Brob interviewed in Toinen Vaihtoehto #74

February 21, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment
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Interview by Petteri ‘Peku’ Mikkilä (from Tampere, Finland) in 1995

(translation below)

Brob Tilt (Toinen Vaihtoehto #74) aBrob Tilt (Toinen Vaihtoehto #74) bBrob Tilt (Toinen Vaihtoehto #74) cBrob Tilt (Toinen Vaihtoehto #74) d

You have quite radical opinions of bands like ‘Chumbawamba’, ‘E.N.T.’, ‘Fugazi’ or ‘NoMeansNo’. These bands are widely appreciated in our scene so could you explain to people in Finland’s HC-scene what’s wrong with those bands? Should we support all bands that ‘market’ themselves as DIY-supporters, when at least a certain percentage of them are potential sell-outs/opportunists when they get a chance to make money and fame? After all, is it possible to recognize such bands (like what happened with you and ‘Napalm Death’…)? What do you think of labels that distribute Epitaph-stuff?

Well, that’s a whole bunch of questions. Some of them you’re anwsering already by yourself, more or less but I try to explain shortly my views on all this… It all boils down to what the basic ideology of HC/punk is (or should be). I see it as a youth-subculture that is trying to offer an alternative to the capitalist music-industry. The latter is brainwashing young people into adopting and accepting a lifestyle of ‘consume and shut up’; favouring only the powers-that-be, oppressing a vast majority of the world’s inhabitants and destroying our environment. Organising a subculture, using music as one of the most powerful tools to communicate a subversive (to the mainstream) ideology implies the denial of the music-business’ ways of working: no major labels, no commercial distributions or (chain-)stores, no commercial/mainstream clubs, no use of mainstream media-channels, no agencies, etc. In short: D.I.Y. and I mean that in the strictest sence. Any compromise to this endangers the sincerity and revolutionary spirit of this movement. Anyone who tries to make a living of HC/punk will at some point compromise this true ideology. The history of HC/punk has proven this all too many times. How many haven’t grown into accepting the industry’s ways and sold out?… The examples are numerous (I’m sure everyone can think of his/her own examples).

For the 4 examples you mentioned, I think anyone reading this will be able to figure out why I don’t consider them belonging to our scene or fighting to reach our goals. Chumbafuckthat is playing big commercial clubs through money-grabbing agencies; any eventual message is watered down and/or stripped from it’s truely revolutionary edge by the bussiness’ gardian-angels. Music has become the only thing that counts and to me their socalled message doesn’t reach anyone in the clubs they play. The same thing goes for ‘E.N.T.’ who obviously became a farce. ‘NoMeansNo’s agency (the dutch Konkurrent) dictates them which clubs to play (the ones where they can make most money, obviously outside the HC/punk-scene) and ‘Fugazi’, while pretending back home they play independent shows for a $5 enterance, actually play big mainstream-clubs for at least $10… They refused to play the Vort’n Vis, making up all kinds of silly excuses… These bands are totally alienated from the true, underground HC/punk-scene. It’s my honest opinion that there’s a few basic rules (I know, this doesn’t sound very anarchistic…) that shouldn’t be fooled around with. Everyone who does (bands/labels/distro’s/promoters/editors/…) should be denounced as ego-tripping, hypocritical bastards. The sell-outs are more rapidly accepted as such; at least to a larger extent than the opportunists: those who speak out loud how D.I.Y. they are, how truely HC they are but are in fact raping it’s very ideology. It’s not always easy to recognize them as such but therefore it’s important to get to know someone very well before working with them. Writing letters, asking people’s opinions and confronting them with you own, visiting persons, etc. will tell you how someone really is. doing so, hypocrits will be revealed as such. Yes, I agreed on ‘Napalm Death’ coming with ‘Ripcord’ on their first European tour in 86 without knowing them. ‘Ripcord’ were the best lads I could imagine – I really wanted to do a ‘euro-tour’ for them, whereas I soon discovered what assholes some of the ‘N.D.’ guys were. I told everyone what my opinions about them were so they thought they’ld give me the ultimate proof by beating me up… It wasn’t the last time I got threatened… Maybe I can expect something from Brett Epitaph or Bruno (Genet/Good Riddance) ‘s ‘death-squad’ aswell; but how can someone seriously believe that they’re D.I.Y. and independent when they’re distributed through Sony or sell major label shit respectively???

