This World Is Dead
French grindcore band Blockheads have hammered out a solid reputation in the European extreme music scene over the past two decades. Their lyrics spit bile against corruption, colonialism, the corporate media, inequality, pollution, pro-lifers and much more. Mat Ward spoke to bassist and vocalist Erik about their new album, This World Is Dead, and the political situation in France.
What political changes have you seen in France since the election of President Francois Hollande?
There haven’t been so many changes here since Hollande’s election. The nation has been ruled by the right-wing party since 1995. Some political changes occurred, but Hollande found the nation in trouble, in an economic crisis and with a bad social climate where the richest were gaining more and more money while middle class and poorest were left behind and suffered. So things are not so easy for him. And although the absolute monarchy has been abolished since 1789, is it really presidents who run countries? Or is it all the lobbyists and multinational corporations which really run this world? It reminds us of the opening of one of the best grindcore records ever back in 1987, “Multinational corporations, Genocide of the starving nations…” [Napalm Death's "Multinational Corporations"]
What do you make of French actor Gerard Depardieu being granted citizenship by Russia because he objected to France's new taxes on the rich?
Here in France, a proverb says “rats are leaving the boat”. It means that in front of a difficult situation, cowards will leave the place first. So that’s exactly what we think about him. As an actor, he is amazing, but now this fatty, self-made man, initially coming from the lowest class, is leaving the nation to protect its sweet money, leaving behind him a place where the idea of equality is (was?) strong. At the beginning of its mandate, the previous president, Nicolas Sarkozy, built the “fiscal shield”, a legal action that allows you to avoid paying more taxes when you reach a certain threshold of earning (that is, if you earn more, you won’t be taxed more). That is something the government broke just before the election because it was not really well-appreciated by his supporters, but they applied it previously for many years. Now the left-wing party is governing and following the principle the more you earn, the more you pay. Consequently, richest people are leaving the nation. It's always the same, a deep selfishness in their mind. They were here as long as they could earn money, now that they've got to share, they leave the place. We've got a track called "Famine" and one of the lyrics suits the situation perfectly: "Empty the heart of the rich, empty the children's guts." Truly, this guy could be one of those central guys figuring on the same record we talked about earlier.
What did you make of France's Interior Minister announcing a ban on street protests against anti-Muslim cartoons last year? How does it fit with the political scene in France in general?
It is not a simple question to answer. We must be careful in what we say because we could quickly be considered fascists. It is a really tough topic here in France. There are a lot of people in this country who are from the Muslim religion and they are well integrated. Among them, there are some extremists, called fundamentalists, which are against so many things our republic always defends, like free expression, laicity [French secularism], equality between genders... And so it is a tough topic to discuss because there is a kind of atmosphere in which you’ve got two choices, you’re with them or against them. For our side, we are against all kinds of intolerance. In some neighbourhoods, it is dangerous to walk for a non-veiled woman, now, in 2013. At the same time, women wearing the niqab have been seen for a decade and those people attack laicity each time they can, in the name of their own differences and religion. Well, we are atheists and the niqab is just a cloth which represents the macho rules. It is a powerful tool for segregation between sex and the most terrifying thing is the indoctrination those women have, since they feel pride to be ruled by macho laws. One last thing, remember what happened to Theo van Gogh. [Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh produced the film Submission, which criticised the treatment of women in Islam and aroused controversy among Muslims. He was assassinated in 2004 by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim.]
Please tell us about each of the songs on your new album.
We work in a continuous way and some of the songs on this album are six or seven years old, because they were done just after Shapes Of Misery, which was recorded in 2005. We don’t have a real writing method. The guitar player can come with an almost complete title, including lyrics, or we can just try something when we’re together, and if it flows well we keep it or everything begins from a drum pattern. No rules. Some songs were done in two hours, some others we had to work on again and again to be satisfied. The most difficult took us almost two years to complete, because each time we stopped and said, "OK, it’s done", we went back and broke everything, sometimes, later because it wasn’t so good after all. Although riffs and drum parts were OK, the construction wasn’t powerful enough. So, about the lyrics…
At different times under totalitarian regimes, people used indoctrination and coercive persuasion against dissidents. Killing them would have made them become martyrs, so brainwashing was used, which transforms those who were previously dissidents into new men under control, speaking now with the voice of the system that re-educated them. But they have to undergo a period of destruction of memory during the process. This is what this track is talking about.
How the organised loss of education will produce good sheep ready to follow your will. How you can manipulate people that are kept stupid by a reduction of educational programs. By reducing financial help to public schools, you allow the rich to keep giving a good education to their children who will take the lead after and the system will go on. Because no one thinks about rebelling any more when you don’t have the tools to conceptualise it. This is not even taming, you don’t think about disobedience at all.
Born Among Bastards
This is a song against machismo and all the societies that say and enforce that women are there to obey, nothing more. This is a strong song for us, because we are always sad and kind of angry when we hear about people like that. And this is not only about religions or cultures, some people close to us have these ideas as well.
