Here is an interview we just did with Rock Sound, a UK mag. This is the full version.
This interview was conducted in September 2006 with Noel Gardner and David Eliade
How was the UK/European tour back in April for you? Bearing in mind the rigmarole of the tour before that, ie coming over without a regular vocalist, did things go relatively smoothly? Is touring a necessary evil, a necessary awesomeness, or somewhere in between? Is the ethic that Black Flag pioneered feasible (a) for most bands and (b) in the climate of this millennium?
Well, me and Pink Eyes got into a shoving match, and there were some
really tense and tearful episodes, but other than that it was great.
The London show was a real trip, we the first weekend we did i think 6
shows in 3 days or something ridiculous like that.
We aren't really at the point yet where we have to tour because of
pressure from a label, but we generally procrastinate about touring
and fill our lives with other things in order to create reasons to
avoid it. I just actually finished re-reading Get In The Van, trying
to put touring with FU into a bit of perspective. I can't understand
why those dudes didn't kill themselves - I can't really understand the
motivation behind touring constantly to play for people that abused
you constantly, and that you hated. I don't think a tour like that
could ever happen again, just because its so easy to market any kind
of product nowadays, there are so many niches to the econony that
virtually anything you could think to create and sell, there are so
many levels to consumption that you can peddle anything. I think
musical offshoots like noise, and more recent bands like
sunn/OM/orthrelm/wolf eyes/ect are examples of this - its basically
extreme capitalism where these bands are becoming historical examples
about how late-period capitalism in the 21st century finally figured
out how to create markets for selling feedback and noise to a wide consumer
market, its like we're living in the omega point for cultural capitalism. And I
guess thats where the beauty lies in those Black Flag tours, since they were basically
on one level a band doing everything they could to maintain a physical
and mental distance between themselves and their fans, going across
the country playing music for people they had no interest in
entertaining, seemingly playing to themselves, with the people that
would show up as auxiliaries.
I've read a bunch of stuff about your musical influences and such so I'm not gonna dwell on that, but nothing really about the influences on your obfuscation, pseudonyms and public personae. There's obviously a solid tradition of this in punk, rock'n'roll and back to all kinds of artforms – can you name some that have inspired Fucked Up to adopt stage names, confuse info, etc? Also, how does this square with (much of) punk rock's ideals of truth and honesty and 'realness', etc?
Yeah, I mean to be straight, we have pseudonyms because like The
Damned do, you know? I guess we figured thats how its supposed to be
done. I was talking to Pink Eye's father at the wedding yesterday,
and he is a great guy (and used to road manage The Who, and he played
drums in Gentle Giant), anyhow, he was saying that we shouldn't use
the pseudonyms because they were childish and confusing, which to me
is just another reason to use them. We take a lot of our mental
influence from art groups like The Actionists (and I guess the
situationists too) from the 60s, (this is what Baiting the Public is
about) who's tactic was to create confusion and pandemonium by
smashing together dispirate elements in such a way that it
overloaded peoples sensory capabilities and they went crazy. I'm not
sure to what extent it worked, but there it is anyhow. It's important
to confuse people if you want them to pay attention to you. We have
layers of pseudonyms, so its hard even to keep the obfuscation in
order. There isn't really a "realness" that we are concerned with, I
know what you're getting, but i think our point has been really
contrary to punks idealism and attempts to forge some kind of
political objectivity. The last guy around is the one who gets to
tell the truth, and we aren't going to be him, so we'd rather lie the
loudest and convince enough people that it is the truth.
How and why did you choose the guests on the album? I guess Owen Pallett's presence is going to make some people do a double-take, maybe even scowl a little – is that as attractive a prospect as the fact he plays a mean violin? Is there any 'Toronto represent!' aspect to it, or is it more that you know these people socially and can call them up or whatever?
People just came together. We didn't know there'd be strings on the
record until the morning Owen came in. He helps run a co-operative
record label we're doing a 12" on in the fall
(blocksblocksblocks.com), and even though we wrote a song slandering
him ("Ban Violins"), he was eager to be a part of the record. We all
agreed that the string parts were going to bum people out, and that's
part of the reason they're there. I guess partly it's an attempt to be
really upfront and sort of explain that if you aren't willing to
swallow the entire pill with us, you shouldn't bother hanging around.
I mean the rest of the people on the record are just friends we've
made over the years. I play soccer with Heidi and she has a great
voice so we got here to do the vocals on the beginning and the end.
George from Alexis has been a friend of the bands for a while and we
were glad to use him. The engineer was saying how it sounded like he
was singing out of 2 mouths when he was doing his parts.
I guess the length of 'Hidden World' the album is something a lot of people are gonna touch on. Hopefully I'm reasonably near the front of the queue. Is its 73 minutes, again, a 'fuck you' to punk rock expectations? An attempt to depart as much as sensibly possible from FU's short'n'fast 7" aesthetic? If I said that one of the great things about the album is that it plays itself out without having to resort to lame noodly bits or jamming or any sort of 'epic' feel, how would you take that?