Your zine Tilt! has got a lot of pages; wouldn’t it be easier to put out thinner zines more often than to do almost a book once in a couple of years? Why did you choose it to be this way? HasTilt! always been so thick?

I started to do my fanzine Tilt! in 84, at first to inform people in our local scene about what was happening outside our region (the first 2 issues were in Dutch) but soon enough I wanted to tell them about the whole Belgian scene and communicate with HCpunx worldwide (so I started to write in english). The first 2-3 issues were about 40 pages because I was able to put it out regularly enough. In a later stage Tilt! grew bigger and bigger (first around 60, later about 80 pages) because I was involved in so many activities (gigs, tours, distribution) that I wasn’t able to work on it all the time. If I would have all my time to myself, I could put it out more regularly which – I agree – would make things more effective and Tilt! more actual. I did not choose it to be this way. I need a normal job to survive (I can’t get any unemployment-benefits) and to pay the fines I got imposed on me (juridical problems). This job allows me also to ‘invest’ some money into something I really believe in: the D.I.Y. HC/punk-scene. However I will always be in need of time; I have so much ideas, so much things to talk about, I’ld need 7 lives…

Could you tell Finnish people something about the Vort’n Vis? If someone from Suomi-Finland comes over there to see some gig, can this visitor sleep and eat there, for example?

I’m one of the volunteers of the Vort’n Vis. The Vort’n Vis (which means ‘rotten fish’ – the pub is located where once used to be a fish-market) is the name of the pub and location of our autonomous centre (the only one in Belgium) in Ieper, a small town in the northwest of Belgium, near the French border. The legal structure is a non-profit association which has to have a ‘president, secretary and treasure-keeper’ (of course that’s only on paper, to blind the authorities). We ‘elect’ those but there’s no real hierarchy (allthough some people are manipulating things to install one), things are decided in a democratic way at ‘meetings’. It started as an alternative hangout for local people who don’t feel attracted to mainstream pubs and clubs but because of the HC/punk gigs we regularly organise it became the main centre for HC/punk in Belgium The pub can hold up to 200 people and there’s a hall at the back that can hold 800 (maybe 1000?; we only use this in summer for big festivals). People from all over Belgium and even France (Lille, a big town, is only 25km away), Germany, the UK and practically the rest of Europe, sometimes even the States and Canada, come to the gigs. Since people often try to get home by public transport, we usually start quite early (6 p.m. saturdays/4 p.m. sundays) but people can spend the night if they want to; so can bands that are touring. We also have a small kitchen where we cook vegan meals. Bands are payed a share of what comes in at the door (the entrance is usually about $9 ($7 if you’re a member) for 4or 5 bands. The bar pays our rent (it’s not a squat), which is quite high because the V.V. is in the centre of town. The owner doesn’t take care of the building either. Therefor we’re always in need of money. Because of that we can’t always do what we plan. We’ld like to set up an info-shop and organise more non-musical activities (debates, exhibitions, political activity, regular vegan cafe,…) but this goes slow. There’s a lot of work to be done to improve the building. We also sell membership-cards (200 BeF [5 Euro]) which gives you a reduction at gigs and 3-4 times/year you get a copy of our V.V.-‘zine Fifi (in which I also contribute). If you’re into supporting us write to me or to the V.V. directly (P.O.Box 42/8900 Ieper/Belgium). Like I said there’s a (varying) group of people helping out (some more regularly than others) with shitwork, accountancy, administrative paperwork, cooking, cleaning, booking gigs, etc. There’s also some rehearsal-spaces where local bands (‘Blindfold’ e.g.) practice. It’s one of the best spots for HC/punk-gigs and autonomous activity in Belgium but of course there’s always room for improvement. I’m very critical and demanding about the whole V.V. set-up because I believe in it’s potential: if some people acted more responsible, we could achieve so much more. Some are also only doing things to get better of themselves and to promote their own ego’s. I’ld also like to see more non-music activity, a different way of doing gigs (music is important but so is politics and communication) sometimes, better financial handling, more motivation of locals (half of the volunteers are non-locals, myself e.g. (I live 90km away), etc. We also have to be aware of the potential danger of ego-tripping and try to avoid too much hierarchical structuring… Still, having said all this, the Vort’n Vis almost became my second home… I hope it stays that way: lately lots of people are getting burnt out and there’s a lot of hassle from the community and police. The winter of 95 promises to be crucial…

