Shank Interview

SHANK INTERVIEW

1.Names, ages, instruments etc
Jamie plays guitar, Jason plays drums, Andy plays bass and does some vocals and Wurzel does most of the vocals. Our combined age is more than one hundred and less than one hundred and ten.

2.When and why did Shank form?
We formed in the Halt Bar on Woodlands road in Glasgow, just after new year's eve, 1997, because we were all bored and being in a band enables you to travel and meet people, well that's my take on it.

3.What have you released as Shank?
Split 7"s with Scalplock and Minute Manifesto, one on the way with Unholy Grave, track on some German comp 7" that had a really weird pressing and our song sounds horrible. Three tracks look like they're going to be a CrimethInc/ Inside Front CD comp and we're doing a full length for Slap a Ham that should be out in summertime. And at the time of writing i'm we're three weeks away from flying to Australia to tour with AVO.

4.What are your aims with Shank?
For me, it gets me out of Glasgow on a regular basis, it's an opportunity to shout and scream when I'm in a bad mood and it's an opportunity to pass on my opinion to anyone that cares.

5.On the split with Minute Manifesto you seem quite pessimistic about the fact that your songs won't actually change anything. Do you think this is true or is there hope in putting out DIY records?
My point, in the liner notes to the song Lines on Maps, is that I can scream all I like about the war in Kosovo, but at the end of the day, four guys in Scotland aren't going to stop kids being murdered by writing thirty second long songs about it. The problem that the pseudo-political end of the hardcore/ punk world faces is that it tends to deal in issues that are impossible to change ourselves, i.e., songs about war and authority and it's very easy for disillusionment to set in when you start off as very motivated, but soon see that the results of whatever actions you take fall short of actually accomplishing anything genuine. Of course I'm not advocating people sitting on their arses, there's very little that feels as liberating as throwing a tin of beans in a Netto's carrier bag at a cop on a demonstration, but we need to realise just how easy it is to start to feel useless and so many people, myself included just drop out of political actions, because they see them as ultimately futile and overly draining on one's time and emotions.

6. The insert to that record has a rant about children. What has the reaction been to that? Personally I thought it was mostly correct although it could have done without the list complaining about children with special needs.
Well, I didn't write the insert and I'm not going to comment on it other than the fact I support it's content entirely and that I feel your comments about 'special babies' are misplaced and taken out of context. I would dare to say that your reaction is due to the conditioning that Jamie is referring to, where children and having children is the be all and end all and somehow sacred and above questioning. 'Special babies', so what? Have your kids and love and care for them, don't parade them around like freaks. To quote Adam Parfrey in Cult Rapture, and, if you're prone to hysterical responses to anything not written down as simple as 'don't eat animals, war is a bad thing', then please, take time out to read and digest the quote properly before telling the world that Shank advocate the killing of children with disabilities. 'Incurables are treated in an altogether different manner. If we can no longer provide a cure, our answer is to provide "self esteem" or the illusion of physical and intellectual parity for the handicapped. Humanist shame is expiated with nationally televised multi-million dollar events like the Special Olympics. For reasons unknown we're supposed to applaud the pluck of those poor children who run the 100-yard dash in a minute and a half. As the droolers hug Arnold Schwarzenegger on the dais, are we supposed to applaud because of the child's abnormality, or rather because of Arnold's sympathy? Would his sympathy be as acute for a child with an IQ of 90, or do kids really need to score closer to 50 for that special moment of affirmation by the Austrian Oak?' I would recommend that everybody takes the time out to read the essay from which the above quote is taken, entitled The Endangered Freak.

