Zegota: It’s Possible to Hold Radical Ideals Throughout Your Aging Life
Rare interview with CrimethInc. band Zegota
Zegota was a band that played an active role in the political DIY scene since the mid 1990s. The band was known for their involvement in activism, but also breaking musical boundaries in their releases; playing passionate hardcore punk mixed with all kind of melodies ranging from the sound of Fugazi through the mid 1990s metallic hardcore and moving forth to the rhythms of the samba bands dancing on the streets of Seattle against the WTO in ’99.
This interview was done shortly after their gig at Milada Squat in Prague in 2004 (picture from the show below, video in the end of the post). Originally appeared in Czech language in Move Your Ass Zine, now it’s the first time being published in English. Thanks to Honza!
So first boring question. Could you introduce yourself and the band?
Our band is Jon, guitar. Will, drums. Ard, bass. Moe, singing.
Your music is quite original and you managed to build strong following and loyal fans. Where do you get inspiration for your music?
Not to sound vague, but art is generally inspired by life and experience. It’s been a joy to write music, tour, and become such close friends with one another over the years.
How would you describe your music for someone who hasn’t heard it yet?
Maybe punk rock with some heart and soul?
You usually play places like squats, small clubs etc. Is it important to stay DIY for you? And where is the border of DIY touring?
We prefer to play squats, houses, community centers, and such because these people and places share similar hopes as us. DIY music and touring is really only an extension of everything else in life which people do themselves. Gardening, pro-active parenting, fixing your home or bike, organizing in your town against the Man.
For us playing in venues and distributing our music within more grassroots and independent networks is natural; playing expensive venues and using large media outlets that have different interests and motivations than us seems unnatural.
Your guitarist, Jon, wrote a book. Could you tell us something more about that book?
The book he has written is named “Fire & Lightning”, which has been released by Ivory Bell in the States. His writing is very autobiographical… introspective, one would say. With this book he touches upon immigrating to a foreign country, becoming a father, traveling and working within DIY networks, and coming to grips with the very sudden and extreme life changes that he’s embraced over the past few years. It’s my personal opinion that he’s become a very talented writer.
You are known as a CrimethInc. band. Don’t you have sometimes feeling, that some people prefer crimethinc lifestyle just for being cool or different?
You know, sometimes some people seem to me like they were taking it as a religious cult or something like that…
Do you think it’s possible to hold radical ideals for whole life?
Well, I do believe that it’s possible to hold radical ideals throughout your aging life; currently I’m replying to your questions from a volunteer run bookstore whose shelves are filled with books about life-long radicals. I feel like I know these people, too; not the ones who are subjects of published books, but some older, amazing people in my town.
As far as people preferring CrimethInc. “just to be cool or different”, well, I don’t know… I feel like there were times in my life when I was younger and I really depended on subculture as something to cling to and help identify my personality. Punk rock is like that for so many already. With CrimethInc. it seems that the publications that have been put out struck a chord with many people who hadn’t yet been exposed to anarchism or self-determination…
Maybe this was the first exposure for people who didn’t know that there were others all over the world that felt passionate about trying to change the world and that the current state is fucked. But we as people change and our ideals evolve; just because some people you know may seem overly enthusiastic to you about CrimethInc. (or anything for that matter; going to shows?), it’s important to be patient and still welcoming.
I’m always excited to meet people whose hearts are in the right place even if we don’t agree on everything or have trouble relating.
What do you think about bands like The (International) Noise Conspiracy, that are part of the mainstream culture but although they have strong political message.
Well, those bands will always exist so long as discontent is marketable, right? And though I’m often critical and skeptical of their intentions, they do seem to serve as some sort of outreach mechanism to audiences that might not be exposed to their slogans.
I still remember when Rage Against the Machine’s first album came out and seeing a video on MTV about Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement activist who is imprisoned in the USA. That was a topic I had never been exposed to, you know?
What does bother me, however, is the fact that those bands are making money, a lot of money in the name of some vague resistance movement, yet instead of challenging the pop culture status quo, they tend to become it.
The last thing the world needs is more rock stars and more unapproachable people.
Anyway, do you believe in any kind of revolution?
If you’re asking if I believe in a revolution that’s anarchist based or coming from the left and that the world will be different because of it… a world with more harmony and less hierarchy, well honestly I doubt that we’ll be seeing that, or making it happen, in the very near future. But I don’t live my life or do the things that I do because “I’m working for the revolution”, I do them because I feel it’s a more satisfying way to live, you know?
Another thing I wanted to ask you is something about your name? Why did you call your band Zegota*? Do you have any special relationship to things that happened during the World War II? Have you spoken with some people in Poland about why you chose your name? (I suppose Zegota was Polish organisation, wasn’t it?)
No special relation, just inspiration. Yes, our friends from Poland understood our reasoning.
I suppose you practice shoplifting, but I’m quite confused with this thing. Do you think it is a definitely alright to steal in a shop? I know, there are huge companies and it’s not correct to support them, but I think that shoplifting doesn’t solve anything. I think it’s kind of addiction to the system, because if there were no supermarkets, it wouldn’t be possible to practice that.
I don’t actually shoplift so much anymore… As a kid I did quite a lot and it came with the feeling that I’m beating the system in one way or another. It’s not always alright to steal from a shop; it’s not always alright to take something because you can, either. But the nature of the beast is ugly and unfair and I can’t so much as shed a tear for the wealthy who own these corporate shops and organize our world to be as benign as possible. If they’re gonna be about keeping people down, we gotta be about keeping people up. Go for it if it really feels right.
Some time ago you moved to Sweden. Do you see same differences between the USA and Sweden in the way how the major society looks on young people living alternative lifestyle?
There are many cultural differences between Sweden and the States… I actually felt that Jon, our immigrated guitar player, should answer this question, yet these days he’s been tough to nail down. I’m going to let it go unanswered as I am not much more than a tourist in this cold-as-fuck land.
You as a band have strong political message. How often do people come to you after your shows to speak with you about your opinions and lyrics? Have you ever had any physical conflicts on some of your shows?
Quite often and never.
If you want to add something, do it now. Thank you for interview…
Nothing much to add. We have a website that we will begin to update on a more regular basis. It can be reached at www.demonbox.com/zegota (not active anymore). Endless thanks to Aga and my homeboy Flo aka. Robert Novak, the sweetest Czech punk rocker North Carolina has ever met! Seriously, the Catering Company Decor crew will never be the same. Dave sends his greetings! Duke Gala rest in pieces!! Nice and Easy Co-op Houses Represent! Chickens run wild at 621!!!
* The band’s name comes from the Polish word Żegota (unity) used by a Catholic group during WWII, which was trying to save the Jewish people from the Nazis.