Active Minds: Hluboká Orba Interview

Active Minds is a legendary DIY hardcore punk band from Scarborough, UK. Formed in 1986 by two brothers – Bobs and Set – soon they’ve become the epitome of intelligent and overtly political punk music. Since then they’ve been interviewed in countless of DIY fanzines from all over the world. Here’s an interview from 2008 conducted by Flip Fuchs, this pretty long conversation with Bobs appeared in his zine Hluboká Orba #27 alongside my own extensive writing about the history of hardcore punk scene in Varna, Bulgaria. After 2008 the Active Minds continued touring and playing gigs, released numerous new 7″ EPs and the LP “Turn Back The Tide of Bigotry”, in 2014 they are still playing shows in the UK and abroad.

Since I don’t have your new LP yet, I have to ask – why this system doesn’t work?

Because it creates victims just in order to continue. Those who advocate free market capitalism as a way of improving everybody’s standard of living are conveniently ignoring those starving millions whose suffering enables our standard of living to be maintained. A global economic system which cannot provide even the most basic necessities of life for everyone cannot be said to be working.

Active Minds started on January 1st 1986 – well, it’s pretty uncommon for a punk band to exist for so long, so where do you draw the motivation and inspiration to continue from?

I know this sounds a bit corny, but in a way Active Minds isn’t really a “band” in the conventional sense. As we’re brothers we have a relationship that lasts where other friendships might not – “blood is thicker than water”, as they say. Although our relationship now isn’t the same as it was when we lived together, it’s still strong and we’re both still into the music and the politics so it just seems natural for Active Minds to continue. We’ve always tried to share the workload as well, which helps. It’s a real partnership – not always equal, but we both have important input into the things we do as Active Minds, which makes the bond stronger.

When you look back – what are some of the best and worst memories from the years you did with this band so far? How did the hardcore punk scene changed over the years from your point of view?

Probably both the best and worst memories both stem from the same activity – touring. We’ve had some great times, met some great people and seen some great bands. I suppose the novelty does wear off a bit, but our earliest tours of Europe in the late 80’s always bring back special memories – traveling by train to gigs on 17 day tours which took us right down into Italy and right up into Scandinavia in the space of just over a fortnight. When we first toured Europe (1987) we didn’t really know of any other UK bands who have ever done it so it seemed a real adventure. Poland in 1989, before the collapse of the “Communist” system, is also a special memory – as was touring Mexico a couple of years ago.

The worst times? Well, in those travels you do sometimes get bad experiences, play or stay in shitty places, or meet some people you’d rather not meet again. But not too often. I don’t want to single out particular instances, but we can usually laugh about them now.

How has the scene changed? In terms of activity it tends to rise and fall every few years – things stagnate and then get reinvigorated again with some regularity. The politics has certainly stagnated at times, when the scene has sometimes become dominated by cynical old-timers, but then we get a good kick up the arse from the new blood coming into the scene with the sort of fresh enthusiasm which inspires new activity. Comparing with the mid to late 80’s the major difference is the awareness, and access people have to music and ideas from all over the world. In more recent years, with the use of the Internet, that awareness has really exploded.

Before Active Minds there was SAS (Speak Against Society), can you tell me more about this band? As far as I know SAS splitted  up to two 2-piece bands – yours and Satanic Malfunctions, right? Isn’t it kind of odd, that small town like Scarborough did produce not only one but just two 2-piece hardcore bands? I mean, couldn’t you play together, when you had pretty similar lyrics and music? And what was this project Active Malfunctions about? I just remember seeing ad for a demo tape in a zine from UK in early 90’s…

SAS existed for about 3 years, did a handful of gigs, two demos and an EP. They started practicing as a 3-piece in early 1983 when before I joined a few months later – the line-up then being me (vocals and occasional guitar), Ade (bass), Tony (guitar) and Vince (drums). All recordings were done with this line-up, with the EP coming out around the Spring/Summer of 1985. Shortly after the EP came out Tony and Vince left, and Stu and Set joined, but we struggled to regain the tightness we’d had for the EP – particularly because Vince had been a really good drummer, whilst Set was just starting out at that time. For those who are trying to find it, the EP had a pressing of 1000 copies and is now quite a collector’s item.