7.About "Dead Bodies Are So Cool" are there any particular bands you are directing this at? What record sleeve artwork has affected you?
I am directing the song at every band that has ever had a picture of human suffering as a part of the packaging, including other bands I've been in. What inspired me to write it? Well, just look through your record collection now and see how many of the covers utilise images of violence and suffering, how many of these covers have you ever actually noticed before? I wrote it after realising that a record I was very into and played a lot had a picture of a dead child on the cover and I had never even noticed it, it's just become so accepted that pictures of death are punk. But why is that? Why are there pictures of dead bodies on a sizeable percentage of the records in our collections? There really is no need for them usually, they just fill up space, a cartoon drawing of a penis would say about the same unfortunately. I don't even think that most bands could tell you why they use these images, other than some vague "it looks cool dude" sub-heavy metal fan response. Dead bodies on record covers aren't shocking, I've seen enough real ones in my own lifetime to not care about them as supposedly 'shocking' images. I'm shocked by the fact that it's such a common sight to see people completely pissed out their heads at 10 am everyday in Glasgow, I'm shocked at how many smack heads there are in this city, I'm shocked at how inflated the price of food is in this country, I'm shocked by the fact that my mother has a terminal illness, my close friend died in prison, my best friend is a junkie and people are, on the whole, so fucking dumb.

8. What is your view on the situation in Kosova? Would it be preferrable to have the UN intervening rather than NATO?
Who knows? The media has done such a damn good job of reporting the whole affair as a nice, safe little "tallyho, bombs away" style ripping yarn, with a ridiculous cartoon dictator at the other end, that it's virtually impossible to sift through all the bullshit and figure out what's really going on. I question the need to bomb hospitals, bridges and factories, unless it's all just a means to completely destroy an entire countries infrastructure, perish the thought of course. Does NATO need to be there? I doubt it, I really doubt it. Should the UN be put in? Why? What would they do differently? I have no answers.

