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Our South African powerviolence man Berns von Bernington caught up with Endless Swarm and Mind Ripper Collective. They discussed all things Endless Swarm, how it all started and where it’s heading. Viva La Powerviolence!
(((o))): Just give us a bit of background, how did endless swarm get started?
Graham: I played in a hardcore band called The Horrors That You’ve Seen before for a few years and Ben, our guitarist used to come along to the shows and he was really into powerviolence. We didn’t really know anyone else who was into it, and he kinda asked me to start a powerviolence band. We used to practice with The Horrors That You’ve Seen drummer as well and just took it from there.
(((o))): It’s kinda hard finding people who’re interested in that music and that style. It’s a bit of a cross-over mesh of grind meets a more hardcore side of things if that makes sense. So where did the name come from, Endless Swarm?
Graham: It literally has no meaning, just kind of freeballing suggestions and that’s just one that came up and I remember there were some silly ones and I remembered crippled was one of the main words that were going about and there was already a fast band called Crippled Fox, so we didn’t take that name.
(((o))): And of course, there’s Cripple Bastards, which is also taken and it is always cool to find out what the meaning is of band names. I was having a chat with Gulio from Cripple Bastards a while back and he said it was just a horrible translation from Italian to English and it referred to the drunk punks walking because they used to walk like crippled people due to being so drunk.
I remember speaking to you a while back and have you guys swapped band members in the last couple of months?
Graham: Yeah, we asked our drummer to leave because of professional differences, so we asked Dave who also plays in Godhole and so many other bands. I think he plays in 8 or 9 bands and he owns the studio we rehearse in. There’s such a shortage of drummers, so everyone recruits him as their drummer. It’s pretty nuts. It’s hard to find time to practice and with tours and stuff coming up it could be a bit of an issue. I don’t know, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
(((o))): So does Edinburgh, or more like Scotland as a whole, has the same problem most other places have, like Leeds, where there’s a lot of bands, but not as many members, so you kind of cross-pollinate?
Graham: Yeah, Leeds is a lot like that, you see all these bands popping up and you see the same names. To my knowledge, there are 3 grindcore bands in Edinburgh and Dave drums in 2 of them. Think it’s just us and Godhole who are straight grind/powerviolence bands.
(((o))): To add to your point, I spoke to some of the Houston-based bands and Frank Gold used to play drums in Insect Warfare and Pretty Little Flower at the same time, so it’s a problem all over and the same thing happens here in South Africa. Nice cross-pollination of people in different bands.
What I’ve always found interesting is how do you stop the bands from flowing together in terms of sound and it all kind of sounding the same? Is it something you consciously work at or does it just come naturally? More in terms of maintaining your own sound?
Graham: I don’t think it’s really an issue, like Godhole and Endless Swarm are so different that none of the creative stuff has ever flown over. We come from 2 different sides of music and meet somewhere in the middle. Like Godhole has more of a blackened crust punk type background to us, where most of us are from a more of a hardcore background so in terms of powerviolence we approach it from different angles.
(((o))): In terms of the new split you guys did with Pavel Chekov, I did review it and I was absolutely fucking blown away and the rhythms were out of this world, I really enjoyed it. It has the groove and the fast parts where it really goes at full tilt, interchanging between them, transitioning well. So is there a traditional kind of style if you wanna call it that you guys try to stick to or do you guys have a formula and then see what works and what doesn’t?
Graham: We don’t write and practice, we kinda write stuff on our own and we’ve never ever thrown away a song. So everytime we practice we practice a song and we just go with it. We’ve never been like let’s be a band who sounds like Crossed Out or let’s be a band that sounds like Spazz. It’s always been like if there’s an idea kicking about and it’s not shit we stick with it. More so our earlier stuff, like Mindkiller, you’ll notice that in the middle section there’s two grind tracks and fast, slow ones and more traditional powerviolence towards the end, so it was a lot more mismatched, but I think we’ve written over 50 songs together and we’ve gotten to that level where we all meet in the middle and we know what we wanna sound like.
(((o))): I remember listening to the Pointless Existence 7-inch and thought to myself “This is it, man, this is where the sound is going”.
Graham: Yeah, that’s where it all started falling into place and that’s when we changed drummers. Having done a bigger chunk of tracks, I think we had 27 tracks before and having under our belt, which also helped. Where the first 2 releases were EPs I would say they were demos and it took until Pointless Existence to really find what we were wanting to do.