Satanic Malfunctions originally started as a 4-piece (guitar, drums and two vocals) – Stu, Ade, Gary and Vince. They began I think late 1985, and they were not a particularly serious band at that time (at least, I didn’t think so). SAS were still together at that time, but me and Set were growing a bit disillusioned and felt that we could really pursue the direction we wanted to take better as a two-piece – particularly the lyrics we wanted to do. So we made that decision on New Year’s Eve (a New Year’s Resolution?!), and the following day told the rest of the band that we’d decided to quit whilst we started writing new material for Active Minds. We didn’t tell the others at that time that we were carrying on as a two-piece.

Although Active Minds have always been a two-piece, it wasn’t the same for Satanics. The core of the band was two people (Ade and Stu), but they were at various times a 3-piece and 4-piece. They were only a 2-piece for the second EP and first LP. There was always the similarities with us though in that they had no bass, but maybe that harks back to the first days of SAS, before I joined, when they were practicing without a bass… The other similarity, perhaps, in guitar sound would be because I’d devised a way of tuning the guitar so that you played chords with just one finger, which I then showed Stu how to do and he has always used as well.

Why didn’t we just all play together as a 4-piece? Well, that’s how SAS had ended up, and it wasn’t working for me and Set. I know that some other people may think that Active Minds and Satanic Malfunctions were very similar in our approach, but I certainly didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Stu over politics so working together as one band was too restrictive for me.

Incidentally, there was another 2-piece hardcore band from Scarborough for a while as well – Upheaval (also two brothers). They were definitely influenced by us to do what they did.

As for Active Malfunctions – that was nothing at all to do with us. I never actually heard it, but as far as I know it was some cheeky bastards from Lincolnshire taking the piss. We should have sued! :-)

Being just “guitar + drums” band, how do you manage to get the right sound live and in the studio? Any technical advice for similar “minimalistic” projects?

With mixed results, I think is probably fair to say! We usually have to borrow amps when play live, and so we don’t always quite manage to get the sound we want. It was more of a problem when we first started and I just used to play out of one guitar amp, but after a few years I got a local shop to make me up a special pedal that split my guitar signal into two, with a switch on each, so that I could play out of two amps at the same time. Since then I’ve always played through both a bass amp and a guitar amp, which tends to always get a more acceptable and powerful sound than we sometimes used to get in the old days. Technical advice for similar projects? Get one of these pedals made up. It cost me about €15 at the time – the best €15 I’ll ever spend.

You always kept strongly about thought-provoking and critical attitudes in your lyrics and comments on every on ever record you did so far. Is there something you regret looking back, something you feel is not relevant anymore or you feel you were wrong about back then?

I’m not sure that I think we were “wrong” about anything, as such, but the world does change and things do become irrelevant. After all, when we started off we were still singing about Reagan and Thatcher, and the Berlin Wall was still in place. The stuff we did against CDs is certainly not relevant these days – there are young kids listening to music these days who’ve grown up in the post-CD age and for who talking about vinyl records is like talking about 8-track cassettes. That’s why our new album is available on both CD and vinyl – even though we said we’d never do a CD. That’s one thing I’ve definitely learned – never say “never”. You can’t predict the future.

Although I don’t think there are things that we said which were wrong, obviously there are things that I wouldn’t do or say in the same way anymore. I’m more than twice as old now as when we started and life’s experiences change you. You find that certain methods of getting your views across that seemed appropriate when you were a teenager are less convicting when you’re middle-aged (which is, after all, what I am now).

Regrets? Possibly that we singled out particular bands for criticism in things like “Dis is getting pathetic…”. With hindsight, I don’t think that was necessarily in order to make the point. It certainly didn’t make us a lot of friends.

Let’s talk now more about some of your lyrics, which probably caused the biggest controversy/angriest reaction – “Dis is Getting Pathetic” from the EP of the same name now from 1995 – do you want to comment on this now, 13 years later, when there are probably ten times more “dis” bands than there were back in 1995? Are there any current bands with “dis” in the name you like?

