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‘Freedom for the Wolf’: Essential new documentary traces the rise of fake democracy

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Last year, I was very fortunate to see an early cut of Rupert Russell’s documentary on the rise of fake democracy Freedom of the Wolf, which will be on release soon and is currently screening at the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) over the next two weeks. The title of the film comes from the renowned philosopher Isaiah Berlin who once said, “Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.” This quote provides a starting-point for Russell who goes in search of the world’s most dangerous idea Freedom.

The end result is an excellent and indispensable documentary which provides one helluva ride across continents to meet the people battling on the frontline like the demonstrators occupying the streets of Hong Kong against the Chinese government’s removal of their democratic rights; or the youngsters in Tunisia who are left frustrated and isolated after the failure of the Arab Spring where telling a joke now can land them in jail; and to death on the streets of America, #BlackLivesMatter, and the game-changing election of Donald Trump in 2016. Freedom of the Wolf is the essential documentary to go and see if you want to get a handle on what is happening to freedom and democracy in the world right now .

I caught-up with Russell who has been screening Freedom of the Wolf at film festivals across the world to great acclaim. I started by asking him what had the response to his film been like at film the festivals?

Rupert Russell: The screenings have been fantastic; with a few cultural differences. In the UK, people have been responding to the dark humor – there’s a low-level absurdity that runs through the whole film, which the Brits pick up on pretty quickly. In Poland, the audiences were anxious to discuss how to mount successful protests; which, for them, is understandable!

DM: Was it what you expected?

Russell: To be honest, I think it’s wise to have no expectations. Sure, you screen the film to your friends and family who are supportive and tell you it’s great. I’m sure even Ed Wood had words of encouragement when he played a cut of Plan 9 From Outer Space or Tommy Wiseau with The Room. So I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction.

DM: What do you think Trump will do? Where do you think he’s going as President?

Russell: After the Republicans take a pummeling in the 2018 elections, Trump will be rattled. He’ll provoke a foreign war to consolidate his base and divide the Democrats. Where? Who knows. Australia and Canada appear as villains in Trump’s twitter feed as much as North Korea. I’m guessing that Trump is going to surprise us by invading a U.S. territory. Remember in 2015 how the InfoWars crowd was stoking a heated conspiracy for months that Obama was going to “invade” Texas? It may sound insane, but Trump’s favorite website reported that this kind of action is a normal response to a “hostile” enemy – even if it is already under the control of the Pentagon. Puerto Rico would be the obvious contender for a self-invasion. But Trump is never predictable, so I’m putting my money on California.

DM: Do you think revolutionary acts “keep the status in the quo”?—as a character in one of Derek Jarman’s films once ironically pointed out?

Russell: If your bar for success is the elimination of inequality, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression in their entirety, then yes, every act – revolutionary or not – is unlikely to eliminate them. There’s something ingrained in us to create distinctions and hierarchies. Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels captured this flaw in human nature elegantly in the sectarian conflict between Big-Endians and the Little-Endians; that is, between those who crack open an egg on the big or little end. If we can’t find a real reason to divide ourselves, we’ll find one: no matter how arbitrary or absurd.

But if you lower the bar, to say, improvement, then I think even small – let alone revolutionary – acts can make a big difference. If you thought the global women’s marches on January 21 were going to lead to the removal of Donald Trump or the overthrow of patriarchy, then yes, you will have been disappointed. But the current pushback against famous men who have sexually assaulted, harassed, and demeaned women, then I think you have the Women’s March to thank for it. It generated grassroots organizations - in both real life and online - that gave women spaces, opportunities, and platforms to articulate and understand what, until then, had been largely private interactions.

And if you take the two most successful civil disobedient campaigns in history – the civil rights struggle in the US and campaign for independence in India – the striking thing is how long they took. Change takes decades. Sometimes a protest resulted in a step backward with more oppression; other times they moved things forward. But the individuals knew that their struggle was historic and may even take multiple generations to complete. That’s why the arc of history is “long” – and not conveniently contained within a 24-hour news cycle.

DM: What do you think will happen in Hong Kong? And in Tunisia?

Russell: In Hong Kong, the short term looks very bleak. Young leaders are in prison, and pro-democracy legislators have been banned from the legislature. In the long term, I’m optimistic. There’s a body of research in psychology that has found that the events that happen in your early adult life – from 18 to 22 – have an incredible impact on the rest of your life. So in Hong Kong, you have an entire generation who has teargassed by the police and slept under highways for democracy; they’re not going to forget that. And in twenty, thirty years, these will be the people who will be running the banks, the civil service, and even the police in Hong Kong.

