Poking fun at right-wing bigotry, London’s two-bit rave-punk duo Killdren were all over the news this past week, being featured on the prime time of The Sunday Times, Daily Mail, The Sun, BBC News, terrified Jo Cox Foundation, and eventually got them pulled from this year’s Glastonbury line-up where they were supposed to play at the apparently not so subversive Shangri-la stage.
Killdren feature the gritty vocals of our long-time friend and amazing DIY punk singer-songwriter Efa Supertramp together with the samples of electronic producer Nick Ronin. Since we don’t believe the mainstream media, we’ve contacted Killdren for a first-hand account of last week’s event and to learn more about the ideas behind this obnoxious, satirical punk band. No tears for the Tories!
Hey Efa, how’s it going? You’ve been pursuing a career as a touring solo DIY musician for a long time before moving to London and starting Killdren together with Nick. Can you walk us through the band’s history and how did you get to the point of being featured on all major media across Britain for apparently making the Tories pissed over your song called “Kill Tory Scum (Before They Kill You)”?
Efa: The band actually started with the idea of doing the song and video Kill Tory Scum (Before They Kill You) for the General Election that Theresa May called quickly in 2017. It was a very heated time in the UK after the ‘Brexit’ vote in June 2016 (still is!) and the whole country is divided over the issue.
The strangest thing is that it’s not necessarily a left/right divide, because there are left-wingers (known as Lexiteers) that want Brexit and right-wingers that want to stay in the UK for the benefits of trading with Europe. Anyway, Brexit aside; at the point of the General Election the main thing we were passionate about was making sure the Tories didn’t get back into power—the true amount of devastation they have caused in our country through austerity measures is immeasurable.
However, a recent IPPR study suggested that there have been 130,000 ‘preventable’ deaths in the UK due to austerity measures by the government—even before this study we had already seen and heard of so much suffering in this country. To name a few things; homelessness growing, food bank use growing, parts of our national health service being sold off, shutting down refuges for abused women, racist immigration laws including the Windrush scandal where they’ve been deporting British Jamaicans to Jamaica (where they’ve never lived) and deporting queer refugees to their dangerous home countries (whilst branding the Home Office with a rainbow flag profile picture).
We could talk all day about all the harmful things the Conservative Party have done, and how many deaths will never be reported or considered as linked to them, but the main underlying message is that we believe that things such as poverty, racism and sexism are all violent.
However, when they are executed carefully through government policies they are not considered to be violent because for most people the bureaucratic system seems so far removed from real-life death and suffering!
That’s the basic idea behind the satirical video—if they kill us through policies, how about we manifest a self-defence plan and get them first?
We are trying to highlight the double-standards of this violent system we live in. Obviously, we are not violent terrorists—we’re just cheeky (and pissed-off) artists using music to try and undermine the establishment!
For any of your readers that are not aware, the Tories are very much the establishment of the UK—they are the true elite who have controlled the country (whether in power or not) for centuries. They are educated in the “best” private schools, they inherit wealth from the slave trade and many of them are related to the Queen. I consider myself to be an anarchist (Nick doesn’t), and the point of this election was when I thought that we really should vote, because things were so desperate in the UK that even a slightly less shit government could save a number of lives and cause less suffering.
The song was released more than two years ago, so it’s quite hilarious that it’s appeared in all major news outlets in the past few days. We were contacted by a journalist from The Sunday Times telling us he was writing an article about political violence in relation to the recent milkshake-dousings that have been happening to right-wing politicians in the UK. He told us he would be discussing our song ‘Kill Tory Scum (Before They Kill You)’ and we decided we would interact with him because we thought it was better to try and get our point across and not be completely misrepresented.
His story broke in the paper on Sunday (June 2nd, 2019), and then all of a sudden everyone was messaging us saying they’d heard it on BBC News on the Radio, seen it in other online newspaper outlets (including the most right-wing ones, Daily Mail and The Sun) and even seen it on television! It was really fucking bizzare! Every time a new story appeared it was more and more diluted and misrepresenting us and our lyrics more and more!
The Sunday Times is part of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, and their readership is definitely mostly Tories, we have no idea if the original journalist knew that the story would blow up in this way. Murdoch’s cronies for sure hate Glastonbury and want them to have bad press and depoliticize them because in 2017 they invited Jeremy Corbyn, the ‘radical left’’ leader of the Labour Party to appear on the main stage to speak.
