Interview w/ John from XREPENTANCEX

This is an interview made by French dude Baptiste Edge on October, 2014 before they released “The Sickness Of Eden” LP. We would like to thank him for sending us this great stuff. XREPENTANCEX is definitly my favourite current hardcore band, and their first LP is a hella release!

So thank you John and thank you Baptiste!

by Jean.

1- What and who are XREPENTANCEX? What’s the story behind this band and name?

REPENTANCE are a hardcore punk band from the south of England, we’re often described as being a “90’s band”. We definitely pay homage to a specific period in hardcore’s history. We are all vegan and straight edge and that tends to obviously influence the lyrical content and the agenda we have with the band.

As far as the story goes, Pat had wanted to start this type of band for a very long time, but there was always a lack of interested or able parties. Through ABOLITION Pat was introduced to Oli and the two of them wrote the music for the demo. Pat was originally going to do vocals too but decided that might not work with playing guitar and asked me to join shortly before we recorded the demo. We searched for people we knew shared the same strong convictions as we did and the best and most obvious choices were Andy who plays bass and Robb who plays guitar, so we asked them to join.

Pat and Oli had the name before I joined, they thought and I agree,  that it sounded quite apt considering the views we have on mankind’s senseless destruction of everything it comes into contact with  and what it would take for us to reverse the catastrophe ‘humanity’ has created. None of us are religious- I consider myself an antitheist but there is a very deeply entrenched fear of religious iconography in the society and culture we live in, so we used that and manipulated it to our own devices.

2- What does it mean for you to be a vegan edge band? How is the actual situation in the UK and worldwide scene?

For us, it was very important to label ourselves as such; we wanted people to know that from the outset that this was what we were about. As a group of people we hold very strong beliefs about animal welfare and animal rights, we have strong “moral” convictions to our own abstinence.

As a band these are the things that we all agree on; the use of animals as a commodity is abhorrent, the destruction of the natural world, as a symptom of industrial capitalism must end and drinking/smoking/getting high is not only a very self destructive lifestyle, but it is also a playing into a system of living that we are all trying to reject. Personally I see straight edge not only as a personal choice but also the logical progression of a vegan diet – from the perspective of health and animal welfare, tobacco companies spend millions on animal toxicology and nicotine testing, drug research tests are often carried out on animals in labs and animals are routinely used to smuggle drugs. I think that once you see certain types of oppression and become a more compassionate individual you have to extend that to everyone and everything in your worldview, I understand that animals are exploited as a commodity, forced to fear for their lives, kept caged in their own filth and deprived of the love of their families and I completely reject that so why would I then snort cocaine (as a lazy example) when I know that some poor indigenous person is being subjugated by a drug lord into veritable slavery, or someone else under pain of death is forced to swallow 70 packets of heroin to smuggle them across a border?

When we started up as a band we wanted the people to know that these things are what we were rejecting. I think, contrary to what a lot of others think, hardcore can be a vehicle for change and ideological progression, maybe on the small scale yes, but you have to work within the structures you inhabit. If you are passionate about your beliefs and ideas then you should want to get them across to people and that’s what being in a vegan straight edge band is for us.

As far as the rest of the scene, in the uk we always have had quite a strong straight edge scene and I think at the moment there are a lot kids either going vegan or really becoming aware of the suffering of animals so there is a real positive step. Hardcore especially has always had a radical veg[etari]an undercurrent – see DISCHARGE, YOUTH OF TODAY, GORILLA BISCUITS etc., as vegans were very lucky that everyone in the hardcore scene  has contact with these ideas and is so much more open to it then outside society.

3- You released a demo tape and a 7”. How did it work and what do you think about your beginning?

So far it’s been very positive. The positive responses that we have had have outweighed the negative comments by far. I do think though that a lot more people would be offended if they actually paid attention to what we were saying in songs. The response that we get at shows is always incredible and I have to thank all of the people that have brought our records and sung along when we play. We’ve also had some really good discussions with people at shows and in zines about our ethics and its really inspiring to have been able to talk about our ideals with people even though sometimes we don’t always agree – hardcore for me has always been about the free exchange of radical ideas and discussion so it’s really humbling for me to hear people discussing the ideas that I put forward in the same way that I have done with the opinions and ideas put forward by the bands I love.

We are going up to Stuck On A Name studio in about three weeks (nov 2014) to record a new LP which will come out on Carry The Weight so were pretty excited about that at the moment.