Tunisia is sadly predictable. The President, Beji Essebsi, has used the police to drive motorcycles in protests and kept laws that prohibit the criticizing of public officials on the books (inherited from the dictatorship, which he served in). He has made some important reforms on women’s issues, freeing Muslim women from the necessity of having to marry another Muslim. This shouldn’t surprise us though. He was the Minister of the Interior – the heart of the police state – under the secular dictator Ben Ali. So a mixture of authoritarianism and anti-Islamism was to be expected. The unfortunate thing is that while progress on women’s issue is reported in the Western press, his illiberal actions are not. Perhaps this is because we want to keep in our (Western) minds the notion that Tunisia is a “success” and “progress” is being made. It’s a narcissistic reflection of our own ideals; our values flourishing outside of our immediate cultural orbit. And if we look too closely, we may not like what we see.

DM: What next for you? What are you making?

Russell: I have just completed an animated web-series for the online streaming platform, Yaddo. It’s called How the World Went Mad and it uses a mixture of satire and science to try to explain the rise of Trump. Each episode takes a lesson from social science to explain a different aspect of this “disease” – diagnosis, symptoms, transmission, epidemic, and cure. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to put them out there. Not sure how the episode on suicide bombing is going to be received. But I’m ready for the trolls (the episode might be the one thing that will unite ISIS and the Alt-Right).

Rupert Russell’s film ‘Freedom for the Wolf’ is being screened at the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) over the next two weeks. Details here..
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
 
‘Freedom for the Wolf’: The Rise of Illiberal Democracy
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.14.2017
08:55 am
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How Trump is using LGBTQ people as pawns in a numbers game to consolidate power
07.27.2017
12:44 pm
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So this week, the Trump administration, already in the midst of an ongoing assault on the horrific-to-Republicans spectre of normal people getting to go to see doctors AND an effort to turn the Boy Scouts into the Trumpenjugend, staged a two-pronged official offensive against sexual and gender minorities.

Our tweet-happy president, all by himself, without alerting the Pentagon to the policy change or offering the Department of Defense anything resembling an implementation plan, informed the world that transgender soldiers would no longer be permitted to serve in the US armed forces. Then, hours later, the Department of Justice, directed by the increasingly beleaguered Attorney General/fucking evil elf Jeff Sessions, submitted a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stating that the Civil Rights Act did not apply to LGBTQ Americans.

That’s right—at a time when we’re supposedly locked into an epochal clash of civilizations against brown foreigners, people SO INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS that society must protect itself at all costs from letting them take a shit at the department store evidently aren’t fit to be trained to kill brown foreigners.

You KNOW what they’re doing, right? I mean aside from being toxic, spiteful, nasty, bigoted, chauvinistic pigfuckers who wield social privilege as a weapon; we’re used to them doing all that. This is different. This isn’t just hateful, this is tactical. They’re prepping to turn the midterms into an equality showdown so it won’t be a referendum on Trump. GOP mouthbreathers will be out in force telling voters “Look, those out-of-touch elitist Democrats are letting our fine fighting forces be overrun by trannies! They care more about protecting fags’ jobs than they care about protecting YOUR jobs!”

This is almost certain to work. It already happened in recent memory, when they used a handful of statewide marriage equality initiatives to mobilize a national troglodyte voter base against John Kerry. Just wait and see if I’m wrong. Hell, someone in the know already admitted it. Click for a more readable enlargement:
 

 
These scumbags are 100% on-script right now, and the Dems are fucked: if they do the right thing and stand for equality, they’re taking the bait. If they recognize this as bait and join the GOP in throwing sexual and gender minorities under the bus to keep the focus on Trump’s unyielding streak of outrages, then they will have not just thrown vulnerable sexual and gender minorities under the bus, but done so for electoral reasons, which DUH is fucking double-evil, AND they will have depressed their own voter turnout due to being no different than the Republicans on an issue as existentially significant as human rights.

Gerrymandering and racist voter ID laws that are definitely going to go national ASAFuckingP (the architect of Kansas’ SAFE Act has been appointed to Mike Pence’s farcical Commission on Election Integrity) will take care of the rest, and boom, midterm sweep, the Republicans retain or increase their majority in both houses, and the fascist takeover of the USA has an electoral “mandate.”

THIS is why they have governed and will continue to govern from a national electoral minority for decades to come: they know how to play these numbers games and they’re Machiavellian enough to handwave any pearl-clutching about “democracy” or “norms.” And the milquetoast DNC centrists who inexplicably STILL run the show in that utterly debased excuse for a national political party still think there’s intrinsic value in “taking the high road” and in playing the legislative chambers’ ineffectual rules-of-order parlor games. There is not. The vaunted “high road” has all too often been their road to defeat. The intrinsic value in being in government is in being the people who actually get to make the laws. The DNC’s failure to see the reality that’s repeatedly smacked them in the face has ceded those privileges to authoritarian monsters for the foreseeable future, while the people they’ve failed are left to gaze upon Trump’s works and despair.