Finnish people, just like anybody from any nationality, can sleep at the Vort’n Vis but they have to bring their own sleeping-bags of course. There’s no problem whatsoever to spend the night after a gig or during one of our festivals, as long as you behave in a responsible way and respect the other guests. If you’re in a band you sleep on a seperate floor where we provide matrasses. Bands also get free drinks (not un-limited!) and free vegan food. Guests have to bring their own food (sometimes we sell some when there’s plenty being made) and if they ask politely, they may even use our kitchen. If you’re financially limited, you can always give us a hand in exchange for free entrance or free food. Talk to us!

You have a quite large amount of books and literature for sale; do you read all of them? Any recommendations? What’s AK Press?

No, I haven’t read all of the books on my list (yet). Some I read from beginning to end, others I’ve just read chapters or parts of and others I’ve just glanced through. I also don’t agree a 100% with everything in them. Concerning political literature; I try to look at things from different perspectives: anarchist, communist, socialist, anarcho-communist, syndicalist, etc. I don’t corner myself politically; I mean my political beliefs are a mixture of elements of all of these. I suppose I don’t have to tell that I don’t want any fascist, racist, sexist, homophobic ideas being spread. I also don’t have room and patience for religious crap. Concerning fanzines; the criteria are the same, only I’m quite critical when it comes down to taking a radical stance in favour of D.I.Y. and against any business- and major label-crap. I have (had) some art-stuff (drawings, poetry, pictures) and cartoons but these are rather limited. I stil; sell some vinyl aswell but I’m very choosy about this… I can recommend everything, otherwise I wouldn’t distribute it. If you want a list and/or any information, just drop me a line and I’ll try to help…

I take stuff on consignement (sale or return) and sell at gigs and through mailorder. I get vinyl from the bands directly or·from small labels. The fanzines I get directly from the editors (I’m always asking people to present me their material) or through a fanzine-wholesale a friend of mine does. The books, for the largest part, come from Active Distribution (run by my mate Jon Elliott) in London. He gets them from small, independent publishing-companies like Attack International, Elephant Editions, Freedom Press, Phoenix Press, Rebel Press and AK Press. You’ll understand that most of the things I sell are in English (as I aim for an international public), some of the fanzines are in French and some in Dutch (our country’s 2 languages). At the moment (autumn 95), I’m establishing more contacts with publishers and distributions who carry political literature in Dutch because younger people here don’t always master a foreign language yet.

AK (Ann Kanaan) Press is a small publishing company and distribution (mainly books but also some fanzines, T-shirts, tapes, badges,…) set up by my friend (and ex-‘Political Asylum’ vocalist) Ramsey Kanaan. It all started some years ago in his flat in Edinburgh but soon AK Press became a ‘co-operative ltd’ and has now ‘offices’ in Edinburgh, London and San Francisco.

I’m sure that you have been to many countries. Is there any country where the scene has felt like the best in the world? Do you think that you could come to Finland some day? Do you think that Suomi is an interesting country? Can you tango?

