Agenda Benders

What do you get if you put together Jim Bob of Carter, Clint of Pop Will Eat Itself and Propa-Ghandi of Fun-da-mental? You get a great Maker cover, that's what. You also get three of the main attractions of this weekend's Phoenix Festival....



Propa-Ghandi, alias Aki, the mainman and fount of ideas behind Fun-Da-Mental and founder and chief of Nation Records. He's driven, passionate and idealistic, an erratic but compelling thinker who spends the afternoon bounding up and downstairs to the studio's only mirror to check his headgear is neatly in place for Tom Sheehan's photo session.


Clint Mansell of Pop Will Eat Itself, who has recently swapped his red dreadlocks for a Perry Farrell peroxide crop, and whose thoughtful demeanour and quiet charm are totally at odds with the Poppies' reputation for lager fuelled laddishness.


Jim Bob from Carter USM who were playing agit-pop well before the new wave of concerned bands. Today he's being coy and taking a backseat to the more garrulous Aki and Clint. As soon as the interview is over, he leaves in a fast car to Oxford to continue recording Carter's new album.




MM: In 1994, with the worrying rise of the influence of the far right, alternative music is more politicised than at any stage since the late Seventies' Rock Against Racism movement and the mid-Eighties' Red Wedge flirtation with the Labour Party. Is it fair to say that rock has rediscovered its social conscience?


Clint: I think it has, although maybe because magazines like yours are concentrating on it more. There are still plenty of bands out there singing "ooh, baby I love you". But maybe 15 years of Conservative government has left people with a lot of things they want to get off their chests.


MM: Perhaps, yet interestingly the club/dance explosion of five years ago, after 10 years of Tory rule, was a totally apolitical and hedonistic movement.


Clint: But I think rebellion goes through various stages, and one of them is saying "F*** it, I can't be bothered with politics, I'm just gonna get totally out of it". Then the next step is saying, "OK, what IS going on?" It's like when you've partied far too long and then you start coming down and sit back and look at yourself."


Propa-Ghandi: These are dangerous times. We have to act and I always say, "Whatever It Takes". If there are bands who want to jump on the anti-racist bandwagon, let them. It all helps. I remember Rock Against Racism and that achieved something. People in bands have got big gobs and can sound off when they want to.


MM: There are SO many bands tackling social issues now: Senser, Credit to the Nation, Echobelly, Chumbawamba, Back to the Planet... the list seems endless. And yet, when we spoke last Xmas, Jim Bob, you seemed to feel that agit-pop could achieve nothing because music fans just don't listen to the words.


Jim Bob: Ah, that was when I was feeling down at Christmas! But it's easier to have an impact when there's more bands doing it. When it's only a couple of people it's a lot harder. Don't forget, there was only Billy Bragg for years!


Clint: I think 150,000 people at the Anti-Nazi League rally at Brockwell Park shows people are listening. They may not take in every line but they get the sentiment.


Propa-Ghandi: I think if 150,000 people go to a gig like that, then that's a petition. If 150,000 people are dissatisfied but can't change anything then something's wrong in our democracy. But are the government listening? Are they f***! 150,000 people and there wasn't even one report in a daily newspaper...






MM: How do you explain the current disturbing rise of the Far Right and the British National Party?


Propa-Ghandi: People have been misinformed. It is ignorance! The excuses we get just don't wash! People say it's because there's no jobs around, but how does that explain 10 white youths beating up one Asian kid? If you go down the East End now there's massive, massive tension. Everybody, regardless of colour, has a responsibility to show their protest.


MM: In the recent by-election in Dagenham, the BNP candidate got 1500 votes. What the f***'s going on? Are there really 1500 fascists living in Dagenham?


Clint: I can see how people get fooled. We had local elections recently. The National Front leaflet came through my door, and when I read it it seemed so reasonable and... polite."


Propa-Ghandi: Yeah, I remember reading an NF leaflet and thinking the only thing I don't like about this is the immigration bit, the rest seems cool. But do the general public see it? I don't like underestimating human beings. Surely everybody knows what the BNP stand for.


MM: So what makes essentially decent people vote for them?


Propa-Ghandi: When Derek Beackon got elected in Millwall, everybody said, "Eastenders can't be racist, it must be a protest vote". But if you want a protest vote why not vote for the Green Party or Screaming Lord Such? I won't make excuses for these people - it's just wrong.


MM: Which brings us back full circle: what can bands DO to help chip away at this ignorance?


Jim Bob: I don't necessarily think the sort of people who need to be educated listen to bands. They have to be reached via newspapers or television.


Propa-Ghandi: I get white kids writing to me saying they've seen Fun-Da-Mental play, they've read some history and they want to improve things, what can they do? I tell them, next time you hear somebody making an ignorant comment, have a word with them. You can't just say, "F*** you, you racist, I don't wanna talk to you", because nobody's ever tried to help them before. As regards bands, I think there'll always be those who wasn't to get involved politically, and those who don't.






MM: After Fun-Da-Mental made the anti-racist single, "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" with Pop Will Eat Itself, Aki, you spoke to Melody Maker and seemed to be saying the Poppies weren't doing enough in The Struggle. One token single wasn't sufficient.


Propa-Ghandi: No, I was misquoted. Well, a bit misquoted. I was upset when I saw the video for the single, 'cos I thought the Poppies had missed a chance to get the point across. The video could have been really in yer face but it was full of people riding bicycles down the wrong side of the road! I just thought, "Where's the evidence there as to what the song's about?


