Hate City Fest 2009 is probably the best hardcore show to take place in Bulgaria in quite a while. A packed club, cool bands, awesome atmosphere… Obviously things can work out great with the right kind of organization and the right bands. The cherry on top of course were England’s Knuckledust who wiped the floor with the audience last. Before that their frontman Pierre finds time to talk with me as well.
- The sky has been gloomy all day and it now started to rain heavily. It is like that in England all the time, right?
- Haha, no. That seems to be everyone’s impression, although it is not like that at all. Actually there’s a ban on using hosepipes, because we do not have enough water. Everybody thinks it is constantly raining – then why don’t we have enough water?
- So… Judging by your Myspace page where your name was changed to announcing the show in Bulgaria like a month before it took place, I figure you must be pretty stoked about it.
- Yeah, man. We’re glad to be on the road playing again. To be honest this year we haven’t played many shows. I guess I can count on one hand how many shows Knuckledust has played. So it is nice to come somewhere new and catch up with some people we haven’t seen. We’re doing this “very mini” tour – only Sofia and Thessaloniki. At the moment, because of the situation in England, we’re working and it is very hard to take time off. In England all the jobs are asking people to take time off with no pay, and make a sacrifice in order for the company to survive. But so many companies are closing and some of the guys in the band have problems with work – they can’t leave for the holidays, they can’t even leave for the weekend to play a show like our bass player Nic. We do not want to play too many shows without him so give him some time. He is learning to be a black taxi driver. In England they’re like mafia – you have to study like crazy and if you are very dedicated and you spend a lot of time it may take you a year if you’re lucky. Otherwise it may take from three to five or ten years to learn all the streets, the routes. So, Nick is learning and we support him.
- And how long has he been into this?
- He’s been studying for maybe… a year now. Something like that. But until he passes he can’t be really invested in playing with Knuckledust.
- Yeah, but he’s at least close to graduating… So, you say the band’s not playing this many concerts, staying in London working. Do you find time to write new songs and maybe an album while you’re stuck there, or work also prevents you from doing that?
- For the same reason we haven’t been able to write songs. We don’t really have a plan. At the moment we’re surprised Knuckledust has lasted this long. But nothing really has changed in the essence of the band, while everything around it does change. But same as always – we don’t stress, there’s no big plan, we don’t care, there’s no rush. And no one is going to die in the next three years hopefully, fingers crossed, when the new album comes, it comes. If people like it, if they don’t like it – whatever.
Hardcore family and respect and all, but still make sure you look at the rate before you board Nic's cab.
- You guys have been in the exact same lineup since the beginning of the band. How do you manage to do that?
- A lot of people say the same thing and are very surprised that we have the same members. When I think about it – it is nothing that we made a decision to achieve or anything, but if it wasn’t the same four people it wouldn’t have been the same fun for us. We do not have any major goal to achieve through this band. I mean we play our music and it is the music we love. That’s what we started doing in the beginning and this is what we do now. We haven’t been forced to change our lifestyle and this is what we live. We don’t stress out about people asking us for albums and record deals, do this do that tour… we don’t care. Family comes first.
- You said family and you know a lot of people use the word pretty loosely in the hardcore scene - about people and bands they’re crew with. What do you mean by it?
- People use the word very loosely, they incorporate a lot of things in it. But for me family is people that wouldn’t turn their back on you, people who stand by you and people who don’t bullshit you. Many people chat bullshit – they come to your face, smiley, smiley, but at the end they only want something. True friends and true family we’re lucky to have all over the world because of this music. Without hardcore we wouldn’t probably have left London and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet these people.
- Talking about London, it is probably the biggest city in all of Europe, yet surprisingly its hardcore scene isn’t one of the big ones. Everyone knows about the scenes from big world cities like New York or Boston… And even within the UK most of the bands are from other cities like Napalm Death who are from Birmingham. Why is it like that with London?
