P.A.W.N.S. was an anarcho-punk collective from California, USA. This interview was conducted on 07.18.2006, minutes before their show at Area 51 club in Varna, Bulgaria.
You speak about the hypocrisy and atrocities that the capitalist system has created. Do you think that making music and playing in a punk band is good and effective way to fight against this system and to show dissent?
Ray DeHated: Music isn’t so much a way of fighting the system as much as it is a spreading solidarity in a way to develop an alternative lifestyle that’s worth living. We choose to sing about the things that give us meaning in our lives because if we were to derive meaning in our lives from the capitalist system, then we’d have a very terrible life to live. So, for us it’s not so much about fighting the system, because the system is destroying itself, that’s obvious. We don’t have to do anything, the system will destroy itself but what we do have to do for ourselves and people like us, is to provide a basis of unity in which we can support one another in the hard decisions and the hard choices of our lifestyle, to make our life worth living. So, it doesn’t quite answer the question but I know it’s a honest answer that punk rock isn’t a weapon, it’s tools for living a life worth living.
St. Ann of Archy: …and tools for meeting other people who think the same way that we do, and give the good excuse and a good reason to travel and meet those different people…
And how about putting your lyrics into action?
St. Ann of Archy: I think that actions come before the lyrics, and the lyrics also are more of a commentary on our personal experiences and a good way to vent frustration, because sometimes there is only so much you can do about a problem.
Ray DeHated: That’s right. You spend too much time internalizing suffering whereas you can vocalize the suffering. That’s what makes people like the music. It isn’t so much because they like to feel the pain and misery, but because they identify with the same sort of things that all of us confront and all of us are subjected to. That’s really the main issue.
Putting the lyrics into action, as St.Ann said, was really a consequence of having to survive in a system that destroys people. And so, there are too many levels to describe specifically what we do, but every choice we do in our lives is based on how we react to a system that’s there to destroy poor people, to destroy people who want self-determination, and a system that really tries to materialize everything that’s valuable in life.
And in action, we’re not materialists, we’re people who care about human beings. And so the lyrics are a representation of what we see in the world and what we recognize as things that are detrimental to our own mental health and it’s a way in which we can express these things, to share a bond with people who feel the same pains or same problems. It’s not really a negative thing, it’s more of putting in words to a tangible life, a life where capitalist system, where a system that emphasizes on material goods over humanity, is really the problem. And to us the lyrics are just a reaction, not necessarily an approach.
How do you describe yourself? As a collective or as a punk rock band?
St. Ann of Archy: Definitively as a collective. We have, at this point in time maybe, eight or ten members of the band. Shawn and I have always been in the band from the beginning and Sam, our bass-player, who’s here with us now, he is our second bass-player but the one who’s been with us the longest. We had a couple of other bass-players that come on different tours with us. And we’ve had, I think, five drummers…
The Power and Wealth will need slaves until the Power and the Wealth still exist. Do you think that there is another way to escape the slavery except a total rebuilding from the ground up?
Ray DeHated: That’s a very interesting question, because it is not just the lyrical content that helps us view a world in a certain paradigm, but its our drive to really analyze human interaction trough time. We’re both historians and we really take the time to see what is distinctly human and separate that from what’s manufactured by a given society. So, in that sense, I think in the question is the answer.
Of course, an utopian society will not emerge until this society destroys itself. That’s, of course, the situation. But we can’t choose what type of time we live in. We can choose the place we live in but we can’t choose the paradigm, all we can do is to manufacture a paradigm that’s worth living in. So, in that sense, power and wealth need slaves, a lot of people resonate with that name because it’s something that’s been common to the capitalist system, something common to the modern world. And you see that as it’s played out from at least the fifteenth century, but you can certainly go before that. Even the pharaohs, imagine how they built the pyramids?
St. Ann of Archy: Also, the long name for PAWNS – Power And Wealth Need Slaves, puts the emphasis on the power that the slaves have, all the worker people. In more recent history, like the French Revolution, when the working class stopped working – everyone suffered. Who’s there to clean the streets? Who’s there to make the clothing that everyone buys and wears? Who’s there to bake the bread? And it’s important to know how much power we have as workers in a society. If we all choose to stop working for other people, that’s where our power is.
Ray DeHated: That’s right, the power of creativity. Not just workers, but when we use the word workers we’re really talking about people doing what they care about doing. So, in that sense an artist can be a worker, a roadbuilder is certainly a worker. But as workers we mean people who make their existence by their own hands, not people who count money and collect rents. That’s the opposite of what we mean by workers.
What does the punk lifestyle mean to you?