I don’t pretend to know what needs to be done, but doing what we’re used to doing won’t accomplish shit while the corridors of power are overrun, and I sure don’t expect institutions to help. The idea that Speaker of the House/other evil elf Paul Ryan will move to impeach before mid-terms (if at all, ever) is laughable, and forget about treason charges. Horseshoe theory-poisoned major media have already been dutifully demonizing Antifa—what do you expect happens when the people who put their personal safety on the line to oppose fascism are summarily demonized while actual genocide fanboys are greeted with “let’s hear what they have to say before we go condemning them?” What gets normalized, then?

At anti-Trump demonstrations, police conspicuously opt to protect racists and fascists over the assembled masses of protesters who’re demonstrating precisely because they’re terrified of racist and fascist encroachment. The barbarians are at the gates not because they’re preparing to crash them but because they’re the gatekeepers. Something to think about while you’re making your 10,000th phone call to a disinterested Republican Senator to express your strongly-worded displeasure into the voicemail s/he doesn’t listen to. Vive la resistance.
 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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07.27.2017
12:44 pm
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She f*cking deserved this! Onion devastatingly calls out Senator on healthcare vote AND SAYS IT ALL


 
Like many of you reading this sentence, I have spent nearly 100% of my waking hours so far this year feeling like I wanted to run out into the middle of a cornfield and scream my fucking head off as loudly as possible until I passed out from exhaustion or simply got bored of this activity and decided to stop. (Never underestimate the cathartic value of DIY primal scream therapy in Donald Trump’s America. If it worked for John and Yoko and it can work for you, too.)

But yesterday and today, the Senate votes on repealing the ACA has left me feeling especially sickened, angry and utterly drained. My hatred for “them” has grown by leaps and bounds. From Donald Shit’s remarkably idiotic “Obamacare is death” rant to watching John McCain vote, not once but twice, to revoke poor people’s ability to fight back against cancer, it’s all just gotten so goddamned nauseating. So grotesque. A brain-addled billionaire bully who doesn’t even know the difference between health insurance and life insurance who wants to upend 20% of the American economy and mess with people’s lives because he hates the superior black man who preceded him in office. Trump doesn’t even know what health insurance IS. Not even in the most general sense. But it’s named after the black guy, so… Sorry sick people!
 

#donaldshit

I mean my Twitter feed zaps me of much of my will to carry on. I’m glad I don’t bother much with Facebook, I’d have given up a long time ago.

But having said all that, I read something on The Onion just now that made me LOL and smile again in my heart. I didn’t think that was possible anymore.

An item, appearing sans the byline of the satirical genius who wrote it, takes aim at West Virginia’s GOP Senator Shelley Moore Capito who only a week ago forcefully rebuked her party’s plans to repeal the ACA without a backup plan:

“As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people. For months, I have expressed reservations about the direction of the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. My position on this issue is driven by its impact on West Virginians. With that in mind, I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”

Despite this “brave” statement—some Republicans just LOVE to get brave before they cave—we all know how she actually voted. Which is why this Onion item is such a perfectly cut diamond of truly incendiary political satire served with such a heaping helping of “fuck you, lady”:

WASHINGTON—As legislators gathered Tuesday for a critical vote that would go a long way toward finally repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) was reportedly struggling to weigh the interests of her entire constituency against absolutely nothing. “Honestly, it’s a tough call—on one hand, you have opposition to the repeal from a majority of Republicans, virtually all Democrats, and the entire healthcare industry, while on the other, you have not one sound argument or credible opinion,” said Capito, admitting she was, even now, having difficulty balancing her desire to keep as many West Virginians insured as possible with there being no reason whatsoever to do otherwise. “This is an agonizing decision. Sure, there are sound justifications for voting no on ‘repeal and replace,’ but then there’s emptiness, literal emptiness, when you look for reasons to vote yes. All I know is, I have to get this right somehow.” At press time, Senator Capito had resigned herself to the fact that both sides had valid points and she would just have to go with her gut when the time came.

Standing ovation to the uncredited author of this, one of the single most impressive paragraphs ever composed in the English language, I reckon.

If you know someone from West Virginia, be sure to send this to them or post it on their Facebook wall (especially the Republicans, it will go right over their pointed lil’ heads). And if you feel like tweeting it at Shelley Moore Capito just to make triple sure that she’s seen it, have at it, her Twitter handle is @SenCapito

Posted by Richard Metzger
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07.26.2017
02:18 pm
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What would Hitler Do?: Notorious ‘80s agit-punks The Feederz return to fuck shit up in the Trump era
06.16.2017
09:22 am
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In the disorienting immediate aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election, a notion I saw expressed so often that it almost felt virally memetic was the idea that “At least with Trump as president, there’ll be great political punk rock again.”

I found this puzzling.