I could never really understand why it provoked such an angry reaction from some people, although, as I said above, it probably wasn’t necessary to single out particular bands as that just gets people in a defensive, embattled mode. But the basic point we were making was, and is, still valid. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to tell people what bands to listen to. Make your own decisions. I’m just making a comment that people may or may not want to take consideration of.

Do I like any”Dis” bands? Of course I do! I did back then too. I’m a mad collector of hardcore punk vinyl, and have probably got stuff by a hundred bands whose name begins with “Dis” – let alone all the other “d-beat” (dreadful term) bands who’ve chosen slightly more original names. But just because I like a band doesn’t mean I can’t also be critical of them at times.

“At War With Satanists” from “Free To Be Chained” LP from 1997 – again, it seems to me that black metal is getting popular again in punk scene in the recent years, do you still have the same opinions about it? Isn’t it some form of authentic “misanthropic/nihilist” point of view/attitudes, similar to early punk bands, just pushed more far?

Yes, I still have the same opinions about it, but again I still like to listen to a lot of those bands. Where do you think the pictures came from that we used in the album booklet? From my own record collection. As I said above, though, just because I like a band’s music doesn’t mean I have to accept or support everything about them. I can’t really understand why people think it’s necessary to do so. After all, I can watch “Terminator” and think it’s a good film without thinking that Schwartzenegger is a cool guy or that his politics are sound. It’s OK to view music, like films, as purely superficial entertainment. But there’s an inclination not to do so – to see bands as some sort of cultural heroes and leaders, just because they can produce an album that makes you want to leap around. That makes no sense to me. You shouldn’t be afraid to criticise aspects of things that you also admire in other ways.

Is black metal some sort of legitimate “misanthropic/nihilist” point of view? I don’t think so, but then again I think that nihilism as a philosophy is pretty dumb and self-destructive. And is it ever really that “authentic”? I remember seeing an insert of an LP from a band who was particularly well known for its misanthropic views. The thanks list in this record is absolutely enormous. I don’t think I would even have known that many people, let alone like them. The idea that they hated everybody on the planet but then had so many friends seemed a little bit contradictory to me.

The lyrics of “Goremless” from “I Am Not a Tourist, I Live Here” EP inspired a response from Italian CRIPPLE BASTARDS who wrote song “I Dare You” released on their split EP w/ WORLD. Do you know it? “Inhibited bigot censors… philanthropic politically correct standards…” these are some words from their comments directed to your song… Personally, no matter what I think, I think that it’s great to have this kind of “dialogue” (if you can call it so) with one band reacting to another through songs/comments – don’t you think so?

I wouldn’t really call it a “dialogue”. Yes, I do have that record and when I read the stuff they’d written about us I have to say that I found it pretty bizarre – focusing in on one song of a band that probably not many people have heard of. When we did our stuff about the “Dis” clone bands, or black metal,  or gore bands, we were looking at whole genres of the underground music scene. In that way we felt that most people reading it would be able to relate to what we were saying in some way – they’d have at least some reference point to it.

The Cripple Bastards attack on us seemed a bit more self-indulgent – like having an argument with us about one particular thing we’d said, and doing so in a public way in front of an audience who might well have been completely unaware of who we were, or what we;d said, and would therefore be a bit bemused by the whole thing. So, I’m not sure I’d agree with you that dealing with it in this way is “great”, but perhaps we can’t really complain because people may consider that we started it, in a way.

And finally “Young Fit Males” from “Free To Be Chained” questions the way some of the squats/autonomous places are run… wasn’t it difficult to write song like this when you usually play squats and similar kind of places? Was this song inspired by some of the crazy experiences you had on your tours? Which were the some of the bad and some of the good places you played over the years? Don’t you get this kind of reactions like “you don’t live in a squat, so you don’t know how hard it is, so what the fuck do you know…”?

Yes, it was difficult to write – but again, we felt it needed saying. I do feel that if you’re wanting to challenge people’s opinions you need to be willing to do so on subjects that are closer to home and which may be uncomfortable for some of your audience – otherwise you’re not challenging anything at all.

