ALONGSIDE Discharge with their “screeching haikus”, Antisect were right at the very limit of what I deemed acceptable in terms of hardcore punk adopting the dynamics of heavy metal.
They were an intensely powerful live band, but it’s fair to say they were none too subtle. My main impression is of gigantic riffs, loads of feedback and even more shouting. And Sideshow Bob-style spiderplant hair, of course.
And they all seemed to be called Pete.
I got to interview them twice in the space of less than a year, first in Leeds and then in Gateshead, either side of the release of their debut album, In Darkness There Is No Choice. The interviews tell two very similar tales of perfectly affable people confronted with the relentless drunken negativity of a fanzine ediot who when it came down to it, just enjoyed arguing as much as anything else.
They were a little more relaxed second time around and among many world exclusives came the extraordinary and shocking news that they actually owned a television set.
Much as I liked it their album at the time, I probably won’t be buying In Darkness There Is No Choice again and writing about it any time soon (it’d cost a bomb for a start) – although someone has helpfully posted all the individual tracks on You Tube and it’s a pleasant surprise to find that old favourites like Channel Zero, The Buck Stops Here, The World’s Biggest Runt and that evergreen chart-topping toe-tapper Tortured and Abused still sound so fucking fierce.
More than two decades after I interviewed Antisect, I started working for a subsiduary of a loathsome rightwing newspaper group and there, engraved on the plate glass window outside reception, was the very same Japanese woodcut design they’d used on their banners and their album artwork (below).
Whatever happened to Antisect? Hopefully, they’ve not somehow actually been absorbed by the Daily Mail, like some gigantic paranoid stupidity-amoeba sucking up everything in its path.
We can, as ever, only hope.
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A BRIEF history of Antisect: They formed in the winter of 1980/81 and have done about 200 gigs all over the country. They are a collective of five people, comprising of two singers, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer but were reluctant to name any individual members saying it is “unnecessary”.
Based in Northampton they formed because of “boredom” and a desire to “express what we feel on important issues”. I interviewed them before their gig with Amebix and Disorder at the Bierkeller in Leeds in December 1983.
What sort of lifestyle do you lead?
“At the moment, some of us live communally, some don’t”.
You’ve been described as ‘Crass ideas with Discharge music’. What do you think to this?
“That’s absolute rubbish. We just describe ourselves as human beings. We are not really influenced by anyone apart from humanity in general. We play the music we enjoy playing, to an extent”.
Is there any chance of your message getting across to anyone but punks – many of who probably think that way anyway?
“Not a lot of them do think that way anyway. We don’t have to compromise for those who won’t listen. We just play what we like – though what we say is more important”.
For a movement that is supposed to be an anti-movement and anti-fashion, what do you think of the way that Crass have become leaders of a certain kind of punk, with all their followers dressing in all-black with loads of studded leather etc?
“It’s up to people to wear what they like. We don’t recognise the punk movement as it is simply just another division”.
What’s the point of singing about anarchy when there are literally millions of people, including many punks, who are quite content to live in and conform to the system?
“We don’t sing about anarchy. It’s hard to say what we believe in. We’re not particularly against ‘the system’. The system is a product of people and not the other way around. It’s up to them. We’re only saying what we feel. It’s up to them to make their own choice”.
Is it a waste of time to make people aware of things if they then go home and listen to the Addicts, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, Chelsea and other escapist pop punk music?
“It’s up to them what they listen to. These are just our views. The most important thing is the ability to change ourselves. We’d like people to understand and accept us. We don’t lay rules down”.
Would you like to get across to a wider audience and if so, how?
“We’d play to anybody who bothers to listen. We’d play with anyone who offered, not just punk bands. We would play with bands with higher prices but we wouldn’t advertise that we were playing so that people wouldn’t pay that price specifically to see us”.
What do you think to CND?
“They’re okay but they don’t go far enough. They talk about the immorality of nuclear weapons but as far as we’re concerned, all weapons are immoral. It’s bad that Cruise has arrived despite 71 per cent of the people being against it but they ask for it by advocating this political system. It’s not true that the only way to get change is to use the political system”.
Do we live in a democracy?
“In as much as people accept it, but we personally think it’s a farce”.
What are your future plans?
“An LP out in January on Spiderleg. Our agreement with Spiderleg is one between friends rather than a contract. We don’t have to compromise and have 100 per cent say of what goes in. And at the same time, keep the prices down ..”
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I MET Pete and John from Antisect a little before their gig at the Station in Gateshead at the start of October, 1984. The interview took place in the back of their transit and it was very cold, so if you want to add some realism, make teeth-chattering and cough! cough! noises every few seconds.
Would you agree that you were very lucky to have your first release put out by Spiderleg? Do you think that people bought the album because it was you or because of the Flux connection?
“Probably a bit of both .. It could be that. There were probably a few people who hadn’t heard of us who, when the record came out, went out and bought it just because it was on Spiderleg, the same as I did a couple of years ago with Crass Records. But then again, people also bought the record because they had seen and heard us”.
Were you lucky?
