Adrestia: Punks for Rojava

Adrestia is a crust metal force coming from Sweden that takes politics seriously. Live, these guys engulf the audience in the flames of an ongoing struggle for direct democracy and autonomy happening in Rojava, while still playing great music influenced by equal doses of scorch-all-to-hell crustcore and melodic Swedish death metal. On Monday night they played in Sofia the first ever punk show at the new autonomous social center Fabrika Avtonomia. Despite being late due to problems with their van, the show turned out to be amazing. Bands like Adrestia have so much to say, so we decided to interview them about their music, their politics, and their uncompromising DIY attitude.

Let’s start with some brief introduction to the band. How did you get together and what’s the main driving force behind Adrestia?

Martin: I’m Martin Shukevich and I’m quite old by this time… I have played in some bands before but couple of years ago I moved back to the town where I grew up, Linköping, and then some years after that I founded Adrestia together with some other guys.

Fredrik: I’m Fredrik Dure, I’m the touring drummer of Adrestia for this tour. I play in the band Snake Tongue.

Martin: You also asked about the purpose. I think that music-wise Adrestia is nothing revolutionary, it’s like a mix of crust punk and some old Swedish death metal. But the main thing where we differ from the other bands in the genre is that we have quite political approach. We really like to do things for real, not just talk about things. We don’t just write some lyrics but also like to put some actions behind the words. That’s what we try to do with Punks for Rojava. And I hope to be part of other similar projects in the future too.

Can you tell more about Punks for Rojava project?

Martin: The Punks for Rojava project was an idea that we’ve had since I’ve been a lot into reading and studying the development of the Syrian civil war, and especially what was happening in Rojava, of course. And the thing that struck me quite early was that the society they are trying to build there is very similar to the society that I’ve always believed in, that I’ve always fought for.

Especially when I was younger I used to label myself a syndicalist, or an anarchist. So I’ve always believed in this kind of community based society with cooperative economy. But then I have to admit that for many years I was quite disillusioned, I really didn’t believe that any big changes could occur during my lifetime. Even though I still believed in the ideas, I was thinking that unless the things get worse it’s still okay, I guess.

But then I’ve read about Rojava and I realized that the stuff was actually happening down there in Syria. They were already trying to build this society built on direct democracy, gender equality, cooperative economy. Basically all the things that the punk scene or the anarchist community stand for, too. So I thought that since there are similarities between the punk scene and the administration of Rojava, then we need to fuckin’ help them out.

So what do you think are some useful day to day actions that we could implement to spread the word and try to build communities which are operating on similar principles? I know that in Sweden there are festivals like Punk Illegal, or a lot of punks helping the refugees, going to places like Palestine, etc.

Martin: Yes, those are all great projects and I think that the situation here in Bulgaria is quite different, but in Sweden people are used to have a certain living standard, so they are not so eager to risk anything. But a good way to support meaningful projects is to collect some money and send them somewhere. That always works, even bigger organizations like the Red Cross always do this too. The difference here is that when we do it as punks, we always look for channels to ensure that the money goes there directly without anybody getting paid in between; without part of the money going to some middle man, or a boss. So I think that projects like that are really important, but the most important thing is that we begin to speak to each other about politics again.

There is some kind of a mindset within the punk scene that says we already know what anybody thinks, so we don’t need to discuss about politics. That we should discuss about bands, and beer, and who plays where and who plays with whom… who plays the bass on that fuckin’ record… but actually I don’t fuckin’ care. That’s not why I’m here. I think that we need to speak what we want. What do we support? What do we stand for? Because I don’t believe that everybody knows about these things. I don’t believe that we all think the same. I believe that we should all have an open discussion about these matters to come to conclusions, to be creative… to find creative ways to implement the ideas that we stand for.

So do you think this is happening in the countries you visit on tour? Do you see that any meaningful discussions with the punks happen at the shows? How do you see the DIY punk scene in all these places you have visited so far?