And yes, it was certainly inspired by some experiences on tours. I’m not going to single out any particular incidents, but we have played in some very shitty places where getting the basics right didn’t seem to be the top of anybody’s priority list. I used to feel this particularly when my son was very young – I would look at a place and say to myself “Would it be safe to bring him here?” I didn’t mean taking a three year old into a gig hall, but I meant taking him to the buildings themselves – would I be able to wash him or get him to a toilet, for example? Similarly, I used to think of people I knew outside the punk/hardcore scene – if I took them to some of those places, would they recognize them as genuine attempts to build an alternative society?

And sometimes, of course, the answer is no. But many times it was also yes. We’ve played in some truly inspirational squats (Leipzig, Berlin, and one in Italy spring to mind, but there have been many others) as well as a few truly awful ones (dogshit everywhere, no toilets, no water, no electricity, unsafe structures, etc.) I hope we’ve never given the impression that we disapprove of squats in general, because that would be entirely wrong – and we’ve also written songs like “Take It Back” which look at squatting very positively. As for the “What the fuck do you know?” response – I can’t remember ever getting that, but perhaps we have sometime…

UK has long history of self-runned places, collective housing, social clubs, co-ops… which are/were some of the most inspirational places, you would recommend? Have you ever been involved in something like this in your town? What does it take to have a place likes this working well?

As far as squatting is concerned, the UK has a history of legal squatting and squatter’s rights that I don’t think many places in the rest of Europe have. But these legal rights relate to people squatting in houses to live, rather than creating squatted social centers, etc. I think that has always produced very different squatting scenes in the UK when compared to mainland Europe, by necessity, usually need to group together in larger projects for support and solidarity to resist eviction. It also helps if they create or provide community space and activities which will bring them support from others who don’t actually live there. This has resulted in a very vibrant culture of self-managed, squatted social centers.

These sort of places largely absent in the UK, except for a few places where the people who have set them up have either moved here from mainland Europe or have been inspired by what goes on there. There are sometimes relatively short-lived squatted gig venues, but I don’t know of anywhere like that which has been around for a long time. Squatters in the UK are often people looking for somewhere to live, who are not looking to draw a lot of attention to themselves from the authorities by operating unlicensed bars or music venues.

However, there have been a number of excellent self-managed, legal clubs/co-ops, etc. I understand there are some down in the South of the country, which I’ve never been to, but the one I’m most familiar with is the 1-in-12 Club in Bradford which is excellent. The other one which stands out in my mind, but is sadly no longer around (ed. – as of 2008) was the Warzone Centre in Belfast which I always felt was exceptional and inspiring.

I’d say that to make such a place work well needs a solid group of committed people who are prepared to do the work, and it needs the respect and support of many more people who are going to use it. If people treat a place or its volunteers badly then those working on the project can soon get disheartened and pack it in. And the other thing is that it needs to avoid being “cliquey” – like a closed club which feels like it excludes anybody new who might be interested in coming along and getting involved. Without new blood and enthusiasm everything eventually dies.

There’s never been this type of place in our town, which is too small and has too few potentially active members and supporters to make it viable.

I can imagine that with lyrics questioning some punk scene issues you can often get all sorts of reactions like that you are some uptight P.C. weirdos never having fun, criticizing everything, trying to enforce your point of view on everybody, dictating to others what is and what is not punk… I think that you must have tons of experiences with reactions like these – what would you respond?

We don’t get so many reactions like that directed at us personally, but I think it’s how quite a few people view us. We’ve had a couple of amusing experiences where people have met us and got on well with us, without actually knowing who we were. When they then found out where we live, they’ve asked us if we know those “weird, miserable Active Minds folks, who have no sense of humour”. I think it’s a little strange that people assume we’re like that, because I think some of our stuff is tongue-in-cheek. I thought “Dis is Getting Pathetic…” was quite funny – more humorous than most nihilistic grindcore bands, surely?