Ha! … Well, I’ve travelled a bit in the past yes; visiting friends and correspondents or touring with bands. The last few years I haven’t been able to because of financial problems. Luckily there’s always people from almost everywhere visiting me from time to time. I’ve very much enjoyed my stay in San Francisco in 1989; loads of people in bands there of course, the MRR-house, several gigs almost every night,… I also liked the warm-hearted atmosphere in Edinburgh during the summer of 91 and have good memories about a little tour of Denmark in 87, I think it was… But short stays (even if a few weeks) can never give you a full understanding of a scene. You need to be there a lot longer and see/meet everyone in everyday-life… At the end of the 80s, my friend at that time – the german tourpromotor and ‘Double A Records’-man Rainer Mettner, who’s travelled a lot more than I did – told me that the best ever scene (for him, at that time) was the one in the Blitz in Oslo, Norway…

I very much liked the scenery and the people in Denmark when I was there; and I’ve always felt attracted to Scandinavian countries. I’ve planned a visit to Norway before but never made it up there ‘cause I got fired and lacked the money. Suomi is also part of Scandinavia so I’ld like to visit it too someday. The scene in Finland is for most people over here synonym to crust-punk or ‘Discharge’-clones but I know there’s other bands too. I’ve always been a teeny-weeny bit more favourite to melodic (but energetic) stuff like ‘Turun Tauti’ and ‘Juggling Juggulars’ (both bands that I invited over here). What puts me of, is the amount of alcohol that some Fins can swallow and their behaviour afterwards. I once spent a weekend with some of the ‘Selfish’- and ‘Uutuus’-dudes during a festival here in town and it seemed like they wanted to absorb as much alcohol as possible as if they would never get the opportunity anymore…

I recently tried to tango with a drunk French punk during an ‘Unhinged’-gig and nearly busted my head…

Could you imagine yourself playing in some band again? Do you still have the equipment and skills?

Sure, I can imagine myself in a band again… Allright, it’s been since 88 since I played in a band (I played guitar in ‘Repulsives’ – an immensely (hm,hm) popular band in Belgium between 84 and 87 – and later in ‘Yuppies Death’ with an intermezzo on bass in the second line-up of ‘Repulsives’) but I still play every day. I’ve got both a guitar- and a bass-amp in my small flat and frequently plug in my guitars to release my anger and frustration (to the dispair of some of my neighbours). I’ve never been a guitar-wizzard but I do know how to put a song together… Some people think that because I’m a bit older I can’t play that fast anymore but I think I still could amaze them. There’s regularly talk of starting a band again but until now it’s not happening yet (due to a lack of time, a lack of rehearsal-space and/or personal differences)…

What’s your favourite vegetarian food, recipe (I do the ‘Eat Wheat Not Meat’ section with recipes in Toinen Vaihtoehto, you see…)?

I’m not a very good cook, actually I hate cooking but I do love to eat. I try to get invited or go out eating in one of Gent’s many veg(atari)an restaurants. There’s a real good healthfood-store closeby and a friend of mine owns one in another town so I don’t have trouble getting what I need. I can’t give you any recipes; the times I do prepare a real meal are very sparse. Some friends are really good cooks so if you want some foreign recipes, I can get you in touch. There’s also several booklets with recipes been published in the international HC-scene (check e.g. Soy Not Oi or the different issues of Bark And Grass). My favourite food definitely would be desserts: cakes and things like that. Yummie! My zine-queen Vique Simba is a master in vegan cake-cuisine, I’m told. Get her to bring me one next time; I’m too shy to ask…

Any message for Finnish people?

I would like to encourage everyone in your country (just like I’m doing with people over here and elsewhere) to (re-)evaluate their involvement in the HC/punk-scene, to consider what the ideology behind all this is and then to adjust their attitudes and behaviour. I hope this leads to a decrease of their tolerance (for some even acceptance) towards the increasing commercialisation and marketing in this scene. If they don’t agree they could start discussing what I said above (amongst each other or with me) and if they do: go out and spread the message, try to convince others. We all have a responsibility!


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