4-  We can see some videos of your shows on Internet – UK scene is actually on top! What is the impact of your music and what do people think about you?

Haha yeah the UK scene is absolutely amazing at the moment, there are so many amazing bands, GUIDANCE [R.I.P.], THE FLEX, BLIND AUTHORITY, RENOUNCED, SHRAPNEL, EGO TRIP, BURLEY BOYS, VIOLENT REACTION, BELOW, UNHOLY MAJESTY…..there are too many to mention. At the moment kids go off from the first sound of feedback to the last note, to every single band and it’s the best it’s been for the past ten years so really we’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m quite modest really so I’m not sure of our impact particularly, all I can say is that people go off when we play and generally people like what we are saying and doing. There have of course been people that don’t like us – although people have mostly taken offence to things I’ve said while we were playing, but that shows that you’re having an impact, people are listening to what you are saying and for me that’s the most import thing when being in a band like this one.

5-  What will you reply to someone who said: «another pro-life band…»?

I would say “are you fucking insane?!” I really don’t know where people get this notion from I mean we’ve flirted very tongue in cheekly with hardline symbolism but we have never, ever made any statements about being pro-life. I think the idea of a cluster of cells having the “sanctity of life” is completely absurd, let alone the implications of telling a woman what to do with her own body. As a man what right would I have to even entertain the notion that I can force my beliefs on a woman, which ever way I lean.

The argument for being pro-life is so blinkered that it makes itself completely irrelevant there’s no discussion from pro-life groups on the societal, emotional or scientific factors involved in a termination and it’s shrouded in the language of quackery and gore. If you do not believe in the concept of a soul, then there is very little scientific validity in granting the right to life to what in essence is a cellular entity not yet capable of thinking, feeling or having any awareness of life. Obviously there are valid objections to late stage terminations, but I really think you have to look at things from a scientific and welfare point of view – and that’s not just the welfare of the foetus it’s the welfare of the parent too and the quality of life that a child will have if it is born.

6-  You released 2 new songs from your next LP. When will it be out? On which label and why? [the LP is out now on Carry The Weight]

As I said earlier we are finally booked in to record with our mate Ian Boult at Stuck On Name Studios. We imagine if all goes well we will have the record ready to press in January next year so that’s what we’re aiming for. What we do know is that in Europe at least Pat’s label Carry The Weight Records will be putting it out.

7-  Is there an evolution after the 7”? Tell us more please.

I’m not sure there is so much an evolution as a progression. The songs we have written are in the same vein as the 7” but with an LP you’ve got so much more space to develop your ideas. Not every song will be about veganism and we can talk about some other issues, but ecodefense, animal liberation and our impact on nature are very important to us as a band. Pat our guitarist and leader thinks that the lyrics I’ve written for some of the songs are much more “emotional” but don’t let that put you off, there’s still as much anger and bile and vitriol as the demo.  it won’t be as much as a manifesto as the demo, but will still be just as aggressive, just as heavy and just blunt. What we won’t be doing is writing some sort of PINK FLOYD type spaced out jam record. We are a hardcore band, we know our roots and we know what we like – tremolo picking, double pedals, lyrics that aren’t some recycled “my mate stabbed me in the back” tripe, speed and aggression.

8-  Who write the lyrics and the music? What is your message and inspirations?

The lyrics and music in general are a collaborative effort someone will bring in an idea or a riff and we’ll work on it together. With the demo Pat and Oli Wrote everything and we literally all sat together and wrote the lyrics line by line. On the newer stuff we’ve been writing for the record I’ve taken the lead a bit more on the lyrics, I will write a first draft so to speak and then I will run it past the rest of the guys so that they can change it I think it’s important when your part of a band to make sure the rest agree with what you’re saying, especially when you have a defined agenda like we do, I wouldn’t want to misrepresent anyone else in the band.

In terms of the inspiration, it’s the stuff that’s going on around us and the stuff we are acutely aware of, If I read a book on ecology, or I watch a documentary on TV about sharks being definned or I see footage of animal cruelty or I look out of my window and see a park being bulldozed to put up a supermarket or I see children living in absolute poverty even though in the west we apparently live in a strong economy I’m going to feel angry and upset and that’s going to come through in my lyrics. As for the music it’s exactly the same inspiration, SLAYER and ARKANGEL haha. I’m really lucky to be in a band where all of the band really pull their weight and have really high level of skill.

9- All the members are playing in other cool bands. How do you deal with that? Is XREPENTANCEX a serious band or only a side project?