(((o))): So if you guys write these songs, you go to yourself, cool, we have x amount of songs, let’s just record it in one go?
Graham: No, so what happened is we ended up with 30 tracks before we started. Our bassist writes guitar and bass parts himself and our guitarist writes guitar and bass, so they just come with full songs, fully finished songs basically. So we ended up with them tabbing it in guitar pro and putting it in our Facebook group and we listen to it and make alterations to it until we have a finished midi track and we tab it, practice and learn it. We ended up with one month where we wrote like 20+ tracks in a month and it was nuts. Every day I would go on our Facebook group and getting another notification like Ben has uploaded another song, so we ended up with just so many that we could kind of pick and choose which ones we wanted to do and that was what Pointless Existence was. We picked 14 tracks that worked well together and we kinda have some older tracks, but we’ve never discarded anything. We still got these tracks that we’ve not practiced and recorded yet. They’ll probably all be out at some point. So it’s been quite productive to do it that way.
(((o))): That’s a very cool way of working, not discarding anything and having that hindsight, so if you wanted to change anything you can just go ahead and change it, which is great.
In terms of the music scene, taking all this music and performing live, do you guys have a big scene for this kind of music or do you just fall in with the hardcore guys, or grind guys, or wherever you can? It takes a bit of everyone to make the scene work.
Graham: Yeah, it’s a bit from everywhere and I don’t think I’ve ever had a night where it would just be grind, we play kinda mixed bills, but there is always like a noise band, or a sludgey type thing or something like that, I don’t think there would be many all grind nights. But I mean, I like mixed bills, it’s better sometimes, you don’t want to go and see 6 grind bands in a row, because it blends in a bit, though. The UK is such a small scene, it’s hard to have full nights with the same type of bands. It can also be a positive thing having a small scene as everyone gets to know each other and you can quickly establish your band and you become friends with everyone within the grindcore community.
(((o))): Yeah, we’ve got a similar thing here with the hardcore scene, there are only so many bands around and we try to get bands to come up or we go down and organize tours etc.
Graham: Yeah, same here, I was involved in a hardcore scene for 5-6 years and I’ve always found the hardcore scene a bit more inclusive. I think it is harder to become a member or apart of the hardcore scene, but that’s from personal experience, I don’t know if it’s our little scene, but I’ve always found it a bit of a judgemental scene, like the hardcore guys are the cool kids you know? Whereas the grindcore/powerviolence community is more like the outsiders and weirdos, so I think that’s where everyone fits in. Hardcore kind of has its own fashion, where powerviolence is not like that, you go to a grind gig, there’s just so many people there and stuff and I’ve never found it a judgemental community so yeah I prefer that.
(((o))): Then the artwork, I’ve always found your artwork interesting, who does your guys’ artwork? Because it is fucking fantastic!
Graham: It used to be Ben, our guitarist, but more recently I’ve taken it on. It’s always fascinated me, that side of grindcore and powerviolence, like the artwork and all that. I love looking at it, like the Crossed Out stuff and the classic powerviolence bands always have the photocopied D.I.Y. look of the artwork and images from magazines, I’ve always found that really interesting. So I do enjoy it.
(((o))): If you had to think influence-wise for Endless Swarm, there is a lot of stuff I take away from listening to Endless Swarm and I kinda see where I think that comes from, but for you personally, what kind of got you into the bands that made you want to be in a powerviolence band?
Graham: I started to like faster hardcore, it started off with Trash Talk and I supported them with my old band and from there I started looking for faster and faster bands. Weekend Nachos was one of the first powerviolence bands I was introduced too, and I started to really get into that and then from there on I started back peddling going through all the early 90’s stuff. Started listening to bands like Spazz, Crossed Out, Siege. And then I heard of the label called To Live a Lie and heard bands like Sex Prisoner, which lead to other bands like Sea of Shit and Water Torture. So yeah that’s been kinda the main driving force and inspiration.
(((o))): Just coming back to the mixed bill, which we spoke about very briefly, I’ve always seen it as a way to expose people to different types of music. So when you get dudes who put on shows, is there a promoter, or is it more just D.I.Y. like hey let’s do a show or is there a dedicated person in the scene? How does that work in Edinburgh?
