Omega Tribe: Anarcho-Punk Veterans Back to Raise the Banner High
A brief talk with British anarcho-punk veterans Omega Tribe
Omega Tribe originiated in 1981 and their “Angry Songs” EP (1982, Crass Records) has been marked out by many entrenched anarchos as a classic of the UK anarcho-punk genre, not to mention the subsequential “No Love Lost” LP (1983, Corpus Christi) that secured their place in punk history. The band split in 1988, and though they reformed briefly to play guest spot at Vi Subversa’s 60th Birthday Bash in June 1995 followed by a short tour under the name Charlie, Omega Tribe’s members had other interests and the project was short-lived.
So it was a big surprise when in August 2016 original members Darryl Hardcastle, Hugh Vivian, and Sonny Flint annoucned on a newly created Omega Tribe facebook page that the band is back together and in rehearsal. Bulgarian zine Sofia Rebel Station was among the first media channels to contact the anarcho-punk veterans for a brief talk about their current plans, past success and failures. The following interview was conducted at Mill Hill Music Complex, North London, on 24th September, 2016. Heartly thanks to Dimitar Haralampiev of Sofia Rebel Station for conducting the interview and to Omega Tribe’s Sonny Flint, without whom it wouldn’t be possible. Photos by Chris Low & Jim Wafford.
Omega Tribe are back after years in hiatus. What provoked you to get back together as a band?
Hugh: We didn’t like it in hiatus… (sorry joke), sort of accident really. Accident and happen-stance. I guess it was the right moment for us. Happy accident.
There is a big anarcho punk revival in the past few years. Many bands are getting back to record new songs and to tour around the UK and Europe. Is the political climate the same as the one in the 80’s, or there are other reasons?
Hugh: I don’t think the political climate is the same at all. I think it’s quite a different political climate.
Daryl: It’s a lot worse if you ask me.
Hugh: I don’t know what the reasons to the punk revival are either or if they are directly related to the political climate.
Sonny: Don’t you think it’s a reaction to the musical climate, because the TV has so much shit music?
Daryl: I think the climate of everything has changed because of the internet. In the 1980’s there was no internet. There were no mobile phones. Everything was close. You went out to play, the people came, and that was the only interaction you had with them. Now, they know you are coming a year before you go. They know what you are going to play. You know it’s completely different, but so is the political world, and so it’s completely different because of that. It’s far worse.
Hugh: There is more potential for messaging in the digital age than there has been previously and maybe with the rise in what could be described in activities in music is related with the need to redress the balance of messaging that’s going on around us all the time, maybe. Speculation.
Keith: It would be interesting if the people of Bulgaria could get back to us on their own take on the Trotskyism infiltration of the Labour Party?
Some people think that this revival is all about money. There are quite big and popular festivals in Europe and the US nowadays, also some bands are more famous today then the 80’s for example. Do you think that bands that are much more attracted to their fee amount are the reason of thoughts like this.
Hugh: I think that some bands feel that they are due a pay day, but that’s their business and we’re not interested in being paid for what we do really.
Daryl: Our first gig back, after thirty years is a benefit gig, against fascism.
Hugh: I am only personally interested in playing benefit gigs. We’ve got one exception, we’ve got one gig arranged which is not a benefit for anything, but the other two that we have arranged are, and I’m much more interested in playing gigs which are benefits. The gig in Brighton is not a benefit, but with those gigs we can donate our fee which is what I will do with my bit of it. I think It’s really important that we try and use what we were involved in with the 1980’s, was the fact that it was a network of like-minded people and I would like to re-connect with that really, for people doing things, not for any financial motivation but just to connect with people.
Daryl: But couldn’t we save the money we get up so that we could record a CD or something?
Hugh: Yeah, that’s a viable option.
Daryl: I’m not saying I don’t want any money, but if we want to record something, then we might as well save it up from that. What do you think Sonny?
Sonny: Yeah I totally agree, I like recording
Daryl: I love recording.
Sonny: If we can get money to do that, it would be great. We are not doing it to profiteer because we didn’t make money the first time around, it’s not the point is it?