9. Do you think that hardline will catch on in this country? Are some UK bands hardline in all but name (Slavearc?)? What do you think about the fact that a lot of these people spout off their stuff whilst wearing nice expensive Nike clothes and so on?
I think that the whole Hardline question is a joke, but mainly in the way in which it has been treated in this country, to a level of almost Mcarthyist proportions where the hardcore knitting circle sits around discussing the latest made up developments in UK Hardline to shock themselves into some false sense of outrage. Face it, there is no Hardline elite plotting to destroy the world from their bedrooms, not even from ex-members of Slavearc. But to address your question as it is laid out, Hardline will probably only catch on with the kids that use their ideals as some kind of pedestal to stand on and feel better about themselves 'cuz they're just so damn oppressed by the world for their beliefs. The Hardline philosophy, as far as I can see, and I must confess to knowing very little about it, appears to be a very rigid dogma, with little chance of straying from the core of it's belief system, perhaps I'm wrong though, and I don't see Joe and Jane average hardcore kid sticking it out for too long. remember Krsna core? Thought not. I wouldn't know if some UK bands, like Slavearc, as you mention, are Hardline in all but name, I hear that that band were, but that doesn't make it true and I'm not aware of any other bands with a philosophy that could be construed as such in this country. My contact with Slavearc was almost non-existent, I had something of an 'ideological debate' with a temporary member of the band outside a Shank/ Canvas gig in Glasgow, for comments I had made of a deliberately provocative nature on stage and passed on a letter to him to give to the rest of the band, which he didn't because he left soon after and at one point I was leaving deliberately flippant messages on a Bulletin Board that I knew one of them would see, the reaction I got was amusing, though I think I dealt with it in an overly childish manner (deliberately so) and I merely ended up giving credence to the person concernd's views about me and his own perceived militancy/ threat to world peace and fluffy bunnies etc. Anyway, since we're on about Slavearc now... I found their music dull, but so what, and their lyrical stance ridiculous at best, the song 'Last Decent' with it's ridiculously pious tone about "promiscuous sexuality, your path to destruction... No tears shed for your self initiated death." The vagueness of the language used in the Vanquish CD booklet "transgress the natural order" with no definition of what a natural order is and how one transgresses it, "selfish desire", again, no qualification of what this means exactly. "Judgement day is at hand", excuse me while I suppress a laugh, and best of all, the old classics about "evil ways", "innocent life", "just world for all" (unless of course you are sexually promiscuous?) and how the "righteous shall live on." I wonder precisely who it is that dishes out the slips of paper that say who is evil and who is righteous? My guess is that it's the same old over privileged, straight, white, Alpha males as it is always is. ALL HAIL THE GREAT WHITE SAVIOUR THAT IS HARDCORE BOYS! Alas, I appear to have descended into mere flippancy yet again. "Promiscuous sex causes pain" was the gem I read in an interview with one of the band, well, I was convinced that it was peoples overbearingly judgmental attitudes towards it, but hey, that's just my perspective. Apparently Hardliners aren't "homophobic, but they think homosexuality is unnatural." (Above quotes taken from Bile fanzine issue one) 'Unnatural', now there's a dangerous term "it's evil,not natural and against God", fantastic stuff, more theocracy in hardcore, oh yes. But, to go back to the knitting circle for a minute, it seemed for a while that in certain parts of the North of England about a year ago there endless amounts of hysteria being thrown about regarding the boys of Slavearc, who I'm sure didn't really deserve as much shit as they got, not to defend these people, I've laid out my problems with their public philosophy above, but it was pretty ridiculous for a while. What particularly amused me was the fact that the same kids who were spreading all the shit were the same ones tossing themselves off into a frenzy when anything did happen, my favourite rumours was (and this came all the way from London) that (and I quote) "one of Ebola beat up one of Slavearc", absolute nonsense, this was in reference to the heated argument I'd had with Damien, no physical violence was offered by either party. Some people are just worthless examples of human beings though, with nothing better to do than throw enough shit and look at the patterns it makes when it lands. Regarding the wearing of expensive sportswear whilst maintaining an air of moral piousness, well, see the explanation for 'Keepin' it Real (Dumb)', on the split with Scalplock, but it appears that living a cruelty free life only applies to not eating animals, as opposed to human beings working in sweatshops, indentured by the same global system that treats ALL life as consumable commodities, whether they be ickle fwuffy bunny wabbits for food and/ or pets, or kids dying in dangerous workplaces abroad to make you your cool new clothes. Which in turn leads me to my problem with such a rigid belief system, you really need to look at the world as a whole before you can claim to be a model of perfection, it leads to a lot of shortcomings between theory and practice. "All idealists imagine that the causes they espouse are markedly better than all the other causes in the world. They refuse to believe that if their cause is to flourish at all, it must spring from the same stinking excremental miasma from which all other human undertakings emerge." Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 1878.
And as some sort of post script: Since writing the above i've had some contact with the former singer of Slavearc, who has since renounced some of his former beliefs. Fair enough, to be honest I think he is being sincere and I bear him no ill will, but the problem is that you can't really expect to spout a lot of ill-thought out crap, only to change your mind later on and be expected to be taken seriously by all and sundry at a later date because it either no longer serves your purpose to hold these viewpoints (if you're cynical) or you genuinely have changed. You can't have the veneer of militancy when it suits you, only to run away from it completely at a later date. Which brings us to the next problem and this is not directed at a specific person or popular beat combo, it's very hard to take a person seriously if they appear to be able to float from one supposedly extreme viewpoint to the next. Point in case, I was involved in an anarchist group for a while and one of our hangers on was a former old peace punk turned nazi turned Krishna and then attempting to turn anarchist. Naturally we were very wary of associating with an individual who found it a little too easy to go from one extreme viewpoint into the next seemingly incongruous one and rightly so. Last I heard of dear old John he was a woman beating, smackhead, thief, a very unpleasent person indeed.

10. What is all this stuff about 25 Ta Life on the record?
The Puff Daddy of hardcore anyone?

11. What is your view on violent dancing?
Dancing is cool, having no respect for others is not. Bands being too scared to do anything about it when they play is spineless.