Anyway, the whole thing was a huge surprise to us and I didn’t really think about the fact that Glastonbury would pull the plug on us and turn it into an argument about censorship and free speech. Considering we are an unheard of comedy rave-punk band who were scheduled to play on a small stage at 4am (when everyone would be too wasted to remember anything), if they hadn’t have brought focus to it very little people would have even heard of us or the song.
Instead we have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support we’ve received—disability activists e-mailing us to thank us for highlighting issues about their suffering, people offering us gigs across the UK and just messages of solidarity regarding censorship and punk.
Glastonbury is held in a Tory constituency and it costs over £250 for a ticket so we can see that they were terrified of upsetting the status quo and their rich customers. It makes it funnier that we were playing in the most alternative/radical part of the festival, Shangri-La which uses aesthetics of subverting and political dissent but have now been forced to cancel us. We are scheming up some ways of getting the anti-Tory anti-austerity message across in Glastonbury anyway, censorship has always just made art/message more popular.
There’ve been tons of bands in punk and other genres to use political satire and harsh lyricism against the conservative Right for decades. So I was literally laughing my ass off when reading the comments on your Youtube channel when you released the video for that song. How did your message get so viral, unlike many other punk bands?
Efa: Our music style was mainly inspired by the sarcastic and political tones of Dead Kennedys and the strange electronic music of Monster Zoku Onsomb! Two very unlikely main influences probably but both silly in their own ways. Writing anti-Tory anthems has been an art in Britain for decades, and we started a thread about it on Twitter to try and compile a list of some of these anthems so people don’t forget the history of political music and especially those who have previously played at Glastonbury (on much bigger stages than we ever will!).
Thanks for all the publicity for our anti-Tory song. We don't want to take all the credit, because we know it's an ancient art form to resist Conservatives in the UK! Let's start a thread for all the great Anti-Tory music that exists….. We'll kick things off…
— Killdren (@KilldrenMusic) June 3, 2019
Reading the comments section is always hilarious on the internet, to see the rage you have caused in angry right-wingers, but it’s also hilarious to see how much of our humour doesn’t get through. For example, the fact we say we are from Tunbridge Wells, a hugely conservative place in the UK and people actually believe it and spend time trying to discredit us about our ‘privileged’ backgrounds.
Going viral was based purely on this Glastonbury drama, and probably even more so on the fact that Glastonbury decided to axe our set after our offensive song came to light in the press! We are just surprised that punk still has the power to shock people, we thought that kind of hysterical or viral reaction in relation to punk (or even music) was over a long time ago… It’s the kind of PR you could never buy, and I’m sure Malcolm McClaren and the KLF would be proud! Haha!
Can you talk a bit about the history of the rave scene and free parties in Britain? Especially when it comes to its political message and intersection with punk and social anarchism. How important do you feel it is for musicians, artists, or writers to communicate political topics and themes through their art?
Efa: I’m going to get Nick to answer this question, because he’s been involved in that scene, putting on parties and running soundsystems for more than half his life so is way more knowledgeable about that!
Nick: Rave music has run through both established venues and clubs as well as squatted buildings and outdoor spaces in the UK. If you only experienced it only through the former you would be hard-pressed to make the connection between the rave scene and the punk/DIY ethic. I see the underground events connecting with punk in two ways.
There’s the actual lineage whereby travelers, crusties and punks were behind some of the early big raves and festival convoys—and who typically always have a soft-spot for a good ol’ stomp around in front a huge sound system to rave music. There’s also the get-shit-done-now (bar all consequences) element to raves, coupled with equally simplistic boiled-down heavy music. This along with other things can be considered pretty bloody punk, but most of the people involved wouldn’t consciously see it that way.
After the criminalization of raves and other illegal gatherings with the Criminal Justice Act in the mid 90’s, and the general natural deterioration of the scene’s peak, raves has long never really had a true political voice. Their tone has generally always been militant, and sometimes this was manifested in zines, flyers and stickers but it’s always been pretty apolitical and far more concerned with getting-off-one’s-tits.