Of course it’s absolutely true that the Reagan era was a musical goldmine for politically-engaged punks, but the arguably worse George W Bush era was notably fallow in that regard—if American Idiot counts as “greatness,” then I guess I don’t need any greatness in my life—and with the debatable exception of the 2004 Punk Voter Rock Against Bush tour, a wishfully grandiose attempt by the pop-punks at Fat Wreck Chords to create a latter-day Rock Against Reagan type of event, no other punk-influenced protest music made all that much of an impression. Going back a minute or two further, not even the stunning and inspiring social movement that emerged from seemingly out of the blue in defiance of the World Trade Organization around the turn of the century seemed to inspire any rebel rock worth discussing—Punk Planet even did a contemporary feature on that notable lack, pity there’s no online archive of that publication.

But though I still expect that the hoped-for renaissance of Reagan-era style protest punk is unlikely to happen, one actual radical band from the Reagan era has reactivated in response to the Trump threat. And it’s one of the MOST radical—Situationist-inspired provocateur Frank Discussion has resurrected his notorious band The Feederz. An unabashed outrage artist, Discussion made his band infamous with confrontational live performances in which he far surpassed even Frank Tovey’s ability to turn himself into an attention-commanding art object, and with stunts like making a sandpaper record cover for their debut album Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss? to ruin other records on one’s shelves, and emblazoning a record called Teachers in Space with a photo of the Challenger disaster.

But after more than 35 years, The Feederz remain best known for the scandalous song with which their existence was announced to the world. “Jesus,” sometimes known as “Jesus Entering from the Rear,” got a widespread hearing when it was featured on the epochally crucial hardcore compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans. That song sought to tweak right wing Evangelical Christians with lyrics describing The Savior™—or his corpse—engaged in rough gay sex, going way over the top by calling him “Another stupid martyr with another rectal rash” and “Just another faggot in just another mask.” Though it’s indisputably a classic, due to major values dissonance the song hasn’t aged so gracefully, and there is zero doubt that if it were written today it would be excoriated for implicit homophobia, though that was the opposite of its intent—even for the sake of outrage, Discussion isn’t one to punch down.
 

 

 

 
After a long absence from punk rock, the Trump disaster prodded Discussion to begin writing new songs again, and he assembled a band to record two of them in January, with Meat Puppets bassist Cris Kirkwood producing. The Feederz as currently constituted are a trio of Discussion, founding member Clear Bob, and drummer D.H. Peligro, a onetime Feederz member who’s much better known for his tenure in Dead Kennedys. That single was released on April 15 by the Phoenix, AZ label Slope Records (though The Feederz made their mark as a San Francisco band, Discussion is a native of Phoenix and was a presence in the infancy of its punk scene). The single, WWHD: What Would Hitler Do?, sports an unsurprisingly unsubtle cover illustration of Donald Trump affecting a Hitlerian pose and wearing a swastika armband, and it’s fucking good—it’s the most hi-fidelity recording to which the band has ever been treated, and the songs, while they’re thematically of a piece with Discussion’s Reagan-era work, sound like the work of a contemporary band. The A side, “Stealing,” bears an ominous riff and lyrics that champion looting and assaulting police. The flip, “Sabotage,” opens with a chant of “TIME TO PUT THIS COUNTRY OUT OF OUR MISERY,” and includes call-to-arms written in Spanish. Here’s the translation:

What you see with your eyes, destroy with your hands
To be as combustible as a cop car
We don’t need leaders
I love you! Say it with a brick!

 

 
After the jump, the always outspoken Mr. Discussion treated Dangerous Minds to an audacious and lively interview…

READ ON
Posted by Ron Kretsch
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06.16.2017
09:22 am
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‘Do the Oz,’ John and Yoko’s benefit single (and hopeful dance craze) for OZ magazine


John and Yoko march for OZ, August 1971 (via Meet the Beatles for Real)
 
“I think that everyone should own everything equally and that the people should own part of the factories and they should have some say in who is boss and who does what,” John Lennon announced to Hit Parader during his militant period. When he and Yoko Ono joined a march in London in August ‘71, holding up the latest issue of the Marxist newspaper Red Mole, they were demonstrating in support of both the IRA and the underground magazine OZ, whose editors had just been sent up the river on an obscenity beef.

John and Yoko took up the cause of the “OZ Three.” For their now-famous “school kids issue,” number 28, OZ had solicited and printed contributions from teenage readers, and was alleged thereby to have struck a mighty blow against the morality of English youth. During the ensuing obscenity trial, the defense actually called an expert witness to testify that just seeing the cover illustration was not enough to turn a healthy young person into a lesbian.
 