- The thing is in London, you see, the kids who make the real hardcore music, aren’t exactly what you would call “scene kids”. They like their music and they write it their own way. With Rucktion Records, the label that we have here, we try to promote the local bands and the local scene. This may not be the most popular style because they try not to copy everyone else in the world. There’re a million bands who sound like Terror, a million bands that sound like Hatebreed, a million bands who sound like Madball. And it is like… in London kids are a little fed up with that. We respect those bands and we take influence from their music a lot as well, but we definitely try to put more of our own influences and London attitude. There’s a scene there and it is very underground. And we like it that way. There are bands like Ninebar, Kartel, Injury Time, Bun Dem Out – these are all local bands that don’t really tour, they don’t come to Europe that much because many of the kids are too young, they don’t have a driver’s license, they don’t have jobs, they can’t afford to buy or hire a van and then you have to pay for the ferry across the Chanel.
- So they play only London or the whole island?
- Mostly London because there aren’t that many places in the UK that scream for hardcore or Rucktion bands. Maybe in the big cities things are ok, but outside of that England is very small for Hardcore. London is the hot spot – everything survives there. There may be ten types of kids that all think they are into hardcore but their hardcore is pretty different to each other. A lot of kids that don’t understand… too many rich kids, who go only to the big shows where and American band is playing. Same problem everywhere, ain’t it? When a local band plays they go like “I see them every month” but that’s not true – they play once every six months or so. That’s just excuses. What they mean is they see these people every week or every month at shows, but no one really pays attention to the bands.
I just can't think of a worthy caption for that pic, no matter how hard I try.
- You did this big tour a few years ago with Ignite, Sworn Enemy, Madball and Suicidal Tendencies, and from interviews you did back then I was left with the impression you were opening every night in front of like ten people…
- Some nights we played before the doors opened. Or at least they wanted us to but we didn’t play. It was a funny situation because originally the lineup was decided and then one of the bands was going to pull out. So they asked us to join, to open or whatever. But then the other band came back and then there were too many bands for that show. So we would open and nobody cared, we weren’t getting much money or anything. It cost us like £5,000 in the end just to hire a van. Luckily some friends of ours were deriving so we saved some money there. But other than that we lost a lot. We were playing in front of, as you say – ten people, so no one saw us, no one bought records and merchandise. Other than that it was a good experience. We played early and then we got drunk while watching all the other bands. We grew up listening to Suicidal Tendencies, Madball, we love Sworn Enemy so it was an amazing holiday. An expensive but amazing one!
- Quite the contrast with the situation now – you are going to headline the show, it is completely sold out.
- Yeah. We prefer club shows. We don’t like these big arenas – it’s not the same. Acually my eyesight is not great, so when it’s far away I can’t see people. Now when I sing I close my eyes anyway…
- Many bands who tour Europe and come to Bulgaria as well say that people at shows across the continent are really passive, just standing there, and some of them say they’re actually surprised how people here just mow through each other all the time. So, what is it like in England?
- Most often when you play England people just stand there. I guess it is what English people are like – kind of selfish and cold.
- You have been involved in the London scene for at least ten years now, and you also run a label there, so you know your local scene, and also seeing the Bulgarian bands that played and will play here tonight, do you think such a band can go to England and pull it off?
- Sure. Everyone seems to want to come to England, so many bands want to play and it is a shame there aren’t that many places for them to play in the UK. There are a lot of kids that care for their music, just not enough in certain areas. And sometimes in Europe, in the mainland they are used to big tours of big bands with their support act. In England to bring the main band and the support act on the ferry is going to cost more and the attendance in England is less, so sometimes when you draw the line it is not worth it.
- OK – last question, and I am asking you this only because we are standing in front of the headquarters of a political party here in Bulgaria that represents the country’s Muslim community. There’s news from the UK every now and then about protests that sometimes turn ugly and problems between Muslims and other people about building new mosques and what not… What do you think of this whole issue?
- England is quite unique for that situation because there are a lot of Muslims that live in the UK and to call them anything but British would be ridiculous. Like me for instance – I’m South American, my parents are from Peru. But I am a Londoner. And again there’s kids who grow with a Muslim faith and you can’t deny that they are Londoners as well – a part of the city, a part of the UK as every other thing there. It is very unique there. There can’t be too much fuss, because as many people would oppose something there would be just as many to stand up for it. Politicians don’t want that sort of turmoil especially in London and other cities because that would cause some really big problems and actually press them to express themselves more. But I don’t have a problem with the Muslim community and I have never felt that they are pushing their faith on the rest of the country or anything. They’ve always been there. Everyone in England and London especially has grown with friends who are Muslim.