The length is usually the first thing people touch on. When we
were doing 7" singles, everyone complained about how short they were. I
guess you should be careful what you wish for. While we were doing
the bed tracks I looked up the length of London Calling, and decided
that Hidden World was going to be longer. I think one of the
strenghts of the record is that its really really long, but it sort of
moves along at a good pace, you know? I actually haven't listened to
it end to end myself, but people are saying that it doesn't feel long.
I guess it's just part of a trend - radio singles have been
progressively getting longer for 40 years, the average movie is more
than 2 hours these days...we didn't really do it on purpose,
it's just the way the songs ended up writing themselves out. The
funny thing is that once we had everything recorded, we had to shave
off like 10 minutes of shit we'd done (including "Dangerous Fumes"),
because it wasn't going to be able to fit onto a single CD. And
jokes aside, we really did want to commit something heavy and
meaningful to it since its our first/only full length and probably
will be the defining record for our band, we didn't want to put out a
normal 30 minute punk CD.
Can you take us through the highlights of your feud with the band Billy Talent, who it's fair to assume that the readers of this mag will be more familiar with than Fucked Up?
Uh, we had a sit down with them and as a result we're not really
talking about this anymore...
Do you see the commodifying and sanitizing of punk rock something to fight against, or merely distance yourself from? How would you consider the argument that, in an age when great music from all over the world is more easily available than ever before, it's easy to keep shit music out of your life? Do you think punk HAS actually been commodified and sanitized – or is it more a case of the term being stamped on bands that, in the 80s, would have been playing Hollywood hair metal or Bryan Adams type balladry?
Punk was created as the ultimate commidity, it's only in the 1980s
where DIY culture sprang up and tried to revise the history and
meaning of what punk was. Thats why punk is a cultural tragedy -
instead of creating inherent meaning in a stabilized and unique new
culture, punks tried to latch new political ideas and expectations
onto this notion of "punk", which in reality was just a commodity
symbol like any other. As a result, punk is like this poor tragic
headless beast, populated in large by people who themselves were
afraid to grow up and create unique definitions for themselves. It's
like trying to get blood out of a stone, and has created essentially a
baseless pseudo culture with a lot of baseless cretins as its
denizens. Its funny to me to hear arguments over what is "real" punk
- "Punk" has always been a marketing term - and nowadays shit like The
Warped Tour, and these styled punk bands on tv, stores like Hot Topic
- that is the legacy of "real" punk, and the DIY culture thats tried
to co-opt the meaning of "punk" to me has always seemed like a
barnacle trying to stick to a really shiny expensive boat. I grew up
through diy culture and have self-identified as a hardcore kid or
whatever, but I'd always argue that the commodified "fake" version of
punk has a greater claim to the meaning, since punk was always meant
to be the ultimate fake commodity in the first place.
Are interviews like this FU's first experience of newsstand magazines
taking an interest in the band? Has the Canadian press given you much
attention? (I was in Canada for a couple of weeks in the summer and the
mags I read seem pretty intent on promoting 'their own'.) Were you brought
up on zine culture and if so, how did it shape your attitude to writing,
journalism etc, if at all?
We've done a few wierd interviews over the years, like for Vice,
Thrasher, a few radio and TV interviews, but its picked up obviously
with this record. We get some press in Toronto, but we've never
bothered to even tour Canada yet, so we aren't really on the radar.
We were all brought up through zine culture, everyone in the
band has done various zines over the years. A lot of the ideas for
Fucked Up grew out of a long zine me and Concentration Camp used to do
called "Quick". I guess its that we've all been interested in
promoting some idea or notion in the past, which is how we all ended
up here. I guess part of anyones motivation for being in a band or
putting out a magazine is to fill something you perceive as a gap in
whatever culture you are a part of, which guess is part of the reason
we started the band.
What are Fucked Up's plans for the future? Your previous interviews have about the most specific plans (mainly release-wise) of any band I've come across – does this slow down once you put about seven 7"s worth of music on one record? Jade Tree are gonna let you carry on doing one-off singles, right?
Everyone is pretty busy with other things, Mr. Jo, who is a main
songwriter tours a lot with Career Suicide (who are leaving for Japan
on Wednesday), but as soon as we can get everyone settled for a
period, we've got a lot on our plate. The Year of the Dog 12" is
coming out in October with Hidden World, we're writing a 12" called
"Nation" which is going to be sort of a compliment to "Generation" and
is going to sound a bit like the older records, we're doing a
musical/rock opera called "David Comes to Life" that we're hopefully
going to actually make into a stage act as well as the record, the
next full Fucked Up LP will most likely be "Cascades" and will feature
a proper version of "Looking for Gold" as the entire Bside, me and Mr.
Jo are scoring a movie called "Triumph" by David Eliade, and after all
thats taken care of we'll probably get to work on another double lp
that will make Hidden World look like Generation.
The deal with Jade Tree is just for 2 full lengths, and they basically
let us do whatever we want beyond that. We just self-released two
cover-version 7"'s (one of the Shop Assistants and one of the Dolly
Mixture, and we' hoping to get those released on CD in the UK as