Note the “OZ Obscenity Trial” souvenir T-shirt, featuring R. Crumb’s character Honeybunch Kaminski
 
In the end, the editors got fifteen months in prison, and the hip community rallied to their defense, Jon Wiener reports in Come Together: John Lennon in His Time:

The OZ defense committee announced it would appeal, and John and Yoko joined the fundraising effort. They wrote the songs “God Save Us” and “Do the Oz,” released as a single by Apple in July 1971. John played on both and sang lead on “Do the Oz,” calling the group “the Elastic Oz Band.” Full-age ads appeared in all the British underground and radical newspapers: “Every major country has a screw in its side, in England it’s OZ. OZ is on trial for its life. John and Yoko have written and helped produce this record—the proceeds of which are going to OZ to help pay their legal fees. The entire British underground is in trouble, it needs our help. Please listen—‘God Save Oz.’”

Bill Elliot (later of the Dark Horse band Splinter) sings the A-side of the Elastic Oz Band single, which Lennon originally called “God Save Oz” but retitled “God Save Us.” Both sound the same in a Liverpool accent, I think Lennon is telling Sounds here:

First of all we wrote it as God Save Oz, you know, ‘God save Oz from it all,’ but then we decided they wouldn’t really know what we were talking about in America so we changed it back to ‘us’.

But the B-side, “Do the Oz,” is the keeper. Mutilating the lick from “Smokestack Lightning” on guitar, John hollers the steps of his modified hokey pokey while Yoko sings the terrifying, beguiling hum of modernity. Backing them are the Plastic Ono Band and, on acoustic guitars, two contributors to the “school kids issue,” future NME contributor Charles Shaar Murray and “Michelle.”

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Oliver Hall
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05.18.2017
07:50 am
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‘The Underside of Power’: New video from Algiers
04.27.2017
09:41 am
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Algiers have had a hell of a couple of years. In 2015, they dropped a fiercely original debut album that found an uncharted sweet spot between industrial rhythm and noise, post-punk guitar skreeeee, and the smoldering intensity of Southern black gospel. Wide acclaim, a few videos, and heavy touring followed, and the band’s core trio of singer/guitarist Franklin Fisher, bassist/synthesist Ryan Mahan, and guitarist Lee Tesche was augmented by touring (and now permanent) drummer Matt Tong, formerly of Bloc Party. In between all their rock labors, they wrote a second album, The Underside of Power, and WOW.

The Underside of Power, despite being written and recorded under duress of time, shows remarkable growth. The band’s disparate influences remain, but the album is characterized by a weird irony: the debut was written via file-swapping, when the band’s members lived in three different cities, but it feels like a rock band’s record. The second album, though it’s the product of a seasoned touring unit with a full-time drummer, feels more like the work of an electronic composer. That’s due to a combination of the band’s build-it-up-high-and-rip-it-all-down working method and Mahan’s stepping to the fore as the band’s primary tunesmith.

What haven’t changed are Fisher’s lyrical themes—his righteous and soulful declamations against injustice and abuse of power make Algiers one of this era’s most convincing purveyors of protest music. As a multi-racial band from Atlanta, GA, they engage head-on with race as well, a topic they handle powerfully on the song “Cleveland.” This one’s close to my heart—I’m born and bred in that fabled grey city, and the song deals in part with the extrajudicial execution of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland’s police. I know the neighborhood where Rice was killed quite well, and I pass that rec center often. It is still impossible to be anywhere near that block and not think about the senseless murder, the police’s wagon-circling around the shockingly incompetent officer who drive-by shot the poor kid, and the local media’s complicity in selling the cops’ ever-changing stories of how the shooting happened. That horrific event was a massive trauma in the black community, and more specifically still Rice’s family, but it was also, more broadly, Cleveland’s trauma (and it remains our shame), and hearing outsiders confront that event artistically is moving and illuminating.

Fisher and Tesche were kind enough to spend a good chunk of an afternoon chatting with me about the new album, how touring has changed them and their work, and “Cleveland.” A goofy phone connection rendered a couple of Fisher’s comments unintelligible. Any errors are my own interpolations. I did my best to faithfully preserve his meaning and tone, scout’s honor.

Dangerous Minds: The new album was made in a somewhat and unfortunately different world than the first one, and I was wondering to what degree the primaries and their attendant escalation of American racism and violence had an impact on the new music? And since, broadly speaking, you’ve been dealing with themes of injustice anyway, would it have been so different an album had last year gone differently?

Fisher: Yes, I think all of it except maybe “Cleveland” was written last year between June and the end of the year, but that being said, American racism and violence are always there.

“Death March” was about Brexit, the inspiration for it came from Brexit—the recording sessions started when we were in the North Country, and there was this cloud hanging over everybody. But at the same time, we were in this very expensive, very nice setup with these two professional producers, and we were kind of being forced to create, and I hit a wall, so I just went through the newspapers and responded, and everybody around us was devastated by it in ways we’d find out about on our own terms when Trump won the election a few months later.

Tesche:  From my perspective, when I was a teenager I was really into DC Hardcore, and I was feeding off of the Riot Grrrl movement and all that stuff, so everything that I’ve always been a part of has had some sort of greater political context or message, and I feel like we’re kind of all the same that way, so I don’t really know if the new record would have been that much different thematically, but throughout the whole process, one event after another changed our moods. When Brexit happened we were in England, and the U.S. election happened towards the end of tracking and mixing, and those things definitely influenced the very final shape and character of these songs.

