Italian Troublezine interview:
We Do Not Negotiate With Terrorists are the project, still without a label, of the Englishman abroad Ross, originally from Salford- which is actually my nickname and that’s how I came across them on the pages of Myspace. We spoke via e-mail.
Hello Ross, how did this bridge form between Salford and Sweden for you? What do you think are the essential differences between the two places?
Well it’s funny you ask me that since I moved to Spain a couple of weeks ago!
The story is that I continue to write music and I want to go into the studio for the next record with the same producer in Sweden: Olle of Tread New Traumas, he is a really good guy and manages to bring out the best in me. I honestly do not think I would have been able to put together “Bombing the Underground” if it was not for him. However the actual line-up for the next CD will be slightly different, so there are some changes. The band will be mainly Swedish musicians and me. Coming from Salford… I do not know if I can continue to live in Sweden.
There are certainly many diffences between the two places, but a person like me find points in common everywhere. I chose Sweden for musicians and because their quality is much higher than in Britain. Salford has historically produced musicians with great spirit, but they tend to lack ability and resources. In Sweden, everyone can play and can afford good equipment, so they have more experience and the competition is greater. This means that technically they are very proficient, but to be honest, a lot of Swedish bands have a real lack of spirit and character. Most Swedes do not experience enough in their lives, so the music is soulless. In Sweden, everyone wants to be famous and leave their quiet hometown because it is safe and comfortable. In Britain the social situation and the sentiment is totally the opposite. Musically they have the attitude but are generally poor musicians.
I think everyone knows this myth about the bands from Liverpool and Manchester from this background: working class heroes trying simply to leave the depression.
Myth or not, it’s fucking true, I’m living proof, the music is the only hope for some people.
But the band has now its headquarters in Gothenburg.
Yeah it has lots in common with Manchester and Liverpool, it’s an industrial port with a strong musical tradition. So that’s how I left Salford to end up in Sweden. I think that mentality of a harbour-city is something that I feel at home with, I suppose that’s why I ran away again. Funnily enough where I live now in Spain is also a harbour town, only with more sun! Nah, you can never run away from who you are, no matter where you go. I will always carry Salford inside me, and I think this is the reason why I will never go back.
In any case, it feels pretty clear that the band’s sound is tremendously British. In your sound I hear bands like The Clash, The Fall, The Specials and ‘pissed punk’ like the Sultans Of Ping FC of (ok, that they are Irish) how do you relate to the British scene?
I have always been aware of my musical heritage, as you say, not only of Salford and Liverpool, but from across the UK. I’ve always regarded it as a matter of identity. When I started writing music for Terrorists I was just trying to get stuff off my chest, knocking out tunes on Saturday night when I came home drunk and alone. But that wasn’t enough- if you want to be appreciated as a musician, you have to know what else is out there, you cannot believe you are the only one to sound like you do or write your kinds of lyrics. At first I thought that my songs were just clichÈd but a lot of my Swedish friends thought were actually quite different from what they could hear in the city. What really shocked me was when the CD came out, because although it was only made ??for the Swedish public, I got good coverage even in Manchester and I found myself getting messages from British fans saying how original it was, although they admitted obvious influences. I’m happy with that, since I think what I was trying to do was stay in the tradition but at the same time creating something new. That’s why in Wrong Eyes I shoved in a bit of Motown with a girl singing “you can’t hurry love.” I was just doing what I grew up hearing, mixing cuts and styles, like DJs do.
This whole idea of terrorism, the name, the symbolism of the subway, don’t you think it could be an obstacle to your music? I mean we know how many bands talk about politics in order to sell, so it can only be taken as a matter of hype or the other side, you run the risk of being censored. Where you were on the day of the bombings in London?
This gets on my tits to be honest. Ok, I know I was provoking people with the bandname and the title of the CD, in a sense I’ve played on it, maybe pushing it a bit too far, I can admit that. But some people have said that there is so much hype around the band just for that, which is bullshit. I have never gotten attention based on the ‘controversial image’, on the contrary, people often said simply that it was in bad taste and that I should learn some respect. Fine, I just assume they don’t understand what I’m trying to say with the music or the image. The only attention that the band’s had has been through music, people are surprised by the mix of sounds saying “how do you mix the Sham 69 with the Happy Mondays and reggae and Motown?”
I like hearing that a lot, it’s what it should all be about. But I grew up with bands who tried to talk politics regardless of their music just because it gets them seen. All the real old Reggae does it. Pink Floyd did it with The Wall, The Clash of course, The Jam, but also the Specials and Joy Division, many artists that I love have tried to provoke, so it seemed natural.
Just look at the band Warsaw, they then changed their name to Joy Division and later New Order. Talk about provocative, they were playing with Nazism. Nowadays no one would consider them Nazis, but at the time there was a lot of misunderstandings.
I don’t want to enter the huge fucking debate with what I’m trying to say, the name of the band or the lyrics. That’s for the listener is to decide, and ok, maybe it was wrong of me to say certain thigns, maybe I failed to get my ideas across. But I have a right to express myself.
Where was I during the bombings in London? Nowehere near. So what? Need I have been there for me to have the right to political satire? Everyone is afraid to question what is really happening since this hysteria of the War on Terror began. No one asks what the hell is going on. Why has Michael Moore has been torn apart for Fahrenheit 911?
If I’m not mistaken you are recording new material after the “Bombing the Underground” EP, tell us more.
Good! This is what I’d prefer to talk about. The songs actually date back to over a year ago, this means that I had time to work on them. The best thing is they are all very different from each other. What I have not been able to do with the previous recording was to show the variety of ideas that I had. Me and the drummer Patrik, we just went in the studio and took three of the shortest, fastest and catchiest songs that I had because he was working in the studio with his main band, The Manor. We have not had much time to do anything else. The situation with “Bombing the Underground” was just me with about twenty guest underground musicians. So I wasn’t really able to make complicated arrangements because … it wasn’t even a band!
The new guys I’m working with are friends, so there is a better vibration in the new songs, there is so much chemistry. That’s actually why I worked with the band Stay Moriarty for most of the tracks on “Underground”, because they are so tight with each other. I want to work with Viktor of Surunmaa, he has a background in country and a rough whiskey voice with a lot of soul, I think it will make more much sense with the backing vocals. Not long ago, around Christmas, I was in this guys kitchen showing folks my new ideas for the first time. I was playing his old and expensive acoustic guitar, which is not a good idea when you play punk! So, I showed him this song and he pissed me off because like everyone else he started comparing the track to another band. “This sounds like BRMC”, he said while someone else said it sounded like “Kasabian and The Strokes”, yet another person said “Queens Of The Stone Age”. My mind was blitzed, I was just laughing “this is ridiculour, how can it be all of these things?” I admit I felt a bit worried- “Can’t it just be mine?” Little by little, people started to nod and say, “Oh yeah, I suppose it is isn’t it.” This is what happens when people don’t know your music, you compare it to what you do know. You have to stay focussed. Apparently my new track is like a mix of Oasis, The Cure and Specials. So whatever it is, I’m really excited to do a big project with all these different sounds. I would like to do a cover of True Faith by New Order, the only song that I would consciously want to sound like something else.
Will you be touring?
Last summer we booked a UK tour with some other Swedish bands but we cancelled at the last minute. At the moment, considering my life, I can’t think of planning a tour before returning to Sweden. So when I get back in the studio I’ll do some gigs, sure, but a tour would be too much. At the moment I can’t think that far ahead because the most important thing now is the distribution of the CD. I think the next release will be on an indie label. So I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Ok, that’s it- anything you want to add?
Oh no thanks man, after all this I think I need a drink!