Clint: Well, we talked about making a video which rammed the point home. We were going to have a guy in Klu Klux Klan gear, and unmask him and make him a black guy with dreads. But we didn't feel comfortable doing it. We're not an overtly political band. And we're not very good at making videos.


Aki: But it could have been extreme and f***ed up and wicked!


Jim Bob: And then it wouldn't have got shown!


Clint: Yeah, maybe. Aki might be right and the video might have been a chance missed, but I hope our shows at Aston Villa Leisure Centre with bands like Fun-Da-Mental and Senser showed the Poppies have more than just one element to us."






MM: How do you feel about the current assault on Morrissey by certain elements of the music press? Is he guilty of flirting with Far Right imagery and style, or the victim of a cynical and bullying journalistic campaign?


Jim Bob: To be honest, I don't actually care. Constantly talking about what Morrissey means in various songs is avoiding more important issues. Nobody bought his last single, I assume that's a result of his bad press.


Clint: Why not pick on Skrewdriver, who ARE a fascist band? Because it won't sell papers, that's why! I'm not interested in Morrissey, but I know he waved a Union Jack and he's into the skinhead thing as part of his Britishness. But Suede and Blur have both waved the Union Jack in magazines and nobody's claimed they're racist! Morrissey is flirting with fascist imagery and refusing to set the record straight, which is bad, but the whole campaign against him is about selling newspapers.


Propa-Ghandi: I'd love to talk to him about it. I don't know what to think. He's an arty, pretentious gut. I liked The Smiths but never liked Morrissey. I just think maybe he hasn't grown up yet. He's never looked into things. He's got to be pulled up to explain himself. How can he call for something as f***ing pathetic as giving the BNP TV broadcast time?


MM: To be fair, his argument is that if the BNP appeared on TV, their inherent stupidity would effectively turn voters off.


Propa-Ghandi: Yeah, but Morrissey's not black, his brother's not been killed, he's not faced with racism, day in day out. You can't give freedom of speech to the BNP. Why give a platform to evil?


MM: That very same argument was used in McCarthyite America to oppress and persecute Communists.


Propa-Ghandi: I won't for one second let anybody tell me it's fair to give racists a voice. You have to meet the people who've been their victims before you can form an opinion. If you meet them and you still think the BNP deserve a voice, then there's something wrong with you.


MM: Does the proposed Criminal Justice Bill trouble you?


Propa-Ghandi (smiling): The whole f***ing world troubles me, man.


Clint: Yeah, it's very disturbing. Very open to abuse. It's like a return to the old suss laws. the police can just make the crime fit the circumstances.


Jim Bob: I don't think people realise what a broad measure it is. They think it's just anti-ravers, or anti-travellers. Sadly, a lot of people will agree with that.


Clint: Yeah, Joe Public's thinking, "Great, I don't want travellers camped at the end of my street!"


Propa-Ghandi: And Joe Public doesn't realise it can just as easily be used against HIM. There's too much apathy. That's where pop can make a difference. Us fighting racism, The Levellers fighting the CJB - it's cool, man! It's all politics.


Clint: Yeah, even a band like Suede stood up to fight for lowering the age of consent for homosexuals. They're a big band, but they support a cause that matters to them. That's good.


Jim Bob: Well, it's very fashionable at the minute.


MM: You're working on Carter's new album now, Jim Bob. Is it as much fuelled by anger and injustice as its predecessors?


Jim Bob (archly): I'm not sure the other ones were, really.


Propa-Ghandi: I'd always assumed that Carter were pretty political.


Jim Bob: There's a new song on the album about the Klu Klux Klan infiltrating this small mining village in Wales. This is true! They got all these young kids to join them and held cross burning ceremonies in back gardens!


Propa-Ghandi: Well, that's political, isn't it?


Jim Bob: Yeah, I suppose so, but it's also quite obscure.


Propa-Ghandi: Aha! So you ARE political, but now it's become fashionable at last you don't want to be a part of it. Ha!


Jim Bob: Well, er, no, it's not that.. er..


Propa-Ghandi: Yes it is! Come clean, mate!


Clint (helpfully): I think general dissatisfaction's always got to be a driving force. They day you're completely happy with your lot, and everything around you, you're going to lose a lot of motivation.


MM: Is it fair to say that while Carter and the Poppies are bands who happen now and again to be political, Fun-Da-Mental (good band as they are) exist primarily for their political impact?


Propa-Ghandi: yeah, totally. We've always said that the message was more important than the music. The music is just a platform. If we didn't make music Fun-Da-Mental would still exist, maybe as a human rights organisation.






MM: Are you all looking forward to the Phoenix festival?


Propa-Ghandi: Yeah, we played Phoenix last year. It was all very new to us. The stage seemed f***ing massive! But festivals are events rather than just big gigs anyway.


Clint: Yeah, I think the social interaction's the main appeal for most people. The music's secondary to the other goings on.


Jim Bob: The music's secondary to me as well! I'm not really looking forward to the hour on stage.


Clint: Yeah, that's probably the worst part. I enjoy playing live, but I'm aware a lot of people don't even bother to watch the bands, they're too busy having a good time out in the field, and good for them. Having said that, I hope there's one or two standing there when we come to play.


Propa-Ghandi: They might stand and watch but the state they'll be in mate, they won't have a clue what's going on...


Clint: Well, that makes our job easy.


Propa-Ghandi: The Phoenix is a big platform for us to do what we want to do, and that's cool. Musically, Fun-Da-Mental are so different from the majority of the bands on the bill that I just hope we give people something different to chew on.


MM: Fine. Any last comments?


Propa-Ghandi: Yeah, let's put the BNP on the Phoenix guest list so we can get all the f***ers in one place and blow 'em up.