12. What is your view on record collecting?
If it makes you happy, not for me though.

13. What is your view on record collecting?
Well, firstly I need to make it clear that the etching in the run out groove on the Shank/ Minute Manifesto 7" that you refer to was done by a certain Nick Loaring of Enslaved Records and not Shank. Now, that's not to say that as an individual I don't support this vague, slightly ridiculous, but ultimately (to me at least) amusing sound bite, but it's not a band philosophy. OK, to explain my own personal stand point: F.U.C.K. U.K.H.C. Well, face it, what the hell is UKHC? Perhaps I'm utterly wrong here, but it all looks like something of a media invention, based on the activities of some of the more recent bands that have come from the south of England, which has only in recent years had anything much of some sort of scene to write about. I have no interest in pandering to the likes of arseholes at Terrorizer and Kerrang, I have no intention of paying stupid amounts of money to go see crap big name dumb fucks from the US in venues that are about as much to do with punk rock as dog fighting, being supported by bands that pay lip service to hardcore ideals and aesthetics (however you decide to define those), yet still want to 'make it big'. Maybe I'm wrong here, maybe it's just sour grapes from another old northern bastard that's had his day a long time ago. I can still remember when UKHC was written on Bomb Disneyland LPs in the eighties and if you look on the back of the Admit You're Shit 7" on Mortarhate, you can clearly see the logo UKxHC, and that record came out before a lot of these kids were even born. Maybe it's just because I have yet to hear a band that willingly describes themselves as UKHC that doesn't sound like either a third rate version of the worst of the Cro Mags crossed with Biohazard, or some tediously bad pastiche of the arse end of the New York scene, circa 1989. Maybe it's because I have yet to see any substance other than stale and meaningless calls for scene unity and vague anger, directed at seemingly no one/ thing. But hey, it's not all negative, some UK bands I appreciate: Red Monkey, John Holmes, Scalplock, Red Right Hand, Canvas, Bette Davis and the Balconettes, Minute Manifesto, Orrin De Forest, Hernandez, Thirty Seconds Until Armageddon, Hard to Swallow, Voorhees. Enough already. As for 'fuck your unity', well, on a planet populated almost exclusively by worthless fucks (no positive mental outlook from this jaded old fucker I'm afraid) and in a scene that draws from this population, there's a pretty good law of averages that says that the scene will also draw insufferable morons. OK, so there is relatively decent filtration going on, but there are still pricks out there and why would I want the facade of unity? 'Support the scene' all too often translates as 'support my band' and calls for unity are often an all too convenient way of overlooking your mates rather dubious beliefs and practices. Let's have some consistency here please. Why do I want unity with dumb fuck rich kids that won't be around in six months time, when the metal mags tell them to be into something else? Why do I want unity with homophobic, women hating, worthless pieces of shit? Fuck them, fuck them all. There's a lot of fake Satanic posturing in the scene just now and if any of them had actually bothered to read the Satanic Bible, then they'd see that the fourth of The Nine Satanic Statements states that "Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it, instead of love wasted on ingrates!" I won't deny for one second that most of my really close friendships have come from the various scenes, but, at the end of the day, I need a damn sight more than a mutual love of Crossed Out and Negative Approach, to remain interested in a person.

14. You also do Joshua Norton Cabal. Give us a brief description of who Joshua Norton was?
Joshua Norton cabal is my harsh noise project and is nothing to do with any other bands I'm involved in. I've been into Extreme noise for about five years now, a love that evolved from an interest in groups like SPK, Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound etc etc when I discovered groups/people like Hijokaiden, Gerogerigegege, Merzbow, Macronympha, Hanatarashi, Solmania, Whitehouse and so on. I started creating my own about two years ago now and have played live a few times. I find the harsh noise scene to be the only truly DIY scene there is, all people creating it release their own works out of necessity, because that's just how it is and there's no 'ooh, look what I've done on my own, aren't I just so DIY?' posturing bullshit that is so overly prevalent in hardcore and punk, not to say that the noise world is perfect, far from it, there are a lot of total idiots involved and too many egos in certain sub-scenes for my liking. Joshua Norton lived in the Bay Area of the US about a hundred years ago and declared himself to be the 'Defender of Mexico' and benevolent dictator of the United States, he issued his own money and the Federal Bank actually acknowledged this and he was allowed to spend it. He had a vision of structure that would span both bay areas and there is now apparently a plaque in commemoration of the man on one of the supports of the Golden Gate Bridge. When he died over two thousand people turned up to his funeral, there are rumours that he was a wealthy industrialist who lost all his money and went mad, but I figure that anyone who can make their own currency and have it accepted is not that mad at all really. Joshua Norton Cabal was the name of one of the first Discordian sects, based in the Bay Area also I believe. I would recommend picking up a copy of 'The Principia Discordia, or, How I Found the Goddess and What I Did to Her when I Got Her' by Malaclypse the Younger. "'Tis an ill wind that blows no mind."