I wouldn’t necessarily try to respond to those sort of reactions in any particular way. It’s up to other people how they want to react to what you say. I think a lot of it stems from people being uncomfortable about looking at their own lives in a self-critical way. In what we write, sometimes we will provoke that – to which people may choose to react in a defensive way. There’s not much I can do about that. Some people do seem unnecessarily nervous about approaching us sometimes, but I think that we’re a lot more friendly than they perhaps assume that we are.

You strongly promote activities on personal/local scale through your lyrics/comments or in interviews – tell us more about your involvement on local level in Scarborough. F.e. I read somewhere that you used to have a billboard in front of your house informing about all sorts of issues like multinationals, ecology, animal rights, etc. – tell us more about it and about the reactions it did attracted…

The billboard on our house used to be an advertising board for a business that was based there before I moved in. When I arrived I just left the board in place, painted over it and started enlarging posters to fit on it. It’s quite big (about 6 feet high), and on the corner of a busy road, so it’s quite visible.

The comments I’ve had show that people do take notice of it. The poster that I remember attracting most interest was one I mocked up of Gordon Brown, when he was in charge of the Treasury (rather than being Prime Minister, as he is now). It was based on a famous World War I army recruitment poster. The poster I put up said “Do your bit for the economy – buy things that you don’t need”. There were then various images and statements on it about consumerism and the exploitative advertising campaigns of multinationals. A number of people came up to me and asked for smaller copies of that poster for themselves, and I used to see people stopping and taking the time to read it all, which was good.

I know that Bobs is a member of Green Party and even run in local elections many times – so have you been successful? Also I think you were a candidate for European Parliament? What is your main agenda on local/national level? I think this may sound kind of embarrassing to some people as they think about band like ACTIVE MINDS to be an anarchist band… so what are your main reasons to get involved with Green Party?

I first got interested in the Green Party when I was still at school. I read some stuff and felt really comfortable with the ideas philosophy behind the Party, as well as with the decentralized and unconventional way that it worked. There was no local branch in my hometown at that time, but a few years later when one was set up in 1988 I joined. I’ve stood in many local elections during that time, and also for Parliament (twice) and the European Parliament (once).

Yes, I’ve been successful with it. In 2006 I successfully won a by-election for a local Council seat. As this election was a result of a resignation by another Councilor, I only had a 1 year term of office and had to defend my seat again in Spring 2007. I won that election with one of the biggest majorities of any Councilor in the area, so I am now a local Councilor until Spring 2011.

On a local level our main agenda has been concerned here with reducing energy use, better waste management and better public transport. When standing for national or European elections the issues have been more nationally or internationally based – peace, global wealth redistribution, opposition to US bases and US-led wars, climate change, animal rights, etc. It’s still me. I’m still the same person whether writing lyrics for Active Minds or writing election addresses, so the the issues are similar – although of course written for very different audiences and therefore having different styles and emphasis.

I’ve never claimed to an anarchist, or that Active Minds were an anarchist band. If people want to take what we say and assume a particular philosophy then that’s up to them, but I don’t think my involvement with the Green Party has been inconsistent with what I’ve been doing with the band, etc. I’ve never said, or believed, that more conventional political action like standing in elections was necessarily likely to have more success than other forms of action, such as protests or direct action. Not do I think that doing one excludes doing the other. Different methods are appropriate at different times and for different audiences, and, in my opinion, election times offer and opportunity to speak, and get new ideas across, to a public which otherwise would be paying no attention.

Having said that, after 19 years in the Party, I did decide to leave at the end of 2007. So although I’m still a local Councilor I’m no longer involved with the Green Party – see below.

Are there any issues within the Green Party which you strongly disagree with? How do you deal with it? You may know that the Czech Green Party is part of the government now and it will most probably say “yes” to US plan to build American radar base in Czech Republic – could you imagine British Green Party to agree with something like this?

During my time in the Green Party I think it’s fair to say that I was quite influential in it – not only locally, but also nationally. I was on the national Executive, in charge of the Party’s Policy development for three years. Quire a few of the Party’s policies were actually written by me, including the Party’s Core Principles and its policies on redistributive taxes and universal benefits. I was also selected as the Party’s top candidate on the regional list here to fight the next European Election in 2009.