Pat is probably the most prolific guitar player in the UK scene at the moment; he is in countless bands and always starting new projects! Oli is in three other bands including the mighty GUIDANCE who are probably the best band in the uk and MANKIND, and Andy is a member of an international powerhouse (as well as pat) SECTARIAN VIOLENCE. I’d like to think though that for all of us REPENTANCE is a very special band, it’s something that we have all wanted to do for quite some time and have never had the opportunity to do so, so now we have it we’re not about to take it lightly. Getting everyone together to write or practice can be difficult, but that’s life you know? We all work or study full time too but we are pretty productive when we do get together because we really love being in the band.

10- You live in London. How is the life there?

Do you mean in general or for me personally? In general, its pretty fucking horrible for people to live here, I mean people come to London expecting streets lined with gold when in actuality we’ve got 2.1 million people in this city living below the poverty line, 600 000 people receiving less than the living wage, people being forced out of their houses because of so called economic downturn, losing their jobs and we have the most rough sleepers in the whole of the country. I work with people who live in sheltered housing and the economic reforms that have happened in the last 8 years since I moved to London have seen the most vulnerable people neglected, trodden on and striped of their dignity and frankly it’s disgusting. I’m not trying to be “waaaah boo hoo poor London” because I know this is happening all over the country and more so in other countries, but something must be done. Normal working people are being socially cleansed from the majority of central London boroughs, I earn a fairly good wage and yet I struggle to keep up with all of the bills I pay and it pains me daily to think of the people out there who earn less money than I do trying to get by and keep their head above water. I live next to what at one time was one of the largest social housing estates in Europe, I watch every day as the people who have built their lives and communities get bussed out and offered housing as far away as Manchester so that instead of investing in our social housing stock, local governments can tear down social housing and build massive blocks of “part buy” and “affordable Housing” for the middle and upper classes to inhabit, with specially made poor doors (many of these new blocks have separate entrances for the cheaper or social housing tenants) to keep out the working classes and slowly gentrify the whole of London so only the super rich and affluent can afford to live here. This is by no means only happening in London, it’s a global problem and we as the international working class, no matter what colour or where you are from need to stand against it, but as you asked me what it’s like to live in London I answered how I see it.

11- What is your job? And other members? Is it in total adequacy with your convictions?

I briefly mentioned above, but I work within sheltered/social housing, I manager support services and housing for vulnerable older people who need sheltered housing with support, what that means is that we take older people in the community be they your normal run of the mill granny, drug addicts, rough sleepers and people with mental health issues and give them somewhere safe to live and provide them with a staff who can help them with their issues and emergency support. I am very lucky in so much that my job fits with my ethics perfectly because I am working in the community to help those who are part of that community. As for the other guys they all have jobs that do not contradict their ethics and convictions, none of us are butchers, vivisectionists or guinea pig breeders haha. I think we would all rather starve than work a job that that comes into conflict with our personal beliefs, integrity is more important that comfort in my opinion definitely.

12- What does it mean to be vegan straight edge in 2014? How do you see yourself in 20-30 years?

I think is means the same as it does in any year doesn’t it? Strength of conviction and a pretty strong moral compass? I’ve been Vegan Straight edge since I was 17 years old, I’m now 28 and I’ve been identifying as straight since the year 2000. It still means exactly the same to me now as it did then, I mean I’m not so much of the “in your face arsehole” I was and I haven’t kicked a beer out of someone’s hand for about 6 years, but I still believe in exactly the same things and my views on straight edge and veganism haven’t changed, I’m just a little less aggressive. As far as being vegan in 2014, every day it is becoming easier and easier to be a vegan, ten years ago you probably had half the vegan products you get now and there is so much mainstream awareness of a compassionate way of life. The only excuse not to acknowledge the suffering of animals is ignorance or nihilism and they aren’t very good ones.

In 30 years I’ll be nearly 60, I’d like to think that I’d still hold the same convictions, because now and for the last 10/15 years they have always been so important to me and have been the whole basis of my life. Hardcore is pretty young so you don’t see that many older people, but I’d like to think that at 58 I’d be like John Joseph or something still jumping around on stage or standing in the pit singing along with all my friends.

13- Are you a vsxe militant? Do you think that’s important for a vsxe band?

