Interview: Active Slaughter
From what I’ve seen there are a lot of young people putting on gigs and playing in bands still. The punk sound with the younger generation seems to have changed quite a bit over the years, but the spirit still seems to be there.
Formed in 2001 Active Slaughter released two albums, Ave a Butchers (2003) and 4t2ude (2009) plus an EP Smash HLS (2002) before they disbanded and took an enforced hiatus in 2010. But they are back! Reforming in 2016 they released the EP Tomorrow’s Too Late in 2017 with 3 tracks that confirm that Active Slaughter have lost none of their compassion, vision and sense of outrage. Prophetic in a society where a media savvy alt right have been mainstreamed and the destructive has been accepted Active Slaughter, now comprised of JJ on vocals, Trev on drums, Trystan on guitar and Mark on bass, are an important voice. With a new album on the way it seemed like a good time for an update on how things are going for the band!
E&D: Could you give us an overview of Active Slaughter’s story so far? There has been two chapters haven’t there, 2001-10 and then you reformed in 2016 (1)?
JJ: Formed in 2001 and disbanded in 2010 just before I went to prison (Animal Liberation). Reformed in 2016. I’m sure we would have reformed sooner but as part of my licence conditions I was not allowed to do Active Slaughter as we were seen as too political/extreme. So I was told by an anti extremist Scotland Yard officer, who was overseeing my probation, that if I did Active Slaughter whilst I was on licence my licence would be revoked and I would be returned to prison. So reforming had to wait due to prison and licence conditions.
From the first era we released two albums and a single. From the second era we have released a single so far and we’re currently recording a new album which should hopefully be released for December. The original lead vocalist didn’t want to do the band again so I stepped up to lead vocals since the reform. Previously I was on guitar and backing vocals. Trev is still on drums, I’m not sure I could ever play with anyone else on drums, probably because I never have done! When we reformed in 2016 Phil and Jeannie stepped in on guitar and bass, but then we had a lineup change in 2017 and Trystan (Lost Cherrees) and Mark (Liberty) took over on bass and guitar. We have a solid line up now and they’re also really good friends of ours.
E&D: Are you all in other bands as well? Did I spot a Lost Cherrees and Mindframe connection?
Trev: I’m in Mindframe (and Anthrax) and Trystan’s in the Lost Cherrees.
Trys: I’ve also just joined Left For Dead on bass cos I’m trying to be in as many bands as Trev!
E&D: What were the main reasons for reforming? Music, message, relationships?
JJ: All three of the above!
E&D: Where would you place Active Slaughter politically? Anarchist, or do different members hold different positions and political thought is always evolving so reluctant to attach a label to yourselves?
JJ: I would say as a band and each one of us hold a lot of views that could be regarded as anarchist views. Whether we’re all anarchists or not I’m not sure. I don’t really regard myself as an anarchist as such as I don’t really like to attach a label and I also think to be an anarchist you must have a lot of faith in the human race, I personally don’t.
E&D: Your most recent single ‘Tomorrow’s Too Late’ came out last year on Grow Your Own Records, and you’re playing on their Mini Tour later in the year. Are they a label you have a particular affinity with?
Trev: I’ve known Gary who does Grow Your Own Records (and who’s the vocalist in Anthrax) for about a million years and know that he’s a sound bloke, so when he started the label it seemed kinda logical that we’d be on it. It’s a great, completely DIY label that has quite a diverse set of bands on it, which is another factor I personally like a lot.
E&D: Your songs deal with a range of political and social issues, I think that most recent single engaged with animal rights (whaling and vivisection) and scandals around sexual abuse (1). Have you found your songwriting deals with different subjects since you reformed or similar subjects but different perspectives as it is six years on?
JJ: I think the same sort of views but I would say maybe some different perspectives, but only slightly, from the first era which ended 8 years ago.
Trev: Unfortunately a lot of the stuff we sing about hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve been doing the band, so the subject matter is largely the same now as it was in 2000. The perspectives might change slightly but generally it’s stuff that we wish we didn’t have to be singing about nearly 20 years down the line.
E&D: What influences your lyric writing, reading, personal experience, discussion?
JJ: Lyric writing anything from the 1980s through to the modern era of anarcho punk. There have been and are some great bands.
Trev: For me it’s a bit of all the above.
E&D: Is there much of a change in the Active Slaughter sound between 2010 and 2018?
JJ: I would say quite a bit yes. I enjoy the new AS a lot more than the old. I think musically we are a lot tighter and better now as well. Our music has slightly changed in that the sound is quite a bit more “harder” than it used to be.
Trev: The new line up pisses over everything we’ve done before.
Trys: I know this one is more for JJ and Trev, but since joining I’ve loved the way we’ve all worked together, and reckon any change in the AS sound reflects the way we’ve all been able to have an input on the songs old and new.
E&D: You were in the studio recently-can we expect a new Active Slaughter release soon?