Imagine that our race went as far as self-destruction. The only species to stand and take the place would be insects that would then know their "final arise". So let’s move on and leave the place, there are masters of Earth waiting.
Here this topic came from the story of a young Brazilian girl raped at the age of 9, excommunicated for having an abortion. Against pro-lifers when they are associated with religion. We can’t understand why a raped woman, after enduring a real and violent abuse, should suffer for it life-long by keeping an unwanted child. It would remind her of the rape always, and this is especially rude when it happens to teens, maybe in an incest process.
It’s time to look at the real world, to stop dreaming and saying everything is OK. So wake up and look.
This World is Dead
This is about mankind being a plague to this world. We make everything that’s possible to kill ourselves, to become extinct. The air, food, everything is now poisoned and we should accept it and pay to fight this. But the powerful still refuse to see that, and protect their own interests, on global warming for example.
This is about the numerous poisons we can find in our food. Many components’ side-effects are still unknown, and research on these unveil many hidden dangers. We’ll see cancers spreading for all the generations that ate these, and continue to do so.
All These Dreams
We are just human cattle, whose dreams of hope are useless. This is a very pessimistic song. The statement is simple: cling to your dreams; this is where you’ll find a fine world. And only there - reality is so different.
The power of media. They can decide what’s true or false, for only what is seen can exist. We strongly believe this is all manipulation, used and abused by political forces. Maybe in a way the social network could and will work against that, but as it can be locked, there’s little chance.
Be a Thorn to Power
This is a song against our society, greed and religions and their race for power. We should stand apart and be a thorn to power.
Human beings are just oil for the system, crushed and doomed.
It’s a fact, exposure to some pesticides during pregnancy can induce autism, but the lobbying of the agro chemistry industry is so strong.
To The Dogs
A simple consequence of the death of a son or relative that can bring some people to the extreme of terrorism and blind killing. Fighting for a cause is something we can understand, but stepping onto a bus and killing unknown people by self-explosion as a blind revenge is still beyond our understanding.
Buenos Aires S.C.
This is about the new age of colonialism and how the IMF and societies can change a country to bring them to act like any other in a global controlled system. At first, this is said to help develop the country, but in the end it becomes so important that there is no way to get out of this “help” any more and power and money have won again because political decisions are made to keep the money flowing instead of social improvements.
Crisis Is Killing The Weak
We are living in a strange time, when economic crisis is everywhere in Europe, and the people that suffer most are those who lose their jobs and try to make it anyway. On the other hand, there are big profits made from oil and energy, the star system, sports... This is suffocating when you can only rely on your family’s help to feed your children.
This is one of the oldest songs on the album, recorded for a split release with Mumakil some years ago. This one speaks about famine of course, and again rages against inequality. “Empty the children’s guts, empty the heart of the rich.”
Sell Your Flesh
There’s no real deep meaning for this song. A short, direct one based on the fact that poor people are ready to sell their own flesh to live, not as prostitutes but as cattle. How much for my leg, my blood, my kidney?
This song stands against female abuse and pornography, seen as money made from poverty and frustration. This could lead to a long debate on prostitution, because we know that some deranged people could become rapists if there was no other way. But when we see young girls on the street, we can’t believe this is a choice. We see it as a very degrading thing for women.
Take Your Pills
We read a study about strong medication, for painful illnesses, that led people to become drug addicts when they were freed from the disease. Then there was no more help or support for them, they became unwanted thrash. A strange downside, somewhat common where these drugs can be bought freely.
People are talking about progress, but what are we doing every day is digging graves. Ours and others, because no one gives a fuck about us. All that counts is money and power, everything else is a lie.
We strongly believe that a woman should have the right to choose her life by using abortion if needed.
Follow The Bombs
After a war, there is much to rebuild, and this means profits. This is a reality, and some people and firms are true scavengers, feeding on pain and destruction. This song goes a little bit further, because there are cases where the exact reason for war is blurred. In these cases, whether this is to protect interests, sell weapons, or profit from the benefits of worldwide funds for reconstruction, we say that wars that could be prevented are instead supported if not created for the money they will bring, regardless of human conditions for the people involved, of course - because they are never the ones who will profit.
Doctrine of Assured Mutual Destruction
This is about all those doctrines, beliefs, nationalisms and greed for land of economic superiority that will all lead to the same point: global war and total destruction. The only reason why the world is not consumed by flames yet is that many countries are so indebted to each other that the fall of one would be the fall of all. It has nothing to do with humanity or reason. But some people are thinking in a different way, and don’t care about global stability, be it for religious reasons, nationalisms or even just to prove to the world that they exist and must be taken into account in international affairs. For power, because it always comes back to this point, many nations are ready and willing to take down global stability as it is now. And this would be apocalyptic for the world as we know it.
Trail of The Dead
After all has been done wrong, the only hope for humanity is to become extinct...