This is a very difficult question to answer really, it depends on your view of militancy I suppose, am I part of a vegan straight edge militia that is fighting a guerrilla war against tobacco companies and animal farms, shooting drug dealers and smashing up distilleries… No, do I support sometimes violent actions in the struggle for human and animal liberation, burning down fur farms, terrorizing animal abusers,  do I rejoice when I hear a drug dealer has met an unfortunate end and am I vocal about my support for these things…yes. Vegan straight edge is not really, an entity capable of being a militant organisation, it’s a principal, you know you had things that built upon that principle like hardline but that’s had its day in the sun and we don’t have anything like that anymore. I do very much support the actions of militant animal rights groups like hunt sabs, the Alf and the ARM and shac, I also support militant human rights groups, militant trade unionism and the likes. Straight edge is something that’s very difficult to militarise, in so much as it’s not necessarily a set of commandments, Ian MacKaye didn’t say “these are the rules now kill people who don’t believe it”, he said “these are 3 things that are so important to me”… so I guess its possible to be a Militant vegan and also be straight edge, but not a militant vegan straight edge if you know what I mean?. I personally don’t believe that any struggle can be resolved by passivity and I think that as a band yes we do have some very radical ideas on the struggle for universal liberation, it think that what’s important is, when the hammer comes down, to be able to say you will fight for what you believe in.

14- Do you believe the Vegan Straight Edge has any impact in this world? How could we change attitudes? And do you believe in a vegan revolution?

I am often accused of being a utopian idealist but I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. Do I see a day that a revolutionary vegan army rises up destroys all the farms and slaughterhouses and kills those who oppress our non human proletariat brothers? Id like that to happen but it’s unlikely to say the least, what I believe in much more is the gradual moral evolution towards veganism. I think we briefly discussed it earlier but I think, even from recent experience more and more people are understanding that animals are sentient beings, that their capacity for and perception of  emotion and pain is not that much different from our own and I think this in itself is much more likely to gradually turn the tide to veganism. There’s also the issue of sustainability, we live in an age where the industrial production of meat and dairy is unsustainable and we now have the chairman of the UN telling people to start eating less meat and to have “vegetarian days” which is quite a powerful message. As cheaper, better, more ethical and more sustainable alternatives become not only more widely accessible but much more necessary I think we will see a change towards more compassionate ways of living also. Whether we like to admit it or not, the way humanity is living now is in its deathrows, we have huge deforestation, mass extinction, poverty, depletion of resources that took millions of years to create, melting of the polar ice caps and all the fury of this angry planet to contend with and I think for a lot of people, maybe enough to sway the tide to a more sustainable way of life, that we are starting to see that we need to change our destructive practices.

As for Vegan straight edge making a difference, as I said before I think we need to make a difference in the communities we are part of, you know if one kid in fifty comes to a hardcore show and they take home a flyer about animal abuse and becomes vegan he then sows that seed among the people that are around him or her and you set off a chain reaction and you expose more and more people to the struggle. Every action has an impact and all the small blows add up to a big push you know?

15- Other subject, your skin is full colored by cool tattoos. What do they represent? Which artists? And future pieces?

Well, I’m not that fully covered yet, I’m still just a pale white guy in a lot of places, I’ve got some cool tattoos and I’ve got some terrible ones. I think a lot of people get bogged down in what each tattoo means and what stories are behind one specific piece, yeah sure I have tattoos that mean something – I’ve got a lot of straight edge tattoos, I will only get those done by other straight edge kids, like Simon Erl or xManekox and a lot of stuff from songs, but in reality the meaning behind my tattoos is that I always felt at odds with the world and I wanted to make sure people knew that I wasn’t like them. I never felt right in my own skin and I just wanted to cover it up and say “fuck you I don’t want your approval and I don’t want to be part of your world I want to be outside of this”. This has kind of lost its power nowadays because I think in the last few years tattoo’s have become quite mainstream – you can still tell who is a normal person with tattoos and who is actually someone a bit different though which I like, it’s kind of like a special code between the 1%ers haha.

Most of my stuff is by friends, Simon Erl, Joe Chatt, Maneko; Kieran Palmer etc because I think it’s cool to get tattooed by the people I love. The full sleeve I have is by a guy called Xam. As for future stuff I will just keep going until I’m covered, I’m not one of those people who turned 18 and got completely sealed so I’ve got lots of space to cover.

16- Last words:

Very Briefly- Thank you Baptiste  for putting this together and being interested in our band. If you are reading this and are not vegan, please look into the impact that your choices are having on the lives of other and finally support you worldwide hardcore community.

XVX

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