double interview w/ Ben GUIDANCE and Nikolay UGLY & PROUD RECORDS

by Jean.

GUIDANCE first & only LP, posted on bandcamp last year, was one of my favorite 2014 releases. Unfortunately, the London based band broke up before putting out a material release of “Path Of Grace” LP. A few months ago, Nikolay who runs Sofia (Bulgaria) based record label made the right choice deciding to release the LP version of “Path Of Grace”, that’s why I got in touch with both Nikolay and Ben who played the bass (he also plays in DIGRESS and COURTYARD) to pay homage to that 90s vibe and great short-life band.

LONG LIVE THE LONDON STRAIGHT EDGE

1/ Thanks for according your time Ben. The reason why I wanted to go back on GUIDANCE existence is because Ugly & Proud Records recently released a posthumous LP version of “Path Of Grace” you guys recorded at No Recording Studio in 2014. Don’t know how many copies have been sold and how many distros/retail shops ordered the LP version but it seems to have a large demand? Is that a strange feeling for a band who ceased to exist?

Thanks for asking to do this interview! First of all the fact that someone even wanted to put the time and money into doing a 12” for a band who have now split is astounding, really, the songs on this record would have been confined to the walls of a dingy practice room without Nikolay and everything he’s done to release and promote the record. Bands write, record and play music all the time and with a genre such as hardcore a lot of what is so visceral about the music is mostly captured in a live setting and having so many people dig the record and genuinely love the songs is crazy considering we never played many shows and have ever only played one songs off the record before it was released; in other words, it’s a great feeling to have people so genuinely siked on the music alone without even ever seeing us.

What can you tell us about GUIDANCE short lived existence: when/why did you guys form? What was the main motivation besides playing in an “old school straight edge band with late 80s/early 90s vibes with various influences”? You guys decided to break-up because of inactivity – can you tell us more informations about that split-up: were you focused on other things like other bands (XREPENTANCEX, VIOLENT REACTION, DIGRESS), maybe life expectations for example?

Well, to illustrate a brief history of the band, our singer Charlie wanted to do a late 80s/early 90s style straight edge band with a real hard straight edge message and aesthetic. He got together a few members including Guidance’s drummer Oli, Jimmy (who now plays in SHRAPNEL and HIGHER POWER) and Pat (who sings for EISBERG). Together, they did a demo under the name Reinforced. The demo was intended just to be a recording project so Charlie could express some of his beliefs straight from the mic rather than behind a drum kit or guitar. Because of it only being a project, the band ceased to be and from the ashes came GUIDANCE. Charlie met Marco and quickly got Oli on drums, they wrote most of the 7” and just before it was finished Oli asked me to play bass, we had a few more practices and went straight in to record.

When it came to the split, I’m gonna be honest, I genuinely don’t think it was something any of us wanted to happen, we all loved the music, the message and LOVED playing live. We’d gained a lot of momentum writing the LP and had played a few shows whilst doing so. Charlie was going off to tour in America with VIOLENT REACTION so we gave ourselves until before he left to do it. We all worked so hard to get it finished and recorded over that time and Charlie literally left for the States as soon as it was done. It was when Charlie came back that it seemed all that momentum had peaked and fallen. I can’t speak for him but it seemed his drive to do the band had gone and with it being his idea in the first place, the band died with it. Not only this but he also had many personal and medical issues going on in his life which made it often very hard for us to play or do anything at all. All this resulted in a falling out between members and with that, it ended.

What memory will remain about GUIDANCE’s history a part from being a band which knows how to fucking groove?

Haha, for me, the band will always be a huge part of my life; I had just turned 17 when I joined and I’m 19 now. It played an integral part for me coming of age and really coming to grips with many problems I had faced in my life up until that point. I think the thing that was so special about the band was you can get any 4 people into hardcore to write the songs, do the record, play the shows etc but for us – as cringe worthy as this sounds – it was a lot more. I’ve never played in any other band and felt such an abrasive and almost spiritual connection to the music as I have in GUIDANCE, sometimes when we played it felt like there was some strange energy connecting us all that we channelled through playing, even when we were just in a practice space, it was always there.

How many show did you guys play? Any good anecdotes about a particular show?

Ok, so we played 6 shows in total, the first being Mongrel fest; the second our record release show with Hounds of Hate; third and fourth was our Poland weekender with Iron To Gold; then we played Abolition’s last show and finally Southampton Christmas straight edge show.

I think everyone in the band will agree with me here when I say the best show we played was the first show in Poland in a town called Kolbuszowa. It was the first time I’d gone abroad to play  or go to a show and my first time in Poland; that country is one of the best for hardcore, the people, the food, the hospitality was all incredible but that first show in Kolbuszowa was something special. We were all so nervous, as you could imagine everyone knew everything about all the local bands and then there were 4 weird looking guys from England sitting at the end of the merch table. I dunno what it was but when we played it was like a dream, I felt like I was looking at us play from the crowd, seeing all these people lift up Charlie and carry him round the room; seeing Lukasz shouting lyrics right at my face. We were all definitely on a completely different plain to everybody else that night and it is the single best show I’ve played since then.