It’s been great for us to combine the best of both worlds and to try and reintroduce some politics, albeit in a shouty punky stoopid way, into our shared passion for a rave-up. So far it’s been working—we play at both proper punk gig nights and on a sound system at squat parties—and people seem to like it.
Efa: What I would add to what Nick said is that the creation of spaces where people can be free, not be searched by security and dance until they can’t dance anymore is a radical act in itself in my eyes.
I hardly ever go out to normal venues or clubs in London, because I feel violated when I do by bag-searches, ID checks and just generally having to ask permission to enter. Some of the more anarchistic soundsystems from London have recently been setting up grassroots projects in Western Africa with the project Black Star Caravan with money they have raised from raves here—so although yes, people are getting pretty smashed and a lot of the time it can feel a bit nihilistic there are enough passionate people involved that it can have a positive change too.
You can easily make thousands of pounds at a good rave in London, so it’s cool to see that cash going into projects which aim to counteract damage which has been done by European governments and global NGOs in those countries.
Have you been surprised by the reaction of the chief executive of the Jo Cox Foundation condemning your message in regards to Glastonbury festival? I mean, Jo Cox was murdered by an individual with underniable links to more than one British and American far-right political groups and Neo-Nazi organizations. Yet, it’s a band like Killdren with a clear message against far-right violence and extremism being labeled as pro-violence and extreme.
Efa: If the original news story in The Sunday Times hadn’t included a condemnation of us from the Jo Cox Foundation, I doubt we would have got our set pulled by Glastonbury. The murder of Jo Cox is obviously still a sensitive issue in British Politics because it was so recent, and death threats is something MPs face quite regularly. We were genuinely gutted that this (very real) murder had been linked to our (silly) song—Jo Cox’s murder was an act of terror that happened to her by a Neo-Nazi who was also into conspiracy theories.
However, our song is obviously meant to be offensive/provoking and so I guess “we were asking for it” as that was the most recent murder of an MP in the UK. The point Jo Cox Foundation have been trying to get across in the press is that the language of “political violence” is increasing and being normalized, and that’s why we shouldn’t be allowed a platform at Glastonbury.
As I said before, in my opinion the politics of the UK is increasingly violent to all kinds of minorities—migrants, disabled people, low-income people, single mums etc; so although I understand the “sensitivity” of the issue of Jo Cox’s murder, I don’t think it’s comparable to use a silly rave-punk song as an example of incitement to violence, compared to the “acceptable” right-wing press and YouTube channels funded by racist millionaires, or a political party actually inflicting violence on its country’s citizens.
How problematic do you think it is to mistake tongue-in-cheek political commentary with actual threats of murder and violence? Actually, there are probably hundreds of Neo-Nazi bands all over the UK in the tradition of Skrewdriver and the whole RAC movement who unironically promote violence.
Efa: “Kill Tory Scum (Before They Kill You)” is definetly not the most intelligent or well-thought out song or debate, the lyrics are stupid and childish and it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.
We thought people weren’t likely to take things so literally from a punk band, and we had to spell out the satirical nature of the song in an article in The Independent defending ourselves after the media storm! We were lucky that Freedom News also poked fun at how seriously it has been taken, and how overblown the whole thing has been.
As you said, there is so much real violence in the world—in the media, in politics and in music; in reality we should be the least of anyone’s worries really.
In your solo career as Efa Supertramp you sing about many important subjects, both political and more personal in nature. Originally from Wales, you also have some songs in the native Welsh language. How does your writing process differ in Killdren? Can you give us some insights on the songwriting and lyrics on your other songs on both “Overkill in Underrated” and “Disguise the Limit”?
Efa: With Efa Supertramp acoustic music I just get sucked into my own little world, and sit down with my guitar for hours on end and see what comes out. With Killdren I am not involved with producing the music, Nick does that as he loves making music using Ableton Live and has a few electronic aliases he works under: Ronin (breakcore / hardcore / drum’n’bass), Obese (heavy bass music), and Villain (live techno).
Usually we have a list of song ideas about different topics which we’ve ranted about together, then he makes the music, then we work on the lyrics together. He is much more disciplined than me when it comes to writing music, so in between all our other projects/day jobs we’ve managed to release “Overkill is Underrated” in 2018, and “Disguise the Limit” earlier this year.