Daryl: No. You never make any money from this anyway. It’s not about the money. It’s about saying what you believe in. Coming across and meeting people. I hope the gigs we do, the ones we got coming up are, how can I put it “Events”. Not just a load of shouting, I want them to be events. I want to put banners up. I really want to do that. That is very important, like we did years ago. An audience coming in would come in and think, this is different. I’ve never seen this before, and it’s important. It was brilliant when CRASS and us did it. We had crap banners.
Hugh: The point of the banners was the ownership of the space wasn’t it? It was about taking the space and saying this now belongs to something different.
Daryl: Yeah yeah, not just flashing lights. Wouldn’t you like to do that?
Hugh: That’s what I am saying is that the important thing is to try to re-connect with being part of the movement as opposed to just being a rock band revival.
What was to be a punk or an anarchist back in the days. More fashion or more politics thing. How it is today? Do you find Omega Tribe songs even more relevant today.
Sonny: I think it’s for other people to judge the relevance or otherwise to their own experience. I mean I don’t think any of the messages have changed at all.
Daryl: They are not any less relevant.
Keith: For somebody who was not familiar with this first time around, having listened to the material, it is very relevant.
Daryl: Thanks for saying that.
Hugh: Being a punk in those days was about personal politics. You can’t escape the fact that teenagers, a lot of it is wrapped up in identity, a sense of belonging and peer groups, and I think that timed in with punk, well I’m not sure if I was ever a punk or identified as a punk.
Daryl: You had a Mohican.
Hugh: But it seems I am forever remembered as a punk. Heh heh! I think you retain the right to call yourself whatever you want to call yourself or not. What it was, was a sense of belonging to something and I think that was the strength of the musical movement that it gave a lot of strong feelings. Solidarity with other people who have similar view points.
What is the real meaning of the rebellion. Uprising against the old values or something more?
Daryl: What is the rebellion?
Hugh: Maybe rebellion is standing up for what you think is right. You know, being willing to say, “no I don’t think this is right and I’m not prepared to do it anymore” maybe? Could be one meaning of it. I am sure it varies from individual to individual.
Omega Tribe then and now. What are the differences? Are the people in the band quite different from when you started this?
Sonny: I’m not as pissed (drunk) as I was back then.
Daryl: They are going to be different, but in which way different?
Hugh: Yeah, 30 years of experience has passed by, in all varying different kinds, different places and things. We have a different lens to view the world, but not essentially no, not different people.
What do you think about todays generation? Are they victims of technological consumerism, and, if they are, is there a cure?
Hugh: I think the previous generation are victims to some extent of commercialism certainly and I think there is a lot of positive ways that young people are using technology to connect and share ideas, and I think that, going back to that thing of messaging, that people using the internet provide an alternative in an age where the mainstream media in this country particularly is just on the message for the establishment for the entire time. There really isn’t any kind of mainstream press that kind of represents any kind of alternative view point. If you want to find out what is happening in the UK, you should probably read some French Le Monde Diplomatique. Al Jazeera might give you a view, but nothing in the UK would give you any view that had any relevance or sense of genuine balanced analysis of what was happening, and you see that what young people do with information technology is really great. Not just young people, obviously. I think a lot of momentum behind those kind of things is generated from younger people.
Do you have favorite new bands? What about the old ones? Please give us in no matter way 5 of your favorite bands.
Hugh: What’s your favourite band Daryl? Ha ha.
Daryl: I actually know…. CRASS. They still are after all these years. The lyrics to CRASS what they wrote are just as relevant today as they always were and are fucking potent, said so well.
Sonny: I listen to jazz
Daryl: I am not saying that I listen to CRASS all the time, but I couldn’t say Sister Sledge or The Damned or something. I listen to everything. What I am saying is, they are asking “what’s your favourite one?”
Sonny: I suppose there are loads of new punk bands, but I don’t know who they are.
Daryl: I don’t listen to any of them.
Hugh: Someone put a link on our Facebook page didn’t they?
Sonny: Yeah with punk bands from Africa and stuff which I liked.
Hugh: I mean there is a lot of music to check out.
Omega Tribe future plans? New album or European tour?
Hugh: European Tour? Yeah that would be good, that would be great, but we haven’t actually got a plan as such.
Daryl: There is no plan. It’s just, call us and we might come and play for not much money.