trouble with activists is that they are trying to fix a system that isn't broken. You know, the global economy, the state, whatever you want to call it - is working perfectly, and gets better at what it was made to do every day. The state doesn't enfranchise people in real communities, or reduce energy use or maximize free time, because that isn't what it is designed to do, and
no amount of activism is going to make it that way. Activism shouldn't be about trying to mend perceived holes in the way the system works, but about expanding the holes, and trying to find more. A lot of activists are afraid of violence because its one of those holes thats open, and most upstanding responsible people have a real vested interest in keeping them closed. So to me improving my lot doesn't mean creating fair global trade, but in not needing global trade at all.
It doesn't mean improving the minimum wage, but eliminating wages altogether.
Your records are filled with pseudonymns, phony credits, and other bad information, and your interviews have largely been pretty jocular, are you conciously trying to obscure the reality of what the band is or are you just unsure/insecure about what the band is and that confusing face is the result?
We just want people to have to pay attention to be into our band. If you don’t, there is always shit you miss. People tell me that they dig the music on the records, but did you take a second look at the matrix numbers to see if they mean anything? Or read the typing on Police carefully? We don’t put shit in to be confusing, we just want to command people’s attention when they are looking at a Fucked Up record, so we try to fill them with detail. A lot of the decisions we made were to try and confuse people or obfuscate things – it means that people can’t be into the band in a casual way – when a band you are trying to get into doesn’t release 10 song records, or stop between song live or publish real names on the records, it means you have to dig a bit deeper to get the information you want.
What has the feedback been like when people read your lyrics or hear your music?
Marbles: We don't get any feedback about the lyrics. People usually say bland things like "nice show" or "cool record". We just played a show with THE GOSSIP and their guitarist came up to our merch table and said "its real great how you guys have all these records you put out" as if we were 10 year olds. We've had lots of good reviews, but mostly for Police, which is sort of a played tune at this point anyhow. On one hand, the point of the band is to confuse people, but its annoying when it actually happens. Most times people just say bullshit like "sounds like Negative Approach" or "Sounds like Poison Idea" - its like when you hand a paper in and get a C+ and wonder whether the teacher read it or not. The problem is that people don't want to pay attention to the things they get. The illth economy is based on the principle in putting as little effort and labour into commodities, and having people enjoy or use them for the most limited amount of time possible. If things are well made as to last a long time or to have people foster a real attachment to them, there is no incentive for people to get sick of them and move on to the next thing on the shelf, and the products won't go bad or get broken. We put hours and hours and hours into writing music, and designing the layout of our records and writing lyrics - we know all we are doing is making commodities and products, and we want people to enjoy
them and become attached to them so they don't become pieces of waste. But people are so used to using things immediatly and moving on - using records like cigarettes, smoking them up and moving on.
Would you rather get bad reviews than bland ones?
Yeah, or none at all. Its like quantum physics, or something, in that reviews, measuring the results of the band, changes the outcome, and how people experience it. Mostly I wish we could have total control over the band and how the band comes across – if we could write our own reviews and interviews, we would, but we can’t.