St. Ann of Archy: Just being yourself, and being true to yourself and to other people…
Ray De Hated: …and letting other people be true to themselves. That’s the most difficult aspect, because you have to be able to let people be themselves.
Power and Wealth need slaves in the music industry. The mainstream media tries to infiltrate the message and the ideals behind the punk movement. Do you think that the D.I.Y. ideals and creating your own music, packaging, merch etc. is the only way to fight against the musical industry?
St. Ann of Archy: I don’t know if its so much fighting against it as ignoring it. We just do what we do. We have our friends in the bigger collectives, not just in our band, not just in the city we live in, or the state we live in, or the continent we live in, but friends everywhere, and in the Netherlands, and in Bulgaria, everywhere.
Ray DeHated: And the thing is, we have a problem with the term do it yourself. I think its not accurate. It’s really do it ourselves, it should be D.I.O. (do it ourselves)
St.Ann of Archy: …cause there’s not too many things you can actually do by yourself…
RayDeHated: …it’s do it ourselves and that’s the power of cooperation…
St. Ann of Archy: …like how many people it takes to make the zine that you guys do… A lot of people that contribute, and whose contributions are a part of what makes an end product so wonderful…
What can we do as a punk community to heal the damage that the Power and Wealth have created to the planet?
Ray DeHated: Support, mutual support, a mutual aid in anarchist terms. Of course, we have to assist one another in helping each other achieve goals that aren’t really accessible if you play the capitalist game. As far as what we can do to heal the damage that’s all we can do to heal the damage. But the damage is continuing exponentially, and we can’t stop that damage. All we can do is survive that damage, and we can best survive that damage…
St. Ann of Archy: …together. We need the punk people as a worldwide community and collective… and that’s where our power is… in the community, across borders, across timezones, across languages, everything…
Ray DeHated: Sometimes when we play a lot of bands say “We’re from so and so”, we always say we’re from planet Earth… sometimes we say we’re from Occupied North America, but the typical answer, that reflects how we feel, is we’re from the planet Earth.
And what did you learn about Bulgaria?
Ray DeHated: That people are the same wherever you go. We have excellent friends here and we’re meeting new friends, and there’s the sort of people we’d like to interact with wherever we are. So what did we learn about Bulgaria? Well, we learned what we expected that we would learn – continually meet people of the similar mindset, similar views of the paradigm, similar people in the sense of integrity, similar people in the sense of a drive to fabricate a life worth living and so that’s our goal – to unify the world tribe. And that’s what’s fantastic about punk rock as a music…
St. Ann of Archy: Well, I think it’s not just our goal, it’s everyones goal…that’s why we’re having this interview and this conversation… Ray DeHated: Punk rock music is the veins and the blood of the human body, it’s what transports that solidarity… St. Ann of Archy: It’s the way we can communicate through languages, through cultures, through the music to express the shared ideas that we all believe in in every little place on Earth.
What do you think of the antipolitical trend in punk scene? There are so many bands that sing only about beer, fun and the “street”.
Ray DeHated: People have different ways of expressing what is important to them at the moment. And if what’s important to people is drinking and partying, then that’s the level of their maturity at the time. We don’t write these people off, what we do is we accept the fact that people have different value systems. Do we care to listen to macho talk about women and beer? No, we don’t prefer to do that, but do we want to see them stop using the term punk or hardcore? Well, not really. It’s important to be exposed to those individuals because that’s the opportunity to develop dialogue with people and help them develop their own set of values. No, we’re not that into beer, drink… we like to drink beer but we don’t sing about drinking beer.
Are any of you vegans? Are you involved in some kind of animal rights activism?
St. Ann of Archy: Some people in the collective – punks and anarchist punks, animal rights punks… we know people that are very active. I think that what is important to us is working on how people interact with each other first, and that’s our primary goal, to make relationships with other people. Of course, we love animals… Ray DeHated: We respect the Animal Liberation Front. We think that the work those people do is very effective…
St. Ann of Archy: …but we have a different job…
Ray DeHated: Our job is to express these issues in terms of class war, and that’s our emphasis. We have many friends and many people that operate in the collective that emphasize animal liberation and veganism, we support their goals, but for the PAWNS, we’re class warriors first.
What do you think will happen when Bushes mandate ends? How do you think his war in Iraq will continue?
Ray DeHated: That is a very interesting question and it would take a lot of time to answer. But a way to conceptualize that simply is who makes money off of war, who makes money off of killing poor people? Well, look, that’s been happening for a long time and until we address the real issue that poor people are a source of profit for wealthy people through murder and through annihilation than we haven’t really touched the real issue. So, if not Bush it’s some other rich bastard that’s fucking killing poor people for money.