THANKS to the wonders of the modern mechanical webnet, I can tell you with some certainty that the following interview took place on Sunday, August 25, 1984 at the Leadmill in Sheffield.
I can’t tell you much else about it though. Flux didn’t like specific quotes being attributed to individual members in their interviews, so who says what will have to remain a mystery – though I do remember that Col Latter and Derek Birkett seemed to do most of the talking.
Flux had just released The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks a few months before and were just about to release a brace of singles in the shape of Fuck Off Thatcher and Taking A Liberty. We spoke midway through their miners’ strike benefit tour alongside Chumbawamba, D&V and KUKL.
Reading it now, like so many of the interviews I did back in fanzine land, it seems like something of a missed opportunity. If I’d spent more time thinking about what Flux were trying to say and less time being deliberately obnoxious, we might have got somewhere – but I didn’t.
Don’t judge me. It was a long time ago.
* * *
DO YOU think Fuck Off Thatcher or anything like it will ever change anyone’s opinion of Thatcher?
“Well, why won’t it? I mean, the way you emphasise the way it’s presented ..”
I’m talking about little old ladies who go down to Conservative Club bridge evenings.
“Yeah, but we’re concerned with playing a gig and we deal with the people in the hall, and people in the hall are not offended by Fuck Off Thatcher.”
But surely they all think that way anyway?
“Some people at Birmingham didn’t think that. You do a gig in the field we deal with and in some places you’ll get, and I’ll put it diplomatically, a right-wing element. So, obviously, it’s not going to get through to some little old lady in the Conservative Club, but it is going to be heard by some British Movement people who come to our gigs for reasons best known to themselves.”
Would it be true to say that you’ve stopped writing about specific issues and are now concentrating on the bigger picture?
“We’ve always tied animal rights and other kinds of oppression together.”
“Even on Neu Smell, all we did was try to take something tangible, like not eating meat, and went to great lengths on the sleeve to tie that to all the other shit and aggression that goes on. And we did that on Strive and we did that on the other album. All that happened was that people picked up on that because it was easiest to pick up on, and they’ve gone on to develop it themselves.”
Do you write songs like Love Song for people to dance around and generally have a good time to? It’s pretty horrific.
“They don’t necessarily forget what it’s about, it’s just what happens at gigs.”
“At gigs, it’s really hard to make each point individually. What you’re trying to do is create an atmosphere, so that people get strength, get a feeling from the whole evening.”
“But that song is pretty horrific, what with the screaming and caning and everything ..”
“It does work on the level that during the last tour, some feminists came up to us and were outraged. They thought it was a pretty sick thing to do.”
Do the cover drawings on The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks mean anything?
“Yeah, basically they’re part of what we’re saying on the record. I see it as having three parts – the cover, the lyrics and the record itself.”
“The whole thing is about distorted sexuality.”
“If you look at the cocks on the cover, you’ll see they’re actually machine guns – apart from the heads.”
“And also the figures are neither male nor female. It doesn’t really matter what you are and the LP is saying that the exploitation of women is the exploitation of men also. We’re all being exploited. Humanity is being exploited, animals are being exploited, even the Earth is being exploited. It’s all common ground, common ground on which we can all work together.”
Do you see any comparisons in the way you identify with North American Indians and the way Death Cult do?
“I dunno, Ian is pretty seriously into it and identifies with them on a similar basis to us. The fact is, the media made a fashion out of it. I’ve read interviews with Death Cult and they’re basically saying the same sort of things as we are, but in a different way – which, earlier, is what you said people should try to do. A Death Cult audience is a different set of people to the people we get across to, so you can’t knock them.”
I wasn’t knocking them, as such. But Moya, which equates Wounded Knee with Nagasaki, has a lot less impact than something like They Lie We Die.
“It’s not the same sort of effect, but you can’t expect everyone to go around and do what we do. Their thing works within their parameters.”
Would you agree that the music you play will never really appeal to anyone except hardcore punk rockers? And, instead of trying to get out of this blind alley, you’re going further and further into it?
“Not at all, because the reaction to The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks has actually distanced us from punk rock, because most punks, in Britain at least, haven’t liked it. But judging from letters and people we’ve come into contact with, people who aren’t into punk have really liked it.”