There were some minor bits of policy that I disagreed with, but nothing major. If there had been I would have tried to get them changed (and may have succeeded – I was quite a persuasive speaker at Conferences, according to others…). But the party’s individual policies weren’t as important as its overall philosophy. Policies are tactical ways of trying to put philosophy into practice, so they will inevitably change over time as external circumstances change.

Whilst I was in the Party I always felt that the philosophy was sound, therefore I was happy to be involved. Certainly whilst I was in the party I was sure it would never have considered supporting US radar bases (which already exist here – including one just 15 miles away from us – and which the Green Party has already opposed).

But last year something changed which meant that I felt I could no longer remain in the Party – it decided to have a Party Leader. Up until that time it had never had a Leader, and had advocated collective leadership and bottom-up empowerment. It was one of the things that had originally attracted me to the Party – the fact that it actively opposed conventional power structures and tried to work in a different way. It’s opposition to having a conventional Party Leader was later written into its philosophy (one of my own proposals). But December 2007, after a bitter internal struggle, the “modernisers” who wanted a more conventional Party to appeal to a more conventional public and media (one more interested in celebrity and personality politics than radical ideas), finally won a membership ballot and the Party decided to have a Leader – at which point I announced that I was leaving it, and resigned as the lead European candidate for the region.

Ironically, the last piece of policy that I proposed, and which was adopted by the Party Conference last Autumn, was to advocate a new system of Government, which didn’t have a Prime Minister – i.e. an administration with a collective leadership rather than a single Leader. In my opinion, this unconventional view of how the country should be run now sits pretty much at odds with how the Party has decided to manage itself…

Why there are no ACTIVE MINDS T-Shirts?

I’ve never been interested in making band “merchandise”. Apart from music I want Active Minds to be making political statements, not fashion statements. I’ve never really understood why people find it so important to advertise to the rest of the world what bands they like. Of course, you can find some Active Minds t-shirts around, but they’re not “official”. I’m not too fussed, providing people aren’t ruthlessly profiteering from doing them, but it’s not something I want to spend my efforts doing.

Loony Tunes label put out tones of great records over the years – I think that some of your stuff like V.A. “Splitting Headache On Sunday Afternoon” EP, V.A. “I’ve Got An Attitude Problem” EP, Satanic Malfunctions EP, or Totalitär EP must be total classics now, did you ever thought about repressing them? I think that demand for them is high… also after a few years of silence there are two new releases out now – your new LP and Kulturkampf LP, please talk more about them and also tell us if we can expect more releases in the future.

We’ve never thought about repressing those old records, because I don’t consider that we have any right to do so. All the master plates have long ago been destroyed (the company that made most of our records went bankrupt some years ago). We’d have to remaster the records from the original vinyl, and if the bands wanted to make the stuff available again in that way then they’re just as able to do that as we are. I’m not sure whether or not all the old Totalitär records have been compiled into an album, but if not I’m surprised and I think someone should do it, because I’m sure lots of people would be interested. As for Satanic Malfunctions – at the time that was released Loony Tunes was run with Stu from Satanics and that was obviously his project. Any sort of reissue would be up to the band members themselves. I heard from Ade that some German label may be interested in reissuing all their releases in some form or other, so we’ll have to see what happens.

Yes, we’ve got two new releases out. We always intended to do a new Active Minds record, but that’s just been delayed for a (very) long time. As for Kulturkampf, they were an anarcho- band from the early 80’s whose demos I always thought were great and I always wished they’d come out on an LP. For many years I had the idea that I should try to contact them and see if I could put it out, and a couple of years ago I actually got round to writing to a 20+ year old contact address on the vague chance that I could still reach them there. I was amazed to find that I did make contact, and they were happy for us to do the LP of the old demos.