Martin: It’s really different from country to country. Few nights ago we played in Kosovo. For me, it was if not the best, then one of the nicest shows I’ve ever played in my life. They have a squat there, even if they don’t call it that way. They don’t label it like a squat but technically it is. They made it that shitloads of people came out to the gig. It was really great atmosphere and the people were open to discuss things with us and so on. There is not really a punk scene out there, it’s more like a scene consisting of all the alternative people who want to do something that’s not commercial or mainstream. That was the strongest experience for me on this tour. Like going there and have the chance to speak with the people about the situation there. I’d love to hear what they do and what they could do to improve their scene, and also we’ve had a little talk how we could tell other bands to go there and play. That we should make more interaction with the people there and I would really like to encourage other bands to go there, because it’s really awesome place and the people there are really nice.

Otherwise, it’s really hard to say something in general. You have the hardcore punk scene in Slovenia which is really, really big since the time of Yugoslavia in the early 80’s. So you can’t really judge Ljubljana by any kind of Balkan standards, it doesn’t apply for example to Albania which doesn’t have anything like that until the mid 90’s. It’s like two different worlds, yet so close geographically. But in the end of the day, except for the problems with our van we’ve had a great experience.

I guess you also have some Balkan background and speak Serbo-Croatian language… You also have a Slavic name and songs against Putin.

Martin: Hahaha. No, actually my wife is from Belarus. That’s why I have a Slavic name. To break the tradition that women take the family name of their husband, I took her name instead. Also because it’s a Belarusian surname and it sounds a bit cool, you know. When we were young in Sweden we’ve always watched how the Soviet Union kicked Sweden’s asses in ice hockey. So we think that these Slavic surnames sound pretty cool. But otherwise the reason I speak Serbo-Croatian is because I’ve been on tour there like six or seven years ago, and I’ve picked some phrases there and then continued to study at home. So I have no roots to the Balkans but I’ve been to the Balkans in the past and I know so many people from there.

[at that point of the interview the police approach to us and as the cops go by towards the other people from the show standing about 20 meters from us Martin starts singing “Fuk da Police” by NWA]

To continue the interview, you were actually in Bulgaria with another band some years ago. You’ve been playing in many other projects, can you tell us what happened with all those other bands?

Martin: Scorched Earth, which was the band that I played in Bulgaria with, disbanded in 2011. It was a band that we formed just some months before. We started booking our tour even before we had a record out. It was a really long tour with 27 shows and then we came back home from the tour. It was a nice tour but then it was really hard to continue since everyone was living in separate places. The band existed in theory for three more years but we never did anything more.

Then Scorched Earth developed into Snake Tongue. I’m not a member of Snake Tongue anymore but Fredrik is.

Fredrik: Well, Snake Tongue is a band formed by Martin but we decided to keep on moving with that band after Martin left off. And now we try to make new songs and tour. That’s the thing, like with most punk bands.

Are there any other bands from Sweden that we should definitely check out?

Martin: Yeah, my old band, the band I like the most is Shades of Grey. It’s a band that I was in together with one guy and two girls from Sweden. We played in that band from 2005 to 2011. We also toured a lot. For me, music-wise Adrestia is kinda continuation of Shades of Grey, it’s in the same spirit of being political and writing this kind of crust/metal music and so on.

So what’s next for Adrestia? Are you gonna continue doing this kind of conceptual records that are very political in their message?

Martin: Yes, for sure. I really want to continue doing political stuff. Punks for Rojava and Adrestia is kind of connected but it doesn’t always have to be connected. The things we want to accomplish with Punks for Rojava is to build a huge international network that shouldn’t be just Adrestia but for sure we’re always gonna participate. And I also have some offers to do lectures on Rojava. It will happen during the fall at different locations in Sweden. Something that I will do is speaking to different political parties. For example to tell them about Rojava and hopefully change their minds on who are they supporting in Syria. But then music-wise we also have some shows booked, like benefit shows for Rojava that begin in August.

OK, anything else you want to add?

Martin: We have to thank everybody who came here in Sofia tonight. We are super-thankful to play here. It was one of the nicest shows I’ve ever played with any band and it’s really amazing to see so many people having fun on Monday night.

Fredrik: It’s amazing to see people come together, even like you said, on Monday. We see how people just come and support their movement and DIY. It warms my hearth to see things like that. We need to have that in our society nowadays. Support each other.

Martin: Also I wanna say big thanks to all the organizers from this awesome place Fabrika Avtonomia and to Diana from Varna who made the amazing poster.

Photos by Cockroach from their show in Prague.

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