Do you like the music you play?
“Yeah, we wouldn’t play it otherwise.”
“We’d never put out anything that we didn’t feel was up to scratch, musically or lyrically. I think that record is amazing. There’s a lot of people who don’t like that record because it’s not based in rock and roll.”
Were you pleased with the reaction to it?
“Yeah, cos it changed the passive listener / aggressive band roles. The letters we’ve had haven’t been ‘Oh, another great record, great music, great lyrics, full stop’.”
“It’s been going much further.”
“Yeah, it’s like ‘What about this? What do you think about that? And why aren’t you doing so-and-so?’ People have been changing their roles and we’ve been getting aggressive letters. It’s really made people think about what we’re writing.”
Do you mean that they’re not treating you like rock stars anymore?
“We’ve never been treated like rock stars ..”
Well, maybe not rock stars but I’ve saw some young kids talking to you earlier and they seemed a bit over-awed.
“I dunno, I’ve never had that problem. I’ve never had the feeling that people have been awe-struck by us. The only problem we’ve had is people taking what we say for granted.”
Isn’t there room for a bit of humour on your records?
“What about Punk Sucks?”
That’s one song on one album.
“It’s difficult to be humorous about what we’re dealing with. When we write songs, they’re about things that make us really angry. We do have a laugh. We’re not po-faced ..”
“We’re not deadly serious all the time. We did that London rock and roll gig ..”
“We just took the piss out of rock and roll.”
“We dressed in white T-shirts and put on shades, and did rock and roll versions of all our songs.”
“With guitar solos and wigs ..”
“And dry ice and bubble machines.”
“You’re looking at the records as separate, single entities and they’re just one facet of what we’re doing.”
Is punk rock all that bad? Isn’t there a lot of good in it?
“Well, it must be good, or we wouldn’t be in a punk band going around playing punk gigs. All we’re saying is that people’s expectations aren’t high enough. Why do they go to shit places and put up with shit conditions and pay rip-off prices and buy ‘punk protest’ records on EMI?”
Is it essential that you carry on as a band, or could you continue to ‘spread the message’ in other areas just as effectively?
“We do that anyway, through things like direct action.”
“”The band will carry on as long as it’s the most effective way of getting the message across. As soon as we find a better way, then we’ll choose that. If the band split up tomorrow, we’d still think about what we do and carry on doing what we’re trying to do now.”
[This interview first appeared in Airstrip fanzine in October 1984]
When the more enlightened parts of the mainstream media talk about anarcho-punk (which they seem to be doing with increasing regularity), Flux are often relegated to the status of a minor footnote or forgotten altogether. But for many of us involved in the scene they were every bit as important as Crass.
Personally speaking, the sleeve of Neu Smell, for example, played as big a part in me switching to a vegetarian diet as, I dunno, watching The Animals Film.
After their Adrian Sherwood-produced swansong The Uncarved Block – which messed with the program even further by introducing funk to the mix (see a future Hip Replacement at some point in the, um, future) Flux seem to drop off everyone’s radar.
The next time I heard anything about them was when UK rapper Professor Green did a tune called Hard Night Out which sampled the bassline from Neu Smell last year. Unfortunately, he seems to have taken it down from his MySpace but maybe he’ll actually release it one day. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, fucking great.
Flux got back together again last year – minus One Little Indian supremo Derek Burkett but plus original Epileptics guitarist Kev Hunter and Ian Glasper, who wrote The Day The Country Died – for Steve Ignorant’s Feeding Of The 5000 thing. I didn’t go down. Believe it or not, I’m not really into all that punk nostalgia stuff – or at least the bands reforming bit of it, anyway.
But I’m open to persuasion. The band recently announced on the Southern forum that they’re playing a gig at the 1 in 12 in Bradford in August and it seems like too good an opportunity to miss. So I think I’m going to head over to Albion Street with my old partners in crime, Doug, Paul and maybe Garbageman, if he can get off child-care duties.
I might even try to interview Flux again – properly, this time – and in the unlikely event that no-one in the national music press will want to print it, I’ll stick it on here.
I’ll try not to be quite so obnoxious.