JJ: Oh yes! It will be a 12” released on Grow Your Own Records.
E&D: As an anti-fascist band what do you think of the call by some, including John McDonnell, for a reconstituting of the ANL and RAR to combat the reemergence of the far right? Good idea or completely different situation to the late ’70s/early ’80s with a need for a different response?
JJ: I think as with animal rights, fascism and racism should be tackled on all fronts and everywhere. So anything that does this I support and can only be a good thing.
E&D: As a band who play all over the UK how do you read the political mood in Britain, have people realised austerity is class struggle, appropriation through dispossession, and are ready for a change?
JJ: I think if it wasn’t for the Daily Mail, The Sun and all the other scum I think the political mood of the country would be a lot better. But instead, these newspapers influence and brainwash a lot of the working class into thinking that immigration and Muslims are the reason why the country is in such as mess.mOf course there is still a massive opposition to all this and there are still many who believe in class struggle instead of race war but unfortunately it’s not enough to bring about the change we all desire.
E&D: Is the punk scene still something that encourages social/political activism, its DIY ethic encouraging involvement in wider society or is it more that those already concerned find a ‘home’ in punk?
JJ: I definitely think it does yeah. Not just in the U.K. but all around the world. There seems to be still a good load of the younger generation coming through as well. Of course those of that state of mind will also find a home in punk, maybe this is why we all did? But punk still encourages this sort of thing and I believe it opens our minds up, especially when we connect with other people who often have much to teach and tell us.
E&D: Which way round has it worked for you, did punk encourage you to stay engaged, Active Slaughter as a musical expression of the rest of your lives, or were you ‘brought to consciousness’ by punk?
JJ: I would say both of the above! Punk has had an influence on me definitely. I would say though it’s actually been more the friends I have met over the years through punk than the bands I have listened too.
Trev: I think I was “brought to consciousness” by punk originally but Active Slaughter has definitely been a vent for the views, opinions and hopes that I have for certain things.
E&D: In an interview earlier this year a band commented that their radical politics had scared off local promoters and prevented them from getting gigs (2). Have you had any similar experiences?
JJ: I know for a fact previously (and maybe still today) our views on animal liberation has had an effect on not getting some gigs. But then again it has also got us a load of gigs. It’s always going to happen I guess when a promoter lets their views get in the way of putting on a gig. Of course to some extent though I guess we all have to do that sometimes!
E&D: Is there always a tension in the punk scene between those who see punk as inherently political and those who wish it was just vapid loud fast music plus fashion accessories?
JJ: I’m not sure if there’s a tension over this. There is often a tension though if the latter decide to spurt out racist, sexist, homophobic nonsense of course, or when they say they just sit on the fence (we all know which side that means they lean to!).
E&D: As musicians involved in punk for a couple of decades how is the DIY punk scene doing, have you been encouraged by its evolution?
JJ: From what I’ve seen there are a lot of young people putting on gigs and playing in bands still. The punk sound with the younger generation seems to have changed quite a bit over the years, but the spirit still seems to be there.
E&D: What bands/musicians have you been enjoying lately?
JJ: I wish I could get out more often and see more bands but I’m quite a busy person so often the only gigs I can get to are those I’m playing at. I’ve really been enjoying Mindframe in recent years (Trev’s other band) we often play together so I get to see them play a lot and I never get bored with them. Their new stuff is fantastic as are all the new Anthrax releases, Bug Central, Shot, Jawless, Grand Collapse, Eastfield, Oi Polloi…. loads of bands. Hopefully Lost Cherrees and Liberty will have something new out soon, which I can enjoy also. Lads?!?
Trys: Loads of stuff, and agree with all of JJ’s, and particularly like Grand Collapse when stomping to work and Eastfield when wandering home. Two of the best recent albums that spring to mind are the new Filaments, and Spoilers have just released a cracker as well. Chaz Hayward’s Global Resistance Records HSA benefit 7” series is also awesome. Other than that I can say that Lost Cherrees are currently writing and have 8 or 9 new tunes done. So there will be more to come.
E&D: What is the rest of 2018 looking like for Active Slaughter, are you out and about, are there plenty of opportunities to see you live?
JJ: We have a gig in Norwich coming up soon and a small tour of the north and Scotland in December. Currently open to offers of gigs, but right now I think all of our thoughts are on the new album, getting this right.
Thanks for the interview!
Logo courtesy of Active Slaughter. Logo by Iain Ball .
(1)Brown, N (2017) Tomorrow’s Too Late – EP Review https://louderthanwar.com/active-slaughter-tomorrows-too-late-ep-review/
(2)Interview: Art As Resistance: NurseOnDuty https://www.echoesanddust.com/2018/05/art-as-resistance-nurseonduty/
Also used in Intro https://activeslaughter.bandcamp.com/ and Active Slaughter https://www.discogs.com/artist/1787438-Active-Slaughter