Let's start 2011 with an interview with one of the best European Straight Edge bands around at the moment: they're from Sweden, they're hard, they're hungry: Stay Hungry. Staffan Snitting was kind enough to answer some questions.
First of all how does it come that hardcore and punk are such strong scenes in Sweden. People all over the world know bands like Refused, Millencolin and Satanic Surfers. Right now there seems to be a whole new generation of good bands coming from your country like Atlas Losing Grip and yourselve.
First of all I have to say that I can't think of any other country in Europe that has the same level of quality and quantity when it comes to bands as Sweden at the moment. Finland is great as well right now but don't have as many bands. We most definitely have a large amount of bands that are amazing. Punk rock bands, fastcore bands, NYHC-type bands, crust bands, early 80s hc bands, straight edge bands... There is a lot of diversity and for some reason the quality is high all over the field right now. It's hard to say why, or at least I don't have an answer to that. Except for the fact that we have a lot of people in different cities that are working hard as hell to make it happen.
'Against The New Wall' is the new record. In my opinion it's more varied, melodic and a bit less fast. What do you think are the main differences between your debut and the new record?
Is it really not as fast? Hell, we should do a bpm check. Personally I am sort of a speed freak (I once walked into a tattoo studio in San Francisco to get "play fast" done on my knuckles, thankfully they had no open slots that day). There are surely some really fast songs on the first 12" but I think tracks like "Dedication", "Disgust" and "Ingen plikt" are just as fast. Out of the 14 tracks on the new LP, including the intro, 10 are one beat fast ones, that is OK in my book haha.
But to answer your question, I think the main difference is that the small metal influences on the 12" are gone with the wind. We actually stole riffs from black and death metal bands on that one and twisted them around a bit to make it sound HC. Nothing new, Slapshot has done the same. It might be true as you say that it's more varied, but we did work hard to make it a more genuine and focused hardcore record. In that process we scrapped a bunch of ideas and whole tracks that didn't fit in. It's more Floorpunch and less metal, I guess.
Am I right in thinking Against the Wall is also some kind of tribute to older bands I mean titles like 'Against The Wall' and ' Something Must Be Done' sure remind me of other bands. As well as your songstructures which have more in common with bands like Judge than a new band like Defeater.
The idea when we started the band was to do a fast one beat in your face straight edge band in the vein of Internal Affairs. I guess we are closer to that now than before actually. But yeah, there are loads of references to more or less old hardcore in the lyrics at least. Some more obvious than others. Uniform Choice, Minor Threat, Antidote, Battery, Youth of Today... I personally like stuff like that, such as when Skull Crusher used a line from Judge on their 12". As for the music, I think we just went in to do a fast hardcore record without pretentiousness or metal influences. "Against the wall" is what came out.
Are you the kind of older guys who tend to dwell in the past or are you as stoked on newer bands as well and if so which newer bands do you really love?
Nah man I wouldn't say so. Sure we all love the old stuff and most covers we have played are so to speak semi old (as in late 80s, Citizens Arrest, Chain of Strength, Project X etc) but we all follow new music quite a lot. I can't say I enjoy everything that comes out, but who can?
One of the things I have enjoyed a lot the latest couple of years is the new wave of straight edge bands in the US that have sought their way back to the roots of it all, to hardcore PUNK and all that comes with that both sound and attitude wise. I'm talking about Black SS, Blank Stare, Sick Fixx, Coke Bust, Poison Planet... Awesome stuff.
What is the Swedish song on the new record about and why did you decide to keep that one in Swedish.
"Ingen plikt" can be translated to "No duty" and is about people who consider drinking to be their personal business even though it makes them a part of a social problem in society. It's not meant to throw punches at alcoholics and people that have real problems that they need help with, but rather all the people that get pissed on weekends, glorify drinking and refuse to acknowledge that they're a part of the problem. We decided to do a short and really fast song in Swedish and I think it turned out really cool.
I think a lot more people recently got interested in your country since the popular books of Stieg Larsson as well as the whole story about the mystery sniper. Sweden doesn't seem to be the peacefull quiet country were all is good, which I imagined it would be growing up. So what is the situation in Sweden like at the moment? How is it to grow up there?
Well I recently sat down and discussed drug policy with the guys in Coke Bust, who are from Washington DC, and our opinions definitely clashed but we also realized that our perspectives vary due to our radically different environments. They spoke of a "murder rate" and I mean...
Sure people get murdered here as well, but nowhere near that level that they are used to. Anyway, this will be an answer that reflects my opinions since we all don't see things the same way in the band.