DM: The Underside of Power feels more like an electronic album than the debut does—the guitars seem less prominent. Also Underside seems like it features more uptempo stuff compared to all of the first album’s slow-burners. Has your writing process changed much between the albums?

Tesche:  Not really. The way things got shaped in the mixing process, there were lots of guitars and lots of crazy sounds, and stuff was piled on, and as we made our way through the mix we pulled things back and peeled things off. It’s a result of that process more than the writing, just later on deciding what we wanted to push to the front. We were touring together for a year and a half, and when we recorded the second album we were coming from more of a live band perspective, and I think we were all kind of pulling things in different directions. This one may be more of a “soul” record than the first in a certain sense, but it’s hard to quantify those things, and we didn’t really have that kind of intent when we went in. We all set up to write sketches individually and we each had our own motivations, and so we all ended up with our own frustrations, and that’s what keeps you working towards the next one. Maybe the songs surprised us in how they turned out, but that’s how they exist, and maybe when we go out and play live, they’ll change and morph.

Fisher:The first record, we wrote it almost exclusively through online file swapping when we lived in three different cities. This record more was written when we were all together. I don’t think there’s any prescription or specific method for our writing. We did go away after the first couple months of touring and everybody kind of worked on compositions to bring back to the group, to see what we had, and what we could work on. The majority of the compositions on this record are Ryan’s, he’s gotten really hands-on with electronic programming.

Tesche:  There are a lot of different forces at play. On one hand, when I work on guitar stuff I try to approach it from an abstract perspective, to challenge myself to find a role for guitar that’s not just riffing, and Frank’s guitar playing was a response to that too. Not that we avoided normal guitar stuff altogether, but with Ryan writing the majority of it, and coming from this more synthetic place, guitar-wise you have to approach that somewhat delicately, because if you just come in and try and do a bunch of punk rock stuff on top of that, you can end up in a really awful place. It’s more about understanding what the songs are becoming, and what they’re supposed to be. The next record could be full of Iron Maiden leads, who knows?

Fisher:I’m still learning my role as a singer more than a guitarist. I’ve always been the guitarist in the bands I’ve played with since I was a kid, and there’s not really a need for me to do that so much with this band. Our process is such that we’ll tend to use a maximalist approach, in that we’ll just pile things on and pile things on, and then we stand back and look at it and then start stripping things away. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that usually any guitar part that I’ve written is one of the things that winds up getting stripped away [laughs] so this record was the beginning of me coming to terms with my designation as a singer, exploring that instead of trying to force my guitar into songs. Like Lee said, you have to be careful, otherwise it turns into a really strange nasty brew of guitar music and electronics that can go sideways.

Tesche:  I think by design, part of the sound we’re crafting works well without much guitar in there, which of course is interesting for us as guitar players, becoming more choosy about when to play. With the last record, they took their final shape in the studio, and when we started performing the songs they became something else. I think these songs are going to go the same way, it’ll turn into something else. It’ll be after a few months touring that we’ll start to fully understand what this music is and what it should do.

DM: Franklin, earlier you mentioned that the song “Cleveland” came before the rest of the album. You guys probably guessed I’d have something to say about that one—was that a response to the Tamir Rice execution?

Tesche:  Frank can go into more specifics on that because that one was largely written by him, and there are a number of different levels to it, but yes. It does reference that, and the choir sample is the Reverend James Cleveland. It’s a multi-faceted reference in that sense. And I also recall the coincidence that when we recorded that song we were working with Adrian Utley from Portishead, and they early on started out in this little town called Clevedon.

Fisher: There’s a recurring pattern of people mysteriously dying in police custody, people who’d seemingly been lynched but the local police had swept it under the rug, time and again, going back years. I wanted to kind of do something to try to confront the fact that this is happening, happening all the time, it’s an ongoing symptom. The song’s title was meant to invoke Tamir Rice without actually mentioning him, because he’s a symptom of something that’s as old as this country, being lynched by police, no matter how old you are, and if you’re a person of color, it’s something you’re always afraid of, either consciously or in the back of your mind. If you read some of these cases, it’s beyond absurd, and it becomes sickening how there’s never justice or closure for these families. Like Keith Warren—I think this was in like ’89, in Maryland. Good student, intelligent kid. He was found hanging in the middle of the forest, from a tree that was bent over from his weight. And they cut the tree down and embalmed him before any evidence could be taken, before the crime scene was surveyed. Before any real work could be done on the case they basically called it off and deemed it a suicide. On what would have been his 25th birthday, a box of photographs of the crime scene showed up on his mom’s doorstep. His mom realized that the clothes he was wearing weren’t his, and there were so many other things that made no sense, and there’s still no closure for his family. His mom thought his friends sent her the pictures because they knew something but were afraid to talk, and shortly after, one of his friends died in a suspicious bicycle accident.
 