Guidance live at the XXXmas Show in Southampton from BaronxBones on Vimeo.

d around him but not in a self righteous arrogant sense at all. I think the best thing about Charlie’s lyrics is that they are relatable to anyone, even people who are not straight edge. There are themes of bettering one’s self, facing one’s demons; dealing with depression and insecurities and loving something so passionately. There are much more direct themes woven into the mix, such as straight edge, sexism, religion, creation and God. None of the other members did any lyric writing but all of us have such an intimate connection to the lyrics, there were no arguments or squabbles about what they’d be about, it just flowed naturally and with Charlie being so talented with writing, it all just worked.

2/ I realise asking a band why they decided to call their first LP this way or name their band like that is like low-born investigation but I see in “GUIDANCE” (as a band name) and “Path Of Grace” a spiritual vision of the world around us, which lead to a global intellectual and social satire (I guess those who know you guys were inspired by bands like 108 – just to mention them – won’t be surprised by that). I don’t know if you were a part of the lyrical process of the records but chosing to name the band “GUIDANCE” or passing on feelings like those we can read and hear (“Walk with me on the path of grace”, “I want to tear it down your monopoly of beauty. You ostrasize you critisize and let us know who’s in control. We cut your chain that hold us to your ideology exploitation.”, “In the clutches of a demons claw and confined to the darkest realms of hell. I live my a servant to this demon marching to the beat of his drum.”, “I try to catch my breathe. As crimson begins to pour. I cry to god. As death is knocking at my door.”) is, in my humble opinion, more than classic and traditional punk anthems (even though a song like “False Prophet” denounces religious extremism). It’s more a global reflexion (also reflected on previous “Age Of Vice” on Anger Battery Records). What do you feel about that? 3/ Was it important for GUIDANCE to show up the straight edge ethic? From MINOR THREAT to hardliners by way of ONE LIFE CREW, it seems there was always and will always be several and different straight edge approaches – what can you tell us about GUIDANCE’s personal approach?

So, as I’ve already said I wasn’t around for the actual name choosing process of the band but it comes from two places, firstly, it’s a fucking sick song by Turning Point and secondly it’s hinting at a more introspective look on ourselves on questioning the way we live our lives and what we can do to flourish and sometimes we need guidance in our lives to do so. Lyrically, the LP is Charlie. It’s such an intense and introspective look on himself and how he sees the worl

Of course, from day one, Guidance was going to be a straight edge band, no doubt about it, and we wore it with pride but our intentions in terms of straight edge were very different to a militant stance. Again, bringing it back to a personal level, straight edge is something that has all bettered our own lives and is something we feel passionately about, it is new life and it allows us to question further what is around us and to carve out a place in this world. I think the song that best sums up our take on straight edge is “Resurrection” and it’s still probably one of my favourite songs.

Why did you take so much time to put out a LP version of “Path Of Grace”? How the connexion between GUIDANCE and Ugly & Proud started? Finally, how do you feel about the audience reaction to that release? It seems Nikolay from Ugly & Proud made a great decision with that release!

Well after we finished the record, like I’ve already said, Charlie had many personal issues going on in his life which really strung out the process of doing the LP. Originally, the plan was to put it out on Max Mitchell’s label, Northern Wisdom but because of the long inactivity and eventual break up, we all agreed with Max it was not financially viable for him to put out a record for a broken up band. After sitting on the songs for what seemed like ages and thinking no one would ever hear them, myself and Oli decided to just throw it all up online for everyone to hear. Soon after, Raf who put out our 7” on Anger Battery told us Nikolay really wanted to put out the record. By this time, we were both pretty disenchanted by what the band had become and didn’t expect anyone to care two ways about us but Nikolay was so passionate about the songsand efficient with his label that when we spoke to him it reinvigorated us and we basically jumped at the chance to see it get a the physical release it deserved.

The audience reaction has been great! So many kids here in the UK are into it, which is great. One thing about GUIDANCE that made us stand out is that we never really had a specific target group for our sound – obviously we’re a 90s straight edge themed band – but I always felt anyone into hardcore could connect with it, it’s fast, it’s hard, it’s heavy, it’s emotional and it’s experimental all in the right ways to not make it alienating for any group but carves its own identity and is definitely stands alone in the UK scene. What I was really taken aback with though, was the amount of people from other countries in Europe and the States who legitimately loved the music and went out of their way to let us know. I sincerely thank everyone who takes the time to even listen to one of the songs let alone the whole record! Seriously, it means a lot.

Who made “Path Of Grace” cover art? What’s the signification behind this painting?