Graham: When I was playing in a hardcore band, there was only one Edinburgh promotor for hardcore, his name is Neil, he moved to America, so when he left, there weren’t a lot of shows anymore and I didn’t get to see any of the bands I wanted to and I had to travel to Glasgow. So I was like I’m going to start putting on the bands, so people would still get in contact with Neil and he’d just pass them over to me, so I started doing that. I remember my first show was Full of Hell, which is a good one to start with and from there I started putting on the odd show. I never set out to be a promoter, but if a band needs help with a tour date I’ll try and put it on. I don’t hate promoting, but I don’t like having that whole financial worry like if no one turns up I have to pay them out of my pocket. I also don’t actually live in Edinburgh, so it’s hard to travel through to promote properly and being a Facebook promoter doesn’t work. So if I put on a band I wanna do it properly, not just through Facebook and then only 8 people turn up, which is not fair on the band. So I only promote when I can really put the time into it. I only ever do D.I.Y shows. A large number of D.I.Y. shows that’s been grind or powerviolence has pretty much come to me in Edinburgh in the past few years.
(((o))): So to shift to the Mind Ripper Collective stuff, ’cause I know you run that as well. Has that spawned because of Endless Swarm?
Graham: Pretty much. I always wanted to release our own music and get it out on vinyl! The whole Spazz LP has been a great promotion tool for Endless Swarm as well, it’s got our name out there too. Ben said originally that we should do a 4-way split with UK bands and cover Spazz tracks each on a 7-inch as little fun project to do. Then we went on tour a week later, speaking to people and everyone was really interested in it and I was like, fuck it, I’ll ask as many bands as I can, and that’s how it ended up kinda exploding and becoming a big thing. And before you know it, it got pretty serious, which kind of helped Mind Ripper Collective and it has become bigger than Endless Swarm. More people know me through Mind Ripper Collective than Endless Swarm.
(((o))): So in terms of reaching out to bands in America, like you guys did with the Pavel Chekov split, is it a very back and forth thing? How do you get that exposure? I know Gets Worse did that split with Fissure, how does that outreach work?
Graham: I’ve just messaged the bands through the Facebook page, like I don’t get a reply all the time, but there are quite a few bands we’ve asked to do a split with that we’ve heard back from. So with Pavel, I heard them through the Vinod Karki channel on YouTube. They’re a bit more fastcore type powerviolence and I don’t listen to as much of that, but I still love it and when I heard them I just emailed them and they got back in touch straight away. So usually, in that case, I would get on real name terms on Facebook and just go back and forth from there. Once you get the ball rolling it becomes a bit easier.
(((o))): If you can, would you be able to give me a bit of a preview of what we can expect from Endless Swarm in 2016? I know you guys have the Pavel Chekov split coming mid-Jan if I’m not mistaken?
Graham: It hasn’t gone off to press yet, I have a couple of other records, like the Groak and the Lugubrious Children split, which has also gone to press this week, so I got to pay for that and then I just paid for the Endless Swarm ones. So I’ve got to wait until I’ve got a bit more money. Once I’ve got some more record labels involved with the Pavel Chekov split then that one will go off to press. It’s usually a 13-week turnaround, so I’d say it’ll probably only be ready in April. We do have the cassettes though and they’ll be out in a fortnight. The plan for Endless Swarm in 2016 is to have 2 splits recorded and released and then get them off to the press and I wanna go on and do an LP.
(((o))): One last question, the tape vs 7-inch divide from an order point of view, I personally prefer to order tapes because tapes are a lot easier to ship and I always get them, because when you ship stuff like LPs to faraway places, they occasionally get messed up, where when you get a tape, the tape is fine. You guys more inclined to do a bit of both or you lean towards one or the other?
Graham: If I had all the money in the world everything would come out on LP, but cassettes are great because they’re so cheap and so easy to do and you can just get another run of them just like that, where vinyl you’d have to wait another 12 weeks if you want to do a second run. We’ve sold out of runs of Endless Swarm cassettes before and you just order some more and you have them again for next week. So I quite like doing cassettes still, I like having a collection of Endless Swarm cassettes there. I would say logistically, cassettes are easier to ship and if one got lost in the mail or whatever it would be pretty easy to replace.
(((o))): I would like to thank Graham on behalf of myself and everyone at Echoes and Dust for the taking the time to do this interview. Be sure to find everything Endless Swarm on their Bandcamp and also that of their label Mind Ripper Collective.
Thanks to Gerald Chau for the photograph. Check out his Facebook page here.