With the first EP we recorded the vocals in a studio, but found that process didn’t really work for us because we couldn’t work at our own pace, we couldn’t experiment as much and if my voice was getting tired we couldn’t just chill out and do it later because we were paying for the time!
We decided to buy a decent microphone and record the second EP’s vocals at home which worked waaaay better and has been a great investment into improving our home studio. I’m probably gonna record my next Efa Supertramp album (hopefully coming out this Autumn) at home too, because we decided to spend money on new equipment rather than studio time.
Any good DIY bands, venues, collectives, zines, etc. from the UK that you would like to recommend?
Efa: I really love everything Petrol Girls do and they are definitely one of my favourite bands. I even got the chance to feature in one of their latest videos supporting Solidarity Not Silence, a campaign supporting women who are having to defend themselves against a defamation claim made by man in the music industry for statements that they made concerning his treatment of women.
I’m also totally in love with Grand Collapse’s fast political hardcore punk—they also asked me to do a song with them so I’m super lucky that my favourite bands end up being friends and collaborators!
I also love The Roughneck Riot, incredible 9 piece folk-punk; and Chuck SJ I have to mention because they are one of my favourite tour buddies—incredible angry queer folk punk songs!
Also I’d like to mention Dream Nails who put a fun and feminist spin on their poppy punk tunes and have an unapologetic “girls to the front” attitude at their shows—actually there are also so many great collectives in the UK who are redressing the balance of the male-dominated punk scene that so many great female-led bands spring to mind it’s hard to choose who to mention.
Some of the collectives to check out for these bands are Loud Women, Hell Hath No Fury and Something Else SistaFest. There’s also Decolonise Fest which promotes music made by punks of colour, and this year their fest features two super-cool London bands Big Joanie and Screaming Toenail. That event is at DIY Space for London which is one of the best spaces in London, and they also host First Timers which is a programme of workshops and gigs aiming to diversify the punk scene—such a great scheme!
Outside of punk and band music, I love political hip-hop too and I’m a massive fan of acts such as Lowkey, Akala, Shay D, Awate and QELD.
In terms of sound systems, you will often find me and Nick at raves by Pokora (including their legendary Rave Against The Machine nights) and IRD who support a lot of political causes.
For Zines, I would suggest checking out One Way Ticket To Cubesville and Lad$. There’s so much stuff going on in the UK, I’ve definitely forgotten loads of stuff, but I hope that gives people some pointers for what to check out!
Thank you for taking your time to talk to us, I guess you have been overwhelmed the past few days with all this media fuzz about Killdren. Anything you would like to add or clarify?
Efa: Yes, Monday in particular was really wild because my face was in the free Metro newspaper they give away all around London (like hundreds of thousands of copies) so I was kind of scared of even catching a train because the story literally made us sound like we’d called for murder because it was so out of context and quoted our defence so wrong.
Our e-mail inbox was also super busy with other media requests, and everyone was texting us saying “I just saw you on BBC News”, “I just saw your face on the big screen at the train station” etc. It was fucking weird.
Luckily, it’s died down now because it was definitely overwhelming, and we’re getting more alternative media sources contacting us, which is obviously way nicer because they’ll actually spread our message and music and not demonise us. Surprisingly, we actually got way more positive response than negative response after the media-storm, which just shows how much people really hate the Tories, I guess!
We’ve sold more merch and music than we ever have before (we’ve even run out of CDs and Kill Tory Scum t-shirts and have had to place a new order!); we’ve had disability activists messaging us and saying thanks so much for writing this song and raising awareness of people being murdered by Tory cuts; and generally just loads of punks and angry people sending messages of solidarity and saying that’s what punk is about!
Don’t forget to check Killdren’s tour dates on our website killdren.com, and we’re always open for shows all around the place and keen to meet other people passionate about having a variation of styles of music mixed with politics—so get in touch!
I’d also like to add that I’m doing an Efa Supertramp tour this July around the Anarcho Folk Fest in Poland and Fluff Fest in Czech Republic, so I hope to see some of you on the road. I still have a few dates to fill if anyone’s interested in booking an acoustic set, or just let me know of cool stuff that might be going on around the place! My website is: www.efasupertramp.co.uk