Like any band, imagery is a key part of representing and encapsulating the sound and we all knew finding the right artwork would be hard. We have used vedic imagery before on shirts and many people would probably attribute this straight to our influences stemming from some krsna conscious bands such as 108 and SHELTER but the ties are a lot closer than that. Our guitarist Marco is a devotee and is extremely committed to his faith meaning it played into the band quite a lot with his faith being so strong, it really added another dimension to the band. It was Marco who came up with the LP title “Path of Grace” which is walking on the path that sees everything as Krsna and only Krsna. However, our take on it, is a path of development that we walk together in bettering our own and each other’s lives. Oli actually found a copy of the artwork online and Max then bought the painting from the artist, we were all into it straight away. I believe it is an image of Lord Shiva playing his flute, who is the creator and the destroyer, representing the destruction of our old lives and the creation of a new one; that’s my interpretation anyway.

If you wanna add something to end up this interview it’s up to you.

I would just like to thank everyone who has put time into this band and has supported us in any way, in particular John, Tin Tin, Squeela, Niall, Milky, Harry, Lukasz N, Lukasz from Nottingham, Boulty, Max Mitchell, everyone in Iron To Gold and Ratel, Marik, Lennon, all the kids from Southampton, Elliot Pat, Carry The Weight records, Anger Battery records and Northern Wisdom.

A sincere thank you to Nikolay and Ugly and Proud records for doing the record, promoting it and making everyone in the band’s hard work become a physical reality.

The London Straight Edge.

1/ Hi Nikolay thanks for according your time. Can you introduce you and your record label Ugly & Proud Records? When did you start the company? Which bands do you usually work with? How’s the Hardcore Scene in Sofia and in Bulgaria?

Hey Jean, thanks for getting in touch with me! My name is Nikolay, a lot of friends call me Niki, and I run Ugly and Proud Records from Sofia, Bulgaria. I started the label in the autumn of 2007 when I was still studying and living in Rennes, France. I usually work with bands I like! In the beginning the bands were contacting me and after checking out their music and lyrics I decided if I wanted or not to release their stuff. Nowadays it’s more the other way around – I contact the bands I like and propose them to release their records on U&P. I’m pretty happy with how things are turning out lately as I’ve managed to release one of my favorite bands (DIE YOUNG) and will release very soon another one of my favorite bands. The scene here is ok – people support the local bands and the bigger international names. Shows would have between 30 to 700 people depending on the bill… Check out EXPECTATIONS and THEM FREQUENCIES on their Euro tour in September!

2/ When did you get in touch with GUIDANCE members and decided to release their first and only LP? Did you discover ’em listening to their first EP on Anger Battery Records, that record named “Age Of Vice”?

I downloaded the album when it was released on bandcamp. The first time I listened to it I was “wow”… The second time was the same and I tried to get in touch with them. I first contacted Charlie but he was too busy with Violent Reaction and Staffan, who did the artwork for the LP, gave me Oliver’s contact. So I wrote him a message with a proposal and he accepted it immediately. I was happy and we started gathering the pieces of the puzzle. I had checked their 7” but to be honest I hadn’t paid that much attention back then. On top of that it’s hard to release any UK sxe bands as they all have their friends’ labels…

3/ What were the different reasons which led you to release their posthumous LP? Did you think this band deserves a better ending than just mp3 files on bandcamp?

There is only one reason to release Path Of Grace on vinyl – it is a very good album! It really deserves to have a vinyl release and not just mp3 files on the internet. I knew they would never play again but I still wanted to give it a try. That’s why we pressed only 274 copies!

4/ In which way GUIDANCE may sound close to the bands you usually work with with Ugly & Proud? It seems you actually like to deal with straight edge bands!

I don’t think there’s an Ugly and Proud sound. I listen to different styles of music and sometimes I may like one band and dislike another one that still sounds similar to the first one… It’s hard to explain but I have to feel the music. I also pay a lot of attention to the message that the band wants to convey. I have to like the lyrics to release the record. I release mostly sxe bands because I am straight edge and prefer to lose my money on edge bands. It’s as simple as that!

5/ I think you already know GUIDANCE members play in different current UK hardcore bands, like XREPENTANCEX, DIGRESS, COURTYARD… What do you hope for this bands?

I hope GUIDANCE will play again and I’ll be able to make it to the show! I’d love to see these other bands play live one day and meet the dudes. I like meeting the people I’ve been in touch on the internet, it’s cool and fun! I can’t wait to get my hands on the XREPENTANCEX LP 2nd press (missed the 1st press) and the new DIGRESS 7″.

6/ What is Ugly & Proud near future? Have you planned to work on a new released?

This year has been the best so far in the label’s history! It will also be the most prolific. Path Of Grace was released last month, I am waiting for confirmation for U&P 016 that’s been in the works for the past 7-8 months and it will be amazing (that other favorite band of mine) – it’s gonna be an EP on 12″. I am also co-releasing the new GAB DE LA VEGA LP (check him out, it’s good and it’s a co-release with lots of cool labels) – he received the records this week and I’ll get my copies at Fluff fest. U&P 019 will be SET IT STRAIGHT LP co-released with Positive and Focused Records and SP Discos. Then there will be a new 7″ from a vegan edge band from the USA…

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