British band The Hurriers are passionate, independently-driven — both in terms of control of their output, promo and gigs — and, almost as a bonus, a kick-ass in-your-face rock'n'roll act.
The five-piece hails from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, a working-class town with a long history of mining. Their debut From Acorns, Mighty Oaks was released last May and is a cracker.
The line-up is Sam Horton and Jim Proud on guitars, Jamie Walman on bass, Zak Wright drums and Tony Wright vocals. Tony is Zak's dad, a bit of a rarity in rock'n'roll. Tony took some time out to answer some questions. The interview is abridged from Porky Prime Cuts.
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You describe yourselves as a socialist band but the term means different things to different people. How do you define it, and is it still relevant — and achievable — in this capitalist system we live under?
I've been a socialist since 1979 and I reckon socialism has never been more relevant or achievable. Socialism is about social justice, equality and opportunity for all, no matter what their background. It's about nationalising key industries and the public sector and investing in infrastructure rather than making cuts, dropping standards and stealing profits which should be going on increased wages and developing services.
On “You're Not Gagging Me” you pay respect to The Clash. It seems a long time since bands had something to say and refused to conform. Are there any other bands around now that matter?
The Hurriers are responsible for bringing together three political compilations featuring tracks from over 70 acts, all proud to be considered as socialist and connected to three causes: the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Hope Not Hate and the Morning Star compilation.
While the number of overtly left-wing mainstream acts may be few and far between, at the grassroots level there is a musical movement of activism like never before.
For every [left-wing] mainstream act such as Billy Bragg, the Manics, Frank Turner, there are scores of jobbing acts like The Hurriers, Thee Faction, Joe Solo, Quiet Loner, Interrobang!, Louise Distras, Grace Petrie and many, many more. It's also superb to see Sleaford Mods breaking through to a wider audience, they well and truly tell it like it is!
Is there still a place for campaigning, anti-establishment bands?
There is and there always will be! The We Shall Overcome Weekend [in October] proved that musicians have a vital role to play in campaigning against injustice, poverty and an establishment that thinks nothing of the rise in foodbanks and homelessness. For decades music has had a conscience, and I firmly believe that as the injustice increases, the level of activity and compassion from musicians will also increase.
Britain now has the most right-wing government since Thatcher and a far right party, UKIP, doing well with a racist program. In this environment can a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party really provide an alternative?
If you look at it in real terms, this government is even more right-wing than Thatcher. Corbyn's landslide victory proved to everyone that people have had enough of austerity and had enough of an uncaring capitalist system.
Even though the press are out to smear Corbyn with every chance they get, if you talk to the man and woman in the street he really is starting to win people over as an electable leader of a British socialist government.
When the public have got the mass media telling them at every turn that the country is safe in Tory hands, it was always going to be a massive job convincing them that there is another way, but it's happening, it really is.
Has his election given hope to those who need it most?
That isn't going to happen overnight for the reasons I gave in the last answer. There are over four years to the next election so Labour have a job to do convincing voters that theirs is the best way forward. If another four years of Tory rule and austerity is the price we have to pay to get a truly socialist government then I'd settle for that.
One of the most refreshing things about the Corbyn victory is the way it has shown for the first time in decades that the Labour Party is not all about a group of MPs gathering in London a few days a week. I was lucky enough to hear Jeremy speak three times in the lead up to the leadership election and it was invigorating to see thousands of party members and supporters turning up to hear him and, more to the point, being inspired and energised by every word he was saying.
He got almost 60% of the vote across all voting groups, that's some mandate, and if right-wing MPs don't like it that's up to them. With the groundswell of feeling from grassroots members and supporters, I think they are going to find that they are no longer going to be able to politically position themselves wherever they fancy, instead CLPs [constituency Labour Party — electorate-based local groups] will become more active and more organised and MPs will find that if they don't reflect the views of their constituency members they will be facing challenges — and so they should be.
Tell us about your connection to miners, and in particular the miners' search for truth and justice?
Being a political band from the proud mining town of Barnsley, we were always going to have a strong connection to the miners. I've always been proud of the fact that in one of my earlier bands, Stronger Than Dirt, we did gigs to raise money for striking miners and their families in the '84/'85 strike. It wasn't planned that The Hurriers came about at the same time as the 30th anniversary of the strike, but we were proud to play a big part in the 30th anniversary commemorations.
As well as sorting out the acts for the Orgreave Picnic [in support of the Truth and Justice campaign], and the With Banners Held High events, our song “Truth and Justice” reminds people that while the strike may have been over 30 years ago, the fight for justice goes on.
How important is it for you to play benefit gigs?
Since we formed in January 2013, The Hurriers have done well over 50 gigs and all but a handful have been benefit gigs for political causes we believe in. We were formed as a political band and our number one priority is spreading a political message via the kind of music people want to listen to.
While it should always be remembered that musicians must be reimbursed for expenses incurred wherever possible, benefit gigs will always be the main course of the Hurriers' gigging menu.
The band contains yourself and your son, which isn't very rock'n'roll. Do you argue about the band van and stuff like that?
I suppose it is a bit out of the ordinary to have a dad on lead vocals and his son on drums, but I think that's brilliant. Why should there be restrictions or norms about what the make-up of a band should be in regards to ages and family relationships?
Just like every other member of The Hurriers, Zak is highly politicised and like Sam, our rhythm guitarist, he has a great knowledge of music for a teenager.
Zak certainly isn't in the band just because he's my son, he's a cracking drummer and he comes up with just as many if not more new ideas than anyone. In regards to arguments, it might sound hard to believe but I honestly can't remember there ever being any between any of us as a band. Maybe that's because we're a socialist band!
And what of your plans for the future?
The next few years are going to be highly significant in terms of politics and political music has a key role to play in that. As we have done from the start The Hurriers will be proudly singing socialist songs and helping spread the message that if we really want to change things, we can.