Future releases on Loony Tunes? There are a couple more older bands whose stuff I’d like to posthumously release, and I’ve contacted one of them. Whether it works out or not I don’t know – it’s a question of getting some co-operation from ex-members who are frequently no longer involved in the scene. You’ll just have to wait and see… :-)

You are around 40 years old, right? I think that with the age comes sometimes more cynical/jaded feelings and especially in hardcore/punk it leads often to people leaving the scene, not being enthusiastic anymore about it, not giving a fuck about newer bands, just living (surviving?) in the past… how do you fight this? Do you still manage to keep an eye on current hardcore/punk scene? What are some of the new bands you like?

Yeah, I’m 41 now. I don’t actively try to fight cynicism in others who are getting older and a bit jaded. If people have had enough, then let them go. As for me, yes I still think I’m quite enthusiastic, and seeing as I’m an avid record collector and run a distro I keep up with a lot of newer stuff that way – too many to list individually. There’s quite a few good, energetic hardcore bands cropping up in the UK at the moment – although many don’t seem to last very long. Quite a few good split 7″s out though of newer UK bands in the last few years – check out labels like Peter Bower and Town Clock. The Bickle’s Cab LP impressed me too – a co-release between both those bands.

Punk rock, family, marriage, kids all-together… for some younger people it may sound like a crazy thing, for you it is reality for long time already, how do you manage to work this out?

Not marriage – I never got married as I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. How do I manage to work it out? Having a family and still having a life? The same way millions of people outside punk still manage to fit things they enjoy around having kids, I guess. I’ve only got one son, and he’s 15 now. Whilst he was growing up I guess it did impact on things like touring, as I didn’t feel it was fair to leave him too long with my partner on her own. But adapting to different responsibilities doesn’t mean you have to give up on everything else – just maybe focus on a little less time on those other things.

Since the “Free To Be Chained” LP I haven’t heard much from you – I think you just did the split EPs with Urko, An-Attâ and Voĉo Protesta in these 10 years and definitely not much gig-wise/tour-wise… I think that many people thought that you don’t play anymore… what were you doing all these years? I may be wrong, but I think something about Mexican tour, but I know no details at all – how was it (if it is not a rumour)?

We also put out two 7″s in that time – “National Lotta e” and “Recipe For Disaster”, the split 7″ with Jesus Cröst, and I think the split LP with Petrograd and the 7″ with Umbrella Tribe came out since the second LP too. But you’re right – we haven’t been too active lately. Although our three LPs are each separated by 10 years gaps, until about the year 2000 we put out about a record a year or so, when you include the 7″s. Since 2000 we’ve done very little, and actually went 6 years without entering a studio.

What have we been doing? Well we’ve still been doing a few gigs on occasion, and doing the distro, but much of our time has been taken up with other commitments – largely family and politics for me. I’ll have a lot more time to give to the band, label, etc. again now.

Yeah, we toured Mexico in January 2006, which was a real blast. We had a great time celebrating 20 years of Active Minds over there, played some cool places and met some great people. A few months earlier we’d toured Spain as well, which was also great fun, but other than that we haven’t really done a proper tour for quite a few years – just the odd couple of gigs over a weekend on a couple of occasions.

You know “bigger bands”, when they have new LP out, they usually tour a lot to “promote it”, so can we expect another Active Minds Euro Tour since mid 90’s, when you were here last time? After 20 years of playing, huge line of records out, are there any goals you feel you can reach with this band?

Yeah, I’m hoping we’ll get over to Europe for a decent sized tour either later this year or early next year. And we’d like to visit some other places too in the next couple of years (now that people know that we’re still around!) – maybe the US/Canada, Japan, Mexico again.

Those aren’t really “goals” as such – just things that would be fun to do. I don’t think we really have goals as a band, but it’s always good to get feedback from people who say that we’ve been a positive influence for them, or that we’ve made them think about things in a way they might not have otherwise. If we can still get a few of those responses from time to time then I’m sure we’ll feel that it’s worthwhile us carrying on and that it’s not just self-indulgence on our part!

Loony Tunes Records
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Scarborough
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England

Mittens XVX

Positive person bringing a small fragment of warmth and light in a dark and cold world. Editor of Tigersuit Zine. Founder of DIY Conspiracy webzine. Contact him at: mitkoxvx@gmail.com