“Yeah, lucky to have a record out at all, on any label. But it was good that it was out on something like Spiderleg .. But it was the only one where we could do exactly what we wanted”.
Couldn’t you have had that kind of control with Corpus Christi?
“We haven’t had that much contact with Crass”.
You’ve said in the past that you’d be willing to play with other types of band to reach a wider audience. Realistically, surely the only bands you could ever play with are heavy metal people or punks? Are you happy with this?
“Not at all. We have to put up with it though .. We have to play this sort of music because we’re not actually technically good enough to play anything else .. So we might be able to play disco or something and get over to a totally different set of people but we’d lose the ones we’ve got. And like Pete says, I doubt if we’d be able to play that sort of music and I doubt that we’d enjoy it if we could. But it’s really difficult”.
So would you play with heavy metal bands?
“The last six months we’ve been sorting ourselves out and we certainly haven’t been approaching anyone .. You see, we’ll play with any bands as long as we could agree on things like admission and also we’d like to know a little bit about the bands we’re playing with. Even if they didn’t agree with everything we’re saying, it’d be beneficial to play with someone like that”.
Does it amuse you to see lots of people walking around looking exactly like you?
“No, not really. I don’t think about it that much. The way I see it, they’re probably doing what they want to do in some way .. Sometimes it is a bit funny cos I think, hey there’s Pete our drummer or Pete our guitarist, but you know, so what?”
Do you think you sound best live or on record?
“I don’t think we’ve really been happy with either up until now. At first we liked the LP but the more we hear it, the more we dislike it .. The album is definitely different to the live performances. It was the best thing we could have done at the time and so we were pretty pleased with it. But a lot of the time at gigs, we can’t really say we’ve had a really good sound. Sometimes we’ve played really well and enjoyed it but thought it could’ve been better .. I think a lot of bad gigs can be put down to our own disorganisation”.
You’ve been around for four years now and for half of that time you’ve been totally unknown and the other half you’ve been relatively famous. Which do you prefer?
“We haven’t noticed that we’ve become famous or whatever .. I don’t think that we’re particularly famous, and even if we are, I haven’t really noticed it. As a band, we’re probably a lot more well-known than we were three or four years ago, but things like that, they sort of creep up on you. It’s not something that happens overnight”.
How far do you think you can carry on in the present format before you become a bit tired and predictable?
“I don’t know. I think that bands can play more or less the same music for years and years and years and even though they might lose one audience, they’ll find another .. No doubt we’ll change .. It’s so hard to say. In the last couple of years our ideas have changed – well, not so much changed as progressed”.
What’s the most important thing that people should get from your music?
“Well, for a start we don’t regard ourselves as a punk band. We don’t agree with any kind of label like that. It’s very hard to say cos everyone in the band will have their own opinion. But personally, I’d like to help people become aware, not just like ‘oh the bomb’s gonna drop’ but to help them as people. You’ve heard the same sort of thing going round for four or five years now and I suppose it’s become a bit of cliche. I’m not knocking it, but lately we’ve been looking at it from a slightly different angle and instead of categorising what we’re singing about, we broaden it out”.
Omega Tribe have just used a pop producer to get the sound they wanted. Would you use a producer from outside punk to get the sound you want?
“Yeah, if we found a producer who could get the sound we wanted and if they were a person we could get on with. But we wouldn’t bring someone in to produce our LP just to make a packet off it. Saying ‘it’d be a sell-out’ is just limiting yourself to punk and that’s something we don’t want”.
Would you ever get to the stage where you say, fuck it, nobody’s taking any notice of us, and give up?
“Possibly. We could get disillusioned with what goes on around us but personally I’d never get disillusioned with the way I feel”.
It was more about a feeling that you’re just not getting through to people.
“Oh yeah, I get like that. Loads of times .. I was going to say that. We all get like that sometimes, but I couldn’t see us – or rather myself – getting to the stage where I’d just pack everything in”.
Have you ever thought about setting up your own label?
“We’ve considered it and said we’d like to .. But it’s a case of disorganisation. It’s a possibility”.
Since we’re in Newcastle and it’s just started a new series, I suppose I should ask you about The Tube. Would you appear on it?
“I don’t really know that much about the Tube but I watch it occasionally, like if I’m in the house and the telly’s on, and The Tube is on, then I’ll sit down and watch it and sometimes I’ll enjoy it. If we could find out a little bit more about it and how it worked and what goes on behind the scenes, then I think we would .. It would depend on the set up. if it contradicted what we try to say, then I don’t think we would .. We’d find it strange playing on television, but if it gives us the chance to get over to more people”.
How do you think you’d come across?
“I’m pretty sure a lot of people would say ‘Ugh! Noise! I can’t hear the lyrics’ but it’d still be worth getting up and having a go”.
[The first interview took place in December 1983 and was published a month later in the The Son Of The Primitive Patriot fanzine. The second interview happened in October 1984 and was published a couple of months later in Airstrip One fanzine. It was accompanied by a caricature of the band by Dallas]
Whatever happened to Antisect? Well, it turns out they’re on MySpace (actually, this is just a fan site but it’s worth a look anyway) and there’s another interview here. And they were all called Pete.