Active Minds: If You Care About One Thing…
Active Minds talking on violence, direct action and conveying your message as a radical punk band in a previously unpublished interview from 1993
In an interview from 1993* that at the time had been scarcely published, Active Minds band members Set and Bobs together with their friend Steve, said a few things which may still strike the right chord today. Here’s a newly edited version of that interview.
Why do you talk with criminals but not with certain other bands?
Bobs: Bands don’t kill people so you don’t have to change bands. I couldn’t give a shit why some band signs to Virgin records for half a million pounds, I know why they do it. You just need to show people that we are doing something different to them, and let people make up their own minds which is the best.
But people who go out and harm people have got to be stopped. You have to talk to them, to understand what they are doing. Any action that anybody has done that we consider repulsive of terrible, has been done because they’re grown up in the system that we live in now. You’ve got to talk to people who are killing other people, because you’ve got to stop them.
What do you think about using violence as a reaction against fascists?
Bobs: There is a world out there where 95% of the people are not on either camp, and you have to show them which side is right, why you are different from the fascists, why people should listen to you. By going and throwing molotovs into places they live, it won’t seem immediately clear to people—I don’t think—why you are morally in the right.
Looking at the most extreme cases… it’s easy for people like us to sit here discussing whether or not violence is right or wrong.
You get people who say ‘we got one.’ But how to you know for sure he was a nazi? Did you check first? I remember an incident of how Nicky Crane got his head kicked in—he was the ringleader of the BNP. Well, there was a programme on the TV about gay skinheads and Nicky Crane was on it saying how he’d left the BNP ages ago because of the way they oppressed gays, just as he had been oppressive to black people. He said he no longer agreed with the BNP. Now I wonder if these people who attacked him knew this or even cared. Do people care that people can change? How do you know if people have changed if you don’t even ask?
Steve: Well, there’s two counts of violence: antagonistic violence, which just breeds more violence, or just the violence in a particular situation.
Set: It’s not something you can decide on a theoretical basis, it’s not a clear-cut thing of ‘never violence’ or ‘ always violence.’ You’ve got to take a situation as it is, and it’s different in different places, in different countries. But I do feel that more can be achieved, and has been achieved in history, by non-violence. We live in a pretty awful world. Violence has been used always to try to argument, right from being at school.
What about what Adolf Hitler said that the Nazis would never have got so far if they’d been smashed off the streets from the start?
Set: Well, I don’t think it’s a great idea to take advice from Hitler!
Bobs: And that shouldn’t be taken too literally, because you can crush a movement without actually physically going in and smashing it’s face in. You can crush it in many other ways.
Set: And the other thing is, you can actually lose. I mean people were fighting Hitler in the 1930’s. There were nazis fighting anarchists and communists, it was happening a lot.
But they still got the power. I’m not an expert on terrorism but I’d guess that nazis have got more access to arms and weapons/armaments than anarchists and squatters have. And maybe more capable of using them. How do you know you can crush these people?
But what if people are attacked on the streets? Should they fight back?
Bobs: You should do what Flux [of Pink Indians] said years ago and ‘strive to survive causing the least possible suffering to others’.
Set: And defend other people of they’re being attacked, help them and use violence to stop it.
What do you think about property damage against fur- and meatshops?
Set: As long as people make sure that nobody is injured by it, I don’t think there is anything wrong with damaging property.
Bobs: It’s a good thing, it gets into the media’s attention. And really it makes the perpetrators of the animal abuse have to justify themselves to the press. The damage done to fur shops in Britain has had a major effect, I think, on the fur trade.
There was quite a lot of ALF activity a few years ago, but it seems to have disappeared.
Bobs: I’ll tell you why—it’s because a lot of people become so entrenched in a lot of personal rubbish that they just can’t be bothered. And the other thing is that if you’ve really put a lot of effort into something for a lot of years and you’re not getting anywhere, you do get very depressed and disheartened. Maybe you just think: ‘Is it worth it?’
I can understand people giving priorities to things, I do it myself. But being a vegetarian is not a major thing, it’s just a simple thing that you can do. On a personal level, animal rights is ‘easy’ to do.
Steve: The whole point is that all things are intrinsically linked. If you care about one thing, you can’t not care about the other.
Are there other ways you convey your message?
Bobs: Whatever opening you see, you’ve got to go for it. I actually stood in the county council elections for the Green Party. It doesn’t have a leadership. It basically believes in everything I say. What is important is putting across a new idea. We can press 4,000 albums and sell them, and get a message across. But I stand for an election, and the local newspaper prints 30,000 copies of my statement of what I want to do.
And it wakes you up to the real world. When standing for an election, you go around council estates and try to talk to people and you realise why the world is a mess. People see you as a politician, but it shouldn’t be like that. People involved in politics shouldn’t be politicians. Politicians should be banned from politics. It should be left to individuals and people at a local level. Organizing on local councils and committees where you can actually get face to face with people and sort things out.
Would you like to continue carrying over your thoughts through music?
Bobs: Basically I would use every way possible to get opinions across. Playing with one guitar and a drummer is so easy, and we know each other so well. One practice and we’ve done 5 new songs. And I’m so crazy about punk music, it’s my disease. So I’m going to be actively involved in that anyway. I can’t see us ever stopping—we’ll be doing this when we are 40! We’ll be the Status Quo of hardcore.
Set: It’s a matter of time. The band takes up a lot of time, because we like to have control over what we do. We have to work to be able to afford to release our own records. We tend to get involved in a lot of things which are already organized like going to demonstrations. We’re also involved in a music collective in Scarborough, which takes up more time, and other things on a local level.
Bobs: We get involved in just about everything that’s going, to be honest!
* The interview took place after an animal rights event at the Kolk venue in Amsterdam (exists no longer) on May 8, 1993, at which Active Minds played. The interviewer wished to remain anonymous. Editor & copyright: Zenno.