15. What have you released as JNC?
Split CD with Macronympha, split tape with Jerstice, Gaz from Canvas' noise thing, split CD with Facialmess, split CD with Gasolineman (probably one of the most innovative new school Japanese noise artists just now), split CD with Prurient, 3"CD on Hospital Productions, forthcoming tape on an Irish label, don't know the name of it, collaboration CD with Royal Librarian (new name for Jerstice), possibly a spit CD with Jason Campbell, but I sent him my master and he seems to have disappeared. Tons of compilations, if I can remember them all, err, Noise Today Volume 2, two of the Noise Conglomerates comps, I forget which ones, You're On Your Own, Out Disco Volume Two, Loud! In Your Ears Volume Two, Bad Timing, fuck, I can't remember, there's a lot more than that I think, there's probably a bunch of forthcoming releases and splits that i've forgotten about too. I'm an occasional collaborator with Sore Throat too, i've done some live stuff with them, i'm supposed to do some stuff for the next CD, I really should make a start on that source material they sent... I'm working on a remix of the Never Mind The Napalm LP for a compilation of mostly Japanese artists remixing old ST stuff. Other Remix stuff, I did a track for a South African compilation remixing my old band, Ebola and have done stuff for London grind core band, Morose, though i'm not too keen on that stuff. Playing a few gigs in Japan in April 2000, which should be a laugh.

16. What are your reasons for creating noise and how do you go about creating the noise that you do?
I create noise because I have a desire to create and noise allows me a lot of freedom outside of the traditional formulas of blues based music. I don't have to practice, I don't have to involve anyone else (though I do do both of these things at times). Noise is ambiguous, it means whatever you choose it to mean, both from a listeners and creators perspective. "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments." - John Cage, from Silence. How do I create the noise I do? Well, there are many techniques for the creation of noise and I utilise many, depending on what I need to do, I usually start by recording some improvised electronic feedback, made by wiring up guitar effects in 'wrong' ways. Then I overdub as necessary and mix down onto chrome tape and edit the results further. Sometimes I mix in recorded sounds from the streets, my house, old records etc, sometimes I use metal to create ssounds by mic-ing up sheets of metal in various ways and hammering the fuck out them, using processors to achieve the desired sound, and again editing it down to a pleasing end result. Final pieces of late have been made up from several hours worth of 'final' recordings, then condensing them down into much shorter pieces (usually between ten and thirty minutes) by tape editing, re-processing and manipulations. It's not hard once you know your equipment and most of my stuff is either pretty cheap, borrowed, stolen or inherited. Everyone knows about Merzbow, but people shhould also seek out stuff by Kazumoto Endo/ Killer Bug (my personal favourite), Facialmess, MO*TE, Government Alpha, Third Organ, Mlehst, Noise Girl, Billy?, Incapacitants, K2, Deison, Humectant Interruption, Putrefier, Macronympha, Skin Crime, Hanatarashi ad infi-fucking-nitum.

17. Who are your favourite bands at the moment?
Ahh, the obligatory boring question, but probably the part most people pay attention to, just like the thankslist on a record. Isis, Nine Shocks Terror, Boulder, Spazz, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Alec Empire, Autechre, Robochanman, Cornelius, Madonna, Budgie, Corrupted. Is everyone asleep yet?

18. Why do you have such an obsession with monkeys?
The obsession with monkeys is NOT a band obsession, it's one of my own. A childhood love of King Kong, Mighty Joe, Magilla Gorilla, the legend of Son Goku (inspiration for the Monkey TV series) Planet of the Apes and the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the witch releases flying apes to capture Dorothy all contributed to the current mind set I have. To be honest I don't know where exactly it came from, it exploded about five years ago, when I was living in a manky, flea infested shithole in the oh-so lovely west end of Newcastle upon Tyne with Jonathan from Minute Manifesto. We just lost the plot somehow in a haze of insect bites, hot sun, teenage girl induced lust and a weird fetish for eating the hottest curries we could make on the hottest days of summer whilst sitting about in our underwear. I think it probably stems from my utter despair with the human race and my desire to live in a bullshit free community and I see several ape societies, particularly amongst the Bonobo Chimpanzees and to a much lesser extent the Arabian Hamadryas Baboons as containing large elements of this ideal of mine. Fuck the human race, it's future lies smouldering at the feet of Mandrills waving human thigh bone clubs about in the air. Support your local ape militia.

19. Anything else to add?
Don't carry on in situations that aren't working just because you feel duty bound.