September marks the arrival of a defining name of the 1980s British anarcho-punk scene, Subhumans, to Australia. This will be the band’s first Australasian tour and features the 1981 line-up that recorded their debut EP Demolition War and classic albums such as The Day The Country Died.
Green Left Weekly's Chris Peterson spoke to frontman Dick Lucas.
Recently we have seen three members of punk rock band Pussy Riot jailed for two years for “hooliganism” in Russia and an international campaign spring up to support them. What do you see as the role of music in social change?
On the face of it, music makes very little difference unless it’s linked to a huge amount of media attention and pulls out all the stops, e.g. Live Aid concerts raising awareness and millions of dollars.
But below the surface of the mass-produced musical brain-dulling swathes of “entertainment”, there are several sub/counter-cultural genres that use music to back up serious ideas about the way things are, and how they shouldn't be that way, and occasionally an idea or two about what to do about it.
The main process this engenders is a re-evaluation of social, personal and political values by people who are keen to know that their feelings of disenfranchisement are shared and valid, and who prefer to have their messages delivered through music rather than, say, books. Through such re-evaluation comes the only type of change that has a lasting effect, that of attitudes — towards society, the status quo, religion, war, etc.
It’s a slow way to change things, but way more effective in the long run than voting a different party in. Of course, it’s way more than music that affects attitudes, but it does play a part.
How did you handle the Olympics in London?
Didn’t notice it, telly off, and go on tour! And everyone survived! There were rocket launchers on people's roofs, put there by the state to allow for the likelihood of airborne terrorist attacks, the army were brought in to police the crowds, and the only food allowed in was c/o McDonalds, who, with Coke, were sponsoring it all.
It's like Get Fat and Run About for your country!
It was a shambles and for all the medals won, it still cost billions of pounds in a country on the verge of economic collapse.
Recently there have been threats against Julian Assange by British authorities. What are your thoughts on WikiLeaks?
Leak on! He and they did a superb, much-needed job of telling the world of all the inter-related corruption and back-scratching and dodgy deals that go on, usually unnoticed in the shady world of international “relations”.
And now the United States calls it treason and wants to lock him up forever. The “special relationship” Britain has with the US (entirely based on the fact we owed the US a huge financial debt after World War II, which got finally paid off about 10 years ago) is no doubt the spur the state needs to hassle Assange to the point he has to take refuge with the Ecuadorians in their embassy.
And then the embassy gets threatened with non-embassy status under some small-print law they dug up. It's all demented, they're trying to stop a leak that flooded out ages ago.
It can be hard to survive in the world of punk rock. What has kept you going so long?
Coffee, managing to stay out of a nine-to-five job for the past 30 years, the unending way a tune can still make me feel energised despite knowing it back to front, not eating meat — all these are almost random thoughts, I've no idea. But it is a solid fact that a band keeps going largely ’cause people keep turning up at gigs!
Is it that hard to survive in punk rock? The nature of DIY being that anyone can do just about anything, and punk being a very DIY scene, there's none of the twisted search for validation and fame all the time that cause a lot of bands to fold up in despair and disillusion.
It may be hard to survive financially in a scene that scorns the nature of money and what it does to people, but easy to survive in terms of longevity and continuity.
What do you see as the role of humour in your work?
What humour there is seems to be either dark and twisted (offering a cigarette to cheer up someone who has cancer), light and silly (“Til the Pigs Come Round”), or light but serious (“Us Fish Must Swim Together”).
There's wordplay, there's musical nods to other bands, and neither are downright funny, but when most of the subject matter and music is bashing and hitting out, it's vital to not get too serious, and add some irony or mimicry or oddness to keep a breeze going. It all has to be fun to do, as well as everything else, or where's the fun in it?
For more information n the band, check out their website. Tour Dates (visit www.oztix.com.au for more info):
12 September Amplifier, Perth
13 September Prince of Wales, Nundah, Brisbane
14 September Sandringham Hotel, Sydney
15 September Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne
16 September Forresters and Squatters Arms, Adelaide
17 September Northcote Social Club, Melbourne.