Sweden is still a very good country to live in. For sure. But like any other western country we have seen the public sector and welfare system being slaughtered the last three decades. It's a horrible and tragic development that escalated with the membership in the European Union in the 90s. The thing is that the Swedish working class has been completely defenseless against the attacks of the right wing, big business and so on.
Which is a bit ironic since our unions are famous for being large and strong with massive organization levels. The thing is though that it all rested on a system of class cooperation between labor and capital. And when capital ended their part of the cooperation, starting in the 70s and accelerating in the 90s, the main labor organizations just continued dwelling in the past. Absolutely no attempts whatsoever to counter the massive attack on all the things the workers had gained during half a century of positive development. These things take forever to build up and seconds to destroy.
I've witnesses this first hand as an auto worker in the Volvo factory in Gothenburg, where we had to battle both the company and the union sitting idle, silent and obedient in their lap. A couple of months ago the right wing government that has been sitting since 2006 got re-elected.
The political climate it so perverted that the conservative party campaigned as "the new worker's party" and such nonsense. Anyhow, long story, but all this has led to drastic widening of class differences and injustice, which in turn leads to social unrest of a spontaneous and unorganized fashion, especially in areas of the larger cities dominated by immigrants, who rightfully believe they have been left outside in the cold. This election also saw the entrance of a right wing populist party into the parliament, for the first time in Sweden really.
There was one party in the early 90s but it was a one time thing and they didn't pose a threat like these assholes are doing. Unfortunately some workers fall for their crap. I see co-workers sometimes with their party logo. It's very disheartening. But to sum up and return to your question, I think you need to look upon the recent shootings in Malmö through this perspective, even though I am quite sure the guy responsible is more of a looney than a political strategist.
Sweden is getting more and more segregated, the welfare state is dismantled, more social unrest is around the corner. My only hope is that the latter will take a positive form.
You were supposed to do a eurotour with Skull Crusher, why didn't that happen?
That cancellation was a pain in the ass to go through with. We were really looking forward to touring with Skull Crusher, their 12" is amazing. Basically, we had to make some tough decisions when Reflections pulled out of our LP. They were supposed to do the record but in the end had to face the fact that they had too much going on right now.
So all of a sudden we stood there with a recorded LP, a tour booked and no one to release the record. We decided to release it ourselves, which feels great, along with our friends Daniel from Green Menace Records and Dave from Get This Right Records.
Obviously it felt shitty not to have the LP on Reflections, as we truly felt at home there and Johan and Suzanne are just the greatest people alive more or less. But we decided not to whine about it, but rather make the best out of the situation. But with this new development we realized that it was highly unlikely that the LP would be out in time for the booked tour. And we just can't tour without the record being out. We have jobs and stuff and when we take days off, we need to choose the opportunity wisely. So we cancelled, and it turned out to be a good choice since the LPs arrived several weeks after the tour was due to start.
What's the story behind the new swehc website?
We originally started talking about doing an online blog where we could post articles from out of print issues of Law and Order zine, which I am involved in. Then my co-editor Fredrik (of Law And Order Records) started planning a (more or less) free sampler CD of many of the most interesting Swedish hc acts together with Daniel from Green Menace Records. These two ideas sort of merged in Fredrik's head and swehc.com is what came out of it.
It's mostly done by the three editors of Law and Order zine (except for me and Fredrik, there's also Marcus) but we are hoping to get help from more people. We will post news, short interviews, video clips etc that for most of the time have some sort of connection to Sweden and hardcore. Apart from Swedish bands it can also be foreign bands touring Sweden, old video clips that were filmed by Swedes and haven't been seen online before etc. It's a way to cover hardcore and support the Swedish scene that is meant to complement the zine, which is the main focus still, at least for me.
What are Stay Hungry's plans for 2011?
Well we just got the LPs last week and all the pre-orders have been shipped. We're also working hard booking a tour for April. We will do 16 shows. A lot of it is already booked but anyone interested in helping out can get in touch, we still have slots to fill. We are booking this tour by ourselves so our whole operation is pretty DIY now which feels cool. It's been totally mind blowing how helpful people have been so far. So the main focus now is to spread the word about the LP and finish booking the tour.
We also just added our friend Johan on guitar, so we are now a five piece. We have done two shows with him so far and having two guitar players is a big step forward for the band, without a doubt. I guess we will start looking at new material next year. We live in different cities so we have to sort of focus on whatever lies ahead and is the most important task. Right now that is obviously to get ready for the tour, new songs is kind of secondary I guess.