 
Though the new album isn’t due until June 23rd, the band released the first video from The Underside of Power this morning—and it’s the album’s title track. It features the band plotting antifa resistance in an underground bunker/undisclosed location, and it’s sprinkled liberally with vintage clips from the Civil Rights movement era so nobody can miss the point. Fisher is pretty awesome in it, and he had this to say about the song (this is quoted from press materials, it’s not from our interview):

I heard someone say once that you don’t know what real power is until you’re on the wrong side of it. That was the inspiration for ‘The Underside of Power’ To be someone who has known first-hand, the full brunt of institutional force, the feeling of being completely vulnerable to it and powerless against it, is a bitter reality for the vast majority of people. The image of an insect being squashed by a boot comes to mind. But with that image comes a slightly hopeful paradox: just as all systems have inherent flaws, so does the proverbial boot, which leaves the slight possibility for the insect to creep through and bite back.

 
Watch the new video from Algiers, after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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04.27.2017
09:41 am
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‘Eat the Rich’: Cult rock and roll comedy with Lemmy, Shane MacGowan, Paul McCartney, Angela Bowie


 
Imagine, if you can, a country starkly divided by wealth inequality, where a small number of rich people lead lives of extravagant luxury and everyone else fights over the crumbs.

Now imagine that the most vulgar of celebrities, having ascended to high office by appealing to racist and sexist tendencies in the electorate, has announced a plan to slash health care in order to build up the military. Far from bringing him down, sex scandals only make him appear more powerful and exciting to his base. And what, exactly, is the nature of his relationship with the Russians?
 

 
Of course, I could only be talking about Nosher Powell, the real-life English boxer and actor who portrays “Cockney fascist” Home Secretary Nosher Powell in the dystopian 1987 comedy Eat the Rich. The dialogue is as quotable as that of Tapeheads or Repo Man. Early on, a diner at the posh eatery Bastards addresses a label head played by Miles Copeland:

Look, Derek, forget funk rap. It’s dead. The kids are getting hooked on socialism.

“OK, we’ll sack the blacks and sign the reds,” Copeland replies. It’s a cruel, cynical, racist—did I mention racist?—society.
 

 
The great Lanah Pillay stars as Alex, a hero for our time. Alex becomes a revolutionary after she’s fired from her waitressing job at Bastards, where she served koala and panda meat to one too many horrible jerks. And joining Lanah and Nosher from the world of UK showbiz in this movie right here is everyone and her fucking uncle: Lemmy, Shane MacGowan, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers, Sandie Shaw, Beatle Paul, Bill Wyman of the Stones, Koo Stark, Angela Bowie, and The Young Ones’ Rik Mayall all make appearances. Most of the soundtrack (and the soundtrack album) is by Motörhead, and at one point in the movie, Lemmy climbs onstage to play “Dr. Rock.”

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.16.2017
09:45 am
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Grim postcards of executions and dead bodies from the Mexican Revolution 1910-17
02.16.2017
10:23 am
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The Mexican Revolution began as a middle-class protest against the oppressive dictatorship of the country’s President Porfirio Diaz (1876-1911). In 1910, wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) stood against Diaz in the presidential election. The election was rigged by Diaz and his cronies who then attempted to have Madero arrested and imprisoned. Madero escaped to San Antonio, Texas, where he wrote Plan de San Luis (Plan of San Luis de Potosí), a political pamphlet that denounced Diaz explaining why he should no longer be president.

Madero’s Plan was a rallying cry that asked the Mexican people to rise up against Diaz on Sunday, November 20, 1910, at 6:00 pm and overthrow his government. This is how the Mexican Revolution began. What followed was a bloody and ferocious civil war and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. An estimated 1.5 million people died. Two-hundred-thousand were made refugees.

During the revolution (1910-20) hundreds of commercial and amateur photographers documented the events on both sides of the war.

Using glass plate cameras and early cut film cameras, primitive by today’s standards, the photographers faced injury and death to obtain negatives which would be printed on postcard stock and sold to the soldiers and general public on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Some of the views were obviously posed, and others showed the death and destruction resulting from the violence of a nation involved in a bloody civil war.

The following postcards are part of a collection held by the Southern Methodist University archive.
 
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More postcards from the Mexican Revolution, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.16.2017
10:23 am
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‘Screw our president’: Protesting kid explains why he started fire at alt-right Trump celebration
01.20.2017
10:20 am
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A large protest raged outside the National Press Club in Washington, DC, last night where the alt-right’s “Deploraball” celebration was being held. Some protesters started a fire to burn signs and chanted “Nazi scum” as hundreds of Donald Trump’s biggest fans entered the party.

Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins asked one young protester named Connor— dubbed a “fire-starting child” on Facebook— about the fire.

“My name’s Connor and I actually kinda started this fire,” the boy responded. After Jenkins mistakenly called him “Carter” the young, media-savvy kid set him straight.“It’s Connor,” he repeated, then informed the Fox lackey that he started the fire because:

“I felt like it and screw our president.”

Connor is my new hero.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.20.2017
10:20 am
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Infamous London punks Cockney Rejects get banned by the BBC, 1980
01.04.2017
01:07 pm
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The 1970s were a hugely contentious time for the UK. In 1973 the country was reeling from a massive outbreak of worker strikes that were in retaliation to new bills that put harsh restrictions on pay increases. By May there were over 1.6 million workers walking the picket lines. On January 7th, 1974, hinging on measures introduced by then Prime Minister Edward Heath, a mandatory three-day work week was instituted. Initially a five-day restriction, the new three-day mandate came into play in order to avoid any further fallout due to the crisis-level lack of energy and fuel resources. Once the measure went into effect 885,000 workers applied for unemployment benefits. All of this discontent during this dangerously tumultuous time would be fuel for the fire of the Cockney Rejects.

The Cockney Rejects were hardass guttersnipes, the sons of East End dockers, who were inspired by the Sex Pistols. They sang about fights, how much they hated the police and how much they loved football. And there were songs about fighting over football and being arrested.

The original group consisted of the Geggus brothers, Mickey and Jeff, AKA Stinky Turner. Both brothers were good boxers and neither had ever lost in the ring. They were joined by Vince Riordan as their bassist in 1979. After getting their start as The Shitters, the band signed with EMI (tipped by Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey) after playing a small handful of live gigs which would quickly become known for regularly descending into violent riots. Much of the contention stirred up by quad was based on their support of their beloved West Ham United Football Club.

When the group appeared on Top of the Pops on May 22nd, 1980 following West Ham’s ascension to the FA Cup Finals, the band literally wore their pride on stage donning their “West Ham” shirts in support of their team. Apparently after barely miming their way through their hit version of the West Ham theme “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” the band ran amok in the hallowed halls of the BBC and were subsequently banned from performing on the show again. Still just teenagers, the Cockney Rejects would continue to live up to their reputation by playing an equally unhinged live gig at The Cedar Club in Birmingham. That show, which left fans lying bloody on the floor would go on to be known as the “Battle of Birmingham” and has been called the most “violent” live show in British concert-going history.  It would also mark a turning point in the band’s career as future gigs would devolve into clashes between opposing groups of football fans and skinheads who followed the Oi! movement.
 

 
Journalist Garry Bushell, who covered the Oi! movement for SOUNDS later wrote:

With the Rejects, football was the trouble. And it was understandable because they’d been fanatically pro-West Ham aggro from the word go. Even at their debut Bridge House gig they decked the stage out with a huge red banner displaying the Union Jack, the West Ham crossed hammers and the motif ‘West Side’ (which was that part of the West Ham ground then most favoured by the Irons’ most violent fans). Their second hit was a version of the West Ham anthem ‘Bubbles’ which charted in the run-up to West Ham’s Cup Final Victory in the early summer of 1980. On the b-side was the ICF-pleasing ‘West Side Boys’ which included lines like: ‘We meet in the Boelyn every Saturday/Talk about the teams that we’re gonna do today/Steel-capped Dr. Martens and iron bars/Smash the coaches and do ’em in the cars’.

It was a red rag to testosterone-charged bulls all over the country. At North London’s Electric Ballroom, 200 of West Ham’s finest mob-charged less than fifty Arsenal and smacked them clean out of the venue. But ultra-violence at a Birmingham gig really spelt their undoing. The audience at the Cedar Club was swelled by a mob of Birmingham City skinheads who terrace-chanted throughout the support set from the Kidz Next Door (featuring Grant Fleming, now a leftwing film maker, and Pursey’s kid brother Robbie). By the time the Rejects came on stage there were over 200 Brum City skins at the front hurling abuse. During the second number they started hurling plastic glasses. Then a real glass smashed on stage. Stinky Turner responded by saying: “If anyone wants to chuck glasses they can come outside and I’ll knock seven shades of shit out of ya”. That was it, glasses and ashtrays came from all directions. One hit Vince and as a Brum skinhead started shouting “Come on”, Micky dived into the crowd and put him on his back. Although outnumbered more than ten to one, the Rejects and their entourage drove the Brummy mob right across the hall, and finally out of it altogether. Under a hail of missiles Mickey Geggus sustained a head injury that needed nine stitches and left him with what looked like a Fred Perry design above his right eye. Grant Fleming, a veteran of such notorious riots as Sham at Hendon and Madness at Hatfield, described the night’s violence as the worst he’d ever seen.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.04.2017
01:07 pm
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